Of Spider-Clones and Supermen: Why "Superman: Rebirth" Is the New "Clone Saga"

Ever since hearing that DC Comics was going to kill off the "New 52" Superman and replace him with the recently-returned "Pre-Crisis" version who disappeared nearly 5 years ago, something's been scratching at the back of my head. And now that we're three full issues into the Pre-Crisis Superman taking over for NuSupes, I can finally put my finger on the feeling. It's one I last had about two decades ago.

For anyone having read Spider-Man comics between 1994 and 1996, you're of course familiar with the much-maligned "Clone Saga." For those not in the know, there was a time shortly after DC's "Death of Superman" storyline where editors pushed their talent to manufacture similar, event-based storylines to drive then-record sales figures ever higher. No idea was too silly when Marvel went looking for their own Spidey-centric tale. (Such events have only gotten more grandiose, but I digress.)

So writer Terry Kavanagh dusted off The Amazing Spider-Man #150, coda to a storyline wherein the villainous Jackal cloned both Spidey himself and his alter ego's late girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Spidey threw away a report on whether he was really the clone because of, essentially, a gut instinct. The question became, "What if the Spider-Man fans had been reading since 1975 was really the Spider-Clone?" Writers like John Marc DeMatteis (one of my idols) became inspired, and suddenly the dead clone nobody thought twice about returned to life--and a co-starring role in all of Marvel's Spider-Man series for the better part of two years. He became Ben Reilly (so named after Peter Parker's uncle Ben, with his last name the same as Aunt May's maiden name Reilly) and Spider-Man's life would never be the same again!

I read the Clone Saga when it originally came out. One of my friends in the fledgling days of Internet fandom--the inimitable DRILLN0T--helped me write "The Spider-Man/Jackal Dossier," an ungodly tome that consolidated and promulgated fan theories and unresolved facets of the storyline. So yes, I'm kind of well-versed in the storyline and count it as one of the high points of my collecting.

What's that all have to do with Superman: Rebirth? It's funny you should ask...