February 26, 2024

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Spider-Man Complete Chronology Update 21 (Begun The Clone Saga Has Edition)

Clones, clones everywhere.

I was going to start this post by saying that this is probably the quickest I’ve turned around an update since I started this project back in 2015.  But when I started doing some research I found I had like 3 updates in the first month!  Now I’m lucky if I get three out a year.  But alas, here we are.

As I mentioned I might do last time, this is a bit of a smaller update than I’ve been doing lately.  With just over sixty issues and no giant crossover event to divide my time with, I was able to dedicate a lot of my current reading to…The Clone Saga.

Many long time Spider-Man fans will shudder at the mere mention of any Spider-Clones, but the storyline has always had a special place in my heart.  When it began circa 1994, it was at a time when I wasn’t reading that many comics.  And, if you can believe it, no Spider-Man books at all.  I had just started university and was not long involved with my first long term girlfriend, so reading about irradiated super beings had been replaced by computer science books and, uh, other stuff.   But my well known weaknesses for all things Spider-Man and sprawling epic crossovers drew me back into the web.

Ignoring the convoluted and long dawn out mess it would become, it still had it’s charm.  I still like the Ben Reilly character.  And the Scarlet Spider.  And eventually Ben’s altered spider suit from his days as The Man.  But of course, there’s was much not to like…but we won’t get into that or dwell on it here.

Reading up to and through these early clone issues in rapid succession, I could see what they were trying to accomplish.  Peter Parker was now a twenty something graduate student who generally didn’t have to worry about money thanks to his supermodel/actress wife.  Peter and Mary Jane were also now expecting their first child.  A logical progression from nerdy high-school kid as Peter had actually aged in comic time more than many characters had over the years.  But you know who can’t really relate to having a college degree and expecting a child with a supermodel?  Most kids at your local comic book store.  Now, I know, it’s not only kids that buy comics (especially these days), but 20+ years ago, I’m sure the teenage set was a much higher segment of the Marvel buying population than it is now.  And in either case, it made a lot more sense for Marvel to try to hook in young readers.

Enter, the clone.  While Peter Parker clone Ben Reilly was the same age as Peter (or only five…depending on your point of view), he was single and had almost no money to speak off.  He survived on bologna and cereal and rode a motorbike.  While he had his share of rough times on the road since he supposedly died 20 years earlier (or 5 years in Marvel time) in Amazing Spider-Man #149, he had a lot less chronological baggage than Peter Parker.  And Peter had just gone through an unusually dark period (as was wont to happen in the 90’s) and was even more inaccessible to readers than usual.  Ben was more “classic Peter” letting his worries overpower him.  If not about money, than about being a clone and if he even deserved to live a life of his own.  Or about being an outcast and a loner who didn’t know where he fit in.  See where I’m going with this?

So, I could see it.  The path and reasoning was there.  But comic readers are a fickle bunch, and Marvel made their own share of mistakes along the way.  I think one of the biggest being that not long into the Clone Saga, they revealed that it was Ben and not Peter who was the real Peter Parker.  That Peter was the clone, and had unknowingly soldiered on since 1975, living the life that should have been Ben’s.  It was “perfect”.  This was not Jean Paul Valley replacing Bruce Wayne as Batman.  They were replacing Peter Parker with…Peter Parker!  Same guy, same origin, same power and responsibility.  New fans would get what they want, a Spider-Man with a relatively clean slate.  Older fans would be appeased with the fact that it was still Peter Parker under the mask.

The “perfect” plan had a “perfect” flaw.  I can’t speak to how new readers took to Ben as Spider-Man or not, but long time readers were NOT impressed.  Sure, Ben was Peter and a perfectly capable Spider-Man.  And we won’t get to it in this update, but they would send Peter and MJ off to (not) live happily ever after in retirement.  But older readers felt insulted by the insinuation that the Spider-Man they had been reading for the last two decades wasn’t the real thing.  And that Marvel was wiping away twenty years of continuity like it never happened.  Retcons happen in comics.  Some more successful (see Crisis on Infinite Earth) than others (see One More Day).  The Clone Saga would quickly fall into the “others” camp.

By the time Marvel tried to reverse, or at least set, a new course, they had made such a mess of Spider-Man and his continuity, that making their way back was a daunting task.  And they made a few more mistakes along the way, but we’ll get into that in subsequent updates.

For all it’s flaws and warts, my hat is off to these early clone issues.  The Spider-Editors were really going for it.  Over a short span of time we had the reintroduction of Ben and the introduction of the Scarlet Spider.  The return of the Jackal.  Several new big time players including Judas Traveller, Scrier and Kaine.  The pregnancy reveal.  The trail of Peter Parker for murder.  The deaths of Doc Ock and Aunt May!

Love it or hate it, it was a very creative and busy time in the Spider-Verse.

With that, let’s get to the update.  I try to end my updates at a point where I hope that I won’t have to revisit them because of continuity problems caused by subsequent issues.  Unfortunately, as soon as I published the last update and started reading the Clone issues, I found some problems with the way I handled the end of that update.  Two major issues came up.  One that I’ve fixed and one that I’m going to just have to let go.

First, I originally had split Amazing Spider-Man #393 to wrap around Spider-Man #50.  The reasoning being that in Amazing, MJ appears to leave town, but she’s still there in Spider-Man #50.  Upon reading Amazing Spider-Man #394 and beyond, I discovered that MJ only decided to leave in 393 and would still be around until 394.  So I put 393 back in one piece.  It may not seem like it at times, but I do try not to split the books if at all possible.

The second problem is again related to Spider-Man #50.  It’s a minor issue with a minor character, but it’s still there.  In that issue, we hear MJ on the phone say that her Aunt Anna is with her in the hospital where Aunt May is staying.  That’s fine…until the next chronological issue which is Web of Spider-Man 117, which shows Aunt Anna arriving at the hospital, for seemingly the first time.  That Web issue is also the beginning of the “Power and Responsibility” storyline (the de facto start of the Clone Saga) and I had very little interest in trying to splice up that issue around the issues leading up to it.  And I don’t think they would make sense anyway.  And it’s also one of those things that bug me, but might go unnoticed or not cared about by many readers.

In the end, the recohesion of Amazing 393 is the only change I made to the last update.

As for post Spectacular Spider-Man #216:

Uh, sorry…one one little thing before we move on.  During this time Marvel got heavily into “flip books”.  Meaning that if you flipped your comic over, instead of a back cover, you’d find another cover to another story.  That story and it’s cover were printed “upside down” in contrast to the rest of the book.  The first of these flip books carried a story that looked back at the origin of Ben Reilly up through Amazing Spider-Man #149.  The second contained excerpts from a then upcoming prose novel, which we’ll ignore for our purposes.

I guess Marvel got tired of flip books, because the next back up storyline that ran through all the Spider-books would simply follow the pages of the main story.  This storyline would chronicle Ben Reilly’s journey shortly after his supposed death in Amazing Spider-Man #149.

I bring this up here, because those Ben Reilly back up stories would all be reprinted in Lost Years #0.  And since I would split them out and put them all together anyway, and they don’t need to be read at any specific time, I’m just going to let that issue do all the work.  Of course, you can still read them inline with the issues they appear in if you like.

With that, here’s the update:

Well…just one more thing…Spider-Man Unlimited #7 contains a story that according to an editor’s note takes place prior to Amazing Spider-Man #388.  That places it before the end of the “Lifetheft” storyline.  The story is pretty context free, so I’ve moved it up a bit before that prior to “Lifetheft” Part One.  If you read it in this order, try not to look at the cover, as it is a spoiler.  🙂

  1. Spider-Man Unlimited 007 [Story 3]

And finally, the update:

Geez…this is getting embarrassing.  Before we go on, we need to talk about Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil.  It’s a well written (by Kurt Busiek) and nicely painted (by Mark Texeira) one shot, dealing with another of Harry “Green Goblin” Osborn’s plots from beyond the grave.  It was released during the midst of the Clone Saga, but makes no mention of Ben or Kaine or even Mary Jane or Aunt May for that matter.  There’s only one definitive chronological note, Harry is dead.  Given the events of the story, I think we can also place it after Peter and MJ have moved to their new apartment.

Other chronologies try to keep it close to release date, but I found it just feels completely out of place.  But the kicker for me is, and maybe this is just they way it is written, the story seems to treat Demogoblin like he is still alive…but he died back in Spider-Man #48.  So I am going to move this up prior to that.  Again, it’s a minor thing and the story is mostly context free, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about it as long as it is after Harry’s death in Spectacular Spider-Man #200.

  1. Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil – Seems to be before death of Demogoblin (Spider-Man 48). Assume it is after Peter and MJ have moved and after Harry’s death.

And…now…the update?

  1. Web of Spider-Man 117 [Story 1] – Story 1 – Power and Responsibility Part 1.  Immediately after Spectacular Spider-Man 216. Direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 390.  1st Judas Traveller.  Aunt Anna shows up…for what seems like the first time.  And MJ is still around.
  2. Amazing Spider-Man 394 [Story 1] – Story 1  – Power and Responsibility Part 2.    Direct reference to and seems to overlap the ending of Web of Spider-Man 117 and then continue from there.  MJ gets on a plane to Pittsburgh.  Seen off by Aunt Anna.  1st Scrier.
  3. Spider-Man 051 [Story 1] – Story 1  – Power and Responsibility Part 3. First mention of the name Ben Reilly.  Direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 117.  Very shortly after Amazing Spider-Man 394.
  4. Spectacular Spider-Man 217 [Story 1] – Power and Responsibility Part 4. Immediately after Spider-Man 51. MJ is on a plane to Pittsburgh. She wonders if Peter got her note.
  5. Web of Spider-Man 118 – The Exile Returns Part 1. First Scarlet Spider suit. Direct reference to Power and Responsibility.
  6. Spider-Man Unlimited 007 [Story 1] – Story 1 – editor’s note that this story takes place between Web of Spider-Man 118 and Spider-Man 52.
  7. Spider-Man 052 – The Exile Returns Part 2. Venom sets off Ben’s Spider-sense?  First use of name Scarlet Spider.
  8. Web of Spider-Man 119 – The Exile Returns Part 3. Shortly after and direct reference to Spider-Man 52.  1st appearance of Kaine.
  9. Spider-Man 053 – The Exile Returns Part 4. Immediately after and direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 119.
  10. Amazing Spider-Man 395 – Back From The Edge Part 1. Direct reference to Power and Responsibility. MJ in Pittsburgh.  Direct reference to Spectacular Spider-Man 193, Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 13.
  11. Spectacular Spider-Man 218 – Back From The Edge Part 2. Immediately after and direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 395.  Has to be after Ben creates his Scarlet Spider outfit.  MJ in Pittsburgh.  Direct reference to Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 13.
  12. Spider-Man Unlimited 007 [Story 2] – Story 2 – editor’s note that this story takes place between Spectacular Spider-Man 218 and Amazing Spider-Man 396.
  13. Amazing Spider-Man 396 – Back From The Edge Part 3.   Could be a couple of days since Spectacular Spider-Man 218.  Spider-Man poisoned.
  14. Spectacular Spider-Man 219 – Back From The Edge Part 4.  Immediately after and direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 396.
  15. Web of Spider-Man 120 – Web of Life Part 1.  Direct reference to Spectacular Spider-Man 204-206.  Direct reference to Pursuit.  Direct reference to Web of Death with panel of Spider-Man on a rooftop unconscious.  MJ boarding a plane back to NY.  Story 2 is an excerpt from an upcoming novel.
  16. Spider-Man 054 – Web of Life Part 2. Direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 120 as “last night”. Direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 119.  MJ is back in NY and at the doctor’s office.  Another Spider-Man unconscious on a rooftop panel.  Story 2 is an excerpt from an upcoming novel.
  17. Web of Spider-Man 121 – Web of Life Part 3.   Continues from and direct reference to Spider-Man 54, but not immediately.
  18. Spider-Man 055 – Web of Life Part 4.  Immediately after and direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 121.  Death of Grim Hunter.
  19. Amazing Spider-Man 397 – Web of Death Part 1.  Mary Jane arrives home in NY.  Direct reference to Spectacular Spider-Man 219.  Ock unmasks Spider-Man.  Peter starts having “memories” to suggest he may be the clone. Story 2 is an excerpt from an upcoming novel.
  20. Spectacular Spider-Man 220 – Web of Death Part 2.  Continues from Amazing Spider-Man 397.  Not immediately, but nothing in between, hours later.  Ock finds out May is in hospital.  He doesn’t seem overly concerned with having found out Spider-Man is Peter Parker.  Otto cures Spider-Man …or not… “Dark and moody Spider is finally gone.”  MJ’s pregnant.
  21. Amazing Spider-Man 398 – Web of Death Part 3.  Immediately after and direct reference to Spectacular Spider-Man 220.
  22. Spectacular Spider-Man 221 – Web of Death Part 4. Immediately after Amazing Spider-Man 398.  Death of Doc Ock.
  23. Spider-Man Unlimited 008
  24. Spider-Man – Friends & Enemies 01 – Peter is visiting Aunt May at the hospital and Spidey seems friendly, so likely after Web of Death.  Otherwise this series is context free (and awful).
  25. Spider-Man – Friends & Enemies 02
  26. Spider-Man – Friends & Enemies 03
  27. Spider-Man – Friends & Enemies 04
  28. Spider-Man – Funeral For An Octopus 01 – Obviously has to be after Spectacular Spider-Man 221, an editor’s note even says so!  Direct references to Amazing Spider-Man 396-397, Spectacular Spider-Man 220-221, Lethal Foes of Spider-Man.  Peter is not aware of Scarlet Spider yet.
  29. Spider-Man – Funeral For An Octopus 02 – Immediately after last issue and prior to Web of Spider-Man 123 according to an editor’s note.  Direct reference to Spider-Man 53.
  30. Spider-Man – Funeral For An Octopus 03 – Immediately after last issue.  Before Spider-Man has met Kaine. “Continued” in Spider-Man Unlimited 9.
  31. Spider-Man – Power of Terror 01 – Definitely after MJ reveals she’s pregnant. Peter thinks Ben was caught in a limo explosion in Spectacular Spider-Man 217. Editor’s note that the story takes place before Amazing Spider-Man 399.
  32. Spider-Man – Power of Terror 02 – First Scorpia.  Peter mentions being afraid of Ben Reilly taking over his life should he get killed…but in issue one he believed Reilly dead.
  33. Spider-Man – Power of Terror 03 – Immediately after Spider-Man: The Power of Terror 2.
  34. Spider-Man – Power of Terror 04 – Immediately after Spider-Man: The Power of Terror 3.
  35. Web of Spider-Man 122 – Smoke and Mirrors Part 1. After Peter is cured.  Direct reference to Spectacular Spider-Man 220.
  36. Amazing Spider-Man 399 – Smoke and Mirrors Part 2. Immediately after and direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 122.  Direct references to Spectacular Spider-Man 217, Spider-Man Unlimited 8. Jackal returns. Jackal claims Ben and Peter are clones and he has the real Peter on ice. And the real Gwen Stacy apparently.
  37. Spider-Man 056 – Smoke and Mirrors Part 3. Immediately after and direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 399. Direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 122.  And now Jackal tells Ben he’s the real Peter.
  38. Spider-Man – The Clone Journal – Essentially a reprint book with some new text and a framing sequence covering Ben Reilly’s return through Smoke and Mirrors.
  39. Spectacular Spider-Man 222 – Players and Pawns Part 1.  Direct reference to and a couple of hours after Spider-Man 56.  Hey look, another Parker clone.  Direct reference to Power and Responsibility.  Kaine and Peter meet for the first time.
  40. Web of Spider-Man 123 – Players and Pawns Part 2. Immediately after and direct reference to Spectacular Spider-Man 222. Direct reference to Spider-Man 56.  May wakes from her coma.
  41. Amazing Spider-Man 400 [Story 1] – Story 1 – after May wakes from coma in Web of Spider-Man 123.  May reveals she knows Peter is Spider-Man . Death of Aunt May. Peter arrested for murder. Ben and MJ meet for the first time.
  42. Spider-Man 057 [Story 1] – Story 1 – Aftershocks Part 1.  Immediately after and direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 400 (story 1).  Direct reference to Power and Responsibility.
  43. Spectacular Spider-Man 223 [Story 1] – Story 1 – Aftershocks Part 2.  Direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 393.
  44. Amazing Spider-Man 400 [Story 3] – Story 3 – flashback story of the morning after Uncle Ben’s murder. Not placing it there chronologically as the narration spoils the Aunt May knew he was Spidey reveal.
  45. Web of Spider-Man 124 – The Mark of Kaine Part One.  Direct reference to Spider-Man 57.  MJ first meets Kaine and our mystery clone.
  46. Amazing Spider-Man 401 – The Mark of Kaine Part Two.  Immediately after and direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 124.
  47. Spider-Man 058 – The Mark of Kaine Part Three.  Immediately after Amazing Spider-Man 401.  Why is Peter only wearing “remnants” of his black suit…the rest of the suit appears clearly in the background.  And where is his Spider-Man suit?  Is it the suit that the 3rd Peter is now wearing?
  48. Spectacular Spider-Man 224 – The Mark of Kaine Part Four. Immediately after Spider-Man 58.  Other clone is evil, surprise!  Ben switches places with Peter in jail.
  49. Spider-Man Unlimited 009 – The Mark of Kaine Part Five. Immediately after Spectacular Spider-Man 224 as Peter is on his way home with the remnants of the black suit webbed to his back. Direct reference to Funeral For An Octopus. Direct reference to the first 4 parts of the story, notably Spectacular Spider-Man 224. Why does Peter need to masquerade as the Scarlet Spider?  Because he has no Spider-Man suits left? Direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 401, Spider-Man 40.
  50. Web of Spider-Man 125 – Story 1 – direct reference to Spectacular Spider-Man 224, Amazing Spider-Man 400, Spider-Man Unlimited 9, Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 8. 1st Phil Urich Green Goblin. Story 2 – Gwen and Miles clones backstory.
  51. Amazing Spider-Man 402 – Crossfire Part 1.  Direct reference to Back From The Edge, Power and Responsibility.  Peter has the chance to bring May back from the dead and turns it down.  Interesting parallel, but it seems he doesn’t believe it to be real anyway.
  52. Spider-Man 059 – Crossfire Part 2.  Immediately after and direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 402.
  53. Spectacular Spider-Man 225 – Story 1 – direct reference to and has to be after Web of Spider-Man 125. Peter back to being Spider-Man. Another Parker shows up. Story 2 – Ben Urich investing Peter’s background.

Even when these books are “tightly” edited, it can often be tough to place them correctly.  When we have one shots like Spider-Man 2099 meets Spider-Man, it can be next to impossible.  Marvel does try to help us out by letting us know that it takes place before Spectacular 226 (i.e. before Peter is revealed to the a clone), but outside of that, it’s a lot of guesswork and investigation and a lot of “WTF?”‘s.

For example, Peter makes a reference to Doc Ock, which clearly sounds like Octavius is still alive, which would put this prior to Spectacular Spider-Man 221.  As well, Venom appears here in New York meaning it likely has to take place after Web of Spider-Man 118.  So if behaving nicely, the one shot should fit in between those issues somewhere.  Complicating matters though is that during that time MJ spent a lot of it in Pittsburgh and Peter spends most of it dying after being poisoned by the Vulture.  Long story short, it never really works there.  However, if you ignore the off hand, Doc Ock comment, it can fit in this current placement.  Not particularly nicely, but it works.

  1. Spider-Man 2099 meets Spider-Man – Editor’s note that this takes place prior to Spectacular Spider-Man 226. Has to be before Doc Ock dies (Spectacular Spider-Man 221). Also has to be during a time when MJ is in New York and her and Peter are at their new apartment. Illusions to the Clone Saga, so probably after Ben has appeared. Maybe after seeds of doubt of him being the real Peter. Venom in New York…will that ever make sense?  He returned (for good?) in Web of Spider-Man 118.  If ignoring the Doc Ock comment, at least has to be after Peter returns to being Spider-Man in Spectacular Spider-Man 225…which means it can stay here…which I still don’t like as Peter contemplates staying in 2099 but worries about MJ…but not the baby.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  2. Web of Spider-Man 126 – Trial of Peter Parker Part 1.  Direct reference to Amazing Spider-Man 402.
  3. Amazing Spider-Man 403 – Trial of Peter Parker Part 2.  Direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 126, Spider-Man 59, Power and Responsibility.
  4. Spider-Man 060 – Trial of Peter Parker Part 3. Immediately after Amazing Spider-Man 403. Kaine revealed as the first clone of Peter.
  5. Spectacular Spider-Man 226 – Trial of Peter Parker Part 4. Immediately after and direct reference to Spider-Man 60. Direct reference to Web of Spider-Man 124. Ben revealed as the real Peter and Peter the clone. 1st Spidercide costume. Direct reference to story continuing in New Warriors 61.
  6. Spider-Man – The Lost Years 00 – Reprints of The Double and Parker Legacy back up stories.
  7. Spider-Man – The Lost Years 01 – Should be after Trial of Peter Parker to not ruin those plot twists.
  8. Spider-Man – The Lost Years 02 – Immediately after issue 1.
  9. Spider-Man – The Lost Years 03 – Immediately after issue 2.
  10. Spider-Man – The Jackal Files – Editor’s note that this takes place between Spectacular Spider-Man 226 and New Warriors 61. For the most part though, these are literal character files.  1st Spidercide.

Well, for around sixty issues, this update still ended up being a lot of work.  But the turnaround time is still good.  Let’s see what happens to Ben and Peter next…

As usual, you can find the entire chronology to date on the main menu under Special Features->Jimmy Impossible’s Tasks.