“The darkness and the light are both alike…I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Psalms 139:14 and Cloak and Dagger 1-4
I used to do a lot of fan art. As I’m relatively new to comics and rather picky about what I read, I was often asked to draw characters whom I knew nothing about. So, I used to research the their backstories and peruse various images online to get an idea of the look and feel of the characters. Eventually, I came to be in the unique position of knowing a lot about comics I’d never read. Through the course of my self-education, I became intrigued with certain characters, and decided to track down their original (or first significant) appearances and give myself a crash course in origin stories. I had the idea to write a retrospective on different comic book beginnings from the perspective of fan who is well-informed, but not particularly well-read. To begin, I procured Cloak and Dagger 1-4, Strange Tales #115, and Almost Got ‘Im (the Little Golden Book in which Harley Quinn makes her fist appearance in 1993). I went into my pet project with a few goals: to learn the origin stories of my favorite characters, to get a feel for comics as they were written and drawn in the past, and to spotlight an old story with new eyes.
My first endeavor was to read Cloak and Dagger, who originally appeared in a four issue, special edition off-shoot of Spider-Man in 1983. I had drawn these characters many times and was familiar with the symbiotic nature of their relationship, but actually reading the story gave my artistic inspiration, and my appreciation for comics, a much stronger foundation. It was like adding a bottom layer to a cake, or getting to know an old friend again. Because I already knew the basic story, it was interesting for me to finally fill in the holes in my comic book knowledge.
For those who have never read it, and for those who like to reminiscence, Cloak and Dagger 1-4 was thoroughly enjoyable. Of course, it’s always fun to flip through the worn newsprint paper of an older comic, so different from most modern glossy pages. The art style is distinctively dated and, as was common, the number of panel
s per page is much greater than a typical comic of today. Beyond that, while the dialogue can be a bit hokey, I loved every minute of it.
The following contains spoilers -though a very old story- but spoilers nonetheless.
Cloak and Dagger are unique characters, an inseparable duo surrounded by symbolism and mysticism, while also being totally badass. Originally runaways, Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen had both fled to New York City, Tyrone to escape the ghetto where he was blamed for a crime he didn’t commit, and Tandy who abandoned a career in ballet to separate from her wealthy but neglectful mother. They are accosted by the”Creeps” and taken to an abandoned immigration facility on Ellis Island where they are used as test subjects and given experimental drugs. They escape, and through a rather big leap, are now Cloak -and insatiable darkness who can devour the light and life of a human soul, and Dagger- pure light, and the one thing that calms Cloak’s hunger. Dagger is formidable in her own right, though, as she can shoot daggers of light as sharp as blades. Together, they vow to protect the children of the city from the criminals who preyed upon them when they were children themselves.
Some cool stuff I learned: Cloak had a stutter before his transformation. Dagger attempts to resurrect someone from the dead. Cloak can spit people back out after he’s swallowed them with his cloak. Dagger cures a drug addicted teen by filling her with light.
Lastly, I learned that melodrama is fun! Lines like this make me happy:
Overall, the best part about Cloak and Dagger is their entwined existence. No sexual or romantic relationship is even hinted at (in these issues), but the two are fiercely loyal and protective of each other, aside from their actual need to be together. In issues 1-4, each character sacrifices something of themselves for the other, and their spiritual bond is an ever-present theme throughout. They first appear in a church, in fact, and seek sanctuary from the priest as they carry out their vengeance upon the criminals of New York. Considering the duality of the characters, their inseparable state of shadow and life, a house of worship is a fitting and symbolically significant venue for the mystical heroes. I look forward to reading more, as Cloak and Dagger are now on my must-catch-up-on-thirty-years-of-story list.
Please visit again for the next installment of Origins and Firsts, where I read and discuss Strange Tales #115, the origin story of Dr. Strange, of whom I know absolutely nothing. This is going to be so good!