This here is an invited guest post by Jeffro Johnson.
I picked up a copy of Strange Tales #2 off of a spinner rack at a gas station. I immediately knew that I’d found something special. This was it… the series for me.
I knew vaguely that this was more how comics were done back in the sixties, so there was a retro-coolness factor from the start. But the stories… there was something stranger and weirder about them than anything I’d seen. They tilted toward horror and weird themes in a way that was completely new to me.
I had my mom drive me around to other gas stations until I could find the first issue. I was so happy. I followed the series religiously until about issue seven or so when it stopped showing up. I didn’t miss anything, though. When I was old enough to trek down to comic book stores on my own, I found out that the series had gone off the rails with guest spots from the Punisher and Power Pack. It was tragic to see really.
But those first seven issues, they were about the best thing I’d ever read in comics at the time. They actually even formed a coherent story arc which was something I hadn’t really seen outside of the occasional trade paperback. But money was tight, and it was a rare thing for me to get a look at any of those back then.
Now, I don’t have the issues right in front of me, but just going from memory… this was just about the best treatment that either of these properties had gotten, really. Doctor Strange was picking himself up from major setback at the end of his previous series. He’d lost most of his powers and had to start over again with an evil master. He actually had several close calls and ended up taking on more of a roguish look himself. His eye patch was completely badass and it was great to see him really work for his victories for once.
And Cloak and Dagger are so rarely done right. I mean they are just awful characters unless you don’t think about it. I mean… you have a darkness and light theme going on. It’s got beauty and the beast themes folded in, too. Their origin story is painfully topical, pulling in eighties anti-drug campaigning. It spills over into the characters with Cloak needing Dagger to feed him enough light that he doesn’t go crazy and start randomly attacking people.Honestly, a hot chick looking after a needy depressive not-boyfriend is not that plausible. And Tyrone just wasn’t ever going to be leading man material. I hate that. The two really need some challenges to get them focused on something other than themselves. The first seven issued of this series was really about the only time they got that in spades. They were all of a sudden creepy and freaky and unsettling and I loved it. They were then and forever my favorite characters, and even though I was disappointed by every other book I saw that featured them, that never changed.But that’s how it is with comics. Artists move on. Other people come along that want to slap “mutant” on everything it can conceivably be applied to. Some goof somewhere decides that Dagger would be a better character if she cut her hair and was blind or something. Oh, there was some occasional good ideas– like when the whole thing about what Cloak’s signature item really was. But for the most part, their stories were pretty underwhelming after that.
It doesn’t matter. I’ll always remember them for what I as a sixth grader interpolated their past adventures as being. I knew there was something to them… something more than Spider-man guest star and limited series material. I had a glimpse of it… and that was all that it took.
They never caught on like I thought they should. But for my money, the “strange” take on the pair was definitive. I’d have followed that for a hundred issues if I could. Unfortunately, like just about every other offbeat series to come out during the eighties and since, the Strange Tales revival failed to last even twenty issues.
I never got over it.
Links: Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog
Want to do a guest post? Send me an email. 40-60% autobiography, 20-30% comics, 10-20% heartfelt something-or-other.
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