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Monday, October 2, 2017

Losing Power

During a time when Thing lost his superhuman powers and returned to the human form of Ben Grimm, the Fantastic Four hired Power Man to step in as the team's resident heavy-hitter. But how did Power Man's strength compare to that of the Thing?

When Power Man fell under the evil influence of the Puppet Master in Fantastic Four #170 (May 1976), Mr. Fantastic designed an exo-suit to give Ben Grimm the rocky appearance he had as the Thing and increase his strength many times. While wearing the suit, Ben Grimm seemed evenly matched against Power Man.

By Fantastic Four #171 (June 1976), Ben Grimm's strength inside the exo-suit increased even more—now surpassing Power Man and matching 90% of Thing's previous strength. Ben resumed his place among the Fantastic Four and soon transformed back into his rocky form.

From as early as Fantastic Four #12 to as recently as #166, Thing was among a handful of super-strong characters with a long history of holding their own against the Hulk. Power Man, on the other hand, didn't claim to compete with the green goliath. In-story context consistently gave the impression that Hulk was a notch stronger than Thing, and that Thing was stronger than Power Man. As Hulk's estimated strength continued to increase over the years, Thing's relative strength increased as well. Power Man's strength level, meanwhile, didn't escalate.

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1983) originally noted that Hulk could comfortably lift (press) 90 tons and had been able to lift well over 100 tons while angry, whereas Thing could lift (press) 85 tons in peak condition. Rather than stating how much Power Man could lift, the original handbook instead noted that Power Man could punch through several feet of most modern, conventional building materials such as brick, concrete, and masonry; and with repeated blows, can rupture 4-inch steel plate.

Even though Power Man once filled in for the Thing, comic books and related references have tended to downplay Power Man's superhuman strength while emphasizing his invulnerability instead.

These images from Fantastic Four #170 show Ben Grimm learning about the exo-suit and then wearing the exo-suit while fighting Power Man.

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