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The Thing: The Heart of the Stone

01 January 2008


The Thing

Back in the day, if you went to adherents dot com (sadly the site is no more, but it was cool enough that the Library of Congress has archived it) you would learn many interesting things related to religious practice in the world, including the religious affiliation of any famous person. One of my favorite pages on this site is the list of super heroes and comic book characters. Yes, this is the place to learn that Marvel’s Elektra is Greek Orthodox, Superman is Methodist/Kryptonian, X-Man Sabretooth was an atheist who saw the light.

“… Wolverine attends the funeral of [his arch-rival] Sabretooth, and learns that Sabretooth became a devout “born-again” Christian. Sabretooth’s funeral was attended by scores of people who testified about how Sabretooth had touched their lives and had been an inspiration to them.”

Other facts obvious (Super Bahai Girl is … Bahai) and less obvious (the character Wiccan, from the Young Avengers, is not a fan of Harry Potter, but a reformed Jew) abound.

One of my favorite comic characters is The Thing–not the slightly stupid-looking movie character from recent films, but the Jack Kirby creation. The Thing, one of the Fantastic Four, was turned to stone by some kind of space-radiation. There is something iconic in this hulking rock-man that makes me think of humankind in general (made from earth and bound by our “hearts of stone”). On The Thing’s page, Adherents quoted a story about the issue where his Jewish faith is revealed …

… Bending over the fallen [Jewish pawn broker] Sheckerberg, The Thing prays the traditional “Sh’ma Yisrael,” the Hebrew confession at death. Sheckerberg survives and asks Grimm the question on many readers’ minds: “All these years in the news, they never mention you’re Jewish. I thought maybe you were ashamed of it a little.” Grimm explains that, to the contrary, he did not want to bring shame on the Jewish community. “Figure there’s enough trouble in this world without people thinkin’ Jews are all monsters like me.” When Grimm tries to return the stolen Star of David, the pawnbroker refuses it, likening Grimm to the Golem–the legendary living statue said to have protected Prague’s persecuted Jews.”

Once my young son and I were trolling in our local Big Box: he’d saved up a few dollars and wanted to buy a toy. We saw a Thing action figure. I thought it was pretty cool and pointed it out to him. He shrugged his approval and kept looking. He had trouble making up his mind, and I kept asking him, hey what about this Thing doll? He got as firm as a six year-old can get and said that he didn’t really want that one. Then I realized … I wanted it. Hey, I have six dollars! Timo bought the giant green-foam Hulk Punching Fists with Realistic Roaring Sounds, and I bought The Thing, who still stands over my computer.

Timo was stuck with me in my office one summer day, and I gave him the doll, showed him how he could push him flat against a piece of paper and draw his outline, crime-scene style. The resulting images were inspiring (to me …), and I expanded the project. Without realizing what we were doing, and without being aware of Benjamin Grimm’s Jewish story at the start, we created a kind of Old Testament Review of characters, even evoking the story of the Golem, the earth monster with a heart that is at the root of the Frankenstein story (another story with surprising theological implications).

The Thing as Enoch

The project, as it stands, contains the original ‘outlines’, and some of the collages I’ve made that feature Ben Grimm.

Gallery of The Thing in various projects.