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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #174

STATUS: True

As we all know by now, Marvel's solution for getting rid of the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker was to have the Marvel demon, Mephisto, erase the marriage from existence.

Amusingly enough, over a decade earlier, Mephisto was for a long time the solution to ANOTHER Spider-Man "problem," that of the Clone Saga!!

The amazing web resource, Life of Reilly, of Andrew Goletz and then-Spider-Man Assistant Editor, Glenn Greenberg, gives the entire story of how the Clone Saga unfolded.

Greenberg details how Mephisto was to have factored in in what was termed the "Time Loop" solution...

I vividly remember the day it was introduced. It was early July, in 1995. I was actually out of the office that day, sick and bedridden. I had called in later in the day to check with my boss, Tom Brevoort, and asked him if any progress had been made in solving the clone dilemma. Brevoort told me that he had suggested an idea that surprised and intrigued everyone on the editorial team (that would be Spider-Man Group Editor in Chief Bob Budiansky, Associate Editor Eric Fein, and Assistant Editor Mark Bernardo). I asked Brevoort what the idea was, and he summed it up in two words: "Time Loop.

In a nutshell, the idea was that neither Peter Parker nor Ben Reilly was the clone - both were the original. How, you ask, could this be possible? Glad you asked. Brace yourselves, because here we go.

The idea was that Peter Parker would somehow be sent back in time five years, where he would co-exist with the Peter Parker of that time, and somehow be led to believe that he was the clone. Peter would then spend the next five years living as Ben Reilly. When Peter/Ben reaches the point in 1996 (the year this story would have taken place) where he is sent back in time to become Ben, the "time loop" is closed, and there is only one Peter Parker left in the present - the one who's lived the past five years as Ben Reilly. The Ben Reilly of 1996 then regains all the memories of Peter's adventures from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #149 on, thus validating over 20 years of Spider-Man stories and (hopefully) pleasing longtime fans.

This scenario met the most important requirements laid down by Bob Budiansky, which were that Peter Parker must be restored as Spider-Man, but Ben Reilly must be validated as a character, as well. Ben couldn't be written off as just another clone that was lying around, or a robot, or something else that could be easily and casually dismissed.

After Brevoort told me the concept, I was silent on the phone for a good long moment. I was shocked. I was intrigued. I immediately saw the potential this idea had, and was very excited about helping to develop it further. I became its biggest cheerleader around the office, defending it from any and all criticism and skepticism.

One sticking point was who would be behind this?

The solution was determined that two characters who had been appearing in the books at the time, Dr. Judas Traveller and Scrier would be the guys behind it.

Greenberg continues:

The rest of the scenario involved Traveller and Scrier, now clearly in direct conflict with each other, having concocted a contest - one in which winner would take all. "The contest, like so many of Traveller's recent experiments, would revolve around Spider-Man... (it) would settle Traveller and Scrier's dispute about the inherent nature of mankind. Spider-Man will represent all of humanity, and his actions during the contest will determine the outcome... and the winner." If Spider-Man's actions proved Traveller's theory that mankind is inherently good, then Traveller would win the contest and be allowed to remove all evil from Earth. If Spider-Man failed, then Scrier would win and Traveller would have to end his studies and would owe Scrier a very special payment.

Peter and Ben refuse to participate, but they're not given any choice in the matter. In a great show of power, as Ben Reilly and Mary Jane watch, Scrier blasts Peter Parker into oblivion! Peter is apparently disintegrated, gone forever! A horrified and anguished Ben, with vengeance in his heart, closes in to tear Scrier apart. But then Scrier asks what Ben would give to have Peter back. Would he offer his soul and risk eternal damnation, just to restore Peter to life? "Having come to love Peter as a friend and a 'brother,' and unable to bear the sorrow of Mary Jane, one of his closest and dearest friends, Ben says that he would be willing to give anything to bring Peter back... even his own soul."

And here came the kicker: "Scrier laughs, and finally reveals himself to Ben (and the readers) in his true form: MEPHISTO! He says, 'Okay, Peter's alive. In fact, he never died! Because you're Peter! You always have been Peter!"

Ultimately, the idea was nixed, but it lasted all the way until 1996 before a new idea replaced it, ultimately because it was considered a bit too cosmic of a story for Spider-Man. Granted, the idea they ended up going with, "Norman Osborn did all of it" wasn't exactly a great idea, either, but at least it was an actual Spider-Man villain.

The story was also related in the 1997 comic, 101 Ways to End the Clone Saga!

So there ya go!

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