Where Light meets Darkness: The Longevity of Cloak & Dagger

by Nicholas Yanes

111221A-300x157 Where Light meets Darkness: The Longevity of Cloak & Dagger Cloak & Dagger have had a consistent presence in the Marvel comics for nearly forty years. By reflecting on their origins and evolution one can understand why these characters appeal to writers, artists, and readers.

The duo first appeared in Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man #64 (one year 9.8 sales average currently $677), which was published in March 1982. The pair has since struggled to generate enough sales to sustain their own series.

Origins

Spectacular Spider-Man #64 follows an issue in which the web-crawler fights the Molten Man. It precedes one in which Spider-Man battles Kraven the Hunter and Calypso (1-year average $68 for 9.8). In contrast, #64 finds Spider-Man dealing with Cloak and Dagger as they hunt down and kill drug dealers.

The first appearance of the duo begins with Spider-Man on patrol when he hears a man screaming. The man is responsible for dealing drugs that were experimented with on Cloak and Dagger. Spider-Man tries to stop their violent attack but fails to keep them from killing the dealer. The two later reveal their origin to Spider-Man.

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They explain that they are Tyrone Johnson (Cloak) and Tandy Bowen (Dagger), runaways who were abducted and experimented on. The two managed to survive these experiments and gain powers, but decided to kill those who harmed them.

To understand this deviation from comic book norms, it is important to understand the era Cloak & Dagger were created in, an ancient period known as the “early 80s.” Of particular relevance to Cloak & Dagger being created in the early 80s are the issues of race as well as the War on Drugs.

Drugs

For context, though the War on Drugs was popularized in the 1970s by President Nixon, the US government’s efforts to criminalize drug trafficking and use dramatically increased in the 1980s under President Reagan. This anti-drug sentiment invaded popular culture largely due to efforts associated with the “Just Say No” campaign. First said by Nancy Reagan, who was the First Lady at the time, “Just Say No” represented a shift. Anti-drug rhetoric would be more aggressively targeted towards children and teenagers.

And Spider-Man was no stranger to anti-drug narratives.

As Bradford W. Wright discussed in Comic Book Nation, Stan Lee was contacted in 1970 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Lee was asked by the government to inject anti-drug messages into some of Marvel’s popular titles. This led to a story in which one of Peter Parker’s friends started popping “pills”. Naturally, this resulted in Spider-Man confronting the drug dealer. So, it makes sense that Cloak & Dagger, who got their powers by having experimental street drugs forced on them, would appear in a Spider-Man comic. cloak-and-dagger-runaways-300x150 Where Light meets Darkness: The Longevity of Cloak & Dagger

Race

In addition to the two’s thematic connection to America’s evolving attitudes towards drugs, Cloak & Dagger remain one of the few interracial couples in mainstream comics. Though the first interracial kiss in comics occurred in 1943, mixed-race couples were incredibly rare.

Johnson’s race also enabled the character to allow writers to explore the impact of racism. As Bustle.com wrote about the Cloak & Dagger show, “Tyrone’s (Aubrey Joseph) ability to teleport and tap into a person’s mind to see their fears is otherworldly, but the effects of police violence, racism, and trauma that he deals with reflect real-life human experiences. These themes have been otherwise recently explored by Black hero characters like Luke Cage and the Black Lightning family, but Tyrone’s experience with police violence as a teen hero gives viewers a chance to see them through younger eyes.”

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Currently, Cloak & Dagger have only had four short-lived series starring them. These stories tried to shake up the standard super narrative by not focusing on world-changing or Earth-shattering plots. However, they always struggled to generate the sales needed to go on.

Despite these sales struggles, the duo has maintained a passionate fanbase. It has the potential for further incredible stories, too. That’s because the core of these characters has remained constant. This core being that once you strip them away of the costumes and powers, they remain two lost and hurt souls that managed to find a semblance of peace with one another. Though an overly romantic sentiment, it is one that all writers and readers gravitate towards.

Collector’s Advice

As it is, Cloak & Dagger comics are incredibly affordable. Outside of their first appearance in Spider-Man, their only other featured appearances of substantial value are the first issues for their first and second series. High-quality versions of these issues can easily be found for under $200.  And given that it is only a matter of time before these two appear in a proper MCU movie or Disney+ series? This is a buying opportunity for collectors.

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The views and opinions given in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect investment advice from GoCollect

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1 comment

ABaer November 16, 2021 - 4:27 pm

I guess 2 seasons on Freeform aren’t deemed worthy of mentioning??? (well, OK, nevermind)

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