Oct 16, 2012

Doak and Clagger

Hey, remember when I Spider-Mannotated Nick Spencer and Emma Rios' Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger, which ends with the titular duo swapping powers?  And I exhorted the teeming masses out there to tell me when this had happened before?  Well, you guys didn't.  Nice going.  So I did a little digging myself.  And sometimes when you dig, you strike oil.  But other times, you strike a gas main and you explode and die.

This is one of those times.

"Everything You Know Is Wrong" issues - unless written by Alan Moore, AVOID.
(art by Mark Bagley and Jackson Guice)

For starters, let's cover some basics about Cloak and Dagger, creations of Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan who first appeared in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #64, then went on to star in a variety of spinoffs.  Teenage runaways Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson were waylaid by some Maggia goons who used them as test subjects for an experimental designer drug; it killed most of the test subjects, but Tandy and Ty survived.  Ty became a living portal into a dimension of terrifying darkness, and Tandy gained the ability to generate light-weapons; together, they used their powers to battle the drug trade as Cloak and Dagger!  Years later, it was revealed that the drugs had merely activated their latent mutant powers - this really didn't affect anything, but it let them title one of their eponymous series "The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger", and in the '80s, you could basically sell any comic book if it had mutants in it.  Hell, Dazzler ran forty-two issues.

It turns out that Dagger got darkness-based powers at the tail end of the '80s incarnation of Strange Tales, a book C&D shared with Doctor Strange. In it, thanks to the machinations of the immortal sorceror Mr. Jip and his fishnet-clad thrall, Night, Dagger is corrupted by darkness and becomes super-evil for a while.  This is actually what I was thinking of.  In fact, Terry Austin's run on Cloak and Dagger was good reading, for the most part.

She even got an evil haircut.
(The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger #1, written by Terry Austin, art by Dan Lawlis and P. Craig Russell)

But I didn't stop there.  My own terrible hubris led me to dig further, and I stumbled upon the issue pictured up top, 1991's Cloak and Dagger (volume 3) #19.  A little background first: after a long run of issues by the aforementioned Terry Austin, Cloak and Dagger was handed over to Steve Gerber.  Unfortunately, he only lasted two issues before leaving due to other commitments (as the letters page said) or disagreements with editorial (which is probably what happened, because Steve Gerber); he plotted the third issue, which was scripted by the new writer, the dreaded Terry Kavanagh.  Steve Gerber is, of course, the genius behind such '70s Marvel treasures as Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, and Defenders; readers of this blog will note that Terry Kavanagh is the genius behind Nightwatch.  Thus, this was like having Terry Gilliam start production on a movie, only to have it completed by Tommy Wiseau.

Anyway.  Kavanagh finished Gerber's weird-ass neo-Nazi plot with an out-of-nowhere fight with Mephisto and a guest appearance by Ghost Rider, and then the book was cancelled one issue later, with the double-sized #19.  In it, C&D are confronted by D'Spayre, the living embodiment of despair (duh), who claims that he influenced their very origin!  See, those mutant powers I was talking about earlier should apparently have been expressed when Ty and Tandy first met; D'Spayre suppressed them, and only allowed them to be activated after they had been altered by the experimental drug.  Altered how, you say?  Well, finally we get to the point - Tandy was supposed to be Cloak, and Ty was supposed to be Dagger!  What would they have looked like?  Well, a little like this:

(written by Terry Kavanagh, art by Chris Ivy and Don Hudson)

Now on one hand, kudos to Chris Ivy for not sexing up the Cloak costume.  It would have been so easy to give it a plunging neckline or something, but no, it's pretty much just Cloak's regular costume with a belt.  And as for Dagger, hey, sometimes the man-cleavage works - Namor's been rocking it for a while, and it works for the Falcon, too.

On the other hand, oh my god, Man-Dagger.  The shoulderpads.  The suspenders.  The hat.  This isn't a fashion nightmare - it's a fashion sleep terror.  Is it a commentary on the ridiculousness of Dagger's physics-defyingly cleavagey costume?  Or is it just a terrible, terrible design?

Several years later, in a 2010 Cloak and Dagger one-shot, extensive testing by the X-men's resident scientist/cranky old man Dr. Nemesis determined that Cloak and Dagger were not mutants at all, and had never been.  So where does that leave this story, apart from "utterly forgotten"?  Were I writing this up for a Handbook, I'd just speculate that D'Spayre was lying, as he is wont to do, being the living embodiment of despair and all.  But there might have been more to it.  At the end of Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger, we see glimpses of the Cloak and Dagger ongoing series that was sadly not to be - and among those glimpses, there lurks the spectral visage of D'Spayre!  Were Spencer and Rios going to dig up this continuity landmine?  Could Emma Rios make that Man-Dagger costume look good?  We may never know.

No comments:

Post a Comment