Cloak and Dagger Featured

With its expanding Cinematic Universe, Marvel has surpassed many of its known competitors as an entertainment magnate. Since the release of IRON MAN in 2008, Marvel’s films have enjoyed critical success for their lighthearted takes on the source material. Marvel’s film success inspired it to expand into television, with shows like AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC and the upcoming DEFENDERS on Netflix. With the success of these shows, Marvel has the freedom to explore the more obscure sections of their comic book history. In 2018, CLOAK AND DAGGER, a ten episode mini-series slated for Freeform, will introduce two new characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A casual comic book reader might not recognize Tyrone Johnson or Tandy Bowen. Despite fighting crime in comics for 35 years, Cloak and Dagger most often act as guest stars, and their solo series are often limited mini-series. Cloak and Dagger may live in the depths of obscurity, but they have played roles in several major events in the Marvel Comics universe. To prepare for Cloak and Dagger’s television debut, this article digs into these characters’ histories and also speculates about what the show may entail, despite how little we know about its production.

Publication History: CLOAK AND DAGGER

Cloak and Dagger
Cloak and Dagger began as antihero foils for Spiderman. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Created by Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan, Cloak and Dagger made their debut in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #64 in March 1982. Mantlo developed the characters after a trip to Ellis Island. In an afterword for the story arc “Child of Light, Child of Darkness,” Mantlo writes, “They came completely conceived as to their powers and attributes, their origin and motivation. They embodied between them all that fear and misery, hunger and longing that had haunted me on Ellis Island.”

READ: Cloak and Dagger’s war on drugs has more relevance today than ever. Learn how!

Diversity acted as another major influence for the characters. The early eighties signaled a boom in culturally-conscious characters. Of the 28 Marvel characters introduced from 1980 to 1985, 17 were women. Several others came from distinct cultural backgrounds. Kitty Pryde, Monica Rambeau, Danielle Moonstar, and Bonita Juarez all helped head this movement towards diversity. Cloak and Dagger arose as a biracial team, and it was rare for a lower-class African-American man and an affluent white woman to co-star in a series. Cloak eventually reveals that he also grew up with a disability — a severe vocal stutter.

After their first appearances, the pair received their own four-issue series. A three-issue cameo in the NEW MUTANTS led to another series that ran for 49 issues. It was renamed three times. Starting as CLOAK AND DAGGER, it became STRANGE TALES after Doctor Strange was introduced, and the name was soon changed to THE MUTANT MISADVENTURES OF CLOAK AND DAGGER prior to the series’ cancellation. After the end of their solo career, they made several appearances across the Marvel Universe in RUNAWAYS, CIVIL WAR, and SPIDER-ISLAND. Dagger even helped form one iteration of the MARVEL KNIGHTS.

Runaways

Cloak and Dagger
Homeless, Cloak and Dagger turn to the Church for food and shelter. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Tandy Bowen was born in an affluent Ohio town called Shaker Heights. The daughter of a wealthy supermodel, Tandy grows up feeling that her mother cares more about her career than her daughter. After her boyfriend moves away to college, the 16-year-old feels lost and disconnected from everything in her life. She gets on a bus to New York City and never looks back.

Tyrone Johnson grows up in a poor neighborhood of South Boston. Although suffering from a severe stutter, Tyrone still succeeds at school. One night after a basketball game, Tyrone and his friend, Billy, witness a robbery. The police mistakenly accuse Billy and Tyrone of the crime. Ty tries to defend their innocence, but Billy runs. The police officer shoots and kills the young man. Tyrone watches his friend die because he can’t speak the words that would save him: “But Billy didn’t do it.” Unable to live with the guilt, Tyrone boards a bus to New York City.

The pair meets at the Port Authority bus station. After Tyrone stops a purse snatcher from stealing from Tandy, she offers Tyrone a meal and some money. As Tandy and Tyrone leave a diner, a pair of muggers ambush the young runaways. Tyrone tries to fight back but is knocked out. The muggers load Tandy and the unconscious Tyrone into a boat and take them to the abandoned Ellis Island.

Child of Light, Child of Darkness

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Issue 4 of their first solo run explores this pair’s full origins. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics

At Ellis Island, Tandy and Tyrone are thrown into a dark room with several other runaways. They quickly learn that the Maggia, the Marvel equivalent of the Mafia, use the station to develop and test a highly addictive synthetic drug. This drug is meant to be more addictive and potent than their competitor’s heroin. One by one, the Maggia thugs drag the young teens from the room. They only return long enough to suffer and die from the synthetic drug.

Soon, it is Tandy and Tyrone’s turn. The pair suffers the same symptoms as their fellow runaways and is certain they will die like all the others. After the goodness Tandy showed him, Tyrone refuses to let her die down there. He makes an exit out of the crumbling window bars. Escaping together, Tandy and Tyrone begin the long swim from Ellis Island back into the city.

During this swim, the drug begins to interact with their own unique genetics. As Tandy pushes toward the island, her body begins to glow a warm, bright light. Tyrone, trailing behind, finds a murky darkness enveloping him. As the two reach land, they find that their conditions are only worsening. Dragging each other into the city, Tyrone dons a dirty rag he finds in the trash. This seems to ebb the expansion of his darkness.

READ: Cloak is one of many disabled Marvel superheroes. Explore the history and importance of disability in comics!

War on Drugs

Cloak and Dagger
The Ultimate Universe Updated Designs. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Having survived the experiments, the pair begins to learn more about their new powers. Tyrone suffers from an incessant hunger that consumes his every waking thought. This hunger is for Lightforce, the life energy of living people. By drawing people into his cloak, he can absorb their light and stem the hunger for a short time. He also learns that by fading into his own darkness, he can teleport great distances.

Tandy, on the other hand, becomes his foil. As a generator of Lightforce, she can ease Tyrone’s hunger with light daggers that she produces in her hands. These daggers can heal the wounded and cure addictions, but they can also freeze the blood in a person’s veins with enough exposure.

First Encounters

The events on Ellis Island traumatize Tandy and Tyrone. Alone and knowing that Cloak needs to feed, the pair turns to vigilantism to get their vengeance. In order to protect runaways like themselves, Cloak and Dagger hunt and kill criminals like the ones that took them to Ellis Island — drug dealers and mobsters. Their first encounter with Spider-Man sees them hunting the chemist who developed the drug that gave them powers. Before Spider-Man can stop them, Dagger murders the man, and the pair disappears into Cloak’s darkness. Spider-Man also learns that the chemist isn’t their only target. Criminals around the city are dying, and each is involved with the Ellis Island experiments. He fails to stop them again, watching as Cloak runs the other scientists and criminals out of a fourth story window.

Their personal vendetta completed, Cloak and Dagger turn their sights on crime bosses around New York. The first on their list is drug runner Silvermane.  Seeing that they are only teenagers, Spider-Man allies himself with the pair, hoping to stem their drive for blood, but he ultimately fails. He watches Cloak and Dagger murder the crippled Silvermane and disappear. As good as his intentions were, Spider-Man learns that Cloak and Dagger will not seek help until they are ready.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Cloak and Dagger
Cloak’s drive to feed on light causes him to flee from Dagger. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Although she turns away from Spider-Man’s advice, Dagger begins to doubt her mission. Her methods become far less lethal, while Cloak resorts to consuming the criminals they fight. For the most part, the pair stays away from the costumed criminals. Except for their run-in with Silvermane’s robotic reincarnation, their battles with costumed criminals are incredibly rare. These are street-level vigilantes, drug dealers and pimps in New York City.

In their first solo series, Dagger continually questions their role in the city. Are they seeking justice or vengeance? Are they judge, jury and executioner? Can they be? A duality arises between Cloak and Dagger, a moral line in the sand. These ethical differences only worsen as the depths of Cloak’s sickness come to light.

Addictive Hunger

Cloak’s innate hunger becomes an essential story point for the majority of the pair’s remaining career in comics. Having spent all of their time together, Tyrone develops deep feelings for Tandy, and he feels like a monster consuming her light energy. These feelings fester until they overwhelm Cloak. Even though Tandy gives her powers to him willingly, he runs from her. While Dagger begins to see more optimistic possibilities for their mission, Cloak can see only darkness. As the exposition states in CLOAK AND DAGGER #2, “The forces within Cloak are ravenous. They scream for sustenance. They will not long be denied.”

READ: Want more stories that break boundaries? Take a trip into Marvel’s archives with the historic WHAT IF? series!

As the story goes on, Cloak’s hunger only increases, as does his fear of it. In a team-up with the New Mutants, Cloak learns from Professor Xavier that his fear is giving the darkness strength. While the darkness seems insurmountable, he can control the darkness with Tandy’s help and by overcoming the fear that overwhelms him. It becomes evident in later series that the Professor may have had a point. In later appearances, it seems as if the hunger within Cloak has ebbed or dissolved completely. Cloak’s hunger most likely has not disappeared, but he either doesn’t fear the hunger itself or doesn’t fear accepting Dagger’s help.

An Ultimate Romance

Cloak and Dagger
A tender moment from the Ultimate Universe. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics.

The primary Marvel Universe (Earth-616) doesn’t clearly describe Cloak and Dagger’s relationship. The best evidence provided gives the impression of a very deep friendship. Tyrone has a deep love for Tandy, but the same cannot necessarily be said in reverse. Their entire relationship is heavily symbiotic. If Dagger doesn’t feed Cloak, he could go on a feeding spree.

In MARVEL FANFARE #19, though, Dagger grows increasingly violent if she does not release her pent up energy. The pair obviously has a deep love and respect for each other. However, Cloak fears that their symbiosis is the true basis of their relationship. Tyrone has said, when separated from his powers, “As Cloak and Dagger, we’re bound together. Without that, we got nothin’! You don’t understand… What it’s like feeling darkness grow inside you like a Cancer, and yourself becoming a slave to its awful hunger!”

Things are different in the alternate Earth-1610 universe. Marvel created the Ultimate Universe as a means to reboot the beloved Marvel characters without destroying years of their continuity. In this new universe, Tandy and Tyrone don’t run away from home. Trauma does not define their characters. More importantly, Tandy and Tyrone attend the same school and represent the typical high school sweethearts. On the night of their senior prom, a truck crashes into their limo, and severe injuries to both of them lead to hospitalization and comas. After months of inactivity, the Roxxon Corporation uses them for experiments into a new Super-Soldier Serum. The Dark Matter experiments give them powers, and they turn to a life of vigilantism. The important piece here, though, is that the pair never gives up on their romantic relationship.

Time for Speculation

Cloak and Dagger
Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt as Tyrone and Tandy. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

The CLOAK AND DAGGER television series has been revealed to be a part of the main Marvel Cinematic Universe. It will be tied into the lore and history created by THE AVENGERS, LUKE CAGE, and DOCTOR STRANGE. From the trailer, little can be seen about any deep connection to the source material. However, evidence from the other Marvel films and from the trailer itself makes a discussion of the Ultimate Marvel Universe incredibly relevant.

READ: THE DEFENDERS are returning to comics with a distinctly Netflix-style; How the Marvel Cinematic Universe is influencing the comics.

When Marvel created the Ultimate Universe, they did so with foresight. This new gritty universe would be the basis for any future films. Because of this foresight, many of the Ultimates are based on real-world actors. The Ultimate Universe was made to be adapted into film, meaning it makes sense for CLOAK AND DAGGER to take much of its influences from these appearances. Also, the series is slated as a young adult romance, a story which could easily parallel their Ultimate origins. By sticking with the characters’ origins as Roxxon experiments, Marvel would be able to avoid the topic of addictive drugs giving kids superpowers. Furthermore, the trailer does give a glimpse of a Roxxon Corp. sign in its final moments.

Despite the Ultimate Universe influences, I can see parallels between the original material and the television plans. The trailer shows Tandy killing a man with one of her light daggers. While this murder may be accidental, it could potentially reference the darker tones of their first appearance. There also seems to be a possibility, with Olivia Holt shown alone in an alleyway, that the characters could return to their original runaway roots and explore the hardships of the homeless.

Final Thoughts

With the show so far away, there is so much we don’t know. Until new information comes out, we can only turn to the source material. A blending of Earth-616 and Ultimate Marvel Universe source material seems like the best possibility at this point. Cloak and Dagger are very special characters to me, so I really hope Freeform does them justice. While Cloak’s disability seems forgotten, I am happy to see so many comic book moments hinted at in the trailer. With Marvel’s previous track record in TV and film, CLOAK AND DAGGER has a real chance at being an entertaining addition to the MCU. More importantly, the show has the potential to address the real and important issues of drug use, homelessness, and diversity that would set it apart from Marvel’s other productions.

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