Ah, the infamous Clone Saga. Spider-Man fans who suffered through this endless era of convoluted storylines in the 1990s will never forget it, and new fans have grown up hearing about it in scared whispers. An intriguing enough concept — the notion of what would happen if Spider-Man was cloned, and if it became unclear which Spider-Man was the real one — became a quagmire of needless complications, messy storylines, and editorial shakeups. This resulted in a tale that was, for many years, widely regarded as the worst Spider-Man storyline of all time, one that nearly took down Marvel Comics for good. Many have argued that even today, in an era where Spider-Man has become a massive cinematic icon, the comics themselves have never fully recovered from the damage that the Clone Saga did, which might explain some of the huge popularity that the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man enjoyed.
But now that recent plot developments in Spider-Man comics have brought the old concepts and characters of the Clone Saga back into central focus, there’s been a renewed interest in looking back on what the Clone Saga was, where it went wrong, and what parts of it maybe, maybe, could have worked better. Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About The Clone Saga.
15. The First Clone Saga Was in the 1970s
Though the Clone Saga that everyone knows and talks about was about as ’90s-flavored as a ’90s storyline can get, the original Saga actually occurred in 1975.
Written by Gerry Conway, the storyline involves the revelation that the Jackal is Miles Warren, Peter’s biology professor, who is secretly obsessed with Gwen Stacy. After her death, he clones both Gwen and Peter, finding out that Peter is Spider-Man when the clone exhibits those all-too-familiar spider-powers. To get revenge on Peter, for not saving Gwen, the Jackal kidnaps him and pits him against his clone, a desperate battle for both men, since each of them believes himself to be the real deal.
Eventually, they team up to take down the Jackal, but both the supervillain and the clone are seemingly killed in an explosion. Peter drops the body of the clone into an incinerator, reasoning that since he feels love for Mary Jane — something that didn’t happen until after Gwen’s death — he’s clearly the real Peter. This was an open and shut case for two decades, until someone asked the question: what if the Spider-Man clone was still alive, and aimlessly wandering the country under the name Ben Reilly? Or what if this Ben guy was the real Spider-Man, and the one that had lived on past that storyline, the one we’d been following for 20 years… was the clone?
14. It Wasn’t Supposed to Last So Long
For new fans, if you want to understand the fatigue with which old readers discuss the Clone Saga, it’s important to realize that part of it had to do with sheer length. The Clone Saga storyline began in 1994, and lasted all the way until 1997, across every single Spider-Man comic. That meant that for over three years, there was no possible way to read Spider-Man comics and not also read about clones. There were no movies at that point, and the only escape was the ’90s Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Needless to say, three years of Clone stories can get exhausting, particularly since the whole thing grew increasingly complicated every issue, with new characters, events, and plot twists constantly being introduced.
But it wasn’t supposed to be that way. The whole shebang was originally slated to end in Amazing Spider-Man #400, in April of 1995. The problem was that, believe it or not, those early issues of the Clone Saga were a huge success. Sales skyrocketed. Readers were interested to see what happened next. The sales department requested extensions to the arc, the storyline outlasted its original creators, and it soon bloomed into an out of control, bloodthirsty Venus flytrap.