Wizard #77 (January 1998) has an article inside called The Fate of '98. Within that article is a section entitled "Has Spider-Man hit rock bottom?" The writer argues that Spidey has lost his "everyman" quality and goes on to say, "And that quality was punctuated by the slew of problems Peter Parker faced both in his civilian identity AND as Spider-Man. Girl problems. Money problems. School problems. Job problems. Problems maintaining his secret identity. And, of course, super-villain problems. Let's face it: the guy never had a happy ending.
"But right now, with the exception of seeing a marriage counselor, Peter's life is all rainbows. Now, Peter's married to a super model, he has a steady job with a steady income, school is working out just fine and it seems over a dozen people know Peter Parker is really Spider-Man."
Now, I hate to be the one to reopen the finally healed wound but of whom does the first paragraph remind you? Ben Reilly, right? Isn't this why Ben was brought back to begin with? Because Peter had gotten too comfortable, because Mary Jane had gotten too beautiful, because both were having too many happy endings. Ben was broke, alone, working at a coffee shop and his girlfriend was the daughter of the burglar who killed Uncle Ben. Ben Reilly was an attempt to go back to the very type of Spidey that Wizard is requesting. But where was Wizard when Ben Reilly was Spidey? They were in the vanguard, screaming for the return of Peter to the webs.
Once Marvel had decided to retcon everything back again, Ben fans warned all of us that the books would soon return to the rut they had been in beforehand. Nobody wanted to listen. But they were right.
They also warned us that, if Ben was to go, Marvel had to eventually change Peter into what Ben already was. That means no baby... ever! And that means eventual divorce from or death for Mary Jane Watson. (And there are rumors, people...)
Here's another quote from the same issue of Wizard. In a feature called "What Were They Thinking?", subtitled "The Biggest Disappointments of 1997" is a spot entitled "Spidey Still Sucks". It says, "Just when Spider-Man was supposed to be on the road to recovery, villain Norman Osborn reappears after being dead for 24 years of continuity. Osborn, the original Green Goblin, had a cool, meaningful death and his name always haunted Peter Parker. Now that he's been resurrected as a Kingpin wannabe, he's regrettably been reduced to a bad joke."
Need I mention that the Green Goblin was brought back as a tactic to excite fans while Marvel went through the motions of getting rid of Ben Reilly, as our friends at Wizard requested? Norman would never have come back (at least not this way) if Ben was not being forced out.
Do I sound like a raving Ben lover? I'm sorry if I do. But it would have been very interesting to see where Ben would have taken us. If everybody had been cool and let things happen (This Means You, Wizard!), then everything may have worked itself out. We may even have ended up with Peter back but without the stench of a desperation rush-job. At the very least, we would have been spared the sight of the top-selling "Magazine About Comics", condemning Marvel for writing exactly what they asked for in the first place.