Freeform is getting a piece of the Marvel pie with their latest series Cloak & Dagger, premiering on June 7. The teen superhero series is based on the Cloak and Dagger comics series, which made its debut in the '80s, and is about two New York City teenagers (Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt) who survive experiments and become a justice-seeking superhero couple. The source material definitely has its fans, but the characters and setting will see some changes as the adaptation makes its way to the small-screen.
The original Cloak and Dagger comic follows the main characters Tyrone “Ty” Johnson/Cloak and Tandy Bowen/Dagger as they become unlikely heroes. According to an IGN Cloak and Dagger comic character profile, Tandy is a white, rich, and privileged runaway who laments over the lack of attention she received from her superstar mother. Tyrone is a black Boston native with a speech impediment who runs away after his friend is killed by a police officer. They meet up in NYC and are abducted by criminal chemist who tested synthetic drugs on runaways. The pair survive the horrendous experiment and escape, but they soon find themselves with superpowers.
The original comic series was created by writer Bill Mantlo, who also co-created Guardians of the Galaxy character Rocket. According to Huffington Post, Mantlo was left with brain damage after being hit by a car in 1992; he's not involved with the Cloak & Dagger TV series. Mantlo's comic ran from 1985-1987, but Cloak and Dagger have also made appearances in other books, when they joined forces with Spiderman, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and other popular Marvel characters.
In the books, Tyrone inherits dark powers that would allow him to place enemies in a void of light inside his cloak, which drive them insane. He also has teleportation capabilities and a vampire-like need for light, which he takes from others or gets from Dagger. Tandy is his polar opposite, who uses light to sap energy and has the ability to heal and throw daggers of light. The teens team up as Cloak and Dagger to help other runaway kids and fight street criminals.
The issue of a black teen boy being a representation of darkness and struggling with rage vs. a white teen girl as “the light” is problematic, because of the "angry black man" and "fragile/good white woman" stereotypes. TV series showrunner Joe Pokaski, who has also written for the Daredevil Netflix series, understood the need to tweak their motivations and personalities to avoid those issues. Pokaski spoke to Cinemablend about the changes fan can expect in the show. For one, he decided to flip their backgrounds, making Tyrone the rich kid and Tandy a street criminal.
“When we talk about how sexist and racist the old versions were, it always drove me crazy, and it wasn’t really the original things, where people would be like ‘Tyrone is about fear and Tandy is about hope.’ I never saw it that way,” Pokaski said. “That felt very black and white in the wrong way. So, the nature of their powers, from an emotional standpoint, is Tandy lives on the spectrum between cynicism and hope, and Tyron lives on the spectrum between fear and bravery. So, their first season stories are about Tandy trying to move from being a very cynical human being towards the light, and Tyrone trying to move from the fear that can cripple you to becoming a hero.”
Tyrone and Tandy’s personal backgrounds are also going to be affected by their new home. In the same interview, Pokaski also revealed that the story would take place, and actually film, in New Orleans instead of New York City. New Orleans is a unique city with a different vibe from New York City, so it will give the show a different feeling from the other Marvel properties in the same universe. The Louisiana city is known for its French inspired architecture, jazz music, creole-style food, streetcar transportation, Southern accents, and friendly people, which will certainly affect the character's personalities and backdrop for the action. And, the New York City hero and villain scene is oversaturated, so it makes sense to take the action to another major city.
Pokaski believed the move would give the show time to build solid character backgrounds for Tyrone and Tandy before the pair comes together. According to Slashfilm, their connection will actually come through a tragic event from their childhoods. An offshore rig explosion will cause the pair to meet as children and lead to both of them losing loved ones. Obviously, they will reconnect as teens and begin the journey toward becoming heroes and lovers.
Pokaski hasn't said much about their romantic bond, but Freeform’s latest Cloak & Dagger trailer shows Tyrone kissing another girl. (This is Freeform, so the Cloak and Dagger romance has to be complicated with a dash of drama.) The intense trailer shows an investigation of an impending dark force as a young woman warns the two that their forces combining will end with one person’s death.
The final trailer’s tagline “One will live. One will die” supports this statement and is likely causing buzz about what will happen by the end of Season 1. The extended clip also features shots of Cloak and Dagger balancing their powers together and noting how they have an almost divine connection.
Based on the trailer, Cloak & Dagger has the Marvel look and feel that fans expect from one of their series. This is because the minds behind the series are Marvel TV veterans. Along with Pokaski, Jenny Klein is heavily involved as a writer and producer. According to Klein’s IMBD page, she co-produced 13 episodes of Jessica Jones. She produced nine episodes of Cloak & Dagger, and wrote two episodes as well.
Cloak & Dagger’s updated location and fresh takes on existing comic characters may make it feel different from its origins, but change is a good thing sometimes. Freeform’s first foray into Marvel superheros has the teen drama, fantasy elements, and superhero action to draw in viewers, but will the dynamic duo keep fans coming back for more? Hopefully, Cloak & Dagger will prove to be a welcome addition to the MCU.