SPOILER ALERT: The following interview contains spoilers for "Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy" #3 and "Amazing Spider-Man" #22.
First Ben Reilly returned, and now the Scarlet Spider is back -- in an all-new ongoing series set to debut in April.
A person's favorite incarnation of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man often depends on when they discovered the character. For many fans who first read about Spidey in the ‘90s, there’s only one true webslinger -- and his name isn't Peter Parker.
Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter Parker created by the villainous Jackal, re-entered Spidey’s life as the hoodie-clad hero known as the Scarlet Spider in the mid-'90s, before taking over the Spider-Man identity full time in 1996, as storylines briefly established Ben as the "real" Peter Parker. Ben’s tenure as Spidey was as controversial as it was short, and both it and his life seemingly came to an end in December 1996's “Spider-Man” #75, which saw Peter Parker reclaim the webbed mantle.
In “Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy” #3, writer Dan Slott and artist Jim Cheung gave Ben Reilly fans a big surprise when the event's antagonist, the Jackal, unmasked and revealed himself to be Spider-Man's fallen clone. Yes, Ben has returned, claiming his creator's identity and launching a plan to rid the world of the suffering of death by resurrecting people as clones.
“Clone Conspiracy” wraps up in March, but Ben Reilly's story will not conclude with it. In April, the event's aftermath will find Ben Reilly torn between his identity as the Jackal and his original heroic legacy as Spidey veterans writer Peter David and artist Mark Bagley launch the ongoing “Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider” title.
CBR spoke with David exclusively about his take on Ben, what it means for his title character to once again put on his signature hoodie, the new character with a vendetta against Ben, and what role the most recent Scarlet Spider, Ben's clone brother Kane Parker, will play in the series. Plus, we have the first look at Bagley's redesign of the Scarlet Spider costume.
CBR: What made a monthly Ben Reilly book an appealing assignment for you? Which of the character’s personality traits do you find especially interesting?
Peter David: I love the fact that he's a character who has been around for a long while, but that he has a history that has caused major changes in his personality. He spent so long trying to emulate Peter Parker, to be a hero, and then he had as huge a fall from grace as anyone could imagine. And now, he has died literally so many times that it's completely unhinged him to the point where he doesn't know what the hell he wants anymore. Someone like Peter is truly fixed in his personality and life's ambitions. Ben is trying to understand the world around him and his relationship to it. He's a hero at heart, but a villain in his head and he is constantly trying to sort everything out.
What can you say about Ben’s emotional state and status quo when you pick up with him in “Scarlet Spider” #1?
He is trying to decide what to do with his Jackal personality, and he is literally being haunted by his earlier incarnations. He has his Scarlet Spider identity on one shoulder, urging him to follow his better angels, and the Jackal on the other hand, trying to get him to return to the path that led him to disaster. He's trapped in the middle, endeavoring to balance the two. Of all the characters I've written who are having identity problems -- and God knows, I've done a few -- Ben is easily the most unhinged.
Ben being the titular Scarlet Spider of your new series is bound to have fans of the man who last took up that identity wondering if he’ll appear in your series. Do you currently have plans for Kaine Parker?
Oh, yes, Kaine Parker has a major place in this comic. Kaine is not going to believe that Ben is really dead, and he feels that it's up to him to be the one to track him down. He's on the hunt, right from issue #1.
What's your sense of Kaine? How does he see himself compared to Peter Parker?
I think he sees himself as a political opposite of Peter Parker. He respects Peter's wishes and desires, but privately feels that Peter doesn't go far enough in his endeavors to fight crime. Kaine doesn't really have the same problem with killing, for instance, that Peter does. The only reason he doesn't kill is because he feels it would upset Peter if he knew, but he is perfectly capable of doing whatever he has to in order to take down bad guys and won't hesitate to do what he feels needs to be done, Peter's feelings be damned.
Who are some of the other supporting players Ben Reilly will interact with in your initial “Scarlet Spider” stories?
Cassandra Mercury. She is the premiere administrator of blackmail in the Marvel Universe. She has something on literally everyone, which gives her tremendous power. The one thing she doesn't have is a daughter. Something happened to her daughter and Ben (as the Jackal) was involved. This leads her to come gunning for Ben to settle the score. She has a top aide, a gentleman named Slate who is something of a badass on his own. Then there's Ben's attempts to recreate a life for himself that's based on Peter's life, which is where he acquires Aunt June, a rather formidable senior citizen who neither knows nor cares about him.
Will the series be set against one particular backdrop or multiple ones? And will you get a chance to explore some areas we don't often see in Marvel Comics?
We're opening up with Ben in a wholly new city, one that we've explored a bit before in Marvel Comics, but haven't set an entire series in from the beginning.
Finally, what’s it like working on this book with Mark Bagley? Have you guys collaborated together before?
Not that I recall, no. Mark's great. He has been very excited about this entire project from the start, and was busy designing Scarlet Spider costumes from within a week of being assigned to it. And yes, there will be a hoodie because, hey, Scarlet Spider. Gotta be a hoodie.
I want this book to be a hit as much as you do. So everyone buy the damned thing.
"Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider" #1, by Peter David and Mark Bagley, arrives in April from Marvel Comics.