As in “editorial edict,” not “the model of car.”

§ November 17th, 2023 § Filed under does mike ever shut up, fantastic four, the thing § 11 Comments

So Matthew brings up another option I’d totally forgotten aboiut in the Thing eyebrow/no eyebrow raging debate: TWO eyebrows, as per Fantasic Four #502 (art by Casey Jones):

Now I was all ready to not like this, based on the description. This issue, though, was one I had read, probably a couple of times, given this particular run of the book was a favorite of mine, and I don’t recall being put off by the appearance of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew at any point.

Pulling up that above image and giving the dual-brow look a once-over, I find…I don’t hate it. (And to be fair, I don’t really hate any of the Thing’s various visual permutations, despite some interpretations of his “pineapple Thing” days proving…challenging.) I can picture Benjy waggling his eyebrows up and down, individually, Groucho-style, stogie in his better-be-toothless mouth if he were still allowed to have his stogies (banned long ago via editorial).

The aforementioned “raging debate” in the comments of Wednesday’s post is described as such in the Mighty Mike’s Facetious Manner, as folks from both sides of the conflict, the no-eyebrow people and the wrong people, have cheerfully piped up with their love for the character no matter the state of his forehead. As I said then, either interpretation of the Thing is perfectly fine, and though my personal preference is no-eyebrow, the charm of the expressive separate eyebrow is certainly not lost on me.

One thing (cough) we can all agree on, as brought up a couple of times in my comments, is “Woe Betide You If You Give the Thing Teeth,” as so:

Look, God bless Neal Adams, that man did a lot for our beloved funnybooks, at his peak his art was unmatchable, he gave us Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali, he was instrumental in Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster getting their due. And maybe he had some…odd ideas about science, and maybe his latter-day comics were…idiosyncratic, but he was a legend and absolutely rightfully so.

But when I turned the page and saw the above image in his Fantastic Four: Antithesis series, it was like a jump scare in a horror film. I mean, wow, that is not a Thing I am used to. It was an entertaining series, and the art was nice overall, but the Toothsome Mr. Grimm took some getting used to, not that I really ever did.

The Thing is one of those characters that is open to a wide amount of variation and still being “The Thing,” but there are certain elements that to his look that can just look wrong if pushed too far or simply not done correctly.

John Byrne’s “How to Draw the Thing” from the early ’80s is oft-cited:

…and my early exposure to it, and internalization thereof, has definitely influenced my opinions on the Thing’s appearance. I notice when someone gives him a neck, for instance, and it always reads as “wrong” to me. Despite this, I am up for versions of the character that don’t necessarily follow Byrne’s fiat.

However, with increasing talk about the forthcoming Fantastic Four movie, and Marvel’s predilection for letting the tail wag the dog, one wonders how much a live-action/CGI Hollywood Thing design will alter the character in the comics. I got to wondering about this after seeing a post on…probably Xwitter, lamenting the fact that whatever is done with the FF in the movies will be reflected by the comics for the following few years.

This doesn’t take into account that Marvel movies may very well be entering a period of decline, as moviegoers appear to be becoming pickier about the movies they see, and films budgeted with near-billion box office takes in mind are barely breaking even, if at all. Lots of reasons for this, and it’s less the ever-threatened “Marvel burnout” and more “COVID has changed movie-going patterns” and “people have turned increasingly to streaming options” and “it’s just easier to wait a month or two and watch at home instead of going to a theater.”

And maybe it is a little bit about “Marvel burnout,” as I saw an article recently ask, nonironically, “why did The Marvels, the 33rd film in the franchise, fail?” Well, maybe after 2 1/2 dozen films, the novelty’s worn off, and folks just won’t go to see any movie with a Marvel logo in front of it. The movies might be perfectly fine (I myself would like to see The Marvels, but I haven’t been to a theater since the pandemic started and have no plans to return) but unless it’s something special, it’s not going to pull people in. (Compare to Barbie, which was new and different and had a point of view and an individualistic style and made that coveted billion bucks.)

And I’m not picking on Marvel movies specifically. DC’s last few movies underperformed, and I don’t see that trend changing even under James Gunn’s purview. That last Indiana Jones film made $300 million in the box office, an impressive take under normal circumstances, but its production costs were about that much, and that’s not even counting the advertising. It had to become a phenomenon to turn a profit, and there just wasn’t enough of an audience that excited for the last installment of a decades-old franchise. Which is why I think forthcoming Star Wars movies may also see the same fate.

Anyway, what all this means is that maybe we don’t need to worry too much about an FF movie having undue influence on its poor print cousin. Even if they make the Thing purple with eight arms and teeth for days, there’s every possibility the film will come and go without making a ripple and ol’ Bashful Benjy will be safe. Except if there’s too many flops Marvel The Comic Publishing Company may outlive its usefulness to Disney and be scrapped so they can spend that money on cleaning the Star Tours queue area instead.

Not that I expect that to happen. Marvel movies will more likely slow down in production, maybe one a year if that, making them more “events” again and giving them a better chance at bringing in viewers. Like, Spider-Man movies will always make money. This new Deadpool film will do fine. If Marvel ever gets around to doing a new X-Men movie, that should also do well, assuming they don’t screw it up. But I just don’t see the Fantastic Four capturing audience excitement in the way it needs to in order to justify that likely $250+ million budget. Which would be disappointing because I love the FF.

Well, that’s not where I expected this post to go. Please take a lot of the above with all the authority that I, a dude that sells comic books for a living and doesn’t make Hollywood movies, bring to it. I hope I’m wrong about the movie end of things, since I enjoy superhero films and want them to continue, even as I’m part of the problem by no longer attending theaters. It’s a trickier marketplace than ever, and I’m glad I’m just working at the nickel-and-dime level I’m at rather than having millions upon millions of dollars on the line.

11 Responses to “As in “editorial edict,” not “the model of car.””

  • Garret says:

    Where’s Franklin’s right eye?

  • Thom H. says:

    I would argue that a single, white sort of “tooth shelf” is acceptable (see pineapple Thing in the previous post), but individual teeth are not okay. And individual teeth with gums is an emphatic no.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    After those Jones and Adams off-model Thing panels we need to see some classic Ron Wilson Thing–he’s the best Thing artist after Kirby!

    That late period Adams Thing looks really bizarre…beyond the grotesque teeth and advanced gingivitis, the Thing’s nose looks off model as well…

    As to the FF film, I’m hoping for a time travel motif where the film can start off with the FF rocketing into space in the early ’60s and then in addition to getting hit by Cosmic Rays they go into some sort of time warp and return to Earth in the present…and just like Captain America adapting from the ’40s to the present, the FF would be adapting from the JFK “Camelot” era of the early ’60s to the present.

  • Jon H says:

    I’m struck dead reading Byrne’s instructions and realizing that Ben Grimm has “thigh gap”.

    Why does Ben have a keyhole in his chest in the top panel?

  • Andrew Davison says:

    Byrne’s instructions don’t mention anything about teeth, gums, eye color, nose shape, or even number of fingers (although that’s sort of implied from the drawing). Is there an ‘official’ list of Thing features (I’m thinking of one of the Marvel guides)?

  • Andrew Davison says:

    Almost forgot: no mention of uniform, which explains the last FF movie

  • Snark Shark says:

    “his stogies”


    “If You Give the Thing Teeth”


    “Marvel movies may very well be entering a period of decline”

    Too much of the same thing. They have a Formula. It’s a GOOD Formula, but even a good Formula is still a FORMULA.

    “Where’s Franklin’s right eye”

    Ironically, it just got up and LEFT.

  • Andrew says:

    Ben’s teeth should be treated like Donald Duck’s–they’re there when needed for emphasis, but most of the time they’re not visible.

    That said, has anyone seen the latest few issues? Artist Iban Coello seems to have taken Byrne’s “no neck” rule to its illogical extreme and has Ben’s head sort of floating over his shoulders in certain shots.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Should the conversation be branched out into cartoon and film versions of The Thing…?

    Which Things do folks prefer…o.g. Thing in the ’60s FF cartoon or later iterations? What about the “Thing ring do your thing!” iteration of teenage Ben Grimm who transformed into The Thing a la Tommy Troy transforming into The Fly with a magic ring?

  • Snark Shark says:

    “What about the “Thing ring do your thing!” iteration of teenage Ben Grimm who transformed into The Thing a la Tommy Troy transforming into The Fly with a magic ring?”

    and people make fun of comics for being stupid. That’s WAY more stupid than the FF has ever been!

    “film versions of The Thing”

    Michael Chiklis did a damn good job as Ben in the FF movie!