Comics

Scarlet Spider: Seeing Red

Peter David preps Ben Reilly’s return to his original identity!

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Ben Reilly has come back to life. He has dragged so many others along with him, across the gossamer divide between the living and the dead. But he still has more he wants back. Namely, the name. Scarlet Spider. And in the brand new series coming this April from Peter David and Mark Bagley, SCARLET SPIDER, he has done just that.

Peter David took a break from the labs and New U to talk about Reilly’s return to the tights.

Marvel.com: Ben Reilly has gone through a lot to lead to the events of Clone Conspiracy and during that arc. Coming into your issue #1, what’s his state of mind? How is he being viewed by the Marvel Universe?

Peter David: By the Marvel Universe? As an enemy, a villain whose overall plan to wreak destruction and havoc was thwarted at the last moment by the Amazing Spider-Man.

The thing is, Peter is convinced that Ben is dead. Which, considering the number of people who have returned from the dead on him, you’d think he’d know better. Fortunately enough, he has someone backing him up who doesn’t believe for a moment that they’re rid of Ben as easily as that. And that person, appropriately enough, is Kaine.

Marvel.com: Speaking of Kaine, in Reilly’s absence and assumed death, the identity of Scarlet Spider was taken up by him. How does he play into the book? How does he feel towards his “brother?”

Peter David: Oh, he despises him. I think partly it comes from the notion that he looks at Ben and the evil that he has perpetrated and realizes that, with just a small nudge, he could well have wound up going in that direction. He sees Ben as a reminder of not only everything that he could have been but, for all he knows, all that he could become. So it is in his interest to try and get rid of Ben once and for all. There is definitely no love lost between the two of them.

Marvel.com: When Ben Reilly was first introduced, Mark Bagley was one of the artists who played a big part in visually defining the character. Now he’s doing pencils for this book. How does his approach to the character compliment your conception of the character? How, if at all, has he influenced your approach?

Peter David: Mark’s great. He came into this with so many costume concepts. The thing I loved the most is that in one of the mask designs, he added this smirk. It leapt right out at me, because in the history of Spider-Man, there’s never been any expression on his mask aside from the eye holes magically widening or narrowing. I adored the smirk and every other time he’d do a mask without it, I’d say, “Put the smirk back in.”

It’s just so chilling and unique. It’s like, “I am so bad ass that I can make facial expressions. Top that, Parker.”

I’m thrilled that apparently editorial has signed off on it and now it’s a permanent part of the costume.

And I’ve seen the first pages of issue #1 that [Mark]’s turned in and they look great. He really knows how to tell a story.

Scarlet Spider by Mark Bagley

Scarlet Spider by Mark Bagley

Marvel.com: Besides Ben Reilly himself, what other familiar characters might we expect to see during the book’s opening arc?

Peter David: We’re introducing some new characters, such as Cassandra Mercury. In this information age, she has the ultimate power: blackmail. She knows everything about everybody and she is not remotely afraid to use it. But there is one thing that she has a huge vulnerability about, and she needs Ben’s help in order to achieve it. As for other [Marvel Universe] characters, I’m still working on that.

Marvel.com: Creatively, what attracted you to Reilly as a character? From a storytelling perspective, what excites you about his current situation?

Peter David: He’s kind of nuts. I mean, I’ve been reading the new coverage of the title thus far and everyone seems to be saying, “Well, Ben’s decided he’s going to be a hero again.” No, he’s not. He has no idea what he is.

Ben Reilly is someone who has undergone a horrific punishment in that he’s died over and over and over again. It’s like the ultimate form of PTSD. Think about shellshock and what happens to people who are threatened with death even once, and how that can disrupt them mentally. Ben has died countless times. To my mind, the poor devil is unhinged.  He doesn’t know if he’s a hero, a villain, or something in between.

In the opening issues, he’s actually being haunted by the Scarlet Spider and the Jackal, two angels—or one angel and one devil—figuratively sitting on his shoulder and trying to encourage him to go down their respective paths. He is a hero or a villain playing to that particular moment in time, allowing the slightest passing thought to sway him and go down a particular path to see where it brings him. He is reexamining the entire concept of morality and trying to determine where it will bring him, and honest to God, even I’m not sure where he’s going to land at this point.

Marvel.com: Finally, if you could speak directly to readers considering adding this to their pull list, what would you tell them to persuade them to go ahead and do so?

Peter David: I think it safe to say that every other Spider-Man title in the history of Marvel has been about a hero trying his best. That is not this book.

Ben is our protagonist, yes, but I wouldn’t be so quick to peg him as a hero. This series will be unique in the vast legion of Spider books out there. It is not about a hero just trying to take down the bad guys and do good. It’s about a tortured individual who is trying to figure out exactly what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong.

The truth is that we now live in a world where facts don’t even seem to matter anymore. People embrace what they believe and are quick to shrug off anything that doesn’t fit into their worldview. To some degree, Ben has no worldview. It’s as if he’s seeing it for the first time and trying to figure out his place in it, or even if he has one. So if fans are eager to read about, not just a series of adventures, but a journey in personal exploration, this is the book for them.

Ben Reilly gets the spotlight in SCARLET SPIDER by Peter David and Mark Bagley beginning in April!