CLOAK AND DAGGER, at its core, is a story about two people from different worlds coming together due to difficult and strange circumstances. The show has not only preserved that — it has, in my opinion, improved it. While the original comics still gave us two endlessly entertaining characters, there were still a few glaring issues.

CLOAK AND DAGGER the show has played with its source materials and tweaked some elements make the story more relevant. On top of that, it is, at times, much more hard-hitting with its commentary. What’s the main change that marks this improvement? CLOAK AND DAGGER have swapped Tyrone and Tandy’s roles.

From the Very Beginning

In the original comics, Tyrone and Tandy don’t know each other until they meet on the streets as runaways. They gain their powers when evil scientists kidnap them and pull them into a human experimentation project. They bond quickly due to being dragged into the dire situation. However, in the comics, Tandy and Tyrone had spent most of their lives as complete strangers.

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The show immediately changed that. Instead of the show dropping us into the lives of Tandy and Tyrone when they’re teens, it shows us both of them as children. The narrative launches with both Tandy and Tyrone losing family members. The cause of their powers relates to the fact that they were both in the water directly after the collapse of Roxxon’s gulf platform.

CLOAK AND DAGGER
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Pulling these characters together as young children fit the narrative very well. Both teens were young enough that they only vaguely remember the situation. On top of that, the memories seem especially cloudy because of their personal trauma. Reconnecting by chance later, however, and questioning the reality of their childhood experience is an incredibly clever plot tactic.

Story Elements in CLOAK AND DAGGER

Some of the new backstories clearly draw from the comics. Tyrone loses his brother to a police shooting. In the comics, the loss of a close friend to police brutality launched Tyrone’s status as a runaway. In both situations, Tyrone feels he was powerless to stop the situation and, in some part, blames himself.

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Tandy’s side of things seems somewhat comic inspired as well. In the comics, Tandy’s family is rich, emotionless, and negligent. While CLOAK AND DAGGER show Tandy’s father trying to connect with her, that doesn’t make him a good father. He’s just as responsible as Tandy’s mother for Tandy being left on the street at night in the rain after her ballet classes — especially considering he clearly knows about Melissa’s budding pill addiction. On top of that, it’s his reckless driving that causes them to crash into the lake.

CLOAK AND DAGGER
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

These central ideas feed into one of the important discussions in CLOAK AND DAGGER. Part of why Tyrone and Tandy are living such different lives is because of their race. Even when the show switches their roles so that Tandy is the one living off the street and Tyrone is the one striving for perfection at a private school, race plays a large part. In some ways, switching the story reflects racism and privilege better than the original comics.

Switching Things Up: Tandy

In the comics, Tyrone was the one living in the streets and making due by stealing. In fact, when he first meets Tandy, he intends to steal from her. It’s not exactly a shining introduction to a noteworthy black character. The show writers for CLOAK AND DAGGER seem to have noted this — and instead of simply eliminating that story element, they decided to flip the narrative. Tandy is the one to steal Tyrone’s wallet at a party.

CLOAK AND DAGGER
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Using Tandy as the teen who is living a life of crime is a study in white privilege. It’s true that Tandy’s life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, of course. While Tandy steals nice things for herself, it doesn’t mean she’s never in danger…on top of that, she deals with drug addiction and her neglectful mother.

Still, Tandy gets away with much of what she does specifically because she’s white.

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In a story where we are shown a black boy being shot while trying to peacefully surrender to cops, Tandy is running around to rich kid parties and robbing people on the regular. Tandy has to cross a major line in order for police to be involved at all. This does a better job of portraying how privilege works opposed to the comics showing that Tandy was surrounded by money but no emotional care.

Switching Things Up: Tyrone

Tyrone’s story has changed quite a lot as well. In the comics, Tyrone grew up in a “bad neighborhood,” which feels like a tired stereotype. In CLOAK AND DAGGER, instead, Tyrone is shown as going to a prep school with strict rules. The portrayal of Tyrone’s school, from the very beginning, stays aware of racism in our society.

Firstly, our introduction to Tyrone’s school involves a referee ignoring that a white boy is consistently elbowing and shoving Tyrone during the basketball game. It seems like the school is overwhelmingly populated by white teens in general, in fact. The school presents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Tyrone has to face in the world as a black teen.

CLOAK AND DAGGER
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Placing Tyrone in an illustrious school is very purposeful. In fact, the show directly addresses that his parents are forcing Tyrone to be “perfect” to keep him safe. Even then, they know that if he does everything right, society may punish him anyway just for the color of his skin.

Tyrone is faced not only with the weight of his brother’s death but also with the crushing weight of respectability politics. This change from the comics reflects something very important: PoC in our society can be doing the absolute best they can, and society will still tear them down for the smallest things.

Changing For the Better

The changes CLOAK AND DAGGER has made shows the creator’s awareness of negative stereotypes and of how stories need to change. Adjusting comics for the modern day requires more than simply putting smartphones in everyone hands. It also requires an understanding of how our societal ideals have changed and are still changing.

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The current show gives a more nuanced understanding of racial dynamics. Racism doesn’t always split simply into “black people are poor, white people are rich.” In fact, that kind of thinking can quickly lead to stereotyping. Instead, understanding why black people face the struggles they do allows people to understand that it can affect all black people, no matter societal status.

CLOAK AND DAGGER
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The change in the story also does a better job of acknowledging how privilege works. Privilege doesn’t mean that life is always easy or safe…it simply means that society will grant more advantages to a privileged person than a non-privileged person in the same situation. Tandy is living a difficult life — but it would undoubtedly be even more difficult if she were a person of color.

What Adaptations Can Do

CLOAK AND DAGGER is exactly what an adaptation should be. Not only is this show bringing two heroes to a new medium and exposing more audiences to a great story, it’s actively adjusting the story to try and improve. Growth is something stories shouldn’t avoid. In fact, if stories actively avoid growth, they’ll fail. Stories that don’t age and grow alongside us are ones that we as a society forget or phase out.

CLOAK AND DAGGER
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

There may be the idea that changing a story is a discredit to the original creators. As a creator myself, I’d disagree. It’s a fact of life that stories are going to age. It’s true of any art — something can only be groundbreaking so many times. Creators need to reformat, rethink and rework their pieces constantly. In fact, I’d encourage creators themselves to try to rework their own stories as well throughout their lives.

Adapting stories to be more nuanced and relevant to our current lives is, at the end of the day, necessary. If CLOAK AND DAGGER had kept the original story, it would likely feel stilted, full of stereotypes, and not particularly interesting. It’s been enough years since the original comics that “a brown boy living on the street falls for and vows to protect a light-skinned rich girl” is no longer an original storyline whatsoever.

Instead, what the show is striving to give us is something familiar, yet new. A story full of light and love that the show creators have patched up and given a fresh coat of paint that it desperately needed. Even if CLOAK AND DAGGER do not turn out perfect — and I hardly expect it to — it’s made great strides just by the first two episodes, and I’m endlessly excited for what’s ahead.

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