What If? Finally Brings a Key Piece of the Spider-Man Mythos to the MCU
Marvel's What If...? marks the first time Uncle Ben, an essential character to Spider-Man's backstory, is mentioned by name in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The latest episode of What If...?, simply titled "What If... Zombies?!" sees the MCU's heroes attempting to survive a deadly virus that turns people into flesh-eating monsters. While trying to discover a cure for the virus, Peter Parker is confronted by Hope van Dyne's fate at the hands of a zombie bite, a tragic moment that seemingly doesn't phase the plucky superhero. When asked about his response, Peter responds by saying, "My mom, dad, Uncle Ben, Mr. Stark… I’ve lost a lot. But my Aunt May says ‘If we don’t keep smiling when they can’t, then we might as well be gone too."
While the line itself is a moving reminder of how many people Spider-Man has lost during his life, it's a significant moment for fans. Uncle Ben has previously been missing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the death of Peter's adoptive father was only hinted at in Captain America: Civil War. In a heartfelt discussion with Tony Stark, Peter says, "When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you." The character has never been mentioned by name until now.
Uncle Ben is in nearly every major blockbuster Spider-Man film outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy Uncle Ben is portrayed by the late Cliff Robertson. Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Mansees the character played by Martin Sheen; The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does not feature an appearance by Uncle Ben but the film's characters mention him in conversation.
Uncle Ben is a crucial part of Spider-Man's origin story. Shortly after acquiring his powers, Spider-Man fails to stop a burglar running away from a security guard, viewing the problem as not his to solve. Upon returning home, Peter discovers that the crook went on to gun down his Uncle Ben. This tragic lesson fuels the teenager's rise to superherodom, propelled by the philosophy that "with great power, comes great responsibility."
The latest episode of Marvel's What If...? is now available on Disney+. The animated anthology series takes the MCU's most beloved characters and throws them into bizarre situations fueled by tweaking one small aspect of their established storylines. Previous episodes have pondered the question of what would happen if Agent Carter took the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers, or what the galaxy would have been like if Yondu had abducted T'challa rather than Peter Quill.