The Jackal and the Spider-Men

 Posted: 11 Jun 2024
 Staff: Dave Sippel (E-Mail)


“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose family.”

Family, as a theme, arises consistently in therapy. Upbringing influences every aspect of a person’s life from childhood to maturity. This is well established in both scientific literature and in the axiom “the apple never falls far from the tree.” Families of a sort also occur in criminal organizations, from the Carnage “family,” to mafia families to the Sinister Six. None of these examples are blood relations, as such examples are fairly rare. However, a very unique “family” briefly existed in an almost cult like atmosphere. This unstable group was made up of Dr. Miles Warren (the Jackal), Ben Reilly (the Scarlet Spider), Kaine Parker (later also known as the Scarlet Spider), John Diaz (Spidercide) and Peter Parker (Spider-Man).


After the murder of Gwen Stacy, her university biology professor, Dr. Miles Warren, took her death hard. (See: Warren, Miles (aka, The Jackal).) He used his scientific expertise to clone his deceased student, as well as the man he blamed for her death, Peter Parker. This clone, who later named himself “Ben Reilly,” was used as a weapon against Spider-Man. When the plan failed, Ben was believed dead but instead wandered the world to keep his mind off of his unusual existence. At around the same time, another clone of Peter, Kaine, had been created by the Jackal. Kaine was an imperfect clone suffering from a progressive and fatal condition called “clone degeneration.” Kaine had an extremely antagonistic relationship with both Peter and Ben, as he was jealous and resentful of their health. He was especially spiteful towards Ben. Finally, there was John, a self-proclaimed “daddy’s boy” (Amazing Spider-Man #404) that was eager to carry out his “father’s” plan to wipeout and clone the human race.

Family Dynamic

Dr. Warren’s narcissism was on full display in his interactions with Peter and the clones. Not only was he grandiose in his plan to clone and terminate humanity with the "carrion virus" but mere human interaction was tainted by his personality. They referred to each other as “father” and “son” but they were anything but loving. Like many narcissists, Warren employed gaslighting, triangulation, criticism and manipulation. He played favorites, picking Kaine as the “scapegoat” and John as the “golden child.”

It should be said that John was “raised” by Warren, who listened to his plans and grievances against Peter and Ben and his love of Gwen. John was a genetically enhanced clone meant to act as a weapon, henchman and bodyguard to Warren. Keeping John sympathetic to him was essential. John returned the favor by unquestioningly following Warren’s orders and eagerly volunteering to kill. John was what is called the “golden child” of a narcissist, the favored offspring that received the narcissist’s tainted support. While the other “sons” all received physical and emotional abuse from Warren, John was almost entirely spared. Only when his mind was cleared of Warren’s manipulation and refused to carry out an order did Warren try to activate the genetic self-destruct in John’s DNA. (Spectacular Spider-Man #227)

Kaine, on the other hand, was Warren’s scapegoat. He had nothing but contempt for the disfigured son and constantly riddled him with insults and death threats. After John turned on his maker, Warren was saved by Kaine, who was mortally injured. (He got better.) When Kaine explained that he saved Warren because he gave him life, Warren called him pathetic. Kaine was nothing to him but a batch of bad chemicals. At the same time, he had praised Kaine as he fought to protect Warren from John. He even said that he was "always daddy's favorite." (Spectacular Spider-Man #227) Warren's rejection of Kaine and Kaine’s physical disfigurement led him down an anti-social path. He quickly fell into a relationship with detective Louise Kennedy in Salt Lake City but just as quickly murdered her when he learned she worked for the mafia. (Spider-Man: The Lost Years #3)

While Warren was blatantly abusive to Kaine, his abuse of Peter and Ben was much more subtle. He did attack them physically at times, but the majority of his cruelty was psychological. They both believed Ben to be the clone and Peter to be the original but after Warren turned out to be alive after faking his death, he implied that both of them were clones. (Amazing Spider-Man #399) He later told Ben that he was the original and that Peter was the clone. (Spider-Man #56) Keeping them off balance made them vulnerable to his manipulations. This is called "gaslighting," where a person is forced to question their reality. The abuser can make the victim question their memories, undermine their judgement and bully them into believing a lie. The tactic worked and Peter eventually believed himself to be the clone and that Ben was the true Peter Parker. (Amazing Spider-Man #404) He gaslighted both Ben and Peter into believing that Gwen was alive on separate occasions, but both times the woman they saw was a clone. (Amazing Spider-Man #144 and Amazing Spider-Man #399)

Toxic Rivalry

Even in the periodic absence of Miles Warren, the relationship between the Parker, Reilly and Diaz boys is difficult. They usually go without contact for years but reunions are never tranquil. Cooperation between Peter and Ben is usually the norm, with them trading the guise of Spider-Man. Things have gotten worse as the degeneration disease has caught up with Ben, causing his memories to fade. This has caused a rift between he and Peter, with Ben now calling himself as “Chasm,” referring to the difference between them. (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 5) #93)

Kaine still hates his “brothers,” particularly Ben. He had good reason, as Ben had lost his identity after his resurrection and became the second Jackal. He took over cloning people against their will and nearly caused a new carrion virus pandemic. Kaine hunted him down to punish him. (Clone Conspiracy Omega #1) For a while they both called themselves the Scarlet Spider, but the similarities stopped there. (Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1-#25)

John had been defeated and locked away for a long time until he faced off against Ben during one of his stints as Spider-Man. John didn’t know who he was without Warren’s influence and tried to learn about his humanity. He started dating (using his shapeshifter abilities to be either a man or woman) but was easily frustrated by the lack of insight. He killed on his first dates, causing the media to declare there was a “First Date Killer” in New York. (Ben Reilly: Spider-Man #1) At the same time he stalked Ben and Edward Whelan, attacking them while disguised as other enemies. John felt forgotten and unacknowledged by his "brothers," and was insulted that Ben reached out to Whelan, whom he called an insect. He had also killed and impersonated Dr. Liu at Ravencroft Asylum. (Ben Reilly: Spider-Man #4) In the end, John accepted his identity as a monster. (Ben Reilly: Spider-Man #5)

John seems to have taken his "father's" narcissism. They both have signs of grandiose narcissism, characterized by feelings of superiority, self-importance, entitlement and lack of empathy. John was insulted that Ben wanted to get to know Edward but never bothered to find him. Ben would have no reason to look for his genocidal "brother," especially when John sees others as insects. The anger over lack of attention from his brothers is an important symptom to note.

Kaine shows similar symptoms but is more likely to be a borderline personality. He is emotionally explosive, as when he killed detective Kennedy (Spider-Man: The Lost Years #3) or attacked Ben after an episode of clone degeneration (Spider-Man: The Lost Years #2) Fear of abandonment is also seen, as seen when he was hurt by Warren's suggestion that John kill him. He begged Warren not to abandon him, then left, dejected. (Amazing Spider-Man #404) Violence against his brothers is one of the few relationships that he has.


Talk therapy and medication could be helpful for Kaine in treating his borderline personality but would require dedication. He would need to learn to manage his emotions, reduce impulsiveness by recognizing emotions instead of reacting to them and being aware of the feelings of others.

Treatment for Miles Warren and John Diaz is unlikely as Warren didn't take it seriously while hospitalized at Ravencroft (Spectacular Spider-Man #223) and John refused to be put back into a laboratory (Ben Reilly: Spider-Man #4.) As a secretly vulnerable person that needs outside validation, narcissism was displayed when John felt ignored by Peter, Ben and Kaine. Talk therapy can be helpful for narcissists but they are unlikely to seek help, seeing it as a weakness.

Ben's current crisis as Chasm stems from his clone degeneration, so treatment for that condition takes priority. Unfortunately, a cure has been elusive for years. Any cure should be followed up with talk therapy to deal with lingering emotional difficulties.

Peter Parker needs a vacation.

 Posted: 11 Jun 2024
 Staff: Dave Sippel (E-Mail)