By Jim Beard
The recent AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #36 re-opened old wounds surrounding one of the most trying times of Spider-Man's life and career: the Clone Saga. Now, the two men who spearheaded the infamous 1994-1996 storyline return to take a fresh new look at the epic in SPIDER-MAN: THE CLONE SAGA, with the first issue hitting stands September 30.
Both Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie earned their writing spurs at the House of Ideas crafting exciting stories that still resonate among fans today. DeFalco's best known for his work on DAZZLER, FANTASTIC FOUR, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and SPIDER-GIRL as well as a stint as Marvel's Editor-in-Chief, while Mackie established his writing cred on such titles as X-FACTOR, GHOST RIDER and yes, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
Teamed with Todd Nauck, the artist who inaugurated President Obama into the Marvel Universe, DeFalco and Mackie now steel themselves to the task of retelling the Clone story as "it was originally meant to be told."
Marvel.com: SPIDER-MAN: THE CLONE SAGA has been billed as the original story "as it was meant to be told!" How would you define this new six-part series? A retelling? A retcon?
SPIDER-MAN: THE CLONE SAGA preview art by Todd Nauck
Tom DeFalco: CLONE SAGA is a "newcon"-a new version of an old story that retcons out all the extraneous stuff. Or, if you just want to use a more familiar term, it can also be considered a con job: an opportunity for two former Spider-Man writers to prove that they can still sling some exciting webs.
Howard Mackie: I am loving the term "newcon." Tom, you might want to consider getting that sucker trademarked. In terms of this story, it is Tom and I attempting to boil down what came to be known as the Clone Saga to its most basic elements. The original two-plus years of stories got way out of hand. I know the end results bore little to no resemblance to the story that the writers pitched and [that] had been approved.
This is no retcon. This is Tom and I attempting to sift through our memories, and put in print a story that, through the fog of time, best represents what the writers wanted to tell. Trust me, we'll probably screw it up, and then someone will come along and do a new retcon job of this series.
Marvel.com: Ben Reilly's legacy is figuring into AMAZING SPIDER-MAN currently, but why revisit this particular storyline and why now?
Tom DeFalco: Why not? Those who don't learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
Howard Mackie: And Tom and I fully believe in repeating our mistakes as often as possible. Honestly, to the best of my knowledge, the Ben stuff in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and the timing of this series is pure happenstance.
Marvel.com: In your opinion, how is the original Clone storyline viewed now through the lens of time?
Tom DeFalco: The children of the original Clone Saga are the hardcore fans of today and most of them have some pretty fond memories of Ben Reilly. They really miss him and think he got a raw deal. Plenty of them would also like to see him get his own title-which could become a reality if this series sells well!
SPIDER-MAN: THE CLONE SAGA preview art by Todd Nauck
Howard Mackie: The fan reaction to this series has been pleasantly surprising. For a good long while it seemed that it was cool to bash the Clone Saga. It had become the whipping boy for everything bad in comic books. Those who trashed the Clone Saga were a very visible and vocal presence online, and they seemed to keep all others at bay. When this series was first announced we immediately began to hear from that silent majority.
As Tom says there are plenty of current readers who started out reading the Clone Saga, and they are the ones who are able to see past much of what was wrong-and there is plenty of blame to go around on the bad-and remember the good stuff. First, and foremost, they remember Ben, and have been calling to have him brought back. If nothing else, Tom and I aim to please those fans.
Marvel.com: What's your beginning point with SPIDER-MAN: THE CLONE SAGA?
Tom DeFalco: As usual, I began with page one and moved on from there.
Howard Mackie: Page One?!! That's how you do it? I am so glad to have finally learned the secret formula that the great Tom DeFalco has been utilizing all these years.
The origin of this project was a long time coming, and was born of multiple conversations I've had with Tom, [former Spider-Man writer] Terry Kavanagh, and editor Ralph Macchio. It always came down to how we remembered the original story, as pitched by the writers was much shorter than the two-plus years that the Clone Saga turned into. It was a simple
|SPIDER-MAN: THE CLONE SAGA preview art by Todd Nauck|
Sometime later, I jokingly said to Ralph, "You know Ben Reilly seems to a have pretty strong following online. Wouldn't it be cool if we brought him back, and told the Clone story the way we originally intended?" Ralph and I laughed at the absurdity of the notion. A few months later Ralph called me up and suggested I pitch the story idea as a series. We immediately thought to bring Tom onboard, and I begged Ralph to be the person to ask Tom to get involved. Tom's reaction was-
Tom DeFalco: Unprintable!
Marvel.com: Ben Reilly tried to be a hero; do you still see the character in the same light?
Tom DeFalco: There was no "tried" as far as I'm concerned. Ben succeeded in being a hero in the original Saga and that's not going to change in our [new] story.
Howard Mackie: Yeah, Ben is a hero through and through and remains so.
Marvel.com: "Twists and turns" have been promised for the series; what do you feel will be the main attraction for both old and new readers?
Howard Mackie: First, there will be two men wearing the Spider-Man costume. Then there will be Ben Reilly. Then there will be the Scarlet Spider. There will be action aplenty, and enough twists turns, curtain pulling and dramatic reveals to keep most readers on the edge of their seats. Did I mention Ben Reilly?
Marvel.com: At what point in the established history do you begin this series?
Tom DeFalco: The new Saga begins pretty much where the original did.
Howard Mackie: We really wanted to be pretty faithful to the some of the touchstones of the original series.
Marvel.com: Speaking of "old friends" who and what can readers expect to see in issue #1?
Tom DeFalco: The readers can expect to see what and whomever they want. Some of these expectations will be met. Others won't be. I doubt Doctor Doom or Megan Fox will make an appearance, but there's a good chance you'll catch a glimpse of Peter, Ben, Mary Jane, Aunt May, Kaine, the Jackal and...never mind! I don't want to spoil the surprises.
Howard Mackie: What? No Megan Fox? Where the heck are Ralph and Joe Q? I was promised Megan Fox, and I get Tom DeFalco? What is wrong with this picture?
I would guess the readers can expect to see Ben Reilly! And maybe a villain who hasn't appeared in the Spider-Man books in sometime.
Marvel.com: Any brand-new characters?
Howard Mackie: Yeah, this is [a] streamlined story. We are distilling two and half years into six issues. Do not expect to see all the elements, or the characters, that appeared in the original storyline. I can guarantee there will be no VR Spider in this series! I don't care how much the readers demand it.
Marvel.com: You're teamed with artist Todd Nauck on the series; what strengths does he bring to this series as you see them?
Tom DeFalco: Todd is an amazing artist who can draw the quiet scenes as well as the action scenes. He also gives you a concrete sense of place and he really thinks about his visual choreography.
Howard Mackie: This is the first time I have had the pleasure to work with Todd, and it really has been exactly that: a pleasure. Todd's work on this series seems to grow with leaps and bounds from page to page-actually, from panel to panel. His storytelling ability, and the way he illustrates a fight scene are not to be missed.
Not a subscriber to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited yet? Join now!
Download SPIDER-WOMAN Motion Comics now on iTunes!