March 31st, 2008
We might be mindless monstrosities from the underverse, but like all geeks we’re convinced we know how comics should be written. We’re just self-involved and dumb that way. Hence this column, which I strongly suspect will be a staple of the blog for a long time to come. Blessed are you, the reader.
Now then, Disco…
What’s disco horror?
It’s a girl who can’t stop dancing, it’s a scary black man in a scary cape stalking the city streets, it’s neon stained shadows, it’s gangbangers walking into the darkness and never walking out, it’s light knives blazing in the night – all of that to a John Carpenter soundtrack.
I’m getting ahead of myself but that’s the vibe I want from a Cloak & Dagger comic. An urban horror story situated in the endless night that haunts teenage fantasy: a thrilling, dangerous, lonely wonderland, where all the rules are suspended, and hedonism and violence are the gravitational poles. It’s that world glimpsed in nightclub flyers, and the black interstitial between the pulses of a strobe light. A place where you’re just as likely to find a needle in your arm as your are to be summoned into a halogen lit toilet stall by the girl/boy of your dreams. Here be monsters and here be angels, it’s telling the difference that’s the trick.
Take Cloak & Dagger, which are they? There’s obviously something unwholesome about Cloak, he eats people’s souls. Sure, he blames in on the denizens of the “Dark Dimension”, but we all know what’s really going on. Dagger on the other hand, there’s real compassion in her, right? She’s the light to Cloak’s dark. She’s there to stop his tummy rumbling when there’s no children loitering on street corners (otherwise known as evildoers) for him to chomp on. Yeah, she’s a good guy – her heart’s in the right place. Especially when she’s busy hurling her light knives into screaming teenagers (otherwise known as drug dealers), or dancing uncontrollably like Karen in the red shoes.
You see, what people often miss about Cloak & Dagger is this: they are, both of them, badly damaged goods, and not just lonely pseudo-mutants. What they do, it ain’t fucking nice. In fact I’d go as far to say that it’s considerably less nice than anything Wolverine gets up to. Driving people insane, mutilating their bodies and souls, consuming human beings whole to sate DARQUE HUNGER, that’s seriously unpleasant behaviour. As I’ve implied above, it’s not as if they’re going after mass murderers like Omega Red or Sabretooth, nope they’re targetting corner boys, gangbangers, the odd mid-level dealer, street kids. Their fellow citizens in the hinterland between day and night, good and evil. At least, that’s the way I’d play it: tease to the surface the questionable morality of their actions and ratchet it up to ten, and in doing so afford the characters that edge possessed by the Punisher and ol’ Canucklehead in his prime, a tasty black morsel of moral ambiguity. The capacity to be horrified, and exhilarated, often simultaneously, by the stars of the book.
There’s a number of ways it could be done. Play up the humanity of their (let’s not mince words) victims, and perhaps confront C or D with the human cost of one of their hunts; Emphasise the pleasure they derive from what they do; have them be pursued relentlessly by John Q Law. Going off at a related tangent, I particularly like the notion of a cop trying to track the pair but continuously stalling as she meets one horribly traumatised witness after another.
Of course, the best way of unlocking all this stuff, and whole bunch of other fun besides, is by revisiting their origin. Something I’ll get into in Part 2, along with a fuller explanation of disco horror, and my plans for the best Cloak & Dagger arc never to be written.