Name: Scarlet Spider
Alias: Kaine Parker
First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #119 (December 1994 Marvel Comics)
Created by: Terry Kavanagh and Steven Butler
“Unfortunately gentlemen…something else has come up.”
The Spider-Man clone saga. It’s a term that makes most Spider-Man fans recoil in fear and disgust. It started as a popular enough storyline that was only supposed to last less than a year. Marvel editors decided that if it sold, it should continue. This gave readers an additional year of content that, frankly, did become way too convoluted for its own good. It then ended with the controversial decision to make Ben Reilly the one true Spider-Man, a decision that signed his death warrant only a year later.
While most hate it, I actually have a soft spot for the story. It was a mistake to try and make Ben the “real” Peter, but he was still an interesting character, even if they tried to make him too much like Peter in my opinion. It also brought us one of my favorite villains, now hero, Kaine Parker. The failed clone that came back to haunt Peter and Ben. He has the same strength and speed as Peter, along with a few slightly different powers and a broken mind up until recently. With him being a featured member of the New Warriors series this week, we decide to take a look back at his first appearance.
The Jackal, Ben and his creator, made Kaine as a first attempt. It was the first attempt at cloning Peter though, and the process left Kaine physically and mentally scarred. He begin to show signs of degeneration, so the Jackal tossed him out, seeing him as a failure, and went on to create Ben. The flawed cloning process granted him a slightly different power set from Peter and Ben. His spider sense was mutated into a precognitive ability that showed him flashes of the future. He also gained his notable “Mark of Kaine,” an ability that allowed him to burn his hand print into the faces of his victims.
He was originally introduced in the Web of Spider-Man #119, part three of a four part arc featuring Ben Reilly, the then Scarlet Spider against Venom. Ben had been in his first fight with Venom in the previous issue and found himself ill prepared. He escapes back to his hotel with a stomach wound. He is able to get his costume off and tries to call his friend Seward Trainer from a hallway payphone, but passes out from blood loss. Luckily, another guest finds him and help him to the hospital.
Venom tries to track down this new Spider in town by searching for Peter, but is unable to find him. Scream meanwhile, a new offspring from the symbiote, is trying to track down Venom for help with being bonded. She tracks down the reporter Ken Ellis who had previously written an article naming the Scarlet Spider. He knew Scarlet Spider received the stomach wound from Venom and receives a tip from the hospital a man was brought in with that wound. Scream follows him there, hoping the Scarlet Spider will be able to lead her to Venom.
Ken arrives at the hospital after Ben has already been treated and is getting ready to leave. Seeing the reporter, Ben makes his way to the roof to escape and runs into Scream. He easily escapes her and goes home to make his special impact webbing. Venom finds Scream and does now want to help her, only take her down. He tried to painfully separate the host and symbiote, but Ben comes to Scream’s aid and for his final showdown with Venom.
Kaine makes his grand debut midway through the issue for three pages. He is a paid assassin working for the mob apparently. The mark they want killed is with his wife, eating at a restaurant. They want him to strike, but Kaine ignores them as he reads a newspaper. The two leave the restaurant and Kaine misses his chance. The mobsters are not happy about this and pull their guns on him. He quickly dispatches the, even leaving the Mark of Kaine on one. He walks away, telling them something else has come up, and you see on the front page of the newspaper is Ken Ellis’s article about Scarlet Spider.
At this point, you did not know that this was a clone of Peter, which I think made it that much better of a reveal later to see what a deranged Peter could do. He effortlessly kills three mobsters and then uses e Mark of Kaine to burn the survivors face. You don’t get a full look at his costume yet as most is hidden by shadows, but this is enough to get you excited by this new killer. Then they leave you with the mystery of why he is so fascinated with the Scarlet Spider. While it would have been nice for him to have been featured more in this issue, it is a great start to show how dangerous he is.
I love Kaine as a hero, Scarlet Spider was a fantastic series. His mind was finally mended, but they didn’t try to make him Peter as they did with Ben. He spent years as a killer and that cannot just be wiped away because his mental health got better. He’s rough around the edges, but still does have that urge to be a hero and repent for the wrongs he made. At the same time, he was a fantastic villain. He was an equal to Peter in terms of powers and could have ranked up there as a top adversary being the dark shadow of the hero. Unfortunately the Clone Saga created a distaste for all things clones which resulted with writers largely ignoring the potential he had. In the last two years he has finally had the time to shine that he deserved. His villainous ways are behind him, but I still can’t wait to see more of him in the New Warriors and beyond as the fantastic anti-hero he’s been turned into.