Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Child of Light and Child of Darkness - Part 3

Sigh...didn't clue in that I hadn't posted part 3! Sorry about that...


Here's part 3 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!

SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP
“Let her go, Cloak!” cried Spider-Man in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #70 (Sept. 1982). “What kind of hold do you have over her?!” To which Cloak replied: “Whatever chains shackle us together are mutually imposed”.
One of the more powerful facets of Cloak and Dagger was their haunting, symbiotic relationship that bound them together. Spawned as a byproduct of greed and violence, their lives were changed, but changed together, linked forever. Neither of them had anyone to turn to. Alone and afraid, and still learning about themselves and their powers, they struggled together to live in a stark and dangerous world that had stolen their innocence.
Dagger was an obvious symbol of light while Cloak was the darkness. She was seen as an angel while Cloak a devil. Her powers cleansed while his consumed. They were diametrically opposed, but their need for each other tied them together.
A symbiotic relationship can be broadly defined as a relationship between organisms in which both organisms benefit from the association. Through this relationship, both individuals improve the prospects of their survival and growth. (Ahmadjian, Vernon and Paracer, Surindar, Symbiosis: an introduction to biological associations, Oxford University Press, 2000).
Cloak needed Dagger’s light daggers to quell the hunger of his extra-dimensional void. Without her light, Cloak would become a monster and zealously consume anyone’s life energy. Dagger needed Cloak as well. The light within Dagger’s body would build up and regularly needed to be defused into his hungry darkness.
In Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #94 (Sept. 1984), the hunger growing within Cloak had become an addiction: “A hunger far greater than any of you could understand – You spoke of a price – I will pay you in coin far greater than you could ever dream!” Despite knowing the hunger was consuming his soul as well as his victim’s, Cloak couldn’t help himself. “Without your light to sustain me, the darkness within me could rise up and consume every living thing on this earth,” Cloak told Dagger.
Cloak was disturbed by his need to feed on Dagger’s light, fearing that his darkness would contaminate her purity: “At last the darkness can feast – And I need not take Dagger’s precious light to feed it!” From the moment he met her, Cloak loved Dagger. To him, she represented an innocence and purity, qualities he felt he could never achieve himself.
Together they were forced to deal with how they were changed. Not only do their powers prevent them from returning to their normal lives, but with their innocence shattered, they could no longer live in the idealistic childhood world they once believed existed.
In Marvel Team-Up Annual #6 (Jan. 1983), the question of Cloak & Dagger being mutants was raised, but not answered as they turned down an offer to join Professor Xavier’s New Mutants. A few years later, in The New Mutants #23 (Jan. 1985), Cloak and Dagger found themselves normal again as they’d transferred their powers to Roberto (Sunspot) da Costa and Rahne (Wolfsbane) Sinclair.
Initially, Cloak and Dagger were relieved to be free of their curse. “We don’t want those powers back! (…) We d-d-deserve our chance at happiness,” Tyrone told the New Mutants. Imagine the frustration you would feel no longer being human, unable to remove a mask or costume like other heroes, and incapable of returning to a normal life.
Being normal again didn’t sit well with Tyrone (The New Mutants #24, Feb. 1985). He feared losing Tandy as he felt they had nothing in common since their bond was now broken. Neither of them fit into each other’s world because their powers were no longer a unifying force.
But, Cloak feared becoming Cloak again: “[you can’t know] what it’s like feeling d-d-darkness grow inside you like a c-c-cancer, an’ yourself becoming a slave to its awful h-h-hunger. Tandy, the more I use my power, the more I w-w-wanted to. Like I’m some kinda junkie or vampire. Towards the end, it was gettin’ harder an’ h-h-harder to control! It ain’t fair. Y’know?! I mean, why m-m-me. What’d I ever do to d-d-deserve that?!!”

Tandy had always been Tyrone’s moral compass. It’s not that he didn’t know what was right or wrong, he would let his fears overwhelm his decision making process. Tandy was always there to center him. She also didn’t have the same malicious drawbacks with her light powers.
Tandy had been less enthusiastic about their vendetta, as she was lost in the weight of the responsibility of their transformation. On the surface, she seemed hesitant, distracted by her desire to be like other teenagers, while Tyrone seemed so driven and certain their cause was just. But, inside, it was the reverse with Tandy being the strong one and Tyrone being the one distracted by his internal conflicts. Tandy willingly took up her mantle as Dagger feeling that no other person should bear the curse of their powers.
Tyrone struggled with losing Tandy or losing his soul. During the process to regain their powers, Tyrone confronted his fears and emerged as Cloak, but with a sense of renewed hope and optimism.
Another test of their relationship happened in Cloak and Dagger #1 (Jul. 1985). Cloak, full of righteous fury after a heated debate with Father Delgado, turned on Delgado’s parishioners. Driven by his relentless hunger, he judged them unworthy and enveloped them in his cloak to feed. Dagger intervened, rescuing them from Cloak. And it’s during this outburst, that we saw a hint that there might actually be some kind of monster within Cloak’s darkness.
In the aftermath, Dagger decided to leave Cloak, but was again tasked to intervene as Cloak lashed out against a group of reckless teens (Cloak and Dagger #2, Sept. 1985). Dagger turned to her mother in hopes of grounding herself, but she realized that her mother was more self-absorbed that she had remembered. And taking a page from Cloak’s book, she lashed out against her mother and her lifestyle. In the end, Dagger only had Cloak to turn to.
Haunted by her return to Cloak and to their mission of vengeance (Cloak and Dagger #3, Nov. 1985), Dagger feared for her soul. Cloak’s response was straightforward: “Never say that. You are pure. Your excess light protects you from the dark presence that hungers inside me. It is that light that keeps us both from being eternally condemned.”
In Cloak and Dagger #4 (Jan. 1986), Mantlo used a tie-in to a Marvel-wide event to his advantage. He dropped the Secret Wars II’s Beyonder, an all-powerful god-like being, in the slums of New York City. It wasn’t long before the street vermin descended upon him and tried to exploit his naivety.
Cloak and Dagger came to his rescue, unaware of his omnipotence. He rewarded them by stripping them of the powers and freeing them of their burden. But, when Cloak and Dagger explained to him what those drug dealers and pushers would have done to him, he realized the good that Cloak and Dagger did and the worthiness of their mission.
The Beyonder then took their mission to the nth degree and unleashed the power of a god against those in the drug trade. This blind, wide-spread action forced Cloak and Dagger to confront the effects of their vigilantism, making an emotional connection to what they’ve done and what they were doing. At this pivotal moment, Cloak again challenged the righteousness of their mission, caught between his morals and his thirst for vengeance.
What Mantlo cleverly did here was strip these characters down to their basics. When confronted about their mission by various authority figures like Spider-Man or Father Delgado, they stood proudly on the fact that their powers give them the right do to what they do.
But here, the Beyonder gave them the opportunity to be free of their curse and to have the drug trade wiped out with the wave of his all-powerful hand. They chose to stand against him and Cloak summarized their decision eloquently: “Were we to choose that course, Dagger. Then we would remain in a state of perpetual childhood. Never growing, never learning from experience, never striving and struggling towards some awareness of our role in the scheme of things… never achieving any control over our own existences.”
“I have gone on record as saying that I am opposed to creating characters that aren’t organic – in the sense that you know everything there is to know in issue one about his powers,” Mantlo explained in his interview in Marvel Age #25. “I would rather learn about the characters bit by bit by bit – learn about their powers bit by bit – watch the characters and their powers evolve and grow and become one with each other.”
Their first instinct was one of revenge. Cloak and Dagger wanted to avenge their symbolic deaths and the deaths of their childhoods. But, together, they changed and adapted and learned. They were young kids who grew up, matured, and made mistakes. They continually questioned what they had become now and how they used their powers.
And as they grew together, Dagger’s optimism was slowly eroded as she was forced to become more and more realistic. Cloak changed as well, with his righteousness tempered by hope the more time he spent with Dagger.


EXIT MANTLO – ENTER AUSTIN
            After a short run of eleven issues, the ongoing, bi-monthly Cloak and Dagger title was cancelled. Along with Doctor Strange, whose series had also been cancelled, Cloak and Dagger were relaunched in a new volume of Strange Tales.
Strange Tales #7 (Nov. 1987) was Bill Mantlo’s last, but he would go on to further pen their adventures in a couple of graphic novels.
David Yurkovich acknowledged that “It was obviously distressing to Bill when he was pulled from the book by the (then) powers-that-be. In sorting through old interviews with Bill, and from personal recollections from his brother, it seems obvious that Bill's removal from Cloak and Dagger was based on in-house politics rather than Bill's ability to produce good stories.”
New writer, Terry Austin recalled: “Bill Mantlo was perceived to be running out of steam on Cloak and Dagger and sales were sliding downhill on Strange Tales. Since at one time they were popular enough for sales to spike upwards on any book in which they guest starred, the Editorial powers-that-be decided that a drastic change was called for.
“Editor Carl Potts, to whom the year before I had submitted an unasked for plot for a Power Pack story that would eventually become issue #21 of that title, now asked me to submit some story ideas for where I would take Cloak and Dagger if I were given the opportunity to take the characters in a new direction and write their adventures.  I did, he accepted and we were off and running.”
            Terry Austin didn’t waste any time establishing that new direction. In Austin’s first issue, Strange Tales #8 (Nov. 1987), Tyrone shed his Cloak powers thanks to the mysterious Mr. Jip. Fearing that his relationship with Dagger was jeopardized, Tyrone became Cloak once again, but that only succeeded in driving Dagger away. After burning off some steam with the Black Cat, Dagger returned to Cloak in time to rescue him from Mr. Jip. With this mystical monster, Austin created a foe for them beyond what had become a tired war on drug dealers.
            “My first thought was that readers had obviously gotten tired of seeing Cloak and Dagger endlessly go up against drug dealers, who, let's face it, would never pose much of a challenge to them,” admits Terry Austin. “Characters are never more interesting than when they have a seemingly unopposible force to push against and to that end I came up with what I hoped would be their major reoccurring arch-foe, the maniacal Mister Jip and his foot soldiers Night and Day. 
“I began to lay the groundwork for their introduction in a story that I thought was necessary to show why these two teenagers from totally disparate backgrounds would remain together when they shared nothing in common beyond the story of the origin of their super-powers.  To that end, I broke the partnership apart, sending Cloak off to have an adventure with the Dazzler, and Dagger off to have some mindless fun with the Black Cat, before bringing them back together to demonstrate to them (and us) that the bond that cements them together is nothing short of the love they share for one another.”

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