Spider-Man’s past has been riddled with clone-filled drama, making the hero question his identity and filling his adventures with chaos. And it sounds like that’s going to happen again in , Marvel’s upcoming Spider-Man event series.
The five-issue series, written by Dan Slott with art by Jim Cheung, will see the return of the Jackal — the villainous scientist responsible for the past clones. Naturally, we assume he’ll be bringing some clones along for the ride.
Fans remember of the ’90s for presenting some of the most insane Spider-Man stories of the decade, maybe even of all time. And while it didn’t always work, we can’t fault the creators for trying out some crazy ideas. So, to prepare for the upcoming Clone Conspiracy we’re looking back at the wild history of the original Spider-Man Clone Saga.
Gwen Stacy’s Alive?!
The death of Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy in 1973’s Amazing Spider-Man Issue 121 was a brutal shock to fans, which made her return a few years later even more shocking.
Of course, this Gwen wasn’t the real deal. Instead, she was a clone created by Professor Miles Warren — Gwen and Peter’s biology professor. Warren was obsessed with Gwen, and when she died decided to bring her back as a clone. Naturally, he crafted a furry green costume, started calling himself the Jackal and swore to get vengeance on Spider-Man, who he believed had murdered Gwen atop the Brooklyn Bridge.
Spidey’s First Clone Battle
Of course, the Jackal did more than just clone Gwen. To challenge Spidey, he made a perfect clone of the web-head who actually believed he was the real Spider-Man and forced the two to do battle.
The Spider-Men duked it out in Amazing Spider-Man Issue 149, but over the course of their battle decided to team-up to stop the Jackal. But a sudden explosion killed both the Jackal and one of the Spider-Men. The remaining Spider-Man assumed he was the real Peter Parker because of his love for Mary Jane Watson — Parker fell in love with MJ after the Jackal made his clone. So, Spider-Man dumped his presumably dead clone’s body down a smoke stack, though fans were never given a full answer as to whether or not the living hero was the original Peter Parker.
Spider-Man’s Clone Returns
After years of clone-free adventures, Spider-Man’s life was once again thrown into turmoil with the start of the Clone Saga in 1994.
The two-year long storyline kicked off when a mysterious figure came to visit Peter’s Aunt May, who was seriously ill and near death. That character was revealed to be Ben Reilly, first said to be Peter Parker’s twin then later revealed to be his clone. He hadn’t actually died after their battle, and instead spent years in hiding.
To make matters worse, Peter Parker was going through a major mental health crisis. After years of superheroics, he was having some serious issues drawing a line between his actions as Spider-Man and everyday life. Throwing a perfect clone into the mix didn’t help, especially with the lingering question of who the real Peter Parker was. On top of that, Mary Jane revealed that she was pregnant with Peter’s child, pushing the wall-crawler to reconsider his superhero career.
Scarlet Spider and Kaine
After his return to New York, Ben Reilly adopted the role of the Scarlet Spider to follow in Spider-Man’s footsteps and use his powers for good. Rocking a red jumpsuit and sweet blue hoodie, the Scarlet Spider made his heroic debut by taking down the evil , proving he was just as mighty as our favorite web-head.
Things got even more complex with the introduction of Kaine, another clone of Peter Parker. While Ben Reilly was good, Kaine was bad — mostly because he was an early, imperfect clone of Peter created by the Jackal. In one of the story’s most wild moments, Kaine straight-up murdered Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock was resurrected later on, but the kill more than proved Kaine’s twisted nature.
The Death of Aunt May
As Spidey’s superhero drama continued, he faced a major personal loss with the death of Aunt May.
Right before her death, May awoke from a coma to tell Peter that she knew he was Spider-Man all along. She was proud of her nephew, even though she was always concerned. Her death added even more drama to the mystery of who the real Peter Parker was. Had Aunt May revealed her knowledge to the true Peter? Or was she talking to the original clone?
Even after Aunt May’s death, Spider-Man’s life continued to descend into clone-filled madness. While Scarlet Spider was there to help, Peter had to deal with Kaine, a new clone of the Jackal and another malformed clone of himself — the monstrous Spidercide.
But the Maximum Clonage arc took things to the next level, with the Jackal attempting to unleash an aerosol bomb that would transform all of New York’s citizens into the “ideal” human form. Naturally, Spider-Man and Scarlet Spider swooped in to stop him, but they had to contend with literally hundreds of Spidey clones before they could beat the Jackal.
Most importantly, an epilogue to the story found the Jackal activate a mental command in his Spider-Man clone to kill the person he loved most. When activated, Peter tried to kill Mary Jane, meaning Peter must have been the clone all along. Medical tests also revealed that Peter Parker was the clone, while Ben Reilly was actually the original Spider-Man.
Peter Parker Retires
After learning that he wasn’t the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker decided to retire from the hero business and raise his child with MJ. As such, Ben Reilly adopted the role of Spider-Man.
The Clone Saga was seemingly over. Ben Reilly was Spider-Man, donning a killer redesign of his original red and blue costume, while the clone would go on to live a peaceful life. But one more major reveal would flip the entire story on its head.
It Was All Norman Osborn’s Fault!
With Peter retired from superhero duty, he and MJ moved to Portland to raise their child. But MJ suddenly went into labor after mysteriously being drugged, prematurely giving birth to a stillborn child. The baby’s body was taken to Europe and given to Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin who was long thought dead after killing Gwen Stacy.
Osborn came out of hiding to confront Peter and Ben Reilly, revealing that he had actually manipulated the two over the years in an effort to break Spider-Man’s spirit. Reilly was always the clone and Parker was always the original — Osborn had faked medical evidence to prove otherwise. In their ensuing battle, the Green Goblin’s glider pierced Ben Reilly in the chest, killing him and leaving Peter Parker as the one true Spider-Man.
The ’90s Clone Saga weaved a tangled web of drama by pulling threads of Spider-Man’s past back to the present. And while the two-year long event upended Spidey’s world in ways we could have never imagined, it also reminded us of how much we love the web-slinging hero.
Marvel’s creators pushed Peter Parker to his limits, and while some of the twists and turns may have felt forced they ultimately provided a unique look at what sets Spider-Man apart from the rest of the Marvel Universe’s heroes. He can take on an army of clones and handle twisted mind games from even the craziest villains, but Peter Parker never backs down because as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.
Were you a fan of the original Clone Saga? Are you excited for Marvel’s upcoming Clone Conspiracy? Let us know in the comments.
President of the Salacious Crumb Fan Club. Staff Writer at Movie Pilot. Twitter: @Matt_Kranis