The latest TV show based on Marvel superhero comic characters Cloak and Dagger features a teenaged black superhero attempting to bring to justice a white police officer who killed his brother during an arrest.
The new series on the Disney-owned Freeform cable channel re-imagines the characters in the Marvel comic by changing the setting from New York to New Orleans and by adding the social justice theme of white police violence against black teens.
The two-part premiere featured Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph as “Cloak”), a teen who finds he has the power to teleport from one place to another, attempting to track down and bring to justice the white police officer who had eight years earlier shot down his brother even though the boy was standing with his hands in the air in surrender.
The original storyline in the 1983 comic series featured a war on drugs theme, but the new series is taking on a Black Lives Matter theme, instead, with its ripped from the headlines plot.
Cloak & Dagger showrunner Joe Pokaski recently told The Wrap that the story needed “a bit of an update” for today’s audiences.
“When I was a kid and opened up my ‘Spectacular Spider-Man’ and saw these two people that didn’t look like me at all, I loved it,” Pokaski said. “But for something that was so progressive in the time, it needed a little bit of an update for the now.”
Pokaski added that he felt the original characters, though groundbreaking at the time, were “tone deaf on race.”
“So we made some adjustments to Tyrone and Tandy’s stories, in the same way, the other MCU movies and television shows do right now, to update them for current times,” he added.
“Telling this story, particularly of a young man who lost his brother and grew up in a gilded cage surrounded by a world made of fear, felt like the best type of story to tell in 2018,” Pokaski insisted.
To serve the social justice theme, the new series also turns the characters on their heads for their origins. In the original comic, Cloak is a teenage runaway living on the streets and Dagger is a rich girl who ran away from home because her parents neglected her. But in the new series, Cloak is a privileged student at a private school while Dagger is a street kid making her way as a pick-pocketer.
Indeed, another one of the themes is that even though Cloak is a smart black kid in a private school, he still can’t get ahead in life because of the color of his skin.
Olivia Holt who plays Tandy Bowen (who becomes the hero named “Dagger”) also claimed that the show’s social justice theme is a major feature. “I think that’s a very important part of this show. And why it is a progressive show and why we want it to be impactful,” she said.
Cloak and Dagger airs Thursdays at 8 PM Eastern on Freeform.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.