Sunday, 18 May 2014

"THAT'S ABOUT THE SIZE OF THINGS..."


The Thing as he was meant to be

Not counting the cover or a head shot on the splash page,
the above panels feature The THING's very first appearance
in The FANTASTIC FOUR #1.  Look at the size of him!  When
artist JACK KIRBY first drew him, the Thing was intended to be a
huge, lumbering monster, not the small cuddly teddy bear he later
became.  It seems that Jack always had difficulty in maintain-
ing the sizes of characters in relation to one another.

The Thing - reduced in stature in this early reprint

For example, in the FF, BEN GRIMM as the Thing often
appears far smaller than REED RICHARDS, but is sometimes
shown as the towering figure he was first envisioned as.  Over time,
Kirby came to identify with the character because of his own short
stature, but I don't think that he deliberately intended to transform
Ben into a comicbook representation of himself - it just happened.
Having happened however, I think Jack simply continued the
practice once he noticed what he'd done.


It wasn't only in the FF that this problem occurred, it also
happened in The HULK mag, where RICK JONES sometimes
appeared to be far taller than Hulkie - even making allowances for
ol' Greenskin's lurching, slumping posture.  Also, in the first issue
of The AVENGERS, the last panel shows a clearly upright Hulk
figure as being smaller than IRON MAN and THOR - and if you
study Jack's work, you'll see many other examples of this
kind of inconsistency.

Tall Thing

Stan also must've noticed the Thing's seemingly-shrinking
stature over the course of monthly issues, as when the first half
of the FF's origin was reprinted in their very first Annual in 1963,
he had SOL BRODSKY (or LARRY LIEBER) revise some panels,
particularly on the page in which the Thing first appeared.  This was
obviously to bring Ben's height into line with then current issues
of the monthly mag.  I have to be honest - I don't like the idea
of a small Thing - I prefer him to be the towering figure he
was initially drawn as.

Small Thing

Jack wasn't the only artist who sometimes made the Thing
seem too small.  Take a look at the following panels by RON
WILSON from the first issue of the Thing's own magazine in the
early '80s - going by the height of the door frame, Ben appears to
be only around 5' 4", which simply isn't tall enough for the him
to be as imposing in the way he was originally intended
to be.  He's a monster, not a midget!

Anyone care either way?  Let rip in the comments section.

7 comments:

Colin Jones said...

Kid, it wasn't just his size that changed but his whole personality - the very early Thing seemed like a much scarier and dangerous figure I'd say. And look at his dialogue on that first page - would the later Thing ever say "Bah!" or "So, the time has come" - that's the sort of thing Dr. Doom would say ! But the sizes of the Marvel characters was always changing - as you say, the Hulk's size was never fixed and I think Thor was supposed to be taller too in order to reflect his godlike status. Talking of the Hulk - one mistake I noticed was that he often remained in "Hulk mode" long after he'd calmed down and should have returned to "Banner mode". And of course no matter what colour trousers Banner was wearing they always ended up as purple/pink when he became the Hulk and amazingly they never split and the Hulk never seemed to be bothered by how painfully tight they must have been !

Kid said...

I think Stan tailored The Thing's speech to how Jack drew him. At first, he was a big, scary-looking, lumbering monster - so that's how Stan dialogued him. Then he became a smaller, almost comedic-looking character, who looked liked he was dropping wisecracks all the time - so that's what Stan had him do. Same thing happened in reverse with the X-Men's Beast; at first he spoke in a colloquial manner, but within a short time had evolved into a far more intelligently-spoken individual. As for The Hulk, CJ - he's indestructible - do you think tight trousers would bother him?

Andrew May said...

The two versions of the Thing bursting through the wall ("Why must they build doorways so narrow?") are particularly interesting to compare. If you open each of them in its own tab and then toggle rapidly between them, you get a kind of animation effect where you can see the differences very clearly.

Essentially everything except the Thing himself is unchanged. Also his legs, the solid black part of his trunks and his left forearm (i.e. the one on the viewer's right) are unchanged. The main differences are his face and the upper part of his body. But which is the original?

My feeling is that the smaller version rather than the larger one was actually draw first. I've got two reasons for saying this. First, the other arm (his right, the viewer's left) is identical in both pictures. It looks right for the smaller body, but wrong for the larger one - the shoulder seems too low. Secondly, the larger body has bigger trunks, with the upper part shaded brown. But there is scaly skin visible here, suggesting this was originally meant to be bare abdomen! For that matter, the scaly skin is absent from the chest of the larger figure, again suggesting this is a later, hastily drawn correction.

Maybe the smaller version was drawn first, but for some reason it was modified to the larger size on its first appearance, and then reverted to the smaller figure for the reprint?

Kid said...

An interesting but ultimately mistaken speculation, Andrew. The shorter Thing figure in the second version is obviously by a different and inferior hand - patently not Jack Kirby's. In the first version, the inking style on the face matches the rest of the figure, as well as other pictures of his face throughout the story - not the case with the second version, sadly. Other changes were made to the reprint - the Torch was redrawn, as was Reed's face - in styles that just didn't match Jack's art.

So, no cigar, I'm afraid, but an 'A' for effort.

Andrew May said...

An A is very generous! I'm sure you're right - I was focusing on the differences rather than the overall effect, and in the latter sense the "big Thing" wins hands down. He actually looks like a monster, whereas the small Thing looks like a "cuddly teddy bear" (to use your own phrase).

baab said...

It is the larger figure in my Essentials black and white re-prints.

While having a god look at the panels I notice that the hand in the third panel has long thumb and fingers and has more fingers than he should.
This is different in the second examples third panel where he has four digits.

Kid said...

The redrawing just isn't up to par, Andrew, which I feel is the main give-away, but to be honest, long after I'd reached my own conclusion, it was confirmed in some publication or other. (Forget which one.)

******

The correction to the fingers was doubtless made because, by then, the number of The Thing's finger and toes had been decided upon. That was another thing that Jack was never too consistent on in the early days, Baab - just how many digits Thingie and Hulkie had.

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