Comic Book Legends Revealed #253

STATUS: True, at least definitely true at first.

Reader Eli wrote in a few weeks back to ask:

From Scott Shaw's Facebook Page:

"People often refer to the Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm AKA "The Thing" as "the orange guy made out of rocks". (The FF's Human Torch once described Ben as "a walking pile of peach pits" -- then promptly got clobbered!) But according to Ben's co-creator, the late, great Jack Kirby, he's NEITHER! Joltin' Jack once told my friend Pete Von Sholly that the Thing is "a super-strong gorilla covered with dinosaur hide"! Cool!"

Is this true?

It is true, Eli, but it is also somewhat misleading.

Apparently, a recent Jack Kirby Collector (#54) actually had a whole feature by Will Murray on this issue (thanks to reader Boomtuber for pointing it out), so I got some specific quotes for you all on it, as reader Corey wanted specific Kirby quotes, which is fair enough.

You see, first off, Kirby wanted the Thing to be like dinosaur hide. From Murray's piece in the Jack Kirby Collector...

"If you'll notice, the beginnings of Ben, he was kind of lumpy. I felt he had the power of a dinosaur, and I began to think along those lines. I wanted his flesh to look like dinosaur hide."

And when you look at it, that seems pretty evident...

Even after he first made the Thing change appearance, Kirby was STILL thinking in terms of "dinosaur hard plates" rather than "rocks."

From Murray's piece...

"Dinosaurs had thick-plated hides, and of course that's what the Thing had."

You can see what Kirby meant when he inked the cover of Fantastic Four #8 by himself, rather than his then-inker, Dick Ayers...

Notice that the Thing does look "scaly" rather than "rocky."

Dick Ayers could never figure out what Kirby wanted, but TRIED to at least move from the Thing being "muddy" to the Thing being "scaly," but it was not until Goerge Roussos began inking the book that the Thing pretty much overnight became "rocky," as Roussos tried to capture what he thought Kirby wanted.

Here's Ayers' last issue and then Roussos' first issue...

Pretty big difference, huh?

At the time, though, Kirby kept penciling the Thing the same way - like a scaly/plate-y" creature, it was just up to his inkers on how they interpreted the look.

Here's a 1962 pencil drawing Kirby did for Jerry Bails' legendary fanzine, Alter Ego...

See how it basically IS dinosaur-like? But it was up to his inkers on how to interpret Kirby's take on The Thing, and Ayers and Roussos had a vastly different approach to it.

But when Joe Sinnott joined the book, things changed dramatically. First, he made the Thing look like the "rocky" Thing that we know (and love) today.

Here's his first issue (#44), where you can see it beginning...

And then, after he had some more time on the book, here he is in #51 (do note that Stan Lee specifically told Sinnott to change anything he felt like changing about Kirby's pencils - that was how respected Sinnott was as an artist at the time - no offense to the previous inkers of Kirby on FF, but Sinnott's hiring was seen at the time as a sort of "Okay, this book is pretty darn popular, I suppose we can afford the best inker possible now" deal)...

This is the way the Thing appeared in comics basically ever since.

The big difference between Sinnott and everyone else, though, is that when Sinnott made a change to Kirby's pencils, Kirby actually tended to pay attention (Sinnott also adjusted Reed's appearance, making him look a bit more polished looking).

So under Sinnott, Kirby actually began to PENCIL the Thing differently based on how Sinnott was INKING him!

Check out these pages from FF #76...

and FF #89...


So yeah, originally, Kirby viewed the Thing as having "dinosaur hide," but that ended up just being the first few years of the Thing's existence (basically pre-Sinnott). For the rest of his career, when Kirby drew the Thing, he drew it the way we know him today.

Thanks for the question, Eli! And thanks to Will Murray and the Jack Kirby Collector for the great quotes! Also, thanks to Jack Kirby Collector #9 for the uninked Kirby pages (and the Jerry Bails penciled drawing).

This all being said, I surely don't mean to suggest that he didn't still tell people he drew the Thing like he had dinosaur hide. Pete Von Sholly nicely stopped by in the comments to say what the King said to him, and I have no doubt that Kirby did not qualify his statement to him about how he drew the Thing. Thanks a lot for stopping by, Pete!

Okay, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week's covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

As you likely know by now, last April my book finally came out!

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)...

If you'd like to order it, you can use the following code if you'd like to send me a bit of a referral fee...

See you all next week!

TMNT/Power Rangers Addresses the Ultimate Green Ranger Mystery

More in Comics