Uncle Ben

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This article is about the Spider-Man comic book character. For the brand of rice and other foods, see Uncle Ben's (rice).
Uncle Ben
Uncle Ben.png
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962)
Created by Stan Lee
Steve Ditko
In-story information
Full name Benjamin Parker
Supporting character of Spider-Man

Benjamin "Ben" Parker, usually called Uncle Ben, is a supporting character in the Marvel Universe’s Spider-Man stories. He was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. Modeled after American founding father Benjamin Franklin, this character portrays an influential role in the novel.

Parker was the uncle and surrogate father of Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego. His death at the hands of a burglar that Spider-Man declined to pursue earlier forever propelled Peter into the role of a superhero.

Publication history[edit]

Uncle Ben first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) and was killed in the very same issue. Although his history as a supporting character was very brief, Uncle Ben is an overshadowing figure in Spider-Man’s life, often appearing in flashbacks.

Notability of death[edit]

The murder of Uncle Ben is notable as one of the few comic book deaths (along with the death of Gwen Stacy) that has never been reversed. He was a member of the "Big Three", referring also to Jason Todd and Bucky whose notable deaths, along with Ben's, gave rise to the phrase "No one in comics stays dead except for Bucky, Jason Todd, and Uncle Ben". Later, the revivals of both Bucky and Jason in 2005 led to the amendment, "No one in comics stays dead except Uncle Ben".[citation needed]

There have been examples of Uncle Ben remaining alive in alternative timelines, including stories featured in Marvel's What If (one of which he forces Peter to unmask in front of J. Jonah Jameson), and a storyline of the 1994 Spider-Man animated series featured a universe where Uncle Ben had never died, and Peter Parker became a successful industrialist, having never really bothered to use his powers responsibly as everything always seemed to work out for him. This fact is used to defeat the rampaging Spider-Carnage by exposing him to the one person he will trust and listen to: the Uncle Ben of that reality.[volume & issue needed]

A storyline in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has suggested that Ben may be alive. This Ben, however, was actually from an alternate timeline where Aunt May died in a random accident, leaving him to raise Peter. This alternate Ben came to the 616 reality as part of a plan devised by the Hobgoblin of 2211 to defeat the Spider-Men of different eras.[volume & issue needed]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Ben Parker was born in Brooklyn, New York. He trained to be a military police officer.[1] He spent time as a singer in a band. He had known his future wife May Reilly since their high school days, but she in turn was naively interested in a boy who was involved in criminal activities. When he came to her one night and proposed to her on the spot, Ben was there to expose him as a murderer, and to comfort the heart-broken May when the boy was arrested. Their relationship evolved into love, and they enjoyed a happily married life. When Ben's younger brother Richard Parker and his wife Mary were killed in a plane crash, Ben and May took in their orphaned son Peter and raised him as their own.[2]

Ben was very protective of Peter, going as far as fighting some of the bullies that tormented young Parker. Peter became friends with Charlie Weiderman in high school, a teen even more unpopular than he was. However, Charlie often provoked the trouble with the other teens. One day, he was chased to the Parker home by a group of bullies led by Rich and Ben intervened. Ben told them that if they wanted Charlie, they would have to go through him. Rich tried to, but was surprised by Ben's army training. As soon as the bullies were gone, he told the boy that he was not welcome at the house or with Peter because of his provoking the bullies and not being able to tell the truth.[3]

In high school, a radioactive spider bite gave Peter superhuman powers. Creating the costumed identity of Spider-Man for himself, Peter sought first to exploit his newfound powers as a masked wrestler and then as a television star. Coming from a television appearance, Spider-Man saw a burglar[4] being chased by a security guard. The guard called for Spider-Man to stop the thief, but the nascent Spidey refused on the grounds that catching criminals was not his job. The robber got away.[5]

When Peter later returned home, he was informed by a police officer that his beloved Uncle Ben had been killed by a burglar. Outraged, he donned his Spider-Man costume and captured the man only to realize to his horror that it was the same burglar whom he could have effortlessly captured earlier at the studio. As a result, Peter considered himself morally responsible for Ben's death and resolved to fight crime as a superhero — realizing that with great power comes great responsibility — and vowing never to let another innocent person come to harm if he could help it.[5]

Ben Parker's death was truly avenged when the burglar returned for the money once more, threatening Aunt May. The burglar died from a heart attack upon beholding his old nemesis Spider-Man once again and learning that Spider-Man and Peter Parker were one and the same person.[6]

In Amazing Spider-Man Family #7, May relates to Peter her account of meeting Ben for the first time.

Ben briefly appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #500; after Spider-Man played a vital role in preventing the resurrection of Dormammu, an unidentified higher power provided Doctor Strange with a small box that he felt he had to give to Spider-Man as a reward for his role in events. When Peter opened the box on the roof of his apartment building, it contained a note saying "You have five minutes. Spend them as you will", followed by Ben appearing on the roof. It was revealed that this Ben- whether a ghost or Ben having been temporally relocated from the moment before his death-, remembered being out for the walk that resulted in him getting shot but nothing afterwards, although he concluded that the events leading to him being on that roof were not important. In their talk Ben said that the only thing that would disappoint him about Peter is if Peter ever settled for less because he was afraid of reaching for more. This helps Peter to see that he had a good life for all its hardships, recognizing that he has always used what he has, and Ben assures Peter that he is proud of him before he vanishes.[7]

During the 2008–2009 "Dark Reign" storyline, Uncle Ben makes an appearance in the Underworld when Hercules attends the trial of Zeus, directing Amadeus Cho as he attempted to find his parents in the afterlife.[8]

Other versions[edit]

Trouble[edit]

A version of Ben appeared in the Mark Millar, Terry Dodson 2003 limited series, "Trouble", with his brother Richie, who were involved with teenagers, May and Mary.[volume & issue needed]

None of the characters' last names were revealed. The story did not become canon because of its negative reception.[volume & issue needed]

Bullet Points[edit]

In this alternate reality, a young Ben Parker is working as a military policeman. He is assigned to security for Doctor Erskine, a scientist for the Captain America program. An assassination attempt on Erskine succeeds, killing Ben in the process. Later on, May still attempts to raise Peter on her own, but without the influence of Ben, Peter grows up to be angry, cynical and mean-spirited, going on to become the Hulk of this reality when he sneaks onto the test site that Rick Jones sneaked onto in the original version of events.[9]

House of M[edit]

In the House of M reality, Ben Parker is alive and, like the rest of the world, is aware that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. After recovering Peter's journal, with entries detailing that the world is not how it should be, Ben discovers that he is killed shortly after Peter gains his powers. He later helps Peter fake his death, photographing Spider-Man apparently hanging himself.[10]

Marvel Noir[edit]

In the Marvel Noir reality, Ben Parker is a social activist who was murdered by Norman Osborne's enforcers. He had previously been a decorated veteran of World War I, but he did not take pride in his service, believing that no just cause was fought for. His nephew Peter dons his old aviator uniform and wields his service revolver during his activities as Spider-Man.[11]

What If?[edit]

Uncle Ben was featured in various issues of What If. In one reality where May was killed by the burglar instead of Ben, Peter immediately went after the burglar, but accidentally pushed him out of the window of a warehouse during the fight, resulting in Ben taking the blame for the crime to save his nephew. Lacking the moral influence of Ben or the need to stay secret for his aunt, Peter broke out of the orphanage he was sent to and began to defeat criminals for the reward money, matters coming to a head when he nearly killed the Green Goblin in a fight. Attempting to break Ben out of prison, Ben nevertheless convinced him that he had to accept responsibility for his actions, prompting Peter to return to school and form a relationship with Mary Jane after Anna Watson took him in, culminating in Ben helping Peter in his crime-fighting activities after he was released from prison.[volume & issue needed]

Derailed Alt-Ben Parker[edit]

In an alternate reality shown in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, an alternate reality was witnessed where May died in a random accident, prompting Peter to go into showbusiness with Ben as his agent to make money. However, Peter's focus on his career with no reason to go into crime-fighting- his would-be enemies being dealt with by the likes of Thor- prompts him to eventually leave home, simply paying Ben a percentage out of respect for their old relationship rather than any actual concern. This Ben was eventually 'derailed' into the 616 reality by the Hobgoblin of 2211 as part of her plan against the Spider-Men of various eras, leaving him shocked when he witnessed his destroyed house and the still-living May Parker. Confronting her, he ended up in a fight with Jarvis, with whom she at the time has a relationship with, but wandered away in confusion. Lacking direction, Ben wandered into an alleyway where he encountered a shadowy figure who offered him a gun, telling Ben that any action he takes would simply create another universe where he took the opposite action, so he might as well do what felt good. After this Hobgoblin was erased from history by a Retcon Bomb of her own invention, the Spider-Man of 2211 met with what he presumed to be the same Ben Parker to take him back to his own timeline. In a surprise twist, deciding he rather wanted to "stick around for a while", this Ben Parker shot this future Spider-Man. At the same time, another Ben Parker was shown dead in the alley, meaning one Ben Parker had killed the other and taken his place.[volume & issue needed]

It was revealed that the Ben Parker who had died in the alleyway was the Uncle Ben of the alternate reality, while the Ben Parker who killed Spider-Man 2211 was, in fact, the Chameleon of 2211; the Chameleon had attempted to convince Ben to resort to murder, but Spider-Man correctly guessed that there were no circumstances under which Ben would do such a thing.[volume & issue needed]

Ultimate Marvel[edit]

Ben Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man differs slightly from the original Ben Parker. In the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, Ben Parker is younger than his original counterpart. He is also a former hippie who wears his hair in a ponytail and teaches Peter to be nonviolent. Ben also reminisces about the period he lived on a commune. After Peter Parker went out for a walk, he came home and learned from a police officer that Uncle Ben was murdered.[12] Uncle Ben is seen one last time meeting Peter in the afterlife after his death.

"With great power comes great responsibility"[edit]

The thematic and often-quoted Spider-Man phrase with great power comes great responsibility is widely attributed to Uncle Ben. However, this was not initially true. In Amazing Fantasy #15, where it first appears, it isn't spoken by any character. In fact, Ben has only two lines in the entire comic. The original version of the phrase appears in a narrative caption of the comic's last panel, rather than as spoken dialogue. It reads, "...with great power there must also come -- great responsibility!".[13]

However, later stories and flashbacks that took place when Ben was still alive retroactively made the phrase one of Ben's many homilies he would lecture Peter with. Latter-day reinterpretations of Spider-Man, such as the Spider-Man film and the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, depict Ben as saying this phrase to Peter while he is still alive, in their last conversation. Both the aforementioned adaptations also had Peter lash out at Ben just after he says it, and both also mention his father.

The origins of the phrase pre-date its use in Spider-Man. In 1908, Theodore Roosevelt wrote in a letter, "responsibility should go with power"[14] In 1817, member of British parliament William Lamb is recorded saying, "the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility,"[15] even indicating that it was already a cultural maxim invoked toward government at the time. The sentiment is also attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel of Luke, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required."[Luke 12:48]

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

  • Uncle Ben appears in the Spider-Man episode "The Origin of Spider-Man".
  • Uncle Ben is mentioned a lot in the Spider-Man TV series. In "Arsenic and Aunt May", Chameleon (after meeting the relative of the Burglar that shot Uncle Ben) escapes from prison and poses as a medium while using technology to make Aunt May see the ghost of Uncle Ben.
  • Uncle Ben appeared in Spider-Man: The Animated Series voiced by Brian Keith (though Christopher Daniel Barnes voiced a younger Uncle Ben in an episode of the "Six Forgotten Warriors Saga"). He appeared in the series as a spirit talking to Spider-Man whenever he was frustrated in his life as Spider-Man. Uncle Ben was first seen in a flashback in Mysterio's debut episode. Like in the comics, the second episode of the third season revealed that Uncle Ben was killed by a crook Peter let go from a wrestling ring whom he tried to stop. This caused Peter to turn into Spider-Man and stop the crook. In the series finale of the show when Spider-Man had to stop the evil Spider-Carnage (an insane version of Spider-Man who had merged with the Carnage symbiote) from destroying all reality, he managed to make contact with the Uncle Ben of an alternate reality where Peter Parker was a successful industrialist, realizing that his counterpart in that reality had never failed or had any difficulties in his life, thus explaining his casual attitude towards his powers as opposed to that of his other counterparts, and hence would have never lost Uncle Ben. Thanks to Ben's influence, Spider-Carnage was convinced to stop what he was doing, but was unable to rid himself of the symbiote. He instead used the reality bomb he had created to create a portal that would disintegrate whatever entered it, subsequently committing suicide by entering the portal to end the symbiote's threat once and for all. Although they lived in different realities, Spider-Man and Ben hugged with Ben saying that he was proud of his different reality nephew while Spider-Man assured Ben that he will always have him in his heart.
  • Uncle Ben did not appear in Spider-Man Unlimited, but he is briefly mentioned in the pilot episode Worlds Apart: Part One. He is also seen in the theme song which Uncle Ben was killed by the Burglar.
  • Uncle Ben appears in flashback in The Spectacular Spider-Man episode "Intervention" voiced by Edward Asner. This version is slightly younger than his comic counterpart. He was also the representation of Spider-Man's good side during that time he was possessed by the symbiote.
  • Uncle Ben is featured in Ultimate Spider-Man voiced by Greg Grunberg. In "Great Power", Peter Parker recalled how he got his powers and that fateful night when Uncle Ben was killed by the same criminal that Spider-Man refused to catch earlier. A picture of Uncle Ben is seen having fun with Aunt May and a young Peter Parker. In "Strange Days," Uncle Ben was shown to know some simple magic tricks in Peter Parker's childhood. Nightmare tries to use the failure of Peter being unable to save his uncle's life against him which doesn't work. In "Kraven the Hunter," Spider-Man brings up his uncle's death and how he didn't avenge his death by finishing off the burglar when convincing White Tiger to not avenge her father by finishing off Kraven the Hunter.

Film[edit]

  • In the Spider-Man film series, Ben Parker is portrayed by Academy Award-winner Cliff Robertson and his character remains relatively faithful to the comics, including his being shot by a criminal Peter failed to stop (although in the comics he was shot trying to defend May during a break in at their house and in the film he was shot during a carjacking). He appeared in the first film as a father figure for Peter. The amiable Ben is laid off from his job as a chief electrician after 35 years and worries about his nephew's strange behavior. His words of wisdom, "With great power comes great responsibility," eventually inspire Peter to become Spider-Man. Losing his temper during this speech, Peter tells him to stop acting like his father. Later that night, Ben is apparently shot by a thief, Dennis Carradine, whom Peter refused to stop when cheated out of his money. Peter and his aunt greatly mourn his death, particularly Peter, who is haunted by the fact that he could have stopped Carradine and saved his uncle. By the end of the film, Peter has accepted Ben as the father figure of his childhood.
  • The second film features a sequence where Peter contemplates giving up his Spider-Man identity to Uncle Ben who, in the flashback, is a physical representation of the entity and ideology of Spider-Man, encouraging Peter to continue on as a superhero. Also, Peter admits the truth surrounding Uncle Ben's death to Aunt May. She is shocked and upset at first, but later commends Peter for telling her the truth.
  • Robertson reprises his role in a flashback scene (as well as a dream sequence) in the third film. In the film, Captain George Stacy tells Peter and Aunt May of new evidence that suggests Carradine was only an accomplice of Flint Marko, who was Uncle Ben's real killer; Peter then imagines Marko throwing Ben out of the car and gunning him down in cold blood while Carradine desperately tries to stop Marko before driving off. Robertson appears again at the end of the film during a more accurate flashback, as Marko explains to Peter that he only wanted Ben's car, since Marko needed to steal money to help his critically ill daughter Penny. However, Carradine startled Marko and caused him to accidentally pull the trigger when Ben was trying to reason with him. This somewhat shocked Marko, as he feels extremely remorseful for killing Ben. Realizing how desperate Marko is to help his own daughter and understanding the importance of forgiveness over revenge, Spider-Man forgives Marko and allows him to go free.
  • Martin Sheen portrayed Uncle Ben in the 2012 reboot film The Amazing Spider-Man.[16] Uncle Ben is slightly younger and more strict than his comics counterpart, but despite being more strict, he is described by Peter as "a great father". As punishment for using his powers to humiliate Flash Thompson, Peter is ordered by Ben to pick up May that night. However, spending time at Curt Connors', Peter forgets about May and Ben is angered by this. He tells Peter about his father's philosophy involving responsibility in a speech similar to his Ultimate counterpart's. In anger, Peter leaves, criticizing him for the supposed hypocrisy by hiding the truth of his father from him (destroying their front door in the process) and Ben goes after him. Peter then goes to a grocery store, where a thief robs it and Peter refuses to stop him to spite the clerk that works there. Ben tries to stop the thief, whose gun falls out in front of him. They struggle for the weapon until Ben is eventually shot in the stomach and dies. Peter is devastated by this and begins his vigilante career trying to find Ben's killer, but fails to do so. At the end of the film, Peter listens to Ben's voicemail on his phone about how he knows how difficult life for Peter has been lately, apologizes for that, and that he loves him. His famous phrase about power and responsibility is not present in the film, but Uncle Ben does inform Peter that he, like his father, has a responsibility to be mature.

Video games[edit]

  • Uncle Ben is mentioned in the first 3 missions, "Search for Justice," "Warehouse Hunt," and "Birth of a Hero" in the 2002 Spider-Man video game, as Peter attempts to track down Ben's killer.
  • Uncle Ben is briefly mentioned at the end of Spider-Man 3.
  • Uncle Ben makes an appearance in the prologue of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 voiced by Mark Bramhall. The tutorial starts off showing the event that lead to his death. After that, he is referenced throughout the game by Peter, Aunt May, and Stan. Around the end of the game, Stan tells Peter Parker that Uncle Ben would've wanted him to grow up to be the man that he wanted Peter to be.

Franklin Richards' Uncle Ben[edit]

Franklin Richards of the Fantastic Four often refers to Benjamin Grimm, the Thing, as "Uncle Ben" (Grimm is the best friend of Franklin's father Reed Richards). Franklin Richards and Peter Parker also have the same middle name, Benjamin, as the Thing and Ben Parker are their namesakes. Spider-Man is aware of this, and told Franklin, "Uncle Bens are always right."[17]

The son of Spider-Man[edit]

In The Amazing Spider-Man #498-500, Spider-Man falls through time, encountering all of his enemies from the past, and sees himself in the future. The future Peter Parker tells him that he should tell Mary Jane and their son that he loves them every day. "Our son is called Ben", he says, "but it would pretty much have to be, wouldn't it?" However, because of the way time-travel in the Marvel universe works, it should be noted that this is only a potential future, not necessarily a definite one (This future being even more unlikely after the events of One More Day).

Spider-Girl's Uncle Ben[edit]

Main article: Spider-Girl

Like her father, Spider-Girl also has an Uncle Ben. However, unlike her dad, May never knew her uncle: Ben Reilly, Spider-Man's clone. If Spider-Girl has any children in the future, they too would have an Uncle Ben - May's baby brother.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Amazing Spider-Man #519. Marvel Comics.
  2. ^ The Amazing Spider-Man #600 (2009). Marvel Comics.
  3. ^ The Amazing Spider-Man #516. Marvel Comics.
  4. ^ Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Spider-Man 2005 Marvel Comics.
  5. ^ a b Stan Lee (w), Steve Ditko (a). "Spider-Man!" The Amazing Spider-Man 15 (August 1962), Marvel Comics
  6. ^ The Amazing Spider-Man #200 Marvel Comics.
  7. ^ The Amazing Spider-Man #500 Marvel Comics.
  8. ^ Incredible Hercules #130 Marvel Comics.
  9. ^ Bullet Points #1 (2006) Marvel Comics.
  10. ^ Spider-Man: House of M #5 Marvel Comics.
  11. ^ Spider-Man Noir #2 Marvel Comics.
  12. ^ Brian Michael Bendis (w), Mark Bagley (a). Ultimate Spider-Man #1-3. Marvel Comics.
  13. ^ The Evolution of the Pithy Proverb: “With great power comes great responsibility.” at Quote/Counterquote. Accessed April 11, 2013
  14. ^ "Power and Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt" by William Henry Harbaugh, accessed July 4, 2014.
  15. ^ Parliamentary Debates, edited by Thomas C. Hansard
  16. ^ Lichtig, Max (November 4, 2010). "Martin Sheen Cast in SPIDER-MAN Reboot as Uncle Ben". Collider. 
  17. ^ The Amazing Spider-Man #660 Marvel Comics.

External links[edit]