Recently, Variety.com posted an article which stated that one of my favorite comic books from my youth, Cloak and Dagger, would be getting its own series produced by Freeform (formerly ABC Family). My first thought was, “That’s GREAT!” However, I was stopped in my mental celebration by the realization that Freeform is indeed a family channel, so it made me doubt their ability to stick true to the dark themes which were so central to the Cloak and Dagger story, and which made it so compelling for so many readers.
For those who are not familiar, the story essentially began when Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen met as teenage runaways, and were kidnapped by a criminal chemist who was working on a synthetic form of heroin for the mob leader known as Silvermane. The chemist (Simon Marshall) had been experimenting on teen runaways, but the drug had proved fatal to each one of his subjects. When Marshall injected Tyrone and Tandy, however, they survived. Not only did they survive, but as they were making their escape from Marshall’s compound, the drug awakened their latent mutant powers. Tandy became able to summon daggers made of pure light, which she could use as weapons, but also as a tool to purge addictions from people, or heal their injuries. Tyrone developed the ability to absorb others into a shroud of darkness, but was also consumed by a strange hunger. This hunger, however, could only be eased by either consuming individuals which he dispatched to a “shadow dimension”, or by feeding on light given off by Tandy. The pair re-named themselves Cloak and Dagger, and began a deeply personal crusade against drugs, all the while helping runaway children.
This brings me back to my original point. How will such a dark & adult-themed story translate to a family-oriented network without losing the edge inherent in the story? Can they convey the same message that the comic so successfully pulled off? Will they even explore the (at times VERY) dark turns that Cloak took as a character? I have my doubts. Freeform seems to retain a lot of the light-hearted and almost fanciful content that made ABC Family so popular with…well, families. Young kids could watch the shows, without too much explanation or censoring by their parents. I’m not sure that the network could have the same result with characters like Cloak and Dagger, if they want to not completely break the canon.
There’s a couple of reasons that I think this may not work. First, the original story of Cloak and Dagger revolved around a very adult theme: drug addiction – specifically heroin. As the stand-alone comic was first published in 1983, during the inception of the Reagan administration’s “War On Drugs“, that subject matter was quite topical. A lot of the anti-drug themes in the books really exemplified the ideas that the politicians of the day were trying to convey, but the comic brought them forth in a violent and hard-hitting way.
Second, the character of Cloak took some very dark turns throughout the series. There were times where he lost control of the hunger, and simply began consuming any and all criminals, no matter how small the offense. Cloak has also run away many times, not realizing or understanding that Dagger was willing to do anything she could to ensure their safety. His general mistrust of, and cynicism toward others was one of the things that made him a compelling character, but also one of the more adult aspects of the story.
I may give this show a chance, simply because I loved the characters for so much of my childhood. To be fair, ABC Family (and by extension, Freeform) has touched on some heavy subject matter in the past. Themes like teen pregnancy, drug addiction, foster families, murder, etc., have all made appearances. That being said, the shows produced by that network have always exuded what my fellow PCU writer Pauly D calls “the cheese factor”. Therefore, I have a feeling that I am going to be disappointed by a take on this IP that is nothing but camp. No offense, Freeform, but I don’t really have high hopes.