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Uncle Ben, Father and Mentor to Ultimate Spider-Man

Uncle Ben, Father and Mentor to Ultimate Spider-Man

In Spider-Man’s origin story in Amazing Fantasy #15, we don’t get to spend much time with Uncle Ben. We get to see that he cares for406px-BenParker-Ultimate his nephew Peter and gets him a science set. He also gets to say a quote that has become synonymous with Spider-Man, “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.” And then he dies, and the story focuses on Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man. However, in Ultimate Spider-Man, writer Brian Michael Bendis takes his time and fleshes out Uncle Ben as a character. He uses the oft-maligned comics writing device of decompression to explore the relationship between Peter and Uncle Ben to make his death have more emotional gravity as well digging deep into what makes Peter Parker decide to become the hero Spider-Man.

Before his tragic death, readers get to spend four whole issues with Uncle Ben. His characterization is especially strong in Ultimate Spider-Man #1. He and Peter have a great rapport, and Bendis show why Spider-Man has such a great sense of humor as he makes cracks at Aunt May’s banana bread among other things. Bendis also makes Uncle Ben a very perceptive character, who knows that Peter and Mary-Jane Watson are perfect for each other as well as that Peter is quiet because he is a deep thinker, not just anti-social. Artist Mark Bagley also excels with Uncle Ben’s character design giving him a ponytail and glasses. This ponytail is a remnant of his days as hippie in the 1960s (when Amazing Spider-Man first came out) where he learned about non-violence and met Aunt May. Some of Ben’s old activism can be seen in Peter Parker’s activities as Spider-Man as he tries to stamp out injustice by exposing and stopping the illicit and exploitative activities of characters, like Kingpin and anti-mutant TV host Mojo Adams. He does use force to stop these men though.

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But Uncle Ben isn’t just a one-dimensional hippie. He sees a lot of Peter’s father Richard Parker, a brilliant scientist who was working on a cure for cancer, in him and supports his academic pursuits. In fact, the first conversation Uncle Ben has with Peter is asking about his science project that he was doing with Mary-Jane. But he is hard on Peter too and reprimands him when his grades start to slip after he starts wrestling and playing basketball while trying to use his superpowers for profit. He even embarrasses Peter when he drags him out of a part where he kissed Liz Allen in front of Mary-Jane to give him a lecture about using his gifts for the good of others. Bendis does a good job of showing how much Uncle Ben cares for Peter, and emotions definitely run high when Peter sees police cars outside his house and the man who was the closest thing he had to a father lying dead on the floor.

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Uncle Ben’s greatest moment as a character is his 114 word monologue to Peter about his father and using his gifts and power for helping other people. Bendis starts with the aphorism “With great power comes responsibility” and expands upon it to plot out the path for Peter Parker as a character and Ultimate Spider-Man as a series. Uncle Ben isn’t Peter’s biological father, but he has raised him and helped him develop a moral compass which sets him apart from people like Norman Osborn. Even though he snaps at Uncle Ben after this speech, Peter eventually takes these words to heart and dons his costume to protect his high school from the Green Goblin. Bendis’ gift for dialogue and characterization gives Uncle Ben’s words weight and power as well as setting up Peter’s career as a superhero that tragically  in the same place where Uncle Ben died. But he dies while using his powers to protect the city and people he love to his dying breath. Uncle Ben would be proud of his son.

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