In every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer without actively retconnng away the previous story. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.
Today, based on a suggestion from reader Rob H., we look at how one of the Thing’s oddest reversions to Ben Grimm was explained as being due to something other than extreme heat.
Now, let me open by saying that Stan Lee probably gets a bum rap when it comes to some of the explanations that he came up with over the years when he added dialogue to Jack Kirby’s pages. For instance, when Jack Kirby forgot to draw four Skrulls at the end of Fantastic Four #2, it was Stan Lee who cobbled together an explanation for why thee were only three Skrulls all of a sudden. Did his explanation make no sense? Yes, but at the same time, it was Kirby who had put him into the position in the first place by not drawing four Skrulls, ya know? So while Lee gets teased a bit for how bad his explanation was (the Fantastic Four pretended to be the four Skrulls who were on Earth pretending to be the Fantastic Four. They then told the Skrull Empire not to invade Earth. Lee then explained away the missing fourth Skrull by saying that he left with the rest of the Empire. Since, of course, the reason the FF were keeping the other Skrulls apart from the rest of the Skrulls was so they couldn’t ruin the Fantastic Four’s bluff to get them to not invade Earth, then it would not have made sense that one of the Skrulls who knew the truth would have gone with the rest of his people, as he obviously would have just told them the truth of how they were just conned by the FF), not having the fourth Skrull be there was a problem, as well.
So maybe this weird moment in Fantastic Four #19 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers) when Ben Grimm appears to return to his human form due to extreme heat was something that both Kirby and Lee came up with together. In either event, it really doesn’t follow very well.
To set the scene, the Fantastic Four go back in time because Reed believes that he has found a cure for blindness in ancient Egypt due to looking at some hieroglyphs. You have to love a dude who will see a hieroglyph and say, “Oh, this is clearly meant to be literal! I am so confident in this being literal that I will travel through time to find this cure!”
Once there, they are captured by the forces of Rama-Tut. As it turns out, there is a time-traveler named Rama-Tut who traveled back in time and made himself emperor of Egypt using his advanced technology to make it seem like he was a god. He uses his future tech to enslave the Fantastic Four.
The Thing is working as a slave when the extreme heat in the past has a curious effect on him…
Later, when the heat cools down, he returns to his Thing form…
Now, could that have been Jack Kirby’s intent when he drew these pages? Sure. Could Kirby have had some other explanation for this and Lee added in the heat one on his own? Sure. It’s truly up in the air.
But anyhow, that was just out there for years until Roger Stern decided to fix it.
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