No, no, this isn’t about the 1984 video game-themed espionage thriller starring Henry Thomas and Dabney Coleman — oh, Jack Flack, where are you when we need you the most — but instead about the Marvel Comics duo getting their own Freeform television series in 2018, starring Olivia Holt as Tandy Bowen/Dagger and Aubrey Joseph as Tyrone Johnson/Cloak.
Billed by Variety as a “live-action interracial romance,” the series is set in post-Katrina New Orleans and targets younger viewers than those currently tuning in to ABC Marvel fare like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or the slate of shows hosted by Netflix. But where did Cloak and Dagger come from in the first place? Allow us to fill in the blanks…
The crusading pair represents part of another influx of socially relevant characters that cropped up in the early ’80s, much like a previous wave had debuted about a decade earlier. Cloak and Dagger’s heroism was forged on the streets as they popped up in a number of guest appearances alongside Marvel flagship star Spider-Man before getting a limited series of their own. That led to an ongoing monthly title and then a slew of publication twists and turns over the years as Cloak and Dagger became somewhat lesser but not insignificant players in the larger landscape of the Marvel Universe.
Although they have fought more fanciful villains during their careers, their origins dictated that they would become heroes of the downtrodden, the homeless, and the hopeless, and their enemies tend to be members of drug cartels and organized crime (like Marvel’s long-standing Mafia variant, the Maggia). Their deep ties to the themes of drug addiction and despair (wait for it) give them a darker and slightly more realistic motivation to combat evil, even if their personas are still fairly fantasy-oriented.
- Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #64 (March, 1982)
Cloak and Dagger’s powers reflect their general personas of shadow and light. Cloak can displace foes into a dimension of darkness via his cloak, which provides a portal to that nether region. He can also use that dimension for travel, transporting himself and anyone else that he wishes to take with him. Cloak can also become intangible or ghost-like, and his wraith-like or vampiric existence extends to his need to feed on light, which is either taken from those he defeats or provided to him by Dagger.
As for Dagger herself, she projects and fires light daggers that sap energy and can also serve as food to satiate Cloak’s hunger; the daggers can even help others struggling with addiction as well. Dagger has some experience as a dancer that aids her in battle, and she also went through a period of blindness that still informs her skills. It’s also important to note that they are not mutants — since their powers came from exposure to an outside agent (a drug), they are considered mutates, despite early conflicting representations of their status. In recent years, they also spent some time with their powers flipped after the events of the “Spider-Island” story, but as of this writing, Cloak and Dagger are back to their usual power dynamics.
The demon known as D’Spayre (subtle) is largely responsible for Tandy and Tyrone becoming Cloak and Dagger, although that part of their origin wasn’t initially known. Two runaways from very different backgrounds — he was a stuttering Bostonian who witnessed a friend killed by a cop, she was a rich girl whose self-absorbed mother just never paid attention to her — the teens were abducted by a criminal syndicate that performed synthetic drug experiments on them. When they escaped, they discovered they had been permanently transformed by the experience. At first it was believed their powers were latent mutant abilities activated by their exposure to the drug, but eventually they learned that D’Spayre had orchestrated everything, imbuing them with energies of the Dark and Light Forms.
The pair would show up in various Marvel books over the years, occasionally working with fellow youngsters like the New Mutants or Power Pack or the Runaways. And they also encountered more traditional supervillain foes at times; they met the Beyonder during Secret Wars II and helped in the battle against Thanos during the Infinity Gauntlet story. More recently, they briefly joined the Dark X-Men (and later, finally joined the actual X-Men for a hot minute).
…Oh, and for anyone keeping score, Cloak and Dagger took Captain America’s side in the now legendary first Civil War. They’re good people.
It’s very possible that some of what we just covered here — especially the whole D’Spayre angle — might not be as important to the TV series as the Ultimate Universe variation of this team, in which the two were on their way to the prom but gravely injured in accident; this led to their bodies being used for experimentation with dark matter by a corrupt corporation (you know, that old chestnut). Far from being dead, Tandy and Tyrone become Cloak and Dagger there too, and although the television show’s premise would (reportedly) seem to rule out the prom date — it would seem that privileged rich kid Tandy loses her parents in a storm and encounters an aloof Tyrone, who then finds new meaning in their budding relationship — we can at least say that the notion of the two characters being romantically linked from the beginning comes more from the Ultimate version of things.
What do you hope to see from Cloak and Dagger on TV? Discuss in the comments! And for all your Marvel news and info, keep it locked to IGN.
Find Arnold T. Blumberg on Twitter at @DoctoroftheDead.