After charming viewers and private detectives alike in Jessica Jones, that bulletproof man Luke Cage is getting his own series on Netflix this week–more than four decades since he debuted in his own comics title. The show’s delving much deeper into the hometown hero’s origins than any on-screen hints have yet revealed, and every Marvel fan will attest that there’s a whole lot of history to pick from. Throughout hundreds of issues, this sometime “hero for hire” has had plenty of jobs, codenames, outfits, hairstyles, and partnerships. So, here are some quick facts for those who’d appreciate a brisk catch-up on Cage before the bingeing starts.
While these Defenders shows are meant to show the meaner side of the MCU, Luke Cage: Hero for Hire was arguably the first Marvel comic to feature grittier, street-level superheroics, blending crime and cape fiction almost a decade before Frank Miller’s iconic Daredevil run.
Born “Carl Lucas,” this reluctant hero navigates the gangs of Harlem as a kid before a series of betrayals from family and friends lands him in jail on a false drug conviction. After clashing with a corrupt prison guard, Lucas volunteers for an experiment attempting to replicate Project Rebirth (the operation that transformed scrawny Steve Rogers into the brawny Captain America). Of course, the same crooked guard interferes with the test. His sabotage is meant to kill Lucas, but it winds up empowering him in ways nobody planned.
Granted super-strength and diamond-hard skin, Lucas breaks out of prison, and assumes the alias “Luke Cage” as he re-establishes himself as a kind of private vigilante on the streets of New York. Again, Cage was ahead of the superhero curve here. While Jessica Jones might be the first on-screen Marvel character to leverage her powers for pay, Cage was treating super-heroics as a business long before she ever even showed up in the comics.
Fighting mobsters and super-villains alike on a per-case basis, Cage soon enough takes on the more conventional codename “Power Man,” and even briefly allies with the first Defenders. Of course, this incarnation is more of an “anti-team” whose ranks included loners like Dr. Strange and the Hulk; and it isn’t long before Cage leaves them to start his much more famous partnership with Iron Fist.
Now, everybody knows Cage will eventually be teaming up with Jones, Daredevil, and the Fist for Netflix’s version of the Defenders, which is a street-level Avengers-esque group. However, comics fans know he’s already been a part of several more super teams, too. Cage has led other Heroes for Hire (including Scott “Ant-Man” Lang), served as a parole officer for the reformed villains, and the Thunderbolts and Avengers have actually counted him among their ranks. In fact, he’s even led an incarnation of the ol’ “A-team.”
10-year-old spoiler alert. Anybody who thinks Luke and Jessica make an adorable couple will be happy to know their relationship eventually gets a lot more serious. They marry and have a daughter, Danielle (named after Danny “Iron Fist” Rand and often babysat by the delightful Squirrel Girl), making these Defenders a far more literal family. Granted, the shows can always take major creative license and veer away from source material, but this is Luke Cage at his basics.
What Cage stories do you hope will drawn upon in this show? Drop your thoughts in the talkback.
Image Credits: Marvel