In true Marvel edition, after #1 comes #0.5 Issue #0 may arrive after #6 or #9. After that, a second #1 may launch and publication will go to bimonthly of each title instead of monthly of one title.
There will be annuals.
[#0.5 covers Amazing Spider-man #123-132]
I started reading the clone saga issues, and, surprise surprise, almost everything happened in earlier issues. The Jackal first appeared almost ten issues before the trade paperback of “The Original Clone Saga” begins reprinting Spider-man. And this is one reader who’s going for completeness when it comes to the clone saga. I would go long with the clones. I was going to start with the introduction of The Jackal.
As you can tell from these character’s designs, Marvel just got more and more creative after Steve Ditko left the Spider titles.
… sigh… They basically just took off The Green Goblin’s clothing and glider and, voila, new villain!
The motivations are a bit different, though: The Jackal wants nothing less than control of New York’s entire criminal underworld. And he has an unhealthy obsession with Spider-man.
I guess I was kinda wrong when I said they had different motivations. But, and this is a comment I make with no sarcasm, their methods differ strikingly, and that’s where the magic lies. Instead of violently and gleefully killing the underworld and announcing himself king like The Green Goblin tried to do, The Jackal uses The Punisher to eliminate his enemies for him.
It’s kind of a brilliant plot. He appeals to The Punisher’s moral sense and complete disregard of appearances by giving him the names of people he wants dead, acting like the world needs to be rid of such evil men [so that he can take their job], and killing Frank Castle before he sees The Jackal become a criminal he’d want to kill.
And this is The Punisher’s first appearance, by the way. Little more than a throwaway henchmen, his complete silence and loyalty to his own code of ethics would develop and define a new wave of super-hero: one who sought fulfillment in the punishing of criminals instead of doing good in the world. More appearances later, we would come to this character, but for now The Jackal remains the more interesting debut: he wants to become Kingpin, and it seems pretty possible that he can.
But, as I mentioned, I was trying to get back to the beginning, and there was more to be learned. These comics pointed to The Spider-mobile, and another brilliant corner of Spider-history was uncovered as a part of The Clone Saga: The Spider-mobile. A shameless attempt at exploiting The Spider-man brand in the Marvel Universe, to readers it is clearly a tongue in cheek parody of sponsorship from its first appearance.
But the money’s good, and Peter needs the money. Just as a corporation was obsessed with putting Spider-man’s image on cars, The Jackal was getting obsessed with cloning Spider-man’s DNA. Thankfully, Conway played well with a super-hero universe, and the Spider-Mobile was even more: the corporation wanted to produce a low fuel car that helped save the world, and thought that Spider-man could help refresh his image through this. They even left the science to him and the Fantastic Four, and Johnny Torch and Spider-man bonded through building the ridiculous car together, laughing at the money they were gonna get.
It’s a really charming story of friendship. And, yet, it’s still not where The Clone Saga begins.
No, for we saw Harry Osborn prancing through these pages, and an eager editor told us to refer to even earlier issues. As much as Peter began to see a deep friendship in Johnny Storm, he was also able to more clearly see his roommate and former friend, Harry Osborn, collapse. A drug junkie [in a comic that Marvel published without The Comic’s Code Approval because any depiction of narcotics was banned], he saw his own dad die and he also saw his dad in the costume of the Green Goblin. Unsure of what to do, he took off the goblin costume and kept it, looking at it until he wanted to become it himself.
While on heroine. [most likely: Marvel doesn’t show that part because they could only get grocery stores to carry a single non-code comic. The absence of Harry and his always locked apartment bedroom door speak volumes, however].
And, eventually, he takes the same drug his dad did, and will become The Green Goblin while estranging his current girlfriend, Mary Jane. She won’t be able to put up with an isolated junkie and will break up with him.
Some have called these comics silly, and, yes, they are. Everyone seems to know everyone else. The Jackal ends up being a professor of Peter and Mary Jane [in another move of convenience that would make Ditko shudder] and JJJ’s son just happens to pick up a radiated rock on the moon that turns him into a werewolf every month that remains grafted to his skin to the horror his father,
and Mary Jane just happens to notice The Vulture murder someone and becomes a victim of his villainy. While these might appear silly on the surface, we have a story of a son doing something his father vehemently disapproves of after he wandered far from home, and we have Mary Jane having to choose between a silence that would let a murderer continue to murder and the risk and danger of being the target of a violent man. It’s a chilling story how our silence on evil perpetuates the crime as much as the criminal’s actions can.
More than silly, and more than metaphorically, these comics follow the pulse of its aging readership. Peter goes from being a bookish worm afraid to talk to girls in Steve Ditko’s run to a reasonably confident man asking the secretary at his workplace out to a date by the end of Spider-man’s creator’s run. In these comics, he sits on Betty Brant’s desk while wearing a leather jacket and makes fun of their boss while he’s on his way to see his roommate’s girlfriend and dropping a kiss on the cheek of his former girlfriend and someone else’s fiance. In one sense, it’s wish fulfillment of a geek denied the pretty girls being given the keys to the city.
In another sense, it’s the story of what confidence can do to a man’s love life. And the story, while dealing with overwrought metaphors of exploding pumpkins, goblin costumes and air gliders, recall the rifts that start in relationships and how nature overtakes the damage of an environment. Harry refuses to pay Peter’s rent, he remains grateful he has The Spider-Mobile’s money. The Jackal sits in the background, gathering his time, and Gerry Conway continues to introduce the silliest plot points around his epic. Life rubs us with its absurdities, and we look to our community to rub us right back. We see what loss can do to a man, turn him crazy like Harry into a fetishistic obsession with his father’s costume, or we see Peter depressingly turn down affection and insult his boss while avoiding love all the way.
It’s hard not to get caught up on these comics. The silly villains of Gerry Conway are the deranged psychological case studies of J.M. DeMatteiss when he takes over the book more than a decade later, and I can’t wait to see how all of these different personalities play around with the same character and prod each other into the largest continuous super-hero epic of our time: Spider-man’s life. How all of these elements emerge from small moments in sub-plots to the focus of multi-issue epic series.
And, of course, these are all available for rent at Gotham Newsstand.
coming up next: more.
Clone Saga Biblography [as of now]
Amazing Spider-man #121-138, Original Clone Saga TP, Amz #365-393, Spectacular Spider-man #178-196, 200, 215-216, Complete Clone Saga vol. 1-5, Complete Ben Reilly vol. 1-6, New Warriors #62-71, Spider-man/Badrock #1-2