Every Marvel fan knows that in Marvel Comics any character can die at any time, but they don’t stay dead for long. Especially after the Marvel original series Loki streaming Wednesdays on Disney+, now even the MCU death could be meaningless.
But that does not make it any less tragic when Marvel kills off a character that fans love like Peter Parker. Especially when it means they may be getting one they hate in the meantime.
Marvel Comics has been hinting that Peter Parker’s time as Spider-Man may be coming to end. The recently released cover art for Amazing Spider-Man #76 by Arthur Adams and written by Nick Spencer shows Mary Jane Watson sitting at his bedside while the web-slinger clings to life.
Marvel has launched a new “Beyond” era for Spider-Man. And they mean beyond Peter Parker who is not long for the Marvel Universe. Instead, the mantle of Spider-Man will be going to a controversial choice – Ben Reilly, the current Scarlet Spider.
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Who is Ben Reilly?
Ben Reilly is a clone of Peter Parker created by Miles Warren aka Jackal introduced in The Clone Saga (1973). Jackal blamed Peter Parker for the death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin. Miles was a professor at Empire State University, and he fell in love with Gwen while she was his student.
Jackal created a clone of Peter Parker to fight him, but the clone turned against the Jackal. Jackal sets off a bomb and one of the Peter Parkers dies but it was not clear who lived – the original or the clone. For a period, this story was forgotten until 1994 when The Clone Saga started again.
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Then, it was revealed that the Spider-Man that fans had been following and loving for the last twenty years was not Peter Parker at all but the clone. The clone took the name Ben Reilly and lived in exile for five years before returning as the Scarlet Spider.
Ben Reilly has been Spider-Man before in Marvel Comics. After Peter Parker was put on trial for murder, Ben took his place. Peter later decided to leave New York and Ben took on the Mantel. He also died and was later resurrected – seriously no one stays dead for long.
So, Why Do Marvel Fans Hate Ben Reilly?
If you weren’t reading Spider-Man comics back in the 1990s you may have missed the backlash to The Clone Saga. To say it was received badly is an understatement. Even Marvel admits it in the official description of the event on their website:
No Spider-storyline was as innovative or infamous as the 1990s Clone Saga – and now you can read it in full! Spider-Man must confront the strangest occurrence of his super hero career – the return of his perfect clone. But does Peter Parker’s carbon copy represent his dark side…or his better half? Twists and turns abound on one of the most historic and talked about Marvel events!
Infamous is a generous way to put it. There are lists of things wrong with The Clone Saga.
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The Clone Saga came at a time when Marvel was about to declare bankruptcy. They had lost most of their editorial staff and the writers were trying to extend the Spider-Man storyline as it was one of the few with decent sales at the time. They made the event last three years.
The reception can be summed up by Reddit user Mugenhunt who said:
Basically, the plot just never ended. They kept dragging it out longer and longer, adding twist over twist over twist, until the entire thing didn’t make any sense. Is Peter the clone, or is Ben the clone? Who is the real villain responsible? The entire plot fell apart at the end, and while it had been popular at the start, the fans got soured by how long it was being drawn out for and the obvious “We’re making this up as we go along” nature of the plot twists.
Some of the tie-ins like Maximum Clonage introduced even more clones that created confusion. And, a lot of the character designs were deemed awful – particularly that of Judas Traveller. Traveller was so poorly received he hasn’t been since The Clone Saga ended.
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Even Spider-Man: The Animated Series poked fun at it when they adapted the storyline and named the first episode “I Really, Really Hate Clones.” They even had Peter point it out saying “This is beginning to sound like a bad comic book plot.”
Characters like Ben Reilly still bear the stigma of The Clone Saga to this day. Ben has slowly been growing on Marvel fans as more time passes since the end of the event in 1997. Many have come to love him and his turn as Spider-man, they’ve even formed an appreciation group.
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But you don’t have to worry about seeing Ben as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon. Sony Pictures currently has the rights to the Scarlet Spider.
Meanwhile, other versions of Marvel’s wall-crawler like Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales have soared in popularity.
Do you hate Ben Reilly or have you never heard of him? Let us know in the comments.