Friday, April 8, 2016

Cloak and Dagger Series Ordered by Freeform

I hope they don't stick too close to Dagger's comic book suit!
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So Marvel and ABC announced yesterday that they have ordered a Cloak and Dagger series for the ABC channel Freeform.  This has actually been something of a long time coming, as Jeph Loeb teased it all the way back in 2011, when Freeform was still known as ABC Family.  At that time Cloak and Dagger was going to be reinvented to place the heroes in post-Katrina New Orleans (instead of New York City), though there is no indication that this is still the direction they are taking.

Honestly, I’m a huge fan of Marvel TV, so I’m excited to find out more about this series.  In fact, the only thing curbing my excitement right now is the fact that we don’t get Freeform!

We really do not know anything about this series yet beyond the network and description as a “superhero love story.”  Heck, we don’t even know if they are looking to start it this year or next!

As such, let the rampant speculation begin!

Just to be clear before going any further, this is 100% confirmed to be happening.  It’s not an independent pitch like that Captain Britain rumor; the network actually ordered this to series.

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The Characters

Tandy Bowen and Ty Johnson are runaways from radically different backgrounds:  she is the (white) daughter of a wealthy suburban family from Ohio whose mother is a socialite actress; he is the (black) son of a Boston family.  She ran away from home because her mother didn’t have time for her; he ran away from home because he couldn’t prevent his friend from being shot by the police.  The two meet in New York City when he stops a purse-snatcher from stealing her purse, and they become good friends.  They are abducted by a group of drug dealers who are testing their synthetic drug on runaway teens.  However, where all the previous subjects were killed, Tandy and Ty developed superpowers due to their exposure to the drug.  Using their powers they escape from their captors and decide to become vigilantes and fight against the drug trade.

Ty has a connection to the Darkforce Dimension (already explored by Marvel TV on both Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1x19, “Only Light in Darkness”) and Agent Carter (season 2’s “Zero Matter” is actually Darkforce)).  This allows him to teleport himself and others through the Darkforce Dimension, but it also causes an insatiable “hunger” for light.  This “hunger” can only be satisfied by Dagger’s light or by sending people to the Darkforce Dimension.

Tandy (Dagger) has the ability to create psionic “light daggers” (which sounds a lot like Psylocke) which drain people’s energy when they are hit by them.  Her daggers also serve as an “instant-detox” for those who suffer from drug addictions.  She can also “feed” her daggers to Cloak to assuage his “light hunger.”

Given that Cloak and Dagger operate in New York City primarily, they have crossed paths with most of the NYC-based heroes in the Marvel Universe:  Spider-Man, Punisher, the X-Men, Power Pack, Runaways, Marvel Knights…  They even live with Black Widow for a while!

Series Possibilities

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The most obvious place to start is with their origin stories.  My guess is that Marvel and Freeform will update their back stories from the original—“My mom ignores me” and “My lisp killed my friend” aren’t exactly compelling reasons to run away from home!  The 2011 report indicated Hurricane Katrina as a reason for them to be on the streets alone, but by this point that might be considered a dated reference since Katrina happened over a decade ago (does that make anyone else feel old?  No?  Okay…).  The destruction of New York in The Avengers would be an obvious alternative, especially if they want to set this series in New York and let it connect with the Netflix Defenders series.  However, with even that being four years ago in MCU continuity, they might want to manufacture an entirely different disaster.  Regardless, some form of disaster leaving them as orphans wandering the streets would make for a more compelling back story than the one in the comics.

The origin of their powers is a bit trickier.  That their powers were caused by an experimental heroin feels to me like something that very much came out of the “War on Drugs” in the 1970s-1980s (Cloak and Dagger debuted in 1982).  Given the state of the “War on Drugs” today, I don’t know if this depiction would really fit with a modern audience.  The idea of their powers coming as an accident, however, is still rather appealing.  Marvel could certainly set this series against the backdrop of drug usage shown in Daredevil season 1 (and to some extent season 2) and lean into the “War on Drugs” angle from the comics—leaning into the dated aspects of Daredevil worked well enough, after all.  Regardless, if Marvel does decide to take advantage of the “War on Drugs” concept in this series, it should not extend past season 1:  I would use it to give them their powers (experimenting on runaways is a terrifying idea), set them against the drug-dealing group responsible (perhaps Silvermane and the Maggia, the group in the comics), and then let them defeat that organization—or at least the drug-distributing arm of it—in the season finale.  Following this origin, I would get away from the “War on Drugs” entirely.

Of course the other option is to forego the “War on Drugs” origin entirely and just make them a pair of newly-transformed Inhumans!  That would be an accident, and it would be easy, so…

Could Spidey appear?Image Courtesy
A definite benefit of this series is the possibility for cameo appearances from Defenders characters if it is set in New York City.  This would be an excellent way to tie the Netflix and Network shows together and show that they are all happening within the same universe.  Father Lantom, Matt Murdock’s priest/confidante, would fit in very well, along with Claire Temple, a.k.a. “Night Nurse” (she’s never called that, but it’s what she essentially is).  Spider-Man could also cameo (or at least get name-dropped) to work him into the fabric of the MCU a little more in advance of his solo movie next summer.

However, the best option would be to use this series to work other young heroes into the MCU.  A future season could introduce either the Power Pack or the Runaways.  The Power Pack is a much younger group of children (the oldest is 12) who receive their powers from an alien.  The Runaways are a group of teens who discover that their parents are part of a secret super-villain organization called the Pride which is attempting to remake the world into a utopia.  Either of these groups could bring an interesting dynamic to what is being billed as a “superhero love story.”  One option is for Cloak and Dagger to encounter the Runaways and help them stop one of the Pride’s schemes, something which did happen in the comics.

I definitely prefer this Dagger suit for live-actionImage Courtesy
The Relationship

Before concluding this speculation, there is one final aspect of this potential series that I need to talk about:  the “love story” part.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of specific aspects of the typical love story.  When the romance is treated as the most important part of the story, a lot of times I lose interest.  When the two romantic partners keep on cheating on each other, lying to each other, and playing up the romantic tension, it just makes me angry.  In my opinion, too often this kind of romantic tension is used as a crutch by bad writers who can’t figure out a better way to create tension in the story.  Arrow is a prime example of everything I hate about a love story:  in the first season, Oliver had some sort of romantic connection (sleeping with, had slept with, wanted to sleep with, shared a moment with) every single female character except for 3:  his mom, his sister, and his mom’s lawyer!  That is taking it to an absurd extreme!  There’s got to be more to the story than Oliver trying to sleep with everything in a skirt!

So I would not be a fan if Cloak and Dagger went the “we love each other but we can’t stand each other so we try to hook up with every person of the opposite sex we can find but it doesn’t work so we try to make us work but it doesn’t work so we try to hook up with every person of the opposite sex we can find but it doesn’t work so we…” route.

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However, there is a way to make a good “superhero love story”:  focus on the “superhero” aspect and let the “love story” aspect be more of an important secondary plot.  They don’t need to hook up with multiple partners and all of that for their love story to be compelling and interesting.  Burn Notice is a good example of a show where the love story (Michael and Fiona) was an important part of the plot, but virtually the entire love story was the two of them trying to make their relationship work during difficult circumstances.  Something like that, where Cloak and Dagger are struggling to fully trust each other and balance their romantic relationship with the demands of their crime-fighting would be a good way to balance those two elements.

Of course, considering that they are teenagers, I suppose “romantic drama” is the name of the game!  I was a teenager recently enough and have been around teenagers enough to know that “romantic drama” is the only kind of drama they know how to do!

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Cloak and Dagger has an opportunity to fill an important and underserved niche within the Marvel Cinematic Universe:  young heroes.  For a franchise which tries to appeal so heavily to the younger audience, it is actually surprising that the majority of its heroes are closer to 40 than to 20.  As such this offers an excellent opportunity to fill in that gap.

These two characters have a very compelling story which is ideally-suited to the younger demographic to which Freeform appeals.  If this series is done well, it will certainly have every opportunity to flourish there.

As of now we don’t have any idea when it will premiere, but this fall sounds like as good a guess as any.  Considering that I don’t subscribe to the channel, I don’t know if I will be able to watch it when it first airs, but hopefully I will find a way to watch and review it—at least the first few episodes.

We will probably hear more about this series in the next couple months—writers, showrunners, producers, and perhaps some casting announcements.  Once that starts we should get a better idea of what to expect from this series.

Are you excited about this news?  What young heroes do you want to see appear in the MCU?  Let me know in the comments!

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