Peter Parker’s clone, Ben Reilly, fought crime like the scarlet spider, but he wasn’t the only Marvel character in the ’90s to use that name.
Ben Reilly was one of the many Peter Parker clones created by the Jackal. Most famously, he was the first hero to give the identity of Scarlet Spider, but he was far from the last. Other characters have taken the mantle over time, but a Scarlet Spider has almost been completely forgotten from the annals of the story. Joe Wade was the cyber villain Scarlet Spider who embodied everything about the 90s obsession with virtual reality and disappeared almost as fast as that fashion did.
Joseph “Joe” Wade first appeared in 1995 Amazing Scarlet Spider # 1 by Tom DeFalco, Mike Lackey, Mark Baglet and Larry Mahlstedt as part of the “Virtual Mortality” event. He was an undercover FBI agent sent to infiltrate Lady Octopus’ evil gang. Wade was able to easily earn the trust of Lady Octopus and quickly achieved a high rank, but eventually came to his betrayal. As punishment, he caught him in a virtual reality camera that loaded his mind into cyberspace, where Wade’s consciousness was used to control a hard-light copy of the real Scarlet Spider.
Lady Octopus forced Wade to use the building to attack New York, destroying a bridge and attacking everyone. The construction allowed Wade to exactly copy the Scarlet Spider and even allowed him to materialize a machine gun out of nowhere. The real Scarlet Spider managed to defeat the imposter, but Wade managed to tarnish Scarlet Spider’s reputation enough to make him the number one enemy of the public. Scarlet Spider attacked Lady Octopus’ lair and eventually defeated her as well, but her attack damaged the machine Wade was in, trapping the body’s hard light.
Wade debuted as a silver Scarlet Spider Scarlet Spider Network # 3 by Evan Skolnick, Paris Karounos, Randy Emberlin and Kevin Tinsley during the “Nightmare in Scarlet” event. After Ben Reilly attacked Lady Octopus’ headquarters, Wade wandered the streets until he met a woman named Stephanie. Fearing it would hurt her, she ran away as she transformed into the light construction and attacked the Firestarter of the New Warriors. As the two quarreled, she shot him with a microwave pulse that changed his body and gave him the silvery look of the scarlet spider that distinguishes him. Like this version of Scarlet Spider, she gained claws and was able to shoot with “lasers” from her eyes. The New Warrior Justice, who had come to rescue Firestarter, blew up Wade with another beam of energy, forcing Wade to undergo another transformation. This time, she gained a more armored look from her dress with spikes sticking out of her back. He also gained the ability to create sound explosions. It took the combined strength of Ben Reilly’s scarlet spider and all the New Warriors to finish him off after crossing the city until Stephanie was able to repel him and was taken into FBI custody.
Joe Wade’s Scarlet Spider has not appeared since he was defeated by Ben Reilly and the New Warriors, but his creation encompasses everything about the world’s obsession with virtual reality in the 1990s. That era was also the first time that personal computers really spread all over the world. This spread sparked a fascination with virtual reality, cyberspace and all the things that involve the web. Sam’s fascination reported everything from Cable and his techno-organic virus to Franklin Richards ’Psi-Lord. Outside of the realm of comics, he also informed us The matrix franchise and psuedo-VR devices like the Virtual Boy that were really ahead of their time.
Only time will tell if Joe Wade will ever return as Scarlet Spider. But given that Ben Reilly is back in the spotlight as the main Spider-Man in the “Spider-Man Beyond” event, he could return to his evil counterpart sooner rather than later.
CONTINUE READING: Spider-Man: How Ben Reilly Reigned the Famous Marvel Clone Saga
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