I’m happy to share The Definitive Cloak & Dagger Collecting Guide and Reading Order! It includes every Cloak & Dagger appearance ever published – both together and apart – with notes on trade-reading order and the importance of guest appearances.
I know what most of your reactions will be – “Who the hell are Cloak & Dagger?” They’re not exactly Marvel’s most-prominent characters and they haven’t had an ongoing series to call their own since the 1990s, but they happen to be Marvel’s most-recent property to garner an order for a television season – on ABC’s Freeform network.
Bright-eyed readers may have seen this guide already, but as of today the guide is officially out of its beta-release phase and ready to help you collect Marvel’s pair of would-be-mutants who recently garnered an order for a TV show!
This is one in a series of new and revised collection pages I’ll be highlighting; last week I covered Doctor Strange, and you can already see several of the others in action in Crushing Comics.
Who are Cloak & Dagger?
The short answer is that they were writer Bill Mantlo’s insertion into Spider-Man of a pair of teens whose lives were altered by the prevalence of street drugs in blighted, early-80s NYC. They adopted the powers of darkness and light and briefly took on a life of their own for the next decade.
Marvel was having a bit of a younger-character resurgence in the early 80s, with Chris Claremont spinning New Mutants off of X-Men and Louise Simonson launching Power Pack. Cloak & Dagger were conceived just prior to those two moves but offered a terrific contrast to them both. They were more rough-around the edges than either team, and lacking in the scholastic environment of Xavier’s school and the familial love of Power Pack. (They would make guest appearances in both series.)
Cloak & Dagger first spun off into a 1983 mini-series after their Spider-Man debut, and then into a 1985 ongoing title that was released bi-monthly. In 1987, they were relaunched into Strange Tales, Vol. 2, a monthly title they split with Doctor Strange.
Then there was the little matter of mutant hysteria.
No, not the anti-mutant kind in the comics themselves, but the wave of speculation that saw Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men get bigger and bigger with every month. Cloak & Dagger’s 1988 relaunch into a monthly title came with the banner of “The Mutant Misadventures of…” preceding it, and was launched alongside other extensions of the X-brand like Wolverine and Excalibur while Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, and X-Factor still ran.
Yet… Cloak & Daggger aren’t mutants. There’s no better evidence of that than the fact that Marvel is developing a TV show about them and not Fox! In the comics, there was a period where their exposure to drugs was thought to have exposed their latent mutant powers. However, that’s long since been retconned in favor of the powers coming from the drugs themselves.
Regardless of their mutant status, it didn’t save Cloak & Dagger from cancellation in 1991 while the X-Men line exploded into even more books. After that, they became occasional guest-stars mostly hosted by the Spider-Man office, though they’d start in 2000’s Marvel Knights book and Cloak became an increasing-valuable supporting player as one of Marvel’s relatively few mass teleporters.
Now that you are an instant expert on Cloak & Dagger, where can you read about them?
If you had asked me that question a few weeks ago, I’d be referring you to a slim pair of Marvel hardcovers addressing their Spider-Man debut and original mini-series. However, with a TV show looming, Marvel is stepping up their collection game, and it will take you from this pair’s 1983 debut through 1987 in just two paperback volumes.
First, there’s Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light, which is out in February. It contains every one of those early Spider-Man appearances, plus their 1983 mini and key guest turns in Marvel Team-Up and New Mutants, plus a story from Marvel Fanfare. This is the core definition of Cloak & Dagger almost entirely from their creator Bill Mantlo.
Then, Cloak and Dagger: Lost and Found comes out in March. It picks up with their 11-issue 1985 bimonthly ongoing series, plus the first two issues of the 1987 Strange Tales, Vol. 2. That means you’ll have all but three issues of Mantlo’s work on these characters.
With both those collections hovering in the 12-17 issue range, we’re still looking for another pair of collections to wrap up the ongoing issues of 80s and 90s Cloak and Dagger prior to their guest-starring years. Also, I hope we’ll eventually see that 2000 Marvel Knights series collected, as it includes a lot of characters that were without a book in the early 00s like Black Widow, Moon Knight, and Punisher.
Two collections that include a heavy concentration of their late-00s guest-starring are Uncanny X-Men / Dark Avengers: Utopia and Spider-Man: Spider Island Companion – but, neither are critical reads to understand these characters. They also have a 2010 one-shot that’s collected in a trade called X-Women (despite them pretty definitively not being mutants at that point).
To see all of the places Cloak & Dagger have turned up between those two sets of trades, visit the guide!
With these new collections, how much Cloak & Dagger have been collected as of this writing? Here are the stats:
|1983||Early Appearances (pre-ongoing)||16||16|
|1983||Cloak & Dagger, Vol. 1 (limited)||4||4|
|1985||Cloak & Dagger, Vol. 2 (bimonthly)||11||11|
|1987||Strange Tales, Vol. 2||19||3|
|1988||Marvel Graphic Novels 34 & 56||2||1|
|1988||Cloak & Dagger, Vol. 3
|1988||Anthology Stories (Marvel Comics Presents & Marvel Super-Heroes)||9||0|
|1998||Strange Tales: Dark Corners||1||0|
|2000||in Marvel Knights||15||0|
|2010||Cloak & Dagger, Vol. 4||1||1|
|2011||Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger||3||3|
Anything under 50% is pretty sad for a Marvel hero – especially given we’re only talking about 100 issues worth of potential collected comics! That’s even more boggling considering that just a few weeks ago we’d be 12 issues shorter since we didn’t know about the contents of the upcoming Lost and Found.
Want to know how to own the 41% that’s been recollected so far? Head to the Cloak & Dagger Guide for all the details!