Monday, February 04, 2008

Benjamin J. Grimm

When I was a kid, my favorite comic book character was one popularly known as "The Thing", a creation of Jack Kirby. I rarely called him "The Thing", though, and thought of him by his given name: Ben Grimm. It was no surprise later on in life when I learned that there was more than a little of Jack Kirby in Benjamin J. Grimm. In my days trying to become a comic book writer, I had some near misses with the editors at Marvel and DC, where I most wanted to work. Here is a pitch that I made at Marvel to do a story featuring Ben Grimm, and which almost got past the various barriers, but in the end (alas!) did not.

SOLDIERS

A Ben Grimm mini-series (or FF continuity series)

By

James Robert Smith

Utgard Troll legend: "A Midgard Troll will rescure the queen and save the race."

Ben Grimm faces another day as a giant in a world of ants, a man of stone in a tissue paper world. He is insulted, assaulted, made fun of, mocked, jeered. And yet, he can do nothing to retaliate. To do so with the inhuman strength in his monstrous body would be to commit murder. And he has always been their protector.

At the end of this especially trying day, the very people who had earlier jeered him now call to him for help: a grave danger has appeared, menacing the frail humans who torment the one they call "The Thing".

In the midst of rubble that had been a storefront, emerging from the dust of destruction steps Ulik, mightiest of the Utgard Trolls. "Thank you, God," Grimm thinks, gazing skyward. It's Clobbering Time!

A battle rages, Grimm striking with all of his power, impressing, if not defeating this being who has stood toe to toe with Asgard's own Thunder God. And finally Ulik relents. For, after all, he is not on Midgard to battle senselessly with Grimm, or menace those whom this human is sworn to protect: he needs Grimm's help.

Long ago, the Queen of all the Trolls became something more than troll: she used her sorcery to transform herself into an icon about which the Utgard Trolls could gather in times of trouble, speaking to them through seers and priests. But Utgard is troubled, opposing forces interpreting Her words differently: internecine warfare erupted among the Trolls. The Queen/Icon was stolen by the rebellious faction, placed where no single Troll, not even Ulik, can reach. Not without the help of the prophesied "Midgard Troll". The seers Ulik's king employs say that this "Midgard Troll" can only be Grimm.

Ben hears the pleas of this enormously powerful and proud being, and he agrees to go.

In Utgard, Grimm finds himself in a world more to his suiting. He can open the doors without fear of wrenching them from their frames. He can sit in chairs without fear of splintering them; can lie in beds without shattering them. The Trolls drink ale powerful enough to stagger even one such as Grimm. The streets teem with folk he can touch without holding back. Here, there are women of physical substance. Ben Grimm finds himself at home among the Trolls; He could live forever in such a place.

Grimm dreams of the Icon/Queen. She speaks to him in riddles.

The trolls have a way about them. Yes, they can be brutal and savage: but what are humans? Grimm finds the trolls also to be compassionate and kind. And they honor him. They honor his power, and they honor his years as a soldier: an honorable soldier, if such a thing exists. Grimm believes there is, and at the urging of the Troll King, he and Ulik set about their quest.

War Between the Trolls. Grimm and Ulik come to command tandem batallions. They take the battle to the troll rebels, conquering the battlefields and taking rebel villages. Grimm's armies are more forgiving than those of his counterpart's. Also, Grimm's army becomes more successful than that of Ulik, and Grimm finds himself adored by his men and by the trolls for whom he fights. But there is no jealousy from Ulik, as Grimm might expect. Ulik's respect for Grimm increases. They become fast friends, Ulik's own brother acting as Grimm's second.

All along, the dreams torment Grimm. He will save the Troll race. They will hate him for it.

At last, Grimm's armies prepare to take the Queen. She is there, cast in Uru, frozen forever, undying, everlasting, torn from where she had once been. These rebels have fought well, and have one last defense: the Queen sits at the edge of a dimensional maelstrom, conjured there and waiting to consume her. She hovers on an enchanted stone, waiting to either be rescued or tossed in. A rebel warrior has made ready to release her forever into oblivion, but Grimm stops him and fights his way to her against tidal forces raging against him. He is by her side, then, ready to secure her to Utgard with his Uru chain. And she speaks to him:

"Grimm. My people kill one another over me. I did not wish this, but foresaw it long ago. They will not stop the killing until I am no longer a prize to be won by this side or that. You must push me into the maelstrom. You are not of Utgard, and so no everlasting enmity will lie on the heads of any Troll faction. Release me. Release our people. And know that you are a Troll, truly and forever..."

Ben does as she asks, finding himself being drawn into the maelstrom. He cannot fight against it. He realizes he is lost. And then:

An uru chain has been thrown to him. There is only one other. Ulik possesses it. Grim takes it and Ulik hauls him back to Utgard. "I could not do less for such a soldier as you," Ulik confesses. "But you have betrayed us. You must leave the land of the Trolls forever. I cannot forgive you."

And so Utgard is lost to Grimm. He finds himself on Midgard again. Lost, again, on Midgard.

Ever a giant among the ants....

3 comments:

dogboy443 said...

Bravo Bob,

That has all the energy and heart that only someone like Kirby could do justice too.

dogboy443 said...

Bob, If you don't mind I'd like to do some sketches from this treatment, just for shits'n'giggles.

HemlockMan said...

Sure!

I had a second version done at the insistence of an editor at Marvel (I forget which one) in which I'd added a little kid who gets taken to Utgard along with Ben. He's a kid Ben has met who's a burn victim, set apart because of his scars. In Utgard, such scars are considered a badge of honor for trolls who work in the furnaces making uru metal. So he fits right in. (There was a sub-plot where the kid was given troll strength, resistance, etc.)

At any rate, it was something added afterward to "humanize" the story a little. It wasn't in my original plot and I only added it to make an editor happy. It didn't do any good, in the end.