FreeForm’s new Cloak & Dagger miniseries is doing a very Netflix-style slow burn, as through the first three episodes, the title characters have barely had any screen time together. However, they’ve established quite a bit about Tyrone Johnson, Tandy Bowen, and their lives tinged with tragedy.
While showrunner Joe Pokaski and his team of writers have kept the basic structure of Cloak and Dagger, a significant number of details have been changed from their comic book origins. Herewith, an accounting of what we’ve seen so far.
SPOILERS for the first three episodes of Cloak & Dagger (as well as various comics featuring the characters, many of which are 35 years old)
Cloak and Dagger’s comics adventures are primarily set in New York City, but neither character is from there. Both Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen were runaways who came to New York to escape their lives—Tyrone from Boston, Massachusetts, Tandy from Shaker Heights, Ohio.
The show streamlines all of this, having them both come from the same city and stay there: New Orleans, thus keeping it at a remove from the rest of the MCU, which generally sticks to the coasts when it’s set in the U.S.
In the comics, Tyrone grew up a poor kid in Boston. His best hope for getting out of the ghetto, as it were, was his skill as a basketball player. His biggest impediment to that is his rather intense stutter. That speech impediment leads to tragedy, as he and his best friend Billy witness a shooting, and they run away also, worried that the cops will think them responsible. When the cops draw on them, Tyrone tries to tell the cops that they’re innocent, but his stammer makes that impossible and Billy is killed. Devastated, and blaming himself, Tyrone runs away to New York.
For the TV show, Billy is now Tyrone’s brother, and he’s also shot and killed during a misunderstanding with police. In this case, Billy’s friends wanted to steal a sound system from a car that they installed, but which the client then refuses to pay for. Tyrone goes ahead and steals it for Billy, and Billy takes it from him—when the cops see the sound system on Billy, one cop shoots him accidentally. The Johnson family is more middle class on FreeForm than they were in four-color, and I do like the fact that the tragedy made the family stronger. Oh, and they kept Tyrone’s basketball skills, as he’s part of the high school team.
Tandy’s status as a rich girl is intact in both versions, though the source of it is different. The comic-book version’s father was a wealthy man who found religion and moved to India to contemplate his navel. (Later, he became the villain known as the Lord of Light.) Her mother, a model, remarried, but Tandy refuses to get along with her well-meaning stepfather, and her mother is pretty much absentee. After a tryst with a boy who had the hots for her ends with him going to college and leaving her alone, Tandy runs away to New York.
The TV show keeps her background as a ballet dancer, but damn little else. Her father (still named Nathan, at least) is now a scientist with the always-evil Roxxon Corporation, and the same accident that gives Tandy her powers (and Tyrone his) kills him. Now Tandy is pretty much homeless, crashing in an abandoned church, pulling cons and spending as little time with her mother as possible. Said mother is a junkie with bad choices in male friends.
This is one of the biggest changes. In the comics, Tyrone and Tandy were among the many runaways who were swooped down and preyed upon by minions of drug kingpins who needed human test subjects. They were trying to design a drug themselves in order to control the flow of it, and avoid exorbitant import costs. The experiment failed, and all of the subjects died, except for Tyrone and Tandy. (At one point, they were thought to be mutants, and the experiments unleashed their latent powers, but that was retconned later.) In their very first appearance, they were seen to be taking revenge against the drug lords who accidentally created them.
About the only aspect of their origin that the show keeps is the presence of water. In the comics, the experiments were being held on Ellis Island (which, when the comic was written in 1983, was closed to the public), and they escaped by swimming in the Hudson River. On the show, they get their powers much younger, as little kids. Tyrone dives into the Gulf of Mexico after Billy is shot and falls in, and Nathan Bowen is driving his daughter home when his car crashes into the river. An accident on a Roxxon oil rig (still unexplained as of episode three) seems to be the catalyst for Tandy and Tyrone’s link and their light-and-dark powers. But those powers don’t manifest until years later.
In both the comics and the TV show, Brigid O’Reilly is a police detective who winds up investigating crimes connected to Tandy and Tyrone. In print, though, it’s a bit more direct, as O’Reilly is investigating crimes that Cloak and Dagger have stuck their noses into. Eventually, O’Reilly becomes an ally to the heroes, first as a cop, later as a vigilante in her own right. O’Reilly is done in by a group of corrupt cops, and while they do kill her, she comes back from the dead as the super-powered Mayhem.
We’ve not seen much of the TV version of O’Reilly so far (though Emma Lahana looks quite a bit like the way Rick Leonardi and Terry Shoemaker drew the character), but she seems to be the same smart, independent thinker of those 35-year-old comics. We’ve also already seen her get on the wrong side of some corrupt cops, as her attempt to investigate an assault that Tandy’s involved with (a sexual assault in which she fought back successfully) is shitcanned by the same corrupt cop who killed Tyrone’s brother. (Will she wind up committing mayhem, ha ha?)
In the comics, Father Delgado is a parish priest in a lower-Manhattan church that Cloak and Dagger seek refuge in. Delgado protects them, and it is to him, along with O’Reilly, that Cloak and Dagger tell their full origin story for the first time. (They don’t even tell Spider-Man, which is just rude.) But Delgado also is obsessed with getting Dagger away from Cloak.
The TV show inverts this completely, as Delgado is a priest at the school that Tyrone attends, and he’s one of Tyrone’s mentors. Delgado hasn’t even met Tandy (as of episode three) yet.
We haven’t seen very much of Tyrone’s darkness powers or Tandy’s light powers, though Cloak’s ability to teleport has been carried over. The comic-book version engulfs people in his darkness, making them see the worst of themselves or their greatest fear.
The nature of Dagger’s light daggers has yet to be revealed on TV, but in the comics, her light can cause pain or damage, and also cause people to see themselves for what they truly are.
The biggest change FreeForm has provided is that when either of them touches someone, they can then see that person’s greatest desire and/or greatest fear.
This aspect still remains to be seen. While Marvel Comics’s Cloak and Dagger are on a mission to go after those who would harm the helpless—their targets are often drug dealers, pornographers, pimps, and the like—FreeForm’s Tyrone and Tandy barely even know what powers they have. It’s safe to say that, just as drug dealers creating them led to their targeting such criminals in the comics, the TV show will likewise have them going after Roxxon, given their role in their origin.
Keith R.A. DeCandido writes “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” for this site every Friday, a comprehensive look at every live-action movie based on a superhero comic book. He’ll be reviewing Luke Cage season 2 for this site as well, and in the past has reviewed several other Marvel Netflix series. When not commenting on pop culture for Tor.com, he writes novels, short stories, and comic books in various licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, plus worlds of his own creation in the fictional cities of Cliff’s End and Super City and the somewhat real locales of New York and Key West.