Described as “the story of two young teenagers who discover that their abilities will complement each other and also complicate their lives,” Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger (Freeform, 2018-present) was announced in 2011 as a New Orleans-set series in development, explicitly because of the oversaturation of New York City superhero media.
As Laura Felschow has posited, Marvel is a legacy company of the comics industry, “mindful of its rich history and appreciative of its intimate relationship with its home city [of New York City].” Yet, in alignment with broader migratory patterns of film and television productions moving away from the traditional media capitals of Los Angeles and New York City, Marvel Television’s runaway productions can offer a distinctive perspective beyond the macro-level industrial logics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and connect to discourses of cultural geography and franchise media storytelling.
While the film properties of the MCU move unbounded across the globe and galaxy while treating New York City as a central hub narratively and geographically, Marvel’s television properties are bound by local constraints and centralize the city as a static marker of setting. Indeed, only a handful of superhero television shows operate outside of a specified neighborhood or city, particularly as superheroes are typically presented as saviors, protectors, and guardians of their respective homes.
However, this particular hyperlocal tie between superheroes and their respective neighborhoods and cities offers an opportunity for Marvel to turn their attention to real world injustices faced by residents that are seldom the focus of Marvel’s film narratives. Additionally, these new narrative strategies allow cities to have a symbiotic role with the superheroes that represent them.
In the case of Cloak & Dagger, explicit references to Hurricane Katrina, nods to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill crisis, and imagery of voodoo and Mardi Gras Indian heritage have situated New Orleans not as a mere backdrop, but as a full-fledged character in the show.
Embodying the tensions between a cultural city of tradition and an economic hub looking forward, New Orleans is the perfect home for the show’s literal dichotomies—black and white, male and female, poor and rich—as well as its metaphorical ones—hope and despair, science and faith, life and death.