Sunday, October 14, 2012

Remember Where You Park Your Jet Cycle

Comic book matchups that had you scratching your head--
but still made you curious about how the fight would turn out.

Welcome to another installment in a series of posts we could only call:

Where Ben Grimm is concerned, even a matchup as lopsided as this is even money.

Sometimes I think the Thing must have a guardian angel when he goes up against opponents with cosmic power--a guardian angel named Stan Lee. For one thing, Ben never seems to be as overwhelmed as you'd think he would be--and for another, the fights generally go the distance. You'd expect a contrary result from the likes of Galactus or the Silver Surfer. After all, the Thing may have gotten his power from cosmic rays--but that doesn't mean he wields cosmic power. Only enhanced strength.

But let's take a quick look at the stats. Galactus pretty much considered him a bug in their encounters--he even sicked the Punisher on him because, well, frankly, he had better things to do. The Surfer simply didn't want to harm him, and for the most part just tried to show him how outmatched he was. When Doom wielded the Surfer's power, he made the mistake of toying with the Thing and the rest of the FF, until he was ready to administer the coup de grace. So with all three of these opponents, Grimm's perseverance gave the appearance of being underestimated in terms of his power and certainly his fighting spirit; but truth be told, he could have been incinerated on the spot at any time.

Though that little thought doesn't stop him from starting this battle with a bang:

And get this: he only started the fight because he thought the Surfer was moving in on his girlfriend at the time, Alicia Masters. It's not the first or last time the Thing would be his own worst enemy when it came to the thought of losing Alicia because of his appearance. Nor was this a one-way street.  Even as Ben Grimm, he was insecure because he sensed Alicia preferred the Thing to his normal form. In Ben's defense, Alicia never did explain herself in this regard, so the poor guy was left to make his own assumptions.  Just look at this awkward exchange between them, after Reed later finally succeeded in a permanent cure:

Back at the battle, the Surfer, of course, shook off Ben's wallop like it was nothing. And right off the bat, we see that this fight wasn't the Thing's to win. The Surfer was more than capable of ending it on a whim:

On the other hand, the Thing has had countless battles to hone his fighting strategy. And, well, let's just say he knows how to put his best foot forward:

Unfortunately, the Surfer at this point in time is at the height of his power, not having yet enountered the Sonic Shark. And after so long in the service of Galactus, he's well versed in the full use of the cosmic power he was given:

There aren't too many Earth-born heroes who would try to form a plan based on "staying ahead" of the Silver Surfer--but it's the best option Ben has at the moment. And it's successful, as far as removing the immediate threat of the Surfer destroying the area (and Alicia with it). But, come on--the Surfer has navigated through meteor clusters without breaking a sweat. How much trouble do you think he's going to have with a jet cycle?

Not much.

After a futile attempt to destroy the Surfer's board, Ben finally reaches the breaking point, on two fronts. First, he's had it with being made to look like a piker by the guy who he sees trying to take his place with his girl. And it's that issue with Alicia that's been gnawing at him all this time--so when he finally lashes out at the Surfer, he's not just scoring fight points. He's also venting his frustration and anger over just what a precipice he walks in his relationship with Alicia. How easily he could be replaced. He's not angry at Alicia, so much as at the circumstances of his life. It's an explosive reaction that even the Surfer is unprepared for:

This is when Reed shows up and reads Ben the riot act for flying off the handle. Fortunately, Reed's job is made easier by explaining how distraught Alicia is over Ben, and makes him realize how wrong he's been to pick a fight with the Surfer--an alien who has no concept of what he's done to ignite this conflict. As for the Surfer, though weary of the fight, he's none the worse for wear and is quick to forgive and forget the matter. Which is good news for the Thing, because any human foe would have reached their limit with having a building thrown in their face, and would probably have blasted out of that rubble and reduced the Thing to orange atoms.

This would be the last we would see of the Surfer's full display of his powers. Not even his reimagined battle with Galactus in the Silver Surfer graphic novel would give us the kind of tour de force that we saw in this story in regard to his abilities. Ben's portrayal in Fantastic Four under Stan Lee's writing is a different matter. Lee, as well as artist Jack Kirby, presented the Thing's strength and fighting heart often in their best light, throughout their run on the book. And those two factors together--as we saw in this battle--were often the best counter to seeming invincibility.

Fantastic Four #55

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Sam Rosen

1 comment:

Kid said...

I remember having that FF comic when I was a boy. It's almost as if that battle took place outside my old house, so vividly do I associate the comic with where I lived at the time.