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Facts and Stats
- Height: 6 ft. 6 in.
- Weight: 425 lbs.
- Eyes: Brown
- Hair: Black
- Debut:Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972)
- Powers:Superhuman strength, stamina, and durability
Accelerated healing factor
Skilled street fighter
Luke Cage, born Carl Lucas and also called Power Man, is a superhero appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer Archie Goodwin and artist John Romita Sr, he first appeared in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972).
A streetwise youth, the man called "Lucas" was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. In exchange for parole, Lucas clandestinely underwent an experimental procedure, originally intended to generate immunity to all illness; instead, it inadvertently granted him titanium-hard skin and heavier, enhanced muscle, spawning a plot device and recurring gag in early comics of Cage accidentally destabilizing means of support, plowing through walls, and mangling criminals. After escaping Seagate Prison, he forged the identity of "Luke Cage" becoming a "hero for hire," a sort of super-enhanced private detective—although Cage commonly refused money, or simply received none, for cases gone awry (a fair portion, for the unlucky Cage). Later, he formed a business partnership with the martial arts hero known as Iron Fist. Through the groundbreaking series Power Man & Iron Fist, the two became one of the better-known superhero duos of the 1970s.
Cage was one of the first African-American superheroes to star in an comic book series (the first African-American to do so was Dell Comics' western hero Lobo). Cage was a groundbreaking but controversial hero. He was visibly Marvel's entry into the 1970s blaxploitation trend, and much of "Hero for Hire" saw him sport an exaggerated streetwise tongue, including the catch phrase "Sweet Christmas!" (In the 1990s Heroes for Hire series, Cage explained that he used this phrase in place of profanity because his grandmother, an important figure in his youth, hated profanity, adding, tongue-in-cheek, that she was even meaner and tougher than the villains he fought.) Azzarello's take on Power Man, Cage, was also criticized, this time for an overly thuggish portrayal (though Azzarello's revival also attracted attention to the character).
Born and raised in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, Lucas spends his youth in a gang called the Rivals. With his friend Willis Stryker, he fights the rival gang the Diablos and commits petty thefts, often on behalf of deformed crime-lord Sonny Caputo, a.k.a. Hammer. In and out of juvenile homes throughout his teens, Lucas dreams of becoming a major New York racketeer until he finally realizes how his actions are hurting his family. He seeks to better himself as an adult, finding legitimate employment. Meanwhile, Stryker rises through the ranks of crime, but the two men remain friends. When Stryker's activities anger the Maggia (a.k.a. the Syndicate), he is badly beaten in a mob hit, saved only by Lucas' intervention. When Stryker's girlfriend, Reva Connors, breaks up with him in fear of his violent work, she sought solace with Lucas. Stryker is convinced that Lucas is responsible for the breakup, so he plants heroin in Lucas' apartment and tips off the police. Lucas is arrested and sent to prison where contact with his family was sparse due to the resentment of his brother James, Jr., who intercepts Lucas' letters to their father James and eventually leads each to believe the other is dead.
In prison, Lucas is 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 becomes the favorite target of sadistic guard Albert "Billy Bob" Rackham, whose brutality ultimately leads to a demotion that he blames on Lucas. Later, research scientist Dr. Noah Burstein recruits 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 immerses Lucas in an electrical field conducted by an organic chemical compound; when he left Lucas unattended, Rackham misuses the experiment's controls, hoping to maim or kill Lucas. Lucas' treatment is accelerated past its intent, inducing body-wide enhancement that gives him superhuman strength and durability. He uses his new power to escape Seagate and makes his way back to New York, where a chance encounter with criminals inspires him to use his new powers for profit.
Adopting the alias Luke Cage and donning a distinctive costume, he launches a career as a Hero for Hire, helping anyone who can meet his price. He soon establishes an office in Times Square's Gem Theater, where he befriends film student D. W. Griffith. Burstein, aware of his friend's innocence, also relocates to New York and opens a medical clinic, assisted by Dr. Claire Temple, whom Cage begins dating. Although Cage is content to battle strictly conventional criminals, he soon learns that New York was hardly the place to do so. Stryker himself has become a Maggia agent as Diamondback and dies battling Cage.Hero for Hire #1-2 Subsequent opponents included Gideon Mace, an embittered veteran seeking a U.S. takeover who will become a frequent foe; Chemistro (Curtis Carr), whose Alchemy Gun will be a weapon later used by others, including his own brother after Curtis reformed; and Discus, Stiletto, Shades, and Commanche, all criminals with ties to Cage's prison days who will face him repeatedly over the years.
Although Cage seems 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 leads him to befriend the Fantastic Four Hero for Hire #9, 1973. He is subsequently hired by Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson to capture Spider-Man. Cage, however, comes to sympathize with Spider-Man and forcibly returns Jameson's deposit, earning a place on the publisher's lengthy list of superhuman personas non grata.Amazing Spider-Man #123 Cage also befriends Jessica Jones, a young woman whose superhuman strength and unconventional style match his own. During a mission in which Cage and Iron Man track down Orville Smythe, who had duped him into stealing an experimental starsuit from Stark International to "test his [Tony Stark's] factory's security system", Cage follows the example of his new peers and took the codename of Power Man ("CAGE! But how? This ship's construction makes what you've done impossible!" "Just chalk it up to Black Power, man").Power Man #17 Cage battles a rogue Erik Josten (Atlas of the Thunderbolts) for the use of the Power Man name, winning the right.Power Man #21
Shortly afterward, Luke Cage begins associating with the loose-knit super-team known as the Defenders, alongside whom he battles the super-strong Wrecking CrewDefenders #17-19 and the racist subversives known as the Sons of the Serpent.Defenders #24-25 When the Thing temporarily loses his superhuman powers, Power Man is hired to replace him in the Fantastic Four, but his tenure proves brief after the Puppet Master takes control of him to fight his new teammates.Fantastic Four #168-170 Meanwhile, Power Man continues in solo action against an odd assortment of villains, including the maddened professional wrestler X the Marvel, the uninspired Maggia agent Mister Fish, mobsters Dontrell "Cockroach" Hamilton and Ray "Piranha" Jones, The Racist Wildfire, the vengeance-seeking Mangler and Spear (whose brother had died under Dr. Burstein's treatment), rival crime-lords Baron and Big Brother, the obsessive Goldbug, and Zzzax the Living Dynamo.
Called to assist the Defenders against the Plantman, Cage begins to complain that his participation in their group is interfering with his paying work. Wealthy Defenders member Nighthawk solve this problem by placing Power Man on retainer, giving Luke a steady paycheck for his Defenders activities. For some time thereafter, Power Man serves as a core member of the Defenders alongside the likes of Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, Nighthawk and the Red Guardian (Dr. Tania Belinskya). Together, they defeat minor threats including the Eel and the Porcupine, and major menaces such as the Headmen, Nebulon, Egghead's Emissaries of Evil and the Red Rajah; but Cage feels out of place in the often-bizarre exploits of the Defenders and eventually resigns. He believes he is unsuited to teamwork, little realizing how wrong he would be proven months later. He goes on to battle foes such as Moses Magnum,Power Man Annual #1 and the second Chemistro.Power Man #37-38
Power Man and Iron Fist
Having obtained proof of Cage's innocence in his original drug charges, the criminal Bushmaster abducts Burstein and Temple, using their safety and the hope of acquittal to blackmail Cage into abducting detective Misty Knight, who has humiliated Bushmaster in an earlier encounter. Cage's efforts lead to a fight with Knight's boyfriend, the martial artist Iron Fist, a native of the extra-dimensional city of K'un-L'un and still a newcomer to Earth society; however, upon learning of Cage's situation, Iron Fist and Knight help him defeat Bushmaster and rescue his friends. In the course of the encounter, Bushmaster forces Burstein to mutate him as he had Cage, but is nonetheless defeated and soon becomes paralyzed by the process. Cleared of criminal charges, Power Man briefly works for Knight's detective agency, Nightwing Restorations, but soon elects to join Iron Fist in a two-man team, Heroes for Hire, founded by attorney Jeryn Hogarth and staffed by administrative wunderkind Jennie Royce.Power Man #48-50 Although the streetwise Power Man and the unworldly Iron Fist seem to have little in common, they soon become the best of friends; however, Cage's relationship with Claire Temple proves less durable, and he instead begins dating model Harmony Young.
Power Man also helps Spider-Man battle a tenement fire.Marvel Team-Up #75 With Iron Fist and the X-Men, he battles the Living Monolith.Power Man and Iron Fist #57 Alongside Iron Fist, he travels to K'un-L'un, and battles Master Khan.Power Man and Iron Fist #75
Power Man and Iron Fist achieve great success with Heroes for Hire, earning an international reputation and fighting a wide variety of criminals, including the genius Nightshade, the international crime-lord Montenegro, Sabretooth and the Constrictor,Power Man and Iron Fist #84 the third Chemistro,Power Man and Iron Fist #93-96 Warhawk, and the drug-lord Goldeneye. They have several struggles involving the nations of Halwan and Murkatesh, including incarnations of Scimitar and the Black Tiger. They occasionally work alongside fellow street-level heroes such as Spider-Man, Daredevil and Moon Knight, but rarely participate in the larger-scale crises that occupied the likes of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers; however, their adventures take occasional turns toward the extraterrestrial or the extra-dimensional, areas which hold little appeal for the down-to-earth Cage. Their partnership's downfall begins when the mysterious government agency S.M.I.L.E. manipulates Power Man and Iron Fist into the employment of Consolidated Conglomerates, Inc.; during their first CCI assignment, Iron Fist contracts radiation poisoning. Cage takes him to K'un-Lun for treatment. Iron Fist apparently recovers, and soon after their return to the outside world, he is pummeled to death by the alien Super-Skrull. Cage is blamed for the apparent murder of Iron Fist.Power Man and Iron Fist #125
The following passage refers to events in the 1992-1993 series Cage, written by Marcus McLaurin.
A fugitive again, Cage breaks contact with his New York friends and relocates to ChicagoMarvel Comics Presents #82; but, with Hogarth's help, he is cleared of criminal charges when the real Iron Fist turned up alive. Cage discovers that Iron Fist had been replaced by a doppelganger of the plantlike H'ylthri race, K'un-Lun's ancient enemies during his treatment. This doppelganger's existence and destruction at the hands of the Super-Skrull are part of a bizarre scheme engineered by Iron Fist's archenemy, Master Khan.
Wanting a new start after his murder charge is dropped, Cage abandons his Power Man guise and begins operating out of Chicago as the plainclothes Luke Cage, Hero for Hire; he makes arrangements with the Chicago Spectator for exclusive reports of his adventures and frequently works with detective Dakota North. On his first mission in Chicago, he assists the Punisher in battling drug dealers.Punisher #60-62 Cage soon attracts the interest of the refined assassin Hardcore, an employee of Cruz Bushmaster, son of the very villain whose defeat clears Cage's name the first time.Cage #1 Cage learns that Cruz, following in his father's extortion footsteps, has abducted Noah Burstein's wife Emma to force the scientist to re-create the process that had empowered Cage, regardless of how many test subjects suffered in the process. Cruz undergoes the procedure himself, but the elder Bushmaster drains the power from his son, reversing his near-catatonia and declaring himself the Power Master; however, Cage teams with Iron Fist to thwart their plans, freeing the Bursteins while the Bushmasters apparently perish. Cage's power is augmented further by exposure to the Power Man virus.Cage #6
While Cage tries to locate his surviving family members with the aid of Dakota North, his brother keeps moving his father around to keep Cage away from them. James, Jr. is eventually recruited by the criminal Corporation, whose power-enhancing scientist Doctor Karl Malus mutates him into the superhuman Coldfire. As Coldfire, James, Jr. hopes to be a match for his brother, whom he regards as a threat, and he uses his hatred of Cage as a focus for his energy powers. Though James, Jr. works with the Corporation quite willingly, Malus has James, Sr. held hostage as extra insurance of Coldfire's cooperation. When Cage learns the Corporation is holding his family, he invades their headquarters and battles Coldfire; however, the brothers ultimately join forces to rescue their father from Malus, and Coldfire sacrifices himself to destroy the Corporation's headquarters.
Heroes For Hire (the second incarnation)
The following passage refers to events in the 1997-1999 series Heroes for Hire, written by John Ostrander.
A few months later, Cage investigates the murder of Harmony Young and fights her killer, the demon Darklove, alongside Ghost Rider. Not long afterward, the mystic Doctor Druid recruits Cage to serve in his Secret Defenders against the sorcerer Malachi. Cage returns to New York and, deciding his heart is no longer in superheroics, becomes co-owner of the Gem Theater with his friend D.W. Griffith. Even an invitation from Iron Fist to join a new and expanded Heroes for Hire fails to interest him; yet when the would-be world conqueror called the Master tries to recruit Cage as a spy within Iron Fist's team, destroying Cage's theater in the process, a curious Cage plays along. Cage joins Heroes for Hire and serves with them for some time while reporting to the Master. Cage himself even begins to sympathize with the more benevolent aspects of the Master's goals, and the Master and Cage seem to become genuinely fond of each other; but in the end, Cage can neither betray his best friend Iron Fist nor reconcile himself to the tremendous loss of life the Master's plans of conquest will entail, and he ultimately helps Heroes for Hire destroy the Master of the World's plans. Cage remains with the group thereafter, and dates a fellow member, the She-Hulk. When the Stark-Fujikawa Corporation buys out Heroes for Hire, Cage and Ant-Man are fired because of their prison records, and the rest of the team quits in protest.
Cage, bitten by the hero bug once more, continues to share adventures with Iron Fist and other heroes. Briefly resuming his Power Man identity, he is hired by Moon Knight to join an unnamed team of street-level New York vigilantes, often referred to by fans as the "Marvel Knights"; but mere days after he joins, the group dissolves following clashes with the forces of Tombstone and Fu Manchu. Deciding that a return to basics is in order, he re-establishes his Hero for Hire activities, intervening in a gang war between Tombstone and Hammerhead, and soon learns that, despite his international fame, he is almost forgotten on the streets where he originally made his reputation. He invests his money in a bar and sets about ridding his immediate neighborhood of criminal elements, deciding that the business of world-saving is best left to others.
In the 2001 miniseries Cage, written by Brian Azzarello under Marvel's MAX imprint, an alternate version of Cage is hired to investigate the murder of a teenage girl and becomes involved in a three-way gang war for control of the neighborhood.
Jessica Jones and the New Avengers
After a one-night stand with a drunken Jessica Jones, now a private investigator, Cage's life is briefly thrown into disarray by Jones's reaction to the fling. The two make peace while working as bodyguards for Matt Murdock. Matt's public denial of his Daredevil costumed identity and suing of the Daily Globe costs him a bit of Cage's respect, calling Matt a hypocrite to his face. Shortly afterward, Cage extends emotional support to Jones when she is forced to revisit past abuses by the villainous Purple Man, and Cage's feelings for her grow. When Jones reveals that she is pregnant from their tryst, she and Cage move in together. Soon afterward, Jones becomes a superhuman consultant with the Daily Bugle, where Jameson's ire at Cage has by no means dwindled over the years. After she is attacked by the Green Goblin during a Bugle investigation, Cage deliberately attacks Norman Osborn in order to provoke him into revealing he is the Goblin.
It is revealed that Luke Cage has been one of the superheroes involved in Nick Fury's Secret War in Latveria. With the memories wiped from his mind, Cage is unprepared when he is attacked in his own home by Lucia von Bardas. Cage sustains internal injuries that prove difficult for doctors to treat since they're unable to perform necessary surgical procedures due to his highly durable skin. Months afterwards, Cage is present at the breakout at the supervillain prison 'The Raft' and becomes a founding member of the reformed Avengers team. He declares that he won't mind his daughter learning that her father is an Avenger. Under the advice from Captain America, he marries Jessica after the birth of their daughter Danielle. He also joins the Black Panther, revealed to be one of Luke's personal heroes, and an alliance of other African-American superhumans on a mission against vampires in New Orleans.
See Civil War After the Superhuman Registration Act comes into legislation, Cage and his wife are confronted by Iron Man and Ms Marvel, who wants them to register. Cage refuses, comparing the Act to slavery and segregation. He then sends Jessica and his newborn daughter away to Canada where they can be safe, though he himself refuses to leave; when SHIELD forces commanded by agent Gabriel Jones comes to arrest him at the stroke of midnight, despite not having used his powers since the Act went into effect, he fights his way to safety with the help of Captain America, the Falcon, and Iron Fist (posing as Daredevil), and becomes member of Captain America's "Secret Avengers" until Captain America's surrender to U.S. authorities.
Post Civil War
Cage does not comply with the amnesty offered to the Secret Avengers, going underground and reforming the New Avengers alongside Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Fist, and Spider-Woman. Luke assumes leadership of the New Avengers after the assassination of Captain America, with the team now operating underground and provided with secure accommodation by Doctor Strange. The New Avengers are driven by two goals; to save people "the way [they] want to", and to investigate the reason why the world has been turned upside-down recently. After a confrontation with Elektra and the Hand to rescue Echo, the team discovers that Elektra has been replaced with a Skrull some intermediate time ago, but whether more prominent figures on Earth have been replaced with Skrulls by this point is unclear. However, after returning to Jessica following their mission in Japan, Cage is uncertain about whether she really loves him or if she is merely a Skrull impersonator. The revelation has also made him very suspicious of his fellow Avengers, especially Spider-Man, believing his switching sides during the Civil War makes him a prime suspect. More recently, he names his daughter Danielle, after Danny Rand.
World War Hulk
In first issue of World War Hulk, Luke Cage, along with New Avenger member Spider-Man, tries to aid the Mighty Avengers in the evacuation of New York City. However, he makes it clear that he is not doing this because of Tony Stark's offer of amnesty to anyone who assists in preparations for the return of the Hulk to Earth, and simply sees this as uniting against a common enemy; in the second issue, Cage is defeated by the Hulk's Warbound ally Hiroim the Oldstrong.
Powers and abilities
Luke Cage possesses superhuman strength and stamina, and has extremely dense skin and muscle tissue which render him highly resistant to physical injury. Cage possesses these abilities as a result of his participation in dangerous, and highly controversial, experiments while in prison. The cellular regeneration experiment has fortified the various tissues of Cage's body, granting him a high degree of resistance to injury via skin that is as hard as titanium and can resist high caliber bullets, puncture wounds, corrosives, and extreme temperatures and pressures without sustaining damage. Despite this, it is still possible to cause him injury. For example, it is possible to injure him with adamantium weapons.
A second exposure to said experiments further enhanced his strength and durability to current levels. He is described as being significantly stronger than his first enhancement.Cage vol. 1, #5 - 8
The same experiment which granted him his great strength and durability has also given him a faster than normal recovery time from injury. Cage's recovery time from physical trauma is about triple that of a normal human.Civil War: Battle Damage Report (Mar. 2007) A major drawback, however, to his superhuman durability is that when he does sustain serious injury beyond his ability to heal on his own, medical care is difficult, given doctors' inability to get past his hardened skin, as in the Secret War limited series.
Luke Cage is an exceptional street fighter and was a gifted athlete before receiving superhuman abilities.
He also owns a jacket that is as durable as his skin-having been exposed to the "Power Man" treatment during Cage's second exposure.Cage vol. 1, #5 - 8
In the alternate future of Earth X, most of humanity has gained super-powers, but it still needs policing. Luke Cage is a cop, complete with uniform, and he recruits Peter Parker.
In this reality Luke Cage is Power Fist, a mix between the 616 versions of Luke Cage/Power Man and his friend Iron Fist. Also, he was this reality's leader of the Avengers. He led them to eradicate the Vi-Locks and his life was once saved by Sunfire when she was stuck on his world. He later moved to Quentin Quire's reality to replace one of his selves who had died when he shouldn't have.As revealed within the Exiles: Days of Then and Now One Shot
House of M
After gaining his powers, Luke forms a crime syndicate in Hell's Kitchen, which he later turns into a Human Resistance MovementAs seen within House of M: Avengers #1 & #2 and recruits several human heroes to his side, including Cloak, who looks up to Luke as a father figure. He is the first person that Layla Miller comes to 'awaken' from the House of M reality and joins the force that takes down Magneto and his children in Genosha.
Cage, dressed in his original disco shirt outfit, is a member of the Avengers and one of the first heroes to become infected. He also encounters Ash Williams not long after being infected. He is also one the few heroes who manages to eat the Silver Surfer, and receives cosmic powers by doing so. At the end of the Marvel Zombies miniseries, he helps to devour Galactus and becomes a member of "The Galacti" (along with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Giant Man, Wolverine, and the Hulk), who travel across the universe devouring all life on planets. Currently, the Marvel Zombies are attacking a Skrull planet, only to encounter the Fantastic Four - currently consisting of Black Panther, Storm, the Thing and the Human Torch-, leaving the Zombies eager to capture the FF and transport back to their fully populated reality. He also has a role in Marvel Zombies 2, joining Spider-Man in fighting against the other Galactus as he realises that their hunger has faded over time.
Ultimate Power Man
A different version of Power Man appears in the Ultimate Marvel universe as a member of the Defenders, although he is never referred to as "Luke Cage." In this universe, the Defenders consist of several people who want to be superheroes but have no useful superpowers, and appear to be more interested in the celebrity aspect of being heroes than actually doing anything heroic. This version of Power Man does not possess superhuman strength or any other apparent powers.
Luke Cage in popular culture
- American actor Nicolas Cage, born Nicholas Coppola, took his stage name from Luke Cage in order to prevent being immediately associated with his famous film director uncle, Francis Ford Coppola.
- The rock band Powerman 5000 took their name from Luke Cage.
- The Simpsons comics parody Luke Cage: Carl Carlson becomes Nuclear Power Man of Heroes for Rent.
- Cage was parodied in Milestone Comics' Icon #13 as Buck Wild, Mercenary Man. This issue also took swipes at Black Goliath, Black Lightning, The Falcon, and Brother Voodoo, all of whom Buck had briefly gained the powers of at some point.
- In the January 4, 2006 episode of the animated TV series The Boondocks], Huey Freeman is asked what a superhero based on him would be called. After stating that no superhero would ever be based on him, because it would not be commercial enough, he says. "Besides, all the black superheroes are corny. They'd probably give me a metal headband and a yellow disco shirt or something stupid." This is an obvious reference to Luke Cage's original look. This joke had also been used in an earlier Boondocks newspaper strip.
In other media
A film adaptation of Luke Cage is in development for Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures, with John Singleton directing and Tyrese Gibson in consideration for the role of Luke Cage. The screenwriter will be Ben Ramsey; as of December, 2007, the project is listed on the IMDB as "still scripting."
Luke Cage appears as a playable character in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance voiced by Greg Eagles. He is heavily a melee character and his powers include super strength and chain-related attacks. His New Avengers, Hero for Hire, and Cage costumes, as well as a street costume, are available. Luke Cage has special dialogue with Arcade and the Wrecking Crew. A simulation disk has Luke Cage fighting Ultron in SHIELD´s Omega Base.