Don't you just hate it when your clone pops back into your life at the most inconvenient time?
The man who shared Spider-Man's DNA reaches out from beyond the grave as writer Marc Guggenheim sets out to answer the question "Who Was Ben Reilly?" beginning in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #608 on October 7, illustrated by Marco Checchetto and Luke Ross.
Ben Reilly, one of the central figures in the Clone Saga that ran through all of Spider-Man's titles in the late 90's, met his demise at the hands of Norman Osborn at that story's conclusion. But while Guggenheim's upcoming tale will revisit the character, its origins didn't begin with Spider-Man's most infamous clone.
"Well, the original idea behind this story wasn't related to Ben or the Clone Saga at all," reveals Guggenheim. "Rather, I was interested in the idea of a villain who hated Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. But Pete's such a nice guy. What could he do that would ever make someone mad enough to kill him? And then I tumbled to the idea that he wouldn't-but perhaps Ben might. And that's what set me down the Ben Reilly path."
Just because Ben and Peter share the same genetics doesn't mean they share a personality. Looking back at the character, Guggenheim found a number of disparities between Peter and his clone, beginning with Ben's "lack of baggage."
"I don't just mean the fact he wasn't married," the writer elaborates. "I'm also thinking of all the years of continuity he wasn't carrying around upon his 'return.' Plus, the idea of a super hero fallen from grace was really interesting. Inner torment is a big part of what makes Spider-Man-the comic, not the character-Spider-Man, and the idea that Ben was a 'cast-off' made for a lot of interesting drama. He's a much darker character than Peter was and I found that interesting."
In recent years, a vocal contingent of fans have expressed their desire to see the Clone Saga revisited, something Guggenheim attributes to their own first encounters with Spider-Man's world.
"Well, I think it just goes to prove Stan Lee's axiom that 'every comic is someone's first,'" posits Guggenheim. "For a lot of people, the Clone Saga was their first exposure to Spider-Man and I think they justifiably have fond memories of that virginal experience. Plus, it had never really been done before in comics-and, arguably, since-so while one may quibble with the execution at times, it was, and remains, a truly bold and interesting idea."
Beyond Ben Reilly, Guggenheim hints that at least one other character from the Clone Saga will make a return in the upcoming story arc.
"One word: Kaine," teases the writer. "Well, that's not really a word, it's a name. But still...Kaine. I'm just saying."
Moving to the present day, readers of this summer's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #36 may recognize this story's main antagonist: the Raptor.
"Raptor is a formerly 'regular' guy who blames Ben Reilly for the death of his family," Guggenheim divulges. "We'll see over the course of the arc whether Ben really is to blame, but maybe my response earlier regarding Ben's 'darkness' provides a hint. And now he's come to New York to take revenge on Ben, who he believes is living under the assumed alias of Peter Parker. You can't blame the guy, really. A new identity is a whole lot more believable than the idea that Peter is really Ben's clone."
The question of Ben's guilt will also haunt Peter as he begins to learn more about the Raptor and his history.
"Guilt is the central star in Peter's universe," notes Guggenheim. "Everything is the poor guy's fault. He even feels guilty that Paula Abdul left 'American Idol.' And he really doesn't know whether Ben killed Raptor's family or not, and that thought plagues him."
Guggenheim's upcoming story will also mark his last outing in Spider-Man's world for the foreseeable future, as the writer reveals that commitments elsewhere have forced him to step down from the Webheads.
"This will be my last arc on the book as a member of Spidey's 'Webheads,'" Guggenheim confirms. "I'd been thinking of an exit strategy for a while now because my workload has gotten so heavy, and the inter-coordination required to write Spider-Man was something I found myself having less and less time to devote to. I was going to write one more arc, but I was so happy with the way this one was turning out that I thought this should be my swan song. Hopefully, people will buy the book, read it and agree with me.
But I'm still keeping my toes in the Spidey-Pool. I'm writing the three- with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN PRESENT JACKPOT that guest stars Spidey-on sale in January. Check it out!-and I hope to do future Spidey projects that don't require as much inter-coordination as the semi-weekly does."