Wow. I don't think I realized quite what I got myself into when I decided to cover Spider-Man's Clone Saga as our next entry in the Comic Box. Not only does it mean we all have to relive one of the worst Spidey stories in his entire publication run, but we also have to wade through everything that made it the flop that it was. A story that was so critically panned it causing a ton of fans to leave the book and abandon all hope with Marvel.
Now that isn’t to say that the Spidey comics didn’t end up flourishing after the fact, and it wasn’t like the Clone Saga was just kind of overlooked and forgotten about. There have been a ton of threads from the story that continue to factor into the Spidey mythology, and the fact that he has clones is a running gag in almost any title Spidey appears in. This apparently makes it okay to laugh at the train wreck that assaulted Spider-Man in the ’90s. Of course, it didn’t start in the ’90s, as the seeds for the story were planted fairly early in Spider-Man’s career.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you ahead of time. Not every piece of comic history we examine can be the best of the best, and sometimes you have to understand the bad to appreciate the good. So let’s get to it.
Here’s what I pulled out of the Comic Box:
Before we get into the specifics of the Clone Saga we need to know who all the players are in the initial story. Obviously Peter Parker/Spider-Man is involved, and what we mainly need to know about him at this time is he is a student at ESU (Empire State University), while maintaining his swinging lifestyle as Spider-Man. He has been Spidey for a few years and has amassed quite the rogues gallery, which brings us to our first big player.
Professor Miles Warren started out as Peter’s Biology teacher, which is pretty much the best possible back story for a homicidal super-villain in the making. Prof. Warren was actually a brilliant yet twisted geneticist who donned a green furred costume and called himself The Jackal. The Jackal has a few milestones in his career as one of Spidey’s villains. He was responsible for the first appearance of Frank Castle AKA The Punisher, who he hired to kill Spidey. And of course, he is the man behind the Clone Saga. After some initial shady appearances setting some of Spidey’s villains against him, we finally start to see the motivation behind his villainy.
Turns out, like any good creepy college professor story Miles Warren had developed an infatuation for one of his students. This student was tragically killed by Norman Osborn AKA the Green Goblin in a famous battle with Spider-Man, which of course made Warren blame Spider-Man, and eventually Peter Parker as well. Who was this student that could cause such a break in sanity from a tenured professor of the most prestigious university in New York?
None other than Gwen Stacy, one of the many casualties that have helped shape the Spider-Man we know today. Besides the death of Uncle Ben, none have affected Peter as deeply as Gwen’s death did, and she is credited as the first love of his life, although not his first girlfriend as most like to report. But we are getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, and should never start off talking about the death of a character. Especially one as iconic as Gwen Stacy.
Gwen Stacy met Peter Parker in college, and despite the many attentive males drooling over her, for some reason she had eyes for Peter. Eventually the two started dating, falling fast in love and doomed to failure, knowing what we know about Spider-Man’s cursed Parker luck. And if you don’t know about the Parker luck, well, it’s bad. So things are finally starting to go good for Peter, despite recently suffering the loss of Gwen’s father and Spider-Man’s ally Capt. George Stacy. Then Green Goblin finds out Spidey’s identity, and eventually he throws Gwen off of a bridge, and Spidey fails to save her.
Now that doesn’t quite explain how Gwen factors into the whole situation here. Obviously the loss of his favorite student and the object of his desire made Miles Warren go a little nutty and become the Jackal, all in an effort to have his revenge on Spider-Man. But that wasn’t his only motivation. His drive to bring Gwen back to life by any means necessary led to his work in perfecting cloning, aided by his soon to be murdered assistant Anthony Serba. Luckily he had obtained DNA samples from his class for an earlier project, which included both Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker’s blood. He creates clones of both Gwen and Peter, which leads to the discovery of Peter’s biggest secret; that he is none other than the hated foe of Miles Warren, Spider-Man. Warren’s master plan began to unfold here, and the Clone Saga isn’t far behind.
The Original Clone Saga
The Jackal’s plan unfolds slowly, first with the appearance of the Gwen Stacy clone at Peter Parker’s doorstep. This leads to a bit of shock and instability, causing Spidey to let his guard down. Jackal then drugs and kidnaps Spider-Man, along with Daily Bugle reporter (and husband to Betty Brant) Ned Leeds. Leeds doesn’t play a large part in the Clone Saga, acting mostly as a hostage during this beginning event. When Peter awakes, he finds himself staring across the room at another recently drugged Spider-Man, who we come to learn is his identical clone in every way. This of course leads to a fight between the two, as Jackal, Gwen Stacy, and the captive Ned Leeds watches on. The two Spider-Men trade punches and quips, unable to prove who is the real Spider-Man, while the Jackal explains his entire nefarious plan, as super-villains are wont to do.
Eventually they both realize that it doesn’t really matter which of them is the real one, as there are lives at stake, a bad guy to catch, and a damsel in distress. Deciding to work together to save Ned Leeds, who is attached to a bomb, the two end their fight and debate over who is the real Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Gwen Stacy’s clone rips off the Jackal’s mask, breaking through to Miles Warren by calling him a murderer, and probably laying down a guilt trip about hanging out with his friends too much. Seeing the kind of man he has become, Miles Warren runs over and saves Ned Leeds from the bomb, but just a little too late. The bomb explodes, leaving only Ned Leeds, Gwen’s clone, and a Spider-Man alive.
After the battle at a graveyard, Peter says goodbye to Gwen’s clone and learns the truth about her. She leaves him with the haunting thought about his authenticity. How does Peter know that he is the real Parker and not the clone? Initially Peter doesn’t know how to tell, but eventually realizes that he is now in love with Mary Jane Watson (Pete’s love life moves pretty fast), something a clone created months ago wouldn’t feel. So that means everything is wrapped up nicely right?
Wrong. While this story became a part of Spidey history and Peter Parker moved on with his life, the Clone Saga was far from over. We will be back next week continuing our descent into what is considered by most as the worst storyline ever published by Marvel. And that is saying quite a bit. As always here is a collection of pics to make the waiting easier.