“With Mike Colter wowing fans and critics with his performance as Luke Cage on “Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” the world at large has finally discovered one of Marvel’s greatest and most unique characters — and will see even more of him on Netflix’s follow-up “Luke Cage” show, currently in production.
Luke Cage has had many iterations since the character first debuted in June 1972 — but how did Cage reach this level of prominence? Here’s a look at the Luke’s rich and diverse history, a 40-year journey from Hero to Hire to Netflix star.
With Blaxploitation cinema on the rise, Marvel responded with its take on the genre: Luke Cage, real name Carl Lucas, created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr., and first seen in 1972’s “Luke Cage, Hero for Hire” #1.
At the time, Black superheroes were a rarity in mainstream superhero comics. There was T’Challa, the Black Panther, who was introduced in the pages of the “Fantastic Four” a few years earlier, but other than a brief period where the King of Wakanda wore a mask that exposed his mouth, there was no immediate indication that the Black Panther was, in fact, Black. Luke Cage didn’t wear a mask or a typical superhero costume of any sort, with his identity on full display.
In “Luke Cage, Hero for Hire” #1 fans witnessed Luke Cage imprisoned for heroin possession after his former gang mate and friend Willis Stryker plants the drug in Luke’s apartment. Embittered by the betrayal, Cage tries to escape jail many times and is transferred to Seagate Prison, where he’s abused by a racist prison guard named Albert “Billy Bob” Rackham. When Cage was arrested, he was trying to get out of gang life, but thanks to Stryker, Cage was now stuck in a federal prison under cruel conditions…”