It's amazing what a difference a decade makes. For all that time, Marvel treated the word "clone" as if it were an infectious disease, poking fun at one of their more controversial clone stories whenever it WAS actually brought up and referenced. However, in 2003, Wolverine's clone X-23 made the jump from the X-Men: Evolution animated series into comics with NYX #1, and proceeded to have two minis and an ongoing series to her credit. In Avengers: The Initiative Annual #1 in 2008, it was revealed that MVP was cloned and turned into the three Scarlet Spiders, of which only one remains. And in 2012, a new Scarlet Spider returns in his own series, with a clone of Spider-Man once again behind the mask.
|The original Clone Saga.|
Back in the 90s, the latest rage was clones. Superman had two, Madelyne Pryor, the Jean Grey clone from Chris Claremont's Uncanny X-Men, returned in the pages of X-Man, and Spidey's clone returned. In 1975, Peter Parker's science teacher Professor Miles Warren became so infatuated with Gwen Stacy that upon her death in Amazing Spider-Man #121, he snapped and turned himself into the Jackal. Using his knowledge of cloning, he discovered Peter was Spidey and made a clone, pitting them against each other to the death in Amazing #149. The clone appeared to have died, and all was well in the Spideyverse. However, there was the lingering question of whether the clone really died...or the original.
|All in the clone family.|
Fast forward to 1995 and the clone returns, a concept previously visited in What If? vol. 1 #30, calling himself Ben Reilly after their shared aunt (maiden name) and uncle (first name). With him came the Jackal and two new clones: Kaine, the first clone who had gained new and increased powers due to cellular degeneration and hated Ben for his perfection, and Spidercide, who could shapeshift and was a lethal killing machine. Ben came to adopt the identity Scarlet Spider and helped Peter face several challenges until the Jackal revealed that Ben was the real one, and Peter had been the clone all this time. After coming to terms with that drama, and with he and his
wife live-in lover Mary Jane expecting a baby wanting a normal life, Peter decided to retire and Ben eventually took up the Spidey mantle (for more details, check out this article).
|Ben Reilly's redesigned Spidey costume.|
During Ben's tenure, we were given an entirely new supporting cast at his job at the Daily Grind coffee shop, upgrades to some old foes like Hobgoblin and Mysterio, a slew of new foes both out front and clandestine, and some legacy characters in a new Doctor Octopus to replace the one Kaine killed so the writers could boost his threat credibility. It was also the return to the single Spidey Marvel had been wanting for quite some time. Despite all that, Marvel's marketing department had stretched the storylines farther than they were ever intended to go without much success in covering that fact up, and fans were not happy with having followed a fake Spidey for 30 years. So, in the specifically renamed Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75, Ben was killed off by the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, whose power-granting goblin formula granted him a healing factor that allowed him to survive his death in Amazing #122. The final nail of the story was driven in by the humorous comic 101 Ways to End the Clone Saga. Despite the initial fallout from Ben's revelation as the real deal, he had a slew of followers that continued to pine for his return.
Over the next decade, Marvel gradually distanced themselves from the storyline and clones in general in the main universe. Any mention that had come up were all done as jabs and jokes. Plot lines were left dangling and characters created in this period just disappeared. However, the Clone Saga did live on in comics in one form; Spider-Girl, their longest-running female title and alternate universe daughter of Peter Parker, wore Ben's Spidey costume for the duration of her series, and Felicity Hardy, daughter of the Black Cat, made an appearance as Scarlet Spider. In 2005, a much different jackal made an appearance as the villain of the mini-series Daredevil vs. Punisher. Also, in 2006, Brian Bendis launched his own Clone Saga in Ultimate Spider-Man #97, a modern updating of the Spidey mythos and a universe all of its own. Gradually, Ben Reilly-themed figures began to find their way back into the toy lines.
|From Kaine...to Tarantula!|
In 2009, Ben Reilly finally made a return to the Amazing book in a flashback sequence, and then had a flashback feature in the anthologized Web of Spider-Man. Kaine also made a return during the Amazing #608-610, and again in the Grim Hunt storyline where he was eventually killed off and briefly resurrected as the new more spider-esque Tarantula. The Jackal and several clones also returned as the antagonists of the Spider-Island story under the leadership of the Spider Queen from Spectacular Spider-Man vol. 3 #15-20. To further drive it home, in 2010 Marvel began to collect the complete Clone Saga epic in a series of trade paperbacks.
At the conclusion of the Spider-Island story, Kaine was restored to normal, seemingly cured of his degeneration and more closely resembling Peter. Deciding to strike it out on his own and find his place in the world, and continued redemption for his time as effectively being a villain to live up to the Parker ideals. Launching out of Marvel Point One, Kaine heads to Houston to become the new Scarlet Spider in his own ongoing series by Chris Yost. Can the Marvel of today support two Spider-Men when the Marvel of yesteryear refused to? Time, and sales, will tell.
|The new Scarlet Spider.|