Welcome to the five hundred and seventy-ninth 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, in honor of the news that Marvel is re-visiting the Clone Saga with their next big Spider-Man event, The Clone Conspiracy, this week is an all-Clone Saga edition of CBLR! Was the original intent of 1990s Clone Saga to make Spider-Man single again? Was Harry Osborn going to be the mastermind behind the Clone Saga? And finally, did the negative reaction to the Clone Saga change the ending of DC’s Superman event, “Dead Again”?
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 was developed as a plan to get Spider-Man single again.
It’s amazing how far comic book projects can go from where they began. In a past CBLR, I discussed how the original Clone Saga began with a simple directive from Stan Lee to the writer of Amazing Spider-Man, Gerry Conway, “bring Gwen Stacy back!” That simple idea became the inspiration for the Clone Saga.
Similarly, when the writers of the Spider-Man titles got together to brainstorm an idea that would serve as their next big event (the massive success of the Death of Superman had made it so that every major comic book franchise had to start coming up with yearly events. The year earlier, their event was the smash hit Maximum Carnage storyline), they had a basic idea. That basic idea went much, much further than their original intent.
However, that leads to the question – what WAS their original basic idea? Many fans believe that the original idea was to introduce a new, single Spider-Man, as almost as soon as Spider-Man got married, the people writing his comic book series were looking to ways to get rid of the marriage. So was that the idea behind the Clone Saga? Introduce a clone of Peter Parker, but then reveal that he was the REAL Peter Parker so that they could have a single Spider-Man again while keeping Peter and Mary Jane married?
It does not appear that that was the case. Howard Mackie explained to Matt Adler that the whole “make Spider-Man single” idea was not part of their original plan, but it WAS something that came up with they came up with the idea (first suggested by Terry Kavanagh) of introducing a clone of Spider-Man…
However, even then, while yes, the initial plan WAS to reveal that Ben Reilly was the “original” Peter Parker, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco and Spider-Man group editor Danny Fingeroth had another plan at the time entirely.
For this one and the next legend, I’ll be relying heavily on Andrew Goletz and Glenn Greenberg’s seminal work on the 1990s Clone Saga, “Life of Reilly.” Their website going over, bit by bit, the various behind-the-scenes narrative behind the Clone Saga is fascinating – one of the best pieces of comic book historical writing you’ll ever read.
Goletz interviewed DeFalco, and he laid out the original plans for the Clone Saga, and said original plans are shocking in how normal they are…
Andrew: Was there any consideration about just bringing Ben Reilly back to introduce a new character and rogues gallery, or was the sole purpose to shock the readers by making him the real deal?
Tom: Here’s a secret – when I finally okayed the clone saga, I told Danny Fingeroth to build a backdoor into it. I said that I wanted to be able to bring Peter back as the real deal. But I didn’t tell Danny everything. I believe that both comic book creators and comic book fans are a cowardly and superstitious lot. While the fans claim they want change, they tend to react negatively to it. So do most creators! With this in mind, I later updated Mark Gruenwald on our plans for the clone saga. Mark was my second-in-command, and the logical guy to succeed me. He and I agreed that Peter was the real guy, but that we would let the Spider-team try to convince the readers otherwise. If the Spider-creators succeeded, they would love the idea of the old switcheroo. If they failed, they’d be soooo harry that they had a backdoor. Either way, the readers were guaranteed a great story with a lot of unexpected twists.
Andrew: How were you going to resolve the Clone Saga initially?
Tom: Our plan was to structure the clone saga like a three-act play. Act One would climax at or around Amazing #400 – when we revealed that Pete was the clone and Ben was the real guy. Act Two would last around three months and follow Ben’s adventures. In Act Three, Peter would triumphantly return as the one, true Spider-Man. Mark and I were hoping the Spider-crew could make Ben a viable character during his turn in the spotlight, and we planned to star Ben in his own monthly title after Peter returned. It was kind of like what I had already done with Thor and Thunderstrike – two very different titles based on a single concept. Of course, our plan went into the trash the day I got fired, and Mark wasn’t picked to succeed me.
At the time, that sure seemed to be the way to go. Scarlet Spider went over very well when he was introduced, so I remember thinking, “Well, this is set up well to spin him off into his own book.” Instead, they went the other direction and got rid of “Peter Parker” while making Ben the star of the Spider-Man titles.
Once they decided that they were not going to keep Ben as Spider-Man, though, the books needed a way out of it all, and they needed an evil mastermind. In the next legend, learn who that evil mastermind was going to be at first!
But as to this legend, Mackie says that it wasn’t intended to get rid of the marriage and DeFalco says that Peter was always intended to return, so I think it is safe to give this one a false.
Did Nightmare on Elm Street Originally Have a Happy Ending?
On the next page, discover who the evil mastermind was going to be!
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