Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ben Grimm Is Not Dumb, Dammit!!

There' something that desperately needs to be said every once in awhile:

Ben Grimm is not stupid.

Along with Doctor John Watson, Ben is one of the most misunderestimated characters in popular fiction.

See, he's a big strong lunk. And he looks like a monster. And, well, he don't talk all fancy.

But let's not forget that he has a college degree. Sure, he may have been there on a football scholarship, but he roomed with Reed Richards--and Reed certainly wouldn't let his buddy just scrape by.

After the war (if that's still in continuity...), Ben became "the best test pilot in the USA." Eat it, Hal Jordan!!

And Reed chose him to pilot a freaking space mission. And honestly, there aren't too many stupid astronauts.

Oh, that was just Reed giving his buddy a job because they were breakin' the law and he could trust anyone else, you say?

Uh-uh. After the Fantastic Four broke up (again, that trick NEVER works!), NASA hired Ben to test out their new experimental space shuttle. Yes, NASA:

Again, there aren't too many stupid astronauts.

And everyone at NASA thnk's Ben is the bee's knees:

Look at all those buttons? Could a numbskull fly that craft?

"The best pilot I've ever seen."

Sure, Ben talks a bit...well, uneducated. He grew up rough, and didn't change his Yancy Street patois when he got out. And no doubt, he plays that up now, to keep consistent with his image as a monster, so people will continue to underestimate him. I mean, what's the point of acting smart when you're standing next to Reed Richards, anyway?

So remember, Ben Grimm is not stupid, not a moron, not dumb. I guarantee he is smarter than any of us...

From Fantastic Four #192 & 193 (1978)


Brian said...

A scene I got a kick out of reading lately was one in FANTASTIC FOUR #240, when the team was prepared to help the Inhumans move Attilan to the Moon. It was Ben Grimm, *not* Reed Richards who did all the calculations for the flight (and then piloted the city-ship) so as to avoid Soviet-aligned airship. It even had a specific note how he was excited to be doing mental work on such a project rather being tasked with his usual physical work (Byrne always had him complain to Reed about being used as a human forklift).

Reed's a genius par excellence, but I think that it takes something away from the rest of the team – and by extension Reed as a team member – when the skills of the others are ignored. As you point out, Ben is an amazing pilot and knowledgable about aeronautical systems. Johnny came into the series as a gearhead and started developing into a natural engineer (recall that he, not Reed, built the first Fantasticar). Reed was more of a theoretician, hence why the rocket flight had its failing (for his not listening to Ben's warnings – Ben knew more practical concerns about radiation shielding for astronauts than theoretician Reed), and why the murderous rivalry between Reed and Victor started over editing math.

It's part of a larger issue. There's an odd trend over time in the Marvel Universe to turn all the science guys into the same bourgeois renaissance men and all the blue collar sorts into non-technical sorts. Looking back into the Silver Age (even with moments into the 1970s and 1980s), it's nice to see how you have Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm having technical knowledge, Reed Richards and Tony Stark and Hank Pym all being very different sorts of scientists, etc. When you had the gathering of "radiation experts" in FF #266-267 (and then the furtive search for Otto Octavius) when Sue was in pregnancy-crisis, that was like the like the last gasp: any time after that, it would have been somehow Stark and Pym there instead of Langowski and Morbius, and the idea of using Ditko & Lee's references to Octavius's radiation work wouldn't be thought of – instead another All-American genius would be called in (note how Doom helped with his All-World general genius, not explanations asked or offered for the science, the next time around)...

Mista Whiskas said...

This was a great post and Brian's comment is insightful and thoughtful. Thanks for both!