[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Last time, I went on at great length about the "Time Loop" scenario that was devised to wrap up the "clone era" of the Spider-Man books. It looked for a while like we were actually going to use this scenario, but as you know, we didn't. In this installment, I'll explain why.
First and foremost, the writers were a bit, shall we say, taken aback by the "Time Loop" concept. Dan Jurgens was perhaps the most vocal about his misgivings. "Time travel stories always give me a headache!" he wrote in response. "They're often hard to explain, seem like an easy way out, and are usually incredibly cumbersome."
Dan also argued against using Judas Traveller and Scrier as part of the solution to the clone saga. "If they're so powerful that they can create time loops, why the heck do they care about Spider-Man? (They) create a scenario in which Ben is yanked around by guys way more powerful than him."
Dan wanted to keep things simple. His solution: "Ben is the clone. Peter is real. That's the goal." Was it a flip-flop? Sure. A cop-out? Absolutely. But it was also the quickest, cleanest, simplest way to settle the matter. Dan's idea was that a classic Spider-Man villain would be behind the whole thing, preferably Doctor Octopus, who at that time was still believed to be dead (murdered by Kaine), but was actually operating as the mysterious Master Programmer. "Doc Ock was the first true super-villain (Spider-Man) ever fought, so it's kind of appropriate (that he be behind it all). Doc also knows now that Peter is Spider-Man, so he has the knowledge to pull this off… This is a story that could ultimately mean more to Spider-Man. It brings it down to a more real level than Scrier and Traveller and it seems somehow appropriate that one of his classic villains should be behind all this."
Tom DeFalco's response to the "Time Loop" was equally unenthusiastic. "Mephisto is not a Spider-Man villain," he wrote in a memo dated October 2, 1995. Further, he noted that "we ultimately learn the fate of the 'clone' Peter Parker and Ben Reilly from the ol' Prince of Lies himself." In other words, how can we trust anything that Mephisto says? Another thing DeFalco noted: "Neither Ben nor Peter plays a significant role in the story's resolution. Traveller becomes our major protagonist, and he is the one who must rescue the star of our series."
DeFalco proposed that Seward Trainer simply lied. "Peter Parker was correct when he claimed that Seward had jury-rigged the tests in SPECTACULAR #226. Ben Reilly starts to melt. Peter Parker must return to help Ben. MJ has the miscarriage while Peter is gone. Ben dies heroically. MJ realizes that she has had enough, and can't be married to Spider-Man anymore. Peter becomes Spidey again."
Todd Dezago tried to work with the time travel concept, but suggested that we use Doctor Doom's time platform instead of Traveller and Scrier/Mephisto.
Evan Skolnick, writer of NEW WARRIORS, sent in a memo suggesting that we simply stay the course: preserve Ben as the original Spider-Man and Peter as the clone. No other solution could be simpler than that!
A flurry of memos went back and forth between the Marvel offices and the writers, and an "us versus them" mentality started to creep in between the editorial staff and the writers. Spider-Man Group Editor in Chief Bob Budiansky and the rest of the editors were pretty convinced that the "Time Loop" idea could work. But the writers, who would be the ones who'd have to write the actual stories and put their names on them, disagreed and tried to suggest alternative scenarios. None of these alternative scenarios were deemed satisfying enough. We had reached a creative stalemate. It was very frustrating, for both sides. Things got tense all around.
Another big problem was that since nothing definite was being decided, all the upcoming Spider-Man special projects were being affected. The key questions surrounding all these special projects were: Would they feature Ben as Spider-Man? Or would they feature a restored Peter Parker? Which version of the Spider-Man costume? What would be the status of Mary Jane and the pregnancy? Since most of these special projects were being edited by Tom Brevoort and myself, our office ended up stuck in a sort of limbo. We couldn't move forward on ANY of these projects because we didn't know what was ultimately going to be decided for the core Spider-Man books. And by not moving forward, we were losing time on the schedule, which meant it would be more and more difficult to get the books out on time. (One of the projects, for example, was a sequel to SPIDER-MAN: THE LOST YEARS, set in the present, so it was absolutely essential for us to know the status quo of the Spider-Man books for the middle of 1996.) Tom and I would regularly ask Bob Budiansky for an update, and each time, he'd give us a different answer. "We're definitely going with 'Time Loop,'" he'd tell us. Then, next thing we'd hear is that he wasn't sure. Back and forth, over and over again. Budiansky was mired in indecision, and it was hurting the entire line.
When Brevoort and I would try to explain to Bob that his inability to make a decision about what to do was hurting our projects and was making it increasingly impossible to get these books done on time, he'd bring out his tried and true "tail wagging the dog" line. "I can't let your projects dictate the decisions that need to be made for the core books," he'd say. "That would be the tail wagging the dog." That line became like a mantra to Bob. He said it to us over and over again. Finally, it got so frustrating that after another fruitless meeting with him, in which he said the line again, Brevoort and I quietly walked back to our office, entered it, and then I just exploded. I yelled, "If the dog doesn't know what the hell it's doing, but the tail does, LET IT FUCKING WAG!!!!!!!"
Looking back, I think the intense frustration over Budiansky's indecision was the main reason why I was so supportive of the "Time Loop" idea - at least it was a SOLUTION! One that would get us rolling again! It was not a perfect solution, not even a particularly good solution for the Spider-Man books, but it was a solution nonetheless - one that solved most of our problems and gave Budiansky what he'd said he wanted. I honestly would have been just as happy keeping Ben as the original and Peter as the clone. The solution I liked the least was the "flip-flop" scenario, since I felt that was a cop out and was extremely unfair to the readers - not to mention incredibly anti-climactic. But even that was a solution! By this point, all we wanted was a decision made, and we would have happily lived with any one of them.
Tom DeFalco, in an attempt to get things rolling again, suggested that we go in another direction. In a memo dated October 9, 1995, DeFalco proposed this: "I suggest we move forward. Everything we told the readers is true. Peter is a clone. Ben's the real guy… Ben and Peter team up to battle Scrier in a major story line. While Ben and Peter are involved with Scrier and Traveller, MJ miscarries. During the course of a cataclysmic battle, both of our heroes are critically injured. They're both going to die. However, Traveller knows a way to save them. Employing all of his power, at the expense of his own life, Traveller merges Ben and Peter into a single being. The new post-Ben Peter has the memories of both Ben and Peter, validating both of their histories. Thus, we have fulfilled our three goals. But, in order to have a single Spider-Man, MJ will have to reject the new post-Ben Peter… and the hate mail starts again."
The "Time Loop" idea was still in play well into October. Even Kurt Busiek, who wasn't writing any of the core Spider-Man books but was at the time writing UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN for Tom Brevoort and me, wrote up a 6-page memo of his thoughts on the matter, at Bob Budiansky's invitation. The memo reveals that Kurt was right in step with Dan Jurgens: "The finale to the clone saga should be a Spider-Man story… it should be something that fits the tone of the character, or the series at its greatest points, something that connects to what Spider-Man's really about."
Needless to say, Kurt was not in favor of the Mephisto angle, nor did he like Traveller and Scrier. "They don't fit in SPIDER-MAN any more than Loki would fit into THE PUNISHER… This should be a Spider-Man epic, a story in which Spider-Man truly belongs… The most direct way I can think of to yank (the clone saga) back to being a story that feels like a Spidey story is to reveal that behind it all, pulling the strings, is a major, classic Spidey foe." Kurt supported Dan's idea that Doctor Octopus was behind it all, and the bulk of the memo described how the scenario could work.
Of course, Dan and Kurt were 100 percent correct about this story line having to be, first and foremost, a Spider-Man story, with a down-to-earth feel and a suitable villain at its center. (Ironically, and sadly, Dan didn't stick around for the end of the clone saga, and Kurt never ended up writing any of the core Spider-Man books at all.)
More memos followed, with each scenario becoming a bit simpler, a bit more down to earth, and with less involvement from the likes of Traveller and Scrier. Time travel, however, did remain part of the scenario, much to the chagrin of Dan Jurgens.
By the end of October 1995, Dan was getting very frustrated and impatient. In a memo dated October 27, Dan wrote, "For months we've all sent a flurry of memos flying hither and yon regarding the resolution of the Ben/Peter saga. Everybody has gotten involved be they editor, assistants, the guys writing the books, guys not writing the books, and continuity cops… I think the entire process has stepped over the line from being productive to being ridiculous."
I have to say that Dan was absolutely right. If I was one of the core Spider-Man writers, I'd probably be pissed as hell if I was being flooded with long-winded memos from my editor in chief, my fellow writers, some overeager assistant editor kid, a continuity cop, and "outside" writers, all detailing what I should be writing in my book.
Looking back, I've asked myself whether or not I, the aforementioned "overeager assistant editor kid," had crossed the line by contributing my memos to the process and taking such an active part in developing the "Time Loop" scenario. Technically, the answer is no, because my editor in chief had asked me to take part and write those memos, and he encouraged and seemed to value my contributions. But when I look at it from the point of view of Dan Jurgens and the other writers, I definitely have a different opinion. The bottom line was that the core writers were hired to write the Spider-Man books. Therefore, they had to do the writing. If the editorial staff was not going to let the writers do the writing, or wanted to write the books themselves, with little-to-no-input from the writers, then there was no reason for the writers to be there, other than to just do exactly what they were told and collect a paycheck. And that's a lousy situation for any writer who wants to be more than just a hack.
Continuing with Dan's memo, he maintained that Traveller and Scrier should not be used at all, and that time travel should be dropped from the mix, as well. The skeleton from the smokestack would be revealed to be that of the Peter Parker clone from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #149. Ultimately, Ben would be revealed to be yet another clone that the Jackal had created. Well aware that this went against what Budiansky had wanted, Dan argued that Ben's actions would define and validate him as a character and as a hero, not his origin. As the story reaches its climax, "Spider-Man/Peter is on the brink of death at the hands of our master villain. It's a fight in public, by the way. In full validation of his life as a hero, Ben, dressed in civvies, sacrifices himself to save Spider-Man/Peter."
Spider-Man would go on to defeat the villain (at this point, Dan was open to options other than Doctor Octopus), but he's lost Ben… and back in Portland, Mary Jane is losing the baby. By the time Peter gets back to Portland, he finds out that Mary Jane miscarried. Dan wrote: "MJ tells him she can forgive him for not being there. She committed herself to living with Spider-Man. But no child should have to live that way and she won't subject herself or any future children to such torture. 'What if it was our daughter or son, only four or five years old, lying in a hospital bed screaming for daddy?' Only daddy can't come because he's out fighting the Lizard!' Peter knows she's right. They part. He goes back to NYC… We're left with one Spider-Man, possibly on his way to divorce and a clone saga that is concluded. For the fans who loved Ben, he went out a hero with his history intact. The skeleton is all it ever was… This proposal has holes. But I believe it serves as a general framework we can all work with to fill in as needed. This is my last shot. After this, I give up."
Obviously, Dan was at the end of his rope. He had no idea that coming on to the Spider-Man books was going to be such a frustrating experience. As most of you know, we pretty much ended up going in the direction he outlined above. (Again, it's very ironic and sad that he would not stay around to help us get to the finish line.)
Dan's memo must have been as persuasive as he'd intended it to be. On November 3, 1995, a new story outline, developed by Dan and Bob Budiansky, was sent around to everyone. It was in this outline that the "Blood Brothers" story line took form. The original plan was that by the time "Blood Brothers" ended in April of 1996, the clone saga would be over. That didn't happen, and I'll explain why later. Now, I'll let Andrew continue with his synopsis of the version of "Blood Brothers" that actually saw print. ]
"Blood Brothers" Part 4 picks up in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #234, written by Todd Dezago and illustrated by Sal Buscema and John Stanisci. A bruised and battered Ben Reilly lies on Peter and MJ's bed, talking about how he's a failure. He says that everything he's had and everything he is has been taken away from him. Ben admits that he was also wrong about Seward.
The next scenes take place at the Multivex headquarters. Seward is arguing with the frail-looking mystery man. Seward says that Ben was never supposed to come to any harm and the man tells him that Seward should only concern himself with finding a way to reverse his condition before Ben finds himself privy to information that he'd find quite shocking. The Hobgoblin gives his report on the Parker and Spider-Man assaults and when the mystery man asks if Spider-Man appeared during the attack on Parker, the Hobgoblin asks if he was expected to. The man replies, "No, not at all."
After Ben has gathered up enough strength, he goes to visit Jessica to apologize for the way he's treated her. She says that she thinks it's time to forget the past and start over and as she and Ben embrace, he screws up by asking her to burn the negatives. Believing this to be the only reason for Ben's apology, Jessica throws him out.
Meanwhile, at Osborn Industries, Liz Allan Osborn is checking the books and finds something that doesn't add up. She calls on her brother, Mark Raxton (aka the Molten Man), who's the CEO of the company, and asks him for information. It seems that Osborn Industries has been pumping huge amounts of money into one of their smaller companies, Multivex.
Spider-Man returns to Peter and MJ's place and finds that Peter has gone off to Multivex again to look for Seward. Peter is able to break into the building, but Cell-12 is waiting for him. Before they can inflict another brutal beating on him, Spider-Man shows up and Peter reveals that he has web shooters under his sleeves. The two team up to take out Cell-12, but then the Hobgoblin shows up. Peter and Spider-Man split up, but not before Peter gives Spidey some advice on how to take out the Hobgoblin. Spider-Man then deals with the Hobgoblin as Peter tries to find Seward.
Their respective missions take them to the same place: the top of the Multivex building. Peter gets the grab on Seward, finally, but then notices the goblin glider (which got loose after Spider-Man put a beating on the Hobgoblin) heading straight for a fuel tank. Peter jumps for the glider to steer it to safety, but is knocked off the glider. Spider-Man sees Peter fall and swings over to rescue him, but they lose precious time. The Hobgoblin and Seward have both disappeared again. They do manage to piece together the fact that Hobgoblin isn't the one responsible, which leads them back to square one: who is behind all this, and why?
SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #5, written by Dan Jurgens and illustrated by Jurgens and Klaus Janson, features "Blood Brothers," Chapter 5. A frustrated Spider-Man stops a mugging and proceeds to beat the mugger senseless, until the would-be victim stops him. Spider-Man reveals that it was no coincidence that he was in the neighborhood, as he was following the woman, who happens to be Trish Kowalski, the Financial Controller at Multivex. Spider-Man tells her that the company's involved in dirty business and asks her to tell him who's funding the company. She reluctantly gives up the name: Osborn Industries.
Spider-Man goes off to Peter to fill him in, and then asks for a recap on what happened between him and the Osborns in that time. Peter mentions that he should make a record of what's happened in the last five years so as not to hamper Ben, but then goes on to explain how Harry followed in his father's footsteps until the enhanced Goblin formula killed him, and that Liz Osborn and her brother Mark Raxton (The Molten Man) watch over the company now.
Back at Multivex, Raxton has broken in and is searching for any clues on what business Osborn Industries has with the company. At the same time, Peter pays a visit to Liz and starts asking questions as to why OI would want to go after Spider-Man. Although Liz personally hates Spider-Man now due to what happened with her husband, she says that there's nothing going on. When Peter asks about Raxton, Liz says that he's been legit for years now, although she hasn't seen him in years.
Peter fills Spider-Man in on the details. They both seem to think that Raxton may be the one behind all their problems. Spider-Man also casually mentions how it's a shame that the relationship with Liz has soured because of what someone else did in the Spider-suit. Peter and Spider-Man go back to Multivex, where Spidey spots Raxton inside. Spider-Man accuses Raxton of trying to ruin his life, but of course Raxton defends himself. The two begin to fight, and Peter comes down to check things out. He observes that while they're supposed to be the same person, all those years on the road must have given Ben a quicker temper.
The fight between Spider-Man and Raxton ends in disaster as they inadvertently hit a power supply, causing a minor explosion, which sends the two of them and Peter down to where Seward is putting the finishing touches on his mysterious boss.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #412, written by Tom DeFalco and illustrated by Mark Bagley and Larry Mahlstedt, concludes the "Blood Brothers" storyline. Raxton, Spider-Man and Peter are surrounded by Multivex security forces. Peter wants to try and help, but Spider-Man reminds him that his only concern should be his pregnant wife and to stay out of harm's way.
Elsewhere, Raxton has his hands full with the mystery guy in the environmental suit. The mystery man is strong enough to take hits from Raxton, and give some out as well. He explains that his body is dying and rotting away and that all that sustains him is the suit. He'd do anything to be free of it and that's why he's working for the devil himself.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : So the mystery man was actually working for someone else, ay? This requires explanation. As I've mentioned in a previous column, the mystery man, who had become known as Gaunt, was intended to be the master villain behind the whole clone saga. His identity was going to be revealed at the climax of "Blood Brothers." Now, the truth can be told.
Gaunt was intended to be Harry Osborn. It would have been revealed that the Goblin formula had not really killed Harry in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #200, but it did cause his body to start to weaken and wither away. Harry had essentially become a living corpse, and the environmental suit he wore was the only thing keeping him alive. Harry was blackmailing Seward Trainer into restoring his body, holding some great secret over Seward's head. (Bob Budiansky suggested that the secret was that Seward had worked with the Jackal on his original cloning experiments, which would explain why he felt such an attachment to Ben Reilly.)
So Harry, the second Green Goblin, Peter's onetime best friend, would have been the architect of the whole thing, and Ben would have died in the final confrontation. So what happened? Well, around the time "Blood Brothers" got underway, Marvel reorganized again and Bob Harras, the EIC of the X-Men Group, became Marvel's one and only Editor in Chief. Budiansky, now the Spider-Man "Group Editor," had to answer to Harras. And one of the first things Harras did was tell Budiansky to postpone the end of the clone saga until at least October. Harras's explanation was that there was going to be a big X-Men event happening in April 1996, and he didn't want the end of the clone saga to have to compete with that. Since "Onslaught" happened around that time, I have to assume that that was the big X-Men event Harras was referring to.
The other thing Bob Harras did upon taking over as EIC was reject the notion that Harry Osborn would be the big villain. Harras told me personally, "I never felt that Harry had the power or the presence of his father, he always seemed very ineffective to me as the Goblin." So even though work had already begun on the story, and clues were already being dropped that Gaunt was Harry, Harry had to be dropped from the plans.
We had no idea who else Gaunt could be, but it didn't seem to matter, since we couldn't end the clone saga at that point anyway. We were basically stuck in a holding pattern, forced to circle around and around, literally for six months, until we could land. The solution was to add one more layer of mystery and intrigue, and establish that Gaunt was actually working for someone else, someone he referred to as "the devil himself." We had no idea who that would be, but as long as Bob Budiansky had any say over it, we knew who it wouldn't be: Norman Osborn. As Budiansky wrote in a memo dated November 9, 1995: "Norman's death should never be undone, in my opinion. It's too classic… Let him rest in peace." Ahhhh, the irony! Now, back to Andrew… ]
After dealing with Raxton, the mystery man turns his attention to Spider-Man. When Spider-Man asks if he's supposed to know the mystery man, the villain responds, "You should, but I'm not at all surprised that you don't recognize me in this form. My appearance was quite different at our last encounter." Spider-Man wonders who this person from his past could be: Jackal, Kraven, Doc Ock. He shudders when he considers that it could be Harry Osborn, the Green Goblin.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Ahhhhhh, the irony! ]
Peter is still looking for Seward when a voice over the intercom announces that the game is over. Mary Jane came to warn Ben and Peter, but was captured herself. Peter surrenders.
Seward calls out to the mystery man, calling him Gaunt, and tells him that the regenerator is ready and he can initiate the rebirth procedure immediately. Gaunt gases Spider-Man, but not before teasing him with more information. He tells Spider-Man that his true identity, and that of his employer, must remain a secret for now. When Spider-Man asks, "employer?" Gaunt responds, "Another former acquaintance."
Gaunt prepares for his rebirth as Peter, MJ and a bound Spider-Man and Raxton look on. When MJ asks if Peter will help Spider-Man, Peter replies that this is all Spider-Man's fault. Spider-Man then says that without him, Peter wouldn't even exist so he should be quiet. It turns out that the fake fight enabled Spider-Man to expand his chest muscles enough to break free from his chains without interference from the Multivex guards. During the ensuing fight, the regenerator is damaged. Peter, MJ, Raxton and Spider-Man are able to make it to safety, while Seward stays behind to keep the machine from exploding before they're free. Spider-Man mourns for what he believes to be the death of his friend, but wonders if he was trying to save the machine or sabotage it.
The next day, Seward listens to Gaunt as the villain wonders aloud whether the fire was a result of sabotage. Seward denies the accusation but then another mysterious person claims that no matter what happened, those two could have ruined everything. The new mystery man then says, "For years I have secretly built my criminal empire! Cautiously manipulating events and people from the shadows. Spider-Man and Parker were getting too close and had to be discouraged. That insufferable pair will eventually pay for all they have cost me-but it shall be at a time and place of my choosing."
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : When Bob Harras made the decision to postpone the end of the clone saga for another six months, my first thought was that Dan Jurgens would NOT be happy about it. I waited until after Bob Budiansky called all the writers to break the news, and then I called Jurgens myself. Dan and I were pretty friendly by this point, we had spent a lot of time talking on the phone, and we had done a couple of short-term projects together. I hoped that I could keep him pumped up and enthusiastic, that I could convince him to look at the bright side of things and see the story opportunities that could be explored over those next six months. I thought I could succeed in this. After all, the end of the clone saga would definitely be done, probably very much in keeping with the way Dan wanted it done. It was just going to take a bit more time to get there, that's all. I felt that Dan was a great asset to the Spider-Man group, that we really needed him and his vision, and that I could help him see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I was too late.
When I called Dan, he told me that he'd already told Budiansky that he had decided to leave SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN. The six-month postponement was, for him, the last straw. And his decision was final. I was very disappointed. But I really couldn't blame Dan for how he felt. Why put up with all this nonsense if you didn't have to? And Dan didn't have to. He had other irons in the fire, including some new projects at DC Comics, and was more inclined to focus his attentions there.
The clone saga had lost another key player. And there was even more turmoil to come. ]
Our next focus this month is on WHAT IF #86, written by Terry Kavanagh and illustrated by Doug Braithwaite and Sean Hardy. The title of this issue was "What If…Scarlet Spider killed Spider-Man?" This issue is important for the simple fact that it gave away several plot elements before they were revealed in the core books. Which ones were revealed and which were red herrings? Well, you'll have to read the books, or at least the rest of LoR to find out.
The issue opens with Peter and MJ celebrating the birth of their daughter, May. Peter's mind starts to wander as he thinks that MJ doesn't realize the truth: that he's not the man she married. He's not Peter Parker. Well, not exactly. Through a series of flashbacks we go back to the point where Peter was under the Jackal's control. As Spider-Man, he and the Scarlet Spider face off until there's an explosion. Ben's body washes up on shore, and his vital signs are weak.
Later, he awakens in a hospital to find that Mary Jane and all of Peter's friends are around his bedside. They all believe that Ben is really Peter. He decides to let them keep on believing it for their own benefit, particularly MJ's, since she needs Peter now more than ever.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : This bears a remarkably strong resemblance to the "amnesia" idea that was submitted by one of the core writers, which I described in "Life of Reilly" #21. (To refresh your memories, this was the idea that one of the writers submitted under a pseudonym.) I sincerely doubt that this was mere coincidence. Since the writer who submitted that idea was close friends with Terry Kavanagh, it's more likely that Writer X "loaned" the idea to Terry for the WHAT IF story, once it was clear that the idea would never be used in the main Spider-Man books. ]
Cutting back to the present day, Peter/Ben and MJ get some terrible news. May has some sort of unknown blood poisoning that they don't have a cure for. Peter only does the Spider-Man thing when absolutely necessary, opting to care for Mary Jane and their daughter instead.
One night Peter wakes up to find that baby May has been kidnapped. Peter puts on the webs and frantically searches for her until he comes face to face with the Green Goblin. Though Spider-Man believes him to be dead, the Goblin responds, "Of course, Petey, aren't we all?" He jokes that though Spider-Man probably suspected the Jackal of being the mastermind behind all his misfortune, the truth is even worse.
The Goblin says he needs May's blood for a serum that he has. Spider-Man lashes out at the fact this monster wants to take his daughter's blood. The two battle atop that very familiar bridge until they both fall to their possible doom. Spider-Man comes out of the water with a Goblin mask and the serum, never knowing who the Goblin was, although he has a couple of guesses. When Spider-Man gets back to MJ, she calls him Ben. She says that she's probably always known he was Ben, but she needed him just the same. They part with Mary Jane telling Ben to take time to find his own identity, something he's never had the chance to do yet.