Cloak and Dagger. Artists: Rick Leonardi and Terry Austin.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1982
Creators: Bill Mantlo (writer) and Ed Hannigan (artist)
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Dozens if not hundreds of comic book superheroes got their amazing powers by ingesting substances which, tho seldom called by that name, behave a great deal like drugs. Hourman is one of the more overt, but there are plenty of others, from Atomic Mouse and Asterix to Captain America

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… himself. Marvel Comics' Cloak and Dagger were among the first for whom the power-giving drugs were acknowledged to be drugs.

They started as nameless New York street derelects in Spectacular Spider-Man #64 (March, 1982). Ruthless pushers, seeking to develop synthetic drugs more addictive than the natural kind, were experimenting on people like them, and these two — the black male who became Cloak and the white female who became Dagger — were the only test subjects who survived. Not only that — they emerged from the ordeal the same way many comics characters who undergo experiences that would kill a real person do — super-powered. With Spidey's help, they crippled the outfit doing the experimenting, at least for the time being; and afterward, lacking personal lives, they became full-time superheroes. Their creators were writer Bill Mantlo (Alpha Flight, Human Fly, Deathlock and practically everything else Marvel published during the 1970s and '80s) and artist Ed Hannigan (who also did a lot of covers for DC Comics during that decade).

Their super powers (no-doubt designed designed to go with the names) weren't particularly enviable, especially Cloak's. He controlled access to the so-called "Darkforce Dimension", a non-Earthly region of cold and darkness, into which he could cast evildoers and other unwanted objects, and through which he could travel instantaneously to nearby points here in the Mortal Realm. Usually, this involved envelopment in the flowing cloak he wore, the inside of which was depicted as black and featureless. Dagger could emit directed bursts ("daggers") of luminous energy that could accomplish various useful things, among which was to relieve Cloak's constant discomfort with his own condition.

Over the next few years, as they turned up here and there in the Marvel Universe, their backgrounds were filled in. Cloak was Tyrone Johnson, who had run away from home after inadvertently causing the death of a friend. Dagger was Tandy Bowen, daughter of a millionaire supermodel, who ran away for typical rich kid reasons, i.e., not getting enough attention at home. They met when Tyrone chased down a thief who had snatched Tandy's purse and returned it to her. (He'd had his own eye on it, but wasn't about to let anyone else steal it.) Also, it turned out they owed their survival to the fact that they were both mutants (and thus implicitly connected to Marvel's biggest franchise, X-Men), and the experiment had merely activated their own latent powers.

There was a four-issue Cloak & Dagger mini-series in 1983-84, written by Mantlo and drawn by Rick Leonardi (who, among other things, also collaborated with Mantlo about the same time on a series starring The Vision and The Scarlet Witch from The Avengers). Marvel launched them in a continuing series in 1985, but it lasted only 11 issues. Immediately upon its demise, they were placed in an anthology, a revival of the old Strange Tales title. They shared it with Doctor Strange for 19 issues, then were back in their own comic in 1988, with The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak & Dagger. That one ran 19 issues, ending in 1991. They starred in a graphic novel in 1988 and co-starred with Power Pack in another, in 1990.

Since then, they haven't had their own series, but they're still kicking around, seen as guest stars or members of teams such as Marvel Knights and The New Warriors, both of which seemed to exist mainly to house characters in danger of having their trademarks lapse if they weren't kept at least marginally in the public eye. They aren't currently regulars in any series, but like Tigra, Hellcat, Power Man and any number of others, could turn up anywhere, any time.


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Text ©2005-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.