Ben Reilly as Spider-Man clone Scarlet Spider in Marvel Comics

One of These Spider-Men in ‘Across the Spider-Verse’ Is Not Like the Others

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is hitting theaters very soon, and everyone’s excited about all the Spider-People that’ll be appearing in the Spider-Verse sequel. It’s not easy to keep track of every fan-favorite version of Spider-Man, but one of the Spideys in the newest trailer looks like Scarlet Spider, a.k.a. Ben Reilly. If you’re unfamiliar with the Scarlet Spider, you are in for one helluva journey.

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To be fair, creator Gerry Conway originally introduced the character in an issue of What If?, which is known to be playful and ridiculous at times. And this particular issue centered on a clone of fan-favorite Spidey love interest, Gwen Stacy

It all starts with the “Clone Saga”

Spider-Man pointing at another Spider-Man, who is pointing back.

Okay, mentioning the “Clone Saga” to comic fans will probably cause some to cringe—for good reason. The ’80s and ’90s were a weird time for comics and science in general. Clones were a big thing (thanks, Dolly), and they basically became the comic book version of having an evil identical twin. 

The mad scientist who is at fault for creating the clone chaos is Miles Warren, who later becomes the Jackal. Much like comic fans, he was obsessed with revitalizing Gwen Stacy. This mission drives Warren insane. He begins to look into Stacy’s death and not only figures out that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, but also that he was the reason for Stacy’s death. Again, the man isn’t mentally well, so he creates a Spider-Man clone so Peter can fight his alter-ego. I know it’s weird. It feels odd even typing it out.

The thing about this cloning process in Spidey’s world is that the clones have all of the original person’s memories. Warren convinces the clone that he’s the original Spider-Man and must fight the imposter—Peter Parker. Long (and very convoluted) story short, this clone dies and the new one gets the memories from the previous clone. Eventually, he figures out he is a clone. Thus, Scarlet Spider is born.

What’s the difference between the Scarlet Spider and Spider-Man?

Other than one obviously being a clone, the Scarlet Spider named himself after Uncle Ben and Aunt May. He took Uncle Ben’s first name and Aunt May’s surname to create the name Ben Reilly. 

Once he realizes he’s a clone and creates an identity for himself, Reilly leaves New York. Although he has Peter Parker’s memories, Reilly knows he’s not Parker. So while “with great power comes great responsibility” is still part of Reilly’s schtick, he doesn’t pull punches the same way Parker does. One of the most obvious reasons is that his creator, Warren, tortured Reilly. 

To be fair, Reilly is a Spidey in his own right with his own nemesis and bad guys, the most iconic of which is the faulty clone, Kaine. He is also known to check in on Aunt May, which is beyond adorable. When Aunt May falls ill, Reilly returns from a self-imposed exile to see her, and that’s when he teams up with Parker and the two fight as allies.

Who else has been Scarlet Spider?

While Reilly is often regarded as the Scarlet Spider, he isn’t the only one. In fact, his occasional nemesis, Kaine, has taken up the Scarlet Spider mantle. This is one of the many reasons why fans blame the “Clone Saga” for causing so much confusion in the Spider-Man continuity. (Don’t get me started on the Spider-Verse.) Honestly, would this be a Spider-Man comic if the villain wasn’t a redeemable hero for a few issues?

So … sometimes Reilly is Scarlet Spider, but other times it’s Flash Thompson or different clones. Since Ben Reilly was the first to take up the mantle and is the Spidey most associated with it, it’s safe to assume he’s the one in the signature blue hoodie in Across the Spider-Verse.

(featured image: Marvel Comics)

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Image of A. Mana Nava
A. Mana Nava
Nava was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently, they edit economic textbooks by day and write geeky articles for the internet in the evenings. They currently exist on unceded Lenape land aka Brooklyn. (Filipine/a Mexican American)