He’s been a member of the most famous fighting superhero foursome for the past 40 years. As the unquestioned muscle of the group, he helped save the planet (even the universe) countless times.
And for all that time, Benjamin Jacob Grimm held a closely guarded secret.
But now the tough-talking former test pilot (and charter member of The Fantastic Four) has revealed his concealed heritage.
It turns out that Grimm, known to comic book lovers around the world merely as The Thing, is Jewish.
In the August issue of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four, The Thing, who bears a resemblance to The Golem, discloses his ethnic background while fighting the evil Powderkeg.
When an elderly pawnbroker from Grimm’s old Lower East Side neighborhood is hurt during the battle, The Thing tries to recall the Jewish prayer "Shma Yisrael" to say over him. The old man recovers, impressed that Grimm remembered how to recite the ancient prayer.
"It’s good to see you haven’t forgotten what you learned at Temple, Benjamin," he says. But then he asks: "All these years in the news, they never mention you’re Jewish. I thought maybe you were ashamed of it a little."
The Thing responds: "Nah, that ain’t it. I don’t talk it up is all. Figure there’s enough trouble in this world without people thinkin’ Jews are all monsters like me."
Grimm was referring to his strange orange-pile-of-rocks body, which he was transformed into, along with his acquisition of super strength, when he was pelted by cosmic rays during a test space flight in 1961. The rest of his crew also gained super powers: becoming the Human Torch, Invisible Girl and the stretchable Mr. Fantastic.
Of course, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to learn of The Thing’s heritage. After all, he was created by two Jewish comic book pioneers, Stan Lee (nee Leiber, who created Spider-Man, Hulk and Daredevil) and Jack Kirby (Kurtzberg) who co-created Captain America.
In fact, it was an open secret in the Marvel offices that Grimm was always Jewish, according to former Marvel editor Glenn Greenberg. "It was kind of an unwritten thing," he said. "It was obvious with that name he probably wasn’t Irish or Italian."
Cosmic Comics in Manhattan hailed the news, enticing customers with a sign saying: "Find out which member of the FF is Jewish. Hint. How do you circumcise an orange brick?"
Still, one person was clearly taken by surprise.
"You’re really Jewish?" asks the defeated Powderkeg.
"There a problem with that?" Grimm responds.
"No. It’s just …you don’t look Jewish."