In Remember to Forget, we spotlight comic book stories that I wish I could forget, but I can’t, so I instead share them with you all!
Today we look at the rather odd behavior of the Thing when he first met the Black Panther.
First off, it is important to note that when you’re looking at comic books that were written over 50 years ago, you’re bound to hit some attitudes and viewpoints that don’t jibe very well with modern audiences. Even when the original comics are written with views that, at the time, would be seen as progressive, they still can read very much regressive decades later. For instance, there’s an infamous issue of Fantastic Four where Reed Richards realizes that he has been neglecting his wife, Sue, for his experiments. He makes up for his inattentiveness with a romantic gesture, but even while being romantic, he says stuff like, “Wives are meant to be kissed, not heard.” It’s totally meant as a romantic thing in the context of the scene but it’s also clearly a super sexist attitude and not cool.
However, even within the context of the time, there are moments were the various members of the Fantastic Four just act like total jerks for no good reason. One notable example is an early issue where the other three members of the team begin to get annoyed at how Reed is running the team, so Reed tells them all off and points out how screwed they would be without him around. Doctor Doom chooses this time to pick the team apart one by one while they are in disarray. In the end, they get back together and realize that Reed is their best leader, but he doesn’t even have to make up for his cruel comments earlier! It is that sort of view that we’re taking a look at when we see how much of a jerk that Ben Grimm, the Thing, is to the Black Panther, T’Challa, when they first met.
Admittedly, the Black Panther starts things off poorly in the first part of their first meeting, in Fantastic Four #52 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott), as he tricks the Fantastic Four to come to Wakanda just so that he can test himself against them to see if he is ready to fight his sworn enemy, Klaw. It is not fair of him not to tell the Fantastic Four that they were invited to Wakanda just so that he can beat them up.
However, even before they got to Wakanda, the Thing was already dismissive of the Wakandan representative that T’Challa sent to convince the Fantastic Four to travel to Wakanda, calling him a “refuge from a Tarzan movie,” which is a jerky thing to say…
By the end of the issue, the Fantastic Four learn why T’Challa attacked them and they’re cool with him again, but that only sets up the next issue, where the Thing’s jerkiness really takes off to a whole new level.
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