It’s funny how you get to a certain age and for a brief moment you can hyper identify with music and literature, film and heroes real and fictional. At around 18 your life is changing and a person looks to make their own way in the world. For some it’s a journey of figuring out who you are and who you wanna be.
I have always been a massive comic book geek. I lived for the first 7-8 years of my life in a trailer park in Proctorville, Ohio. The trailer park was just off of State Route 7 and ran along the Ohio River. Well across the main drag of my trailer park was a little mom and pop convenience store called Holderby’s. I used to go to this store a lot with my folks and the deal was always that if I was good, which I always was, I’d get a quarter for the Ms. Pac-Man standup and a comic from the spinner rack. The time period here is the early 1980’s and Spider-Man was hands down my favorite character, still is for the most part.
After my folks had returned their soda bottles for change and I had fallen to the 4 bit ghost of the arcade game, we’d return home and just before bed one of my parents would read me my fresh new comic as a bed time story and show me the art as the story went along. Soon I’d fall asleep to dream about what is certainly Stan Lee’s most famous creation, Spidey and his friends.
Eventually when I was nearing the end of my High School years in the mid 90’s Marvel drops a bomb shell on it’s readers. The Peter Parker/ Spider-Man we’d been reading for years may not be the real thing. A clone of Parker’s created by his college professor, Miles Warren had returned.
The 1990’s was the most gimmicky time in the history of comics. All the heroes were either being killed off or changing into grimacing anti-heroes. Superman died, Batman had his back broken, Green Lantern was evil and called all the GL corps. Tony Stark was an evil teenage version of himself. Plus all the cover were holograms and bagged.
The gimmick was that a throw away clone character, who supposedly died at the end of a story in the 1970’s was actually alive and back in New York and he’d crossed paths with the original.
The Peter Parker clone would take the name Ben Reilly. Ben from Peter’s uncle, the Power and Responsibility, one and Reilly was Aunt May’s maiden name. After being back in NYC for a bit in a story called The Exile Returns Ben decides he’s gonna stay, he’d been living on the road for years always on the move. Partially because he didn’t feel like he was a real person and didn’t belong. There was also the fact that another failed Parker clone named Kaine was out to kill him. Comics right?
So Ben adopts the alias of the Scarlet Spider. It was a totally throw away costume designed by comics legend Mark Bagley. The outfit was made up of a plain red Spidey type outfit with a blue hoodie he bought at zoo gift shop. I gathered he felt like a cheap knock off so why not go with it?
So now the Scarlet Spider is making a place for himself in the world. This goes back to my original point. I was 16-17 at the time and I strongly identified with the character, I too was ready to go out into the world and find my own place. Plus Ben was super poor and worked in a coffee shop. I didn’t have a lot either and worked in a grocery store.
Well as it turned out the character was I initially super popular. He had beaten Venom, which Spider-Man never had. People really liked the character, and Marvel really liked money. So, it all gets amped up and the slide to Hell begins. Marvel gets the idea that maybe Been was the real Spider-Man the whole time! So in a story designed to last 6 months, we get drug out for over a year. The Peter we’ve followed for 20 years is married to M.J. Watson and he’s going insane or something. All to comfort the blow of the rug being pulled out from the feet of long time readers.
When Ben is revealed to by the real Spidey, comic fans lose their minds. It’s hate mail and boycotts. This was Marvel Pre- Disney ownership and money was a worry in the late 90’s. So marvel has to reverse course after a year of Ben as Spidey and Peter and M.J. off having a baby in Portland, Oregon.
The best way the editors decided was to bring back ole Norman Osborne, the original Green Goblin. He’d also been dead for quite some time. However the whole Clone Saga was simply a big gotcha to Peter.
The entire year plus story line known forever as The Clone Saga, would be wrapped up in 4 issues spread out over one month. The story was called Revaltions.
Marvel needed their corporate icon back to normal and it was deemed that Ben was out. All the way. 💀
Ben would die saving Peter from Norman’s Goblin Glider. He’d die thinking he was the real deal. It was sad.
It was also here that Pete and M.J. would lose the baby or it was kidnapped or something. It was all retconned away later any how. From here Ben Reilly would be forgotten for about 5 years then he was teased repeatedly for another decade plus. However we will get to that next Saturday in The Miseducation of Ben Reilly part 2. Thanks for reading and have a great week.