Welcome back to Comic Box, where we take a look at some of the history behind the characters and storylines we love so much. And by we I mean me, and by love I sometimes mean hate. Now I know the title of our look at Spidey's Clone Saga makes it sound like I'm a big hater of the storyline, but that isn't totally true. I think it had a lot of potential when it began and it introduced one of my favorite '90s characters (Scarlet Spider), but there was a point where it went completely off the rails and became less than awesome.
So while I stick by my Confusingly Crappy title, I do want it made clear that it wasn’t always considered this way. And the ramifications of the storyline that have been felt for years detract from the crappiness of it as well, by a small percentage. That being said, it is still a train wreck and will be treated as such as we explore the many facets that contributed to the Clone Saga. A story that was supposed to last for one year was forced to last for three, which pretty much proves my point.
I’m getting off topic a little. Last week we covered the first appearance of the Spider-Man clone and touched on some of the key characters that appeared in that storyline. You can check that out here if you missed it. But enough talk, let’s keep moving forward. Welcome to the ’90s.
Here’s what I pulled out of the Comic Box:
5 Years Later
Five years (in comic time, over 20 years in real time) have passed since the original Clone Saga, and Peter is in the middle of a very trying time in his life. Everything around him is falling apart, and he is retreating into one of the darkest stages of Spider-Man’s career. Some recent issues he has had to deal with are robotic duplicates of his parents that arrived and turned his world upside down, the death of Harry Osborn (the second Green Goblin), his best friend and most bitter enemy, and the recent stroke suffered by his beloved Aunt May, who slips into a coma.
Peter, now married to Mary Jane Watson, retreats further into the Spider, causing a large rift between him and his wife. The stress of caring for May and dealing with Peter’s absence nearly ruins their marriage, and she decides to leave Peter and return to visit her family. He retreats even further into the Spider, shedding the man behind as one of the biggest storylines in Spidey history begins to develop. It all starts with a few subtle appearances by…
The Mysterious Stranger
In various issues leading up to the Clone Saga, a mysterious character whose face was constantly hidden began making small appearances. First he was calling Aunt May and having nice little chats, then he found out about her stroke and we got a glimpse of his connection to her. He began making his way to New York, and more and more clues about the identity of this man came out. The main one being a class ring from Midtown High, which is of course Peter’s high school. We also learn that he knows the previously discussed Gwen Stacy, as he visits her grave to leave a single rose.
The biggest clue of all probably comes when he tries to visit Aunt May at the hospital, and reveals he is indeed part of the immediate family. He retreats fast when he sees Parker arriving to visit May, and the two almost encounter each other in the Parker homestead, but the stranger quickly eludes Spider-Man. The big reveal finally comes when we see Peter sitting beside his aunt, and outside we also see Spider-Man swing by. This leads to the first epic meeting of Spider-Man and his clone, and kicks off the Clone Saga with some quips and thwips.
The Beginning of the Clone Saga
As Peter and his clone deal with their first encounter amidst a madman’s (Judas Traveller) experiment at Ravencroft (basically Spidey’s version of Arkham Asylum), clear differences between the two were revealed, and the survival of the clone is partly explained. It turns out that he didn’t die in the explosion that also killed Miles Warren, and woke up in the smokestack Peter had left the body in. Heading home, he found Peter already there and deduced that he was the clone. Realizing there couldn’t be two Peter Parker’s and fearing the effect it would have on Aunt May, the clone left New York, and adopted the name Ben Reilly. Ben after his and Peter’s Uncle, and Reilly after Aunt May’s maiden name.
After the events at Ravencroft, an explosion separated Peter and Ben (apparently a common occurrence), who were once again forced to fight each other by Traveller. With Peter in the midst of his own personal crisis, he pushed the thought of Ben out of his mind, and continued down his spiral. he was still dealing with an almost schizophrenic relationship with the Spider persona, believing it to be the answer to his Peter Parker problem. It kept him distanced from both MJ and his comatose Aunt, but his experience with Ben had begun to rouse him from this state. Unknown to Peter, Ben survived the explosion, and decided to stay in New York to be near his Aunt May if anything should happen.
Ben had his own adventures in the five years he was gone, but he mostly stayed out of costume and lived a quiet life. Ben refused to wear the Spidey suit, acknowledging the fact that he wasn’t the true Spider-Man, keeping pieces of it only as ‘souvenirs’. He did however, still live by the tenet that “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”, and was unable to fight the drive to help those in need while in New York. This led him to create a new costume to help him protect the innocents, which may have been sloppily put together and received fairly negative reviews at the time, but became a cult favorite and can still be seen at any comic convention across the world.
While he didn’t name himself the Scarlet Spider, and in fact wasn’t too fond of the name, it stuck and he quickly became a new hero in New York. He became quite accustomed to his new role , and found himself taking on villains like Venom, Tombstone, and Grim Hunter (son of Kraven the Hunter). We learn a little bit more about Ben’s past as well, as Dr. Seward Trainer comes back into his life. Trainer was a geneticist who Ben had befriended during his five year exile, and was basically the only friend Ben really had. Trainer knew all of Ben`s secrets, and was pretty much the go to guy for any clone related science.
Meanwhile, Peter had finally begun his long road back to sanity, and had regained his desire to live as Peter instead of the Spider. Aunt May’s condition remains the same, and Mary Jane (who left Peter earlier to reconnect with her family) returns to New York with a secret of her own. All the while a new mysterious figure stalks both heroes. His name is Kaine, and he will play a huge role in the Spider-Man mythology for many more years.
That’s it for this edition of Comic Box! We’ll learn more about MJ’s secret and the mystery man known as Kaine, as well as the reappearance of a main character in the Clone Saga in the next edition! The saga certainly starts strong, but unfortunately it doesn’t end that way. To tide your comic box craving you can check out some extra pictures below!