Luke Cage (born Carl Lucas) was raised in the slums of Harlem, New York. He spent his childhood in a gang called The Rivals along with his friend Willis Stryker. Lucas engaged in many gang fights with The Diablos, a rival gang. He also committed petty crimes and worked for a crime lord named Sonny Caputo.
Eventually, Lucas was put through the juvenile justice system and realized the pain he was causing his family. He changed his ways and in his adulthood, he joined The NYPD ( New York City Police Department) as a police officer. Willis Stryker rose through the ranks of crime. Stryker’s actions brought the anger of The Maggia, a New York crime syndicate.
The Maggia ordered a hit on Stryker and he was badly injured, only to be saved by Carl Lucas. Stryker’s girlfriend (Reva Conners) grew fearful of his line of work and began to distance herself from him. She breaks up with him and finds comfort in Lucas. Stryker then believes that Lucas is the one responsible for the break up between him and Reva. In revenge, he planted drugs in Lucas’ Harlem apartment and tipped off the cops. Lucas is then wrongly convicted and imprisoned.
Luke Cage was one of the first African American super heroes in mainstream comics among the likes of the Falcon and the African hero, the Black Panther. However, his creation was criticized by some for promoting racial stereotypes, as he was initially involved in gang crime. The character’s public perception has began to change as times progress and has even, grown in popularity. But some criticism remains.
Major Story Arcs
Luke Cage Hero for Hire
While incarcerated, Lucas grows angry and hateful towards Willis. He engages in jail fights and makes numerous failed escape attempts. Lucas, is then transferred to a prison on the coast of Georgia. He faces racism from one of the guards named Quirt. Captain Rackham blames Lucas for being demoted when a new warden dislikes how the prison is run. Lucas then volunteers for an experiment which will shorten his sentence. Dr. Noah Burstein puts him in an electrical field with a chemical compound, leaving him unattended for a moment. Rackham tampers with the controls, causing an overload. Pushed way past its original intent, the resulting incident empowers Lucas with super strength and gives him nearly impervious skin. Lucas uses his power to escape from the prison and later makes his way back to New York City.
Lucas then adopted a costume and the name “Luke Cage” and became a Hero For Hire, working for anyone who can meet his price. He set up an office in Times Square in the Gem Theater, and is eventually proven innocent and exonerated from his crimes. Luke then continues his work as a super powered mercenary. He eventually runs into his old friend, Willis Stryker, now a Maggia agent who goes under the name “Diamond Back.” Luke Cage and Diamond Back have an intense battle but Diamond Back is killed. Luke then went on to face many foes such as Gideon Mace, Chemistro, Discus, Stiletto, Shades and Comanche over the years.
Luke’s Hero for Hire business continued to boom. He later did a job for Doctor Doom and after Doom failed to pay him, Luke became a close ally to The Fantastic Four. Cage was then hired by J. Jonah Jameson to find and capture Spider-Man. After getting to know Spider-Man, he returned Jameson his money. This led Jameson to spin bad publicity about Luke in his newspaper, the Daily Bugle. Cage later met his future wife Jessica Jones, also known by her hero name, Jewel. During one mission, Luke was tricked into stealing a suit of armor from Stark International. The two initially clashed, but then became friends after Luke tracked down the person who tricked him.
Later, Luke began calling himself “Power Man.” He began to associate with the team know as The Defenders were he helped them face off against The Wrecking Crew. Power Man later got a spot on the Fantastic Four when Ben Grimm (The Thing) lost his abilities. Luke was later mind controlled by the Puppet Master and was used to fight his teammates on the Fantastic Four. Cage later went solo and fought more villains including Dontrell “Cockroach” Hamilton and Ray ” Piranha” Jones.Power Man was later called to help out the Defenders against Plantman. He began to complain that working in their group was messing up his paying work.
He was then paid by Nighthawk, who gave Luke a steady paycheck for helping the Defenders. Luke remained on their team as a main member as a result. He later worked with Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, Nighthawk and Red Guardian. They defeated many threats such as Egghead and Headmen. Cage somehow felt out of place and later quit the team because he thought that he was not suited for teamwork.
Months later Cage’s innocence in his drug charges was proven and John Bushmaster kidnapped Noah Burstein, then began to blackmail Cage for his safety. Cage was later ordered by John to kidnap Misty Knight, which led to Luke fighting Iron Fist (Danny Rand) from the city of K’un-Lun. Cage talked to Rand and explained the situation, Rand and Cage teamed up to defeat John Bushmaster and save his friends. Cage later on would work for Misty Knight in her detective agency.
Power Man and Iron Fist
Luke and Danny Rand (Iron Fist) would later establish a Heroes for Hire business together. They had an attorney named Jeryn Hogarth and the business was managed by Jennie Royce. Although the streetwise Cage and the unworldly Iron Fist seemed to have little in common, they soon became the best of friends. Cage and Iron Fist had great amounts of success with Heroes For Hire, then earned a reputation and fought a vast amount of criminals such as Sabretooth and the Constrictor. Luke and Iron Fist had their first mission where Iron Fist got radiation poisoning and Cage took him to K’un- Lun for treatment.
Cage had a relationship with Claire Temple, that did not last long. After this, Cage became involved with Harmony Young. Luke and Iron Fist worked with Spider-Man, Daredevil and Moon Knight, however they barely helped in the larger issues which The Avengers were in charge of. Their friendship made a turn for the worst when S.M.I.L.E. used Cage and Iron Fist to join Consolidated Conglomerates Inc. Luke would later be accused of murdering Iron Fist while he was actually being impersonated by a Skrull.
A New Start
Luke was now on the run and moved to Chicago and he was later cleared of the charges with help. Daniel Rand later appeared and wanted to start over with Luke Cage. Cage tried to locate his surviving family members with the aid of Dakota North, but his brother kept moving his father around. Luke’s girlfriend, Harmony Young, was killed and Ghost Rider aided him in finding her killer. Luke’s heart was no longer set on heroics and he later helped run The Gem Theater with his friend. Luke later rejoined Heroes For Hire for one last mission. Luke then went back to Heroics and joined a group called Marvel Knights, but mere days after he joined, the group disbanded following clashes with the forces of Tombstone.
The new Heroes for Hire
Luke later decided that a return to basics was in order, he re-established his Hero for Hire activities, enlisting the help of his old friend Iron Fist, along with a group of new heroes such as Hercules, the new White Tiger and the Black Knight. The group helped intervening in a war between a number of Crime Lords, Hammerhead and Tombstone.
Luke later has a one night stand with Jessica Jones. Cage had a crisis later when Jessica reacted to the fling, however, her and Luke made peace and later worked together when Matt Murdock was accused of being Daredevil. Luke later told Jessica his feelings towards her grew and she told him she was pregnant. Cage and Jones moved in together and Jessica later became a superhuman consultant for The Daily Bugle. J. Jonah Jameson still resented Luke though, for denying the job of capturing Spider-Man previously.
Shortly after, Luke is hired by Matt Murdock to accompany him to the Raft, a prison off of Ryker’s Island to visit Robert Reynolds, the Sentry. They meet with Jessica Drew and with Foggy Nelson in tow, visit Reynolds. However, during the visit Electro stages a prison break. As Spider-Man, Captain America, and Iron Man arrive to help maintain order during the ensuing riot, something unexpected happens. The New Avengers form. Following the riot, Captain America asks all the heroes to join, however Matt Murdock declines. Despite this, the team begins to pursue the cause of the riot, Electro. After which they go to the Savage Land to find the real reason for the breakout, Karl Lykos, better known as Sauron. After a run-in with Sauron, the Savage Land mutates, and S.H.I.E.L.D. troopers (Led by Yelena Belova, the second Black Widow), the New Avengers have some relative downtime in which they notice the continued presence of the Young Avengers.
The New Avengers (partially) were sent to deal with Wrecker of the Wrecking Crew, who had escaped during the Raft riot. Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Woman, and Spider-Man fight Wrecker and capture him, sending him back to jail. They have no time to rest though as they go confront the Sentry in his house about why nobody remembers him. With the help of the Fantastic 4, Namor, the Inhumans, S.H.I.E.L.D., Doctor Strange, and the X-Men, they defeat Robert’s dark side, the Void. After this, the complete New Avengers help fight off a second Kree– Skrull War with the Young Avengers. The cause being Hulkling, a member of both races. Afterwards, the team goes to Japan to fight Hydra and the Hand.
Upon returning from Japan, the New Avengers officially announce their team roster and Jameson bad-mouths the team for it’s members, including Cage as a convicted heroin dealer. The team ignores this and per Luke’s request, visit Highland Park, Detroit on one of their off days, to help clean up a neighborhood of it’s scum and villainy. The visit is cut short though, as the team has to run off to go fight the Collective, a battle that they win. During this time, two important things happen. The first is that Jessica has their baby, a girl that they name Danielle after Danny Rand, Luke’s best friend. In addition, Luke and Jessica get married, which was officiated by Stan Lee. However, the bliss was not to last, as the Senate was beginning to have talks about the Super Human Registration Act.
Luke would later oppose the Super Human Registration Act, along with Captain America and the Anti-Registration forces. Luke felt the act was like slavery and fought alongside Iron Fist, Captain America and the rest of the Secret Avengers until Captain America gave himself to the government and ended the Civil War. Luke had sent Jessica and Danielle to Canada where they would be safe from the new law. S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Gabe Jones comes to arrest Cage and Luke fights his way through the S.H.I.E.L.D. forces were he and would join Captain America’s Secret Avengers .
Hidden Heroes and Secret Invasion
After Captain America was assassinated, Jessica returned with the baby. Luke Cage and Spider-Man got together with a group of unregistered heroes, many of which had been on the anti-registration side. From here the continued The New Avengers. The team, at this point, included Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Spider-Woman (she was secretly the Skrull Queen) and Doctor Strange. There base was Doctor Strange’s Sanctum. Cage’s Avengers and the Mighty Avengers fought many times in the ensuing months over registration. Luke often had trouble trusting Clint Barton due to his past of criminal activities, however Cage was later proved wrong when Clint Barton had proved himself by taking out a group of ninjas single handed.
The Avengers would later rescue Echo in Japan and found out that Elektra was a Skrull impostor. Cage became very worried about the Skrulls’ powers to copy a person. Luke also had a theory there were more Skrulls on Earth. Many of the Avengers were not sure they could trust anyone and the team was betrayed by Spider- Woman, as it was The Skrull Queen.
Later The Sanctum would be raided by The Hood and his gang. Cage moved to a new location with the team and thought Jessica had abandoned him with the child. Luke and his wife, Jessica, got into an argument and had many disagreements. Luke sent the New Avengers to check out a Skrull Ship crashing landing in The Savage Land. Luke ripped open the ship and noticed many versions of heroes. The Avengers later fought The Skrulls in Central Park. Jessica helped in the effort to fight and admitted Luke was right about the Skrulls. Jarvis Skrull took Danielle Cage and vanished leaving Jessica and Luke upset.
After the intense battle ended, James Barnes (Captain America), called a meeting with The New Avengers at his home and offered them to use his house as a base for their operations, due to the Sanctum’s previous destruction. Luke, Jessica and Ms Marvel arrived at Bucky’s home. The Fantastic Four and Iron Fist are looking around the city for Jarvis Skrull seeing as Danielle is still missing. They raid various villain’s bases such as A.I.M., HYDRA, Electro and The Red Skull. Looking for intel on the missing baby, they later found a Skrull in a bar dressed as a S.H.I.E.L.D agent and he was later shot by another agent. Jessica felt hopeless and thought Danielle was going to get killed by Jarvis Skrull. Luke got desperate and knew he was running out of options and then asked Norman Osborn to aid in the search for their baby. Luke promise d Norman he’d do anything Norman asked for. Norman later helped Luke get the baby back and Luke Cage reneged on his offer to do anything for Osborn and the New Avengers.
Osborn later tries to get some revenge on Luke and then brainwashes Iron Fist and tell him to kill Cage. Due to Luke and Danny Rand’s relationship, Luke is easily able to break the brainwashing and they escape. The New Avengers are hit by the reverse engineered power drainer from Chemistro. Luke had heard pain and turns himself into Osborn for help. Though he is later rescued by the New Avengers, he is taken to a secret location and it is revealed that Luke has a tracker in his heart. Dr Strange is able to get it out and puts it in Norman Osborn’s home. Osborn then sent a missile to the tracker and his house got destroyed.
Luke Cage helps Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, along with Bucky in fighting Living Laser, Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors (The remaining remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to fight off the H.A.M.M.E.R. agents. Steve Rogers g ave an inspiring speech to the New Avengers, Young Avengers and Secret Warriors. He says that they are going to take back this country and put Norman‘s Reign to an end. Captain America and Luke Cage along with New Avengers, Young Avengers and Secret Warriors go to Asgard to help Thor and Maria Hill in the attack that Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers along with The Thunderbolt’s had made on Asgard. Osborn had ordered his troops to fight harder until he realized The Void was out of control he was turning into a demonic form. Luke later helped the heroes defeat The Void and end Siege Of Asgard.
The Heroic Age
After the defeat of Norman Osborn, Steve Rogers is appointed the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D. As a result, Steve appoints Luke as the new head of the Thunderbolts, given his past experience in jail. Steve Rogers said that if somebody who was unjustly put in jail can stay the straight, narrow and become an Avenger, that person surely can have insights into helping others with dark pasts become the heroes they can be. After reviewing his list of options, Luke chooses Juggernaut, Moonstone, Ghost, Crossbones, Songbird, and Man-thing. Luke joined the Thunderbolts on a number of occasions, often as their team leader, but other things where in store for Luke, too. He was soon brought back into the Avengers fault, while still remaining his spot as team leader of the Thunderbolts.