Windows Update: A Short History of Dagger’s Implausible Costume
Cartoonist Kate Beaton, in her always insightful webcomic Hark, a Vagrant, recently published a page of comics about Marvel's Cloak and Dagger, and specifically about the obvious problems with the dagger-shaped cut-out in Dagger's costume. You should read the whole thing, much of which we can't post here because of the cartoon nipples.
Obviously Dagger's look is coming under increased scrutiny because a Cloak and Dagger television series is on its way to the Freeform Network. It says a lot about the weird standards of superhero comics that we don't even have to wonder if Dagger will be dressed similarly on television; there's simply no way the TV show will use the same costume. A plunging dagger-shaped cut-out that reveals cleavage and navel simply isn't something a television superhero might wear. But in comics, it's a costume that can last for thirty years.
From her very first appearance in Spectacular Spider-Man #64, by Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan, this was what Dagger, aka Tandy Bowen, wore. The crossbar of the cut-out is at least a little narrower here. This could maybe work as an actual garment, if there were some structure built into it. But of course, it's drawn as an ultra-thin layer of white with no sign of structure at all. You might think it's made of light, given her powers, but later stories make it clear that she puts it on and takes it off like regular clothes.
When she and Cloak got a solo series, Rick Leonardi drew that crossbar much bigger, making the costume even more unlikely.
In the 1988 Cloak and Dagger graphic novel, Larry Stroman and Bill Mantlo make a point of how people react to Dagger walking down the street in her costume. It's a little uncomfortable, to say the least.
When Dagger was a member of the short lived Marvel Knights team in 2000, her new friend Black Widow declared Dagger's costume unacceptable. And this was in the era when Natasha barely zipped her jumpsuit past her navel, so that's really saying something. She even took Dagger shopping for new clothes, but it never led to a better costume. (That early 2000s coloring really makes Tandy's hair look cool, though.)
A few years later, in Runaways, artist Takeshi Miyazawa actually made the costume look like real clothes for probably the first time. He connected the middle of the dagger, which does make the suit look more wearable and avoids the "flopping" problem from Hark, A Vagrant. The cut-out is still pretty big though, and the suit's certainly not providing Tandy with any support.
And of course by the time of the 2010 Cloak and Dagger one-shot, Miyazawa's fix for the design was completely abandoned in favor of a much wider dagger shape. It's no wonder she spends a chunk of the comic wearing an Xavier School T-shirt over her costume.
In 2014, Cloak and Dagger appeared on the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, and Tandy was given a redesign with full coverage, because there was no way that costume was going to make it into Disney animation.
Similarly, the Ultimate Universe version of Dagger is fully covered in Michel Fiffe and Amilcar Pinna's All-New Ultimates. Note how her costume is still solid white, and still has the strong dagger motif on her torso, but she's not showing any skin. It is possible after all!
Sadly, this Cloak and Dagger apparently died with the rest of their universe when Secret Wars came calling.
And post-Secret Wars, in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, we're back where we started, sort of. Cloak and Dagger have switched their light and dark power sets and color schemes, but Dagger's just wearing a black version of her classic costume, except that this dagger cut-out is one of the biggest yet.
Cloak and Dagger have had a lot of chances in comics, but they've never quite clicked and found success. With a TV show coming, they'll almost certainly get a new series, and hopefully when that happens Dagger will finally get a new look that lasts. Perhaps something less likely to turn off women and girls who might consider buying the comic because they like the show? Something less likely to be mocked by the smartest cartoonist in the business?
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