Gather ’round children, and let old Uncle Morty tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a meeting of the minds at old Marvel. “Spider-Man,” they said, “Is stale. We’ve done it all! Peter’s married to Mary Jane, his life is going all right for a change. Sure, he has a Goblin trying to kill him, and a Hobgoblin, and a Venom, and a Carnage – but really, how much further can we go? Plus – those guys over at DC keep doing all these cool things like killing Superman. We really need to compete!”
“What if we made him gay?” said one guy. He was immediately booed.
“We could say that his parents aren’t really dead? Maybe they’re spies?”
“That’s stupid!” said someone but the boss said, “That’s not bad – let’s keep that for later. Bring em back and then kill em again! Yeah… but we need something bigger right now, something earth shattering.”
“What about a new uniform? Something purple with a cape?”
After that guy was not only thrown out, but fired and escorted from the building, they took large amounts of drugs and alcohol to try and inspire themselves and in this induced haze of absolute brain dead stupidity, someone uttered the now infamous words, “Hey – what if Peter Parker is a clone?”
Thus was born what is to this day quite possibly the stupidest story arc ever to grace a comic book store shelves. The Clone Saga. Also known as ‘The Spider-Clone Saga” or also as “The Spider Clone Crappy Con to get you to buy more comics cuz we’re gonna drag it on as long as possible in the hopes of boosting sales which are currently flat Saga”.
Yes, someone had a dumber clone story than George Lucas.
To understand this Clone Saga, we have to first look at the original. Let’s go back to 1975. Watergate was in the news, Wheel of Fortune debuts on NBC, the Steelers beat the Vikings in the Superbowl – and, oh yeah, Peter’s got this gal he likes – her name is Gwen Stacey.
Peter likes her a lot, so of course, she had to die (need more drama for our hero!). Gwen Stacy is killed off in the epic battle with the Goblin that was misused/stolen for the Spidey Movie (hey, I liked it! I swear!) and a new villain, The Jackal, is introduced in the aftermath. He brings Gwen back – as a clone. He also clones Spider-Man. We learn, later, that The Jackal is really Miles Warren, Pete’s biology professor who was secretly in love with Gwen, which is why he brought her back as a clone, because he’s a freak. A freak with a chemistry set, but still a freak.
He blames Spidey for Gwen’s death because, ‘Goblin who?’ and wants to make him pay and figures he can do it with a clone and then clone her so he can have his clone and eat his cake or… I don’t know – I was probably 4 at the time. Anyway, Spidey had to fight both Jackal and the clone, both of whom he defeats. Both Spidey and Spidey believe they are the real thing but, you know, there can be only one and all that and in the end, they decide that the Peter we know and love is the real deal and the clone disappears. The Gwen clone goes off to live her new life away from all the madness and things settle down in Spideyville. (she comes back later)
Fast forward to the 90’s. The Spidey clone? He was off living his life too, under the assumed identity of ‘Ben Reilly’ (named after Uncle Ben and Aunt May). He comes back because the Jackal comes back, and another clone shows up (Kaine) and then another one (Spidercide) – it’s now Clonapalooza! (I don’t know if they had an Order 66 bred into them or not. Probably not. Mostly.)
The Spidey Clone Ben Reilly comes back and takes up the mantle as the Scarlet Spider. Then there’s a point where Peter retires, but then he’s running around in a costume – or they both are – it was all so confusing…:
This, of course, causes more drama because the clones start wondering which one really IS the original. WILL THE REAL PETER PARKER PLEASE STAND UP?!
(No, that’s not Peter – that’s Ben. Ben has the blond hair, Peter the dark hair – that way we can tell them apart. Also, Ben never let’s Peter drive the General Lee and Mary Jane looks great in her Daisy Dukes. Aunt May’s shine ain’t so great though… wait – I’m getting my continuities mixed up again…)
It took a while (and a lot of issues, of course) to determine that Peter and not Ben, was the real deal (again). It helped that Ben ended up dying and he did a Buffy thing where his body degenerated/evaporated thus proving that he really was a clone.
It was such a mess. Ugh. I hated it.
The whole thing really helped me to stop buying comics.
Have some more Spidey covers from this timeline: