The Thing Series Adds More Headaches to Marvel’s Timeline

In the new Thing series, Ben Grimm mixes up history by calling Russia the USSR, which adds another puzzle to Marvel’s tricky timeline.

There is a time indicator in the new Thing series which adds more confusion to Marvel Comics‘Already confusing and changing timeline. This reference comes in the first issue of the new miniseries The thing. It is written by Walter Mosley and illustrated by Tom Reilly.

The series begins with Ben Grimm, better known as The Thing, returning from a well-deserved fishing vacation. He didn’t bring his phone so he wouldn’t be disturbed, but Ben finds the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building empty. All other members are absent. Eventually, Ben finds himself in legal trouble, and Reed returns from a conference in Russia to bail him out. When Reed and Ben meet, Ben refers to Russia as the USSR, forcing Reed to correct him.


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This reference to the USSR is a great way to pinpoint where this story takes place in Marvel’s timeline. The initial caption for number 1 reports that this story happened”years ago,” without much detail. But if Ben, who is a smart guy with multiple master’s degrees, calls Russia the USSR, it must be relatively close to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, over 30 years ago. Ben also uses a dating service during the series, citing his preferred age for a woman as “over 30.” That means Ben is probably around 30 years old himself during the story, maybe even older. It comes after he and his longtime girlfriend Alicia Masters took a break from their relationship, which began long after the infamous FF crash where he was turned into Thing.

If all of this is to be taken at face value, it would mean that Ben Grimm is at least 60 years old in the current Marvel timeline. That’s pretty old for a superhero going up against some of the strongest in the Marvel Universe. Of course, it’s always possible that Ben’s stone body has an effect on his aging, but that doesn’t take into account Reed’s appearance. Neither Sue nor Johnny have appeared on the show yet, but Reed does with his signature white hair. Reed also looks like a distinguished man of at least 40, putting his age in current Marvel continuity at 70.

Ironically, the Fantastic Four recently received the life story treatment that Spider-Man first undertook. Fantastic Four: Life Story sees Marvel’s first family aging in real time from their accident in the 1960s to the present day. This series is a great way to put the career of the Fantastic Four into the context of historical events. With its real-time format, references to things like the Soviet Union are a natural fit. But the Thing dropping the USSR name as if it were a current reference only makes his solo series muddy Marvel Comics chronology.

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