Warning - This article contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Marvel Studios' What If...?.
When Spider-Man was introduced to the MCU, Marvel Studios had one goal in mind: no origin story. After two separate franchises and with how famous the character is in general, the world already knows how the hero has come to be.
That's how fans got Tom Holland and his debut in the massive airport brawl with the rest of the MCU's hero roster. His next two solo adventures also never went into his origin; instead, they focused on exploring entirely new stories and left alone everything which had already been told. One of the victims of this mentality was Uncle Ben, a pivotal figure in Peter Parker's life.
Well, now that's all changed. Benjamin Parker has finally been mentioned in the MCU—though it debuted in the strangest place.
Uncle Ben Referenced in What If...?
In the most recent episode of What If...?, the question was asked: what if...zombies? The episode took on a beloved fan comic storyline and brought those ideas to the MCU.
One of the survivors of the whole ordeal was Peter Parker's Spider-Man alongside the likes of Okoye, Bruce Banner, Bucky, and Hope van Dyne.
After an intense scene where Wasp defeats a zombified Sharon Carter, it's discovered that her suit was compromised and that the size-shifting superhero was infected.
As everyone is taking a moment to process this information, Hope asks Peter how he stays so upbeat after everything.
Peter responds by listing all of the many mentors that he has had in his life up until that point including the character vocally confirming Uncle Ben's involvement in his life.
This marks the first time that Uncle Ben has ever been directly referenced since Peter Parker's introduction to the MCU.
What If... Uncle Ben Was Referenced Earlier?
Peter's uncle had never been mentioned in the MCU before, only having been alluded to. The closest fans got was seeing the initials of B.F.P. on Peter's suitcase in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
On top of the suitcase in Spider-Man: Far From Home, when Ned first discovers Peter is Spider-Man, his friend begs him not to tell anyone, exclaiming that he can't do that to Aunt May "after everything that's happened to her;" this line likely refers to the loss of Uncle Ben.
The entire exchange is about as close as the MCU has come to a vocal confirmation of Uncle Ben's role in Peter's life within the MCU. Now, What If...? has come along and casually dropped his name as if it was no big deal. It is a little strange that Marvel decided What If...?'s zombie episode was the best place to debut such a big thing.
With Spider-Man: Far From Home just around the corner, that film would have been a far better place for such a big moment, especially given the rumors of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield showing up; both of whom have dealt with the loss of their Uncle Ben on screen.
It would be satisfying to have had it come up for the first time in a conversation between Holland's Peter and either of the other Spider-Men—given all the rumors are true.
Maybe that will still happen, but it will no longer be the first mention of Uncle Ben if it does. Fans will have to wait until December 17 of this year to see if any exchange about Uncle Ben does come up.