Replacement Heroes: Spider-Man

Replacement Heroes: Spider-Man

Amazing Spider-Man #141

Every now and then, Peter Parker needs a break.

Or has just had enough.

We continue our tour of stand-ins by casting an eye toward the good ol’ Marvel Universe. Granted, while DC has explored the notion of legacies and other replacements more than its cross-town competition, Marvel has had their fair share of heroes who pass the torch for various reasons as well. Although it should be noted that DC and Marvel play with the concept of "identity" and the idea of replacing heroes in their own unique ways.

Case in point: Spider-Man. Though the everyman struggles of Peter Parker seem fundamentally irreplaceable, he has indeed ceded the mask (or had it taken from him) on a few occasions.

We’re going to look at some of those moments.

First off – probably the most iconic change the character has ever seen, and one that's responsible for...well, let's just get to it…

Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8

Black Costume: And yes, our first couple of replacements aren’t really replacements at all. However, the visuals were so strikingly different that we thought we’d give them a look. Now, the history of the black costume has been well-covered here at Newsarama, but we’ll remind you that it first debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #252, and its discovery was explained in Secret Wars #8, both from 1984. Peter actually sported the black costume for a while before a variety of circumstances turned him back to the red-and-blue. The black costume isn’t done yet, though, as you’ll see later on.

Cosmic Spidey: Another instance where Spider-Man somewhat replaced himself was in the so-called “Cosmic Spidey” story arc. Caught in a lab accident (again?!), Peter Parker gets bathed in energy that turns out to connect him to the Uni-Power. If you don’t recall, the Uni-Power is what powers Captain Universe (“The Hero That Could Be YOU!”). In essence, in times of cosmic upset, the force would imbue people with a power-set that enabled them to overcome a menace. Spidey got enhanced strength, flight, and energy blasts, and his costume altered itself into a merger of his own outfit and the standard Captain Universe appearance.

Cosmic Spidey also serves as an example of what has happened to Spider-Man now and again - he's changed while wearing the costume. One of the best examples of this - Peter tried to lose his Spider-Man powers by mixing up and drinking (just say no to drugs, kids!) a chemical cocktail, but instead of losing his powers, he grew four extra arms (for a total of eight appendages). Sometimes, one may end up thinking that the "scientific genius" of Peter Parker consists entirely of one lucky day in the lab when he made his webbing formula. One of the not-so-best examples of Peter changing - "The Other" storyline which was in some ways, the culmination of J. Michael Straczynski's inclusion of Spider-totems and animal themes, which saw Peter become more like a spider - although, thankfully, his spinnerets were on his wrists, not where they are on real spiders.

The Clone Saga: Oh, yeah. The Big One. This whole thing started due to a confrontation that Spidey had with Professor Miles Warrren, aka The Jackal (which played out across Amazing Spider-Man #141-151 in the mid-‘70s). Warren was a cloning expert, and he created clones of both Spider-Man and the late love of his life, Gwen Stacy. Warren also loved Stacy, and blames Spider-Man for her death. Spider-Man eventually defeats the clone and the Jackal, and it’s implied that the clone was incinerated. Spidey believes that he’s the real Spidey because he feels true, deep love for MJ, which a clone of a younger Peter would not. Follow? Okay.

Peter's "brother," Ben Reilly

Flash forward a couple of decades. The clone reappears, using the name Ben Reilly. An enormously complicated storyline ensues, crossing two years of time and literally dozens of issues. Reilly adventures as the Scarlet Spider, but becomes Spider-Man after he and Peter are duped into believing that Peter is the clone and Peter retires, with Ben stepping in as Spider-Man. Eventually, the true enemy of the piece turns out to be Norman Osborn (the original Green Goblin) who had never died. Reilly is killed in the final battle, and turns to dust, confirming the fact that he is the clone. This is a ridiculously compressed version of events, but we are talking about (by my count) approximately 764 comics. Today, the event is widely seen in fan circles as an event gone off the rails (although that’s not to say it doesn’t have its very devoted fans). The upshot: Spider-Man was indeed officially replaced for some time, but when the clone dust cleared, Peter Parker was back in the suit.

Peter Parker, poster boy for adult ADD.

The Slingers: Years before DC’s Sue Dibny died, Marvel had its own “Identity Crisis” in the form of an eight-part 1998 storyline. Herein, Spider-Man is framed for murder by Norman Osborn (yep, him again). A five-million dollar reward posting leads Peter Parker to conclude that he needs to clear himself, but can’t do it as Spider-Man (since, you know, who wouldn’t try to kill Spidey for five million bucks?). Therefore, Parker again “replaces” himself by adopting not one, not two, but four alternative identities. They were:

Ricochet: One of two costumed identities to Peter used to pretend to be a criminal. As Ricochet, he relied on his agility.

Prodigy: One of the “good guy” aliases, Prodigy showcased Peter’s speed and strength. Peter also wore a fake nose as part of the outfit.

Hornet: Using tech-gear borrowed from the Prowler and Scarlet Spider’s stingers, Peter flew about on a jet-pack for a bit.

Dusk: Another “villain” persona, Peter used an extradimensional costume that gave him powers like gliding.

Eventually, Peter gathered evidence to clear Spider-Man via adventures conducted in each identity. At the end, Peter went back to being Spidey, but the four roles were taken over by young heroes that called themselves “The Slingers”. They have been active to various degrees in recent years. Hornet died fighting a possessed Wolverine, Dusk was a recent captive of the Puppet Master (as seen in the Ms. Marvel series), Prodigy has been a member of the The Initative, and Ricochet has been a member of The Loners.

It's the hair, right? It's the hair, right?

Mattie Franklin: The third Spider-Woman, Mattie Franklin initially made her mark by taking over for Peter Parker during one of his retirements. (Seriously, does anyone retire more than Spidey? Jordan?) Eventually absorbing the powers of an evil Spider-Woman and her two predecessors, Mattie becomes Spider-Woman in her own brief series. Since Jessica Drew is back as Spider-Woman in the Avengers (well, it was a Skrull, but it’s Jess now. Anyway . . .), Mattie has been relegated to the background. She’s also appeared with The Loners, and has had a relationship with Ricochet.

Screwball: Shades of the above, Screwball, a new female thief who debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #559, threw on a Spider-Man suit (and noted that she had to have her chest wrapped) to fix a bet and win some bad folks some money via The Bookie. This was just a one-time affair (so far) but to those viewing, Screwball was a convincing Spider-“Man.” As if Peter Parker doesn’t have enough self-esteem issues – a woman can stand in for him, and no one notices? Ouch.

The Scarlet Spiders

The Scarlet Spiders: For a brief time, Peter Parker wore a suit of armor designed by Tony Stark. This so-called Iron Spidey suit was in use around the time of the “Civil War” event, wherein Peter Parker unmasked on live television. Though Spidey went back to his regular outfit, the Iron Spider suit was kept by the government and used to equip a trio of heroes for the Avengers Initiative program. It would later be revealed that the trio were clones of MVP, a young hero that had been killed early in his training. However, their appearance in public during a conflict with Spider-Man creates widespread confusion as to whether the public actually believed Peter to be Spidey himself. This was all wiped away thanks to the events of One More Day; the public does not remember that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.

Spider-Man (Venom) with the Dark Avengers Spider-Man (Venom) with the Dark Avengers

Venom: The black costume (I told you we’d get back to it!) and its present host, Mac Gargan, become members of the government-sanctioned team The Thunderbolts as a result of the Civil War. Recently, after the Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn (he can’t be stopped!!) was placed in charge of pretty much everything that had a super-heroic/government connection. As more or less a middle finger to the heroic community, Osborn took the names of several Avengers (which the government technically owned) and placed villains in those positions. Among them were Wolverine (the real Wolverine’s rogue son, Daken), Ms. Marvel (Moonstone), Hawkeye (Bullseye) and Spider-Man (Venom). In that sense, Spider-Man has been “replaced” in the eyes of the public by a new black-suited version led by a man (Osborn) that they believe to be a hero. It’s true; Spidey’s life always sucks.

Spider-Girl: Another replacement for Spidey is his daughter from a possible future, Spider-Girl. With Peter retired (for good reason, this time), May Parker continues her dad’s heroic legacy.

Much like the other heroes that we’ve discussed, Peter Parker seems to always find his way back to the suit. Through clones, through tricks, through devilry (figurative and literal), Peter always seems to wind up as Spider-Man. We all know about great power and great responsibility, but maybe it’s just that great connection that we have to the problems and personality of Parker that prevents us from accepting any substitute for very long.


Replacement Heroes: Wonder Woman

Replacement Heroes: Superman

Replacement Heroes: Batman

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