Spider-Man’s Life Would Be Worse If Uncle Ben LIVED
It was what caused Peter to turn away from a life in show biz and finally become a superhero. Even so, Spider-Man has often wished that the burglar could have been caught, saving Ben's life and sparing Peter his guilt. And that’s a dangerous wish. Because as multiple alternate universes have shown, having Uncle Ben live inevitably causes multiple ripple effects... that resulting in even greater unhappiness for Peter, his loved ones, and even the entire world.
That may be depressing on a level all its own, but that doesn't make it any less true that Uncle Ben's death was completely for the best. Let’s take a look at some parallel worlds and discover how life would actually get worse for Spider-Man if Ben Parker had lived.
One of the first stories to show Uncle Ben survive occurs in What If --? Vol. 1 #19. In this alternate universe, Spider-Man does exactly what Peter wishes he would have done – web up the burglar when he first saw him and hand him over to the police. However, Peter doesn’t do this out of a sense of responsibility – he does it because he thinks it will help his public image as a show biz star.
And it works. Spider-Man becomes a movie star and starts a licensing and promotion business for the Fantastic Four, Avengers, X-Men… and Marvel Comics (yes, really). He even signs on Daredevil and designs Matt Murdock’s red costume. However, his arrogance leads to a falling out with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. He also ruins J. Jonah Jameson out of spite after the Daily Bugle runs anti-Spider-Man articles – causing Jameson to become a crime boss and send the Sinister Six after Peter. By the end, Daredevil nearly dies protecting Spidey and Peter finally sees what a monster he’s become.
A similar scenario plays out in the X-Men/Spider-Man novel Time’s Arrow: The Present. Here, Spidey travels to an alternate universe where the cop chasing the burglar was able to catch him without Peter needing to intervene. As a result, Peter becomes a wealthy NBA basketball player and marries his high school crush Liz Allan. Surprisingly, Peter does still show a sense of responsibility as he secretly aids a Resistance movement in fighting an evil version of the X-Men. However, because his reflexes aren’t as used to life-and-death situations as the mainstream Spider-Man, he dies in battle.
In What If -? Vol. 1 #46, readers see another scenario where Ben sleeps through the robbery but Aunt May wakes up and confronts the robber – only to be murdered instead of Ben. Peter catches the robber and learns his lesson of great responsibility, secretly becoming a superhero behind Ben’s back. Ben, however, is observant and discovers Peter’s costume. Furious at how the Daily Bugle is abusing his nephew, Ben convinces Peter to unmask in front of J. Jonah Jameson. Shocked, Jameson protects Peter’s secret – but only if Spider-Man performs heroics that his newspaper can report on.
Peter, however, becomes angry that he’s now taking orders from “two old men” and has a falling out with Ben. Living on his own, Spider-Man falls further into self-pity until he catches himself wishing Uncle Ben was the one who died instead of Aunt May. Shocked by his selfish thought, Peter pulls himself together in time to save J. Jonah Jameson from the Green Goblin.
In a separate alternate universe, the same situation plays out – but this time Peter, enraged by May’s death, lets the burglar fall to his death. Ben takes the blame for Peter and lets himself get sent to prison – but now, without any parental figures in his life, Spider-Man grows increasingly violent and becomes a bounty hunter. Ben is finally able to reach Peter through a speech he gives from his cell, causing Peter to give up being Spider-Man. When Ben gets released, however, Peter becomes Spider-Man again and is aided by Ben. While these are arguably happy endings, both men suffer from the loss of Aunt May.
In What If -? Vol. 2 #76, readers get to see what happens when Flash Thompson is bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter. Peter ends up teaming up with Flash (now calling himself “The Spider”) but stays home with his aunt and uncle the night the burglar cases their house. Believing Peter might be trouble, the burglar robs the house next door – and kills Mary Jane Watson who was living there with her Aunt Anna. As a result, Peter never even gets a chance to meet his future wife. The story ends on a hopeful note, with Peter designing gadgets to become a different “Spider-Man” and take down Flash Thompson – but his love life has been irrevocably altered.
In one Amazing Spider-Man storyline Spidey finds himself hurtling through multiple alternate worlds and taking on the identity of different Peter Parkers. In one parallel universe, he finds himself at home the night the burglar robbed the Parker residence. Realizing what’s about to happen, Peter throws himself in front of the burglar and takes the bullet meant for Ben. Reassuring Uncle Ben that he’s happy he got to save him in at least one timeline, Peter dies (although his spirit continues traveling through other alternate worlds).
During the original “Spider-Verse” comic storyline, readers got to see a world where Ben was bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter. At first, things seem great with Peter designing a costume and web shooters for Ben, whose sense of responsibility drives him to immediately become his world’s Spider-Man. However, when the villain the Emerald Elf kills Aunt May and Peter, a grief-stricken Ben retires and decides to hide in a secret bunker after being informed the dimension-hopping Inheritors are out for his blood. During this time, the Earth becomes a wasteland after Doctor Octopus accidentally starts a thermonuclear war. While it’s unclear whether Ben could have stopped this, it was his responsibility as Spider-Man to try.
While Uncle Ben’s murder was a tragedy, it’s also clear that without his death, Peter would have never become the type of Spider-Man he needed to be. Readers can take some solace in Ben’s final fate from a brief scene in The Incredible Hercules #130. In this storyline, kid genius Amadeus Cho descends into the Underworld in search of his dead parents. He gets directions from Ben Parker, who’s relaxing by a beautiful field and doing a little fishing. While Peter never learned about this, it’s nice to know that Ben is getting to enjoy an afterlife – and that he’s happy.