How Marvel Made Spider-Man’s ‘Hottest’ Relationship Weird – with a Clone Twist

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Today, we look at how the Human Torch handled there being a “new” hero behind Spider-Man’s mask when the heroes continued a Christmas tradition.

It’s our yearly Comics Should Be Good Advent Calendar! Every day until Christmas Eve, you can click on the current day’s Advent Calendar post and it will show the Advent Calendar with the door for that given day opened and you can see what the “treat” for that day will be! You can click here to see the previous Advent Calendar entries. This year, the theme is a Very Dope 90s Christmas! Each day will be a Christmas comic book story from the 1990s, possibly ones that have a specific 1990s bent to it (depends on whether I can come up with 24 of them).

This year’s Advent Calendar, of Grunge Santa Claus giving out 90s present, like a Tamagotchi, while posing with four superheroes with the most-90s costumes around, is by Nick Perks.

And now, Day 6 will be opened (once opened, the door will feature a panel from the featured story)…

Today, we look at 1995s s “Merry Christmas, Mister Storm” from Spider-Man Holiday Special #1 by Sholly Fisch, Robert Brown, Josh Hood and Al Williamson

RELATED: Batman’s Last Christmas Present From His Parents Might Make You Cry

As I’m sure you know by now, for a brief period of time in 1995-96, Marvel tried to replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man with Ben Reilly, who was at first thought to be the clone of Peter Parker from the original Clone Saga (circa Amazing Spider-Man #149) but who turned out to be the REAL Peter Parker and the hero that we had followed for decades since was the ACTUAL clone. So Peter retired as Spider-Man and moved across the country with his wife, Mary Jane, to have their child, while Ben took over as the web-swinging hero of New York City in Peter’s place (initially, Ben tried to stick with his own superhero identity, the Scarlet Spider, which he had used when he believed that he was Peter’s clone, but an impostor Scarlet Spider made the name too toxic for Ben to use, so he took over the Spider-Man mantle. Sales went down and Marvel brought Peter back and revealed that, “Whoops, no, we were right the first time, Ben was the clone!” (this was proven when Ben disintegrated after being killed in a fight with the Green Goblin) and Peter took over again. However, in late 1995, it really did seem like Marvel was going to try to go as far as it could with Ben as he new Spider-Man (with a new costume designed by Dan Jurgens).

Ben taking over as Spider-Man was also weird because Ben had all of Peter’s memories up to Amazing Spider-Man #148, and by that point, Spider-Man had already established relationships with a LOT of people, so Ben still remembered those relationships, but obviously years had passed since he had been able to pursue them (and now, for Peter Parker’s friends, Ben obviously couldn’t hang out with them since he and Peter were identical. He tried to deal with that a bit by dying his hair blond).

We saw the weird nature of these old relationships in action when the new Spider-Man and the Human Torch met up on Christmas, as part of a tradition that had started during those “missing years.” The story opens with Johnny wondering where Spider-Man was and sending off a Spider-Man-shaped flare to get his attention.

Meanwhile, he thinks back to the previous year.

RELATED: How Did Spawn Become… Santa Claus?

This allowed for a cute bit by Fisch where he has Johnny recount all of the crazy stuff that he went through in the pages of the Fantastic Four in 1991-1993. It was quite a busy year as Tom DeFalco was doing everything he could to make Fantastic Four a “hot” book, and that meant lots of turmoil in the life of the Fantastic Four, most prominently being Johnny learning that his wife was actually a Skull and Reed Richards seemingly dying.

Peter then reveals to Johnny for the first time that he is married, making this a rather notable moment, really…

Peter tries to take the moment to an even bigger step by revealing his identity to Johnny, but Johnny tells him not to. They then exchange presents, with Johnny giving him a Venom action figure, which is pretty hilarious, and Spidey gives Johnny a seemingly simple gift, but the REAL gift is Spider-Man’s telephone number printed on the base of the gift that he says Johnny can call whenever he needs to talk.

Well, Spider-Man shows up in response to the signal (how Spider-Man gets to the top of the Statue of Liberty by webswinging is beyond me. There really isn’t anything to swing FROM, is there? Perhaps he made web-glider-wing?) and they suddenly have to face the fact that this isn’t the same Spider-Man that Johnny has known for all of these years, which leads to a conversation…

Again, though, the weird thing here is that they ARE friends, they are just friends who haven’t spoken in years. That’s really something that I would have liked to have seen explored a bit more with Ben Reilly, which is the fact that he actually DOES know most of the heroes who were still active in 1995, he just hasn’t spoken to them in years. The relationships are still there, though.

In any event, Fisch (who is always great) turns things around and now it is Johnny offering HIS phone number to Ben to talk to if he needs help. Very cool stuff. Of course, this era would not last long, but it was nice to see the creators involved give this as much of a chance as it possibly could have at succeeding. It certainly didn’t work out for a lack of effort by Marvel’s Spider-Man creators. Ben Reilly was an interesting character, it was probably just too much of an ask to replace Peter Parker. Dan Slott and Ty Templeton would later revisit the Spider-Man/Human Torch relationship in an excellent miniseries.

KEEP READING: Why The Flash’s Most Shocking Christmas Present Was… The Flash?

from Ultimate Comic Blog
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