Benjamin J. Grimm was born on Yancy Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where he grew up in poverty. His father, an alcoholic, was unable to hold a job. Much of the family's income came from Grimm's older brother, Daniel, who obtained funds illegally as leader of the Yancy Street Gang. Grimm, who idolized his brother, became embittered against the world when Daniel was killed in a battle between rival gangs. Grimm was only 8 years old at the time; within 10 years, he had succeeded his brother as leader of the Yancy Street Gang. After his parents died, Grimm was taken in by his Uncle Jake, who had risen from poverty to become a successful physician. At first, Grimm resisted his new guardians' kindness toward him. But eventually, he came to return their love. He left his life with the Yancy Street Gang behind, entered high school, and became a football star there. While he was a senior at Stuyvesant High School, Ben received a football scholarship to Empire State University.
Grimm's freshman year roommate was the brilliant science student Reed Richards, who became his closest friend. During their first meeting Richards confided in Grimm his intention someday to build a starship for interstellar travel. Grimm jokingly promised that he would pilot the starship for Richards if he ever built it.
Upon graduating Grimm went into the U.S. Air Force and became a highly skilled test pilot and astronaut. In the meantime Richards went ahead with his project to build a starship, using both his own fortune and funding from the Federal government. On the day that Grimm left the military, Richards came to Grimm to remind him of his promise to pilot the starship.
Richards' project was based in Central City, California. When the federal government threatened to withdraw its funding from Richards' project, Richards decided to take the starship on a test flight himself as soon as possible. Grimm was opposed to the idea, warning that the starship's shielding might prove to be inadequate protection from intense radiation storms. Nevertheless, Grimm was persuaded to serve as pilot, and Richards' future wife Susan Storm and her adolescent brother Johnny insisted on accompanying Richards' as passengers. The four friends stole onto the launch facility, entered the starship, and launched it. They intended to travel through hyperspace to another solar system and back. However, unknown to Richards, a solar flare caused Earth's Van Allen radiation belts to be filled temporarily with unprecedented (as far as is known), ultra-high levels of cosmic radiation. Since the ship was designed to shield against ordinary levels of radiation, the cabin interior was subject to intense cosmic ray bombardment which irradiated the four passengers and wrought havoc on the ship's controls. Pilot Grimm was forced to abort the flight and return to Earth.Once back on Earth, the four passengers discovered that the cosmic radiation had triggered mutagenic changes in this bodies. Grimm was transformed into an orange colored, thick-skinned, heavily muscled, and superhumanly strong "thing." Richards convinced the three others that the four of them should use their new powers for the good of humanity as members of a team ha named the Fantastic Four. Richards called himself Mister Fantastic, Susan and Johnny Storm took the names of the Invisible Girl (later Woman) and the Human Torch, and Grimm, morose over his new grotesque appearance, named himself the Thing. Under Richards' leadership the Fantastic Four has become Earth's most honored team of superhuman adventurers, and has saved the world from conquest or destruction many times.
Over the years the mutations to the Things body have continued to progress slowly. The composition of his epidermis changed from an abnormally dense, somewhat lumpy but still comparatively smooth hide to a flexible, interlocking network of rock-like lumps. His superhuman strength increased considerably over time. Early in Grimm's life as the Thing, he would sometimes revert to his original human form unexpectedly. But neither these changes nor those induced by Richards in his efforts to turn Grimm back to human form ever proved to be permanent. Eventually Grimm always reverted to his monstrous, superhumanly powerful form. Appalled by his appearance, Grimm was at first filled with anger at his situation, but he eventually became resigned to his fate, although he continued to be disturbed by his appearance and to hope for a means of regaining his human form that would last. Instrumental in helping Grimm to adjust to his life as the Thing was the blind sculptress Alicia Masters, with whom Grimm fell in love. Reed Richards eventually discovered that Grimm had reached a state in which he could transform from his Thing form to human form and back at will. However, Grimm feared that Alicia Masters would only love him as the Thing, for she had not known him before his initial transformation. Hence, Grimm suffered from a subconscious mental block that prevented him from becoming human.
The relationship between Grimm and Masters was suffering from strains when Grimm was transported to the distant "Battleworld" by the alien Beyonder for the first of the so-called "secret wars." On that planet Grimm found himself able to change to human form and back. Concealing his discovery of Grimm's mental block for fear of hurting his feelings. Richards claimed that the nature of the planet itself was somehow responsible for Grimm's ability to transform back and forth. Once the "secret war" was over, Grimm remained on the planet for months. Eventually, however, he found himself trapped once again in his monstrous form, unable to change to human form, and he returned to Earth. There Grimm learned that his teammate Johnny Storm and Alicia Masters had become lovers, and that Reed Richards had concealed the information about his mental block from him. Furious and distraught, Grimm quit the Fanatic Four. He worked for a time as a superhumanly strong wrestler for the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, and also participated in missions with the West Coast Avengers.
Grimm was about to accept membership in the West Coast Avengers when he began to undergo further mutation, becoming, at least in his own mind, still more grotesque. Greatly disturbed, Grimm journeyed to Monster Island, where he had first encountered his foe, the Mole Man. Now, however, the Mole Man befriended the Thing and welcomed him into the society he had organized in his underground realm, composed of physically ugly people like himself who had believed themselves to be outcasts in the surface world. Grimm agreed to help the Mole Man in his attempt to use an earth shifting machine to raise a small continent in the Pacific Ocean to serve as a homeland for the Mole Man's society. While Grimm lived in the Mole Man's realm, his most recent mutations went into remission, leaving him looking little different than before these recent mutations had begun.
The three other original members of the Fantastic Four found the Thing in the Mole Man's realm, where Reed Richards realized that by raising a continent in the Pacific, the Mole Man would trigger earthquakes that would destroy California. The Thing joined Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, and the Human Torch in destroying the Mole Man's earth-shifting machine, and rejoined the Fantastic Four