As you can tell from our spiffy logo, this is about the life of everyone's favorite Spider-Man clone, Ben Reilly. “The Clone Saga” as it became known, was the most controversial Spider-Man story ever told. Years after the saga ended, fans are still divided as to whether the story was a landmark moment in Spider-Man history, or an embarrassing smudge of the 90s that further complicated the titles. To give you a little bit of a hint, let me say that I wouldn't begin a project like this if I hated the clone saga.
Be that as it may though, Spider-Man. Of all of Marvel's heros, he's the one that I can relate to the most—an awkward teenager who can't get a date yet saves New York time and time again, only to have screeds written against him by the horrible editor James Johah Jameson. And who can forget those incredible lyrics from the 60s animated series?
Does whatever a spider can
Spins a web, any size,
Catches thieves just like flies
Here comes the Spiderman.
Is he strong?
He's got radioactive blood.
Can he swing from a thread?
Take a look overhead
There goes the Spiderman.
In the chill of night
At the scene of a crime
Like a streak of light
He arrives just in time.
Friendly neighborhood Spiderman
Wealth and fame
Action is his reward
To him, life is a great big bang up
Whenever there's a hang up
You'll find the Spiderman.
But since I don't really follow superhero comics that much, little did I know that in the mid-90s, a resurected story line from 1975, in which our Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman fought against his own clone, a little story line that nearly destroyed the whole Spiderman franchise.
Okay, a bit of hyperbole there, but still, in the 35 part (yes, thirty-five part) series you not only learn of the nearly two year long saga (through the four Spider-Man comic books and some special one-shots) every excruciating details about Peter Parker/Spider-Man (the “survivor” of the 1974 story and possible clone) and Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider (supposedly killed and the “real” Peter Parker) and all the plot twists there-in (who really is the clone, and whose body really did end up in that smokestack in 1974?) but the details about what was going on behind the scenes at Marvel during that time.
Reading the series (and yes, I can't believe I read the whole thing) it struck me that superhero comic books and soap operas, despite the different media and target audiences, are basically the same thing. The editors had a definite story arc they wanted to present, but continuity errors, marketing pressure and the big problem—changes in employment of editors and writers caused the storyline to spriral out of control (at one point Ben Reilly was supposed to end up being the real Peter Parker, but seeing how the clone Peter Parker had not only married Mary Jane, but was about to become a father, complicated matters. And what about all the Spider-Man issues between 1975 and 1994? You mean that wasn't Peter Parker but a clone? You begin to see the problem here … ).
It's a fascinating read, although I did find myself skimming the Spider-Man story line to skip to the behind-the-scenes machinations going on at Marvel.