WARNING! This article contains SPOILERS for The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42!
Marvel Comics just brought back a major supporting character from the world of Spider-Man. Ned Leeds, Daily Bugle reporter and husband of Betty Brant, was revealed to be alive in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42. Ned Leeds was the inspiration for Jacob Batalon's character in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Ned Leeds is one of the oldest characters in Spider-Man comics, having been introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #18 in 1964 as a Daily Bugle reporter with a romantic interest in Betty Brant, who at the time was Peter Parker's love interest. Over time, Spider-Man moved on from Betty, who eventually married Ned. Their marriage was strained when the Hobgoblin brainwashed Ned and framed him for his crimes. Ned was assassinated by the Foreigner in 1987 and wasn't exonerated until years later when Spider-Man discovered the true identity of the Hobgoblin.
One of Spider-Man's oldest foes, the Jackal, created numerous clones of characters from Spider-Man's life, including Ned Leeds, the Enforcers, the Hobgoblin, and several others during The Clone Conspiracy. The Ned Leeds clone died when his brain melted, but before his death he contacted Betty Brant. Betty was convinced that the real Ned still lived, though Peter couldn't tell her that the Ned she spoke to was actually a clone. Betty believed that she could uncover the truth about her husband by digging into his past and solving one of his old cases.
Spider-Man and Betty Brant's investigation led them into a battle with the Enforcers. After it was over, they uncovered a scandal involving the Maggia and a bomb hidden in a statue in Central Park. Solving the case allowed them take down several powerful figures in organized crime. Just as Betty appeared to accept that Ned was really dead, a mysterious man was seen watching them. Dressed as a hobo, the character had appeared in the background throughout the comic. In the final page of the issue, the hobo removes his fake beard and smiles in satisfaction, though no one notices him. In this moment, it becomes clear to the reader that somehow the real Ned Leeds is still alive.
It's not clear how Ned Leeds returned to life, or why he's been absent for so long. However, his return provides a more satisfying conclusion to a story that has been thought of by Spider-Man fans as one of the character's most depressing storylines of all time. Ned Leeds was a good man who died with everyone believing that he was the Hobgoblin. It took years for his name to finally be cleared.
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42 is on sale now from Marvel.