Many fans who discovered Marvel Comics in the ’90s found themselves drawn to the adventures of a web-slinging, wall crawling hero who believed, “With great power must come great responsibility.” If you think they were reading about Peter Parker — you’d be wrong. In the mid-’90s Peter Parker’s clone Ben Reilly was the star of Spider-Man’s titles.
In Reilly’s first appearance in 1975’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #149 his creator, the Jackal, tricked him into fighting Spider-Man. It looked like Reilly perished in the battle, but in 1994 he returned to Spider-Man’s world and created a new heroic identity for himself, the Scarlet Spider. Ben’s return kicked off the sprawling and controversial “Clone Saga” story line which saw Reilly abandon his Scarlet Spider identity and take over the Spider-Man mantle for Peter Parker. Reilly kept the Spider-Man identity until his murder by Norman Osborn in 1996’s “Spider-Man” #75.
Reilly may be dead, but this January the heroic legacy he created lives again with the launch of an all-new ongoing “Scarlet Spider” series by writer Chris Yost and artist Ryan Stegman. CBR News spoke with Yost about the project which was announced yesterday by Marvel at their “Amazing Spider-Man” panel at New York Comic Con.
CBR News: Chris, many Marvel fans know you from your work with co-writer Craig Kyle on X-books such as “X-Force” and “New X-Men.” Lately you’ve been delving into Spider-Man’s world with event tie-ins including the “Fear Itself: Spider-Man” miniseries and the “Spider-Island: Avengers” one-shot. Did “Scarlet Spider” come about because of those projects?
Chris Yost: “Fear Itself: Spider-Man” was not the disaster editor Steve Wacker thought it might be with me on board. [Laughs] He asked me about doing a book featuring the Scarlet Spider. I was reading Spider-Man back in the ’90s and I was a huge fan of the character, the concept, and the entire mythology of the “Clone Saga,” so I was in.
You weren’t the only fan of the Scarlet Spider. The character has been dead for 15 years now, but he still has a devoted fan base. Why do you think that is? What is it about the Scarlet Spider that makes him such an enduring character?
That’s an excellent question because the first Scarlet Spider was a clone of Spider-Man. He’s the same guy, but different experiences take that Spider-Man world view of, “With great power comes great responsibility” and puts a new spin on it. Obviously people love Spider-Man and love that message of power and responsibility, but it’s interesting to look at it through another lens. It’s almost like a “What If?” story in the actual Marvel Universe. The Scarlet Spider was Spider-Man after being put through the worst case scenario. For several years he lived his life on the road hunted and haunted because he was a clone of Peter Parker. His life had been torn apart and the question was: can he still be a hero? To me, as a reader in the ’90s, that was an exciting thing.
So the Scarlet Spider combined the Spider-Man origin story with the emotional intensity of something like the “Born Again” story line in “Daredevil?”
Right, and the themes of this story are similar. Situations are going to be a little different. Without revealing too much, it’s even more of an extreme case because a lot of things have happened since those ’90s stories. Our main questions, though, are still going to be: can you be a hero when the whole world is against you? When everything tells you to go one way is it possible to make a stand and go the right way?
We know you can’t reveal much because of spoilers, but obviously readers are very curious about who this new Scarlet Spider is. Is this a character that will be recognizable in terms of powers and personality or are you dealing with a completely new character that has taken the Scarlet Spider moniker?
We’re dealing with a character named Scarlet Spider and there are things that will be very familiar about him or her and there will be things that will be very different. Without naming names there’s not much I can say, but there’s a lot to get excited about with this character. The book has a great mix of historical and new elements.
We understand that readers will get their first glimpse of this new Scarlet Spider at the end of the “Spider-Island” story line currently running though “Amazing Spider-Man” and several tie-in issues?”
Yes. Dan Slott tees it all up in “Spider-Island,” which has been amazing. It’s one of the most fun events that I’ve ever been a part of. Then the “Point One” book coming out in November features an eight-page teaser story. It’s a self-contained story with the Scarlet Spider in it that I wrote and Ryan Stegman drew, and it kind of sets the tone. Then come January we hit the ground running.
That’s an interesting metaphor because we hear “Scarlet Spider” will be a “Fugitive”-style book and when the series begins the title character is on the run from someone or something. Is that correct?
Yes, after “Spider-Island” this character is going to be on the run. New York City is generally the last place you want to be if you’re on the run because that’s where everybody is. So the Scarlet Spider thinks, “I’m going to get the hell out of here!” It’s extremely logical and that’s the way we’re trying to play this.
Steve Wacker is a big fan of showing the consequences of this reality. If you were a fugitive in the town where the Avengers lived you would leave town! Heck, you’d try to get out of the country. So our protagonist decides, “I’m going to go to Mexico.” That puts them on the path. The “Point One” adventure takes place on the road between New York and Texas and then we pick up in Houston for issue #1. We’ve seen New York a billion times and we’ve seen L.A. a couple [times], but shockingly there are other cities in the United States of the Marvel Universe. [Laughs]
What can you tell us about the events that occur when the Scarlet Spider reaches Houston? In terms of plot and themes what is your first story arc about?
Our title character is a guy or a girl who really has a lot on their shoulders. All of their instincts are screaming, “Run!” You take the name Scarlet Spider, though, and with it comes a lot of baggage. There are just some things you can’t walk away, run, or hide from. Sometimes the history will just catch up with you.
I’ve got an artist like Ryan Stegman so I’m just going to go as insane as I can. He’s so amazing. I think people are going to be blown away by what they see. You’re seeing a little bit of it now in “Fear Itself: Hulk Vs. Dracula” and you saw what he could do with Spider-Man’s world in “Amazing Spider-Man” #665. Now throw in insane super powers, super villains, and action. We want to take Spider-Man and turn it up to 11!
Nothing much is really known about Houston’s super powered community. What can you tell us about it? Who are some of the villains the Scarlet Spider will run afoul of? What makes them good foils for this character?
I don’t want to reveal too much here, but the threats are really going to push this character. Every villain has been chosen to put our protagonist up against the wall. The Scarlet Spider has issues and every villain the character faces is going to test those issues. I remember pitching some villains to Steve Wacker and he said, “Really, you’re going to bring back them?” I said, “Let me sell you on it.” So I put together some stuff and I think he was convinced or he just wanted to see me fail. [Laughs]
Because this series takes place in Houston it’s more of a regional thing and you’re not going to see a lot big name villains. A few of them are going to be based out in the Southwest. Believe it or not, there are a few heroes that operate in that region as well. You’ll be seeing them along with a couple of local villains. It’s going to be exciting stuff.
What about the book’s non-costumed cast? Who are some of the supporting players that the Scarlet Spider will encounter in Houston?
We’ll have a full supporting cast composed mostly of new characters. The Scarlet Spider is in a new city so we’ll see if he or she can make friends. Given that a fugitive scenario is involved how does that work though? Plus, historically the city of Houston is famous for how nice its people are. So that’s going to be a fun element to play with too.
Sounds like you have grand plans for this series. How long do you see yourself sticking with “Scarlet Spider?” If fans respond to the book would you like to have a nice long run on it?
I’m a huge fan of when creators start and stay with a book. I like runs like John Byrne on “Fantastic Four,” Walt Simonson on “Thor,” Frank Miller on “Daredevil” and Bendis on “Ultimate Spider-Man.” Plus, I love this character, this story, and working with Ryan. So I love everything about this situation. Steve Wacker and [editor] Tom Brennan have been amazing to work with and I’m in for the long haul. If the fans support it I will be there.
Given that there are a lot of secrets in play “Scarlet Spider” is a hard book to talk about, but trust me, even if it’s just for the art alone, please check out this book. Ryan Stegman is the real deal and all of your lives will be made better by his work.
“Scarlet Spider” by Chris Yost and Ryan Stegman swings into comic shops in January.