Okay, so maybe not everyone was as excited as I was to see C-list Marvel superheroes Cloak and Dagger on the cover of last week’s Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #24, but, no matter where your geek love lies, if you don’t know this super duo, you should totally check them out.
Last week writer Brian Michael Bendis gave the heroes a new back story in the Ultimate Comics universe, but this duo has been fighting crime and superfoes since the 80’s. Their original history is interesting… in that slightly-problematic-but-whatever kind of way.
The original story has Tyrone (Ty) Johnson, a poor Black kid from South Boston meeting up with Tandy Bowen, a rich runaway from Ohio, on the mean streets of New York, where he considers stealing her purse before sweet little Tandy offers him money. When someone else actually does steal her purse, Tyrone retrieves it for her. Homeless and kind-hearted, the two take a liking to each other.
Naive Tandy just can’t stay out of trouble, however, and ends up taking shelter with a notorious drug dealer. Ty tags along to help her out and both end up injected with some crazy drug mix that gives them superpowers. Ty becomes Cloak, the embodiment of darkness, able to manipulate darkness and access and navigate the Darkforce dimension and teleport through it.
Tandy, on the other hand, becomes Dagger, the embodiment of light, able to generate and manipulate life-force energy and use it to attack and also heal. She also uses her power to “feed” Cloak, who, is perpetually hungry for light/life-force energy, but Cloak isn’t the only one who benefits from this. Dagger has to emit a certain amount of the life-force energy over time or else it builds up and she gets sick and loses control of her powers .
So you see why these two make quite the pair…
Hopefully, you also see a wee bit of problematicness with the whole story. Poor black guy turns into a life-force munching black hole, rich white girl turns into light and life energy that she feeds to the black dude. Yea…
BUT they also have one of the tightest-knit relationships in comics, and yet they never explored romance… Tyrone is into it, but Tandy never requites. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have a super-close symbiotic relationship without it getting romantic, but we’re talking comics here. So many less plausible match-ups have graced the panels.
And in the Ultimate Comics universe where the new Spider-man is a Puerto Rican and African American mixed baby, it’s super awesome to see another interracial couple! Comics are no stranger to interracial couples – Misty Knight & Iron Fist, Luke Cage & Jessica Jones to name a couple – but, to me the Cloak and Dagger match-up is something of a correction.
Rather than a narrative that can’t help but recall the U.S.’s awkward racial history of the (literally & metaphorically) dark black man lusting after the pure white woman who wants no part of it, this Tyrone and Tandy reflect an America that’s increasingly mixing it up without the slightest thought. You can see these major differences even just in the imagery. Older Cloak and Dagger images often show Cloak looming ominously or possessively over Dagger, whereas Bendis’s Cloak and Dagger cover has the couple side-by-side.
Bendis’ alternate history Cloak and Dagger meet up not as racial stereotypes — a poor homeless thief and a naive rich runaway — but rather as student class presidents of their high schools. And they fall for each other right away, nary a hesitation over race or class, just straight up love.
The universe that Bendis is writing in Ultimate Comics Spider-man is just so awesome. So colorful, so modern, and a hell of a lot more interesting because of it.
I love this duo and I love seeing them in love. Can’t wait to see where their story goes. Brian Michael Bendis, you rock.