Thursday, October 4, 2012


Even though we never got a rematch of the Hulk and the Thing rendered by Jack Kirby when he was at his peak as an artist, that's not to say their next meeting wasn't visually memorable. On the contrary--the artist on Fantastic Four at the time, John Buscema, gave us a cover-to-cover battle that gave no quarter. And the circumstances were all we could wish for.

His mind corrupted by an experiment of Reed Richards that allowed him to change back to human form at will, the Thing had turned against the FF and was basically attacking anything and anyone that got in his way. He was truly spoiling for a fight, but also not hampered by concern for bystanders or other distractions. (Though frankly, collateral damage and super-hero fights usually go hand-in-hand, no matter how much concern the heroes have for bystanders or when they show it.)

Fortunately for us, Reed made one more blunder--contacting Bruce Banner to help him in the lab in treating Ben.

And you know what that means:

As in their prior fight, the Thing is isolated from the rest of the FF. But rather than trying to tire the Hulk out, as was his strategy then, he fights much more aggressively here--constantly taking the fight to the Hulk, rather than waging a defensive battle. And that suits the Hulk just fine.

Throughout the battle, we see how relentless the Hulk is--his desire to crush the Thing, how he always charges back to the attack, seemingly unstoppable and untiring. In the last fight, the Hulk's tireless rampage simply overwhelmed the Thing--yet here, even though the Thing's strength is at relatively the same level, he makes much more proficient use of his abilities.

Of course, the police, who had been after the Thing, haven't been idle during this time (though I might have suggested they just watch out for civilians and sit this one out). They've brought up some heavy artillery, the sight of which makes the Hulk leap for the safety of the city. Odd to think that artillery can make the Hulk retreat when the Thing can't; the Hulk may not like artillery, but he's dealt with it aggressively many times before now. The Thing certainly didn't have a problem dealing with it.

Once the battle has moved to the rooftops of the city, the Thing again brings his battle savvy to bear:

But again, this is the Hulk he's fighting. And there's a difference between the two powerhouses. Even though the Thing's personality is now twisted and aggressive due to the side-effects from Reed's treatment, and he's entirely focused on pummeling the Hulk, the Hulk is the only one of the two whose anger will actually increase his strength--which also means that he will never tire. So even though each of these combatants will keep coming for the other, the Thing has limits which the Hulk does not. Take this scene, where the Hulk, after withstanding the Thing's attack, thinks nothing of hurling himself at his foe, even though his momentum will take them both completely over the edge:

What does the Hulk care about a plunge from a skyscraper? Yet the Thing instinctively takes steps to save himself. Right now, he's peeved enough at the Hulk to keep going after him in order to make him pay for taking him on--but he's not really thinking about what kind of foe he's fighting. Though in this next scene, we're about to get a demonstration of just how dangerous the Hulk is at close quarters.

We're now graphically seeing a good indication of how this battle is going to turn out, even if the Thing doesn't consider it over by a longshot. To the Hulk, his triumph is inevitable. To the Thing, he just thinks he needs a breather so that he can continue whaling on this guy.

But just when it looks like things are revving up again, and we settle in for more whup-ass on the Hulk courtesy of the Thing, guess what girlfriend decides that now is the time to wander onto the battlefield to see if the Thing is alright?

You can probably guess what happens next:

That's all she wrote for the Thing, I'm afraid. In fact, it really was almost all she wrote for him--until Reed detected a heartbeat with specialized equipment and resuscitated him. Some good at least came from the battle, though--Ben's body had finally thrown off the adverse side-effects of Reed's experiment. So the Thing returned to the FF, and no hard feelings--except from New Yorkers, whose bodies and property racked up some of that collateral damage we spoke of earlier.

You may have noticed some of the odd punctuation in the word balloons featured in this fight. This was about the time that Stan Lee had tried doing away with having exclamation points punctuate every sentence in Marvel's comics. He sure picked a fine time to try that, didn't he? If there was ever a time for exclamation points, it would certainly have been during this particular throw-down.

This was pretty much the last free-for-all between the Thing and the Hulk where readers were still able to hold out hope for a bona fide Thing victory. In subsequent fights, any number of variables were present where either or both of them weren't in their true, original fighting form, which had the result of making us feel cheated. So in this fight, you're seeing the real last great battle between the two. And really, if the Thing were to actually win this match-up, it would have had to be here, where all conditions favored him--including having his original writer present, as well as an artist who, while not the original, sent this pair out with a bang.

Fantastic Four #112

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Sam Rosen


dbutler16 said...

Great fight! I didn't realize that Stan had done away with exclamation points for a while.

As far as this being the last battle where the Thing had a chance against the Hulk, the Thing actually did beat the Hulk in Fantastic Four #320 - this is when the Thing was mutated and had the pointy rocks and much greater strength than usual, and the Hulk was in his gray Mr. Fixit incarnation and thus less strong than usual. However, the very next month, in Hulk #350, the Hulk won the rematch.

Comicsfan said...

Yes, it's a distinction I was trying to make, dbutler, as far as the variables present in subsequent fights--in this case, the Thing further mutated and at an enhanced level of strength, while the Hulk was less than his peak while in his gray form. When we think of a Thing/Hulk fight, it's generally when the Thing is the underdog, and in his original form. Steve Englehart wrote a good slug-fest in that later issue, no doubt about it--but the fight in FF #112 has both of these combatants going at each other without any manufactured advantages. I think the Thing would have lost here, regardless; but with Englehart stacking the deck in the Thing's favor in the other issue, FF #112 is a far more exciting battle for me to read.