Dakota North

Created by Martha Thomases

Red-headed former fashion model turned private eye DAKOTA NORTH originally ran a New York-based international troubleshooting agency, North Security, in the short-lived Marvel comic book from the eighties that bore her name. Alas, the inspiration seemed to be more Charlie’s Angels than Ms. Tree.

Still, Ms. North seemed to be doing okay, what with offices in New York, Paris, Rome and Tokyo; or at least well enough to finance her seemingly endless supply of red motorcycles and skin-tight black jumpsuits (Well, she was an eighties Marvel comic heroine and it was the eighties –what else would she fight crime in?).

‘Course, even a jetsetting take-charge kinda gal needs a bit of help every now and then. Pitching in were Dakota’s brother, Ricky, and her faithful assistant, Mad Dog. Meanwhile, lurking just out of sight was her dad, Samuel J. “S.J.” North, a retired agent of some unnamed U.S. intelligence agency. Although we’re never really given an official origin story, it seems Dakota left her lucrative modeling career to start the agency, although her penchant for art and fashion remains. Indeed her first few cases revolve around bodyguarding a fashion designer and tailing a super-model (and possible terrorist) to Europe.

Big guns, a little fashion model cleavage, and lots of things exploding seemed to be the main points of interest in the series, and it was scrapped after just five issues, leaving a case that began in issue three unresolved. So watch out. There’s an antique pen filled with nerve gas still out there somewhere.

Still, Dakota has had rather remarkable staying power for the star of a failed (and it must be admitted, rather lame and embarrassing) series. Just a little over a year later, she popped up in Web of Spider-Man, helping Spidey capture The Slasher, a serial killer who’d been murdering fashion models with a straight razor, with Mary Jane Watson (Spidey’s sweetie) one of his intended targets.

Subsequently, she began appearing (usually awkwardly) in assorted Marvel books, most notably in an arc in the Cage series (featuring superpowered “hero-for-hire” and sometime private eye  Luke Cage) in the early nineties.

But even better (and more promising) was when she then turned up as a supporting character in Daredevil in 2006. By that point, most of the more ridiculous trappings of her earlier incantations were long gone, and she was now a calm, competent professional put on retainer by the law firm Nelson & Murdock as an investigator and bodyguard (Jessica Jones, who formerly held the position, was the one who recommended her for the job) while Matt Murdock (aka “Daredevil”) languished in prison.

What made this unexpected renaissance so appealling was its suprisingly mature, almost-noirish (and decidedly non-spandex, at least in the case of Dakota) tone. It’s the first time she’s seemed like anything other than a preposterously bad joke. But then, the arc was scripted by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Michael Lark, who’ve done some damn fine P.I. comic work over the years, including The Little Sister, a graphic novel adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novel, and Scene of the Crime, still one of the best comic book P.I. stories I’ve ever read.

Although Dakota has flitted in and out of the Marvel universe since then, making a cameo here, or playing a pivotal but brief role there, and even occasionally disappearing for a few issues, it’s still got to be one of the most satisfying character turnarounds in comics history, particularly in the “Cruel and Unusual” arc (Daredevil issues #107-110), co-written with Brubaker’s old pal Greg Rucka, a man who knows a thing or two about crime and comics himself. Dakota works to free a man on death row, prompted by Luke Cage, and realizes she’s beginning to have feelings for Murdock, her boss. This was the real deal — picking up on Brubaker and Lark’s lead, Rucka delivered a taut, terse and decidedly adult burst of honest-to-goodness detective fiction driven more by character and plot than endless, ridiculous fight scenes.

But sadly, after that glorious run in Daredevilnada.

A new Dakota North mini-series was rumoured to be in the works back around 2010 or so, but other than a few cameos in a handful of titles, Dakota seems to have fallen back into the shadows.

EDITORIAL PONDERING

  • I wonder if Dakota inspired real-life model-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey? Or at least the makers of Domino, the 2006 cheesefest supposedly based on her life?

UNDER OATH

  • “With all the book’s promise and ambition, it’s a shame that Dakota North has mostly fallen through the cracks of Marvel history. Martha Thomases wrote a compelling, no-nonsense female lead that predates her spiritual descendants Jessica Jones and Veronica Mars, and Tony Salmons’ artwork is unmistakably 80s chic and yet effortlessly timeless.”
    Kayleigh Hearn in The MNT (April 2019)
  • “Dakota North has often gotten dismissed as a knock-off of Ms. Tree, so much so that I point you to this amusing pair of advertisements (from a great 2008 CSBGcolumn by Greg Hatcher).”
    — John McDonagh

COMICS

  • DAKOTA NORTH
    (1986-87, Marvel Comics)
    5 issues
    Written by Martha Thomases
    Art by Tony Salmons

    • “Design for Dying” (June 1986, #1)
    • “Pet Tricks (August 1986, #2)
    • “Active Tense” (September 1986, #3)
    • “Busman’s Holiday!” (December 1986, #4)
    • “Cats Among the Pigeons” (February 1987, #5)
  • DAREDEVIL
    (1964–, Marvel Comics)
    Writer: Ed Brubaker
    Artists: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano
    Although Dakota was introduced in issue #82, and is very much a part of the cast, the issues marked by an asterisk feature her in a more pivotal role.

    • “The Devil in Cell-Block D: Part One” (April 2006, #82)*
    • “The Devil in Cell-Block D: Part Two” (May 2006, #83)*
    • “The Devil in Cell-Block D: Part Three” (June 2006, #84)*
    • “The Secret Life of Foggy Nelson” (October 2006, #88)
    • “The Devil Takes a Ride, Part 5” (March 2007, #93)
    • “Our Love Story” (April 2007, #94)
    • “To the Devil, His Due: Part 5” (September 2007, #99)
    • “Without Fear: Part 1” (October 2007, #100)
    • “Without Fear: Part 2” (November 2007, #101)
    • “Devil May Care” (Annual 2007)
    • “Without Fear: Part 3” (January 2008, #102)
    • “Without Fear: Part 6” (April 2008, #105)
    • “Sympathy For The Devil” (May 2008, #106)Buy this book | Kindle it!
    • “Cruel and Unusual: Part One” (July 2008, #107)Buy this book Kindle it!
    • “Cruel and Unusual: Part Two” (August 2008, #108)Buy this book Kindle it!
    • “Cruel and Unusual: Part Three” (September 2008, #109)Buy this book Kindle it!
    • “Cruel and Unusual: Part Four” (October 2008, #110)Buy this book Kindle it!
    • “Lady Bullseye, Part One” (November 2008, #111)
    • “Lady Bullseye, Part Two” (December 2008, #112)
    • “Lady Bullseye, Part Three” (January 2009, #113)
    • “Lady Bullseye, Part Four” (February 2009, #114)
    • “Lady Bullseye, Conclusion” (March 2009, #115)
    • “The Return of the King, Part Two” (May 2009, #117)
    • “The Return of the King, Part Three” (June 2009, #118)
    • “The Return of the King, Part Four” (August 2009, #119)
    • “The Return of the King, Conclusion” (October 2009, #500)At this point, Marvel reverted to their old numbering system.
    • “The Devil’s Hand, Part One” (December 2009, #501)
    • (February 2010, #503)
    • (March 2010, #504)
    • *September 2010:, #508)
    • (October 2010:, #509)
    • (November 2010, #510)
    • (December 2010, #511)
    • (February 2011, #512)
  • OTHER APPEARANCES
    • “When Strikes the Slasher!” (April 1988, Web of Spider-Man #37)
    • “The Great Goo-Gam Rip-Off! (May 1989, Power Pack #46)
    • “Kingsize Problem” (Fall 1990, Marvel Super-Heroes Special #3)
    • “The Drowning Man” (April 1992, Cage #1)
    • “Creative Hate” (May 1992, Cage #2)
    • “Bad Debts” (June 1992, Cage #3)
    • “Second Chances” (July 1992, Cage #4)
    • “The Evil and the Cure, Part Two: Captain of Destiny” (September 1992, Cage #6)
    • “The Evil and the Cure, Part Four: Signifying Nothing” (November 1992, Cage #8)
    • “Payback!” (January 1993, Cage #10)
    • “Sudden Burning” (April 1993, Cage #13)
    • “For Love Nor Money, Part 2 of 6: The Good, the Bad, and the Deadly” (June 1993, Cage #15)
    • “The Dark, Part 2: Seduction of the Innocent” (October 1993, Cage #19)
    • “The Dark, Part 3: Aggravated Suicide” (November 1993, Cage #20)
    • “Seduction of the Innocent, Book 1: Discipline” (2001, Black Panther #31)
    • “Seduction of the Innocent, Book 2: Innocent Blood” (2001, Black Panther #32)
    • “Seduction of the Innocent, Conclusion: War and Love” (2001, Black Panther #33)
    • “Revolution, Part Three” (June 2007, New Avengers #29)
    • (May 2013, Captain Marvel #11)
    • “The Enemy Within Part 3 Of 5” (August 2013, Captain Marvel #13)
    • “The Enemy Within Part 4 Of 5” (September 2013, Avengers Assemble #17)

GRAPHIC NOVELS & COLLECTIONS

  • DAREDEVIL: THE DEVIL, INSIDE & OUT | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    (2006, Marvel Comics)
    Collects Daredevil issues #82-87
  • DAKOTA NORTH: DESIGN FOR DYING | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    (2018, Marvel Comics)
    Collects Dakota North #1-5, Web of Spider-Man (1985) #37, Power Pack (1984) #46, Daredevil #107-110, and material from Marvel Super-Heroes (1990) #3.

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with a special thanks to John McDonagh for the heads up.

Talk to me...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s