Appearing in "Rock Bottom"
- Fantastic Four
- Istvan the Accursed Albino (First appearance)
- Katie Schmidt (First appearance) (Shadow only)
- Tommy (Only in flashback)
- Jake Grimm (Mentioned)
- Petunia Grimm (Mentioned)
- Bob (Mentioned)
Synopsis for "Rock Bottom"
A young Ben Grimm and his friend Tommy are running through the forest to sneak into a fairground without paying. Along the way, Ben complains about how he recently had to move in with his Uncle Jacob and his Aunt Petunia. Kicking open a hole in the fence, Ben and his pal end up smack in the middle of the park that he was looking for: the freak show. Ben spots an unattended box of popcorn and goes to take it, but is stopped by its owner, a deformed albino child, spilling it all over the place. Furious, Ben pushes the freakish boy into the side of a wagon wheel. His mother, a gypsy fortune teller, comes to her son's aid. Disturbed and angered by Ben's lack of empathy and fun making, the elderly gypsy woman curses Ben, telling him that he will know her son's tears some day....
Ben Grim is recollecting back to that moment while staring in the mirror. He is snapped out of his memories by Sue who tells him to hurry up and get dressed for the event that they are scheduled to appear at tonight. When Ben says he doesn't want to go because the city always throws celebrations whenever they save the city, Sue chastises him for making a public appearance and complains about how both Reed and Johnny are also dragging their heels. Ben reverts back to human form and asks why he has to go as the Thing, Sue explains that people want to see him as the Thing for appearance sake. When Sue leaves to get the others moving, Ben reverts back into the Thing and rips his tux due to his size. Soon the Fantastic Four are part of a parade in their honour. While people cheer on the other members of the team, Ben notices that the only attention he is getting is from the children who are frightened by his appearance. Suddenly the parade is interrupted by an attack by the Wrecking Crew. While the team subdues the group, Ben battles the Wrecker himself. Although the Wrecker manages to pry off a chunk of Ben's rocky hide with his crowbar, the Thing knocks him out with a single blow.
Back at the Baxter Building, Reed examines Ben's injury and tells him that he has to stay in Thing form as if he reverts to human form his wounds will become fatal. When Reed begins expressing his curiosity of what it looks like under Ben's hide, Grimm loses his temper and storms out.
Deciding he needs a bereak from the group, the Thing crushes his communicator and hops on a train that he believes will take him to Florida. He scares off a pair of hobos who are hanging out in an empty cattle car and quickly falls asleep. The Thing wakes up hours later to find the train has stalled and he has no idea where he is. Getting out of the car Ben slips and falls in the mud. He is suddenly surrounded by a herd of cows and when he shoots them off he realises the train has taken off without him, with his luggage still inside. Three miles away from the town of Clarkston, Michigan, Ben makes the long trek back into town. Along the way, the Thing comes across a lake and doffs his clothing to take a dip and clean the mud off him. While he's swimming some local kids steal his clothes. He chases them into town and finds that the whole place is deserted. Stealing a pair of shorts off a tire mascot statue and continues to look around for people.
Picking up the smell of popcorn the Thing follows the smell and finds himself drawn to a circus carnival complete with a freak show owned by a cowpoke named Paul Balk. Also much to Ben's surprise the albino boy that he crossed paths with oh so many years ago is also part of the collection of freaks.
- The Thing gained the ability to change back and forth between human form in Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #38 and retains them until Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #59.