Cloak & Dagger: lights and shadows of teenage vigilantes

Those of us who eagerly devoured the adventures of Spider-Man in the early 1980s witnessed a rebirth that marked a new golden age for the character. Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man , which until then had been considered a secondary collection of the wall-crawler, saw Bill Mantlo return to the scripts , who had already developed many stories of the character, but who was now approaching him from a different perspective. older and darker perspective.

In his first episodes, he would create Cloak & Dagger (Cape and Dagger) , a peculiar duo of vigilantes who were a reflection of the social problems of a time when drugs ravaged the streets of Manhattan. Mantlo would develop gritty, true-to-life stories while bringing back old villains from the arachnid environment and introducing new characters of his own creation.


Next, we are going to review the trajectory of these two interesting antiheroes, much loved by veteran readers and perhaps a little unknown to new generations.

First apparition

In Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1 #64 USA (March 1982), Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan introduced the characters for the first time in a self-contained story that told us about the beginning of the drug crusade of the Spider-Man. two vigilantes. Spider-Man tried by all means to prevent them from killing some traffickers in cold blood, but he was unsuccessful and they escaped by teleporting thanks to Cloak’s cape after finishing off the criminals.

First apparition

According to writer Bill Mantlo, the inspiration for Cloak & Dagger came after a visit to Ellis Island : “They came at night, when all was quiet and my mind was blank. They came fully conceived in terms of their powers and attributes, their origin and motivation. They embodied between the two of them all the fear and misery, hunger and longing that had haunted me on Ellis Island.”



Coming from a poor neighborhood in South Boston, Tyrone Johnson was a good student struggling with his chronic stutter, a handicap he occasionally mastered with the encouragement of his best friend, Billy.

When Tyrone was 17, they both witnessed a store robbery and the owner’s murder. The robbers fled, and Billy also went on the run, fearing that he and Tyrone might be wrongly suspected of the crime. When a policeman ordered him to stop, Tyrone tried to proclaim his friend’s innocence, but his stutter prevented him from doing so and the officer killed Billy. Feeling responsible for Billy’s death and fearful of the police, Johnson ran away to New York.


Tandy Bowen was a 16-year-old girl from a wealthy Ohio family. Her father had abandoned them when she was just a child, embarking on a spiritual journey to India, while her mother, a former supermodel, had remarried to a man Tandy never got along with.

Feeling alone and without the affection of her family, she ended up leaving her home and took a bus to New York.


Arriving at the Manhattan bus terminal, a penniless Tyrone considered robbing Tandy, who he saw looking like a well-to-do girl. However, someone else went ahead and stole the girl.

Tyrone impulsively tackled the thief and returned Tandy’s bag, which made the two teens quickly hit it off. From that moment on, they became inseparable, living on the streets with other runaway teenagers and trying to survive as best they could.


When Tandy learned that Dr. Simon Marshall was offering shelter and food to street youth, she did not hesitate and accepted his offer, in the face of Tyrone’s mistrust. In reality, Marshall was developing a new synthetic heroin for the crime syndicate known as the Maggia , testing it on runaway teenagers with fatal results in a lab camouflaged as a hostel on Ellis Island.


Tyrone and Tandy managed to survive the experimental drug (called D-Lite ), which acted unexpectedly on their still dormant mutant genes, and managed to escape from Dr. Marshall’s lab.


During his flight, Tyrone was engulfed in a deep and impenetrable darkness and a strange longing took possession of him that only calmed in the presence of Tandy, who emitted a dazzling white light . Trying to hide his new grim appearance in a makeshift cloak, Tyrone began absorbing Marshall’s thugs into the darkness of him while Tandy pummeled them with light daggers. The two teenagers called themselves Cloak and Dagger and began their crusade against drugs and all those who produced and distributed them.


Thinking that all the other victims of the biochemist had succumbed to the deadly drugs, Cloak & Dagger were unaware that there was another survivor who came out alive after being exposed to the D-Lite, granting him powers related to the dual nature of light and darkness. He was a criminal of Chinese origin who adopted the name of Martin Li , although the world would come to know him years later as Mister Negative , who would debut many years later in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man under the baton of Dan Slott.


Different, innovative… and products of its time

From their first appearance, the public enthusiastically received the characters. It was clear that there was something different, innovative and even daring about them.


En primer lugar, se trataba de una pareja interracial, algo que en Estados Unidos siempre ha generado polémica, debido especialmente a que las tensiones raciales siempre han estado a flor de piel.


En segundo lugar, la propia naturaleza de sus poderes, basados en la dualidad luz-oscuridad y que les hacía básicamente dependientes el uno del otro, como un remanente perverso de la adicción a las drogas.


Por último, algo también novedoso para la época era que su cruzada como justicieros (no tan extremos como Punisher, eso sí) no estaba dirigida contra los típicos supervillanos disfrazados, sino contra una amenaza mucho más peligrosa y real: la droga.

A reflection of social reality, something that became commonplace in the 1980s, its main objective was the fight against organized gangs and gangs that trafficked drugs. In these first appearances, issues related to vigilantism and its role within society are raised, that is, whether or not they were part of the solution, or the problem.


In their initial appearances, they killed Simon Marshall, the villain who had given them their powers, and Silvermane, the mastermind behind the plan.


In this way, their origins dictated that they would become heroes to the downtrodden, the helpless, and the desperate.


powers and abilities

Cloak & Dagger’s powers reflect their different personalities, representing that duality between light and dark.


Cloak tiene la capacidad de abrir un portal hacia la dimensión de la oscuridad a través de su capa, donde se teletransporta y transporta a sus enemigos, que quedan expuestos a un frío inenarrable que les consume y absorbe, puesto que las energías de la dimensión oscuras están siempre hambrientas.


De igual forma, Cloak siente un hambre constante, parecida al ansia de un vampiro, que solamente puede saciarse con la luz de Tandy o con la fuerza vital de las víctimas que absorbe en su forma oscura. Aunque la mayor parte del tiempo logra controlarla, esta ansia acaba regresando siempre en los momentos débiles.


You can also use that dimension to travel, that is, to transport yourself and anyone else you wish to take with you. The cloak can also become intangible or ghost-like, and has an insatiable need to feed on light, either from those caught within it or (especially) from Dagger.

If you go a while without exposing yourself to Dagger’s light, you begin to experience something akin to drug withdrawal.

As for Dagger, she projects and fires energy-absorbing daggers that can also serve as food to sate Cloak’s hunger. These psionic “daggers of light” have various functions. On the one hand, they can drain the life force of their opponents, but they can also heal/cleanse some people of their addictions to certain drugs and substances.


If she doesn’t discharge her energy, she can be overloaded by it in a dangerous way, going into a feverish state and becoming dangerous by unintentionally discharging that energy. Therefore, due to the need to feed on Cloak, she spends that light energy on him, draining her dark energy to satiate her hunger, thus achieving a necessary balance for the safety of both.

Before becoming a fugitive, Dagger was a professional dancer, which coupled with her athletic build makes her a formidable fighter.


During Dan Slott’s long run as Spider-Man they spent some time with their powers changed, after the events of the event known as Spider-Island.

reverse powers

When Mr. Negative used his corrupting touch to alter their powers, Dagger became a being of darkness and Cloak became a being of light, but they subsequently returned to their usual power dynamic.


In summary, we can say that Cloak and Dagger desperately need each other, both entering into imbalance when they act individually. Just as light and dark need each other, our characters need each other to exist.

light darkness

Mutants… or not so much

There is some controversy regarding the mutant nature of the characters. Originally, they were considered to be genetic mutants , while in later stories they are considered to be mutants artificially induced by exposure to the experimental drug (they would thus be enhanced humans rather than mutants). In any case, the drug awakened his latent powers and perhaps influenced the form they took.


After joining Norman Osborn’s Dark X-Men after Osborn promised to help them in their crusade against drugs, it was revealed that Emma Frost was posing as an ally of the former Green Goblin to buy time for Cyclops’ plan to exile the Dark X-Men. mutants to the floating island known as Utopia .


Los X-Men les ofrecieron unirse a sus filas y los dos decidieron trasladarse con ellos a la isla, donde permanecieron hasta que se descubrió que en realidad no eran mutantes, después de que el Doctor Némesis realizara varias pruebas sobre Dagger.


Trayectoria errática, secundarios de lujo

Aunque Cloak y Dagger comenzaron como implacables vigilantes, matando al causante de su creación ante la impotente mirada de Spider-Man, nuestro arácnido favorito pronto descubrió el dramático pasado de la pareja de adolescentes e intentó llevarles por el buen camino, convirtiéndose poco a poco en aliado y amigo.


Después de intentar eliminar del mapa a Silvermane y al mismísimo Kingpin, Dagger se volvió menos despiadada e intentó convencer a Cloak para cambiar sus métodos, entendiendo que el asesinato no era la solución para acabar con el problema de las drogas. Sin embargo, el insaciable hambre de Cloak, que necesitaba alimentar a su oscuridad con seres vivos, era difícil de contener, aunque pudiese ser satisfecha temporalmente con la luz de Dagger.


Little by little, they began to interact with other characters outside the arachnid universe. In the mythical Marvel Team-Up Annual Vol. 1 #6 USA, the couple shared an adventure with Spider-Man and the New Mutants , in a story that narrated the kidnapping of Wolfsbane and Sunspot by criminals who wanted to develop a new drug with effects mutagenic based on the experiments of Doctor Marshall.


A pesar de que los jóvenes mutantes fueron purgados de la nociva sustancia gracias a la luz de Dagger, posteriormente empezaron a manifestar los poderes de luz y oscuridad de la pareja de justicieros, a la vez que éstos perdieron sus poderes. Esta memorable historia fue narrada magistralmente por Chris Claremont y Bill Sienkiewicz en The New Mutants Vol. 1 #22-24 USA y sirvió para asentar como canon la idea de que Cloak & Dagger eran mutantes y que solamente gracias a su condición habían podido sobrevivir a la droga del Doctor Marshall.


The growing popularity of the characters brought with it a change in attitude and it was decided from then on to present them as anti -heroes . This led to the characters enjoying a miniseries, Cloak and Dagger Vol. 1 #1-4 USA (October 1983 – January 1984), whose managers were Bill Mantlo himself and cartoonist Rick Leonardi , who updated their visual appearance. and became one of the cartoonists most associated by all fans with the teenage duo.


In this first header, Mantlo recounts in more detail the origin of his powers and explores his different personalities, focusing especially on Capa’s tortured and self-conscious psyche. Young Tyrone felt inferior to Tandy and was afraid of harming her with his constant craving to be fed by her light. This physical and emotional dependency is something that has always marked their relationship, which from very early on led to something more than a simple friendship.


Also here we are introduced for the first time to Father Francis Delgado , who welcomes them in his Church of the Holy Spirit, which would become a refuge and base of operations for a long time.


The positive reception of the miniseries led them to star in a new header with their name, scripted again by Mantlo , and which had eleven bimonthly installments.


After issue eleven, Marvel decided to combine the collection with the also bimonthly issue dedicated to Doctor Strange, giving rise to a new series with the title of Strange Tales , which was dedicated to delving into the supernatural component of the characters.


In this shared header we were able to witness the return of Nathan Tyler, Dagger’s biological father, turned into the Lord of Light, a kind of vampire who wanted to feed on his daughter’s vital energy. Finally, he repented of his actions and threw himself into Cloak’s dark abyss.


At the same time, Tyrone continued his own inner struggle, trying with great pain to keep at bay the hungry Predator (Predator) that dwelled within his darkness.


Mister Jip , a dark sorcerer who had been one of the first disciples of the Ancient One ( the Ancient one , the teacher of Doctor Strange) and who intended to gain control of the dark energies of the dimension to which Cloak Are you connected.


Mister Jip, along with his minions Night and Day, became something of an archenemy to our heroes, displaying an unending obsession with the vigilante duo.

arch enemy

The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger was the curious name (which blatantly played with their status as mutants) of the duo’s third title. The starting point of the series was the revelation that Cloak and Dagger had been mutants forever and that the drugs they had been exposed to had simply activated their powers, which would also explain why none of the other subjects had survived. .

In the first issues, a Dagger who had lost her sight struggled to adjust to her new situation, but this was short-lived, as poor sales forced the series to be canceled, but not before offering us a last-minute surprise.


In an exercise in retrocontinuity of those that Marvel likes so much (and that readers usually like so little), it is revealed to us that the demon D’Spayre had manipulated events to influence the creation of future antiheroes ( Cloak and Dagger Vol. 3 #19 USA , August 1991), infusing them with the energies of the Light and Dark Forces.

According to this controversial version, Dr. Marshall’s drug had been created following the instructions of the devil so that he could thus feed on the suffering that he would cause in addicts.


As we can see, Cloak & Dagger have always been present in one way or another, usually as illustrious secondary or special guests. Although without excessive prominence, his presence has been felt in major events such as Secret Wars II (where they came face to face with the Beyonder), The Infinity Guanlet (helping in the battle against Thanos) or Maximum Carnage (Maximum Killing), where Dagger was seriously injured and nearly lost her life.


During the troubled ’90s, they were limited to minor appearances in collections like The New Warriors , where they were part of the group and their entourage for a while.


In the Marvel Knights collection , Dagger teamed up with Black Widow, Daredevil, Punisher, and Sang-Chi and together they set out on a search for a missing Tyrone, who had been possessed by the villainous Nightmare and threatened to unleash dark energy and devour everything.


Almost always linked to the environment of Spider-Man, they also tried their luck within the mutant franchise for a season, although in the end they soon returned to the fold.


During the Civil War event , both sided with Captain America’s anti-registration camp and acted as valued allies, relocating after the conflict to South America to further their anti-drug crusade.


More recently, the secretive criminal group known as the Pride tricked Cloak & Dagger into trying to get back their runaway teenage sons, known as the Runaways , but all was quickly revealed after a hilarious and light-hearted encounter between them.


Following its premiere on the small screen, Marvel has taken the opportunity to launch a new series of the couple, by Dennis Hopeless and David Messina.


tv stars

The cable television channel Freeform , a network focused on adolescents and young people (it belongs to the ABC network, owned by Disney) is responsible for transferring the couple of antiheroes to the small screen and giving them back a bit of the prominence they have lost in recent years.

Its two lead actors, Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph , look like an Ultimate version of Cloak & Dagger and their origins also vary from the comics. There are no drugs involved, but there is the evil (and omnipresent) Roxxon Corporation , which is the cause of their acquiring their powers.

Although the series presents from almost the beginning the romantic dynamic between them, the series has a realistic and street approach, stuck to the real world as we have already seen in the series of Jessica Jones and Netflix’s Daredevil.

The two young actors exude great chemistry between them and endow their characters with the vulnerability and complexity necessary to live up to their cartoon counterparts.

TV series

Without a doubt, Cloak and Dagger have come back with a vengeance and we hope they get back the place they have long deserved. Excelsior!