Smilin’ Stan was born 99 years ago — and columnist JIM BEARD has some Thing on his mind…


Much has been said about Stan Lee (Dec. 28, 1922 — Nov. 12, 2018) in books and magazines and documentaries and online, but for my own birthday bash tribute I’m going to let his own words speak for him.

I dug through his dashing, dynamic, sometimes even delirious dialogue to pick out some wondrous, way-out word balloons from out of the mouth of none other than my most favorite Marvel character: the one, the only, the idol o’ millions, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Ben Grimm, the Thing.

(All pencils by Jack Kirby, natch!)

Fantastic Four #1 (Page 3, Panel 6). It’s the first words ever out of Ben’s mouth, but they speak volumes. The world just isn’t big enough for him. Plus, you can never start too many statements with “Bah!”

Fantastic Four #5 (Page 17, Panel 2). These two word balloons have to be one of the first times Ben really squeezes the sympathy out of readers. The very thought that kids might read about him someday is enough for him to turn his back on his friends.

Fantastic Four #19 (Page 4, Panel 6). I love this mouthful of monikers Ben throws at Reed — the Thing’s excitement over the possibility of a cure for his girl’s blindness is palpable.

Fantastic Four #25 (Page 13). If a titanic tussle betwixt the Hulk and the Thing isn’t enough for you, bunky, Stan gives us an entire page of Bashful Benjy bon mots and terrific Thing tough-talk. Boy, this guy cracks me up, even when he’s trading punches with ol’ Greenskin. “That’s the hand I eat pizza with!” Ha!

Fantastic Four #26 (Page 14, Panel 5). Things get even bigger and better in the second part of the Hulk-Thing grudge match when the Avengers show up and Stan gets to express a little irreverence for his cavortin’ cast through the words of Ben. Get a load of him mouthing off here to none other than the Mighty Thor.

Fantastic Four #49 (Page 13, Panel 2). Is there anybody else out there with the sheer chutzpah to wreck one of Galactus’ devices while calling him a “creepy, king-sized crum-bum”? I think not. (My dad used to call me “crum-bum” when I was a wee lad.)

Fantastic Four Annual #5 (Page 14, Panel 3). Ben’s just learned that Reed and Sue are expecting a child, and Ben’s beside himself with glee—until reality intrudes and Stan’s somber oath turns the Thing into the world’s greatest “uncle” ever.

Fantastic Four Annual #6 (Page 48, Panel 5). In a sequel to Annual #5, the Richards child is born, and Ben once again says all that needs to be said: Nobody better ever mess with his godson… or else.

Fantastic Four #51 (Page 19, Panel 4). “This Man… This Monster” is considered a watershed moment in the history of Ben Grimm, and while the story is mostly about the guy who replaces the Thing, Ben gets a great statement in at the end of the tale, a moment when he nearly says his orange, rocky life is the real deal, not the fantasy world he imagines about being human again.

Fantastic Four #66 (Page 6, Panel 5). This sequence kicks off a larger scene of Ben moping around, feeling sorry for himself, and then having people come out of the woodwork for some confidence-boosters. I get a kick out of his “Rock Hudson” line here.

Fantastic Four #73 (Page 11). Ya didn’t think we’d get through this without one of Ben’s iconic catch-phrases, didja, Melvin? I’ve always liked this page, not only for the great Kirby art, but because Stan added a little extra to the trademarked “Clobberin’ Time!”

Fantastic Four #94 (Page 2, Panel 5). OK, yeah; I lean toward the tearjerker times with Ben, and this one is a real humdinger. Reed and Sue name the baby after their friend, and the waterworks begin when Ben realizes no one has ever named anyone after him before.

Fantastic Four #102 (Page 2, Panel 1). Let’s end not only where King Kirby departs, but also with a good ol’ Aunt Petunia reference—I sure hope Ben got his jelly bean.


— The TOP 13 STAN LEE Stories — RANKED. Click here.

— STAN LEE: A Tribute by Roy Thomas. Click here.

Jim Beard has pounded out adventure fiction since he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. He’s gone on to write official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes his own creations, but also licensed properties such as Planet of the Apes, X-Files, Spider-Man, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Action. In addition, Jim provided regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, for 17 years.

Check out his latest releases, a Green Hornet novella How Sweet the Sting, his first epic fantasy novel The Nine Nations Book One: The Sliding World, and the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season One and Biff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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