A 1946 movie directed by Fritz Lang that starred Gary Cooper as a dapper American nuclear physicist and OSS agent operating behind German lines during the war. When hiding from the Germans inside of an old carousel he amused himself by calculating the line integral of a sine wave in order to determine the exact distance he would have been traveling had he be riding the horse.

Cloak and Dagger are a fighting team that showed up in various Marvel Comics, including sometimes their own, during the 1980s.

During the 1980's, many Marvel titles and plots eschewed sci-fi and cosmic plots to focus on urban and street themes. Cloak and Dagger, along with such established heroes as Spider-Man and Daredevil helped fill that niche.

Cloak and Dagger were a pair of superheroes who symbolized light and dark, down to the fact that Cloak (Tyrone Johnson) was a black man while Dagger (Tandy Bowen) was a white woman. Both were teenagers, and sometimes had trouble with their weird powers.

The origin of Cloak and Dagger deals with how Tandy, a spoiled unhappy rich girl, and Cloak, a poor black man with a stutter from the South Boston ghetto both ran away home and ran into each other on the streets of New York City. Right after meeting, they were hauled away to an abandoned warehouse where they were shot up with a mixture of experimental drugs. They managed to escape, but found that the drugs had mutated them into a weird form. Dagger now brimmed over with light, which she could project at people, while Cloak turned into an intangible dark figure who could suck people into the darkness of his body, teleporting them and leaving them partly insane.

This being a Marvel Comic, the two set out to be tough yet just vigilantes who prowled the streets of New York getting in gritty noir situations, or at least what passed for gritty noir in a mainstream comic. They would occasionally meet up with Marvel's powerhouse heroes, such as The Avengers, but mostly kept to themselves in the ghetto of the city.

The dramatic tension with Cloak and Dagger, as far as dramatic tension goes in comics, centered around the fact that while they were in many ways innocent teenagers, they also were somewhat frightening vigilantes, especially in the case of Cloak, whose powers and appearence were somewhat monstrous.

Cloak later had problems controlling the darkness inside his cloak, and to stop it from overpowering him, Dagger absorbed it all into herself, turning Cloak back into his relativly normal self, and giving herself the powers of both of them.

While researching this node, I read that there is a plan to make a Cloak and Dagger movie, despite the fact that the book was, even in its prime, never very popular, and usually not able to sustain a regular series. I think this would make an interesting movie nonetheless.

Cloak and Dagger adjective

Marked by melodramatic intrigue and often by espionage - American Heritage Dictionary

Existing or operating in a way so as to ensure complete concealment and confidentiality: clandestine, covert, huggermugger, secret, sub rosa, undercover. - Roget's Thesaurus

For such a well known phrase you'd suspect that "Cloak and Dagger" would have a more interesting etymology. The origin of the phrase has, however, nothing to do with espionage activity or covert operations at all.

The most likely origin of the phrase comes from a style of Spanish plays prevelant in the 17th century known as "comedias de capa y espada" or "comedies of cloak and sword". This phrase seems to have made its first appearences in the English language in the 1840s. Longfellow mentions it in his diary where he states "In the afternoon read La Dama Duenda of Calderon - a very good comedy of 'cloak and sword'". Dickens also uses the phrase about a year later but this time in the form of "Cloak and Dagger" as it has since stayed.

The style of play was made famous by two different writers, Miguel de Cervantes and Felix Lope de Vega. Comedias de capa y espada are a form of classical comedy and love intrigues (classical comedies like those written by Moliere have remarkably in common with what we now would consider a 'comedy'). They are called "cloak and sword" dramas simply because the main characters wear cloaks and carry swords. As a dramatic style they tend to be formulaic and have a tendancy to revolve around a young, naive, provincial nobleman who becomes lost in a deceptive court.

The reason why "cloak and dagger" is now used as a phrase to refer (often in a slightly tongue in cheek manner) to espionage and spies would seem to come from the importance of disguise in the plays of this style. Central to many of these plays are scenes involving the main characters disguised as something they are not, men as women, noblemen as paupers etc., this has the tendency to also cause much comic misidentity as the characters fall in love with the wrong people, but of course also adds to the air of intrigue. In these plays there is also a large element of underhanded plotting. This tends to follow the lines of a (normally nasty) character trying to marry the nice noblewoman for money and/or power. The similarities between this and modern day espionage are obvious.

These plays can be highly enjoyable to watch, but are, of course, best understood and appreciated when viewed in light of the social and political situation of 17th century Spain.


Sources used:
Roget's Theasuarus
American Heritage Dictionary
Columbia Encyclopedia
Various university resources from, amongst others, Wagner and Purdue
and of course trusty Google.

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