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Comic Book / The Clone Saga

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The Clone Saga (or Spider-Clone Saga) is the name of a story-arc that ran in multiple Spider-Man titles in 1994-1996. It is technically a sequel to an earlier story but it is far better known and proverbial than the original story, and when people talk about "The Clone Saga", they are largely talking about the story published in The '90s.

  • The First Clone Saga: Running in Amazing Spider-Man Issue 143-149 at the end of Gerry Conway's run. This was conceived by the writer as a sequel to The Night Gwen Stacy Died, and specifically as a response to the backlash caused by the decision to kill Gwen Stacy and while not intended at the outset as Conway's final story, he ultimately realized that it provided a neat Bookend to his entire run. It begins with the introduction of a new villain, the Jackal (who originally appeared in #129, otherwise known as the first appearance of The Punisher), followed by a money shot: Gwen Stacy, apparently back from the dead. As you have guessed from the article, she's a clone. Eventually, the Jackal is unmasked as Pete and Gwen's biology professor, Miles Warren, who lusted in his heart for Gwen and blamed Spidey for her death. In effect, the Jackal was a stand-in for angry fans who attacked Conway for killing Gwen and was fixated and obsessed on her. Eventually, the Jackal reveals that he created a clone of Spider-Man to fight the original. Gerry Conway's original Clone Saga was an emotional roller-coaster and farewell to Gwen Stacy and the nostalgia she represented. The Jackal died at the end of that story and was entirely forgotten about, having served his purpose as a villain.
  • In 1981, the saga was revisited in "What If Spider-Man's Clone Had Lived" from What If?. It ends with both Peters living together, deciding to be Spider-Man on alternate days.
  • In 1988, some 8 years before the second saga, Conway wrote "Return to Sender" in The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 8 as a sequel to the first saga, whose entire purpose was once and for all to explain and retcon the cloning premise out of the books. In that story, published as a tie-in to a forgotten crossover event called "The Evolutionary War", it was revealed that the Jackal did not clone Gwen Stacy or Spider-Man. Instead, he borrowed stuff from the High Evolutionary and created a drug that when tested on humans and other subjects altered them to resemble the person he chose. In other words, the Jackal never cloned anyone, the Gwen who Peter met wasn't a clone but a poor blonde girl tortured and experimented and altered to resemble Gwen with some memory implants, and as Gleen Greenberg pointed out, the story essentially undid the first saga, making it virtually impossible to revive it again. The work-around for this explanation (which closed any backdoors from the first saga) would be buried in the volumes of issues in the second saga, and the writing team were content to ignore it owing to the fact that it was published in the second series rather than the Amazing Spider-Man and that the Fleeting Demographic Rule would be to their advantage.

  • The Second Clone Saga: Or rather the Clone Saga since it entirely overshadowed the first one. It 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. It opens with the reappearance of the Spider-Man clone—dubbed the "Scarlet Spider"—who has built a life for himself and taken up the name Ben Reilly (after his Uncle Ben and Aunt May's maiden name, respectively). A brief summary: The Jackal comes back and starts playing mind games with Peter and Ben. A new villain, Kaine, is introduced and revealed to be another clone of Spider-Man; in fact, the first one made. After systematically bumping off the Spider-villains to prove his superiority (even smashing the Web of Spider-Man #124 logo to pieces and replacing it with his own), Kaine inexplicably turns "good" in an attempt to make him a star. Mary Jane gets pregnant. Aunt May and Doctor Octopus die. New villains are introduced, such as Spidercide, Judas Traveller, Scrier, and a female Doc Ock. The Jackal also dies, but not before it is 'proven' that Peter Parker is the clone and Ben Reilly was the original Spider-Man all along. Though initially crushed by the news, Peter decides to hand the mantle of Spider-Man over to Ben so that he and M.J. can start a family.

    It's eventually revealed that Peter really was the original Spider-Man and the whole thing was orchestrated by Norman Osborn, also back from the dead. In the end, Ben Reilly died in a manner which explicitly showed he was a clone, the Green Goblin returns to being Spider-Man's archenemy, Kaine and the Clone Gwen disappear again, and Aunt May and Dr. Octopus also come back from the dead. Oh, and Mary Jane miscarries (or does she?).

    In the end, for the most part nothing was changed—and as one writer lamented, a storyline intended to simplify Spider-Man ended up making things more complicated than ever. Despite this, for better or for worse, the Clone Saga is an iconic Spider-Man story and elements of it have been adapted into other media, and it ultimately served as a proving ground for later innovations. The concept of Peter Parker having a Younger and Hipper counterpart/sidekick didn't take with Ben Reilly, but it did take with Miles Morales later.

  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series: Being made in the mid-to-late 90s around the same time as this arc, which was merchandise driven after all, naturally adapted features of it in the final season for "brand synergy" but once the Clone Saga ended, the show was left with a bunch of dangling hooks and Aborted Arcnote 
  • Spider-Girl: The child of Peter and Mary Jane Watson who was miscarried and/or baby-swapped in the main continuity but generally quietly ignored. She was revived in an alternate universe called the MC2 where Mayday Parker ultimately became Spider-Man's Distaff Counterpart. To this day, it is the longest selling title for any female character published by Marvel running 100 issues with sequel series and other miniseries that survived cancellation and low salesnote .
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: A Setting Update and Continuity Reboot set in an AU separate from the main continuity. This version of the Clone Saga differed entirely from the previous two versions, tied to the emotional center of the Love Triangle of the Ultimate versions of Peter/Mary Jane/Kitty Pryde rather than the fanboy grudges about Gwen's death (Clone Saga 1) and angst about Spider-Man not being young anymore (Clone Saga 2). It's notable for tying Jessica Drew into the actual Spidey lore for the first time when previously she was unrelatednote .
  • 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. 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.
  • As of April 2021, Miles Morales unfortunately gets his own Clone Saga and has to deal with the headaches that come with it.

After Ben's death, the mantle of the Scarlet Spider was inherited by many others, whose adventures are covered here.

Tropes associated with the Clone Saga:

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    Amazing Spider-Man (1973) 
  • Always Need What You Gave Up: Spidey had a logical reason for throwing away the test results that said if he was a clone or not. Unfortunately, it turns out later in the story that they could have been useful.
  • Ambiguous Clone Ending: That would be revisited years down the line. Though as Peter logically points out he knows he's the real one since the clones were made after Gwen's death and are all fixated on her when he's now in love with MJ and moved on. How could he be the clone if he's the one with an actual real-time memory affected by life experiences?
  • Big Bad Friend: The Jackal is able to override Peter's Spider-Sense. Why? Because he's a friend.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: The Jackal has Spider-Man at his mercy, but insists on wheeling his unconscious form across town and dumping him over the same bridge where Gwen died.
  • Brainwashed: The Jackal can usurp control over Gwen's's mind if he wishes, although Gwen later manages to shake it off and call him a monster, which horrifies him. Played for Drama: the Jackal is a very sad, old man who sees himself as a hero.
    Jackal: (raving) Don't look to her for help, Spider-Man. She's mine now — and you can't hurt her anymore!
  • Breakout Character: Little known fact: The Punisher's first appearance was a part of the storyline, being manipulated by the Jackal into thinking Spider-Man killed a minor character. He reappears in the nineties Clone Saga, this time visiting town for "Jackal hunting season."
  • Create Your Own Villain: The Jackal says as much, talking to a bust of Spider-Man before hurling it to the floor with a smash. Somewhat inverted, as Warren has only himself to blame.
  • Freak Out: In the midst of his budding romance with Mary Jane, poor Peter starts seeing a Gwen doppelganger roaming the streets of New York. This is, plainly, a scheme by the Jackal to drive his enemy completely batty. It works, too, with Peter reduced to hugging his knees and Hearing Voices when the clone turns up at his apartment.
  • Furnace Body Disposal: Peter drops the body of the clone does a smokestack.
  • He Knows Too Much: Warren goes mad after murdering his lab assistant, who walked in on him performing his initial cloning experiments.
  • Heel Realization: In the end, the Jackal has an epiphany and stops the bomb himself at the cost of his own life. Additionally, one of the Spider-Men is killed in the blast.
  • His Heart Will Go On: Peter realizes through this adventure that enough time has passed, that he's moved on to a relationship with Mary Jane, that his feelings for Gwen have been supplanted by his feelings for Mary Jane, and that he's no longer the same guy he was when he was with Gwen. The Clone Gwen realizes this at the end, and she leaves town.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The Jackal uses a serum to alter the "RNA cells" (just go with it) that affect memory. This is why clones have no recollection of their deaths, or even being cloned in the first place.
  • Love Epiphany: It's during this story that both Peter and Mary Jane finally realize just how much they love each other. Mary Jane is so upset and saddened by the arrival of Gwen's clone, and because Peter could reject her for Gwen, that she keeps asking Peter to make a choice and demands to know how he feels. Peter for his part is confused by guilt until after he fights the clone and realizes that because he loves Mary Jane, he's the real one. The story ends with them having a Relationship Upgrade and what is clearly Their First Time in bed together.
  • Mirror Match: Featured prominently on cover artwork, and eventually happens at the end.
  • Naked on Arrival: The Gwen Stacy clone, and later, all future clones who emerge from their pods (The Jackal included).
  • Never Found the Body: Later inverted with the clone Spider-Man, whose body was thrown down a chimney. Apparently he was not Not Quite Dead when Peter disposed of his body,
  • Red Herring: Poor Anthony Serba! Despite being drawn with a combover, a name hailing from Shiftystan, and a mug which wouldn't look out of place in Dick Tracy, he's not the culprit here. Far from stealing Warren's tissue samples for his own nefarious use, he tried to dispose of them right before Warren snapped and suffocated him to death.
  • 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.
  • The Reveal: Gwen is a clone, the Jackal's identity, Peter Parker is a clone, Peter Parker wasn't a clone after all.
  • Revenge: The Jackal's motivation; he blames Spidey for not saving Gwen Stacy. Nevermind that it was the Green Goblin's fault…
  • Shipper on Deck: Aunt May tells Mary Jane in no uncertain terms to fight for her man against this supposedly revived Gwen.
  • The Unreveal: At the very end, Spider-Man isn't sure if he's the clone or not and gets tested. However, he finds that his feelings for Mary Jane couldn't have been had by the clone, and so he decides to throw the test results away without reading it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Clone Gwen Stacy survives the story, appears for the "genetic virus" retcon, and then vanishes for several years. When she does return during the second saga, it is revealed she had a mental breakdown and was nursed back to health by a clone of Warren, who she later marries, but he dies protecting her from Phil Urich's Green Goblin. Gwen's memories of her cloned life come back and she seeks revenge on the Jackal, but goes off-grid again at the conclusion of Maximum Clonage

    Clone Saga Crossover Event (1994–96) 
  • Affectionate Parody: Spider Man: 101 Ways To End The Clone Saga, a comic about Marvel writers and editors trying to find a way to pull off an Author's Saving Throw in increasingly humorous ways... and it's written by Marvel's writers and editors.
  • Anti-Hero Substitute: In an inversion, while Peter's personality had started to darken over the past several months, Ben was an intentional throwback to Spidey in his earlier days.
  • Arc Welding: The murders Kaine committed that Peter was later blamed for happened at the same time as the events of Kraven's Last Hunt, so Peter didn't have an alibi for the murders unless he blew his secret identity.
  • Armed with Canon:
    • Peter trying on blond wigs in a department store with MJ and wondering how Ben thought it could possibly fool anyone. This was writer Howard Mackie’s dig at the notion that Ben could dye his hair blond to avoid identification. Adding salt in the wound, the "blond Ben Reilly" idea was pitched by the outgoing Editor-in-Chief, who was sacked in large part due to the inter-office chaos at the time.
    • When Ben Reilly criticizes Spider-Man's pact with Venom, he is speaking with writer Glenn Greenberg's voice. It illustrates the ideological differences between both heroes, but equally, the portrayal of Venom as an "anti-hero" left a bad taste in a lot of writers' mouths.
  • Artistic License – Law: The trial of Peter Parker is this, full stop. For starters, Peter is accused of murder in Utah, but put on trial in New York City. The prosecution opens with calling a surprise witness, which is bad enough abuse of the legal system by itself but is compound by the fact that said witness is Mary Jane, who through New York state's Spousal Privilege laws would have immunity from being compelled to testify against her husband. The prosector asks her one question, then openly calls Peter a murderer after she answers it (without an objection by Peter's lawyer), then has her leave the witness stand without letting the defense cross-examine her. And things go downhill from there...
  • The Atoner: It was this era of Spider-Man's career that introduced Phil Urich, who attempted to re-purpose the Green Goblin costume and alias for justice.
  • Back for the Dead: Mendel Stromm, the Robot Master. Also Ben Reilly, thought to have been dumped into a smokestack and incinerated by a fearful Spider-Man.
  • Badass Longcoat: The first thing Nineties Jackal grabs after emerging from his cloning pod.
  • Best Served Cold: 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...
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Word of God says that the Bugle scenes contain several jabs at Marvel management for its handling of this storyline. In particular, Jameson has a run-in with businessman Roderick Kingsley at a gala; he offers (unsolicited) advice on how to reinvigorate the ailing newspaper: "Sell the majority of your shares to the public!" (Marvel tried that in 1991, leading to their bankruptcy five years later.)
    Jameson: I'd never take the Bugle public, Kingsley—because I know that its long-term integrity would suffer under corporate connivers like you, who dream up ridiculous little 'schemes' which only produce short-term gains!
  • Bold Inflation: Femme Fatale Delilah, introduced in this arc, has a bad habit of this mixed in with weird fonts.
  • Breakout Character:
    • Averted at first but eventually played straight. The Clone Saga was filled with attempts to create Breakout Characters. None of them took off. On the other hand, the Clone Saga gave us What If? v2 #105, which gave us Spider-Girl.
    • Kaine is something of a break-out character introduced here, as he recently has gone on to have a his own solo series and joined the New Warriors. However he only took off after his return years later and not directly from the Clone Saga.
  • Broken Aesop: This Clone Saga concretely breaks the aesop of the first one which was moving on, not being fixated on the past, and Peter realizing that he's not the same guy who fell for Gwen anymore. The second Clone Saga is all about writers trying to revive the days of single swinging Peter, falling into the curse of nostalgia that the first one showed was toxic and awful.
  • Broken Bird: Janine Godbe/Elizabeth Tyne from Lost Years and Redemption minis. Big time. At least she won and had a "keepsake" in Spider-Girl! (Sort of).
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Jackal, and the Too Dumb to Live characters don't remember his constant betraying 30 minutes after he does so.
  • C-List Fodder: While Kaine murders Dr. Octopus, one of Spidey's legendary foes, the other villain he murdered early on was... the Grim Hunter, the son of Kraven the Hunter, who was introduced not even a year earlier and was tossed away because the writers had absolutely no idea what to do with him.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Averted with the evil Spider-Man clone army. Ben Reilly barely escapes them with his life and in the end, they end up dissolving and are never fully defeated by the heroes.
  • Civvie Spandex: Ben Reilly's Scarlet Spider costume involves a blue sleeveless hoodie on top of a standard spider-costume.
  • Clear My Name: Thanks 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.
  • Clone Degeneration: This happens to a lot of the clones in this story. Kaine, according to Word of God, has a life support system in his costume just to stop this from killing him.
  • Cloning Blues: During the beginning of the story, Ben hits this trope quite hard because he believes himself the clone, going so far to believe he's no man. When the Jackal steps in and starts screwing with their minds, both Ben and Peter go through it, ultimately leading to Peter having a breakdown when it seems that he was the clone. After the Maximum Clonage, they get over themselves quite quickly.
  • Comic-Book Time: According to a comment by the Jackal, there is a gap of five years between this storyline and the first Clone Saga in-universe. Since just over twenty actual years had passed in real life, this is some serious time compression.
  • Comic Book Death: The nineties Clone Saga brings back not only the Peter and Gwen clones, but also Mendel Stromm, the Jackal, and Norman Osborn. Many of these characters are still with us; there's even a modest movement in the fandom to bring Ben Reilly back. There was a pitch to bring Harry Osborn back to life, as well.
    • 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.note 
      • 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.
  • 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.
  • Courtroom Episode: "The Trial of Peter Parker" Story Arc, with a Kangaroo Court sequence thrown in for good measure.
  • 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.
  • Cursed with Awesome: According to Word of God, Kaine's Clone Degeneration gives him his precognition - amplifying his Spider-Sense.
    • 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.
  • 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: 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.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: The newly-hatched Jackal struts and flexes in his first appearance, admiring his new super-strong body. It's not very often that you see an old man with a HERCULEAN physique like that!
    "I'd like to see the nitwits at NSU deny me tenure now!"''
  • Downer Ending: Ben dies, Peter and Mary Jane lose their baby, Osborn/Goblin is still at large and Peter decides to quit being Spider-Man (for the moment).
  • Does Not Like Women: One of the guests who stands up to Norman is his daughter-in-law Liz Allan. It earns her a hard backhand and a "Silence, cow!", along with a rant about how she ruined his son's life and made him a weakling.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Quite a few examples.
    • 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 and unceremoniously killed off. 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.
    • DK, a human inadvertently mutated into a muck monster capable of decaying anything and suffering from depression and Survivor's Guilt, survived the Saga only to commit suicide by using his powers to dissolve himself from the inside out.
    • 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.
  • Dye or Die: It's one thing to have two Spider-Men running around; it's quite another to have two Peter Parkers. So Ben Reilly goes blond. This also went a long way toward differentiating his character.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Norman just can't understand why Peter never gives up.
  • Evil Knockoff: Kaine, a murderous clone of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Once Kaine started to become an Anti-Hero, Spidercide - another murderous clone of Peter Parker/Spider-Man - was introduced to pick up the slack.
  • Expendable Clone: In Spider-Island, it's confirmed that the Jackal has a few squirreled away, leaving the nature of 90's-era Jackal uncertain. The current Jackal is a blend of old and new: He keeps the green fur and lupine anatomy of the original, but (like his clone counterpart) it's not a costume anymore. The version we see in this story has smaller ears and a full head of green hair.
  • Expy: The new Jackal is transparently patterned on The Joker in both looks and temperament. He never stops cracking wise, and his death scene is a literal pratfall.
  • Facepalm of Doom: The preferred killing method of Kaine.
  • First Girl Wins: Janine/Elizabeth Tyne, who is Ben's babymama in Spider-Girl.
  • Flawed Prototype: Kaine is identified as the first clone of Peter, who suffers from cellular degeneration that leaves him looking like a cracked statue that will eventually kill him, although he possesses superior strength to Peter or Ben.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: The ultimate result, more or less. Suspicious test results, a Gwen Stacy clone still alive out there, somewhere...
    Glenn Greenberg: The status quo, at least in that regard, is ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENT from the way it was in 1975 when the original clone story line ended.
    • A slight inversion in Norman Osborn, who was not resurrected only to be killed again. Instead, he got promoted to the series' arch-manipulator and Villain with Good Publicity (as opposed to a lunatic Mad Bomber), as well as cementing his place as the Arch-Enemy of Spider-Man. Over the next decade or so his threat hangs over Peter and his supporting cast and he ends up ruining many of their lives, or doing his damnest to at least.
  • Freak Out: Peter has one when he starts thinking he's the clone, but it doesn't last long before he calms down and just accepts it.
  • Genre Shift: The Second Clone Saga concretely moves away from Spider-Man's Small Steps Hero kitchen-sink storyline for a kind of byzantine conspiracy and bizarre science-fiction with a dollop of fantasy added on top.
  • 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 is 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.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: In "Revelations", it turned out the entire event had been orchestrated by Norman Osborn.
  • History Repeats: Ben is impaled and tumbles to the ground in a manner similar to Norman/Gwen. Also, he explicitly refers to himself as "Uncle Ben" as he dies (a reference to Peter's daughter).
  • Info Dump: See Motive Rant. Glenn Greenberg was permitted to pen a one-off issue, The Osborn Journal, to tie up all of Norman's loose ends and explain why he'd been hiding in Europe all these years and masterminded the whole Saga.
  • Informed Ability: The writers tried to make The Jackal out to be so great at manipulating people that, during "Smoke & Mirrors", Peter and Ben say that refusing to trust him would be to call into question everything they've ever known. Here's the problem: at no point does the Jackal ever come across as remotely trustworthy. Throughout "Smoke & Mirrors", the Jackal does little more than spout off Blatant Lies that are Instantly Proven Wrong, and he says everything in such a smarmy, jokey manner that it's hard to take seriously anything he says. This makes it more than a little baffling that Peter and Ben would keep trusting him on his word.
  • Kudzu Plot: A lot of it was because even the writers weren't sure where they were going with this.
    • 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 across different titles by different writers. One issue introduced the army in a Cliffhanger 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.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: The Scarlet Spider doesn't much cotton to Peter's longstanding truce with Venom.
  • Legacy Character:
    • 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.
    • An oddball version happened in "The Trial of Peter Parker" when Ben decided to swap places with Peter in jail. Since Peter didn't have his costume and running around as himself would be stupid, he would spend time as the Scarlet Spider.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The false DNA results for Peter Parker were fed to the Jackal by the Scrier Organization, who in turn were being led by Gaunt, who in fact was a Decoy Leader in the employ of the Scriers' true master, Norman Osborn. (He later rebranded the cult as The Order of the Goblin, a personal touch.)
  • Me's a Crowd: The objective behind the Jackal's "Carrion Bomb" is to turn the entire world's population into clones of Peter Parker. Not clones of the Jackal himself, or even a billion Gwen Stacys; just Peter Parker. As mentioned above, he's crazy, so it doesn't have to make sense.
  • Missing Steps Plan: From Topless Robot:
    At this point in the Clone Saga the reborn Jackal is still alive and hatching his fucking incoherent plan to somehow turn every person in the world into a Peter Parker clone, so… uh… profit?
  • Mistaken for Racist: As noted under "Discriminate and Switch", Shirley's ex-husband, Garon, thought that Ben was racist due to Ben acting to Shirley's desire to want their son, Devon, unaware that Ben worked for his ex-wife, thought he was bad news, and wasn't aware that Garon was an undercover cop.
  • Motive Rant: The final issue of the saga has Osborn giving a series of these. He had a lot to explain, after all.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Peter's reaction immediately after smacking a very pregnant Mary Jane into a wall.
  • No Body Left Behind: The majority of the Jackal's clones collapse into goo once their number is up — even a copy of Gwen Stacy. Ben, conveniently enough, turns to dust. This allows Peter to give him a proper farewell by scattering his "brother's" ashes to the wind.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The Punisher ended up suffering one from Spidey moments after showing up in Maximum Clonage.
  • Opening a Can of Clones: The Spider-books in general are famous for this trope, but this is the story arc that kicked it into high gear. Peter later uncovers the original clone's scorched remains in the chimney; probably the intention was to throw doubt on Ben's identity and put forward the possibility of both Spider-Men being clones. By this point, though, there were already so many clones running around, the effect was lost and the whole subplot was discarded.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Norman was introduced very late in the game. He doesn't even enter the picture until all of his subordinates have been snuffed out, apart from the Scriers (who later came to his rescue after he was captured by Spider-Man and sectioned). He explains that he'd been living sumptuously in Europe and rubbing elbows with the Scriers. He gradually usurped the organization and converted it into a tool for personal revenge.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Judas Traveller and Scrier. Apparently no-one really knew what was going on with them, and while ideas were proposed—such as Traveller being a Fallen Angel and Scrier being Mephisto—ultimately Traveller was just an illusionist who bought into his own hype and started believing he could actually control time, and Scrier was really a group of individuals in a cult who all wear the same masks, apart from the lead Scrier, who was Norman Osborn himself... got all that?
  • Plot Hole: If he wasn't the clone, how did the Jackal program Peter to be a Manchurian Agent in the event of the former's death? The Answer: Exhausted writers.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Norman striking Liz marked the start of Norman becoming this.
  • Post-Mortem Comeback: After the Jackal died, a post-mortem compulsion activates within Spider-Man's brain, causing him to try to kill whoever he loves most under temporary conscious mind control.
  • Practically Joker: The Jackal is a not-so-subtle Joker expy.
  • Put on a Bus: Many of Spidey's old foes and supporting cast retire or otherwise let go of the titles to make way for Ben Reilly's foes and supporting characters, including Peter Parker himself. When Parker comes back, so does everyone else. Meanwhile, Reilly's side characters vanish in a similar manner.
    • Osborn supposedly orders the death of Kaine off-panel, but he survives and returns under a number of aliases: Scarlet Spider (the second one), Tarantula, and others.
  • Red Herring: The Spider-Man skeleton left behind in the smokestack. It turned out to be the 'original' Ben Reilly, later replaced with a second clone by the Jackal; the new Ben mistakenly thinks he was alive for the original Clone Saga.
  • Reset Button: In 1995, Aunt May dies of a heart attack (but only after revealing that she always knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man). This too was poignant. In 1998, Norman admits to kidnapping Aunt May, replacing her with a genetically altered elderly actress and keeping the real May alive in a warehouse for absolutely no damn reason.
  • The Reveal: Norman Osborn is the one behind everything, and Peter really was the real deal all along.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: One issue of Spider-Man Unlimited has a new Sinister Six band together in order to try and kill Kaine before he kills them. Neither of them get the chance to do the deed.
  • Saved for the Sequel: The Gwen Stacy clone, who lingers on the periphery for another decade until Dan Slott nails her coffin nice and tight in Spider-Island (she returns for the sole purpose of getting whacked by her own personal Kaine, an aborted clone named Abby-L.) The Parker baby is also teased to have survived but, like the Gwen clone, this was born of the editors' desperation to keep sales up. Realistically, they had no way of knowing when or if these characters would turn up again, but they needed curious readers to keep following the books.
  • Scenery Censor: Occurs with both Mary Jane and the Gwen Stacy clone at different points.
  • Seers: Kaine is one; according to Word of God, this ability is 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.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: It was fairly evident, even at an early stage, that Marvel was never going to allow Ben Reilly to replace Peter Parker in the mainline books. Nevertheless, the writers tried — wishful thinking, perhaps — to flesh him out with a new supporting cast, a new rogues gallery (mixed bag, that one), a couple of odd jobs outside the Daily Bugle, and a throwback personality akin to the Silver Age Spider-Man. There was even a 'Lost Tales' series dedicated to Ben's past adventures on the road. Very little of Ben survives in the canon, though his grumpy counterpart Kaine is still with us, having mellowed out a little.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Punisher was brought in for the Maximum Clonage tie-in miniseries as a reference to the fact that he made his first-ever appearance in the original Clons Saga.
    • The title Maximum Clonage itself was a Call-Back to the Maximum Carnage arc from a few years previously.
    • In Amazing Spider-Man #411, at night, a burglar tried to rob a wealthy couple in front of their young son, violently pulling the lady's pearl necklace. Her husband confronts the mugger, who prepares to shoot. Does this sound familiar? Luckily for the Marvel "Waynes", Spidey/Ben arrives and saves the family. Fittingly enough, the young boy is wearing a Batman shirt. It can be seen here.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: The Miles Warren personality looks to be well and truly gone: He emerges from his pod having undergone heavy genetic manipulation, effectively bringing his old costume to life. Inverted with Norman, who still possesses the cackling Goblin identity, but is equally monstrous outside of the suit.
  • Super Prototype: Sort of. Kaine was the first Spider-Man clone made, but quickly began suffering from clone degeneration. However, this increased his Spider-Sense to the point where it gives him precognition.
  • Tainted Veins: A sure sign of impending clone death.
  • Taking the Bullet: How Ben dies, leaping in front of the Goblin Glider after Norman tries again to ram the Glider into Peter like he'd tried in The Night Gwen Stacy Dies.
  • Thanatos Gambit: With his dying breath, the Jackal says, "When the dream ends, the nightmare begins." This activates a hypnotic suggestion in Peter's mind, compelling him to try and murder MJ.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Norman, as exemplified by the mere fact that it's 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. His very first act following his reawakening (fresh off the slab) is to kill a drifter of similar height and bury the body in his place.
  • 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.
    • One of the solicitations for Ultimate Clone Saga featured a cover revealing Doctor Octopus as the Big Bad.
  • Unexplained Recovery: During the Scarlet Spider story arc The Exile Returns, the female symbiote Scream makes her return, despite apparently dying in the Venom: Lethal Protector miniseries where she debuted. Her role in this storyline is in part to help set up the Venom: Separation Anxiety miniseries, where it is explained how she survived.
  • 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.
  • We Are as Mayflies: There's no telling how long clone denigration will take; like the mini-Jackal says, "It may take a few weeks — a few months — a few decades."
  • We Can Rule Together: The Jackal pitches this idea to Peter, who is already distraught over finding out that he's a clone. An ambiguous remark by the Jackal ("Couldn't have planned it better myself... or did I?") suggests, in hindsight, that he knew the test results were false.
  • West Coast Team: As Ben was being groomed to take the Spider-Man mantle, Peter made preparations to transfer to another newspaper in Portland. The plan was for Peter, his journey now complete, to ride into the sunset with MJ and their new baby. Later, this was modified to Peter (still officially the clone by this point) self-exiling himself after his brainwashing in "Time Bomb", to protect his loved ones. Neither scenario took off. A workaround was developed with Kaine—the only surviving clone from the series—who settled in Houston and decided to try his hand at crime-fighting. Due to a wardrobe malfunction (really), the news media colloquially referred to him as a "Scarlet Spider" and the name stuck. Ironically for a character created as a more idealistic version of the modern Spider-Man, Kaine is very nearly a villain himself, and treats his job as trash collecting rather than some lofty pursuit.
    • Also, it was proposed that Ben have his own spin-off title. He ended up helming the Scarlet Spider books, but Marvel was in the midst of cancelling most of their spinoff books because they felt it was splitting the fanbase and costing them money.
  • 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.
  • The Worf Effect: Doctor Octopus got killed by Kaine to enforce the idea of Kaine being a badass. Death in comics being what it is, Doctor Octopus recovers.
    • Earlier, Venom was beaten by Ben to establish Ben as a superhero in his own right. Downplayed in that it look him considerably more effort to take down Venom than the few moments it took Kaine to snap the neck of a captive Doc Ock.

    Ultimate Clone Saga 
  • 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.
  • Alternate Continuity: It's set in the Ultimate Universe.
  • Civvie Spandex: Peter spends most of the story in street clothes.
  • Censor Steam: Applied to both MJ/Demogoblin and Gwen-Carnage at various points.
  • Clone Degeneration: The Richard clone dies this way.
  • Composite Character:
    • Ultimate Spider-Woman was given the name Jessica Drew à la 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.
  • Evil Knockoff: Scorpion and Tarantula are actual Spider-Man clones here. And, of course, there's Kaine.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: This time, via Carnage..
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Ultimate Kaine wears a tattered version of Ben Reilly's Spider-Man costume.
    • Tarantula has six arms à la the classic six-armed Spider-Man story.
    • Richard Parker resembles 616-Peter as drawn by John Romita, right down to his distinctive hairstyle.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: Ultimate Spider-Woman is a female clone of Spider-Man.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Peter and Aunt May give this to each other: May gives this to Peter for being Spider-Man, and Peter gives it to May for hiding that she believed Richard was still alive.
    • Nick Fury gets this, courtesy from Mary Jane and the Fantastic Four, for his intent to lock Peter away and how far he was willing to go for it.
  • Younger Than They Look: The Richard Parker that appears in this story is another Peter clone.

    2009– 2010 Miniseries 
  • Adaptation Distillation: It simplifies the story and removes 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: Harry believes this to be the case with the Norman clone, who ended up a Morally Superior Copy who wants to spare the baby and end the feud before anyone else gets hurt.
  • Civvie Spandex: The Scarlet Spider once again wearing a hoodie as part of his costume.
  • Clone Degeneration: Kaine again, though Jackal does try to find a serum to cure it and Dr. Octopus later completes it.
  • Cloning Blues: Again, it is a version of the Clone Saga, so this is expected between Ben and Kaine, who like in the original, lament their status as clones. Averted with the Norman clone, whose lamentations revolve around the person the original Norman's actions turned Harry into.
  • Compressed Adaptation: While the original was going to span six months and ended up spanning a few years, it was also planned to span across four titles. Here, it tries to cram all of it into six issues of a single series.
  • Death by Adaptation: Norman Osborn is still dead in this version.
  • Evil Knockoff: Kaine is an evil clone of Spiderman.
  • Faking the Dead: In this version of events, Harry does this so he could prepare for his plans here.
  • Heel Realization: Kaine realizes what Harry wants is wrong and delivers the baby back to MJ. The Norman clone also realizes Harry's mad and decided to end the feud, encouraging Kaine's returning the baby.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Norman clone leaps between Peter and the Goblin Glider, similar to how Ben in the '90s story did, to save Peter's life — and thus die the same way the original Norman did.
  • Morally Superior Copy: The Norman clone ends up being this to the original Osborn, horrified by the monster the original's actions warped Harry into being and doing everything he can to stop Harry, even performing a Heroic Sacrifice to save Peter.
  • Mythology Gag: How the Norman clone dies, taking the blades of the Goblin Glider intended for Peter, both to the '90s story ended with Ben dying to save Peter and —though the context is differenthow Norman died in The Night Gwen Stacy Died, doubling as a Call-Back to that story.
  • Series Fauxnale: The mini-series works as an open-ended one for the Spider-Man saga. The Osborn/Parker feud is resolved, at least for now, with Harry incarcerated, Aunt May is still alive, and Peter and Mary Jane are parents with Peter presumably semi-retired, and Ben opts to leave New York behind and resume life on the road. There is room for new stories down the road should Marvel choose to tell them.
  • 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!: When first announced, fans believed the series would take the place of the 1990s Clone Saga and explain how things went down in the wake of the revised history brought about by One More Day with Peter and MJ unmarried. What they got instead was a series that honoured the Spider-Marriage and provided many a jaded reader with a happy ending for the Parkers and a potential jumping-off point if they were no longer satisfied with the direction of the main book, which would carry onward with an unmarried Peter.
    • The Trade Paperback of the mini-series is called "The REAL Clone Saga"
    • In the last issue, Harry refers to his battles with Spider-Man as being like an addictive dance, describing the sensation as being "like the Macarena, only cool."
  • Taking the Bullet: This time, it's a clone of Norman who takes the Goblin Glider for Peter.