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 episodes of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix. The hero made his first television appearance during the first season 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.
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #20 (created by Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones)
Another product of Marvel’s attempt to cash in on the Blaxploitation craze of the 70s, Misty Knight was first introduced in Marvel Premiere. A former police officer who was injured preventing a bomb attack, Misty has a bionic arm designed by Tony Stark which gives her superhuman strength. A detective with a bionic arm who knows martial arts. Marvel was really trying to have all the bases covered when they created Misty Knight. Along with business partner Colleen Wing, Misty opened Knightwing Restorations and became one of New York’s premiere private eyes. While the firm is best known as Knightwing, she and Colleen are better known to comics fans as the Daughters of the Dragon. A majority of her early adventures in comics are strongly connected to Luke Cage and Iron Fist as she was romantically linked to Danny Rand on and off for years. During one of their breakups, she even dated Cage for a short period which added a level of tension to the Heroes for Hire’s relationship as the premiere crime fighting duo.
A supporting character for years, Misty would get to headline a couple of books following Marvel’s Civil War (the first one….yeah, I know there’s a second one going on right now, but I’m talking about the first one. Okay?) starting with a revamp of Heroes for Hire. Tony Stark would ask Misty and Colleen to bring back H4H to hunt down unregistered superheroes. This of course would cause more tension between her and Iron First and lead to yet another break up. The title would be short lived but she would return to leading the Heroes for Hire in 2o1o when she sets up the firm once again putting herself in the position of an Oracle-like overseer, utilizing various heroes for different missions in exchange for money or information. At first, she was secretly being mind controlled by the Fantastic Four villain known as Puppet Master, but was freed with the help of Iron Fist and Paladin. After breaking free of Puppet Master’s control, she continued the H4H for a period using the same set up.
These days, Misty can be seen in the pages of Captain America: Sam Wilson as both his partner and love interest. While Sam is the heart and brawn of this team, Misty is definitely the brains and is always there to talk Sam down when he lets his anger get the best of him. She continues to kick major ass.
The Netflix series brings us a pre-accident Misty, featuring both her and fellow police detective Rafael Scarfe stationed at a precinct in Harlem. Who knows if she’ll have both arms by the end of the season.
First Appearance: Power Man #18 (created by Len Wein and George Tuska)
Although he wouldn’t make his appearance for a year and a half after the comic launched, Cornell Cottonmouth is referenced in the very first issue of Luke Cage: Hero for Hire. It’s his drug operation that Luke is framed for stealing from by his former friend Willis Stryker. Cottonmouth is known to have the “the most successful illegal drug trade in the nation” and attempts to hire Cage to work for him as muscle for his organization. Luke agrees to work for him but only in an attempt to acquire information that may help him clear his name. As these situations go, this business arrangement does not last long as Cottonmouth gets wise to Cage attempting to steal his personal records. He confronts him on this fact and the whole situation ends with Power Man knocking Cornell out and calling the police to come pick him up, busting his entire operation wide open.
Cottonmouth would pop up a couple more times in the comics, most notably around 2010 with the formation of the new Power Man and Iron Fist. Now a pimp, Cornell would end up tussling with Victor Alverez (the second Power Man and protege of Danny Rand) who would wind up knocking his teeth out (twice). Needless to say, Cottonmouth has never been seen as a major player in the Marvel U, even by street level standards.
In season 1 of Luke Cage, Cottonmouth is riding high, selling weapons on the streets and running Harlem’s Paradise, the neighbourhood’s best nightclub. While not the “big bad” of the series, he definitely is a major obstacle in Cage’s way. Hopefully, he’ll fare better than his comic book counterpart.
First Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #5 (created by Billy Graham, George Tuska and Steve Englehart)
Black Mariah’s first appearance in comics was as the leader of the “Rat Pack”, a group of thieves that used a stolen ambulance to take recently deceased corpses from accidents and crime scenes and rob them of their valuables, dumping the bodies afterwards. Luke is hired by a widow of one of the victims and ends up tracking down Mariah and her gang which he makes short work of. Mariah would end up in prison where she would begin a lucrative drug operation. This endeavour would end up on Power Man and Iron Fist’s radar and they would eventually shut her down.
Most recently, Mariah can be seen in the pages of the new Power Man and Iron First series (2016) where she teams up with the H4H‘s former secretary, Jennie Royce, in an attempt to take over Tombstone’s criminal empire. Needless to say, Luke and Danny put a stop to this one as well.
In the Netflix series, we get to see a different take on Mariah, one that takes a political angle. Her story feels more like an origin, showing how she gets corrupted by a situation of her own making.
First Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (created by Archie Goodwin and George Tuska)
In the comics, Shades started out as part of a gang called the Rivals with Carl Lucas (Luke Cage’s real name) Willis Stryker and Comanche. They fought on the streets of Harlem with a latino gang known as the Diablos. Shades would eventually end up at Seagate Prison along with Comanche and would be harassed by the same prison guard that made Luke’s life a living hell, Albert “Billy Bob” Rackham. The two would end up breaking out of Seagate (something that appears to be fairly easy) and would try to get Cage to help them attack and torment Rackham. But seeing as Luke had now gone straight, this didn’t really fly with him.
Shades and Comanche would become a regualr thorn in Power Man’s side and would even end up pestering Iron Fist as well. The H4H would always take them down, but the two would eventually show back up again at some point, working for various mobsters and criminals and even gaining superpowers at one point. Shades would acquire a visor that shoots ray beams. But just as you can’t guild a lily, you can’t really polish a turd either, so Shades never ended up being a real threat as a super villain.
Later in life, Shades would go straight and become a community advisor in Hell’s Kitchen. He would be one of the victims of Bulleye blowing up a building in an attempt to mess with Daredevil during the Dark Reign storyline. His son, Victor would end up gaining powers and become the 2nd Power Man.
From the episodes I’ve seen so far, there are a number of changes that have been made to Shades’ past connections with Cage. He’s a major player in the series and might end up being more deadly than Cottonmouth.
First Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #2 (created by Archie Goodwin and George Tuska)
I know that I’ve done a look at Claire Temple’s origin before in my Countdown to Daredevil column, but it’s important to note that Claire’s origin began in the pages of Luke Cage. As a doctor who witnessed Cage in action and being astounded that he was not damaged by point blank gun shots, she ended up hiring Luke to protect her free clinic. She would become romantically involved with Cage and appear as a supporting cast member in his book for almost 50 issues until the comic’s second re-branding (Power Man and Iron Fist) when Chris Claremont would write her out. She would eventually pop up in other comics, but never as prominent as this run of Luke Cage.
While Claire has made appearances in every Netflix series to date (both seasons of Daredevil and the first season of Jessica Jones), it’s her appearance here that we really get to know the character. She has a major role in the series and I think may just end up stealing the show from the man with unbreakable skin. Better check out the series this Friday to see if I’m right.
So that’s it for my Countdown to Luke Cage. Hope you learned something. Now be sure to check out the series and enjoy it that much more with all this extra knowledge you’ve gained on the character.
Marvel’s Luke Cage debuts on Netflix on September 30th.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!