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The Long, Strange Legacy of Marvel’s Scarlet Spider

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
The Long, Strange Legacy of Marvel’s Scarlet Spider

It’s official: Marvel has announced “Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider,” a new ongoing series by Peter David and Mark Bagley spinning out of its current crossover event “The Clone Conspiracy.”

RELATED: Spider-Cloned: The Life, Death & Return of Ben Reilly

That there needs to be a qualifier that Ben Reilly is the Scarlet Spider in a “Scarlet Spider” comic book might come as a surprise to those fans that naturally think of Ben Reilly whenever they hear the name “Scarlet Spider,” but surprisingly enough, the name has gotten around quite a bit over the years. We’ll showcase you all the characters that have used the name “Scarlet Spider”, both in comics and on television.

BEN REILLY

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Introduced during the original clone saga, Ben Reilly was the name given to the clone of Peter Parker (cloned by Miles Warren, the Jackal) who fought Peter at the end of the event, as both the clone and the original believed that they were the real Peter Parker. In the end, the clone seemingly sacrificed himself to stop a bomb from killing Ned Leeds. However, after Spider-Man disposed of the clone’s body, it turned out that the clone lived. He went on the road and took on the name Ben Reilly, using the first name of Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben and the maiden name of Peter’s beloved Aunt May.

When May suffered a serious stroke, Ben returned to visit her and ran into Peter. He stuck around and became friends with Peter, which was hard to do back then as Peter was in the middle of a dark period in his life and Ben took to questioning some of his decisions. One in particular was the deal that Peter had cut with Venom where he agreed not to fight Venom in exchange for Venom not causing any more trouble in New York City. Ben, though, felt that someone had to take down Venom. Since he couldn’t do so as Spider-Man, he threw together a make-shift costume (complete with a spider sweatshirt that he tore the sleeves off of, making it one of the most 1990s costumes ever) and debuted as a new hero, the Scarlet Spider, in “Web of Spider-Man” #118 by Terry Kavanagh, Steven Butler and Randy Emberlin.

Eventually, Peter and Ben were convinced that Peter was actually the clone and Ben was the original Peter Parker. Peter and his wife, Mary Jane, left town, with Peter entrusting the city to Ben. Initially, Ben planned to fight crime as the Scarlet Spider still, but then something changed his plans.

JOE WADE

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What changed Ben’s plans was a plot by the second Doctor Octopus (Carolyn Trainer) to discredit Ben. She did so by using Joe Wade, an F.B.I. agent who was undercover in Trainer’s operation but was discovered. As a punishment, and to further her schemes, she did a virtual reality graft on Wade. He was trapped in a virtual reality chamber while he powered a hard light hologram of the Scarlet Spider that committed a series of crimes during a point in time when all of the “Spider-Man” comics were temporarily replaced by “Scarlet Spider” comic books (as a nod to when all of the X-Books were replaced by new titles for the “Age of Apocalypse”). Eventually, Ben stopped the fake Scarlet Spider by damaging the machine that made the fake Scarlet Spider. It was too late to save Ben’s reputation as the Scarlet Spider, though, so he had to give up the identity and return to being Spider-Man (Ben would tragically later learn that he was, in fact, the clone, something made clear when the Green Goblin killed Ben and Ben dissolved into ooze).

However, the damage to the machine ended up screwing with the virtual reality graft and Wade’s mind entirely, so he came back as a new cybernetic version of the Scarlet Spider and fought Ben (now Spider-Man) and the New Warriors. Eventually, Wade was rescued and slowly cured.

SCARLET SPIDER ON THE SPIDER-MAN ANIMATED SERIES

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In the final season of the 1990s “Spider-Man” animated series, Spider-Man is forced to team up with a group of Spider-Men from alternate realities. One of them is Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider! On his world, he is also the clone of Peter Parker (although he might be the original, as it is a bit unclear) but the original Peter Parker became unhinged and ended up merging with Carnage. So the other Spider-Men help take down Spider-Carnage.

FELICIA HARDY

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“Spider-Girl” told stories about May Parker, the teenage daughter of Peter and Mary Jane, who became a superhero like her father when she became a teenager (she had her dad’s spider-powers). In “Spider-Girl” #44 (by Tom DeFalco, Pat Olliffe and Al Williamson), someone discovered May’s costume in her locker. The following issue it was revealed that it was stolen by Felicia Hardy, the daughter of Black Cat and Flash Thompson. Felicia wanted to become Spider-Girl’s crime-fighting partner.

In “Spider-Girl” #46, Felicia debuted her new superhero identity as the new Scarlet Spider. While she did not become partners with Spider-Girl, she did remain a hero and helped out occasionally for the rest of the first volume of “Spider-Girl.”

MICHAEL VAN PATRICK

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In “Avengers: The Initiative” #7 (by Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli), we met three new heroes who each wore versions of the special costume that Iron Man had made for Spider-Man. They called themselves the Scarlet Spiders and they turned out to be clones of the slain Initiative hero, MVP (whose real name was Michael Van Patrick). The three clones were each named one part of MVP’s name, so one was Michael, one was Van and one was Patrick. Taskmaster taught them how to move like Spider-Man.

One by one, each member of the group was killed until only Patrick remained. He re-named himself Iron Spider. Amusingly enough, during this period, which was when Peter Parker’s secret identity was public knowledge following Spider-Man unmasking himself on national TV (and before Tony Stark, Reed Richards and Stephen Strange used their combined know-how to make Spider-Man’s identity a secret again), they threw some doubt into whether Peter was actually the “real” Spider-Man or not.

KAINE

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Kaine was the Jackal’s first attempt at cloning Peter Parker. He was “unsuccessful,” which is to say that he was not a perfect clone. He was suffering from degeneration, which caused him to have strange scars all over his body. He hated Ben for Ben being “perfect,” so during the years that Ben was on the run, Kaine kept trying to hunt him down.

Eventually, Kaine was redeemed and ended up sacrificing himself to save Spider-Man’s life during the Grim Hunt storyline (where Kaine was a ritual sacrifice in the place of Peter Parker). Kaine returned during “Spider Island” and was now more a normal looking person in his regular form (he also had Spider-Man’s new powers from “The Other,” including talons in his arms). He moved to Houston and he ended up being forced into becoming a superhero. He took on the name “Scarlet Spider” in honor of his “brother,” Ben Reilly, who he realized he hated for no good reason. He had his own short-lived series.

Kaine has returned during “The Clone Conspiracy.” Time will tell if he’s the Scarlet Spider in the new “Scarlet Spider” series.

FLASH THOMPSON (WEB WARRIORS)

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On the “Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors” animated series, Flash Thompson briefly tried to fight crime as the Scarlet Spider before he ended up merging with the Venom symbiote and became Agent Venom.

BEN REILLY (WEB WARRIORS)

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Ben Reilly later showed up on “Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors,” as well. This take on Ben Reilly was similar to Kaine, including using Kaine’s costume. He also was sort of a villain, but it turned out that he was just being used by Doctor Octopus. He ended up becoming a hero and a loyal ally of Peter as part of the Web Warriors.

Kaine later showed up, as well, but he wasn’t Scarlet Spider.

SCARLET SPIDERS (SPIDER-VERSE)

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This doesn’t really count, but hey, we might as well be completists. During the “Spider-Verse” crossover, where a bunch of alternate Spider-Man teamed up with each other, there was a “Scarlet Spiders” series that teamed up Kaine with Ben Reilly from an alternate universe where Ben was still Spider-Man and Jessica Drew, the female clone of Peter Parker from the Ultimate Universe who had become the new Black Widow.

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