Welcome to the five hundred and fortieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, what was the strange origin of Spider-Man’s first Clone Saga? What was Juggernaut’s bizarre original look? And why did Todd McFarlane change the name of his toy line?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: The Clone Saga began because Stan Lee wanted Gwen Stacy back.
COMIC LEGEND: Stan Lee wanted Gwen Stacy returned to the cast of Amazing Spider-Man
The Death of Gwen Stacy was a major turning point in Marvel Comics history, as it was a particularly dark moment for the Spider-Man character, to have his girlfriend murdered by the father of his best friend.
There was a tremendous backlash to the death, which was a huge shock to the writer of the storyline, Gerry Conway, who was in his very early 20s and had only become the regular writer on Amazing Spider-Man a year earlier. Compounding the problem for Conway was the fact that Marvel publisher Stan Lee was going around telling everyone that he had no idea Conway was planning on killing off Gwen Stacy and that HE never would have done such a thing. It’s a story Lee tells to this day, as seen in this Comic Book Legends Revealed from last year.
Lee ultimately got so upset about all the grief he was getting over the death of Gwen Stacy that he just told Conway to bring her back by any means necessary (outside of “It was a dream! It was an imaginary story” that sort of thing).
Conway recalled to Karen Walker in Back Issue #44:
[I]t was not something that I – or anybody else! – wanted to do, except for Stan, who was bending to what he perceived as pressure from fans at conventions where he was speaking.
So Conway had her come back via a clone in Amazing Spider-Man #144.
Conway, in those days, was very loose with the overall plot, letting it sort of come to him, as it were (earlier today, I wrote about another one of those Conway “let’s see where the plot takes me” ideas with the Wedding of Aunt May and Doctor Octopus). So the basic idea of Gwen Stacy being cloned ultimately resulted in what is now referred to as the original Clone Saga, as Spider-Man faces off against a clone of himself by the evil Jackal!
The fact that Lee asked Conway to bring Gwen back to life, however, has led to some misconceptions about Lee’s intent from some fans. There have been rumors that Lee’s intent was for The Death of Gwen Stacy to, in effect, be erased. You know, have Gwen just back as part of the supporting cast of the comic. In that same issue of Back Issue, though, Conway explains the truth of the matter:
Part of my deal with Stan when he insisted that we bring her back was, ‘Look, I’m willing to bring her back just to take the heat off of you, but if I bring her back, can I write her out of the book again?’ And he said, ‘Sure, no problem, just bring her back, please.’ So I brought her back and I wrote her out of the book.
On Conway’s second-to-last page of his run, in Amazing Spider-Man #149, he wrote Gwen out of the book…
(Over the years, this led to a whole bunch of retcons to explain how we have a clone of Gwen Stacy just wandering around the Marvel Universe).
Isn’t that awesome? “No, you don’t have to actually DO anything with her, just bring her back so I can shut these annoying fans up!”
Thanks to Gerry Conway and Karen Walker for the info!
Check out some entertainment and sports legends from this week at Legends Revealed:
On the next page, discover the shocking original design for the Juggernaut!
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