April 18, 2012

Minorities in cartoons: Luke Cage

Minorities in cartoons: Luke Cage

This week’s entry is classic Marvel hero Luke Cage, also known as “Power Man.” Luke first appeared in “Luke Cage, Hero For Hire” #1 (June 1972). Cage was created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita, Sr.

Background

As one of Marvel’s first and most well known African-American characters, Luke Cage has had a lengthy history. Luke has gone on to become one of Marvel’s more prominent heroes. Luke’s also one of the first African-Americans to headline a comic from a mainstream American comic company.

Cage’s backstory states he was originally named “Carl Lucas,” and grew up in Harlem, New York. Sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Lucas’ time in prison was rough. (It also provided him with a source of future plot points/enemies.) Lucas was eventually recruited for a science experiment—one that gave him superpowers. He used said powers to escape from prison, and returned to New York. After returning, a random encounter with criminals inspired Lucas to use his powers to aid others, initially for profit.

Adopting the name “Luke Cage” and his most famous costume, Luke launched a career as a “Hero For Hire.” This led Luke on numerous adventures, and, of course, obligatory encounters with Marvel’s other trademark superheroes. (Yes, his false imprisonment reasons/prison record were eventually cleared, as well.)

One of these adventures saw Luke meet the martial artist Iron Fist. Iron Fist soon became Luke’s best friend and partner in the now-plural “Heroes For Hire.” The duo also co-starred in the comic “Power Man and Iron Fist.” “Power Man” is a superhero-style alias Luke adopted and has made use of off-and-on.

Later stories show Luke becoming a father during a relationship with a now-former heroine, Jessica Jones.

Luke’s powers consist of superhuman strength, stamina, and some invulnerability. In his 70s appearances, Luke’s street-level hero aspects were heavily emphasized. Similarly, his costume and personality were influenced by 70s “blaxploitation” movies like “Shaft.”

Like other pre-Modern Age superheroes, Luke has a catchphrase: “Sweet Christmas!”

Other media

Luke Cage’s appeared in other media, including a few appearances on “The Super Hero Squad Show.” Luke’s also a main character on the Disney XD series “Ultimate Spider-Man.” His pal, Iron Fist, is also on this series.

Luke’s also been used in video games and other merchandise.

2016 saw Luke’s most prominent media appearance to date, when he gained his own TV series on Netflix.

Cage also has had an influence on popular culture. Actor Nicolas Cage, who’s also a comic book fan, took his acting name from Luke Cage. His real name’s “Nicolas Kim Coppola,” as he’s the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola.

Miscellaneous

On a personal note, Luke Cage was probably one of the first African-American superheroes I was exposed to as a kid. That was through being given an anti-smoking comic co-starring Cage, Spider-Man, and Storm. The comic was first published in 1982, thus Luke’s 70s costume. A rewritten version was done in the late 90s, using the same plot and characters, but updating the artwork/costumes.

(Updated 9/30/16)

Tags: African-AmericansArchie Goodwincomics triviaJohn Romita Sr.Luke CageMarvelMediaminorities in cartoonstrivia