With Avengers: Endgame mere weeks away, the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in a state of flux. Despite rumors about upcoming films, the only hero we know for sure we’ll see again is Tom Holland’s take on the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. However, the television side of the MCU is ever-expanding, bringing to life a pair of teenage superheroes who have a connection to everyone’s favorite wallcrawler. Cloak & Dagger is a series currently in its second season airing on Thursdays on Freeform. But still, even big Marvel fans cannot be faulted for asking, “Who are Cloak and Dagger?” These exciting heroes are not exactly household names like Spidey or the Hulk, but they are an interesting pair with a very cool powerset. These new live-action versions of the characters are the latest to come from Marvel’s TV arm as part of a number of new series featuring teenaged characters as the protagonists.
The first of these newer series focusing on younger heroes is Marvel’s Runaways which airs exclusively on the Hulu streaming platform. This show about a group of kids who run away from their supervillain parents and get powers of their own actually has a connection to Cloak and Dagger. The pair appeared in the comic book series in a guest spot. Next came Cloak & Dagger which airs on Freeform, formerly ABC Family. A third Marvel series, this time a half-hour comedy featuring the New Warriors, was scheduled to premiere on Freeform but hasn’t. It’s possible the folks at Marvel are saving The New Warriors for Disney+, the new streaming service from parent company Disney that will feature new MCU series starring fan-favorite characters like Loki, The Winter Soldier, the Scarlet Witch, and Vision. Even with the Netflix-based MCU series going away, Cloak and Dagger will still have plenty of super-friends to play with on television. Still, if you wonder “who are Cloak and Dagger?” we’re here to answer that question for you, probably in more detail than you ever wanted.
Who Are Cloak and Dagger In the Comics?
In the early 1980s, there were three or four monthly Spider-Man titles coming from Marvel Comics, but the weirdest one was Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. This was the wallcrawler at his most urban, dealing with street-level crimes, serial murderers, and even befriending a police captain named Jean DeWolffe. During this run, writer Bill Mantlo and artist Ed Hannigan imagined a pair of heroes who had a personal connection the kind of street-level crime comic heroes tend to forget when fighting cosmic villains or participating in crossover events. Mantlo said he got the idea after visiting Ellis Island and being “haunted” by “all that fear and misery, hunger and longing.” Hannigan and Mantlo worked out their visual style together. Cloak was a young black man whose body was a shadowy, smokey consistency which he kept reined in with a hooded cloak. Dagger, a former ballet dancer, wore a tight white leotard, with a dagger design showing off her cleavage. Hannigan called that choice “daring” for the 1980s in comics.
Cloak’s powers are also something of a weakness. He can teleport and absorb bad guys into a kind of dark pocket dimension, scaring them and sometimes feeding off of their energy. He suffers from a “hunger” that was meant to parallel drug addiction. Dagger’s powers are light-based, which she most often uses by shaping solidified light into throwable “blades.” Her light satiates Cloak’s hunger, bonding them together. They get their powers when some mad scientists kidnap the kids, who are runaways, and tests an experimental drug that is more addictive than heroin. For comic book reasons, they do not get hooked on this drug but rather get their incredible powers. The pair team up to clean the streets of the drug trade, specifically those dealers tied to the people who kidnapped them. Along with busting drug dealers, they did their best to help other runaway children, usually with the assistance of a priest, Father Delgado, and a cop, Detective Brigid O’Reilly (who later becomes the anti-hero Mayhem). When they first appear in Spider-Man they are vigilantes who take lives, but by the end of their arc Spider-Man convinces them that killing for any reason is wrong. Since then, they’ve become solid “utility players” in the Marvel Universe, showing up to help other heroes in trouble.
Who Are Cloak and Dagger In the Series?
Naturally, when developing a new take on characters created in the 1980s, a very different time culturally and politically, things have to change. The characters of Tyrone Johnson, Cloak’s birth name, and Tandy Bowen, Dagger’s birth name, have many elements of their original stories. For example, Tyrone blames himself for the shooting death of his brother at the hands of the police. Tandy, on the other hand, is a ballet dancer. Yet, some of their circumstances have shifted, specifically that both characters were runaways. In the first season, it was Tandy who was on-the-run, but Tyrone lived in a comfortable suburban home with two loving parents. Their powers also come from a mysterious alien force under the water in the Gulf of Mexico rather than drugs. The two kids both fell in the water during an accident, which bonded them and gave them their powers. The first season focuses on the two finding each other, discovering their powers, and stopping an evil corporation from destroying the world. It’s a slow-paced first season with not too many superhero action sequences, but they make up for this by telling a tightly-focused and moving character story about kids trying to find their place in the world.
In the second season, now airing on Freeform, their streaming app, and Hulu, the two characters have switched roles. Tandy is now at home with her mother, dealing with the fallout of her father’s death. Tyrone, however, is in hiding from the police because he’s wanted for the murder of the corrupt cop who shot his brother. The cop isn’t dead, exactly, as he is (thus far) the only person this version of Cloak has absorbed into his dark dimension. The series now finds these two struggling to find their places in their new circumstances. Both feel like they need to use their powers for good, but they don’t team-up as much as the title would suggest. The ten-episode second season seems prepared to focus on how Tyrone and Tandy come together as a team, fully embracing their Cloak and Dagger personas. Just like the comics, the show deals with issues about crime in the streets and the moral problems with vigilantism. It’s not really a spoiler to say that every time these characters try to do some hero-ing on their own, the results are never ones they are happy with. Just as it was exciting to see these two discover how their powers work and how they are bonded, season two promises to tell an interesting tale about how they learn that they are at their best as a team.
Who Are Cloak and Dagger’s Actors?
Marvel Comics did their job creating compelling, original characters with Cloak and Dagger, but for the series to really be a hit, the show runners needed actors who made these characters feel like real people. They ultimately decided on casting Olivia Holt as Tandy Bowen and Aubrey Omari Joseph as Tyrone Johnson. The latter is a relative newcomer to the acting scene, with a few credits on shows like Law & Order: SVU, HBO’s The Night Of, and some films, Fading Gigolo and Run All Night. He also is a musician, but he hasn’t yet publicly released any of his songs yet. He got his start in the game appearing as young Simba in the Broadway musical production of The Lion King. Given just about 15 minutes to prepare for his audition, Joseph worked desperately to land the part. He said he’d been in the midst of watching Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix, so the audition felt serendipitous. The director of the pilot episode, Gina Prince, told Joseph and Holt to improvise their audition. Joseph said that by the end of the scene both of them were in tears.
Holt is the same age as Joseph, both are 21, but she has a much more extensive acting and singing CV. Her work began on a series of Disney Channel shows. A gymnast for most of her life, Holt landed her big break in the martial arts comedy Kickin’ It. She was a regular on the first three seasons of the show, and made guest appearances in the fourth season. Holt also starred in the half-hour comedy I Didn’t Do It on the Disney Channel, which ran for two seasons. She also starred in the Disney Channel movie Girl vs. Monster. Along with acting, Holt is a serious singer. She recorded three original songs for her Disney movie, eventually honored for them at the Radio Disney Music Awards. Since 2014, Holt has had a deal with Hollywood Records. She released her album, Olivia, and then wet on a tour. In fact, the day she got the call from Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb to welcome her to the MCU, she was just about to sing the National Anthem for that year’s Pro Bowl. She also became a part of the Marvel animated universe, when she played Spider-Girl in the Ultimate Spider-Man show’s version of the “Spider-Verse” storyline.
Who Are Cloak and Dagger as Heroes?
Cloak and Dagger, originally, were part of a series of newer, grittier characters coming to the fore in comic books during the late 1970s and the early 1980s. The Marvel Universe celebrated its second decade, so editors wanted fresh characters to attract new readers who found the legacy characters too old-fashioned. The United States was in a state of panic about drugs, because both addiction rates and crime rates were rising. Taking a poor youth and pairing him with a privileged rich girl was meant to highlight the disparity of experiences for people in different socio-economic strata. That these heroes mostly focused on the drug trade and helping kids who found themselves on the street, helped them find an audience. The series’ version of the heroes is a little less straightforward, but it offers storytellers the same opportunities. Already, the show has focused on issues relating to police brutality, drug abuse, and what people can do when they are desperate. The show takes a more grounded approach, with only Joseph’s Cloak appearing in something that resembles a comics-accurate costume. Still, Cloak and Dagger are shaping up as forces to be reckoned with in their eponymous series.
As mentioned above, Cloak and Dagger are heroes with a lot to be angry about. Also, because they were born in the 1980s, they don’t have the moral aversion to killing their enemies as other heroes do. In the comics, they kill the leader of the drug cartel that gave them their powers and that cartel’s rich backer. (Though they fought the latter foe again, only this time reanimated as a cyborg because, comic books.) Spider-Man eventually convinces them that killing is wrong, and the two help the webhead stop an assassination attempt against the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk. On the show, Tandy and Tyrone are not killers at all. In fact, they have an aversion to killing that they’ve developed all on their own. However, as angry teenagers, they do cross lines and, more importantly, make mistakes. In the second season, Tyrone’s attempts at heroism actually causes the deaths of a number of people. What will be interesting about this arc on the show is to see Cloak and Dagger develop as heroes and start winning their battles in ways that make the world better.
Now That You Know Who Cloak and Dagger Are, Watch This Series!
Cloak & Dagger aims to entertain teenaged viewers, but it’s one that works for audiences of all ages. If you love superheroes, you will enjoy this show (but know that the first season takes it slow with the powers). If you enjoy good drama, this fantastic tale about two kids thrust into impossible circumstances shows they are able to do something amazing. Either way, while waiting for these last few weeks to find out what happens with Thanos and the Avengers, this show is a great way to pass the time.
Cloak & Dagger airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. EDT on Freeform, and is available for streaming on Hulu and Freeform’s app.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.