Monday, February 6, 2012

Child of Light and Child of Darkness - Part 4

Here's the final part of my Cloak and Dagger article reprinted from Back Issue #45 (November 2010). If you like the article, please pick up a copy of the magazine!

            The origin of Cloak and Dagger has been revisited and retconned [retcon is the short form for retroactive continuity] numerous times.
The earliest change to their origin had Professor X believing Cloak and Dagger were mutants. In The New Mutants #24 (Feb. 1985), Professor X revealed that the drug that had given Cloak and Dagger their powers had “interacted with the children’s DNA matrix … triggering a gradual on-going mutation in their fundamental genetic structure. A mutagenic substance interacting with mutant genes.”
Bill Mantlo had left a dangling subplot that hinted at a malevolent entity existing within Cloak’s darkness. Terry Austin picked up on that thread and fleshed it out, bringing to life the entity known as the Predator. This interesting twist shifted the focus of Cloak’s insatiable hunger away from an internal struggle with his own power and made him more of a victim, suffering under the burden of containing the Predator.
Terry Austin was the first writer to pull Cloak and Dagger out from under that shadow of their drug theme. Unfortunately, Austin’s take on Cloak and Dagger never caught on despite his efforts. To his credit, he stayed on The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger for thirteen issues. Austin did all that he could to save the title, including answering fan mail in the letter pages. The title struggled for another six issues under an assortment of writers and artists.
In the last issue of their second ongoing series (Cloak and Dagger #19, Aug. 1991), the demon called D’spayre claimed responsibility for creating Cloak and Dagger. In the most dramatic retcon of their origin, it was revealed that D’spayre had spawned a Lightform and Darkform which he bonded to Dagger and Cloak respectively.
When Cloak enveloped D’spayre and sent him to the dark dimension, his own creation the Darkform, apparently consumed him. There was no mention of the Predator and how he existed within the Darkform. D’spayre’s destruction left Cloak and Dagger’s powers forever changed. Cloak still had some form of vacuum within his cloak, the ability to teleport, and to control his Cloak as if it was an extension of his body. And Dagger who now found herself equipped with a light-shield, could generate light flares and light daggers, but lost her powers to cure addictions.
Recently, Cloak and Dagger re-emerged as part of the Civil War event and joined the ranks of the X-Men during the Dark Reign/Utopia event. In the Cloak and Dagger Special (Mar. 2010), their status as mutants was revoked and they were classified as “mutates” with the designer drug mutating them rather than activating their latent mutant powers.

While researching this article, I kept asking myself why did Cloak and Dagger never become more than second-tier characters. Looking back, a number of factors contributed to this fact. The teen-themed books had run their course and comic books fans were being inundated with X-Men titles in the early 1990s. The drug campaign faded away with a new president and first lady. Cloak and Dagger had invariably become the embodiment of those 1980s social issues and that limited their arc and popularity.
“If the series had a different focus, if it was mainstream superhero, perhaps it would have found a larger audience and the characters would have become major players in the Marvel universe,” David Yurkovich postulated. “Quite likely, however, readers would have regarded Bill as selling out. I personally believe that Bill would have had a finite life span in mind for these characters. Where Ty and Tandy once took on lofty opponents to stop the drug effort, we might have seen them realize that the most help they can offer runaways and drug-addicted teens was through individual counseling at volunteer centers.”
Mike Mantlo added the following: “I can only imagine that Bill's characters would have grown, and matured, over a 25-year stretch.  Like his idol, John Lennon, Bill had pretty much mellowed out by the early 1990's, and my guess is he would have moved Cloak and Dagger in the direction of adult champions of fighting social injustices.”
Cloak and Dagger stood out in the Marvel Universe for a couple of decades as social symbols and characters that dramatically changed in a short time frame compared to most comic book characters. They seem better suited living in the shadowy limbo of second-tiered characters, ready to be called upon when their presence was required. Cloak and Dagger have proven themselves versatile and universal, connecting to teens of any generation.


  1. Very nice article. I really like C&D when they appear on books I read, so I guess the statement about them being perfect as secod-tier characters is very true.

  2. Nice article but needing I think two corrections:

    - that wasn't Terry Austin but Bill Mantlo who fleshed out the Predator, in the Predator and Prey graphic novel

    - Teery Austin stayed a little loner than that on Cloak and Dagger because he was already writing the series for more than 10 issues in Strange Tales before he switched back into a title of its own.

  3. Hey Xavier, thanks for the clarifications.



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