How Was Spider-Man Programmed to Kill Mary Jane?

This is Comic Book Questions Answered, where people write in to brianc@cbr.com to ask comic book questions and I, well, you know, answer them.

This is tricky, because reader Bob H. didn't write in for this column, but rather another one, "How Can I Explain?" about inexplicable comic book plots. However, I don't think that his suggestion WAS inexplicable, and I don't really have a column for "Explaining seemingly inexplicable comic book plots" (maybe I should), so this was the next best column for this suggestion.

Anyhow, this deals with the infamous Spider-Man story arc, "Time Bomb," where Peter Parker (back when he thought that he was the clone of the original Peter Parker) discovered that, before he died, the Jackal had left programming in Peter's cloned body...

And that that programming would force Peter to kill Mary Jane...

Of course, Peter turned out to NOT be a clone, so Bob wanted to know if they ever explained how that made sense. He figured that they couldn't, as obviously they intended Peter to BE the clone at the time, so there could not be an explanation, hence it being good for "How Can I Explain?" However, Bob, I think that there actually IS an explanation for this.

First off, note that we never actually see that this WAS done because Peter was a clone. We only see that the Jackal left some post-hypnotic suggestion in Peter's mind. That doesn't mean that there was an actual genetic thing.

When he breaks through the programming in Web of Spider-Man #129, he just does so without any mention of any sort of genetic thing. It's just purely mental...

So here's the rub. In an earlier storyline in the "Clone Saga," called "Smoke and Mirrors," both Ben Reilly and Peter Parker ALSO had post-hypnotic messages from the Jackal...

Now, obviously, at the time, Ben Reilly was not meant to be the clone and HE still had messages in his brain from the Jackal (presumably left when the Jackal had both Peter and Ben under his control). So if the "real" Peter Parker (at least, at the time), could still get messages from the Jackal, then it stands to reason that even if you revealed that Peter wasn't a clone, it would still work that the Jackal could control him through post-hypnotic suggestion.

Or, of course, both Ben and Peter are clones. ;)

Thanks for the question, Bob! If anyone else has a comic book related question that they'd like to see addressed, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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