Talk about timing… Today’s article has us taking it to the streets with one of the all-time great black superheroes, LUKE CAGE! I could do a spiffy opening paragraph but this article speaks for itself. And, of course, I hope you all had yourselves a.. SWEET CHRISTMAS!
First Appearance and Creation:
The story of Luke Cage began with the popularity of the then-booming Blaxploitation film genre of the early 1970’s. Blaxploitation films generally featured a black male or female hero from a poor neighborhood( Harlem, Watts, and Chicago were popular locales for these films). The main character has a rough past (usually involving racial discrimination) and is now out for revenge against criminals that have wronged them, politicians that exploited their people or simply getting back at ‘The Man‘ (the representation of white supremacy).
Often, the main character has a job involving law enforcement ( ex-cops, private investigators, former federal agents, etc). These films usually involve nude women, interracial sex, murder, betrayal, and a music soundtrack created by a popular soul artist( Isaac Hayes, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, etc) . The dialogue often used a lot of black slang, negative racial stereotypes and the glorification of drugs and violence. Movies like Shaft, SuperFly, Slaughter and Black Belt Jones are all key examples of this genre.
Stan Lee pitched the idea to create a new hero to capitalize on the phenomenal success of the Blaxploitation genre and this new market of black consumers. Stan consulted with his protégé, Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Roy Thomas, and the pair thought up some key elements for a blaxploitation-inspired character. Roy Thomas highlights the creation in an interview:
“Stan didn’t want a typical super-hero name for the comic, but wanted him to want to make a paying career of crime-busting, and was looking for a title. I had some months ago written an Avengers issue called “Heroes for Hire,” so I suggested Hero for Hire. Stan also wanted a good one-word name for him that was atypical, and I suggested “Cage.” “( Sacks, 2014, Sweet Christmas! The Creation of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire)
They tasked artist John Romita Sr. with designing Luke. Inker Billy Graham, one of the few black people in the comics industry, was brought in to, as Roy Thomas put it, “make certain that George’s African-American characters looked African-American.”
Written by Archie Goodwin and pencilled by George Tuska, Luke Cage: Hero For Hire was the first American comic-book series to be headlined by a black superhero .
As blaxploitation movies started going out of style, Cage was paired with another declining title, the martial arts superhero Iron Fist, in an effort to save both from cancellation. The duo forms Heroes for Hire, a small business licensed by the state of New York that offered a full line of private investigation and security services. They had offices on Park Avenue and two paid employees: Jenny Royce, the group’s secretary, and Jeryn Hogarth, the group’s lawyer. The series’ title was again renamed Power Man and Iron Fist: Heroes For Hire with issue #50 (April 1978) and retained that name through the series’ cancellation with issue #125 (Sept. 1986). The series ends the framing of Cage for the apparent murder of Iron Fist.
In 1992, Luke Cage was relaunched in a new series simply titled Cage. Still a fugitive from the Iron Fist frame-up, the new series was set primarily in Chicago with Cage abandoning the Power Man name and look. The main focus of the series was Cage clearing his name, which he eventually does. The series, written by Marc McLaurin, ran for only 20 issues and featured appearances by The Incredible Hulk and The Punisher. Cage also received his own serial in the anthology series Marvel Comics Presents.
The new Heroes For Hire had Cage returning to New York. Deciding he is no longer in superheroics, he becomes co-owner of the Gem Theater with his friend D.W. Griffith. He even declines an invitation from Iron Fist to join a new and expanded Heroes for Hire. Meanwhile, The Master of the World tries to recruit Cage as a spy within Iron Fist’s team. Cage plays along and joins Heroes for Hire and serves with them for some time while reporting to the Master. In the end, Cage can not betray Iron Fist and he helps Heroes for Hire destroy the Master of the World’s plans. Cage remains with the group and dates a fellow member, She-Hulk.
In 2002, writer Brian Azzarello and artist Richard Corben collaborated on Cage, a standalone mini-series published under the Marvel MAX imprint, which allowed for a much greater degree of violence, sexual content and profanity.
After a sexual encounter with a drunken Jessica Jones, the two make peace with it while working as bodyguards for Matt Murdock. Cage also gives vital emotional support to Jones when she is forced to revisit her past abuses by the Purple Man. After Jones reveals that she is pregnant from their one night stand, she and Cage move in together, their feelings for each other grow and they eventually get married.
Luke Cage: Avenger!!!
Luke Cage’s road to The Avengers starts as Cage was present at the breakout at the supervillain prison ‘The Raft‘ . Through his actions, he becomes a founding member of the re-formed Avengers.
When the Superhuman Registration Act is enacted, Cage refuses to register, comparing the act to Jim Crow laws. Cage joins Captain America’s “Secret Avengers“. He fights alongside them in opposition to the act until Captain America surrenders to U.S. authorities. Cage does not comply with the amnesty offered to the Secret Avengers, going underground and re-forming the New Avengers.
Carl Lucas was born and raised in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. He was the son of Esther and James Lucas, a retired N.Y.P.D. detective. Since he was a boy, he would use the term ‘ Sweet Christmas ‘ as an alternative to curse words. Carl spends his younger years in a gang called the Rivals.
Carl finally realizes how his actions are hurting his family and seeks to better himself as an adult. Meanwhile, Stryker rises through the ranks of crime, but the two men remain friends. When Stryker’s activities anger the Maggia crime syndicate, he is badly beaten in a mob hit, saved only by Lucas. Stryker’s girlfriend, Reva Connors, breaks up with him and she finds comfort with Lucas. Stryker is convinced that Lucas is responsible for the breakup, so he plants heroin in Lucas’s apartment and tips off the police.
Lucas is arrested and sent to Seagate Prison, an island prison off the coast of Georgia. During this time, Reva is killed by members of the Maggia, whose drugs Willis had stolen to frame Lucas in the first place.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Power Man!!