So far in my interviews about monsters, only the creatures that purposefully had it out for mankind have been discussed. Tony Tremblay, author of the Bram Stoker Award® nominated novel, Moore House, discussed Ben Grimm, also known as the Thing from the Fantastic Four comic book series.
Ben Grimm is not your ordinary monster. His appearance is truly monstrous, basically a living stone wall, but his inner self does not match his out appearance. Tremblay points out that Grimm was “a blue collar type guy” who became “trapped in this hideous form desperate for escape.” Being in this state leaves Grimm depressed, but his circumstances never turn him evil. “Despite loathing his appearance, he remained as warm and loyal to his friends as he had been,” Tremblay says. That inner beauty even found him true love.
Tremblay became interested in Ben Grimm in the late 1960s. He found the character an antithesis toward much of the “trippy, pretentious mood of the times.” The character was “ugly” a stark difference from the beauty conscience times he first appeared in. According to Tremblay, Grimm maintained his “humanity” through it all. He says of the character, “The man is a monster in appearance only. Ben has a heart of gold.”
Like many classic monsters, Ben Grimm is a victim of circumstance. Something well outside his control transformed him into a hulking creature of stone strong enough to withstand the direct hit of a truck or smash buildings with a single hit. Like many other monsters created by forces outside of their control, Grimm finds that he also destroys the things he loves. Tremblay says, “He unwittingly destroyed things he took enjoyment from, and he constantly questioned his existence entirely in physical terms.” This follows the pattern of many monsters of circumstance like Frankenstein’s creation or Erik, aka The Phantom of the Opera, from Gaston Leroux’s novel of the same name. Both Erik and Frankenstein’s creature kill the things they love and question their existence, however, those two characters become malevolent. Grim never does.
Also like many classic monsters, Tremblay feels that Ben Grimm represents some universal truths about humanity. “When circumstances around us become overwhelming, desperate, and the easy thing would be to ignore them or go with the flow, we lose our identity. When we compromise our morals, or worse justify unconscionable actions because others are doing so or because of the current political climate, we forfeit our future as a free-thinking, open, and compassionate society. Ben Grimm always questioned authority, questioned his own actions, and ultimately decided on what was the right thing to do,” Tremblay says.
Ben Grimm grows as a character and keeps up with modern times. “One of the great things Marvel did with Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Doctor Strange and other comics was to keep them current with the times. Social issues and advances in technology were either alluded to or addressed head-on as the comics progressed,” Tremblay says. He goes on to say that things would get boring if the characters didn’t change.
Tremblay loves Ben Grimm as a monster because he isn’t a monster in the classic sense. His horrible looking on the outside, which so many other monsters are, but on the inside, he remains a good moral person. This flips the idea of the classic monster on its ear.
Now a little bit more about Tony Tremblay. He lives in the Granite State. For those of you not up on state nicknames, it’s New Hampshire. He’s been reading horror stories and books for over 50 years, growing up devouring what have now become classics of the genre. He only started writing horror about 15 years ago. Besides his novel Moore House, he’s also published two short story collections, The Seeds of Nightmares and most recently Blue Stars and Other Tales of Darkness. Check his books out. He also reviews books for Horror World and Cemetery Dance. For three years, he hosted the cable show The Taco Society Presents, which interviewed horror and genre authors from New England.
As a side note, Ben Grimm is also one of very few openly Jewish characters in comics. As such, I have always had a fondness for him, but as is the case so often, this also makes him an outsider in another way.Johnny Baltisberger