On September 30th, there’s a new hero in town…….a Hero for Hire! That’s right, the end of September will see the release of all 13 episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix. The hero made his first television appearance during the Season 1 of Jessica Jones and we’ve all been waiting for the man with unbreakable skin to start his own adventure. The wait is almost over. There still is some time, but don’t worry. I’m here to help you get through it. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving you some background on this Harlem hero from his origins to his current place in the Marvel Comics landscape. From Powerman to Avenger to Father, all will be covered. We’ll probably skip over that time he was a member of the Fantastic Four…..but everything else will be covered. Come along for the ride and find out more about a man called Luke Cage.
Cage’s first appearance was back in 1972 in his very own comic, Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1. Created by Archie Goodwin with artists John Romita and George Tuska, the character was very much a product of it’s era. You see, Luke Cage didn’t always rock a shaved head and a black tee shirt. Back in the 70s, Luke had a bit more flare, so to speak. It was a time when Blaxploitation cinema was popular and Marvel was looking to take advantage of this by having their own street level, African American protagonist. Basically, they wanted Shaft with superpowers.
In the premiere issue of the Luke Cage series, we’re introduced to Carl Lucas, a inmate at Georgia’s Seagate prison who was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Lucas is tough and tries to keep to himself but has problems with not just fellow inmates but also a corrupt guard by the name of Billy Bob Rackham. Lucas just wants out of the place so he can get back to get back to New York and catch up with his former business partner, Willis Stryker, the man who framed him and is responsible for the death of his love Reva. So when a Doctor Burstein comes to the prison in search of a candidate for a special experiment intending to recreate the Super Soldier Program that created Captain America (any Marvel fan knows how well that goes), Lucas agrees as it will take time off his sentence. But thanks to some unforeseen circumstances and a little meddling from Rackham, the experiment does not go exactly according to plan.
The machinery breaks apart but not before giving Lucas new powers…..powers which lead him to escape the prison. The guards, of course follow Lucas and believe that he is dead when a hail of their gunfire pushes him off a cliff. Now presumed dead and taking the name Luke Cage (to remind him he never wants to be put in a cage again), he makes his way north, taking odd jobs here and there, until he returns to New York for revenge on Willis Stryker. He’s not exactly sure how he’s going to do that until he stops a guy who just robbed a diner. The owner of the diner thanks him by offering him a cash reward. This gives Luke an idea.
Picking up some fancy threads – a costume that was originally made for an escape artist – and printing up some cards, Luke goes into business as a Hero for Hire. For a fee, Luke will protect your business or take care of the bad dude that’s harassing you. He’s muscle for hire, but for the “good guys”. Luke ends up getting an office and apartment in Time Square above the Gem Theatre, an old repertory cinema that shows mostly westerns. He also starts taking an interest in various operations run by his old friend Stryker and begins to come down on them like a hammer…..an unbreakable hammer. Stryker has no idea that Cage is actually Carl Lucas. All he knows is that Luke is bad for business and he wants him eliminated.
At the start of the second issue, two of Stryker’s goons spot Cage on a payphone and attempt to take him out. That plan goes about as successful as you think it would. Luke makes short work of them after they try to take him down with multiple bullets to his chest. That shit don’t work of course and Luke sends them packing. Claire Temple (who Netflix fans know from Rosario Dawson’s performance in both Daredevil and Jessica Jones), a doctor who had a practice in the area, sees the whole ordeal and is shocked to find that Luke only has minor bruises. She offers to take a look at him at her clinic but when they get there, they find the place trashed – compliments of local hoods – and her fellow doctor to be roughed up a bit. Luke is taken back to see that the other doctor is none other than Doctor Burstein, the very man that is responsible for him having powers. Claire and Burstein end up getting roped into Cage’s problems when Stryker (now going by the name Diamondback) decides to kidnap Temple to lure Luke into a trap.
Luke ends up rescuing Claire and facing off with Diamondback one on one. Stryker has always been pretty good with a blade and now has a special collection of trick knives that he attempts to use on this hero who can’t be cut. Needless to say, things don’t go too well for Diamondback and he ends up meeting his own demise when his “exploding knife” backfires. After getting his revenge, Luke would of course continue as the Hero for Hire and go on to face a number of goofy and forgettable opponents. Case in point, issue 3 would introduce Mace – a villain who has a mace for a hand that shoots mace. Looks like someone took their name a bit too seriously.
His Comic would be re-titled Luke Cage: Powerman with issue #17. Aside from the name change, nothing of note would happen with the character until issue #48 when he would be joined by a man he would become synonymous with: The Immortal Iron Fist. Join us here next week when we explore this Dynamic Duo and their place in the Marvel Universe.
Marvel’s Luke Cage debuts on Netflix on September 30th.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!