Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Script: Gerry Conway | Pencils: Mark Bagley | Inks: Keith Williams
Lettering: Rick Parker | Color: Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: As Spider-Man sits on a rooftop reflecting, he spots a woman being chased by men in a hovercraft. The web-slinger intervenes and saves the woman, who he recognizes as his long-dead girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Gwen's assailants teleport away, and Gwen disappears in the chaos of their passing. The men report back to the High Evolutionary, who is displeased with their failure to capture Gwen.

Peter Parker meets his wife, Mary Jane, at their apartment, and tells her Gwen's clone is back. Meanwhile, the High Evolutionary enters a mammoth spacecraft belonging to the mysterious Celestials and observes a group of "Young Gods". When they notice him, the Evolutionary tells the Gods they are not worthy of his attention and departs. However the Gods scan his mind and learn his plans for humanity, and half of them leave for Earth.

Gwen arrives at Peter's and Mary Jane's apartment but runs when she sees Peter in Spider-Man's costume. Spider-Man follows and when Gwen is grabbed by the same men from earlier, he grabs hold as they teleport back to the High Evolutionary's base. There, The Evolutionary begins to study Gwen while his men fight Spider-Man. The Young Gods arrive to aid the web-slinger, but the other half of their number soon follows, opposing their friends' meddling in human affairs, and a God-on-God fight breaks out.

The battle eventually comes to a close and the Young Gods depart. A moment later, the High Evolutionary explains to Spider-Man that "Gwen" was never a clone, but a genetically modified woman. He then teleports the wall-crawler and "Gwen" back to New York. A Young God named Daydreamer appears and restores "Gwen" to her original self, then departs. Spider-Man returns home and embraces his wife.

Continuity Notes: The High Evolutionary's men previously attacked "Gwen" in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN issues 142 and 143 -- one of the few (if not the only) points of intersection between the "Evolutionary War" Annual event and the regular ongoing titles of the time. During the same scene, Spider-Man compares the men to the "gang" he and Daredevil fought in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL 22. That issue is said to have occurred "a few days ago", which means Peter's promotional trip to Miami in the WEB OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL must have been a quick whirlwind affair.

The High Evolutionary is now living in a submarine following the destruction of his Savage Land base. He has a new follower, Professor Quint, carrying out his orders, "...replacing the departed Dr. Stack." I don't recall Stack departing. Last we saw, he was still working for the Evolutionary in the Savage Land. Is it possible he perished when the citadel self-destructed?

There are no footnotes about the origins of the Young Gods, save one pointing to the Annual's "fact pages" for more details. But since these pages aren't reprinted in the Omnibus, I've done a little Googling and learned that the characters were created by Gerry Conway and John Buscema in 1972's THOR #203.

Peter pretty quickly realizes the Gwen he met is the clone created by his college chemistry professor, Miles Warren, in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #148. But his memory isn't so sharp when he claims he's known Mary Jane since high school. Like Gwen and Harry Osborn, Peter never met MJ until college, despite what nearly every version of Spider-Man's origin outside of the mainstream Marvel Universe would have you believe.

Gwen blames Spider-Man for the death of her father in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #90.

Circa 1988: Apparently this entire story was conceived by Gerry Conway because the theories behind cloning had changed drastically between his original clone stories in the seventies and 1988. Also, Mary Jane name drops Madonna, but given she's still popular even today, that doesn't seem particularly topical to the era.

Newlyweds Peter and Mary Jane are living in a new apartment, though the location is never specified.

The High Evolutionary's Plot: Here the Evolutionary states that "purifying the human race, preparing it for advancement to the next stage of evolution -- this is our sacred obligation". He's still working on that genetic bomb we learned about in the WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL, too.

But specific to this issue, the High Evolutionary wants to study the Young Gods, who are humans evolved by Earth's god pantheons in response to a challenge from the Celestials, and to capture Gwen's clone to learn how a college professor could somehow master the art of cloning.

My Thoughts: This issue comes along near the beginning of Gerry Conway's run writing SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in the late eighties. It's a run that carries some very fond memories for me, as I picked up both titles here and there off the spinner racks at the local 7-11 and Safeway.* SPECTACULAR and WEB were my preferred Spider-Man at the time, since the flagship, AMAZING, had ugly Todd McFarlane artwork, while the two sister series were illustrated in a much more traditional style by Sal Buscema and Alex Saviuk, respectively.

This issue is drawn by neither of those two, however, instead coming from the pencil of young Mark Bagley. Bagley also drew the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN annual we covered a few weeks ago, but I didn't touch much on his artwork there, maybe because it didn't really jump out at me. But this Bagley, perhaps due to the inks form Keith Williams, is much more appealing and reminds of the Mark Bagley who won me over as regular penciler of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN a few years later. His distinctive style is already in evidence, and you can see occasional flashes of the Bagley of today in his work, even way back then. And on top of all that, Bagley draws a heck of a John Romita-style Spider-Man!

Unfortunately I'm less a fan of Conway's story, mainly because it didn't have to exist. His entire justification, as I understand it and described above, was simply to "fix" his old story which featured a college professor creating a clone. What's the big deal about this? It's a comic book. Stuff like this happens all the time and no one bats an eye. But if Conway really felt the issue had to be addressed, since Spider-Man is traditionally more of a "street level" character, then utilizing the High Evolutionary and a group of Young Gods to set things right seems like it defeats the point of the ret-con!

But it would all be ret-ret-conned about seven years later during the "Cone Saga", when we would learn that Professor Warren was actually an apprentice of the Evolutionary who did in fact clone Gwen, and that this entire issue was a ruse of... some sort. I really need to re-read that Clone Saga someday.

* For those interested, it appears Marvel is about to reprint Conway's eighties run in full, under the banner of SPIDER-MAN: TOMBSTONE.


  1. It's funny, just the other day I went down a rabbit hole over at CSBG and ended up reading a post laying out all this "Gwen's clone is a clone!/She's not a clone!/She's a clone!" business, and I thought, "ah, yeah, the SPECTACULAR annual - *that's* the one besides the finale Matt hasn't covered yet!"

    (Incidentally, I also learned from that post that after the re-retcon that this was a clone after all, Clone Gwen was much later killed off in a Spider-Island tie-in by the heretofore unseen insane original Gwen clone (the Kaine version of Gwen clones), and my mind boggled at the fact that there had been a Gwen Stacy clone just hanging out in the MU all this time).

    Also in that post, when he mentioned the Young Gods, Brian Cronin specifically said not to bother looking up anything about the Young Gods. :)

    He's still working on that genetic bomb we learned about in the WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL, too.

    Well, at least they remembered to mention that, in the penultimate chapter of the story, but it's still a little sad/telling that the second-to-last chapter of the story doesn't sound like it's concerned at all with anything that happens in the last chapter...

    I really need to re-read that Clone Saga someday.

    Sounds like a future blog project. :)

    1. Yeah, that Gwen clone stuck around for a long time. She just sort of wanders off at the end of the original storyline in AMAZING 150, does the same here, and then does it again in the Clone Saga. It's like the writers didn't know what to do with her, but couldn't bring themselves to just outright kill her off.

      I have considered writing about the Clone Saga here. But the amazing "Life of Reilly" series from several years ago does it way better than I ever could, as the writer, Andrew Goletz, actually spoke with the creative talents of the time. So when I do get to it someday, it will likely be for my own entertainment. I could see myself doing little posts about bunches of issues, maybe -- but probably not issue-by-issue.

      I definitely will get to it, though. I've had Marvel's COMPLETE CLONE SAGA trades sitting in my bookcase for years now, just waiting...

    2. Oh, stop before giving me ideas.
      I'm one of those people who likes The Clone Saga.
      And I'm actually trying to find all the individual issues including the minis annuals and what if's.

    3. Then you may want to look into the COMPLETE CLONE SAGA and COMPLETE BEN REILLY SAGA trades, Snowkatt. Those contain everything from that era, in chronological reading order, from Ben's first meeting with Peter on the roof of the hospital up through his death in SPIDER-MAN #75 (including the bonus pages to that issue which were created specifically for the original REVELATIONS trade paperback). All the mini-series and one-shots are there too. It's an eleven book series comprising a complete archival collection of the entire Ben Reilly era.

  2. Conway has a long history of getting Peter's high school history wrong. He's far from the only writer to assume that MJ and/or Harry knew Peter then but he's also assumed that Liz Allen actually dated Peter then and she and MJ had a real rivalry, presumably to make her fit the complication of the ex returns in his original 1970s run.

    The whole revelation about the clones is one of the most pointless retcons (perhaps driven by developments in real world science?) as nothing was ever done with Gwen's clone until the Saga which undid this all. There was a follow-up in Spectacular #149 which created a new Carrion but that could have been easily done without all this mess.

    1. Sometimes I wonder how much original Spider-Man Conway actually read. It's possible he came on board during the John Romita era and never went back to read the Ditko stuff. Because you're right; he does get this stuff wrong often. I had forgotten about the Liz/MJ thing.

      I liked the SPECTACULAR issues with Carrion and the Hobgoblin working together. There's a lot to like in Conway's WEB/SPEC run from the eighties.

      Unfortunately, taking a better look at that link I posted to the upcoming trade release, it looks like they might only be collecting the SPECTACULAR half of the run, which will be absurd if true -- Conway wrote the issues like one biweekly title, with sub-plots moving in and out of both. But since pretty much all the Tombstone stuff occurred in SPEC, I could see why Marvel might approach it this way. I'd just really like his full run on both titles collected somehow.