Light and darkness
Teen heroes Cloak and Dagger celebrate their 35th anniversary with a new TV series.
I used to be a big Cloak and Dagger fan in the 1980’s, after reading their first appearance in 1982.
I was drawn to the concept of two runaway kids gifted (or rather cursed) with powers after being forcefully subjected to a synthetic drug experiment. The duo tackled social ills plaguing teenagers, from drugs to child prostitution, issues that don’t usually come under the radar of the Avengers or the Fantastic Four.
Sadly, Cloak and Dagger was never a force to be reckoned with and served mostly as back-up to notable names like Spider-Man, New Mutant sand the X-Men for most of its 35 years of existence.
A possible breakthrough finally came last year when Freeform (formerly ABC Family) announced that they will be airing a 10 episode TV-series in 2018. Co-starring Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt as the lead characters, the series will be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If this doesn’t help elevate their status, I doubt anything else will!
With a couple more months before their TV debut, here’s a quick 101 on Cloak and Dagger, in conjunction with their 35th year anniversary!
Bill and Ed
It began after Bill Mantlo (who also created Rocket Raccoon) visited Ellis Island on a personal trip and came back with a mixed baggage of emotions: fear, misery, hunger and longing.
To channel these emotions, Bill sought the assistance of artist, Ed Hannigan. Cloak and Dagger’s first appearance in Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #64 was an instant success, leading to a subsequent higher profile return in issues #69-#70 (against the mob boss Silvermane). A year later, the duo were granted a four-issue limited series, which Bill continued to script, but the illustration duties were farmed out to Rick Leonardi and Terry Austin, who brought out the beauty and diversity in this yin-yang team.
Due to their respective social and family problems, Tyrone “Ty” Johnson (Cloak) and Tandy Bowen (Dagger) met in the Big Apple as runaways. Hailing from Boston, Tyrone was a 17-year-old boy with a severe speech impediment – which prevented him from stopping his friend from being shot by the cops after being mistaken for a store robber. On the other hand, Tandy was a 16-year-old girl who ran away due to lack of attention from her rich supermodel mum.
When they met, Tyrone became an “accidental hero” – retrieving Tandy’s purse from a thief, when he was actually planning to steal it at first! The two became instant friends and sought refuge in the city together, but naively accepted the offer of shelter from dubious characters who were recruiting “guinea pigs” for a new synthetic heroin experiment conducted by a chemist named SImon Marshall, who was under the payroll of mob boss Silvermane and the Maggia.
Tyrone and Tandy became test subjects, and were the only survivors among a host of teens. They managed to escape but while swimming to safety, they discovered that their bodies were reacting to the drugs – instead of killing them, it embued them with strange abilities.
Tyrone became a being of absolute darkness and had to contain his shadowy form with a discarded cloak (explaining the name). Tyrone can teleport and “capture” his victims in his freezing cold cloak, while Tandy was a being of light who could fire “light daggers” that can either maim or invigorate her victims. Due to their opposing nature, they require each other’s presence and powers to neutralise their respective light and dark natures.
Senses like teen spirit
Cloak and Dagger’s initial adventures were hosted in the pages of Spectacular Spider-Man. Their first shot at the big time came against the Punisher and Kingpin, followed by a revenge bout with Silvermane and Kingpin. While these adventures helped assimilate Cloak and Dagger into the mainstream universe, it was the 1983 Cloak And Dagger four-issue limited series and the subsequent 1985 regular series that gave us a better insight into this teenage partnership.
Leveraging on their teenage issues, these two series provided more granularity on Tyrone and Tandy’s past as well as their future as a team. Despite the common goal of eradicating drugs and saving runaways, they both had inner demons to exorcise.
In Tandy’s case, it was the unfinished business involving her mum and step-dad, who had differing views on her absence. As for Tyrone, his newfound abilities were gradually corrupting him.
Dream creative team
For me, what elevated Cloak and Dagger was the art-team of Rick Leonardi and Terry Austin. While Austin’s inking prowess is second to none and has immortalised John Byrne’s pencils during their Uncanny X-Men stint, Leonardi’s illustrations brought out Dagger’s “curves” and Cloak’s “fabric”.
Despite only pairing up for 10 issues (the
1983 limited series and the first half-dozen issues of the 1985 regular series), they set the benchmark for all future illustrations.
Despite Cloak and Dagger’s serious focus on social ills, it did not translate into sales. Hence, the only way for them to continue was to share a monthly title – Strange Tales – with the equally “unsellable” Dr Strange. However, Cloak and Dagger were a pale shadow of themselves without Leonardo and Austin. Austin did return in issue #7, but in the unfamiliar role of writer.
Still, he contributed for slightly more than two years spanning two different titles –
Strange Tales #7-#19 and The Mutant Misadventures Of Cloak And Dagger (TMMOCAD) #1-#14.
TMMOCAD took on another serious topic – blindness. Using Dagger as the subject – after being blinded in a battle, Austin conducted extensive research at the American Foundation for the Blind to provide an accurate depiction of the physical and psychological challenges of being blind.
Unfortunately, poor sales once again derailed the fate of Cloak and Dagger – leaving them without a host title after a 19-issue run.
Reflecting back upon Cloak and Dagger’s first five years of existence, you can argue that they are probably better off as supporting acts. Having started off from a Spideytitle, Cloak and Dagger share a special rapport with the web slinger – so much so that Spidey even once revealed his identity to them
(Cloak And Dagger (1985) #3). Their biggest collaboration happened during the Maximum
Carnage event, with Dagger being pivotal to ending the long-drawn battle(s) with Carnage and his posse.
Cloak and Dagger also played significant roles in several Marvel events – they were part of Captain America’s team in the first
Civil War, with Cloak helping to teleport every single superhero out of the Negative Zone prison before they were trapped. In the ongoing Secret Empire event, they are among the heroes trapped under the Darkforce dome at Manhattan, with Dagger providing the only source of light for the entire city from the top of the Empire State Building!
Apart from hanging out with Spidey, the team also have strong ties with the New Mutants, having saved the team’s members (Wolfsbane and Sunspot) from a similar drug experiment. This also led to their first (of many) offers to join the X-Men or its School for Gifted Youngsters.
Initially, both Cloak and Dagger were passed off as mutants, a simple explanation to their drug induced transformation.
However, 2010’s Cloak And Dagger oneshot revealed otherwise, attributing their powers solely to the synthetic drugs.
Being teenagers, Cloak And Dagger are natural friends to similar age-group teams such as The Runaways and Power Pack, which has seen multiple team-ups among them.
Though they all bear insignificant outcomes, this is definitely an area to further capitalise on expanding their influence, as well as offer a springboard for those teenage teams to make a comeback.
Cloak and Dagger made their debut in 1982’s Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #64.
Tyrone can teleport and ‘capture’ his victims in his cloak, while Tandy is a being of light who can fire ‘light daggers’ that can either maim or invigorate her targets.
Cloak’s teleportation powers came in handy during the Civil War event.