Welcome to Superhero Spotlight! In this edition, we will be taking at look at Luke Cage!
- Archie Goodwin
- George Tuska
- John Romita Sr.
- Hero for Hire #1, 1972
- Height: 6’6″
- Weight: 425 lbs
- Eyes: Brown
- Hair: Black
Cage is superhumanly strong, able to lift/press approximately 25 tons and punch through barriers as thick as four-inch steel plate. His skin is steel-hard and his muscles and bone tissue super-dense; he can withstand conventional handgun fire at a range of four feet and cannot be cut by the sharpest of blades, although in the event of required surgery his skin can be lacerated by an overpowered medical laser. He can withstand up to one-ton impacts or blasts of 150 pounds of TNT without serious injury, and is impervious to temperature extremes and electrical shocks. His recovery time from injury or trauma is usually one-third that of an ordinary human.
Cage is a self-taught hand-to-hand combatant with years of street fighting experience; he is also a superb athlete despite his great height and weight. He is self-educated in the law and speaks several languages.
Born and raised in Harlem, Carl Lucas spent his youth in a gang called the Bloods. With his friend Willis Stryker, he fought the rival gang the Diablos and committed petty thefts, often on behalf of deformed crimelord Sonny Caputo, a.k.a. Hammer. In and out of juvenile homes throughout his teens, Lucas dreamed of becoming a major New York racketeer until he finally realized how his actions were hurting his family; he sought to better himself as an adult, finding legitimate employment. Meanwhile, Stryker rose through the ranks of crime, but the two men remained friends. When Stryker’s activities angered the Maggia (a.k.a. the Syndicate), he was badly beaten in a mob hit, saved only by Lucas’s intervention. When Stryker’s girlfriend, Reva Connors, broke up with him in fear of his violent work, she sought solace from Lucas. Convinced that Lucas was responsible for the breakup, Stryker planted heroin in Lucas’s apartment (that he stole from drug kingpin Cornell Cottonmouth) and tipped off the police. Lucas was arrested and sent to prison; contact with his family was sparse due to the resentment of his brother James, Jr., who intercepted Lucas’s letters to their father James and eventually led each to believe the other was dead.
In prison, Lucas was consumed by rage over Stryker’s betrayal and his father’s supposed death, engaging in frequent brawls and escape attempts. Eventually transferred to Seagate Prison off the coast of Georgia, he became the favorite target of sadistic guard Albert “Billy Bob” Rackham, whose brutality ultimately led to a demotion that he blamed on Lucas. Later, research scientist Dr. Noah Burstein recruited Lucas as a volunteer for experimental cell regeneration based on a variant of the Super-Soldier process he had previously used to empower Warhawk. Burstein immersed Lucas in an electrical field conducted by an organic chemical compound; when he left Lucas unattended, Rackham misused the experiment’s controls, hoping to maim or kill Lucas. Lucas’s treatment was accelerated past its intent, inducing body-wide enhancement that gave him superhuman strength and durability. He used his new power to escape Seagate and made his way back to New York, where a chance encounter with criminals inspired him to use his new powers for profit.
Adopting the alias Luke Cage and donning a distinctive costume, he launched a career as a Hero for Hire, helping anyone who could meet his price. Although Cage seemed to have little in common with most of New York’s other superhumans, an ill-conceived attempt to collect a fee from a reneging Doctor Doom led him to befriend the Fantastic Four. He was subsequently hired by Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson to capture Spider-Man, the wisecracking adventurer who doubled as Jameson’s personal demon, but Cage came to sympathize with Spider-Man and forcibly returned Jameson’s deposit, earning a place on the publisher’s lengthy list of superhuman personas non grata. Cage also befriended Jessica Jones, a.k.a. Jewel, a young woman whose super-strength and unconventional style matched his own. During a mission in which Orville Smythe duped him into stealing an experimental starsuit from Stark International, Cage followed the example of his new peers and took the codename of Power Man.
Having obtained proof of Cage’s innocence in his original drug charges, the criminal Bushmaster abducted Burstein and Temple, using their safety and the hope of acquittal to blackmail Cage into abducting detective Misty Knight, who had humiliated Bushmaster in an earlier encounter. Cage’s efforts led to a fight with Knight’s boyfriend, the martial artist Iron Fist, a native of the extradimensional city of K’un-Lun and still a newcomer to Earth society; however, upon learning of Cage’s situation, Iron Fist and Knight helped him defeat Bushmaster and rescue his friends. In the course of the encounter, Bushmaster forced Burstein to mutate him as he had Cage, but was nonetheless defeated and soon became paralyzed by the process. Cleared of criminal charges, Cage briefly worked for Knight’s detective agency Nightwing Restorations but soon elected to join Iron Fist in a two-man team, Heroes for Hire, founded by attorney Jeryn Hogarth and staffed by administrative wunderkind Jennie Royce. Although the streetwise Cage and the unworldly Iron Fist seemed to have little in common, they soon became the best of friends. Cage and Iron Fist achieved great success with Heroes for Hire, earning an international reputation and fighting a wide variety of criminals.
- Withstood Iron Man’s repulsor beams
- Lifted a bulldozer over his head and tossed it far away
- Carried a large freight truck for seven city blocks
- Held a commercial airliner and kept it from leaving the ground
- Withstood one of Green Goblin’s pumpkin bombs
- Can knock people flying just by clapping his hands together
- Defeated Proxima Midnight (an alien being in Thanos’ personal guard who once laid low the Hulk) with his bare hands
- Snapped Spider-Man’s webbing like it was dental floss
- Punched through Doctor Doom’s armor
- Beat the tar out of Bullseye and Venom using a crowbar
- Subdued Rhino
- Black Mariah
- Green Goblin
- Cheshire Cat
- The Purple Man
- Moses Magnum
- Mr. Fish
Before Luke Cage was created, Archie Goodwin and John Romita, Sr. were under orders from their editors at Marvel to capitalize on the then popularity of Blaxploitation movies such as Shaft, Super Fly and Blacula. Looking back at some original cover art for the Luke Cage comic books, you can instantly see the similarity to Blaxploitation movie posters. Sadly, Cage’s initial popularity faded along with the rest of the Blaxploitation genre in the late 70’s. Marvel then decided to then pair Cage with another hero, Iron Fist, who was created to capitalize on the popularity of a different fad, 70’s martial arts movies (notably Bruce Lee films). The newly formed duo earned enough readers to save them from cancellation.
Marvel had tried for many years to develop a Luke Cage standalone movie, but with no success. In fact, Quentin Tarantino (who is a noted fan of Blaxploitation movies) expressed interest in directing a Luke Cage movie all the way back in the late 1990s, but Marvel rejected his concept for the film. Tarantino would go on to make his own homage to Blaxploitation movies with 1997’s Jackie Brown. After passing on Tarantino’s vision, Marvel had lined up director John Singleton (Boyz n’ the Hood) to helm a Luke Cage movie, and everyone from Laurence Fishburne to Jamie Foxx to Will Smith were in talks for the starring role. Unfortunately, a decent script was never developed and marketers expressed doubts over the success of a feature film given the lack of recognition of the Luke Cage character. Eventually, the plans for a movie were shelved. Eventually, Netflix announced plans to develop four original series based around “street-level” Marvel heroes, with Cage, as well as Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones, getting the nod.
Actor Nicolas Cage is such as big fan of Luke Cage that he actually took the last name “Cage” as a tribute to the hero when he created his stage name. Nicolas Cage’s real name, in case you were unaware, is Nicolas Coppola, and he is the nephew of legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now). Cage didn’t want people to think he was benefiting from nepotism and wanted to make it in Hollywood on his own, so he decided to ditch his famous last name and adopt a stage name instead. The actor is a noted comic book buff who was at point signed to star as Superman in the short-lived Tim Burton project, and did star as Johnny Blaze in a pair of movies about Marvel anti-hero Ghost Rider.
- Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1
- “…Just A Man Called Cage!” Amazing Spider-Man #123
- “Where Angels Fear To Tread!” Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #9
- “The Killer With My Name!” (Luke Cage, Power Man #21)
- Luke Cage Joins The Fantastic Four (Fantastic Four #168-170)
- “Freedom!” (Power Man and Iron Fist #50)