Since the dawn of the Silver Age, legacy characters have been a staple of superhero fiction, and having a new character step into a well loved role can open up new opportunities for writers and artists to tell different kinds of stories. In The Replacements, we’ll look back at the notable and not-so-notable heroes and villains to assume some of the most iconic mantles in the superhero genre.
Peter Parker isn't the only web-headed wonder in the Marvel universe, and this week we're looking at the heroes and the villains, the threats and the menaces, who have donned the webs and proudly called themselves Spider-Man.
The Prowler (Hobie Brown)
Created by Stan Lee & John Buscema (The Amazing Spider-Man #78)
Hobie Brown was a down-on-his-luck kid who put his engineering skill to use to create a supervillain identity as The Prowler, with the plan to rob places and then return the stolen goods as Hobie. His first attempt was at The Daily Bugle, where he was stopped by Spider-Man, who gave him a chance to turn his life around and become a hero rather than a villain.
When Peter Parker confessed to his secret identity while ill with flu, Hobie donned the webs to appear as Spider-Man alongside Peter to aid in the excuse that the confession was nothing more than baseless ramblings of a sick man.
When Peter Parker became an international industrialist as head of Parker Industries, he hired Hobie Brown to again impersonate him as Spider-Man so that both Parker and Spider-Man could again be seen in the same room at the same time.
Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly)
Created by Gerry Conway & Ross Andru (The Amazing Spider-Man #149)
Ben Reilly was first introduced in the '70s as a clone of Peter Parker created by The Jackal, and the pair were forced to fight before teaming up to take on the villain. Ben was thought killed in an explosion and left for dead at the bottom of smokestack, while Peter Parker survived with the lingering question of whether he was truly the real Peter Parker at all.
Reilly returned to New York after hearing Mary Jane Parker had taken ill, and while his relationship with Peter Parker was initially hostile, they eventually became allies and brothers as Ben took on the mantle of Scarlet Spider. When it was discovered that Peter Parker was the clone and Ben was the original, Parker retired to start a family with Mary Jane, and Ben took over as the one true Spider-Man.
It was eventually revealed the entire process was a plot cooked up by Norman Osborn in an attempt to break Peter Parker’s spirit, and in the final conflict with the Green Goblin, Ben died after colliding with a Goblin Glider. Upon his death, his body rapidly decomposed, confirming that he was indeed the clone, and Peter Parker resumed his role as Spider-Man in his fallen brother’s honor.
Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O'Hara)
Created by Peter David & Rick Leonardi (Spider-Man 2099 #1)
Miguel O’Hara was born decades after the end of “The Heroic Age,” in a world where corporations are king. A brilliant geneticist, O’Hara worked for Alchemax, one of the biggest corporations in the world, but when he tried to leave, his boss Tyler Stone tricked him into taking a highly addictive drug known as Rapture that could only be acquired through Alchemax.
In an attempt to free himself from Alchemax and the addiction, Miguel attempted to reset his DNA to an earlier date, but a jealous co-worked fiddled with the controls to give Miguel spider DNA. Instead of ruining his life, he acquired spider powers similar to the long-lost hero and set about taking down Alchemax as a champion for the common man.
The new Spider-Man proved to be inspirational to the people of New York, many of whom looked up to him as the literal reincarnation of the Spider-Man of The Heroic Age. He later discovers that Tyler Stone is his true father, and takes over as CEO of Alchemax after Doctor Doom assumes presidency of the United States of America.
Miguel is also a time-traveller, having journeyed back to The Heroic Age and taken Peter Parker’s place on several occassions. He served alongside Parker during the Spider-Verse crisis that saw Spider-Men of countless universes massacred by The Inheritors, including alternate versions of Miguel himself.
Deadpool (Wade Wilson)
Created by Fabian Nicieza & Rob Liefeld (New Mutants #98)
Deadpool is often portrayed as a thorn in Spider-Man’s side, and one of the few people that can force the wallcrawler into the role of straight man. However, there was one occasion where Deadpool actually traveled back in time and took Spider-Man’s place within the pages of a classic Stan Lee/John Romita story.
After being sent back in time along with sidekick/hostage Blind Al, a misunderstanding lead to Al taking Aunt May’s place, while Wade Wilson used an image inducer to make himself look like the nephew that’s in all of her photographs.
Later in the story, specifically set during the events of The Amazing Spider-Man #47, Deadpool sent Peter Parker on a wild goose chase to get him out of the way, leaving Wade free and clear to assume his identity. When Kraven The Hunter attacked, Spider-Man wasn’t there to stop him, forcing Deadpool to step up and literally take Spider-Man’s place in the story, defeating Kraven to protect the timestream.
Venom (Mac Gargan)
Created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (The Amazing Spider-Man #19)
You may know Mac Gargan better as The Scorpion, the private investigator hired by J. Jonah Jameson who turned against his benefactor when the experimental process to make him able to defeat Spider-Man drove him insane. He was approached by the Venom symbiote after it was discarded by Eddie Brock, and together they became more powerful and a greater threat to Spider-Man than ever before.
As Venom, Gargan was a member of Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts, tasked with subduing and arresting vigilante heroes who refused to sign the Superhuman Registration Act. It was at this point that Gargan began to lose control over the symbiote, giving into the baser urges and becoming harder to reason with.
When Norman Osborn assumed the position of head of national security and founded HAMMER, he created his own team of Avengers with villains occupying the identities of heroes. Thanks to Osborn, Gargan was able to gain some semblance of control over the symbiote and became The Sinister Spider-Man, a member of the Dark Avengers.
Gargan was part of Norman Osborn’s failed siege on Asgard, and after Osborn was stripped of his position, so too was Gargan stripped of the symbiote, which fell into government hands. The symbiote was eventually granted to Flash Thompson who became Agent Venom, and Gargan once again became The Scorpion.
Scarlet Spider (Kaine)
Created by Terry Kavanagh & Steven Butler (Web of Spider-Man #119)
Ben Reilly may have been the first successful clone of Peter Parker, but he wasn’t the first. Kaine was a failed clone that was discarded by The Jackal, but actually developed into a stronger, tougher copy of Spider-Man, with enhanced powers and a “Mark of Kaine” ability to scare his enemies with his hands.
Kaine framed Ben Reilly for a number of murders that backfired when Peter Parker was arrested and sent to jail for them. When Peter discovered the truth about Kaine, he threatened to out himself as Spider-Man to prove his innocence, forcing Kaine to admit his guilt.
Kaine ultimately forgave Ben Reilly and set out on a path of redemption as his body began to succumb to the degeneration process. He took Peter Parker’s place and was sacrificed by Kraven during his Grim Hunt, but was resurrected by The Jackal to be a servant to The Spider Queen during “Spider-Island”
He eventually broke free of her control and aided Spider-Man in the final fight, proving himself to be a hero. Keeping one of Spider-Man’s modified suits, he headed to Houston where he became the new Scarlet Spider. He was killed again during the "Spider-Verse" event, but an epilogue revealed that he may have survived once more.
Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
Created by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli (Ultimate Fallout #4)
While visiting his uncle Aaron’s house, young Miles Morales was bitten by a spider that crawled out of Aaron’s bag and granted spider powers just like Peter Parker, as well as a camouflage ability and venom strikes. Miles was scared of these new powers, but when Spider-Man died fighting the Green Goblin, it inspired Morales to step up and fill the void as the new Ultimate Spider-Man.
Miles’ uncle Aaron quickly deduced his identity, and in his guise as the criminal Prowler, tried to coerce his nephew into ruling New York together. Their subsequent fight resulted in Aaron’s death, for which Miles blamed himself. Things got worse for the young hero when a newer, deadlier Venom assumed that his father Jefferson was the new Spider-Man, and his mother Rio died in the crossfire between the monster and the police.
Miles was instrumental in stopping the threat of an alternate reality Galactus, and in the wake of the disaster was part of a team of All-New Ultimates. When he revealed his secret to his girlfriend, he discovered her family was loyal to HYDRA, and was held prisoner at the mercy of Doctor Doom until he was rescued by The Ultimates.
Miles was one of the few people who remembered how the world was before Battleworld in Secret Wars, and an act of kindness towards the Molecule Man resulted in Miles’ friends and family surviving onto a newly created Earth, which included his resurrected mother. Miles now serves as New York’s Spider-Man while Peter Parker jet-sets around the world as head of Parker Industries.
The Superior Spider-Man (Otto Octavius)
Created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (The Amazing Spider-Man #3)
Otto Octavius was Spider-Man’s greatest enemy, but years of being punched in the face by superheroes left him a broken man waiting to die. As a last gasp of revenge against his enemy, he swapped minds with Peter Parker leaving his foe to die a crippled old man, but as Peter died, he forced Otto to experience all of his trauma and heartbreak, causing the villain to understand that with great power comes great responsibility.
Otto vowed to carry on Peter Parker’s work as The Superior Spider-Man, and although brash, cocky and quick to anger, he was a surprisingly effective Spider-Man. He created many inventions that improved Spider-Man’s efficiency, going so far as to create a network of henchmen and a base off the coast of Manhattan, essentially putting supervillain tactics to work for good.
As Spider-Man, Otto is more ruthless and kills several villains; just one of the the differences that make people begin to suspect that something is not quite right with Spider-Man. He found love with Anna-Maria Marconi, but all of that was threatened by Norman Osborn — now The Goblin King — who proved to be too much for Otto to handle.
In order to save the city and the woman he loved, Otto Octavius willingly sacrificed himself so that Peter Parker could return as Spider-Man and defeat the Goblin. However, in secret, Otto backed up his mind into Spider-Man’s mechanical assistant The Living Brain, and lies in wait, plotting once again.