Every Marvel Cinematic Universe episode or movie may come with something to enliven fans, like Oooh, Easter egg! But in its fifth episode, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law might have become the crowned monarch of Marvel Comics deep cuts.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a brave new world. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has just made a reference to Dakota North.
This article contains spoilers for She-Hulk episode 5. [Ed. note: This article contains spoilers for She-Hulk episode 5.]
Jen's bestie/paralegal is already working on a solution, tracking down the secretive fashion designer Luke Jacobson played by The Flight Attendants Griffin Matthews, who only designs superhero outfits. But with a little convincing, he accepts the task of transforming Jen's wardrobe from summer to fall, or day to night.
The question Who designs and creates all of these superhero outfits? is a question that comics authors have answered frequently in innovative ways. In Gotham City in the 2000s, the Tailor was a neutral player who dressed both hero and villain. In Marvel Comics, the Wasp is both a founding member of the Avengers and an internationally recognized fashion designer who also designs superhero outfits for her friends. And mutant culture has its own exclusive top designer, the four-armed Jumbo Carnation.
But Luke Jacobson? It's a departure from the little-known Dakota North.
Dakota North was not even published in the Marvel Comics universe, according to Keith Silva in a 2018 editorial for the Comics Journal. The first issue of the series was published in June 1986, and its fifth and final installment was published only eight months later. Both authors are completely newcomers to the genre, and it is a concept so peculiar in scope and strange in tone that it was almost lost in (glorious, fascinating) flames.
Dakota North is the sole operational employee of, as Silva puts it, an international private security organization specialized in instances of malfeasance within the fashion industry. And Luke Jacobson was her first case.
Who is Luke Jacobson?
He's a fashion designer who is unknowingly caught up in some shady corporate intrigue and receiving threats of violence. He's a dead ringer for Fabio, is generally useless, and dances to Donna Summer. He's also constantly proposing marriage and expressing his love for Dakota despite, or perhaps, in an editorial sense, because of what you've probably already guessed.
Martha Thomases told Silva that Jacobson was inspired by my friend, the fashion designer David Freelander, who died of AIDS in 1987. I had wanted the character to be gay and HIV+, but [Marvel editor Larry Hama] said that wasn't why people read comics. I suspect that the series would have gone there if the series had continued.
Thomases might have been optimistic, but the Marvel Comics history of outright banning or otherwise downplaying queer characters might last for quite a few years longer.
Luke appeared in only three of Dakota North's only five issues, and never made it onto the main Marvel Universe. Will his She-Hulk: Attorney at Law incarnation inspire comic book authors to rectify that? I hope so.