Comics
Published October 28, 2022

Meet Scarlet Spider, Spider-Man’s Hero Clone Turned ‘Dark Web’ Villain

Who is Ben Reilly? Read on to learn more about Spider-Man's clone, who has saved lives as the heroic Scarlet Spider but is about to take a villainous turn as Chasm in 'Dark Web.'

While he may have started life as Peter Parker’s clone, Ben Reilly carved out a heroic legacy of his own as the Scarlet Spider. Although he’s replaced Peter as Spider-Man on multiple occasions, Ben has also proven himself to be a dangerous and formidable villain with world-crushing ambition. After his latest stint as Spider-Man, Reilly took on his most ominous identity yet as the tormented Chasm

Before Reilly threatens the Marvel Universe later this year in the epic DARK WEB (2022) event, we’re taking a closer look at Reilly and how the erstwhile web-slinger broke bad.

THE CLONE SAGA BEGINS

Although he was only known as Spider-Man’s clone at the time, Ben Reilly first appeared in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #149 by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito. After the death of his student Gwen Stacy, Miles Warren – the obsessed mad scientist known as the Jackal – created clones of both Spider-Man and Gwen, complete with the memories of their counterparts. Under the impression that he was the original Peter Parker, the clone fought the real Spider-Man. After their fight, the clone appeared to perish in a bomb blast that also seemed to kill the Jackal. 

However, the clone survived and realized he was not the real Peter. He subsequently created a new identity for himself by combining Uncle Ben’s name and Aunt May’s maiden name to become Ben Reilly. As he traveled across America, Ben forged a close bond with scientist Seward Trainer and fell in love with Janine Godbe, who was on the run after killing her abusive father. Throughout this period, Ben was followed closely by Kaine, another one of the Jackal’s Spider-Man clones who was more aggressive, violent, and unstable.

Although Ben was thought dead for years, “The Clone Saga” famously put him in the center of Spider-Man’s world throughout the 1990s. When Aunt May fell seriously ill, Reilly returned to New York to see her and inadvertently confronted Peter in 1994’s WEB OF SPIDER-MAN (1985) #117 by Terry Kavanagh, Steven Butler, and Randy Emberlin. After Ben and Peter formed a tentative friendship, Reilly donned his iconic Scarlet Spider costume for the first time to fight Venom in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN (1985) #118

Soon, Spider-Man and the Scarlet Spider began working together against the resurgent threat of the Jackal, his numerous Spider-Man clones, and Kaine, who killed villains like Doctor Octopus and the Grim Hunter. After Mary Jane told Peter she was pregnant and Aunt May seemingly died, Peter was arrested for one of Kaine’s killings. While Ben took his place in jail, Peter compelled Kaine to confess to his killings.

BEN REILLY BECOMES SPIDER-MAN

Seward Trainer complicated the relationship between these Web-Slingers when he claimed he found evidence that proved Peter Parker was a clone and Ben Reilly was the original Spider-Man. Spurred on by that revelation and his sense of obligation to Mary Jane and their unborn child, Peter decided to retire as Spider-Man and let Ben take over his mantle in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN (1976) #229 by Tom Defalco, Sal Buscema, and Bill Sienkiewicz

In 1996’s SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN (1996) #0 by Dan Jurgens and Klaus Janson, Ben Parker debuted as Spider-Man, sporting a redesigned costume, dyed blonde hair, and a job at the Daily Grind coffee shop. During Ben’s tenure as Spider-Man, he briefly merged with the Carnage symbiote to keep it from bonding with someone more dangerous, fought Trainer’s daughter after she became the new Doctor Octopus, and briefly dated the daughter of the burglar who killed Uncle Ben. He was also one of the few heroes still active in New York after the Fantastic Four and the Avengers appeared to perish during Onslaught’s attack. When Peter returned to New York, he and Ben grew closer over their shared memories, with both men coming to regard the other as a brother. 

Then, after being thought dead for years, Norman Osborn reappeared and told Peter and Ben that he orchestrated the events of “The Clone Saga” to torment Spider-Man – and he was the one who cast doubt over who was the real clone. During their final battle, Ben was impaled on the Green Goblin’s Glider in 1996’s SPIDER-MAN (1990) #75 by Howard Mackie, John Romita Jr., and Scott Hanna. Although Osborn was defeated, Ben died and his body turned into ash, confirming he was really the clone all along.

BEN REILLY BREAKS BAD

Despite his selfless final act, Ben Reilly resurfaced as the villainous new Jackal during DEAD NO MORE: THE CLONE CONSPIRACY (2016). The original Jackal returned and resurrected Ben through cloning, but the flawed cloning process left Ben with memories of dying dozens of times, which twisted his mind. After turning against the Jackal, Ben perfected the cloning process and stylized himself as a new Jackal in a story from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: CAPTAIN AMERICA (2016) #1 by Dan Slott and Javier Garrón.

Through his improved cloning process, Ben revived several dead heroes, villains, and allies from Spider-Man’s world. Through his company New U Technologies, Ben also started offering new cloned bodies to anyone else who was ill. When Doctor Octopus turned against Ben and caused most of the cloned bodies to degenerate, Reilly unleashed the lethal Carrion Virus as part of a plan to replace everyone on Earth with one of his clones. Spider-Man and his allies ultimately stopped Ben’s plan and saved some of the clones, but the ordeal left Ben physically scarred and on the run. 

After his villainous turn, Reilly moved to Las Vegas and resumed his heroic duties as the Scarlet Spider in BEN REILLY: SCARLET SPIDER (2017) #1 by Peter David, Mark Bagley, and John Dell. However, the Scarlet Spider operated as a haunted and more aggressive hero than he once was. Due to his numerous deaths and resurrections, Reilly was approached by an embodiment of Death, who said another death and resurrection could permanently corrupt him. Although his selflessness and heroism impressed Death, that ominous prophecy appeared to come true when Ben died and was resurrected by Abigail Mercury, an ill girl he helped who developed angelic powers.

When a group of Multiversal predators called the Inheritors tried to use New U Technologies to recreate their bodies in SPIDER-GEDDON (2018), a remorseful Ben offered his help to Otto Octavius and his Spider-Army of alternate reality heroes. When the Inheritor Jennix ate Ben, the villain absorbed the maddening trauma of the clone’s deaths and rebirths. After that, Octavius successfully resurrected Ben with his memories and sanity fully intact. Ben resumed his heroics as the Scarlet Spider and joined a hastily assembled team of heroes that helped Iron Man face Korvac in space.

HOW BEN REILLY BECAME CHASM

After the Beyond Corporation acquired the rights to Spider-Man’s name, Ben Reilly was recruited to become their corporately owned hero in 2021’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018) #75 by Zeb Wells and Patrick Gleason. Under the direction of Maxine Danger, Ben received the full support of Beyond, which also arranged for his former flame Janine to be released from prison. After Ben confronted Peter about operating as Spider-Man, Parker was hospitalized and left out of commission with radiation poisoning due to a Beyond-orchestrated battle with the U-Foes.

With the ill Peter’s permission, Ben carried on as Spider-Man, battling villains like Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, and Wilson Fisk during the DEVIL’S REIGN (2021) event. After a fight with Doctor Octopus left Reilly with Beyond’s secrets, he realized Beyond chose him to be their hero because of his perceived mental instability and vulnerability. To protect Beyond’s secrets, Maxine had Ben’s mind wiped, which inadvertently resulted in the erasure of the foundational memories he shared with Peter Parker.

Just as Beyond activated Ben’s therapist Ashley Kafka as the villainous Queen Goblin, Ben turned against his corporate masters, troubled by his missing memories and the morality they instilled in him. Seeing only gaping holes where his memories should be, Ben teamed up with Peter before turning on him and trying to steal his memories. When a device that could’ve restored his mind was destroyed, Ben drifted off in a vat of psycho-active substance while Beyond’s headquarters collapsed in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018) #93 by Zeb Wells, Sara Pichelli, Mark Bagley, and Tim Townsend. By the time Janine rescued Ben from the rubble, he had changed again. 

Unable to recognize his own reflection or remember anything other than Janine’s support, Ben proclaimed himself to be Chasm and donned a purple and green costume. When he resurfaced in Wells, John Romita Jr., and Scott Hanna’s story in FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM (2022) #1, Chasm had partnered with the Goblin Queen, a troubled clone of Jean Grey and the newly crowned leader of the hellish dimension Limbo. Although they merely attacked Spider-Man with a demonic mailbox in that story, DARK WEB (2022) is set to see those two clones unleash their wrath on the entire Marvel Universe.

What are Chasm and Goblin Queen up to? Find out in DARK WEB (2022) #1, on sale December 7!

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