j.m. dematties

The Parker Legacy

Complete Clone Saga Epic Volume 1: Spider-Man: The Lost Years #0: Amazing Spider-Man #400, No Adjective Spider-Man #57, Spectacular Spider-Man #223

Synopsis: Moments after realising he is a clone, the clone of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, wallows amidst the pouring rain grieving…himself. As he begins wandering the streets in his costume, vainly trying to convince himself he is not a clone, he senses a truck about to run him over. He wonders what difference it would make, before crushing the front of the truck with his strength, hauling out the driver and screaming the question “Why didn’t you kill me?” Realising the driver is not at fault he flees and hates himself for following Peter Parker’s beliefs about the sanctity of life, beliefs which are mere programming to him (but are preventing him from killing himself nonetheless). The next morning the clone awakens after a bad night sleeping in the streets. He decides that if the beliefs of Peter Parker prevent him from dying then he’ll have to find the courage to live and so he sneaks into Peter’s apartment. After briefly contemplating the idea or killing Peter and assuming his life the clone takes some of Peter’s old clothes and even steals some of his money before heading off.

Before boarding a bus, the clone visits Aunt May’s house for one last glimpse of her, a fact he derides himself for. On the bus he sits next to a man called Clifford Gross who bombards him about his shoe business and his family. The clone is annoyed by Clifford and rudely tells him to shut up. The clone fights an impulse to apologise to Clifford because he doesn’t want to follow his programming from Parker. The clone drifts into a dream where his enemies surround him and ask if he can really turn his back and allow them to get away with their crimes. In the dream the clone as Spider-Man says he can’t and fights the villains. However the Jackal interrupts and reveals to the villains that ‘Spider-Man’ isn’t worth their time because he’s not the real one, he isn’t even a real man, just a failed experiment. As the Jackal tears off the clone’s mask and then his face (leaving it blank and featureless) the clone falls down a hole, looking up at Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Awaking from the dream the clone realises the bus is skidding out of control on the wet road. Knowing that Spider-Man would have more than enough time to save everyone the clone remains paralysed on the spot unable to do anything, feeling he’d rather his nightmare end now.

However moments later he is conflicted with a desire to live, a desire he recognises as programming from Peter Parker, a person he’s trying desperately to separate himself from. Making a decision, the clone prepares to leap into action when the driver regains control of the bus and saves everyone, something the clone is thankful for. After leaving the bus, Clifford tells the clone (who is leaving the other passengers) that they’re all going to be put up for the night, prompting the clone to go with him. In a bar Clifford tells the clone he knew they had a lot in common, saying he can tell he’s hurting bad and that life turned on him. The clone tells him to butt out but asks what he’d know, given the business and family he was bragging about earlier. Clifford reveals his wife left him, his children hate him and his business has failed. He tells the clone that sometimes he wonders if anyone would care if he just disappeared, but says it’s probably stupid to think that. The clone however (who has had a few drinks) harshly tells Clifford that it isn’t stupid at all, that he is a useless and worthless nobody. As he begins smashing up the bar he yells at Clifford to just go ahead and disappear. The barman pulls a gun on the clone but the clone just laughs and uses his strength to force the barman to release the gun. As he begins crushing the barman’s wrist the clone realises what he’s doing and stops, leaving the bar and Clifford. Outside the clone vomits, wondering why he had to be cloned from a guy who doesn’t drink and feels guilty for hurting people. He tries to forget his life as Peter, Uncle Ben, Aunt May, the values they taught him and the ‘Parker Legacy’ but to no avail. Re-entering the building he goes to pack up his things so he can leave before the police arrive but his spider-sense blares prompting him to kick down a door, hoping it is a super villain he could vent his rage on. However behind the door he instead finds Clifford sitting on his bed with a gun almost in his mouth. The clone knocks the gun out of his hands and also knocks Clifford to the floor. Clifford asks why he stopped him since he was the one who told him he was worthless in the first place. The clone tells Clifford that he was wrong and that maybe losing everything was a blessing in disguise, a chance to start over and build something better; perhaps it isn’t the end of his life but the start. The next day Clifford tells the clone he covered everything back at the bar. Ben thanks him and asks if he’s sure he won’t rejoin him on the bus. Clifford though is determined to rebuild his business and win over his kids. He asks the clone what he will do getting the reply that going back is out of the question but going forward might hold possibilities. As the bus begins to drive away Clifford yells at the clone asking for his name. Leaning out the window the clone yells out ‘Ben Reilly’; Uncle Ben’s first name and Aunt May’s maiden name. Looking back years later, Ben Reilly reflects about how he fell further into the darkness before finding out who Ben Reilly was but that in all that time he never forgot what Ben and May had taught him and drew strength from them. It’s the Parker Legacy which he swore on that day to never surrender…and never has.

Loved the bit at the end where the narration switched from omniscient narrator to first person (even changing the font style of the captions) to reflect that the central character now had a name and identity. At the same time it serves a nice transition for the ‘sequel’ to the Parker Legacy, which is Spider-Man: the Lost Years #1-3 which heavily employs Ben’s first person point of view.

Picking up exactly where the Double left off, the Parker Legacy was a series of back-ups printed in various titles (one of which was ASM #400) but essentially forms the second half of The Lost Years #0. Really this is more a precursor to the Lost Years than the Double was, as DeMatteis is joined by Romita Junior who would draw the rest of the Lost Years. This story is absolutely brilliant and gives you a hint of what I’ve said many time before, that Ben’s strengths as a character come from how similar and different he is to Peter. We place him in this situation (a situation Peter would likely never be placed in due to editorial) and how he reacts informs us how Peter would react but at the same time we see him developing into his own person. In a way this story (and the Lost years generally) are to Ben Reilly what Batman Year One is to Batman.

Romita Jr’s art and the inks (by his father the great John Romita Senior) are a perfect match and it looks so beautiful, in a gritty sort of way. One of the things which I like most (and others seem to hate) is (as weird as this sounds) Ben’s hair. It’s a subtle difference but the stubble and longer hair in the art gives Ben Reilly a look distinctive from the standard, short cropped, clean shaven look we’re used to seeing on Peter Parker and also emphasises that Ben is a wilder, rougher, less wealthy person than Peter. It also really sells this lone, road wanderer aspect of Ben’s character. Romita Jr does what he always does well which is injecting so much emotion and sheer humanity into the people he is drawing and even does this with Spider-Man when he has the mask on, making you really understand how broken Ben is and how low he has come. It’s a tiny image but in Part 1 of this story when Ben as Spider-Man essentially sleeps in the streets it is almost funny in how absurd it is, but Romita’s art just makes you feel so sorry for Ben in that moment.

JMD’s writing is also MUCH better here than in the Double. It isn’t as overwritten and it isn’t as dark. I mean this is a dark story but it isn’t depressing, it’s just you getting into the heart and soul of this poor guy and slowly seeing him take the first steps towards carving out a new life for himself. And he stumbles and makes mistakes, he is rude, he does morally questionable things, things which you’d NEVER see the real Spider-Man do (like getting drunk and trashing a bar). Equally it entrenches Peter’s own prejudiced opinions on clones and showcases to us how to Peter and Ben a clone is unworthy of life (which is important set up for what eventually happens in the Clone Saga).

I loved the bit at the end where the narration switched from omniscient narrator to first person (even changing the font style of the captions) to reflect that the central character now had a name and identity. At the same time it serves a nice transition for the ‘sequel’ to the Parker Legacy, which is Spider-Man the Lost Years #1-3 which heavily employs Ben’s first person point of view.

Ultimately, like many JMD stories (Kraven’s Last Hunt and ASM #400 for instance), by virtue of being so dark and so sad, this story is weirdly life affirming, you feel like Ben and his new friend will get better and feel happy for them.

Screw it:

A

The 3Ds of Spider-Man : my favourite Spider-Man Writers EVER

Who knows these might change someday and I don’t claim to have read everything by these guys, but from what I HAVE read:

#3 Peter David: Weird as this might sound I think Peter David is the best writer of these three but I put him lower on the list just because the other two are personally preferable to my tastes. PAD as he is known has a good grasp of continuity, writes Spider-Man with an edge, as flawed and dare I say it, he even writes Peter Parker with the very human, very relatable trait of, well…a sex drive. I don’t mean his Peter Parker is a horny teenager but he notices members of the opposite sex more often than under other writers, his interactions with his love interests under PAD often do have sexual tension in addition to romantic tension. For proof of this check out the opening pages of Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #1 or look at his Spectacular run with Black Cat in the 1980s where Peter doesn’t think too clearly and it backfires on him spectacularly (no pun intended). The thing is it is all handled tastefully and maturely and makes sense given the Peter he was writing was an adult. I’m not saying PAD writes Spider-Man all about sex or that that is why I like him I just appreciate the realism he imbues it and that it isn’t so in your face that it isn’t that inappropriate for younger readers. He also has a brilliant sense of humour as evidenced by his classic Commuter story in Amazing Spider-Man #267 where he writes funny situations as well as a funny Spider-Man. More than this though he is arguably the best writer to balance out Spider-Man and give him a well rounded personality. I’ve already mentioned the sense of humour and the sex drive (I never thought I’d say that in relation to Spider-Man but there you go) but he writes the angst and neurotic side of Spider-Man well as well. His Spider-Man is capable of thinking something is about to go wrong, even when his life is going great. Plus he is the quintessential guy to write the ANGRY Spider-Man. His Spider-Man could kick ass when needs be and wasn’t afraid to get a bit rough if necessary. Check out Spectacular #129 for proof of this where his sense of betrayal makes him feel like tearing Felicia apart, which is unlikable as a character trait but it is a flaw which makes Peter more three dimensional. More than Spec #129 though you MUST read his classic Death of Jean DeWolffe arc. It is solid gold. To me Peter David is the PERFECT Spider-Man writer, maybe even the best in terms of sheer skill and it is a shame he has never had a shot on ASM

#2 Tom Defalco: Defalco is a flawed writer, especially when it comes to dialogue. HE doesn’t usually go for realistic dialogue and his attempts of capturing teenaged dialogue don’t go so well. But he is of Stan Lee’s generation, and if Stan the Man couldn’t capture 1960s teenaged dialogue what hope did Defalco of capturing 1990s-2000s teenaged dialogue. Another flaw of Defalco’s is that his overall style is outdated and rooted more in the 1980s or 1990s at the latest, including having in comic dialogue recapping previous events and even having some ham fisted or preachy message from time to time. You might think I don’t like this guy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I LOVE Tom DeFalco. Yes the man has written some duds but everyone does if you keep at something long enough. And Tom Defalco (as I’ll post about at some point later) has written more Spider-Man stories than ANYONE else (just not in one straight run). His dialogue problems are rooted in his generation and though flaws are endearing to me. His handle on Mary Jane though questionable at time (I’ll go into that in another post as well) is seminal because he developed her so beautifully that, whilst the best love interest for Peter before, she was unquestionably the perfect girl for him afterwards. His outdated compression heavy style is NOTHING to critique because for many years he was giving us the best value for money comics ever since they gave you one whole story in one issue and STILL had time for action, subplots, character development and all that stuff. More than this the man knows Spider-Man as a person and the mythos overall so well he’s forgotten more stuff than we will ever know. On top of this his conception of Spider-Man is one of the few in the industry which makes sense. Unlike so many others he doesn’t see Spider-Man as being about youth or about bad luck: to Defalco Spider-Man is about RESPONSIBILITY. And to this end he was more than happy to abandon any desire to preserve the franchise and was willing to take risks and keep changing it, keep evolving it and the characters just as Stan Lee intended back in the day. Compare his 1980s run on Spider-Man to runs before then, even the magnificent Roger Stern run, and you will see him moving the character forward and making contributions which were critical to evolving the franchise (developing MJ’s character being the most important of these and the one Defalco is personally most proud of). His grasp of ALL the Spider-Man characters and an embracing of more than just the era he grew up on are more than commendable they make the franchsie feel like the shared universe it actually is. Defalco will write Carnage even though he doesn’t like him much. What is more Defalco can write an IN CHARCTER Carnage, or Venom, or Doc Ock, or anyone (even non-Spider-Man characters) he can do them all at least competently. Oh and he is just the nicest guy in the world

#1 J.M. DeMatties: JMD’s main weaknesses lie in his over writing, his overuse of dark subject matter, spiritualism and his over use of psychology. In excess these are debilitating to his stories and even to the characters….but in moderation….my god. His psychological approach to Peter, to MJ to all the villains takes you inside their heads to the point where you almost think like them. He GETS Spider-Man and Mary Jane and all the characters in a way I’m not sure even Defalco or David do. His Spider-Man isn’t as well rounded as David’s or as Defalco’s but he is all too human, vulnerable yet strong. He single handedly reinvented the laughable villain of Kraven the Hunter and even the wash out Harry Osborn green Goblin and made them threatening, compelling , multilayered characters. He also wrote the single best take on Aunt May before JMS ever came along, could tell fun superhero stories with a comedic bent when he wanted to and was probably the best writer of Mary Jane and Peter’s marriage besides JMS. JMD embraced the idea that MJ’s party girl attitude was mostly a facade and that she was this much deeper person underneath. When you embrace that you suddenly understand MJ’s character and why she and Peter are together much better (which is why so many other writers who just saw MJ as ‘the party girl’ found the relationship unbelievable and hard to write, they were ignoring the key piece of the puzzle) .  In Kraven’s Last Hunt, in his two Spec runs and even his ASM run he wrote MJ as exactly what she was, at least to Peter, essentially his partner in crime and more importantly, his guiding light (god that was sappy). He also more or less invented how to write Ben Reilly and Kaine (and also ruined the Jackal but never mind) and it is down to him those characters are as deep and and brilliant as they are (and people fail to see).  His individual issues are brilliant but when you put his story arcs or his runs together they tell a more complete, more multilayered storyline, often a tragic yet beautiful one. Were it not for god forsaken and stupid retcons he would be one of the most important Spider-man writers ever in terms of contributions to the mythos. He has written bar none, the best centennial issues of Spider-Man ever, ASM #400 (the touching death of Aunt May which is still the best centennial ASM issue ever if you ignore the retcon) and Spec #200 (the death of Harry Osborn and arguably the BEST centennial issue of any Spider-Man story). I wholeheartedly believe that, even though overall he wasn’t the best Spider-Man writer ever, you only need to read Kraven’s Last Hunt, his Harry Osborn Saga, the death of Aunt May, Spider-Man: Redemption and Spider-Man: the Lost Years, to realise that above Stern, David and Stan the Man himself, when DeMatties was on his A game, NO ONE could touch him. When he was firing on all cylinders JMD was THE best Spider-Man writer ever

So yeah, I worship the 3Ds of Spider-Man: David, Defalco and DeMatties