Marvel's Cloak & Dagger is one of the most eagerly anticipated Marvel TV shows - but it won't be like the comics according to showrunner Joe Pokaski.
The first episode of Cloak & Dagger was screened at SXSW earlier this month, and fans and critics responded positively. The superhero romance drama was described as "a really smart, mature, visually accomplished Marvel show." Stars Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph were consistently praised for the strength of their performances. With first reactions like this, fans are eager to learn more about Marvel's Cloak & Dagger. The two characters have a rich history as second-tier superheroes, even crossing over with the Runaways on occasion, but how will they be adapted for Freeform?
Speaking at a roundtable interview at WonderCon attended by CinemaBlend, showrunner Joe Pokaski happily detailed the approach he's taken to the characters. While fans are always protective of their favorite heroes, he feels the changes he's made are necessary; in Pokaski's view, there are elements of the original design that just feel rather dated. "I think the original stories were fantastic," he noted, and "for the time while they were a little progressive, they were a little bit sexist and racist once you got into it." While Pokaski was wary of going into detail, he did expand on the point a little:
"Here's the biggest hint I can give you, and hopefully I'm not giving anything away. When we talk about how sexist and racist the old versions were, it always drove me crazy, and it wasn't really the original things, where people would be like, 'Tyrone is about fear and Tandy is about hope.' I never saw it that way. That felt very black and white in the wrong way. So the nature of their powers, from an emotional standpoint, is Tandy lives on the spectrum between cynicism and hope, and Tyrone lives on the spectrum between fear and bravery. So their first season stories are about Tandy trying to move from being a very cynical human being towards the light, and Tyrone trying to move from the fear that can cripple you to becoming a hero."
As little as comic book fans may like to admit it, Pokaski does have a point. The original stories were progressive for their time, but some of the tropes they bought into haven't dated well. The white girl became a symbol of light and hope, the black teen a figure of anger and frustration. For the time, the alliance between Tandy and Tyrone was pretty revolutionary, not least because of the romantic subtext. Nowadays, though, those tropes really need to be ditched. As a result, Cloak & Dagger has carefully subverted the characters. Pokaski describes Tandy as living "on the spectrum between cynicism and hope," while Tyrone lives "between fear and bravery." The portrayals are subtly different.
Another key change is the show's setting. No longer are Cloak and Dagger based in New York; they've been moved to New Orleans. As Pokaski explained:
"Jeph had the great idea of moving it down to New Orleans. I feel like New York is covered for superheroes. Hell's Kitchen's got like six of them. It's like four blocks of a neighborhood. So I think moving it to New Orleans, but also taking some more time with the origin story and really investing in who this young woman is and who this young man is in today's time, then bringing them together in a way that is rewarding."
Marvel's more recent TV shows have rejoiced in creating a strong sense of place. Harlem is essentially a main character in Luke Cage, while Hell's Kitchen is well-developed in Daredevil. By moving Cloak & Dagger to New Orleans, Marvel is creating another complex corner of the world as part of the MCU. That will also subtly adjust the issues the two heroes deal with since New Orleans, after all, is still a hotbed of racial tension. An interracial romance between two superheroes set against the backdrop of New Orleans really does sound like TV gold.
Comic book fans are usually very protective. Hopefully, these changes are ones they'll get behind.
Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger premieres Thursday, June 7 at 8pm EST on Freeform.