Luke Cage (Character)


Publisher: Marvel Comics

Created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr.

1st appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for hire #1, 1972

Notes: Luke was one of the earliest blacks in comics, the 4th to be exact 🙂 He was also one of the first Black Characters to have his own self titled series, the 2nd actually 🙂 the first being Lobo

Nationality:  American

Team Affiliations: Avengers, Thunderbolts

Legal Status: US citizen with criminal record

Height: 6’6          Weight: 445 lbs

Eyes: Brown                    Hair: Black

Relatives: Jessica Jones (wife), Danielle Cage (daughter), James Leonard Lucas (father), Esther (mother, deceased), James Jr. (Coldfire, brother), Commander A (Great grand Nephew)

Skills and abilities: Capable leader, self-taught street fighter with years of training, self-educated in law and able to speak several languages..

Powers: Superhuman strength able to lift about twenty-five tons and near invulnerability grants him protection from gunfire and explosions to a degree.


Gang Years and Reformation

Carl Lucas was born and raised in Harlem, New York to Esther and James Leonard Lucas. He was the eldest of two children with little brother James Lucas Jr. As a teen he was often troubled and fell in with the wrong crowd [Cage #3]. Best friends with Willis Stryker they formed a gang alongside Comanche and Shades. Their gang was called the Rivals [Shadowland: Power Man #2]. Their task was to work the streets for more established mobs. Petty thefts were also a part of the game as they worked with deformed crime lord Hammer. His behavior put a strain on his family and he moved in and out of juvenile homes throughout his teen years [Cage #3].

The Rivals from Shadowland: Powerman #2, Art by Mahud Asrar, story by Fred Van Lente
The Rivals from Shadowland: Powerman #2, Art by Mahud Asrar, story by Fred Van Lente

He eventually left the gang lifestyle and found legitimate employment as a young adult. Despite his change in lifestyle he still considered Stryker his friend. Stryker meanwhile had remained a criminal and moved up in the ranks. When Stryker’s activities made him an enemy of the Maggia crime syndicate he was severely beaten in a mob hit and was saved only by the intervention of Lucas. When Stryker’s relationship with Reva Connors came to an end he blamed Carl with whom she grew close due to fear of Stryker’s work.

In cruel revenge Stryker planted Heroin in Lucas’s apartment then tipped off the police. Lucas was then falsely arrested and imprisoned.


Origin of a Hero

While a prisoner he idolized the African King T’challa/The Black Panther; Which led to him being mocked by his fellow inmates [Black Panther (2005) #10].

Lucas’s contact with his family also became limited as all the letters he sent to his estranged father were intercepted by his little brother, James Jr. Consumed by rage over the betrayal of his best friend, Stryker he was one of the prisoners who engaged in frequent attempts to escape and brawls. This lead to him being transferred to Seagate prison where he was targeted by racist prison guard Albert “Billy Bob” Rackham. Billy Bob brutalized Lucas at every chance though this same streak led him to be demoted and he blamed it all on Lucas. He was also reunited with former gang buddies Shades and Comanche. A Dr. Noah Burstein approached Lucas to be a test subject for experimental cell-regeneration heavily influenced by the Super-Soldier process which had been used to empower the psychotic Warhawk [Hero For Hire #1].

The Origin of Luke Cage from Heroes for Hire #1, June 1972: Written by Archie Goodwin and Illustrated by John Romita, Sr.
The Origin of Luke Cage from Heroes for Hire #1, June 1972: Written by Archie Goodwin and Illustrated by John Romita, Sr.

While Lucas was immersed in an organic chemical compound during the experiment “Billy Bob” intervened in a hope to maim or kill him [Hero For Hire #1]. This intervention almost cost Lucas his life but as a side effect gave Lucas superhuman strength and durability. Using his new powers he escaped from Seagate prison and went back to New York City where fate intervened as he used his powers on two small time criminals and this inspired him to become a Hero for Hire, giving him profit, allowing him to save others, hide his identity and eventually gain revenge on his friend Stryker who was now known as the supervillain Diamondback [Hero For Hire #1].


Early Heroic Career

In his new identity of Luke Cage and helped all who could pay his price. He established an office in Times Square’s Gem Theater and started dating Dr. Clair Temple who assisted a relocated Dr. Bernstein who was aware of Luke’s innocence [Hero for Hire #2]. Luke eventually ran afoul of his old friend Stryker and the two did battle. In the fracas Diamondback was killed by his own explosive knife [Hero for Hire #2]. Luke would go on to battle other supervillains including former gang buddies Shades and Commanche [Hero For Hire #14-16], the drug dealer Cornell Cottonmouth [Power man #19-20], Black Mariah [Hero for Hire #5],Gideon mace [Hero for Hire #3, Power Man #23, Power Man #43-45], Dr. Doom [Hero for Hire #8-#9], Senor Muerte/Mister Death [Hero for Hire #10-#11], Chemistro [Hero for Hire #12], Lion Fang [Hero for Hire #13], Big Ben [Hero For Hire #14], Boss Morgan [Power Man #19], Cockroach [Power Man #28], Mr. Fish [Power Man #29], Piranha [Power Man #30-31], Big Brother and Cheshire [Power Man #38-40],  Spear and Mangler [Power Man #33-35], Moses Magnum [Power man Annual #1] and Powermaster [Power Man #49].

He eventually took the code name Power Man after a battle with Iron man [Power Man #17] and befriended young superhero Jessica Jones/Jewel whose  unconventional fighting style and superhuman strength matched his own [ ]. His name change also led to a clash with the original Power Man over who should have the title [Power Man #21]. Luke later helped Dr. Clair free her ex-husband Bill Foster/Black Goliath from the mind control of the Circus of crime [Power Man #24-25]. He also befriends Thunderbolt [Power Man #41], Spider-man and the Fantastic Four. He eventually clears his name and takes down Cornell Cottonmouth’s organization when it is found that was the source of the heroin which got him imprisoned in the first place [Power Man #19-20].

When Ben Grim temporarily lost his powers Luke was used as a temporary replacement in the Fantastic Four [Fantastic Four #168]. Joining the Defenders he battled the Wrecking Crew [Defenders #18]. Alongside Dr. Strange, Valkyrie,Red Guardian and Hulk he rounded out the roster of the team [Defenders #37-46]. Nighthawk even payed Luke a retainer fee for aid in the Defenders many battles [Defenders #37]. Thinking he was ill equipped in their otherworldly adventures and to teamwork in general Luke eventually quit [Defenders #46].


Heroes for Hire Years

Cage soon legally changed his name from Carl Lucas to Luke Cage and partnered with Iron Fist from the mystical city of Kun Lun after briefly working for Misty Knight‘s “Knightwing Investigations” against PowerMaster [Power Man #48-49]. Luke and Danny Rand/Iron Fist soon become the best of friends and become the Heroes for Hire duo. Other notable adventures include facing down Deadly Nightshade and Boss Morgan [Power man and Iron Fist #50-53]. Allied with the X-men he faced the Living Monolith [Power man and Iron Fist #56-57], then saved Big Ben Donovan from the mob while allied with Lightning, the latter dying in the process [Power man and Iron Fist #61]. When Power Master returned due to his powers killing him he planned to have his power transfused with Luke. The intervention of Iron Fist however caused Power Master’s death [Power Man and Iron Fist #67]. He also battle Rogue while she was still a member of the brotherhood,this took placed while allied with the X-man Dazzler [Power Man and Iron Fist #89]. They later battled former brotherhood member Unus the untouchable [Power Man and Iron Fist #90], the criminal Hammerhead [Power Man and Iron Fist #92], The New Chemistro [Power Man and Iron Fist #93-96]. When Iron Fist is seemingly killed Luke is framed for the murder and becomes a fugitive once more [Power Man and Iron Fist #125].


Solo Adventures

Moving to Chicago Iron Fist turns up alive and he is cleared of the murder charges [Marvel Comics Presents #82]. Soon after he starts operating as Luke Cage “Hero for hire” and drops the costume which had originally been his trademark. Around this time he came into conflict with Caribbean born supervillain Hardcore who was working for Cruz Bushmaster,son of Power Master who had caused trouble for Luke in the past [Cage #1]. The villains Tombstone and Nitro were also recurrent [Cage #2-4]. Cage found allies in Punisher and Hulk though they often had confrontations first [Cage #3-10]. Captured and jailed by men working for Hardcore on behalf of Cruz Bushmaster he was subjected to another experiment similar to the one which had empowered him originally and as a result became even stronger and more durable, effectively undergoing an upgrade [Cage #5-6].

Luke Cage has his powers enhanced in Cage #7, Story by Marcus McLaurin, art by Dwayne Turner
Luke Cage has his powers enhanced in Cage #7, Story by Marcus McLaurin, art by Dwayne Turner

In his escape he was aided by the Avengers who tried to take him down. His upgraded powers allowed him to go toe to toe with the ionic superhero Wonder man [Cage #5-6]. When Cruz Bushmaster underwent a power enhancement similar to Luke he had his powers stolen by his resurrected father Power Master [Cage #12]. the confrontation seemingly killed both Cruz and Power Master while Hardcore shared a similar fate while trying to escape [Cage #12].

His next major adventure involves his brother James Jr. who had spent the years since his escape from prison keeping Luke away from their father. Both thought the other dead. James Jr. was transformed into Coldfire and manipulated to kill his brother though he eventually realized the error and sacrificed his life for Luke’s. This served to reunite him with his estranged father [Cage #13-14].

Heroes For Hire inc.

In the vacuum left after most of earths superheroes were believed dead battling the villain Onslaught,alongside best friend Iron Fist expanded the Heroes for Hire franchise briefly [Heroes for HIRE #1,1997]. Notable battles include facing the Knights of Wundagore, the Mutant Exodus and his Acolytes and saving the High Evolutionary [Heroes for Hire #1-19]. They eventually stop active operations when the heroes return.

Back to business

After all these world spanning adventures Luke returned to his neighborhood and bought a bar and moved back into operating at the street level as a solo hero [Cage (Max series)#1]. In his neighborhood he battled Tombstone as he tried to solidify his drug ring and battled fellow crime lord Hammerhead [Cage (Max series)#2-5]. After putting an end to that small threat he continued to operate his bar. Luke meets frequently with patron Jessica Jones and they eventually have a one night stand. He later hires her to track down his missing father James Lucas Sr. She locates him but he refuses to see his son because of the death of James Jr. Luke and Jessica’s relationship gets complicated when she realizes she is pregnant with his child. With growing feelings on both sides they decide to move in together for the sake of their child.

Avengers years

He joins with Captain America’s New Avengers after a chance meeting after a prison break at the Raft.This made him a founding member of the reformed Avengers [New Avengers #1]. After the birth of his daughter Danielle Cage,so named after his best friend Daniel Rand/Iron Fist he married Jessica Jones in a private Avengers filled ceremony [New Avengers Annual #1]. While a member of this team his leadership skills are honed under Captain America and Iron Man. When the superhuman registration act is enacted after the Stanford Incident which killed the New Warriors including Night Thrasher he was one of the heroes who refused to register. Luke compared the law to the Jim Crow laws of the American past. luke11

Fearing for his wife and daughter’s safety he send them to Canada and joins Captain America’s “Secret Avengers” who oppose the registration act [New Avengers #22]. At the end of Civil War Luke’s refuses the amnesty offered by Tony Stark and Shield and instead reforms the New Avengers in defiance of the establishment [New Avengers #27]. Jessica and Danielle also returned. His team welcomes Dr. Strange into their ranks at this time. The team is also the first to realize the link between the Civil War, the corruption of the Hand, Hydra, SHIELD etc. During secret Invasion his daughter is abducted by the aliens.

In the aftermath of Secret Wars Norman Osbourn creates HAMMER roughly the equivalent of SHIELD and creates the Dark Avengers. He mobilizes the Fantastic Four, Iron Fist and his team to search for his daughter. When none found his child he allied with Norman Osbourne to track her down.Osbourne is successful and reunites him with his daughter but Cage backs out on their deal and returns to the New Avengers. When he goes into Cardiac arrest Osbourne’s connection save his life but a bomb is attached to his heart as a precaution by the villain. When his team rescues him it takes Dr. Strange and Wasp to disarm the bomb and save his life.

The Heroic Age

After the Seige on Asgard and the defeat of Osbourne and his allies Steve Rogers appoints Luke Cage as the new leader f the Thunderbolts program. His squad consists of: Ghost, Moonstone, the Juggernaut, Crossbones, MACH-V, Fixer, Songbird, and Man-Thing for long-distance transportation. Steve also offers him a spot on his Avengers squad but Luke refuses instead preferring to work outside of government influence. To this end Tony Stark sells Luke the newly reconstructed Avengers Mansion and Steve allows him to form his own team granted Victoria Hand serves as liaison. He and his team are drawn into conflict with Agomotto which eventually leads to the death of Dr. Voodoo in order to save the world [New Avengers: Heroic Age #1-6].

During Shadowland Daredevil becomes the corrupt leader of the Hand and his must join with other street level heroes to end the threat [Shadowland 1-5]. During this time he meets and fights his old gang friend Shades’ son who starts operating as the new Power Man [Shadowland: Power man 1-3]. When the Phoenix Force set it’s sight on Earth he answered the call of Captain America and joined the invasion of the mutant island Utopia [New Avengers #24 and Avengers vs. X-men #1]. He was defeated and imprisoned [New Avengers #28]. After the ordeal he resigned from the Avengers out of concern for his wife and child’s safety [New Avengers #34].

The Mighty Avengers

Luke is drawn back into the life of a hero during the Infinity event


I'm a Caribbean born Lecturer, Multidisciplinary specialist/Androgogue/Philosophical Pedagogue; with backgrounds in Philosophy, Social Studies and Geography; founder/CEO of World of Black Heroes, freelance writer and all around comic book geek. I enjoy a good book, video games, movies and most of all fatherhood. Written credits include work for where my writing inspired the music compiliation "Kindah" available in multiple languages on Itunes, The Caribbean Journal of Education, The University of the west indies, Comicvine, Independent comics etc.

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