The Clone Saga (or Spider-Clone Saga) is the name of two Spider-Man story arcs, one from the 1970s and another running from 1994 to 1996, both involving Spider-Man and clones. The second story, which is a sequel for all intents and purposes, is better remembered for being one of more the contentious Spider-Man stories — ranked up there with Sins Past and One More Day — and the only time in history when the words "Maximum Cloneage!" could be printed unironically.The first 1970s Clone Saga was primarily written by Gerry Conway. The second Clone Saga is most commonly associated with Terry Kavanagh, though many other writers were involved in the project, among them: Joey Cavalieri, Todd Dezago, J. M. Dematteis, and Tom Defalco.Intended to wrap up in less than a year, the comics sold well enough that the writers were encouraged to prolong the series as long as possible. This led to some changes to the storyline that ultimately proved very, very, long.The original 1970s Clone Saga follows up on the death of Gwen Stacy, and is summarized with panels here. It begins with the introduction of a new villain, the Jackal, followed by the money shot: Gwen Stacy, evidently back from the dead. As you might guess from the article, she's a clone. Eventually, the Jackal is unmasked as Miles Warren, Pete and Gwen's biology professor, who lusted in his heart for Gwen and blamed Spidey for her death. In the climax of the story, a clone of Spider-Man is created, and the two of them have to duke it out to see who is the real one, as only the true Spider-Man can defuse a bomb. In the end, the Jackal undergoes a Heel Realization and stops the bomb himself at the cost of his own life. Additionally, one of the Spider-Men are killed. The surviving one gets tested to see if he's the original or not, but decides he doesn't want to read the results. This comes back to bite him.The nineties Clone Saga follows the reappearance of the Spider-Man clone who was apparently Not Quite Dead during the original Clone Saga and has taken up the name Ben Reilly (after his Uncle and Aunt's first and maiden names, respectively). The details of this story, including behind the scenes information can be found in the site The Life of Reilly, which may be a book someday.A brief summary: The Jackal comes back and starts playing mind-games with both Peter and Ben. A new villain, Kaine, is introduced and is eventually revealed to be yet another clone of Spider-Man; in fact, the first one made. He eventually becomes a Nineties Anti-Hero in an attempt to make him the breakout character. Mary Jane gets pregnant. Aunt May and Doctor Octopus die. New villains are introduced such as Spidercide, Judas Traveller, Scrier, and the second Dr. Octopus. The Jackal also dies, but not before it is "proved" that Peter Parker is the clone and that Ben Reilly was the original Spider-Man. Though initially crushed by the news, Peter decides to hand the mantle of Spider-Man over to Ben so he can start a family. Fans and writers united in an uproar, and an Author's Saving Throw was developed (there were a few built in there originally, but were never used as intended), revealing that Peter really was the original Spider-Man and the whole thing was manipulated by Norman Osborn, also back from the dead. In the end, Ben Reilly died in a manner that explicitlyshowed he was a clone, the Green Goblin returns to being Spider-Man's archenemy, the Clone Gwen dies again, and Aunt May and Dr. Octopus also come back from the dead because reasons. Oh, and Mary Jane miscarries (or does she? Read Spider-Girl for more details).In the end, for the most part nothing was changed.A version of the Clone Saga for the Marvel's Ultimate line, the Ultimate Clone Saga was also created. This one takes elements of the previous two, mostly the former.In 2009, Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie—two people involved in the second Saga—reunited for a mini-series called Spider-Man: The Clone Saga, a "director's cut" and streamlined version of the story, with the supposed intent of telling the story as "originally intended". Some fans are crying Lying Creators, or at least, not-entirely-accurate creators since Life of Reilly indicates that many people intended the Clone Saga to be different things. The miniseries ends with Peter and MJ still married, and Ben, baby May, and Aunt May alive and well, though it does also use some ideas proposed for the ending of the Saga, such as Harry Osborn being the mastermind, albeit in an altered form than proposed.
Retcon: Even before the second Clone Saga, there were retcons of this story, partially because of an author-perceived Science Marches On. It was revealed that Miles Warren didn't make any clones, but infected people with a genetic virus that made them into copies. Then this retcon itself was retconned in the second Clone Saga when they decided to bring back the clone.
Civvie Spandex: Ben Reilly's Scarlet Spider costume involved a blue sleeveless hoodie on top of a standard spider-costume.
Clear My Name: Thank to Kaine screwing with Ben, Peter ends up getting blamed for Kaine's crimes (and has no alibi that could work without blowing his secret identity) and has to clear his name. Ben takes his place in jail while he does so. Kaine eventually relents and turns himself in after Peter threatens to reveal his identity in court to save Ben.
Convenient Miscarriage: During the Clone Saga, Mary Jane was pregnant with Baby May. Baby May was originally supposed to tie into the storyline of Peter Parker not being the real Peter Parker. Since Peter wasn't the real Peter anymore, Marvel would have been able to get around the problem where having a baby would age Peter too much. But after the fan revolt, Marvel decided to make Peter the real Peter after all and the pregnancy storyline was dropped. It should be mentioned the writers implied Norman may have taken the baby somewhere; this was Left Hanging in the comics proper and is probably now Canon Discontinuity as of One More Day, but the Alternate Continuity comic Spider-Girl took the thread and ran with it.
Covers Always Lie: Many covers had blurbs teasing that new twists would be revealed, only for the issue to present no new developments. Also, during Maximum Clonage, almost every cover featured an army of Spider-Clones. They ended up only appearing for one full issue and a few pages, then dying with little relevance to the plot.
Creator Backlash/Writer Revolt: A lot of people involved weren't happy with how the story was going and this resulted in quite a few changes in direction.
Fan-favorite writer Tom DeFalco was often said to be particularly displeased with killing off Doc Ock, and he unfortunately wound up being required to write that issue. First chance he got after the saga, however, he brought Ock back.
The Mark of Kaine was also said to be an amplified wall-crawling trait.
Specifically, using his wall-crawling/clinging powers to stick his hand to someone, and then rip it off, leaving a perfect hand-shaped mark. Of course, Peter Parker's "stick-em" powers are powerful enough to do the same, but most of his opponents only have their face exposed, so the results could be very gruesome.
Death Is Cheap: The story sees Norman Osborn come back from the dead. Two people killed during the Clone Saga—Aunt May and Doctor Octopus—come back after the story's over.
Well, to be fair to Norman, he had actually been dead for more than 20 years in Real Life, so he arguably counts as a mild subversion.
Determinator: Peter is made to think his entire life is a lie. While he initially has a Freak Out, he comes to terms with it and moves on from there. Norman points this out:
"The death of Gwen Stacy, the revelation that your life was a lie, that you were a clone—through it all you found a way to not only survive, but to make a life for yourself. Through the worst of it, you prospered. And I HATE you for it!"
Discriminate and Switch/Mistaken for Racist: Ben Reilly as Spider-Man gets accused of being racist by an African-American man who turned out to be an undercover police detective, but the real reason Ben was suspicious of the man was because Ben's boss at the coffee bar he works at is the cop's ex-wife, merely said he was bad news and undependable, and was worried about their son being near him.
Both the Grim Hunter (Kraven's first son) and Doctor Octopus were killed early on in order to establish Kaine as a powerful threat. The former's creator Howard Mackie offered up the Hunter because he reportedly didn't know where to take him, and he has stayed dead. (Ock, however....
When the saga was reaching one of its intended wrap-up points, both the Jackal and Kaine, two major figures, were quickly killed off unceremoniously. Kaine got better, though, very quickly afterwards.
Once Peter was set to come back, several of Ben Reilly's villains were killed off in rapid succession.
Surprisingly averted with Ben Reilly, the source for a lot of hatred amongst fans. He was given a fairly respectful death at the hands of the Green Goblin.
Executive Meddling: The series was prolonged due to sales, causing the quality to take a dive.
Not to mention, like One More Day, it was an attempt to get a single Spider-Man.
The famous Life of Reilly details what went on behind the scenes, but long story short, what prolonged it was greed (despite the criticisms and mocking it gets, it was making Marvel money), attempts to recreate the success of another storyline from the same time (hence the "Maximum Clonage: Alpha and Omega" one-shots and the Scarlet Spider titles for a few months), trouble behind the scenes over where to go with the story, and not wanting the finale to compete with the Onslaught storyline.
Expy: The Jackal is obviously patterned on The Joker in both look and temperment. He never stops cracking wise, and his death scene is a literal pratfall.
Heroic BSOD: Spider-Man suffered two. The first one he's already in the middle of when the storyline opens because of his Aunt being in the hospital and his "parents" being revealed to be robots. The second is after Seward Trainer "reveals" that Ben in the real Peter and he's the clone.
Heroic Sacrifice: Ben gets in-between Peter and a goblin glider—taking a blade in the back and then falling to his death.
The most obvious example of this was the climax of the saga which featured an evil army of Spider-Man clones. This part of the story was written aross different titles by different writers. One issue introduced the army in a Cliff Hanger panel. Another comic followed that up by having Kaine appear to help out, but being told not to kill any of the clones. The followup issue by yet another creative team depicted Kaine slaughtering several clones with no one objecting. The writer also didn't seem to know what to do with the army so he just had them randomly dissolve into dust with a brief line of dialogue about them being "unstable". In the end, the clone army had no real importance to the plot despite much hype to the contrary.
Legacy Character: The people in charge were indecisive if Ben Reilly would become this or not. Ultimately he didn't.
A few were introduced for Kraven (The Grim Hunter), Doctor Octopus (Lady Octopus), and the Rose. The Grim Hunter got killed by Kaine, Lady Octopus only lasted a few years before the classic Doc Ock returned (though she later turned up in Spider-Girl), and The new Rose only lasted about as long as Lady Octopus.
Phil Urich became the fourth Green Goblin, but he was trying to be a hero. He got his own short-lived series, kicked around the main universe and became a recurring character in Spider-Girl.
Milestone Celebration: The saga was originally planned to end at Amazing Spider-Man #400, with Peter Put on a Bus and Ben becoming the new Spider-Man. Thanks to Executive Meddling, however, the story arc ended up going on for far longer due to its popularity. That said, ASM #400 was notable for Aunt May's heart-rending passing.
Put on a Bus: Many of Spidey's old foes and supporting cast retired or otherwise let the titles to make way for Ben Reilly's foes and supporting characters, including Peter Parker himself. When Parker came back, so did everyone else. Meanwhile, Reilly's side characters vanished in a similar manner.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The whole saga is revealed to be Norman's revenge against Peter for Harry's death—which makes him responsible for everyone that got killed or hurt throughout. When this is revealed to Peter, Norman has also set in motion a plan to kill those in the supporting cast that he feels either wronged him personally or enabled Harry's death. And there's the question of Baby May...
Shout-Out: When the Saga returned in the 90's, the Punisher was brought in for the Maximum Clonage tie-in miniseries as a Shout Out to his first appearance (Maximum Clonage itself being a shot out to the Maximum Carnage arc from a few year previous).
The Reveal: Norman Osborn is behind everything. Again, some consider it an Ass Pull, especially since even the writers didn't know who the mastermind would be, or even if there was a mastermind at first.
Seers: Kaine was one; according to Word of God, this ability was an amped-up version of Spider-Man's Spider-Sense.
Series Continuity Error: Spectacular Spider-Man saw Ben go after the Lizard during the events of Onslaught. However, Sensational, Amazing, and "Adjectiveless" Spider-Man saw Spider-Man get involved in the events of Onslaught, making them a Red Skies Crossover. Of course, this is not counting the retcons of the retcons of the first Clone Saga.
It should be noted that in the main Onslaught crossover miniseries, none of the two Spider-Men were ever present.
Also note that Spectacular was in the midst of a multi-part arc (centering on the Lizard). The first part was dated a month before the Onslaught crossover issues. Since said events are not referred to, the arc can simply be placed before those events.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Norman, as exemplified by the mere fact that its him behind the whole thing in the first place, and not The Green Goblin. Years of Mind Rape against both Ben Reilly and Peter Parker are to be iced off with Osborn bombing every one of Peter's closest non-super friends, partly just for being that and partly because they pissed him off in various ways (regardless of whether they realised that or not), not to mention murdering(?) Peter and Mary Jane's unborn baby and presumably intending to take custody of his grandson Normie (his mum being one of his intended victims) and raising him in his own evil image after everything is over. He wasn't above killing anyone who got in his way in the process either.
Trailers Always Spoil: While the saga didn't have trailers per se, they did have a ton of advertisements and interviews with the creators, letting the public know the clone was coming back. During this time, there was a subplot involving a "mysterious drifter" with a connection to Peter Parker coming to New York who was obviously the clone. When the face of this character was revealed to be Peter Parker, there was a "tune in next time"-style blurb at the end of the issue as if it was supposed to be a big surprise.
The Unreveal: The end of the saga left fans wondering if Baby May was actually dead or had just been kidnapped. They were going to go with the former, but the writers were ordered to make it ambiguous (oddly by the very people that didn't want Spider-Man to have a child in the first place).
Villainous Breakdown: While explaining his plan and intentions to Peter, Norman maintains a rather collected demeanor and keeps his anger in check. When Peter keeps getting up during their fight, however, Norman becomes increasingly unhinged.
What Could Have Been: A lot. They can all be read on the Life Of Reilly article. A few notable ones:
At one point no-one was the clone, and in fact Peter and Ben were the same person caught in a Stable Time Loop. When this went against Marvel time travel rules, it was decided that someone was needed who could plausibly ignore said rules. So Scrier was going to be Mephisto, and he was going to trick Peter Parker into going back in time and becoming Ben Reilly in order to gain the soul of Judas Traveller, who was going to be a Fallen Angel. This was nixed for many of the same complaints againstOne More Day.
Another was that the character Gaunt would be the mastermind, with the idea being that the real mastermind was coming back from the dead inside Gaunt's costume, although they weren't initially sure who Gaunt would be. Eventually they decided Gaunt's identity would've been Harry Osborn, but this was felt to be too much like a previous story where Harry posthumously made robotic duplicates of Peter's parents. This led to them going back to the drawing board and making the mastermind not be Gaunt, which drew out the story even more. The mastermind became Norman Osborn, while Gaunt eventually turned out to be Mendel Stromm.
The recent "director's cut" mini-series used the idea of Harry as the mastermind, albeit having Harry faked his death rather than actually dying and coming back.
The Final Adventure mini was supposed to retire Peter as a superhero and MJ give birth to their daughter. Before the final issue was completed, everyone involved knew Peter would resume being Spider-Man, so Marvel wanted the mini to end with MJ having a miscarriage instead. Editor Tom Brevoort refused, the Life Of Reilly even quoting him as saying, "There's no way in hell that I'm going down in history as the man who killed Spider-Man's baby."
Why Won't You Die?: After the part where Peter removes his and Norman's masks, Norman finally asks this.
Norman: I had you unconscious—at my mercy! How could this have happened? Why won't you just die?! Peter: Because then you would win. And I'll never give you that satisfaction.
Word of God: The Life Of Reilly article features commentary from people involved in the Clone Saga, including revealing bits that didn't make it into the story such as Kaine's costume featuring a Life-support system and as a result of the defects in him, his Psychic Powers and Mark of Kaine were just amped up versions of Spidey's Spider-Sense and Wall-clinging abilities.
Earlier Venom was beaten by Ben to establish Ben as a superhero in his own right. (In fairness to Ben, it look him considerable more effort to take down Venom than the few moments it took Kaine to snap the neck of a captive Doc Ock.)
Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Looking behind-the-scenes, it becomes clear that no-one really knew what was going to happen with the story. Or that someone did, but didn't let the others know; a "too many cooks spoiled the soup" argument is easy to make.
Especially regarding Judas Traveler. It's since been revealed that no one on the staff had any idea what his backstory and motivations were.
Adaptation Distillation: It manages to wrap in most of the elements of the original in some form, as well as nods to other classic Spider-Man characters or stories along the way like the Scorpion and the idea that Peter's parents were alive, but it takes less than 10 issues and leaves very little hanging.
All There in the Manual: The identity of the disfigured clone that kidnaps MJ was confirmed to be Kaine in the Ultimate Secrets one-shot. The same one-shot confirms the six-armed clone to be Tarantula. Bendis on his message board stated the MJ-Goblin was Ultimate Demogoblin.
Composite Character: Ultimate Spider-Woman was given the name Jessica Drew ala the original version, her costume is based on the one wore by Julia Carpenter/Spider-Woman II/Arachne, and the red highlight stem from Ben Reilly's Scarlet Spider costume The latter is kinda fitting as this incarnation is basically a Gender Flipped version of Ben Reilly. Ultimate Kaine is wearing a messed-up version of Ben's Spider-Man costume. The MJ-Goblin creature is Ultimate Demogoblin.
While one of the clones is identified as Tarantula, his spider-like features and six arms bring to mind the "sort of" Spidey clone Doppelganger.
Adaptation Distillation: It tries to be, anyway. It removed a lot of the clutter and unnecessary (and unpopular) characters like Seward Trainor, Spidercide, Judas Traveller, Grim Hunter, and the Scriers at least.
Adapted Out: Several characters including Seward Trainor, Spidercide, Judas Traveller, Grim Hunter, and the Scriers were removed.
Alternate Continuity: Norman Osborn's still dead; Harry faked his death and is the mastermind; Dr. Octopus doesn't die, there's no Seward Trainer, Gaunt, or Spidercide; Ben Reilly meets his supporting cast during his Spidey tenure while he's still the Scarlet Spider; and outside of Harry getting locked up and the Norman clone dying, everyone lives happily ever after. Even the backstory was altered, having Aunt May's hospitalization changed from being a stroke to a virus and Peter not suffering a breakdown.
Came Back Wrong: The Norman clone wants to spare the baby and end the feud. Harry's believed the clone's defective himself, anyway.
The Gwen Stacy: Subverted. The Jackal tries to make a new clone, but he doesn't succeed and we don't see the original clone.
Heel Realization: Kaine realizes what Harry wants is wrong and delivers the baby back to MJ. Though probably defective, the Norman clone realizes Harry's mad and decided to end the feud and encourages Kaine's returning the baby.
Lying Creator: Some fans think so; it's hard to write a story as "originally intended" when you had a bunch of separate people having different intentions.
Spared by the Adaptation: Ben Reilly and baby May survive the story. Granted, Doctor Octopus did come Back from the Dead and Aunt May was retconned into having been replaced and never having actually died, but they could count, too, since their returns were after "The Clone Saga" ended.
Take That: The Trade Paperback of the mini-series is called "The REAL Clone Saga"
Writer Revolt: In the Life of Reilly article, it's suggested that Tom DeFalco, one of the writers involved with the second Saga didn't like Gaunt or killing off Doctor Octopus. The fact that he has Ock survive his fight with Kaine and Harry comes back without the original intent of Gaunt being him in the mini seems to support this.