Friday, June 22, 2012

Discuss: Luke Cage

Karen: What do you think of Luke Cage, aka Hero for Hire, aka Power Man? Born of the blaxploitation era of cinema, partner of Iron Fist, and now an Avenger. The first African American super-hero to have his own mag -that's something. He's changed a lot over the years. Let's hear your thoughts on him. And please, try to use the phrase "Sweet Christmas!" only once.


Anonymous said...

I love me some Luke Cage! My first exposure to him was when he appeared in the Defenders (#17, I think), and I've enjoyed him ever since. I thought he meshed well with the Defenders... Kinda brought "Sub-Mariner strength" with a different attitude to the team. The beauty of his participation in the Defenders was how Steve Gerber could use him in storylines like the Sons of the Serpent storyline, or the Nebula/Headmen storyline, and then leave Luke out when the Defenders went "cosmic", such as in the Guardians of the Galaxy storyline.

I didn't read much of his solo series until several years ago, but I read Power Man/Iron Fist religiously from about #48 through #90. Thought they worked out great together. I thought Claremont/Byrne really set the bar in their openning story, and was really disappointed to see them gone so soon, replaced by Ed Hannigan (great artist... not so great writer!). I still enjoy that you see Luke and Danny together often.


William said...

Luke Cage (Power Man) is one of my favorite Bronze Age characters. I especially love his "yellow shirt / metal headband / chain belt era". I have a copy of "Luke Cage: Hero For Hire" #1, but I read most of his adventures via the "Essential Marvel" editions. His early stories were pretty much hit and miss. There was some good stuff in there, but there was also some very bad as well. However, the book really took off with issue #48 when he first joined forces with Iron Fist, and a legend was born. It was a brilliant concept. Take two oil and water, "B" list characters and team them up to create the first "buddy cop" superhero book. I agree with Ric though that the first story arc by Claremont and Byrne set the bar extremely high, and after they left, the book never quite lived up to it's potential. Again, there were some very fine moments and some very not so fine moments throughout the history of series.

Nowadays, modern Luke (don't call him Power Man) Cage is all serious and gangsta rapper, and such. Like most modern updates of classic Marvel characters, all the "fun" has been pretty much sucked out of him. I guess I understand in this case as you can't really have him running around in a puffy yellow disco shirt, and a metal tiara in this day and age. But I still preferred the old "Sweet Christmas!" spouting, jive talking Power Man, to the shaved head, super-serious modern Luke Cage.

If anyone is interested you can copy and paste the below link to my Power Man and Iron Fist action figure holiday comic titled "Sweet Christmas". (Sorry Karen I used the term Sweet Christmas twice, uh oh now I've done it three times).

P.S.: Karen or Doug, a little off topic, but speaking of modern versions of classic characters, if you haven't already done so you should check out Mark Waid's current run on Daredevil. He has taken the character back to his Bronze Age roots and made him a swashbuckling super hero once again. It's the only modern Marvel comic I currently read. Pick up the first trade paperback and check it out. I think you'll like it.

Doug said...

William --

I wonder what sort of sales DD has these days? How about the art? Would you consider it Bronze Age as well (I need to go see this, as I have no idea of the current state of any comic)? In my mind, it's the art as much as the story/dialogue that makes a book feel "Bronze". I will inpsect this further, as you've piqued my curiosity -- thanks!

As to Luke Cage in general, I for one was excited/dismayed when I saw the cover of FF #168 on the stands, with Power Man allegedly replacing the Thing. Sure, we'd seen the line-up change before, but the one constant through the previous 167 issues had been the Thing. So there was some trepidation there. But, I wish they'd pursued this storyline longer. Face it -- this was all a set-up to show that Ben was worth something, Thing or not, and a nice way to try out the exoskeleton angle (which I also liked -- hey, they never did a scene where Ben and Alicia were out on the town and the power of the Thing was needed; let's say it would exactly be like Clark Kent ripping open his shirt... sort of hard to hide that big orange suit). So Luke Cage was a pawn not only for the Puppet Master, but for the creators as well -- simple plot vehicle. I wish he'd stayed around longer.

As to current Luke Cage? You can have him. Although I did like the Avengers cartoon a couple of weeks ago with the Scott Lang Ant-Man teaming with Power Man and Iron Fist. Fun episode! Bendis and the kick to the crotch? Uhhh...


pete doree said...

One of my all-time favourite characters too. That whole Hero For Hire, street-level tough guy thing was perfect, even if Luke's good nature generally shone through and he, more often than not, DIDN'T get paid.
He's just very cool, and very relatable as an average working joe who just happens to have superpowers, and the sleazy Times Square setting was fascinating.
Even if some of the early stories
( and villains ) weren't all that great, it was Luke's personality & interactions that kept you reading.

I understand why the 'new' Cage looks like he does, but for me, it's the first run I go back to, and I hope, if they ever get round to making a movie, they set it in the '70's. Doubt they will tho'

One thing: I might be wrong, but I don't think he ever said ' Sweet Christmas ' did he? At least not in the original run.
He said 'Sweet Sister' and 'Christmas' but did he ever actually combine them? Can somebody point to an issue where he said it?

humanbelly said...

Ooo, but y'know--
"Sweet Sister Christmas!"-- now that would've been a terrific, euphonious piece of exclamatory jive-! Heck, I might start using that just to (further) embarrass my daughter in public. . .

My pal's brother had issue #1, and even then I couldn't quite come to terms with the tiara. None of my pals ever wore one. None of their friends or relatives from Chicago ever wore one (or at least admitted it. . .). I never saw many blaxploitation flicks-- but nobody in the ones I remember ever wore one. (Shaft? Superfly? Blacula? Nope.) Do we have an idea of who designed the costume? My daughter just mentioned that she's concerned with how flamboyant this costume is, BTW.

The chain belt. Steel chain is flippin' heavy stuff. That's a good 20 pounds (maybe more) hangin' from his waist, there! Thankfully, the spandex trousers (??) don't need holdin' up. HBGirl's a little concerned about those, too. . .

I do kind of see him as a character who has grown and evolved over the years-- although I wish he'd lighten up these days. Something I do like a LOT (and I could well be a minority of one, here) is that he's a new father. Granted, I'm not reading any of his titles right now-- but this still puts him in a whole new realm of being real and relatable for me. Can't stand his wife, mind you (lord, the language she uses in front of the baby!), but they both did seem to be aggressively committed to being a team and being parents-- and on a much more realistic level than Reed & Sue ever were for me.

aaaaaand there's a bit of a ramble to poke away at, eh?


Dougie said...

I blogged about Cage recently but had forgotten that I first "met" him in Defenders. I have been thinking about revisiting Don McGregor's 70s stories but found his writing irritating and pretentious in the Vampire Tales reprints.

Like many others, I only really enjoyed the character under Claremont & Byrne. However, I will say in Bendis' favour that he has made me accept Cage as an Avenger. If Roger Stern had added Power man to the late 80s roster as planned, I don't think I would have viewed him as a good fit.

david_b said...

I didn't really track Mr. Cage other than his splendid guest shot in Spidey ish 123 (what a fun way to go after the 2 shocking/landmark deaths....).

Loved his character then, more so for the funny way the Bullpen tried to inject street jive. It was just hilarious.

Agreed on his Defenders stint.. Now HE would have been a far more interesting member than a lot of the later folks who had taken their turns.

Edo Bosnar said...

Don't know where I first encountered the character, but I liked him from the start. I started reading Power Man & Iron Fist regularly after Luke and Misty Knight made that cameo appearance in that issue of X-men when Ororo walked into a seedy neighborhood. Anyway, I really liked the PM/IF partnership, and later did manage to go back and read some earlier solo PM material, most of which I generally liked - esp. that legendary story in which he goes all the way to Latveria to collect a $200 debt from Dr. Doom. You can't not love Luke after reading that!

Unknown said...

I always ended up reading an issue here or there of Hero-for-Hire back in the 70's, but never followed it closely. However, for me it was a part of the 70's Marvel universe that I found so groovy as a kid. I myself like the concept as it was originally conceived: Hero-for-Hire, goofy original costume, Times Square, secretly an ex-con, trying to make a living, and that great attitude of his. Believe me, use those elements, and there's a great movie set in the early 70's just waiting to happen.

If it was up to me, I wouldn't have even changed his name to Powerman. I did think teaming him with Iron First worked well, though.

Hmm, what if Bob Haney had written Hero-for-Hire? That, I'd like to see. "Sweet Blazing Christmas!"

James Chatterton

Unknown said...

On a somewhat unrelated note:

Another great blog, Diversions of a Groovy Kind, just posted a bunch of covers from Marvel and DC in throughout 1977. I've always thought of myself as a slightly bigger fan of DC than Marvel. But checking out these covers was sobering. There are some nifty DC covers, but Marvel had it all over DC in 1977. Marvel seemed to have one exciting cover after another, while plenty of DC's showed me that I sure wasn't picking up JLA based on the lame covers.

James Chatterton

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember enjoying the consistency with which he was written in different comics. Where some characters like Doc Strange would be unrecognisably badly written (esp. their dialogue) in guest appearances, Cage in the Defenders, Fantastic Four, Spider Man, etc seemed like exactly the same guy he was in his own comics.


J.A. Morris said...

I preferred the 'Power Man & Iron Fist' stories than Cage's solo tales. But I bought a bunch of the 'Power Man' and 'Hero For Hire' because I liked the villains!
Goldbug,Chemistro,Piranha Jones,Gideon Mace, and the infamous Mr. Fish! Yes, I bought this comic because I thought Mr. Fish looked cool on the cover:

In my defense, Mr. Fish looks much cooler on the cover (drawn by Ron Wilson & Tom Palmer) than he does inside the issue(drawn by George Tuska & Vince "The Eraser" Colletta).

William said...

Doug, I totally agree that the art is as important (or even more important for me) than the writing. And I'm happy to say that the art on the current DD is definitely harking back to the Bronze Age style. It is (or was) being done by two different artists Marcos Martin and Paolo Manuel Rivera. I think they are consciously going for that old-school look and feel, in the writing, art and coloring.

Here is a link to one of my favorite panels from the first issue.

And in the second issue he has a good old fashioned tussle with Captain America.

I discovered this new Daredevil at the library, where I picked up the first trade paperback which reprints the first six issues of the title. About half way through I was pretty much hooked. I started looking into it on the internet and found some interviews with Mark Waid where he confirms that they are indeed going for a much lighter tone with DD these days and taking him back to his super hero roots. He actually even fights super villains like Klaw and Hydra in the first couple or arks. Great stuff.

There are currently two trades out Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. I got Vol. 1 from the library and read, but I still plan on buying both. I will probably pick them up on Amazon.

Check them out if you get a chance, and let me know what you think.

William said...

Sorry, I had a couple of typos in that last post, but I think you get the gist.

I just wanted to add that I heard that this new Daredevil is selling very well (even going into multiple printings for some issues). So, hopefully this will be a sign to Marvel that people are tired of the soap opera garbage and of seeing their beloved characters raked over the coals, and we really want is some good old-fashioned story-telling.

If every Marvel comic was done like DD currently is, I might still be buying them. Let's hope it lasts.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Luke Cage topic already in progress.

Anonymous said...

My first experience with Luke Cage was with Giant Size Power Man remember when Marvel wrapped up the "Giant Size" format with choice reprints from most of their characters. To me, it really captured the feel of those Blaxploitation flicks.....I could have seen Fred "The Hammer" Williamson playing him in a movie. You could almost hear the funky 70's soundtrack in the background in those issues with Billy Graham doing the art.

I picked up a few issues of Power Man, pre-Iron Fist. Like William, I really got into the PM/IF concept. Lots of fun throughout for me. I don't know much about his character post-1983 or 84 though.


Anonymous said...

I've always pictured Power Man as belonging in the 70s. Marvel attempted to cash in on the 1970s blaxploitation fad that was in vogue at the time. The result? Luke Cage, Hero for Hire. I especially loved that part - most superheroes were altruistic in their goals, e.g Spidey fought crime in remembrance of his inaction which led to his beloved Uncle Ben being murdered, the FF saved the world from Doc Doom, etc. Cage would do all that too - but you had to pay him!

I also recall the early issues of his own series where he was always trying to get a Coke from a coin operated soda machine but he always ended up getting the wrong drink (chicken soup in one instance!). Also, he had a blind informer called Toby who he relied on to get information first hand via "word on the street".

He was a perfect fit with Iron Fist (another product of Marvel trying to cash in on a 70s fad, this time the kung fu craze); they were the yin/yang of Marvel duos. One black, one white, one poor, one privileged.

While I agree that the yellow disco shirt, chain belt and tiara seem outdated in this modern age, that image fitted perfectly in the mod 70s era which spawned Cage. If they ever do make a Luke Cage/Power Man movie, I hope they set it in the 70s era.

I don't care too much from what little I've seen about the modern take on Cage. The bald head and goatee is OK but people, let's remember that even thought Cage was from the ghetto, he was no gangster! He was wrongly convicted and sent to prison, remember?

Oh,by the way - SWEET CHRISTMAS! :)

- Mike (child of the 70s) from Trinidad and Tobago.

vancouver mark said...

I first met Luke Cage in Hero For Hire #10, with Senor Muerte. That month I bought a copy of every single Marvel comic and tried to make sense of this bizarre new universe. Lucas was a hard guy to place alongside Reed Richards, Thor, Doctor Strange, etc.

A month or so later he guest-starred in Amazing Spider-Man, the single appearance that somehow defined Cage for me. I haven't owned that particular issue for decades, and regret ever parting with it.

I followed rather half-heartedly (it wasn't a particularly great book) until Don McGregor took over Power Man in issue 29 or so. (You guys should really consider reviewing some of these issues! they're seriously awesome Bronze Age)
I already knew McGregor well from his ongoing Black Panther and Killraven books, and loved both dearly.
But Times Square amd Hell's Kitchem, and Jamaica, Queens (!) are much less fantastical and freakish than a mythical African kingdom or a surreal post-Martian Yankee Stadium or Great Lakes. So Don McGregor had to go even further over the top, and his effusive monsoons of excessive verbiage gushed forth a purple prose of flowery 42nd Street passionate poetry that touched my sixteen-year-old heart quite deeply.
I should really dig those issues out and read them again...

At the same time, Steve Gerber started Omega the Unknown, the other 1976 Marvel Hell's Kitchen hero. Soon after that, I saw Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver for the first times within a month or two of each other. And so all through senior high, in a mid-sized town on the east coast of Vancouver Island, I obsessed pretty much daily about the West Side of Manhattan.

When I finally got to NYC yes of course I went up the Empire State Building near sunset of my first day, but only after wandering up and down 8, 9, 10, and 11th Avenues all afternoon, with this weird grin on my face, whistling the opening whistles from West Side Story while visiting Travis Bickle's taxi garage and looking all over for James Michael Starling .

So yeah, I liked Luke Cage seriously big-time at that point. For a few wonderful issues it was at the top of my weekly stack every two months.

I don't know how to say this without sounding really rather ignorant or racist, but as a white-bread teen growing up in white-bread mid-70s British Columbia Luke Cage was the one black character I felt closest to emotionally, and that I liked best personally, in all the comics, movies, TV or music I'd ever experienced to that point.
I know that sounds rather weird, but honestly back then the only black people I ever saw were on TV or when we went down to Seattle for the weekend.

Then after just a few precious issues McGregor left and the book got pretty ordinary again.
And then I stopped and squinted at the strange new Iron Fist partership. I bought it for another decade or so until I gave up Marvel altogether, but never felt close to the character after McGregor.

Rip Jagger said...

I was with Luke Cage from the very beginning! I loved the George Tuska-Billy Graham artwork on those earliest issues and liked almost as well when Graham took over the full chores.

When the book changed from "Hero for Hire" to "Power Man" some of the luster came off it for me. That earliest premise was excellent and made so much sense in the more realistic world of the Marvel Universe.

Sure Cage was a cliche with his over-the-top speech patterns and that stuff can make you wince a bit now, but the energy of those early issues is palpable. There was a real sense of uncovering a new world with Cage.

Rip Off

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I loved the very first issues. If it were made into a movie today they would have to put the character in the 1970's.

The Essencials volume of Luke Cage has the first twenty issues or so and brings back a lot of good memories. The new modernized Luke Cage is nothing like the 70's iconic version. The character was from a time that can never be duplicated again.

Perhaps the producer that tranlates Cage into a film or TV project will have to save the "sweet Christmas" catch phrase.
I just hope the creative team assigned to "Luke Cage" re-creates the character accurately.

I remember Nick Cage saying he took his hollywood name from the character. Nick's is the brother of Francis Ford Coppol;, the director of The Godfather.

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