Wednesday, August 5, 2015

FF Week #21--Ben Grimm's Long Running Solo Act!!

People tend to under-estimate Ben Grimm's substantial solo career.

The short-lived Marvel Feature launched the Defenders, and then it's final two issues gave the spotlight to The Thing teaming with other heroes:

That, of course, launched the oddly named Marvel Two-In-One!

Yeah, yeah, it was "just" a team-up title. But it also gave us some wonderfully oddball match-ups, like Benjy and Shang-Chi vs. Hydra!!

Or time traveling to meet up with the Liberty Legion!

And the unreprintable (due to shifting rights) meeting of the Man Of Bronze with The Man Of Rocks!!

But Marvel Two-In-One was also home to some of the most significant events in Marvel history, such as the the tie-up to the first arc of Jim Starlin's Warlock saga:

You had Ben traveling in time in order to cure a younger version of himself...

And then came the Golden Era for Marvel Two-In-One, as Mark Gruenwald made Ben an active participant in some of the most impressive continuity building exercises in the Marvel Universe, such as the Project Pegasus arc (co-written by Ralph Macchio)...

..and the cosmic Rebirth of Adam Warlock arc (and the debut of Her):

 And the Serpent Crown Affair:

Artists on those issues included George Perez, John Byrne, and Gene Day.

Marvel Two-In-One was phased out after issue #100, but it wasn't so much cancelled as replaced by a brand new, truly solo series:

The series was written by John Byrne, during his Fantastic Four run, but it never seemed to get a lot of attention. Perhaps because the art was "only" by Ron Wilson? Anyway, it was a much-neglected series, and spent over a year on Ben's wanderings around Battleworld after the first Secret Wars. Seriously, Marvel, why hasn't this been collected?

After Byrne left, the series focused on, and I'm not making this up, Ben Grimm's adventures in the super-powered Unlimited Class Wrestling circuit:

Seriously. If this series came out today, it would be worshiped, I think--at least to judge by the amount of my Twitter feed that seems consumed by wrestling. Marvel, why hasn't this been collected?!?!

Ben even got to wrestle Beyonder!!

The Thing ended after 3 years, a respectable run.

It took another 20 years, but Ben got another solo series:

Gosh darn, this was a fun little series...

Sadly, it only lasted 8 issues...

So the question once again, is (comeone everybody, you know the chorus), "Marvel, why hasn't this been collected?"

The obvious other question, then, for some butthead Marvel executives is: Fine, if you insist on not having the FF in their own comic, what about solo series? I mean, you can throw the Human Torch (Inhumans) and Ben Grimm (Guardians) prominently on the cover of other books without violating the anti-Fox diktat. Why, then, at a time when you're launching 60-odd books, can't you do a solo series for some of the FF? Huh? Huh?


paul said...

The answer to "Marvel, why hasn't this been collected?" is that nearly all of it has.

The entire run of Marvel feature and Marvel two in one (minus the Doc Savage and Rom team ups) were collected (in black and white)in 4 essential volumes. The first 20 or so issues were reprinted as 2 volumes of 'Thing classics' and the more recent series was collected as 'Thing:Idol of millions'

No sign of the Unlimited Wrestling stuff which is a shame.

I think most of them are out of print now but they were collected at some point.

Brian said...

For some reason, every writer who gets their hand on Unlimited Class Wrestling seems to want to turn it into a major criminal enterprise (since, if you believe the writers of modern comics, EVERY business is actually a criminal enterprise – it's not surprising that the same creatives end up going utterly broke when they obviously don't do things like invest their money in the market like the rest of us with low incomes wisely do). Beyond sales matters, bringing back UCW as a concern makes perfect narrative sense in a world with the number of super-powered beings with physical attributes – given how the change in power scales have work worked over the years and how the number of heroes and villains have increased, it makes no real sense for a guy with just super-strength to try and rob a bank or face off against the Avengers, yet he's going to have a hard time finding standard work in this regulatory environment; something like the UCW would both be an in-world place for lots of good characters with no current 'slot' for them as well as a natural sort of book-in-the-making in the vein of reality TV or sports programming (choose a hero or reformed/reforming villain who has fallen out both in-universe out-of-universe view and build a book around their using the UCW as a way back into public view and you have a natural hook – get someone to write it in the style of SUPERIOR FOES or HAWKEYE or various indy books with a good action artist and there's a distinctive package for out-of-circulation characters...

Mista Whiskas said...

"if you believe the writers of modern comics, EVERY business is actually a criminal enterprise"

I'm not sure this is unique treatment, in post-Nixon era comics nearly every institution with resources that could be used against the hero usually turns out to be subverted to something the hero must contend with (the government for example seems to always be up to something nefarious).

Mista Whiskas said...

I'd like to say though that Ben is not really treated very well in the Marvel Two in One series, despite being the mag being 'his.' In most issues he's being defeated, often by foes that should have little chance of doing this, and then the guest star saves his bacon. As a fan of the Thing that always annoyed me about that mag.