If we are talking about maligned events of the 90’s, then it’s only really a matter of time before the Clone Saga pops up in the discussion.
Rather than Age of Apocalypse’s tight beginning middle and end over 4 months, the Clone Saga as it became known carried over a 26 month period from October 1994 to December 1996, with several beginnings middles and ends. There were many backroom politics and marketing driven reasons for what was eventually called the Clone Saga, but one of the primary causes of it’s need was down to a comics-specific narrative effect known as the sliding timescale.
In 1962 Spider-Man was between 15 and 17 years old. Originally the publishing time matched the story time, so two years after the comic started, he graduated high school and started college. But 1962 was 55 years ago and that would now make Spider-Man at the earliest 70 years old. When the Marvel Universe was in it’s infancy, this wasn’t so much of a problem, but as the Silver Age came to an end and these characters had been going for 10 years, had 10 years passed? What about the growing number of multi-part stories that could take up to 6 months to tell? It was done unofficially, but the upshot is that time slowed down, to be honest almost to a standstill. This sort of half solved the problem, so to fix the other half, Marvel’s writers wrote everything as start today and work backwards. The Silver Age became 10 years ago, the stories of the 1970’s/1980’s became 5 years ago and so on. This helped a lot and allowed the stories to be timely as they were written, but allow the narrative to make a degree of sense. Well as long as you don’t look at it too closely.
But things did progress still as all continuing stories do, if slowly. One of these progressions was the marriage of Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker and long time supporting cast member Mary Jane Watson.
This is not (and let me repeat this part of the show) not a comment or critique of the marriage. But the thing was that it could be seen as an impediment to certain stories with Spider-Man in some eyes. (Again, I am not wading in to this debate in ANY way) But with Peter and MJ married, there wasn’t much they could do, until someone brought up the fact that Peter wasn’t the only Spider-Man who had ever existed. There was the clone from Amazing Spider-Man #149. He died at the end, but lets be honest, what comic character has that ever stopped? The plan seemed simple, reintroduced the clone, have both characters there for a while and then reveal that the Peter we had read about since #149 was the clone and shuffle Peter and MJ off to their happily ever after. We’d be left with the original and we’d get a young free and single Spider-Man again and some new options and jumping off points. This would be a Spider-Man that would be both original and brand new.
Well I don’t want to speak for the comics writers and editors of the 1990’s, but I don’t think that plan worked out too well.
It was in many respects a train wreck, but it was a glorious one.
Issue by Issue I want to look at this saga and see how it holds up now, is it as fun as I remember? Is it as bad? I genuinely don’t know. I don’t even know where to start.
Actually I do.
It started with a girl called Gwen.
Gwendoline Stacy was the girl next door, sweet and kind, honest but gentle. She had a devoted father and a loving boyfriend. It was just poor luck that her dad was killed Doctor Octopus and her boyfriend was secretly Spider-Man, who amongst other things was being blamed for her father’s death. She was a good person who was beloved by all, her father Captain George Stacy and her boyfriend Peter, Mary Jane her rival for Peter and her teaches, including Miles Warren. We can all see where this was going. She was killed in Amazing Spider-Man #121 and that changed comics forever. By many #121 is seen as the end of the Silver Age, where the innocence of comics was lost. It also changed the aforementioned Miles Warren.
Introduced several months later in Amazing Spider-Man #129 the Jackal was a sending villains against the hero type of badguy and had a severe hate for Spider-Man. Not much later appeared Gwen Stacy alive and well. There was a secret happening here, a secret tied to the Jackal and Spider-Man. Ned Leeds helped Spidey investigate this, the whole thing came to a head in Amazing Spider-Man #149.
Next Time: Amazing Spider-Man #149.