What If... Spider-Man's Clone Had Lived?

Doesn't seem like a What If story anymore, does it? To be fair, Bill Flanagan's story here is better than the "Clone Saga" of the 90s (despite the wonky resolution). He uses the three-years younger clone to reflect on the past events of Spider-Man's life, on how things have changed, some for the better and some for the worst. It's a love letter to the character's evolution, or how Stan Lee might have reacted to his character's growth three years on.

What If Vol.1 #30 (December 1981)
Based on: Amazing Spider-Man #148-149
The true history: Three years ago, Dr. Warren took DNA samples from Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Today, he's cloned them, memories and all. This creates a second Spider-Man who initially fights the first, but when they get a chance to talk, they combine forces to stop Warren and save Ned Leeds. There's an explosion in which Warren seems to perish. The Spider-clone dies from it as well, though the Gwen Stacy clone runs off to find a new life.
Turning point: What if Spider-Man's clone couldn't trust his other self not to be a clone?
Story type: Happily ever after
Watcher's mood: Kirbyesque
Altered history: In this timeline, when Spidey extends a hand in friendship at his clone, the clone panics. He knocks him out and then saves Ned and Gwen2. He thinks he's the real Spider-Man, even though the last thing he remembers is Warren taking a DNA sample from him. Not knowing what to do with his "clone", he brings the real Parker to Warren's hideout and puts him in suspended animation there. In deep denial, he doesn't see Parker's age as further evidence of his own clone-ness.
He then tries to rejoin his life already in progress, but he's lost (he blames amnesia). Aunt May has moved out of the house, he's living with that creep Harry Osborn, he's friends with Flash Thompson, he's had one gorgeous girlfriend after another, but not Betty who's married to that creep Ned Leeds... And why are the cops after him? Who are all these new villains coming out of the woodwork? And will he have to drop out of college, what with his lowly high school education? He investigates Warren a bit more and finally comes to the conclusion that HE'S the clone. Well, it's all a bit overwhelming.
And still, it doesn't quite occur to him to free the real Parker from suspended animation. Maybe the clone is hardwired for this kind of survival? He's even ready to pull the plug on ol'Parker and take over his life permanently, but nah, he can't do it. He frees Parker and together they go and fight the Kingpin at Coney Island (Kingpin did appear in Amazing #150, though under different circumstances). This isn't the Kingpin we've gotten used to.
But with the clone acting as poor defenseless "Peter Parker", and yet pulling some tricks on the Kingpin's goons, the baddies all go to jail. The Spider-Men then formalize this mutually beneficial arrangement. Pete will take Mondays and Wednesdays, his kid brother Pete2 will take Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they'll alternate weekends.
And so ends Peter Parker's losing streak (presumably) as he finally juggles his superhero life with his studies, jobs and love life. How they'll explain this to Aunt May is anybody's guess. I say accuse her of going senile. "Can't you remember Lil' Pete, Aunt May?" That or call Mephisto up on the satan-o-phone.
Books canceled as a result: None. I predict Spectacular Spider-Man would have been started to accommodate the clone's adventures, each Spidey to his own series. And then they would have gotten rid of the clone is some bloody way.
These things happen: We learned the hard way how they do. Not only did it turn out that the Spider-clone HAD survived, but they even did the shtick where he believed he was the actual Spider-Man (and they would have had us believe it too!). Both Spiders operated simultaneously, one as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and the other as Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider for a time, and when "Ben" took on the mantle of the Amazing Spider-Man, it did allow Peter to have a personal life (with Mary Jane, et. al. - I know, I know, you're asking "Who?!" - oh you kids who grew up post devil's contract!). Despite the sheer unpopularity of that story, writers keep trying to bring it back (see Spider-Man: The Clone Saga, or rather, don't).

Next week: What If Wolverine Had Killed the Hulk?
My guess: Americans would fear Canada more.

2 comments:

LiamKav said...

"(with Mary Jane, et. al. - I know, I know, you're asking "Who?!" - oh you kids who grew up post devil's contract!)"

Kids read comics nowadays? That's crazy talk!

Siskoid said...

Point, set, match.

 

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