Ben Reilly was the first successful clone of Spider-Man created by the Jackal. The Jackal, in his deranged grief over Gwen Stacy's death, pitted Ben against the real Spider-Man in Shea Stadium, putting both in identical costumes and allowing both to believe they were the true Peter Parker. After a heated fight, the two Spider-Men teamed up to try to save a clone of Gwen from the Jackal. In doing so, Ben seemingly died. Spider-Man dropped Ben's body into a smokestack, unable to think of any other way to deal with a dead body identical to Peter Parker.
However, the clone was not dead and literally rose from the ashes. Believing he was the real deal, he went home only to find Peter already there. The world as he understood it fell apart, and he left New York. In time, he adopted the name of Ben Reilly, a combination of Uncle Ben's name and Aunt May's maiden name.
The clone of Spider-Man who would go on to become Ben Reilly was created by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man issue 149 (1975).
The full creation of Ben Reilly's character would not happen until years later in 1993 when Terry Kavanagh proposed having the clone return. Marvel Comics desired something dramatic for the Spider-Man franchise similar to the Death of Superman event DC Comics had. As such, the original proposal was to have this clone revealed to be the original Peter Parker. The proposal was met with skepticism at first, but soon, J.M. DeMatteis and Howard Mackie got behind the idea as well and finally so did Tom Defalco after some convincing by Danny Fingeroth. Soon, the collective Spider-Man writers and editors fashioned the clone into the character of Ben Reilly. Ben first appeared as the Scarlet Spider in Web of Spider-Man issue 118 (1994).
Return of the Supposed Clone
At the time of Ben Reilly's debut, Spider-Man had become a darker character who was losing touch with his life as Peter Parker. Ben was quite the opposite, having spent years away from the costume. In this way, he was more Peter Parker than Spider-Man was at the time. He was a purer version of Peter Parker that had not been burdened by the events that had recently dragged Spider-Man into brooding darkness, but his time away from costumed super-heroics had also left him rusty and less experienced.
It was the plan at this time for Ben to soon be revealed as the true Peter Parker rather than the clone and take over the Spider-Man identity for a time with Peter eventually being restored to it after seeing how Ben fared with readers. Originally, this entire three act story for Ben was intended to run its course by the 400th issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Circumstances beyond editorial control saw to it that Ben's overall story would go far beyond that.
Both the over-dramatic name and the homemade costume of this identity were meant to be somewhat ridiculous, and it was unexpected how successful Ben as the Scarlet Spider became. As the Scarlet Spider, Ben gave readers a lighter and more familiar Spider-Man while Peter was still in his dark and brooding phase.
During this period, it was the plan that Ben really was the original Peter Parker and would eventually take the Spider-Man identity indefinitely.
Scarlet Spider, along with the Clone Saga in general, became so popular that Ben's time using this identity was extended significantly longer than he was ever intended to use it. The popularity of this identity got to the point where, even when it was time for Ben to become Spider-Man after many delays, his debut as Spider-Man was delayed even further to produce a couple months worth of issues of renamed titles such as Amazing Scarlet Spider, Spectacular Scarlet Spider and Web of Scarlet Spider.
After being delayed a great deal longer than originally intended, Ben finally became Spider-Man with a redesigned costume. Ben dyed his hair blond to distinguish himself from Peter Parker, despite supposedly being the true Peter, and settled into a civilian life working at a coffee shop.
Behind the scenes, the decision was made almost immediately by Bob Budiansky, with pressure from Dan Jurgens, to backtrack on Ben being the real thing and to restore Peter as Spider-Man. However, there was no clear plan for how to accomplish this and completely flip-flop on the big move of making Ben Spider-Man.
Major Story Arcs
The Lost Years
The clone was, in fact, not dead and climbed out of the smokestack. He named himself Ben Reilly (Ben after his uncle's first name, and Reilly after his aunt's maiden name) and left New York deeply depressed. Ben was hit by influenza and met Seward Trainer (who was being blackmailed by the Green Goblin to keep on eye on him). Trainer helped Ben back up on his feet and find a job, all while Kaine was hunting Ben, believing Ben to be the real Peter Parker and hated his "brother" for it.
Three years passed and Reilly had been working in Salt Lake City as a research and teaching assistant, thanks largely to Trainer's references. Reilly met Janine Godbe who at first did not want to be involved with Reilly, but later revealed that her name is actually Elizabeth Tyne. Tyne also took ownership to being a child abuse victim, killing her abusive father, changing her name and running away to escape her crime. Despite her grisly and tragic past, Reilly accepted her and even trusted her enough to eventually reveal to her that he was actually a clone of Spider-Man. Tyne, in return, accepted Reilly for all of his intricacies.
When Kaine killed a corrupt policewoman named Louise Kennedy, the Police believed that Reilly was the murderer because both clones have identical fingerprints. Reilly and Tyne were on the run together for a year until Kaine forced her to leave Reilly, dropping a dead clone of her off a bridge to make Reilly think she had died.
The Exile Returns
For further details: Clone Saga
Two years later, Ben Reilly returned to New York after receiving news that Aunt May had a stroke and was currently ill. While trying to visit Aunt May, he ran into Peter Parker, who was not happy to see that his clone was still alive. The two exchanged blows with Spider-Man too enraged to listen to reason, but Ben was able to knock him out and end the fight before it got too out of hand. Spider-Man was then lured into a trap at Ravencroft by Judas Traveller, and Ben felt compelled to help. Ben convinced Spider-Man that they were on the same side and managed to restrain Spider-Man's increasingly violent impulses as they fought their way through the psychotics of Ravencroft and out of Traveller's sadistic scenario.
Ben had no intent of staying in New York, but he also did not intend to leave until knowing whether Aunt May would recover. Seeing how far Spider-Man had fallen troubled him, and being back in New York made it increasingly difficult for him to stay on the sidelines. The final straw was the return of Venom. Ben could not accept the idea that Spider-Man had some kind of truce that allowed Venom to run free, so he threw together a costume to protect Peter's identity. His first confrontation with Venom went bad, leaving him with a serious gut wound. It also got out of control when Scream arrived and Venom began trying to kill her as well. Ben got a second wind and succeeded in defeating one of Spider-Man's most dangerous villains, using a new type of webbing he had developed to separate Eddie Brock from the symbiote. The symbiote, finding Ben very familiar, tried to bond with him only for Ben to reject it by sheer force of will. He made sure both Eddie and the symbiote were taken in by authorities.
Venom was just the beginning. Ben continued putting on his makeshift costume and fighting crime. Quickly, he was dubbed the Scarlet Spider by Daily Bugle reporter Ken Ellis. He hated the name, but it unfortunately stuck. He reached out to Betty Brant to set the record straight on the media's interpretation of him and found himself quickly swept up in romantic feelings for Spider-Man's past love interest. Meanwhile, Ben did not realize what all the media attention regarding the Scarlet Spider had done. The Grim Hunter, son of Kraven, began hunting him under the belief that he was simply Spider-Man in disguise. Also, Kaine realize Ben was the Scarlet Spider and came to New York. Ben was caught between two killers, trying to keep alive while trying to keep them from killing each other as well. He thought he defeated the Grim Hunter and that Kaine escaped. However, the Grim Hunter would pursue Kaine after Ben left and be killed by Ben's nemesis.
Surprisingly, Ben's return was followed by that of the Jackal's. Cloned and generically modified, the Jackal was now a physical threat to both Ben and Peter, but the real threat was what the Jackal had to say. He attempted to confuse the issue of who was the clone and who was the original. While Peter began to question things, Ben refused to play along as he had long ago accepted that he was just a clone regardless of what the Jackal now tried to imply.
Mark of Kaine
Ben's violent past with Kaine came back to haunt not him but Peter. Detective Jacob Raven had been investigating the murder of Louise Kennedy all these years and the trail led him to Peter. There was little that Ben could do as Peter was charged and put in jail. The situation got worse as the Jackal released another clone of Peter Parker. This clone was unstable and a danger to Mary Jane, forcing Ben to almost side with Kaine and a fugitive Peter to save her. When she was safe, Ben chose to take Peter's place in jail so that if the worst happened Peter could disappear with Mary Jane and still have a life.
Fortunately for Ben, Peter was able to get Kaine to confess to the murder and Ben was released. He and Peter then went to see Seward Trainer about the state of Mary Jane's pregnancy, and Trainer had some upsetting news. The pregnancy was fine, but he claimed there was signs that one of the parents was a clone. Ben and Peter used Trainer's lab to figure out the truth themselves, and both came to the same conclusion. Peter was the clone. Ben was the original.
With Peter going off the deep end, it was up to Ben to stop the Jackal's insane plan to detonate a genetic bomb in New York. He was on his last leg when he found an unlikely ally in Kaine, who hated the Jackal more than Ben at the moment.
Eventually, Peter returned to his senses and helped Ben reach the bomb in time. Together, they were able to defuse it. and Ben risked his life disposing of the explosive contents in the river.
Hunting down Helix, a project of the Jackal's that got loose, Ben teamed up with the New Warriors and ended up being invited onto the team by Firestar. His time on the team proved to be very short, but in that brief time, he and Justice did not forge a very good relationship. Justice was new to leading the team and was not comfortable with the change in dynamic Ben brought. Ben also was not willing to reveal his identity to anyone, because he had the responsibility of protecting Peter's identity as well as his own. What also did not help was a slight attraction that developed between Ben and Firestar, Justice's girlfriend at the time.
The Greatest Responsibility
After Peter and Ben risked their lives fighting the new Doctor Octopus, Peter realized he could not be a father and Spider-Man at the same time, so he proudly gave the mantle to Ben. At this time, Ben was still believed to be the original Peter Parker, so it was only fitting that he become Spider-Man again. He designed a new Spider-Man costume to mark the occasion rather than use the same as Peter's. Settling down in New York as Spider-Man also meant he had to finally build a life for himself.
He dyed his hair blonde to distinguish himself from Peter and was lucky enough to find a job at the Daily Grind, a coffee shop.
Skepticism followed his debut as many people were uncertain what to make of him and whether he was the same Spider-Man or someone new. Due to what a complicated story the truth was, Ben chose not to be very open about explaining it.
Ben quickly found himself fighting new and old villains alike. Mysterio returned with an all new look and improvements to his illusion technology. A new criminal called Armada hit the scene with an array of advanced gadgets. Ben found himself in something called the Great Game, where superhuman criminals competed in dangerous battles for points.
Web of Carnage
For further details: Web of Carnage
The Carnage symbiote escaped from Ravencroft in search of a stronger host. It eventually found and merged with Ben Reilly to become Spider-Carnage and he was forced to try to kill Peter Parker and other innocent people. With the help of Dr. Ashley Kafka and John Jameson, the Carnage symbiote was successfully removed from Reilly.
Ben later became involved with a girl named Jessica Carradine, who was the daughter of the burglar that killed Uncle Ben. When she discovered that Ben was Spider-Man, it became a problem because Jessica believed that Uncle Ben was the one with the gun (who accidentally shot himself in the stomach) and that Spider-Man had killed her father to keep the truth from surfacing. Jessica went so far as almost mailing a picture of Ben in the Spider-Man costume to the Daily Bugle, but she had a change of heart when she saw Spider-Man save many innocent lives.
Death of a hero
It soon became clear that Ben's life was involved in a conspiracy when a skeleton of a Spider-Man clone was found in the same smokestack that he had once occupied, Seward Trainer disappeared, and Ben had his bank account frozen and his apartment's possessions stolen before finally the Grind (the place where he worked) was burnt down and Ben framed for arson. The Hobgoblin revealed that he was the man behind the clone conspiracy but it was later that in yet another twist the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, revealed that he was the true master mind. In a final definitive turn of events, the conspiracy was finally settled as Ben sacrificed himself to protect Peter from the Green Goblin’s glider.
The glider cut deep into Ben's chest eventually killing him. Right before he died, however Ben told Peter that, clone or not, Peter is now Spider-Man and would have to carry on for Ben. When Ben died, though, his body decomposed rapidly, proving Seward Trainer's hypothesis. Peter, now aware that he always was the true Spider-Man, sends off his friend with this last touching remark: "rest easy... brother."
Powers and Abilities
Due to being a perfect clone of Spider-Man Ben Reilly has all of Peter Parker's spider-based powers and power levels. Super strength, durability, speed, spider-sense and the ability to adhere to almost any surface. He also possesses a genius level intellect, the "Parker luck," and the same snappy wit.
A major difference between the two is that as Ben has never been bonded to the symbiote his Spider-Sense allows him to sense dangers posed from Venom.
Weapons and Equipment
Possessing Peter's intellect Ben took a spare set of Peter's web shooters and over time modified them. Whereas Peter's are pressure sensitive Ben's are wrist activated. Depending on the movements, the web shooters perform different actions.
Ben's time away from web-slinging left him with time to think of new additions to his arsenal, which he crafted after his first confrontation with Venom. One new weapon was his stingers, micro-darts that inject a paralyzing agent. The other was impact webbing, tiny spheres of webbing that quickly grow upon impact and entangle like a net.
- Height: 5'10"
- Weight: 165 lbs.
- Eyes: Hazel
- Hair: Naturally brown, but dyed blond to differentiate between him & Peter.
Spider-Man: the Clone Saga
In 2010, Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie returned for a six issue retelling of the Clone Saga under the claim that it would be told as the story was originally intended. This turned out not to be entirely true as several ideas that were not part of the original plan were incorporated into this version of the story such as Ben Reilly's blond hair and the return of Norman Osborn.
Like the original story, Ben Reilly came to New York because Aunt May had fallen severely ill and mistakenly came face to face with Peter Parker. This Peter was not so dark and brooding as he had been in the mainstream continuity, and after a brief scuffle, Ben found Peter able to put aside the hostility and accept that he had returned. Ben soon adopted his Scarlet Spider identity but also dyed his hair blonde and settled into a normal life working at the Daily Grind coffee shop rather than waiting until he became Spider-Man to do so.
The Jackal's return confused the issue of who was and was not the cloning, pointing the finger at Ben as the original. Both Ben and Peter decided it did not matter, because they had already accepted their lives. They were also successful in acquiring a treatment from the Jackal's lab that saved Aunt May's life, and Ben was finally able to talk to her face to face. Since Peter was about to become a father, he chose to step down as Spider-Man and give the costume to Ben.
Ben donned the Spider-Man costume of his own design, and quickly, the true architect of the clone conspiracy made himself known. It was Harry Osborn and not his father Norman. Ben was tortured and nearly killed, but it was surprisingly a clone of Norman Osborn who saved the day. In the end, it was made clear that Ben was the clone after all. Ben decided to give the Spider-Man identity back to Peter and leave New York, promising that he would return to visit from time to time. However, he had to go find his own place in the world now as the Scarlet Spider.
MC-2 Universe (Earth-982)
This alternate future of the Marvel Universe basically continued from where the Clone Saga ended, leaving Ben Reilly still dead at the hands of Norman Osborn and following up on the birth of Peter
Parker's daughter. However, Ben's legacy would go on to be a strong one. May "Mayday" Parker, the daughter of Peter and Mary Jane Parker, became Spider-Girl and used the costume design Ben came up with as Spider-Man in her teenage years as Spider-Girl. Later, Felicity Hardy, the daughter of Felicia Hardy and Flash Thompson, adopted Ben's Scarlet Spider old name and costume for few brief stints as a superhero.
Ben's most notable legacy, however, was his son. Without Ben's knowledge, Elizabeth Tyne was pregnant when they parted those years before he returned to New York. Reilly Tyne suffered some ill effects from being the offspring of a clone, and it took supernatural intervention to ultimately save his life. This experience left Reilly with some supernatural abilities on top of the powers he inherited from Ben. He took up the identity of Darkdevil and became an ally of his cousin Spider-Girl.
Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610)
The name of Ben Reilly in the Ultimate Universe belonged to a lab assistant of Dr. Curt Connors and had no relation to Peter Parker, leaving Ben's actual counterpart in this universe difficult to narrow down.
This lab assistant stole a blood sample from Spider-Man and combined it with a sample of the Venom biomass, creating a horrific new life form he jokingly referred to as "little Ben." This creature would become the Ultimate Universe's Carnage. However, Carnage would later become a clone of Gwen Stacy rather than Peter Parker.
Eventually, Ultimate Spider-Man told its own Clone Saga that had Dr. Octopus create a handful of Peter Parker clones using the blood sample from Dr. Connors' lab assistant. One of these clones was turned into a weapon by being crafted to cybernetic hardware, making him very similar to the Scorpion. Another was genetically modified, resulting in having six arms and fur, called Tarantula. However, only one of the clones went on to take on a new name and superhero identity separate from Peter Parker just like Ben Reilly did. This clone was modified to be female and took the name of Jessica Drew as Spider-Woman.
Marvel Zombiverse (Earth-2149)
In an alternate universe where a zombie plague swept over the entire Earth, Ben Reilly was among the superheroes infected and turned while he was still using the Scarlet Spider identity.
Mutant X (Earth-1298)
In this reality, the clone of Spider-Man was not called Ben Reilly but he shared the 6 armed mutation of the original and took Peter's identity when Peter retired. He was killed along with the Green Goblin by the Goblin Queen (Madelyne Pryor) when they became suspicious about her goal of world domination. The Brute (this reality's version of Beast) was charged for the murder and he pleaded guilty, and was therefore executed.
In this reality, it was Ben Reilly who raised Peter's daughter, May Parker.
What If Spider-Man's Clone Had Lived?
During their original fight in Shea Stadium, it was the clone who made it through the explosion and the original Peter Parker who lost consciousness. The clone, believing himself to be the original, place Peter in cryogenic storage for the time being and left to resume what he believed was his life. It did not take him long to realize that strange gaps in his memory meant that he was truly the clone. There was nothing wrong with his memory, because there was no reason he should remember things Peter lived through between the time he was cloned and they met at Shea Stadium. Devastated, the clone still chose to free Peter from the cryogenic tank rather than steal Peter's life. He and Peter then decided that they would share the identity of Spider-Man and the clone would pose as his brother. Presumably, he never took the name Ben Reilly in this reality.
What If the Scarlet Spider Had Killed Spider-Man?
When the Jackal's programming forced Spider-Man to try to kill Mary Jane, Ben had no choice but to kill him as Peter begged him to. The resulting explosion also injured Ben badly, leaving him hospitalized and mistaken for the real Peter Parker. He could not bring himself to tell Mary Jane the truth right away, and the lie quickly took on a life of its own. He stepped into Peter's life as Mary Jane's husband and the father to their daughter May. May was sadly born with blood poisoning that could be treated but not cured, and Ben worked tirelessly to change that for years. Eventually, the Green Goblin returned to abduct May in order to use her blood to cure a mysterious condition of his own. Ben fought him, saving May and acquiring the goblin serum that could hold the key to curing her.
Witnessing the fight, Mary Jane realized who Ben really was, though part of her knew it all along. She was not angry but told Ben they could not continue as they were. She needed to accept Peter's death, and he needed to build a real life for himself as Ben Reilly.
For further details: X-Men: The Animated Series
Scarlet Spider makes an appearance in the episode "One Man's Worth", where he is seen as a member of the Avengers in the Age of Apocalypse timeline.
Fantastic Four: The Animated Series
For further details: Fantastic Four: The Animated Series
Scarlet Spider makes a brief cameo in the episode "Nightmare in Green", where he can be seen watching Human Torch and Rick Jones while clinging to the side of a building.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series
For further details: Spider-Man: The Animated Series
Ben Reilly, as the Scarlet Spider, appeared in the "Spider Wars" two part series finale storyline in the Spider-Man animated series of the 1990s. In this story, Ben comes from an alternate universe where the Jackal cloned Spider-Man and it has become unclear which is the original and which is the clone. Like in the comics he cuts his hair short and dyes it blonde. He dons a different costume identical to his comic book appearance. This pushed his world's Peter over the edge and when Ben confronted Kingpin, Peter attacked him. The two fought until a portal opened up and the Carnage symbiote latched onto Peter. This caused Peter to become the monstrous Spider-Carnage. Ben would confront Spider-Carnage with a team of Spider-men from other dimensions who were gathered by Madame Webb. Ben would not be the one to beat Spider-Carnage, but the Peter Parker of the shows main universe. He was voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes.
- Ben Reilly appears as a playable character in Lego Marvel's Avengers. He was made available as part of the Spider-Man: Homecoming DLC pack.
- Scarlet Spider appears as a playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2.
Alternate Costumes in Video Games
- Spider-Man - Scarlet Spider appeared as an alternate costume for the 2000 game, Spider-Man for PC, PS1, and N64. He is unlocked when Rhino is defeated. Ben Reilly is also a separate costume, which is his revised Spider-Man costume, unlocked when Level 4 is complete.
- Spider-Man: Web of Shadows - He is an unlockable costume in the Nintendo Wii version of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows when 25 city events are completed
- Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions - Scarlet Spider is also an alternate costume for the Amazing universe in Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions, which can be unlocked by either pre-ordering at K-Mart, completing all challenges, or using a cheat code.
- Scarlet Spider was featured in ToyBiz's Marvel Universe line.
- ToyBiz released a Scarlet Spider figure for Spider-man Classics line.
- Hasbro released a Ben Reilly Spider-Man figure as part of the Marvel Legends Ares Build-a-Figure wave.
- Scarlet Spider was featured in The Classic Marvel Figurine Collection from Eaglemoss Publications.
- Hasbro released a Marvel Universe Scarlet Spider figure.
- Bowen Designs released a Scarlet Spider statue and bust.
- Marvel Legends Scarlet Spider figure was released by Hasbro as part of Rhino Build-A-Figure wave.
- Hasbro released a Ben Reilly Spider-man figure for Marvel Legends line as part of Absorbing Man Build-A-Figure wave.
- Scarlet Spider was featured in Hasbro's Titan Hero line.
- Scarlet Spider was featured in Funko's Pop line of bobbleheads.
- Scarlet Spider was featured in the "Scarlet Spider vs. Sandman" Lego kit.
- Scarlet Spider was featured in the "Ultimate Bridge Battle" Lego kit.
- Hasbro released a Scarlet Spider figure as part of the Marvel Legends Vintage line.