Light and dark­ness

Teen he­roes Cloak and Dag­ger cel­e­brate their 35th an­niver­sary with a new TV se­ries.

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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.

Deadly Ori­gin

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.

Strange tales

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.

Sup­port­ing acts

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!

Teenage kicks

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.

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