I remember a debate in my old social studies class, in 7th grade that asked about the implications of human cloning. This was in the last throes of the 20th century, when things like Dolly the sheep had opened potential floodgates in the cloning field. Could we clone a human? Should we clone a human? Well, little did my nascent geek self realize, comics held a path torwards looking for answers. Could we? Probably. Should we? Well, as long as the writers at Marvel aren’t handling the project.
Spider-man is currently dealing with cleanup from yet another clone storyline. Think about that, for a moment. Not a decade has gone by in my short and rather pitiful life where Spidey has not had some clone-related mishap going on. He’s been replaced by a clone of himself, leading to a story which was basically “Who is the real Spider-Man?” That clone has now started cloning other dead people, thus ensuring death has no meaning in comics. I mean, for fuck sake, Spidey’s got two clones that were popular enough to headline their own comics. He’s had clones cheat death. Let that sink in. Clones (which are often used as a death retcon) have had retconned deaths. This is some Ouroboros tail-eating level bullshit going on over in the Spidey Offices at Marvel. An endless cycle of clone stories that never end, no matter how loud the audience groans.
Good ol’ Spidey’s not the only one with clone problems, either. Wolverine’s got a clone. His has the extra twist of being gender-bent, as well. In fact, when Logan kicked the Adamantium bucket, the female clone took up the mantle of Wolverine. Mister Sinister has cloned himself enough times to actually count as a population unto himself, then he started cloning all his associates as well. You escape death by a clone, then the clone escapes death, and then the original returns, cheating death a 3rd time. Silly, isn’t it?
It’s not like Marvel is alone in this either.
Superman’s got a clone, too. Superboy was cloned off Kal-El’s DNA (sometimes mixed with that of Lex Luthor, depending on your continuity of choice), and spun off into his own character and a couple volumes of a solo series. Superboy even got to escape death.
Not every clone is a low point, and not every clone saga is The Clone Saga. Red Skull currently exists as a clone of the original, one that has taken the darkness and depravity of the Skull and sunk it to new and amazing depths. Bizarro remains a well-known part of the Superman mythos, walking a strange line between hero and villain that can only be understood by Bizarro himself. The thing that makes these clones worthwhile is how they are handled. They are not merely another “escape death” cheat, they are used to make a new character or add a depth to an older one.
There’s another idea we need to address, and we need to do it bluntly, and with vigor. How the fuck do clones in comics come around with the memories of the original? Looking at you, Spidey. How did the Scarlet Spider wind up with Peter Parker’s memories. I’m not too good on science, but last I remember, genetic memory doesn’t include intimate life details. And Marvel shouldn’t be taking cues from god damn Assassins Creed. If anything, a clone should be a blank mental slate with just instinct. But no, we’re on our 45th Gwen Stacy clone, and somehow every clone remembers her life perfectly. This makes no damn sense, even in a world with such pseudo-scientific bullshit as mutants, the Iron Man armor, and unstable molecules.
What we’re seeing here is pseudo-science used as a handwave to justify any stupid amount of retcons, or to create another Spider-Man event that I would rather gouge my own eyes out than actually read. I really wanted to do this article without swearing, to tackle a problem in comics with as much level-headedness as I could muster, but you know what?
Clones are fucking retarded. They solve none of the problems their publications have, and oftentimes, they just add in more. So why are we bothering with this convoluted bullshit? Why do we say it’s okay to take an idea so controversial in real-life scientific circles, and just double-down on it, while avoiding the ethical concerns and implications involved? Why do we sanitize a major issue, just for the sake of issue sales? I’d love to see a comic just say “we can do it, but what would be the implications?” I mean, if you listen to Spider-Man, the implications of cloning are that you may actually forget which one of you is the real one, and which is the clone. Seriously, I don’t think I’d ever look at a clone of myself and go “Am I the real one?” No, that other dude that looks just like me is the clone, no question.
Clones are just shit, okay?