|"The Clone Saga"|
Cover to Web of Spider-Man #117 (October 1994), which officially launched the 1990s "Clone Saga"
|Publication date||October 1994 – December 1996|
J. M. DeMatteis
The story is one of the most controversial Spider-Man stories ever told. Although it was intended to wrap up in less than a year, the comics sold very well and the writers were encouraged to prolong the saga as long as possible. This led to some changes to the storyline that ultimately proved unpopular.
Although there were many people involved, the Clone Saga is most closely associated with Terry Kavanagh, who proposed the idea, Howard Mackie, who worked on the majority of the smaller crossovers involved in the overall storyarc and Gerry Conway, who devised the original story. Executive editors on the storyline included Tom DeFalco, Bob Budiansky, and Bob Harras.
- 1 Storyline
- 2 Production and development controversy
- 3 Spider-Man: The Clone Saga
- 4 Criticism
- 5 Follow up in MC2
- 6 Ultimate Spider-Man Clone Saga
- 7 Television
- 8 References
- 9 External links
There were two "Clone Sagas:" the original storyline in the 1970s and the second saga which consumed all the regular Spider-Man series, several limited series and one shots between 1994 and 1997. Between the two, there were also two smaller storylines that dealt with elements from the original saga.
The original Clone Saga
In the summer of 1973, writer Gerry Conway made the decision to kill off the girlfriend of Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy, because the editorial team felt that Gwen had become stale as a character and they wanted to instill an additional element of tragedy into Peter Parker's life. In the follow-up arcs, Conway introduced a new villain, the masked Jackal, and let Gwen Stacy seemingly return from the dead.
The Jackal was the secret identity of Gwen and Peter's biology professor Miles Warren, who could not cope with the death of Gwen whom which he had a secret infatuation with. As an expert on cloning, he creates clones of both Gwen and Peter, discovering Peter is Spider-Man as a result. Jackal blames Spider-Man for Gwen's death and wants to kill him. The Jackal kidnaps Spider-Man and forces him to fight his clone. Both men believe they are the real Peter Parker. The two Spider-Men soon decide to work together, but one is seemingly killed by the same bomb that kills the Jackal. The surviving Spider-Man determines he is the original because he is in love with Mary Jane Watson, which did not happen until after Prof. Warren created the clone. Spider-Man drops the body of the clone into an incinerator. Gwen Stacy's clone disappears to find a new life for herself.
The clone of Gwen Stacy reappeared many years later when she was being pursued by the High Evolutionary, who was determined to discover how Warren had been able to perfect cloning. In the process, he discovered that Warren had not, but had instead created a genetic virus which transformed already living beings into supposed clones of other people. It was claimed that the Gwen clone was really a woman named Joyce Delany who was seemingly cured of the virus and left to lead her own life once more.  Later, Spider-Man investigated Warren's old laboratory and discovered that Carrion was another former student of Warren's, Malcolm McBride, who was infected with the virus and became the new Carrion. Many years after that in Scarlet Spider Unlimited #1, this story arc was molded to fit into the New Clone Saga.
The second Clone Saga
More years passed before Spider-Man's clone reappeared. He had survived the battle and for five years had lived an existence under the name Ben Reilly (a combination of Peter's Uncle Ben's first name and Aunt May's maiden name). A series of chaotic events followed, in which Peter and Ben were plagued by both a resurrected Jackal and by Kaine, who was an unsuccessful first clone. In the process, another clone of Spider-Man became the villain Spidercide. Matters were further confused by the interventions of the mysterious and seemingly all-powerful Judas Traveller and Scrier.
The revelations made by the High Evolutionary were revealed to have been inaccurate, driven by a determination to discredit Warren, who had formerly worked with him.
Medical tests indicated Peter was actually the clone and Ben the original. Peter temporarily retired as Spider-Man, leaving the mantle of Spider-Man to Ben while he prepared for his new role as a father after the discovery that Mary Jane was pregnant; Peter even lost his powers for a time during his 'retirement', although they eventually came back after a near-death experience. The climax revealed that Peter, Ben, the Jackal and many others had all been manipulated for years by Norman Osborn a.k.a. the Green Goblin, who had returned from the dead and had been secretly masterminding the entire saga. Osborn said Peter was the original—having faked the evidence that revealed Peter's status as the clone as part of a plan to break Peter's spirit—a claim that was confirmed when Ben died saving Peter's life and his body degenerated like any other clone's. Spider-Man: The Osborn Journal (February 1997) explains the Green Goblin's role in the entire storyline.
During the mid-1990s, Marvel consistently published four monthly Spider-Man series, roughly one every week. For the most part, the Spider-titles were treated during this storyline as a single weekly series, although occasionally they would separate, pair off, or have special anniversary editions. The Clone Saga ran through all four titles from October 1994 to December 1996, in addition to a multitude of spin-offs, one-shots, and ancillary issues. The relevant issues are:
- Web of Spider-Man #117–129, and its replacement, Sensational Spider-Man #0–11
- Amazing Spider-Man #394–418
- Spider-Man #51–75
- Spectacular Spider-Man #217–240
- Spider-Man Unlimited (Vol. 1) #7–14
- Furthermore, all five titles were temporarily renamed with "Scarlet Spider" in place of "Spider-Man" for two months, in imitation of the X-Men's "Age of Apocalypse" story arc, with Web of Scarlet Spider continuing for an additional two months after the other titles returned.
Special one-shots and mini-series:
- Spider-Man: Maximum Clonage Alpha
- Spider-Man: Maximum Clonage Omega
- Spider-Man: The Lost Years
- Spider-Man: The Final Adventure
- Spider-Man: The Osborn Journal
- Spider-Man: The Parker Years
- Spider-Man: Redemption
- Spider-Man: The Jackal Files
- Spider-Man The Original Clone Saga (Amazing Spider-Man #139-150, Giant-Size Spider-Man #5, Spectular Spider-Man #25-31, #149, #162-163 and Annual #8)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic, Book 1 (Amazing Spider-Man #394; Spectacular Spider-Man #217; Spider-Man #51-53; Spider-Man Unlimited #7; Web of Spider-Man #117-119; Spider-Man: The Lost Years #1-3)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic, Book 2 (Amazing Spider-Man #395-399; Spectacular Spider-Man #218-221; Spider-Man #54-56; Spider-Man Unlimited #8, Web of Spider-Man #120-122)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic, Book 3 (Amazing Spider-Man #400-401, Super Special, Spectacular Spider-Man #222-224, Super Special, Spider-Man #57-58, Super Special, Spider-Man Unlimited #9, Web of Spider-Man #123-124, Super Special, Spider-Man: The Clone Journal, Venom Super Special)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic, Book 4 (Amazing Spider-Man #402-404; Spectacular Spider-Man #225-227; Spider-Man #59-61; Web of Spider-Man #125-127; New Warriors #61; Spider-Man: The Jackal Files; Spider-Man: Maximum Clonage Alpha, Omega)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic, Book 5 (Amazing Spider-Man Super Special; Spider-Man Super Special; Venom Super Special, Spectacular Spider-Man Super Special, Web of Spider-Man Super Special, New Warriors #62, Web of Spider-Man #128-129, Amazing Spider-Man #405-406, Spider-Man #62-63, Spider-Man Unlimited #10, Spectacular Spider-Man #228-229, Spider-Man Team-Up #1, Spider-Man: The Parker Years #1)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic Book 1 (Spider-Man: The Parker Years; New Warriors #65-66; Scarlet Spider Unlimited #1; Web of Scarlet Spider #1-2; Amazing Scarlet Spider #1-2; Scarlet Spider #1-2; Spectacular Scarlet Spider #1-2; Green Goblin #3; and Sensational Spider-Man #0 and Mini-Comic)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic Book 2 (Amazing Spider-Man #407-408; New Warriors #67; Sensational Spider-Man #1; Spectacular Spider-Man #230; Spider-Man #64-65; Spider-Man/Punisher: Family Plot #1-2; Web of Scarlet Spider #3-4, and material from Spider-Man Holiday Special and Venom: Along Came a Spider #1-4)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic Book 3 (Amazing Spider-Man #409-410; Sensational Spider-Man #2-3; Spectacular Spider-Man #231-233; Spider-Man #66-67; Spider-Man: The Final Adventure #1-4; Spider-Man Team-Up #2; Spider-Man Unlimited #11)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic Book 4 (Amazing Spider-Man #411-413; Daredevil #354; Sensational Spider-Man #4-6; Spectacular Spider-Man #234; Spider-Man #68-70; Spider-Man: Redemption #1-4; Spider-Man Unlimited #12, Spider-Man Team-Up #3)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic Book 5 (Amazing Spider-Man #414-416, material from Annual '96; Sensational Spider-Man #7-10; Spectacular Spider-Man #235-239; Spider-Man #71-72; Spider-Man Team-Up #4; Spider-Man Unlimited #13)
- Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic Book 6 (Amazing Spider-Man #417-418; Sensational Spider-Man #11; Spectacular Spider-Man #240-241; Spider-Man #73-75; Spider-Man Team-Up #5; Spider-Man Unlimited #14; Spider-Man: Revelations Extra Pages; Spider-Man: The Osborn Journal #1; 101 ways to end the Clone Saga #1; Spider-Man: Dead Man's Hand #1)
The original clone story from 1974–1975 was released as a trade paperback in June 1995 called Spider-Man: Clone Genesis (ISBN 0-7851-0134-9), reprinting Amazing Spider-Man #141–150. In 2011 a re-release was scheduled, now titled Spider-Man: The Original Clone Saga.
Though no longer in print, there was a trade paperback released in 1997 titled Spider-Man: Revelations (ISBN 0-7851-0560-3) which collected the four-part "Revelations" storyline that ran in Amazing Spider-Man #418, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75, Sensational Spider-Man #11, and Spectacular Spider-Man #240. Originally, The Osborn Journal was to be included. Instead, Spider-Man #75 has 14 bonus pages. The first seven show Ben fighting briefly with Norman Osborn, set during Amazing Spider-Man #418. The second seven show Peter and Mary Jane mourning over the loss of Ben Reilly and Baby May, which has Spider-Man dumping Ben's ashes in the river. The bonus pages are drawn by John Romita Jr..
Marvel reprinted the second saga's entire run in large TPBs titled Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic. As of December 2013 five volumes (collecting between 12 and 19 issues each) have been released. After the fifth volume the reprint series was retitled Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic and began with The Return Of Spider-Man arc and Reilly's tenure as Spider-Man. As mentioned above, a re-release of the original 1970s story was released in summer 2011,[dated info] bridging the Clone Saga and Ben Reilly Epics.
Production and development controversy
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The second Clone Saga sprang from Marvel Comics' determination to produce a strong Spider-Man "event" story that would rival DC Comics' "The Death of Superman" and "Batman: Knightfall," both of which sold extremely well. Spider-Man editor Mark Bernardo said "Marching orders we were given by upper management to come up with something similar in scope to DC's "Death of Superman" storyline, which at the time was breaking sales records left and right. Thus, no outrageous idea was out of bounds. Terry Kavanagh was cajoled into blurting out his clone idea, which first met with groans and indifference, until someone (to my recollection, J.M. DeMatteis) suddenly realized the radical possibilities of such a storyline." Several of the Spider-Man creators believed that the character had drifted too far from his original portrayal and sought a way to restore the Spider-Man of old, in particular jettisoning his marriage to Mary Jane. Howard Mackie revealed "When the story was begun we knew it would be controversial, and that was part of the point." He also commented "The return to the single Spider-Man did enter the conversation eventually, but it was not the intent of the story when pitched."
Bernardo added that the length of the arc was initially planned to be short, "The whole arc was supposed to end in Amazing Spider-Man #400, and leave 'Ben Reilly' as the one and only 'original Peter Parker' and forge a new beginning. The whole storyline, was supposed to simplify Spider-Man's mythos and ultimately bring him "back to basics."
Eventually, editor-in-chief Tom Defalco gave the final approval to begin the story.
Establishing the clone
Although the readers had been getting clues about a mysterious figure with links to Peter Parker in the issues leading up to the story, the starting point for the second Clone Saga was the end of Spectacular Spider-Man #216 (Sept 1994), written by Tom DeFalco and Todd Dezago, in which Spider-Man was confronted by an exact look-alike of himself. In the following issues, the writers established the clone's backstory as a frightened, homeless outcast; and introduced the character Judas Traveller. The writers set up the possibility that the clone could be the real Spider-Man. The clone was then further developed editorially, and given the name Ben Reilly. Additionally, he became known as the super-hero the Scarlet Spider, complete with a unique costume.
Early development trouble
According to established Spider-Man assistant editor Glenn Greenberg "No one—not the writers, not the editors—seemed to know who or what the hell Judas Traveller was. He was seemingly this immensely powerful, quasi-mystical being with amazing abilities, but what was the real deal with him? ... But to be honest, a character like Traveller didn't really fit into Spider-Man's world." As such, Traveller's role would remain a mystery to readers for a while, as writers dropped him in and out of this saga.
Tom DeFalco came up with the idea of making Spider-man's wife Mary Jane pregnant, feeling it would be a dramatic event that would help set up the saga's ultimate resolution. But then, Marvel Comics experienced a major financial crisis which nearly bankrupted the company. In consequence, editor-in-chief DeFalco was fired, and Marvel's comic line was broken into five separate groups each with its own editor-in-chief. Bob Budiansky became editor-in-chief on the Spider-Man line.
By then, the writers had established a new villain, Kaine. To prove that he was dangerous, the writers had him killing classic Spider-Man foes, including Doctor Octopus, with his corpse shown to rule out any possibility that he would return. However, Kaine soon became another reoccurring character of unexplained origin and purpose, like Judas Traveller and the Scrier, whose roles would not be revealed for quite some time.
Then, the creative staff brought back the Jackal, the original culprit of the clones. He was used as a plot device to explain the "clone degeneration" and also set up the possibility he was part of a greater plan by Judas Traveller and Scrier. In this plot developed by J.M. DeMatteis, and part written by Todd DeZago and Howard Mackie, Jackal gave readers doubt and suspicion by stating that Peter was the clone, followed by a reverse statement, and then assessing them as both being clones of an original; because of this, the story was considered convoluted. In a 2008 interview, Glenn Greenberg recalled "It only made sense, from a dramatic standpoint. It was this story that kicked off what would become an increasingly tiresome stream of clones, lies upon lies, fake-outs, and convoluted twists and turns."
At this point, the creative staff, seemingly without strict direction, inserted a lot of open plot points waiting to be resolved, such as Ben Reilly worrying about "degeneration" of his body due to cloning, why Kaine was protecting Spider-Man but preying on Ben Reilly, why Ben and Spider-man shared dreams, why Kaine was foreseeing Mary Jane's death, who the mysterious new character Seward Trainer was as well as the identity of the "Third Peter Parker" aka Spidercide.
With a plethora of writers and editors, the storyline was initiated throughout all the regular Spider-Man series, but slowly grew out of control. The sales department requested extensions to the storyline, buoyed up by very strong sales on the book at a time when most other comics were experiencing a noticeable decline. With this extension, the storyline outlived several key creative staff and many decisions on the eventual direction of the storyline were changed.
With Amazing Spider-Man #400, in a controversial decision, the writers ended the life of Spider-Man's aunt May Parker, a major supporting character since 1962. The "Mark of Kaine" arc added still more clones of Spider-Man. With this arc, the sales of the Spider-Man comics skyrocketed, and therefore, the writers were encouraged to keep the saga going longer.
Establishing Ben Reilly as Spider-Man
At the conclusion of the story arc "The Trial of Peter Parker" in Spectacular Spider-Man #226, Peter is revealed by Dr. Seward Trainer as the clone of Ben. Peter retired as Spider-Man based on this premise and moved to Portland to live with Mary Jane, allowing Ben to take over as Spider-Man. This resulted in a major backlash by fans, that wrote letters to Marvel with various complaints.
Goletz said that the next chapter in the saga was to "begin the new era of Spider-Man. Peter and Mary Jane would be written out of the books, and sent off to live in peace with their soon-to-be-born child. Ben would get the chance to establish himself as Spider-Man and move forward. Going into the planning stages for what would turn out to be 'Maximum Clonage', the intent was indeed to finish up the clone story line once and for all and quickly get Ben started as Spider-Man." Also, the Gwen Stacy clone who had started the whole Clone Saga in the 1970s was to be killed to provide a fitting end. But impressed by the Age of Apocalypse crossover of sister Marvel Comics title X-Men, in which huge sales were achieved by long, spread-out story lines, Bob Budiansky ordered to duplicate this recipe for the Maximum Clonage project. Instead of tying up loose ends, the story was changed in such a way that practically every issue brought up new clones. Instead of being killed, the Gwen Stacy clone was allowed to slip away unnoticed. The story arc was heavily criticized for its undefined character motives, and an apparent lack of distinction between villains, heroes, and their allies.
Following the end of "Maximum Clonage", the creative staff launched revamps of established villains (a new female Doctor Octopus, a new Vulture, and the Grim Hunter, the son of Kraven the Hunter), without much success. DeMatteis resigned out of creative weariness with the saga's constant stream of crossovers, which prevented Spider-Man writers from pursuing their own storyline ideas. Greenberg recalled: "The idea was to have each Spider-Man book retitled so that the Scarlet Spider's name would replace Spider-Man's—Amazing Scarlet Spider, Spectacular Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly Scarlet Spider, and Web of Scarlet Spider. We'd get four new number #1's out of it, and it would be a way to capitalize on the Scarlet Spider's popularity one last time before he became (the new) Spider-Man. What that meant was holding off Ben's debut as Spider-Man even longer." Though Budiansky and the rest of the editorial staff wanted the retitling to be a one-off for each series, the Scarlet Spider was popular enough for Marvel's sales and marketing to insist on four issues of each title. Ultimately, they compromised on two issues of each title.
Change of heart
In the story "Return of Spider-Man", opening in the newest series Sensational Spider-Man #0, Ben finds a new Spider-Man suit and develops a life of his own. More efforts were taken to solidify Ben as the new Spider-Man, such as establishing a supporting cast for Ben. However, there were many staff that had a hard time accepting Ben as Peter's replacement, such as the new writer of "Sensational", Dan Jurgens. Jurgens wanted to work on the Peter Parker version of the character, and was disappointed to have Ben instead, and so he made a plea to Budiansky to bring back Parker, arguing that Ben confused new readers, and was a disappointment to long time readers who had grown to love Parker. Budiansky was sold on the idea.
The Spider-Man: The Final Adventure limited series was originally intended to end with the birth of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson's baby, and finally leave Ben Reilly as the sole focal point of the franchise. But Budiansky was now set on reinstating Peter Parker as Spider-Man, and felt that it would be implausible for him to resume that role if he were a father. So that the series would still have the appearance of a major impact, writer Fabian Nicieza replaced the baby's birth with the removal of Parker's powers, done in such a way that the writers of the regular titles could quickly reinstate them.
The task of actually reestablishing Parker as the true Spider-Man without it seeming like a cop-out was daunting enough that Budiansky invited the whole of Marvel's staff to offer ideas. Greenberg recalled "I think even the janitor and the mail room guys weighed in at one point. It got a little out of hand, to put it mildly... the memos really started coming in at this point, fast and furious... and I've still got every single one of them, in one big, thick, hernia-inducing file." To provoke new interest from the readers, the storyline "Return of Kaine" introduced a skeleton that was discovered in the original clone saga lab wearing a Spider-Man suit; however, none of the writers or editorial staff had a theory of what the skeleton's significance was.
At this time, Greenberg recalled, the plan for the Clone Saga was: "A mysterious figure was intended to be the sole mastermind behind the entire clone saga, a powerful and influential figure who was controlling Seward Trainer and manipulating the lives of Peter Parker and Ben Reilly from the shadows. Forced to wear an environmental suit to maintain his life functions, he would eventually be restored to health by Seward, and at that point, we would reveal his identity." However, in July 1995 Tom Brevoort proposed a story in which Peter Parker is sent five years back in time (to the end of the original clone saga) by the Scrier, as part of a contest between himself and Judas Traveller. The Scrier would be revealed as Mephisto, who would appear at the end of the "time loop" to give Ben the option of saving Peter's life in replace for his own. This would eliminate the idea that either Ben or Peter was a clone, instead asserting that Ben was a Peter from 5 years in the future, sent back by Mephisto to co-exist with the current Peter. The Jackal would be responsible for convincing the Peter that was sent back in time that he was a clone, thus taking on the ID of Ben. The major selling point to this plan was that it would restore the memories of Ben (who was really Peter all along) and thus hopefully satisfy long time readers. Budiansky and Greenberg fleshed out the storyline with plans for publication in April 1996.
While the "Time Loop" idea had won the approval of the editorial staff, the writers unanimously refused to adopt it, with the minimal role of Spider-Man himself in the storyline being the most troubling issue. The writers proposed alternative solutions, but none of them attained editorial approval the way the "Time Loop" idea had. As a result, the Spider-Man group was unable to proceed with any conclusion to the saga, despite agreement among both writers and editors that it should end as soon as possible. Greenberg recalls that "Budiansky was mired in indecision, and it was hurting the entire line."
Finally Jurgens, wrote a memo proposing that the saga end with Ben being revealed as a clone and dying in a climactic act of heroism, while Mary Jane has a miscarriage and separates from Peter. He concluded the memo with "This proposal has holes. But I believe it serves as a general framework we can all work with to fill in as needed. This is my last shot. After this, I give up." In November 1995, a story outline drafted by Dan and Bob Budiansky and titled "Blood Brothers" was distributed to the Spider-Man staff. It roughly followed the idea proposed in Jurgens' memo, but added in the revelation that the mastermind behind the saga was Harry Osborn.
As a result of a downgrade, Marvel dissolved the five editor-in-chiefs into one (Bob Harras). Harras rejected the idea of Osborn being the villain and ordered the clone saga's finale to be postponed six months to avoid competition with the X-Men crossover event "Onslaught". Jurgens left Marvel in frustration at the postponement. Published issues had already dropped clues at Harry Osborn being the villain, and with him eliminated, Budiansky felt compelled to write a memo forbidding that Harry's father Norman take the role: "Norman's death should never be undone, in my opinion. It's too classic... Let him rest in peace." However, as part of a fresh wave of downsizing in Marvel's ranks, Budiansky was laid off.
Harras replaced Budiansky with Ralph Macchio as editor, who declared that Norman Osborn would be the master planner of the cloning. Glenn Greenberg recalled that "The reaction was not enthusiastic. I don't think ANYONE - from the writers to the editors to the assistant editors - agreed with Harras's idea, although his rationale certainly made sense to a certain extent. Harras felt that there was only one person who could have had the money, the resources, the connections, the knowledge, and the motivation to orchestrate the clone saga and disrupt Peter Parker's life to such a profound extent." The saga was resolved in "Revelations", which concluded in Spider-Man #75.
A follow-up one-shot, "The Osborn Journals," revealed the details of the clone saga from Norman Osborn's perspective. The issue also resolves many plot points, including the skeleton in the smokestack.
Spider-Man: The Clone Saga
Ex-editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco said that under him, the Clone Saga would have been resolved in a different way: "Our plan was to structure the clone saga like a three-act play. Act One would climax at or around Amazing #400—when we revealed that Pete was the clone and Ben was the real guy. Act Two would last around three months and follow Ben's adventures. In Act Three, Peter would triumphantly return as the one, true Spider-Man. Mark and I was hoping the Spider-crew could make Ben a viable character during his turn in the spotlight, and we planned to star Ben in his own monthly title after Peter returned. It was kind of like what I had already done with Thor and Thunderstrike—two very different titles based on a single concept. Of course, our plan went into the trash the day I got fired."
In September 2009, a six-part mini-series based on the outline of the original Clone Saga came out, written by Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie, and drawn by Todd Nauck.
Series co-creator Howard Mackie described how this project was born: "Somewhere along the line I discovered a notebook which contained the original notes from the very first meeting at which the clone story was discussed. The original notes showed that the story was planned as a three month event spread across the four monthly Spider-Man titles. At some point Ralph talked to Joe Quesada, and I got a phone call from Ralph [Macchio] asking if I wanted to do a mini-series showing a version that was truer to what the writers originally imagined. Tom and I remember certain story points differently. The goal with this mini-series was get back to basics, to strip away the extraneous stuff that got layered onto the original story, and to present the cleanest possible version of what was a pretty simple story at heart. It was decided that it would be best if only two writers collaborated on this mini-series."
Ben Reilly and Peter bond after Kaine attacks them, and Ben stays in New York as Peter's blond-haired cousin so he can build a life of his own. He adopts the identity of the Scarlet Spider and works at the Daily Grind.
Ben, Peter, and Kaine reach the lair of the shadowy figure responsible for infecting Aunt May and Mary Jane with a genetic virus. The villain is revealed to be the Jackal, who captures all three and reveals that he plans to make an army of Spider-clones and take over the world. Since Ben was the only clone to turn out stable, Jackal takes a sample of his blood to perfect his cloning technique. A mastermind over Jackal wants the blood sample as well, for the body of Norman Osborn.
The Jackal intends to clone Gwen Stacy and another unknown figure, and Kaine breaks himself, Ben, and Peter free. During the subsequent fight, the clones dissolve and Jackal suggests that Ben is the original Peter Parker. Kaine kills Jackal, Ben and Peter escape with the cure and save Aunt May and Mary Jane, who is revealed to be pregnant. Peter retires, saying Ben is the real one, so Ben creates a new costume.
Peter and MJ begin planning for their baby with the support of Aunt May, while Peter focuses on acquiring a research grant. Ben battles Doctor Octopus, who escapes after knocking down debris. After Ben tracks him down, the villain notes that the newly costumed Spider-Man seems to be an imposter. Kaine arrives and attempts to kill Octopus by asphyxiating him with some webbing and then escaping. Ben shreds the webbing off, saving his life.
Informed that Mary Jane is about to give birth, Ben and Peter swing to the hospital in their respective Spider-Man costumes. They come into conflict with Kaine, who escapes and is chased by Ben as Peter goes to the hospital. At the hospital, the baby is born and named May Parker. The nurse takes the baby to ready her for the parents, but actually hands the baby to Kaine at the docks. Kaine tells the mastermind he has the baby, who remarks that it will be raised overseas.
The mastermind, now in control of a Parker blood sample, resurrects Norman. The mastermind, Harry Osborn, gives a Green Goblin mask to Norman and tells him there is work to be done. Moments later, Harry attacks Ben and captures him as bait for Peter. Harry asserts that Ben is just a clone. Kaine speaks with the revived Norman, who is a clone, and discusses baby May's fate.
Kaine tells Norman he feels that May is his family in addition to Ben, Peter, Mary Jane, and the elder May, and she should not be held accountable for the sins of her father. Harry deploys a Goblin signal outside the building (OsCorp), which attracts Peter, who is still searching for his daughter. Peter finds Ben and both are threatened by Harry. Norman blasts Harry and tells him that he cannot continue the cycle of violence. Peter frees Ben, and both help Norman. Peter's shoulder is dislocated, and Ben demands to know where baby May is, as Aunt May and Mary Jane wonder where Peter is. Kaine enters through a window with baby May and gives her to her family.
Back at OsCorp, Harry is restrained by Ben, so he activates his glider to impale Peter from behind. Ben prepares to leap in the path of the flying glider, but Norman jumps in the way, killing himself with it once more. Norman disintegrates due to cellular degeneration. Harry vows to get even. He is put in a sanitarium. Ben leaves the city, but says he will return from time to time. Peter tells Ben that both villains were liars, and it does not matter who is the clone, but they each have a life.
The decision to replace Peter with Ben as the regular, true Spider-Man met with a massive outcry from many readers and was also unpopular with many of the creative staff of the day. Judas Traveller and Scrier were seen as too far out of Spider-Man's league to serve as villains. The decision to resurrect the original Green Goblin was also very controversial; his death was part of the acclaimed "Death of Gwen Stacy" storyline. Glenn Greenberg, author of the Osborn Journal, commented "If Norman was alive and watching everything from the shadows, why did he let his son Harry die? Why did he let the first Hobgoblin come into being-especially since Hobgoblin #1 broke into Norman's secret hideout and stole his personal journals? ...[Tom] Brevoort felt that there was just no way that Norman could have been alive all that time. Tom B. felt that if Norman could manipulate Spider-Man's life from afar, for so long, to such an extent, then so much of what had occurred in the books over the years would never have happened, or would have happened very differently."
Spider-Man editor Mark Bernardo said "the length of the story arc was initially planned to be short, but rapidly spun out of control and ended as a fiasco: Ironically, the whole storyline, which was supposed to simplify Spider-Man's mythos and ultimately bring him "back to basics" ended up complicating everything beyond what anyone imagined!"
Howard Mackie stated that "the Clone Saga has not always had the best rap. The thing that struck me in reading various things on the Internet is that people would complain about the Clone Saga, and then go on about how wonderful Ben Reilly was. There is a big movement of “Bring Back Ben Reilly” folks. I found that very curious." Mackie remarked that the length of the saga resulted in so many conflicting plot elements that even though most of these individual elements were popular, it was almost impossible for any reader to embrace the saga as a whole.
Marvel eventually parodied the saga in Spider-Man: 101 Ways to End the Clone Saga (January 1997), and again with a gag cover for "Sheep-Man" in an issue of What If...
Follow up in MC2
While the mainstream Spider-Man titles rarely touches upon the Clone Saga, the alternate future universe of MC2 Spider-Girl (May "Mayday" Parker) can be considered a distant sequel. The series establishes that six months after Spider-Man: Revelations, Mongrain was tracked down by Peter's first clone Kaine, who rescued baby Mayday from her grip and returned her to her parents Peter Parker and Mary-Jane. Subsequently she grows up to become Spider-Girl.
The events of "The Final Chapter" (or more accurately, "The Gathering of Five"), take place two years later. In the final battle at the conclusion of the MC2 version of the storyline Norman Osborn dies and Peter loses one of his legs.
Mayday generally wears a costume based on Ben Reilly's Spider-Man design. Elizabeth Tyne/Janine Godbe from The Lost Years had Ben's son, Reilly Tyne (Darkdevil). Felicity Hardy fights crime as The Scarlet Spider. Kaine is also a recurring character.
Spider-Girl #44–50 and 52 focus on loose ends of the Clone Saga, such as Alison Mongrain planning to kill Normie Osborn, believing he could pose a threat to the child who was placed in her care. May reveals herself to Alison, in order to save Normie. Alison is last seen in Spider-Girl #52. #44 saw Peter telling May about her Uncle Ben, minus the fact he was a clone. Overall, the issue recaps the Clone Saga storyline. There was to have been a panel with Ben Reilly in his Scarlet Spider outfit, but it was left out, hence the cover mentions him as The Scarlet Spider.
A new Clone Saga began in the pages of Amazing Spider-Girl. Normie Osborn, inheriting a few of his grandfather's laboratories, stumbles across a fluid tank containing an exact physical duplicate of Mayday Parker, with several journal entries left behind by Norman Osborn indicating that she is the real Mayday. This May is eventually revealed to have symbiotic powers. Eventually, both Mays come to an understanding and, with the aid of Peter and the spirit of his late Aunt May, defeat Norman Osborn in a psychic duel when all three Parkers are merged briefly into one body controlled by Norman's active consciousness. The story continued in The Spectacular Spider-Girl, a feature being published both online and in the pages of the new Web of Spider-Man. In it, the new May changes her name to April and becomes Mayday's rival and occasional partner. Eventually, April is defeated by the Fury The Goblin Queen and told that she is the clone. April is eventually freed and together, she and Mayday defeat Fury. April afterwards begins to get involved with the gang warfare erupting in New York and eventually cuts herself off from The Parker Family.
The saga ends with a future incarnation of April who, having experienced a drastically darker future which is created from Mayday's death, travels back in time and urges her past self to save Mayday's life. April agrees, and seemingly sacrifices her own life to save Mayday as she is caught in a ferocious explosion. Mayday mourns April's passing, though Peter is not convinced of her death and assures May that clones have a habit of turning up again.
Ultimate Spider-Man Clone Saga
The Clone Saga was adapted for Marvel's Ultimate imprint. It began in Ultimate Spider-Man #97 (July 2006) and concluded in #104, with a small epilogue in #105. In the Ultimate Spider-Man continuity, the character Miles Warren was first introduced as Harry Osborn's psychiatrist who was hired by Norman Osborn to brainwash out any memories of his Goblin persona. Ben Reilly was established as an African-American lab assistant with no personal ties to Peter, although in the "Carnage" story-arc Reilly refers to the Carnage creature as "Little Ben". The creature itself being created from Peter Parker's and Curt Conner's DNA with traces of the Venom suit's genetic material as well.
In this version, Bendis wrote a story in which the Ultimate Scorpion is captured and revealed to be Peter's clone, sharing 94.2% of Peter Parker's DNA (issues 97, 98). MJ is then abducted, and searching for her, Peter runs into Ultimate Spider-Woman, and in the following issues, further Spider-Man clones appear, among them one with a disfigured face (Kaine) and a black-suited clone with six arms (Tarantula). Bendis also made Peter reveal his secret identity to Aunt May and the Fantastic Four, and let an amnesiac Gwen Stacy and Peter's presumed dead father Richard re-appear (though the former of the two actually escaped). Via a longer dialogue through Peter and Spider-Woman, Bendis also established that every clone has inherited Peter's love for MJ, and his worries of her getting hurt; as a result, they each tried a different approach, the Scorpion trying to make sense of his jumbled memories, Spider-Woman trying to stop the other clones, Kaine using his advanced mind to incorporate the drug OZ into MJ's body, and the Tarantula trying to defend MJ from Kaine.
Upon waking to find that she has been injected with OZ, MJ is enraged, and her anger triggers a transformation into a large, red monster called The Demogoblin. As of issue 103, the masterminds behind the clones seem to be Dr. Octopus and Ben Reilly (Reilly stole a sample of Peter's blood shortly after the death of Gwen Stacy). A fight between the clones and Dr. Octopus leaves the Tarantula and Kaine apparently dead, and Dr. Octopus captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. As a twist, Bendis established that Dr. Octopus and Reilly acted with consent of the CIA. In addition, Gwen is revealed to be Carnage, and Richard revealed to be yet another clone (issues 99-103), aged artificially and given psychic treatment to create his false memories.
As of the end of the Ultimate Clone Saga, the clone posing as Richard Parker died from his rapid aging, Jessica Drew fled after helping Peter defeat Octavius, and Doctors Franklin Storm and Reed Richards found a cure for Mary Jane's OZ-related affliction; Peter's relief at her safe condition made him realize his true feelings for her and resumed their relationship. Reed Richards suggested that they might even remove Peter's powers after some more research, since they are also partially caused by the OZ serum. However, after a talk with Nick Fury, Peter rejects the cure and got back together with MJ. The Spider-Woman clone left to embrace the "Jessica Drew" identity and the other remaining clones—the Scorpion and Gwen Stacy—were left in the custody of Nick Fury, who advised his Scientists to 'get to work' on them.
In re-imagining the story for the Ultimate Universe, Brian Bendis inserted many references to the original Clone Saga. Among them are that the brief appearances of the characters Miles Warren and Ben Reilly; Peter re-examining his relationship with MJ; an amnesiac Gwen Stacy appearing from nowhere, then turning out to be more than she seems; Aunt May experiencing a heart attack; a "Scarlet Spider" (Spider-Woman) evading Peter and later being used as a plot dump; a half-formed, semi-insane clone appearing several times, specifically wanting to protect MJ; a 'mystery woman' called 'Jessica'; an old friend and colleague of Norman Osborn appearing to have been manipulating the scenes from behind (Dr. Mendel Stromm in normal Marvel continuity, Otto Octavius in Ultimate Marvel continuity), later revealing unseen powers over metal.
In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the Clone Saga appears in two forms during the fifth and final season. First in the show, Spider-Man is reunited with Mary Jane after she disappeared into a vortex in his last fight with the original Green Goblin. It was soon revealed that this Mary Jane was a clone as was the resurrected Hydro-Man all of which were the product of the experiments of Miles Warren. Spider-Man tears his costume in a fight with the Hydro-Man clone. The Mary Jane clone saves him with water powers she has by virtue of her body structure being derived from Hydro-Man. Warren runs off from an upcoming flood Hydro-Man's clone would create and finds a piece of Spider-Man's costume, hinting at the possible cloning of Peter Parker. Due to their unstable cell structures, the Mary Jane and Hydro-Man clones evaporate in front of Spider-Man. The death of the Mary Jane clone devastates him, and he is next taken to another dimension by Madame Web to fight in the animated version of the Secret Wars. Warren managed to get a sample of Spider-Man's DNA from a torn piece of his costume.
After that was the two-part Spider Wars series finale, where Spider-Man is presented in an alternate reality version of the Clone Saga. In this version of events, though, the revelation that Peter may be the clone, and Ben Reilly the original leads Peter to become incredibly depressed and vulnerable. The Carnage symbiote takes advantage of this and merges with Peter Parker, becoming the composite being known as Spider-Carnage, who then attempts to destroy all of existence, which includes all universes, from his native universe. Later, after his plan to destroy all of reality is stopped by the original Spider-Man and other Spider-Men from different realities (including the Scarlet Spider), Spider-Carnage attempts to destroy every reality, one at a time, starting with the universe that was home to a wealthy, armored version of Spider-Man. However, the "prime" Spider-Man follows Spider-Carnage into that reality. Realizing that his armored counterpart is so arrogant because he has never failed, the "prime" Spider-Man contacts that reality's version of Uncle Ben, the only person who might be able to get through to Spider-Carnage. The gamble works, and Spider-Carnage stops the chain of destruction he had been about to initiate. He sacrifices himself by jumping in one of his unstable portals from the Time Dilation Accelerator in his reality which disintegrates him. The "prime" Spider-Man at one point makes a joke about the situation and remarks: "This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!" and part of the arc was called "I Really, Really Hate Clones".
The Spider-Carnage character first appeared in comics, and was the result of a forced merger between the Carnage entity and Ben Reilly, who had taken on the role of Spider-Man at that time. The Peter Parker with whom the symbiote merges with was wearing the original version of the costume; however, when the symbiote merges with him, his costume takes on the appearance of Ben Reilly's Spider-Man costume, which was itself subtly changed by the creature merging with him.
- Goletz, Andrew, and Glenn Greenberg.NewComicsReviews.com: "Life of Reilly", 35-part series, GreyHaven Magazine, 2003, n.d.
- 100 Greatest Marvels, #9–6, introduction to reprint of Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1, #121
- Amazing Spider-Man #141–151
- Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #25–31.
- Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #8; part of the "Evolutionary War" story arc.
- Spectacular Spider-Man #149.
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "Life of Reilly, Part 2". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Adler, Matt. Matt Adler talks THE CLONE SAGA with Howard Mackie!, Ain't it Cool News.
- "Life of Reilly, Part 1". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. 2008-03-05. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "Life of Reilly, Part 3". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "Life of Reilly, Part 4". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Spider-Man Vol.1 #56
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "Life of Reilly, Part 5". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "Life of Reilly, Part 7". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "The Life of Reilly: Part 11". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "Life of Reilly, Part 14". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- "Life of Reilly, Part 17". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. 2008-03-05. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- "Life of Reilly, Part 22". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. 2008-03-05. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "Life of Reilly, Part 32". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Goletz, Andrew (2008-03-05). "Life of Reilly, Part 9". Lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Tom D. - Re: #44 Questions For Tom D
- [dead link]
- The Clone Saga at the Comic Book DB
- The Clone Saga Timeline – A page on Sam Ruby.com featuring a detailed chronology, summary and list of titles.