Stan Lee, In Memoriam: Fantastic Four #51

I could talk about Doctor Doom or Galactus or any of the other great Stan Lee Fantastic Four adventures, but it’s this particular story I’d like to speak about… This Man… This Monster!

#spoilers

Following the first tremendous battle with Galactus, Ben Grimm is lacking confidence in the wake of his girl Alicia’s awe of the Silver Surfer (yes, the classic Stan Lee method of mere misunderstanding that breeds jealousy and doubt). As he wanders the streets of New York he is invited in out of the rain by a nameless stranger that drugs him and, by some stroke of genius, attains Ben’s powers of the Thing, rendering him a normal man.

The copycat then infiltrates the Baxter Building, and when the real Ben Grimm arrives the phony somehow convinces Reed and Sue that he is the real McCoy. It’s the only weak plot point… I mean, a few simple questions in regard to Ben’s history would’ve revealed the truth, but I’ll let it slide.

There’s a small subplot regarding Johnny Storm and his flourishing friendship with Wyatt Wingfoot away at college, but that’s not the important part here.

So Reed is obsessed with breaking the boundaries of reality after the Human Torch’s galactic quest during the Galactus conflict, and he sets out through a machine he has created as a doorway. He entrusts the Fake Thing to hold his line and to pull him back should things go wrong.

Things go wrong.

When they do, Fake Thing tarries a moment, seeing an opportunity to destroy Reed forever, but he ultimately can’t go through with it now that he has realized that Reed isn’t a glory hound and in fact a genuine scientist intent on the breakthroughs for humankind. He tries to pull Reed back, but the line breaks. Seeing no other option Fake Thing enters the gateway to rescue him.

Once caught up with Reed the Fake Thing spares little time in throwing him back to reality, leaving himself to die honorably as the real Thing would.

Back home, Ben Grimm magically reverts to Thing-mode and all’s well that ends well for him and the others.

It’s a surprising story. My favorite thing is that the dopple-ganger goes unnamed, furthermore that despite his grand scheme to crush the Fantastic Four, he almost instantly goes back on it when he realizes his folly. There’s not too many antagonists out there in the Marvel universe that are capable of such a switch, perhaps because this man wasn’t really a bad guy at all, but simply a man blindly trying to do the right thing.

It’s one of Stan’s great pick-me-up stories. Sure, Ben doesn’t really get things completely worked out for himself by the end, but the gist of this story is a man doing good in the name of a hero. That’s something I think we can all relate to, otherwise why do we really read these stories?

TL;DR Score: Seriously, Reed, you couldn’t quiz the two Things on your favorite color or anything?

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