This Friday, Netflix debuts the new show from Marvel, LUKE CAGE. With that, I wanted to check out the origin of the character. He’d always been someone who fascinated me but his origins were always clouded in a bit of a mystery. He wasn’t exactly a character on the level of Spider-Man that would constantly get the origin story retold.
We can thank the creation of Luke Cage on a little phenomenon called Blaxploitation films. Take a movie like SHAFT. It showed Hollywood that one, there was a market for films directed at African American audiences and two, it was one of the first times we had African Americans of any sort starring in films where they were the strong, dominant leads.
One thing I wasn’t aware of was that the character of Luke Cage started off with a different name. He was originally Carl Lucas. Carl ended up in prison thanks to being framed by a former friend. He volunteers for a medical experiment which ends up going wrong due to a vengeful prison guard. That experiment gives him his strength. Due to an explosion, he finds a way to escape prison where he makes his way back to New York, taking on the name Luke Cage.
I’m probably nitpicking here but one thing I found annoying about the character was the fact he started his hero career in prison. As their first African American character of any importance, they could have chosen any origin they could pull out of the origin bag but they chose the one cliché that was just lazy even during the 70’s. There was no reason for Luke Cage to start off in prison. None. That doesn’t mean they didn’t make the character fascinating, relatable, or someone folks would have no issue with calling a hero. Again, I’m probably over thinking it but it just came across as more cynical than anything.
One other issue I had was probably more a product of its time than anything. Issue #1 has the origin of how Carl Lucas became Luke Cage. Issue #2 spends a good quarter of the issue retelling the same story. I didn’t notice any delay in the release date between the two issues that could have conceivably necessitated the retelling of the origin story in the next issue. It was simply lazy writing at best.
What was good about what I read? Well, Luke Cage is a great character and that shines through from his first panel. While I wasn’t a fan of him starting in prison, I did like how they made him so likable. You relate to the anger of his situation and welcome him using that power for good, even if he tries to make some money off it.
You also see the introduction of Claire Temple in the story, the character played by the great Rosario Dawson in the Netflix shows DAREDEVIL, JESSICA JONES, and on Friday, LUKE CAGE. While her appearance is drastically different, the same care Rosario brings to the screen with her interactions with people is there on the page. It gives you a greater appreciation of what Marvel has been able to pull off with the shows.
LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE, is a comic of its time but one that shouldn’t be missed. You’ll see the seeds for an amazing character which will make for a great show this Friday. Consider it your pre-show homework. LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE, is available on Marvel Unlimited. For $9.99 a month or $69 a year, you have access to over 17,000 and counting comics from Marvel’s rich history.
New This Week in Marvel Unlimited:
1.All New X-Men (2015) #7
2.All New, All Different Marvel Universe (2016)
3.The Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1.4
4.Captain America: Sam Wilson (2015) #7
5.Daredevil (2015) #5
6.Star Wars: Darth Vader (2015) #18
7.Drax (2015) #5
8.Hercules (2015) #5
9.Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man (2016) #1
10.Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2015) #5
11.The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (2016) #6
12.X-Men 92 (2016) #1
13.New Avengers (2015) #8
14.Star Wars: Obi-Wan and Anakin (2016) 33
15.Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! (2015) #4
16.Star Wars (2015) #17
17.The Infinity Entity (2016) #3
18.The Totally Awesome Hulk (2016) #4
19.The Ultimates (2015) #5
20.Uncanny X-Men (2016) #5
21.Venom: Space Knight (2015) #5
22.The Rawhide Kid (2010) #3
23.Strange Tales (2009) #2-3
24.Archangel (1996) #1
25.Askani’son (1996) #1-4
26.The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix (1994) #1-4
27.2099 Unlimited (1993) #1-3
28.Alpha Flight (1983) #106
29.The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #24-26
30.Alpha Flight (1983) #12
31.Astonishing Tales (1970) #12-13