Spoilers mostly for “Clone Saga,” I guess.

§ February 17th, 2020 § Filed under death of superman, question time § 16 Comments

So in answer to my late-night lament that I was comin’ up empty for blogging material for today, Twitter pal Tim posted the following:

“You’re on a desert island, with only one of the following to read:

1. Age of Apocalypse
2. Clone Saga
3. Knightfall / Quest / End
4. Death / Return of Superman”

I responded to him briefly there, before realizing he was actually suggesting a blog post idea to me, because I’m a dummy with a 5-second attention span.

The idea of “Desert Island Comics” is one that’s been discussed plenty of times, I’m sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever really nailed down what would be my choices should I ever 1) be able to afford a cruise ship ticket, 2) actually slip my chain and get away from the shop long enough to take that cruise, and 3) survive whatever sufficient disaster would occur that would let me live and also let me get my comics to shore unwaterlogged.

Ideally my top choice would be “every Swamp Thing comic, with “every Groo comic” and “every Love and Rockets comic” tied for second place, though I supposed Tim’s postulated island reading would be restricted to specific storylines/events rather than the whole series enchilada. So…I guess the “American Gothic” storyline from Swamp Thing, because Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben, and also early Constantine, and also it’s just rad.

BUT ALAS that’s not an option offered up by cruel, cruel Tim. What he does offer me are four iconic ’90s multi-title events, which, for the purposes of deserted island enjoyed, each have the virtue of containing many, many pages of comics with which one may occupy one’s time. But in terms of reading enjoyment…welllll, let’s look at them in order.

“Age of Apocalypse” was the alternate timeline/universe thingie involving the X-Men, which primarily resulted in all the X-books being put on hold briefly while mini-series featuring new versions of the X-characters existing in whatever this parallel reality was. In concept it’s an interesting idea, and I know people enjoyed it just fine, and it certain sold well…but I’m just generally not an X-Men guy. Nothing against them, really, but it’s just with very rare exceptions am I interested in reading any of their books. I mean, sure, I read it for a while in the ’80s, came back for Grant Morrison’s run, and I’ll still go to bat for the X-Men/Micronauts mini. But, aside from that, I just don’t have any interest.

Yeah yeah, I know, “but Hickman’s X-Men is really good!” I’m sure it is, and honestly I was tempted, but I’m so far behind on everything else I didn’t want to add too much new to the “will read eventually” pile.

Okay, next is the dreaded “Clone Saga,” in which it’s revealed that the clone of Spider-Man that popped up in the ’70s and supposedly died was in fact not dead, and has come back to make the then-current line of Spider-comics unnecessarily complicated. Oh, and it also turned out that it wasn’t the clone that supposedly “died” in that ’70s issue, but rather the real Spider-Man and we’ve been reading the adventures of the clone all this time since. Yup, the fans loved that little revelation. That plot twist got untwisted right quick, of course, but if I recall correctly it did such a number on the Spider-books that Marvel did their first of too many relaunches for Amazing Spider-Man, just to clear the stink of what had come before.

I know there are plenty of readers who grew up with the Clone Saga stuff and enjoy it plenty, but again, just not for me. My Spidery tastes are more Ditko-esque in quality, though I have a soft spot for late ’70s/early ’80s Spider-Men, which is my own earliest newsstand exposure to the character. Now as a Desert Island Comic contender, it has possibilities simply through the sheer number of titles and plot permuations to keep one occupied, but I don’t know how much I would actually enjoy it.

Now “Knightfall” etc., the Batman event where he’s put out of commission and a new fella with much less crimefighting restraint takes over, had my interest as it was coming out, at least for a bit. Another thing in concept that was interesting, with a point to make (“so you want Batman to be more violent? Here’s why you don’t want that”) but it just felt like it draaaaged. The “Knightfall” bit was fine, but just couldn’t get into the rest of the event. Didn’t help that I was just plain bored by Azrael. Just really couldn’t care less about him.

Some nice Kelley Jones work in there, though.

Which comes to the conclusion that probably surprises no one, that the whole “Death/Return of Superman” thing would be my Desert Island Comic choice. It still holds together, it’s a real faster-than-a-speeding-bullet progression of the serial particularly as we neared the climax of the “Return” segment. It is filled with a lot of great art and fun writing that very much entertained me as it was coming out, and still entertained me upon subsequent rereads. And in fact, just thinking about it again makes me want to dip into it one more time. Someone find me a deserted island for me to reread this!

16 Responses to “Spoilers mostly for “Clone Saga,” I guess.”

  • CalvinPitt says:

    I like certain parts of the Clone Saga, and I like Spider-Man more than any of those other characters/groups, so I’d probably go with that. Second choice would probably be Knightfall.

    If it was entirely up to me and I could take any comics, then probably “all the GrimJack”.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    As a devoted childhood fan of Spider-Man through the mid-70s up until the Secret Wars & new costume saga turned me off, I kept tabs with the character on occasion until I heard about the Clone Saga, at which point I swore off all Marvel Comics for about 10-15 years. But while I’ll never read any of those comics, I loved the Life of Reilly blog by Andrew Goletz & Glenn Greenberg. That’s a long behind-the-scenes look at the entire editorial-creative-publishing process for that whole story and its side-trips. Well worth taking along on that proverbial ill-fated cruise.


  • Chris V says:

    I would definitely choose Age of Apocalypse, out of those choices.
    I thought AOA was a pretty solid line-up with a nicely developed alternate world.

    “Clone Saga” started out decent, but kept going, and getting worse and worse.

    I hated “Knightfall”.

    I’m not the biggest Superman fan, and only read one issue of the “Death of Superman” event.
    I have zero interest in reading any more of it, especially at this point.


    I think that my “one desert island comic run” would be Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men.
    Sure, there have been plenty of comics that are better than Claremont’s X-Men, but it’s such a long run and is varied with the stories.
    So, I’d have to choose that, simply due to the length.
    I mean, I find it a quality run of stories too and have very fond memories of the majority. I wouldn’t solely choose it due to length, if I found it horribly written.

    The only comic run that would be longer than Claremont’s X-Men is Dave Sim’s Cerebus.
    While I enjoyed reading the entirety of that series once, I don’t think I’d want to return to most of the stories again.

    Otherwise, it would probably be Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer, but that’s only forty issues.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    Cerebus is largely worth re-reading, especially in the new remastered printings of the last few years. (You can tell it’s a new edition if there’s a lengthy afterword by Sean Robinson in the back.) The art looks better than ever, sometimes better than the original comics. For myself, I never get tired of discovering some new story or art detail I had missed before. How far one takes the re-read can reasonably vary, but even the awkward early issues become great to explore again.

  • John Lancaster says:

    I think I’d have to go with Knightfall. There’s just no way I’m making it through Clone Saga a second time, haven’t read X-Men since about 1986, and I’ve re-read Death of Superman so many times I could probably recite it. I could probably do without Knight Quest and End, but I figure there would be a need for toilet paper on that island and I’d rather use rough comic paper than possibly poisonous flora.

  • Tim says:

    Thanks for accepting my suggestion, and running with it so thoughtfully.

    I tried to pick four of the 90s sprawling crossovers that only involved one character / group.

    Second the recommendation for Life of Reilly. The one-shot ‘101 Ways to End the Clone Saga’ is HILARIOUS.

    Of the four, I’d probably pick the Clone Saga, just because there was SO MUCH of it, and watching the story just feed on itself and get strung out for literally years is amazing.

    All-time…I’d probably be cliched and say either Sandman or Ennis’ Hellblazer.

  • Andrew-TLA says:

    I suppose the question is, how complete is the Clone Saga in this particular hypothetical? Does it include Ben’s appearances in New Warriors? How about “The Final Adventure”, where Peter and MJ move to Portlandia? Sheer volume would make that the winner, especially if I’m allowed a copy of Life of Reilly for the annotations.

    That said, Knightfall does have that scene in it where AzBats is ranting about all the threats he’s protected Gotham from, including Jigsaw. Which makes the first Punisher crossover 100% canon to the story. There are bonus points there.

    Death and Return I’ve read too many times already. Although, if we can somehow stretch the story to run through the clone plague, destruction of Metropolis, and subsequent Milestone crossover event, I might be tempted to rethink my position.

    I really cannot force myself to care about the X-Men.

    If I had my choice of anything, it’d be a single creative team’s run on Fantastic Four, be it Lee/Kirby, Byrne, Simonson, Waid/mostly Ringo, or all the various one-shots, minis, fill-ins, specials, and 2099 issues that Kesel’s written–enough for a decent run itself, I’d imagine. That, or the Marvel vs. DC/Amalgam saga.

  • philfromgermany says:

    Age of Apocalypse was the beginning of the end of my interest in reading mutant comics. I had never before seen so many panels unrelated to the next and previous one where the narration did not help me understand what’s actually going on. And I had even read the Wizard articles about what was supposed to be happening in this world….

    My pick from those four would be DoS as well… The Superman books had a solid editorial at the time, the interconnections mostly worked IIRC.

    Now for the Djinni wish, Love & Rockets would be a great pick as I would want something with different tones for the deserted island and L&R can do poignant and funny very well.
    Any anthology book would provide a change of scenery like the old EC horror titles… Or I’d pick something I know very little of like the Golden Age Black Cat, to see the progression from one genre to another..

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Fun topic! Spider-Man’s my favorite superhero, but I’m trying to decide if that means I should choose the Clone Saga as my poisoned chalice, or avoid it more than anything. I suppose I pick the Clone Saga.

    A lot of good options suggested for the real desert island comics–Byrne’s FF run is a good call. And the entire Groo run would be tempting, with all the tiny details in the drawings to discover (I might even be satisfied just with issue #100, where Groo learns how to read!).

    Still, I’m not sure if this would count, but I think I would want a complete run of E.C. Segar’s Popeye from 1929-1938. Endless varieties of humor and adventure, with months-long story arcs, tons of imaginative characters, and entirely different stories in the Sunday and daily strips.

    A close second would be the complete run of Peanuts.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    If I could pick anything…It’d probably be Levitz’s 2nd run on the Legion. Not only does it include the Great Darkness, but it’s long and engaging enough for rereads.

    Of the 4 choices you have, Death/Return of Superman, without question.

  • Yendor says:

    If I was stuck on an island with no way to get off, I would want the Death & Return of Superman to read.
    If I was stuck and wanted a chance to get off the island, I would want the entire Spider-Man Clone Saga. That way, I could use all of the trades to build a raft and escape the island.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “1. Age of Apocalypse” That was a mess.
    “2. Clone Saga” It was TERRIBLE, and I LOVE Spidey! This was the WORST thing done to him, until Marvel made his marriage to MJ nonexistent!
    “3. Knightfall / Quest / End” This was All-Right! Az is a twit, but the story was decent.
    “4. Death / Return of Superman” OVERHYPED, but OK. Probably took to long to finish.

    NOTE: I haven’t read the entirety of ANY of these, just scattered parts.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “desert island”

    Either Grimjack, Jonah Hex, or Ambush Bug. Or the ASM run from start to the mid-80’s or so. ASM would be m ore reading, being a longer run!

    “Cerebus” that’s a decent choice, and a full 300 issues worth!

    “I could probably do without Knight Quest and End, but I figure there would be a need for toilet paper on that island and I’d rather use rough comic paper than possibly poisonous flora.”

    Just avoid chromium covers. YIKES!

    “use all of the trades to build a raft and escape the island”

    I think waterlogged paper with weight on it would just sink!

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    ““use all of the trades to build a raft and escape the island”

    I think waterlogged paper with weight on it would just sink!”

    That’s okay, there’s enough material there he might be able to build a causeway.

  • Thom H. says:

    Always really liked Spider-Man but never got into his comics…if that makes sense.

    Anyway, just wanted to say a quick thank you to Michael for the Life of Reilly link. Interesting behind-the-scenes look at a story that must have been quite the mindf*ck for fans at the time.

    Also, seconding Cassandra’s desert island reading choice. Long live the (Levitz) Legion!

  • King of the Moon says:

    I may be the only person in the world that wishes they’d stuck the landing on Clone Saga and kept single Ben Reilly as the status quo