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How to Collect Spider-Man’s “Clone” Stories

Nathan Kiehn is a blogger at Keenlinks, a contributor at Geeks Under Grace, and the author of "The Gray Guard" ebook trilogy on Amazon.

how-to-collect-spider-mans-clone-stories

Clone Craziness

The words “Spider-Man” and “clones” often pair as well together as peanut butter and nails would on a sandwich. Both leave a painful, metallic taste in the mouth. Various “clone” stories have been published during the character’s storied history, but the '90s “Clone Saga” left the worst, longest-lasting impression with readers. Yet for the long-suffering completionist, these are the stories that you may want to add to your Spider-Man comics collection to afford some brief peace of mind.

In this article, we’re scouring the hero’s decades of continuity and pulling out a few clone-centric sagas you may be interested in checking out. Yeah, most of them might not be great, and they may add some highly unnecessary tangles to Spidey’s continuity, but for anyone interested in the mythology overall, Marvel has compiled a few different ways to get your hands on that crummy clone business.

The Original Clone Saga

The Original Clone Saga

The Original Clone Saga

What Is It?

Back in the '70s, writer Gerry Conway killed off Gwen Stacy, to the shock and horror of Spider-Man fans everywhere. Peter Parker’s girlfriend was gone, just like that. According to Stan Lee, he was accosted so often at events following Gwen’s death that he begged Conway to bring her back. Conway relenting, introducing her clone . . . and several others.

Why Is It Important?

The original "Clone Saga" not only introduced Gwen’s clone (who would later adopt the identity of Joyce Delaney) but also a Spider-Man doppelganger, both created by Miles Warren, the Jackal. The original arc sees the apparent deaths of both the clone and Miles, with several issues afterward compounding the story arc. New developments, mostly introduced by Conway, would see a Miles Warren clone named Carrion battle Spider-Man, reveal that Joyce Delaney was never a clone to begin with (???), and offer Miles’ real motivations for cloning his former student.

Conway’s original, seemingly straightforward story from the '70s was compounded in the '80s. His new threads complicated his original vision, proving the “Clone Saga” wasn’t so simple even before the '90s.

how-to-collect-spider-mans-clone-stories

How Can I Read It?

This saga has been collected in a single “complete” volume called “Spider-Man: The Original Clone Saga.” The volume collects Amazing Spider-Man #139–150, Giant-Size Spider-Man #5, Spectacular Spider-Man #25–31, 149, 162–163, and Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #8.

Unfortunately, the volume is out-of-print, and physical copies tend to be expensive; digital copies do exist, however, at cheaper prices.

  • The Amazing Spider-Man issues have also been collected across the 4th and upcoming 5th Amazing Spider-Man Omnibuses.
  • Spectacular Spider-Man #25–31 have been collected in the second Spectacular Spider-Man Marvel Masterwork volume, and Spectacular #149 and Annual #8 can also be found in Spider-Man: Tombstone Vol. 1.
  • Annual #8 has also been collected in the Evolutionary War Omnibus.
The '90s Clone Saga

The '90s Clone Saga

The '90s Clone Saga

What Is It?

After years of being “dead,” Spider-Man’s clone, Ben Reilly, returns! A story arc that was supposed to last six months ended up growing over the course of two years, radically frustrating the Spider-Man fan base. Clones, clones, and more clones pop outta the woodwork as revelations are dropped, villains reappear, loved ones die, and Spider-Man continuity in the 90s is forever given a big black mark.

Why Is It Important?

Not only did this “Clone Saga” reintroduce fans to Ben Reilly, but it created a whole cavalcade of shocking moments (most of which Marvel ended up backpedaling on). Mary Jane discovers she’s pregnant and seeks to heal a rift between her and her father; Aunt May winds up in the hospital, barely clinging to life; Peter loses his superpowers; the Jackal returns; the surprise “mastermind” behind the entire “Saga” makes his startling, triumphant return.

The “Saga” is a series of revelations and plot points which remain woefully underdeveloped or highly antithetical to the whole point of Spider-Man. Ben Reilly becomes Spider-Man for a while, replacing Peter but never comfortably slipping into the identity. It’s not the absolute worst piece of trash out there—a few of the limited series, such as Spider-Man: The Lost Years and Spider-Man: The Final Adventure are very entertaining—but it still drowns in goofy incoherence.

So why should you read it? Because it’s insane. Again, much of the “Saga” is a convoluted mess, barely coherent in its varying subplots. Make sense of it best you can and just try to have a bit of fun with it, if you’re able. If you’re looking for something so completely cheesy and over-the-top, just read it.

how-to-collect-spider-mans-clone-stories

How Can I Read It?

The '90s “Saga” has been collected in a couple different editions, most notably 11 “Complete Epic” volumes and 4 omnibuses.

The first 5 “Complete Epics” and 2 “Spider-Man: Clone Saga Omnibuses” collect essentially the same material, with a few minor differences (the omnibuses collect a couple of extra New Warrior issues, for example). Together, both Epics and omnibuses are comprised of the following:

  • Amazing Spider-Man #394–406
  • Amazing Spider-Man Super Special
  • Spectacular Spider-Man #217–229
  • Spectacular Spider-Man Super Special
  • Spider-Man #51–63
  • Spider-Man Super Special
  • Spider-Man Team-Up #1
  • Web of Spider-Man #117–129
  • Web of Spider-Man Super Special
  • Spider-Man Unlimited #7-10
  • Spider-Man: Funeral for an Octopus #1–3
  • Spider-Man: Maximum Clonage Alpha and Omega
  • Spider-Man: The Clone Journal
  • Spider-Man: The Jackal Files
  • Spider-Man: The Lost Years #1–3
  • Spider-Man: The Parker Years
  • Venom Super Special
  • New Warriors #61–66
  • Material from Spider-Man Collector's Preview
how-to-collect-spider-mans-clone-stories

The next 6 “Complete Epics” (titled “The Ben Reilly Saga”) and 2 “Spider-Man: Ben Reilly Omnibuses” collect the next several chapters; again the material in both these Epics and omnibuses are virtually the same. Together, these Epics and omnibuses collect the following:

  • Web of Scarlet Spider #1–4
  • Amazing Scarlet Spider #1–2
  • Scarlet Spider #1–2
  • Spectacular Scarlet Spider #1–2
  • Scarlet Spider Unlimited #1
  • Amazing Spider-Man #407–418
  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual '96
  • Spectacular Spider-Man #230–241
  • Spider-Man #64–75
  • Sensational Spider-Man #0–11
  • Spider-Man Holiday Special 1995
  • Spider-Man Team-Up #2–5
  • Spider-Man Unlimited #11–14
  • Spider-Man/Punisher: Family Plot #1–2
  • Spider-Man: Redemption #1–4
  • Spider-Man: The Final Adventure #1–4
  • Spider-Man: The Osborn Journal
  • Spider-Man: Dead Man's Hand
  • Green Goblin #3
  • Daredevil #354
  • New Warriors #67
  • 101 Ways To End the Clone Saga
  • Material from Venom: Along Came a Spider #1–4

It’s a lot to enjoy, put up with, or stomach depending on your perspective. The “Ben Reilly Saga Epics" are all out-of-print and tend to be fairly expensive; fortunately, the Omnibuses are more recent and may be the cheaper option (though it’s really more of a “lesser of two evils” situation).

The “Clone Saga” Epics still run cheaper and can be found at your local comic shops, as well as online. Each of the Epics have corresponding digital editions that will, ultimately, be the least expensive option, particularly when totaled together.

Ultimate Spider-Man: The Clone Saga

Ultimate Spider-Man: The Clone Saga

Ultimate Spider-Man: The Clone Saga

What Is It?

Over in the Ultimate Universe, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley took the “Clone Saga” to task in this reimagining of the '90s story arc. Having already tackled their versions of several different mainstream concepts and characters—including the alien symbiote suit and the Sinister Six—Bendis and Bagley offer their interpretation of this controversial story arc.

Why Is It Important?

Bendis and Bagley’s arc is much shorter, and in some ways more complete, for fans who’d rather not swallow the gargantuan pill that is the '90s narrative. It’s also more coherently tied into their previous work, particularly with Venom and Carnage. It’s an adaptation of the original story, but it also makes a certain amount of sense within the universe the writer/artist team have already constructed.

The series introduces a variety of Spider-Man clones, including a female Spider-Man (Jessica Drew) who became an important character in her own right down the line.

how-to-collect-spider-mans-clone-stories

How Can I Read It?

This Ultimate Universe “Clone Saga” has been collected in a single volume, containing issues Ultimate Spider-Man 97–104. Yes, it comes during a rather late period in the Ultimate Spider-Man series, but hey, that just gives you an excuse to read the rest of Bendis and Bagley’s work.

Spider-Man: The Real Clone Saga

Spider-Man: The Real Clone Saga

Spider-Man: The Real Clone Saga

What Is It?

Several years after the '90s “Clone Saga” ended, writers Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie (two of the architects behind the '90s “Saga”) and penciler Tood Nauck constructed this six-issue limited series. The series presented the '90s “Saga” in the way it had originally been constructed—a six-month story arc featuring Ben Reilly’s return and the fallout from his reappearance.

Why Is It Important?

This series is a much, much more streamlined version of the original story. Several key components still exist from the original story—Ben Reilly’s return, the Jackal’s “resurrection,” Mary Jane’s pregnancy, and villainous Peter Parker clone Kaine. It’s not a perfect recreation of the original tale, as DeFalco has admitted to adding more details and characters to Howard Mackie’s original notes and plans.

But it contains a “one and done” quality to it, a clear story with a defined beginning, middle, and end. The narrative also feels more pertinent to the mythos than its more convoluted “twin”—if this story ran instead of the two-year avalanche, the Spider-Man world would have been left with some dynamic changes.

how-to-collect-spider-mans-clone-stories

How Can I Read It?

The six issues of Spider-Man: The Real Clone Saga are collected in a single trade paperback that, like other volumes on this list, is no longer in circulation. Fortunately, digital versions are cheaper than the $60.00 third-party Amazon sellers are asking for the volume.

Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy

Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy

Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy

What Is It?

One of the more recent clone-centric entries on this list, “Conspiracy” introduced readers to a brand-new Jackal, complete with Anubis-inspired mask. While bandying about the identity behind this villain, Dan Slott’s arc sees the Jackal bring back several deceased supporting cast members and adversaries of Peter’s.

They’re not clones, necessarily, more like reanimated versions of dead people. But not zombies either. They are, in effect, just reborn folks, not carbon copies. Weird. How's Spider-Man gonna figure this one out?

Why Is It Important?

The biggest impact from “Conspiracy” is also its biggest twist, and even though this story has been out for a few years at this point, I’d rather not spoil it. Suffice it to say, the Jackal’s identity is a surprising, if not controversial, revelation. But the story also grapples with intriguing concepts of life and death in a manner never dealt with through the 90s “Saga.”

how-to-collect-spider-mans-clone-stories

How Can I Read It?

“Conspiracy” has been collected in a larger “complete” volume containing the whole story; issues included in this trade are as follows:

  • Amazing Spider-Man #19–24
  • The Clone Conspiracy #1–5
  • The Clone Conspiracy: Omega
  • Silk #14–17
  • Prowler #1–5
  • Material from Free Comic Book Day 2016 (Captain America) #1

Additionally, the Amazing Spider-Man issues can be collected in Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide vols. 4–6, the Silk issues are collected in Silk vol. 3: The Clone Conspiracy, and the Prowler issues can be found in Prowler vol. 1: The Clone Conspiracy.

These volumes are all still in print and can be found at relatively cheap prices.

Supplemental Reading

Mixed into this grab-bag of bizarre adventures is a selection of a few other stories which are pertinent to the clone mythos overall. I’ll cover each of these briefly for those interested.

  • Spider-Verse: This arc saw a ton of Spider-Man (and Women and Pigs) join forces to fight the evil Inheritors. Ben Reilly, and subsequent other clones, were among the warriors assembled.
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: After Peter Parker’s death in the Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales replaced him as that world’s Spider-Man. Jessica Drew plays an ongoing role in the series as a friend and somewhat mentor to the young hero.
  • Spider-Island: Kaine and the Jackal both feature in this Amazing Spider-Man story, Dan Slott’s first major arc which saw the inhabitants of Manhattan transformed into giant, spider-like monsters.

During Tom DeFalco’s run on Spider-Girl, she also encountered a “Clone Saga” of sorts; recent issues of Miles Morales’ current comic are doing the same thing, so as controversial as these Spidey stunt doubles have always been, it seems like these pesky clones aren't leaving any time soon.

© 2021 Nathan Kiehn

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