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Luke Cage, (aka Power Man) is a Marvel Comics superhero, originally created as part of the 1970s blaxploitation craze. He first appeared in "Hero for Hire" #1 (June, 1972), created by writers Archie Goodwin and Roy Thomas, along with artists John Romita, Sr. and George Tuska.

Luke's original name was Carl Lucas, and he grew up on the streets of Harlem. Convicted of a crime he didn't commit, he was offered a chance at parole if he'd participate in a prison experiment on cell regeneration. The experiment was sabotaged by a prison guard with a grudge against Lucas, granting him super strength and Nigh-Invulnerability. Traumatised by the experiment, Lucas lashed out at the guard, then, fearing that his lash-out would see him losing parole, made a break for it. Returning to New York, he was inspired to become a 'hero for hire', helping out anyone who could pay his price, and adopted the pseudonym "Luke Cage".

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He originally had his own solo title, known as "Hero for Hire" for 16 issues (June, 1972-December, 1973), then as "Power Man" for issues #17-49 (February, 1974-February, 1978). In issue #50, Luke was teamed up with Iron Fist. The series continued as "Power Man and Iron Fist" for issues #50-125 (April, 1978- September, 1986). With its cancellation, Luke was left with no regular series for a few years. He returned to stardom with "Cage" vol. 1, which ran for 20 issues (April, 1992-November, 1993). "Cage" vol. 2 was a 5-issue miniseries (March-September, 2002) by Brian Azzarello. In 2005, Luke joined the New Avengers and has been a regular ever since. In this period Luke married Alias star Jessica Jones. They have a daughter, Danielle. After Dark Reign Luke became the man in charge of the Thunderbolts up through the end of the series.

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Luke and his Hero For Hire days have inspired a number of other heroes — one has taken up Luke's old "Power-Man" name, and several others have created an entire team devoted to this way of heroism, Heroes for Hire.


Luke Cage has appeared in the following works:

Comics

  • Luke Cage: Hero for Hire (1972)
  • Luke Cage, Power Man (1974)
  • Power Man and Iron Fist (1978)
  • Cage Vol. 1 (1992)
  • Heroes for Hire (1997)
  • Cage Vol. 2 (2002)
  • Luke Cage: Noir (2009)
  • New Avengers: Luke Cage (2010)
  • Mighty Avengers (2013)
  • Power Man and Iron Fist (2016)
  • Cage (2016) (2016)
  • Luke Cage (2017-2018)

Anime

Live-Action TV (As part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Video Games

Western Animation


Comics featuring Luke Cage provide examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: When Bendis' New Avengers run ended, he quit to take care of his family. Now he's back as the leader of the new roster of the Mighty Avengers.
  • Adult Fear: Part and parcel of being a superhero with a baby is... being a superhero with a baby, and all the requisite terror that comes with knowing super-powered maniacs exist and could threaten your child, on top of normal dad worries. Luke's had to face that one many times.
  • Arch-Enemy: Gideon Mace; he was Luke's most recurring foe, and a huge threat in all of his appearances. On a thematic level, he could also be the Angry White Man to the Angry Black Man that Luke was regarded as, being a dishonorably discharged Vietnam veteran who was obsessed with striking back at society and "the man" for its perceived mistreatment, betrayal, and abandonment of him and others like him.
  • Angry Black Man: Was notorious for this back in the 1970s, but since the early 2000s he's mellowed out considerably, though he still has his moments.
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: As the leader of the Thunderbolts and New Avengers.
  • Bald of Awesome: He used to be an Afro Asskicker, but in modern times he generally keeps his head shaved.
  • Bash Brothers: Cage and Iron Fist are perhaps one of the greatest superhero duos in comic history.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Back in the day, he strongly objected to being called a mercenary.
    • Do not run out on a debt you owe him. See Determinator for details.
    • Do not make any insults towards his relationship with his wife. Any implied lip about the relationship being interracial will earn you a swift beatdown.
  • The Big Guy: Works well as the heavy hitter for any team he's on, and when he teamed with Iron Fist.
  • Blaxploitation: The character was initially created as an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the genre, much like how Shang-Chi and Iron Fist took advantage of the Kung-Fu genre. He has since evolved considerably, with much of the character's modernization being owed to writer Brian Michael Bendis.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Rarely does he miss the chance to trash talk and punctuate them between punching.
  • Brains and Brawn: When he works with Iron Fist, he's technically the brawn, while Danny is the brains, though with the spin that Danny is often a clueless Fish out of Water compared to Luke, the New York native.
  • Cain and Abel: Cage and his brother Coldfire often come to blows. Or did, since James is now quite dead.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Luke and his dad's reunion in Mighty Avengers, unsurprisingly, has a lot of shouting going on, especially since Luke's learned his father has some exploits in his past he never mentioned.
  • Catchphrase:
    • SWEET CHRISTMAS!
    • Usually shortened to simply "Christmas!" He also threw around "Sweet Sister!" a lot early on.note 
  • Chained by Fashion: He often wore a chain belt as part of the wrongly-convicted-past motif.
  • Character Filibuster: As written by Bendis, he's got a habit of speechifying. Admittedly, characters written by Bendis tend to be verbose anyhow, but with Cage it's an acknowledged trait that he will unleash speeches on anyone he feels deserves it, and they're gonna listen... unless it's Jessica Jones, who can power straight through Cage's righteous indignation with her own.
    Jessica: (after Luke's been startled by Blue Marvel) Was it the "I don't break" speech?
    Luke: (sagging in exasperation) Yeah...
    Jessica: I love that one.
  • Civvie Spandex: His old costume was mostly just chains and metal bands around a shirt and pants. Since that time, he hasn't worn a costume at all.
  • Clear My Name: Has happened more than once.
    • In fact, it's how he started, getting sent to Seagate Prison for possession of drugs as a frame-up by Willis Stryker, over a girl they both fancied. Once he got out, he headed straight to New York to make Willis admit his crimes. Their fight wound up with Willis kind of dead, which scuppered that one.
    • At the end of Heroes for Hire, the series ended with Danny being accidentally beaten to death by "Captain Hero", and Luke getting the blame for it, forcing him to go on the run... again.
  • Cursed with Awesome: He's got invulnerable skin and muscle tissue which means he can tank nearly any external damage. However, having super-tough skin makes dealing with internal injuries like brain damage or swelling difficult, to say the least; it's near impossible to perform surgery and Luke has nearly died more than a few times from some attack on his life that caused internal damage.
  • Determinator:
    • Never mind the fact he'll keep fighting, he just would not stop giving money to a coffee machine that kept screwing up his orders. Ever.
    • You should never... ever... ever try to run out on a debt to Luke. As referenced in the quote under the Badbutt entry: Dr. Doom tried and it resulted in Luke bum rushing the Baxter Building to 'borrow' a Fantasticar (clobbering the Thing in the process), flying himself all the way to Latveria and beating Doom like a rented mule. This was all over a matter of $200. "Where's my money, Honey?" has on occasion been referred to as the four scariest words in the Marvel Universe.
  • Fanboy: Of Isaiah Bradley, the first African-American superhero who becomes Captain America (In-Universe, chronologically). He is among several African-American heroes, along with The Falcon, Goliath (Bill Foster), Monica Rambeau, and Triathlon; who are gleefully surprised when Isaiah arrives as a special guest at the wedding of Storm and Black Panther. Luke also describes Isaiah as "the first me".
  • Genius Bruiser: While he’s not a super genius like Reed Richards or a disciplined martial artist like his partner Iron Fist, Cage is nowhere near as stupid as his go to battle strategy implies. He once stealthy broke into Stark Enterprises (after being tricked into doing so of course) and was able to Spot the Imposter by realizing that the original and fake were wearing different shoes.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Part of the justification about the whole "Sweet Christmas!" is this (it was the 70s. Luke couldn't swear even if he wanted to). Apparently Momma Lucas had Opinions on swearing, and came down harshly on hers son for it, so Luke took up alternatives, and after a while it just became second nature. These days, he just uses actual swearing.
    • Cage used his catchphrase "sweet Christmas!" in place of profanity because his grandmother didn't like him swearing, and by his account, she was way meaner and tougher than any of the villains he fought.
    • Averted in his later incarnations.
    SWEET F**KING CHRISTMAS!
    • Taken Up to Eleven in a later Heroes for Hire series, where Jessica has him control his language after the baby starts cussing, and this carries over to his missions with Iron Fist.
    Cage: This guy is a bad Knick-Knack-Paddy-Whack.
    Iron Fist: A bad what?
  • Happily Married: His marriage with Jessica Jones has a lot of love.
  • Healing Factor: A little, but if injured, Luke is capable of recovering from mild injuries in 1/3rd the time it would take an ordinary human.
  • Henpecked Husband: Jess will sass Luke, much as they love one another.
  • Hero Does Public Service: A 1980s anti-smoking comic that crossed over with Spider-Man and Storm opened with Cage coaching a high school track team. He got embroiled in a plot involving organized crime and illegal sports betting when he went to investigate why his star player, Brett, suddenly wasn't doing so hot.
  • Heroic Willpower: Luke's skin isn't the only thing that's unbreakable. During the climax of Mighty Avengers, when the entire world is being put in a Lotus-Eater Machine, Luke is able to power his way out alone. The only other person shown to be able to resist on their own is Captain America, and even he isn't able to put up as much of a fight.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • Cage and Daniel Rand, aka Iron Fist. are literally super friends. Luke even named his daughter Danielle after him.
    • He also had this sort of friendship with Spider-Man when they both were part of the New Avengers.
  • Honor Before Reason: Despite being broke, without insurance, and with a baby to support, Luke flat out refuses a stipend from Steve Rogers and S.H.I.E.L.D. because he was promised that the New Avengers would be totally autonomous. Jessica immediately calls him out on this.
  • Insistent Terminology: He most definitely did not ever wear a tiara. It was a headband. Head. Band.
  • Immune to Bullets: One of his powers from the prison experiment is super durability, so bullets can't hurt him.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: It was a Justified Trope in his first issue, with Luke deciding that if he was going to make money as a superhero, he had to dress in something a superhero would wear, which included a chain and a tiara. The likes of Deadpool and Spider-Man love reminding the poor guy about it, while he affirms how the look was cool.
  • Jive Turkey: Like we said, honky, he first appeared in the seventies. It gets funny when he gets a hold of Mjolnir in an early What If?:
    By the gleamin' gates of funky Asgard, you suckers are gonna eat hammer!
  • The Leader: Of the New Avengers, between Civil War and the return of Steve Rodgers, and then for the entirety of Vol. 2, for the Thunderbolts during the Heroic Age, and then with the Mighty Avengers team.
  • Legacy Character:
    • Mixed Black/Hispanic teen Vic Alvarez, who took up the 'Power Man' name on the grounds Luke wasn't using it anymore.
    • Luke himself took the name from the villainous Power Man (Erik Josten, now better known as Atlas from the Thunderbolts).
    • Jessica Jones also goes by "Power Woman" when she isn't Jewel, Knightress, or whatever the hell else she goes by.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Guess how he and Danny Rand first met. Go on, guess.
  • Likes Older Women: A gag in New Avengers was that he and elderly Ann-Marie Hoag of Damage Control once had a fling.
  • Logical Weakness: Having super-tough skin makes dealing with internal injuries difficult, to say the least; it's near impossible to perform surgery. He has a good Healing Factor though, so that helps. He's also susceptible to knockout or sleeping gas.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: Spoofed in one issue of New Avengers, where Luke tries to convince Jessica to use "Power Woman" as her superhero name.
    Luke: You married me. Take the name.
    Jessica: But I'm my own person.
    Luke: Who's married to me.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: When the new Power Man shows up and is initially antagonistic towards Luke, he suggests that Luke's less of a black man for having married a white woman. Punching ensues.
  • Mugging the Monster: An almost literal example as many a thug made the mistake of trying to jump Cage only to realize too late who he was when their knife/bullets bounced off his skin.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Luke Cage's skin is as hard as metal and his muscle and bone tissues are considerably denser than the tissues of an ordinary human, granting him much greater resistance to physical injury than an ordinary human. He can withstand conventional handgun fire and cannot be cut by any blade forged of conventional material. He can withstand up to one-ton impacts or blasts of 150 pounds of TNT without serious injury, and is highly resistant to extreme temperatures and electrical shocks. He has withstood impacts from superhumans a good deal stronger than him, destructive energy attacks including electricity, and falls from great heights such as ninety story high skyscrapers.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • When the rest of the New Avengers either gets a little TOO gung-ho or a little TOO pacifist, he lets his opinion be known that they're acting a mite off.
    • An exception during Secret Invasion when Cage willingly took the bait and engaged both Avengers teams in a battle with their Skrull copycats in the Savage Land (while New York was concurrently burning to the ground) because his doppleganger annoyed him. This was despite the fact that Ares, God of War, was very clear that this was a very deliberate waste of time and that they should retreat immediately. Luke himself even realises it's stupid, but... well, the Skrulls have just ticked him off too much.
  • Papa Wolf: You put his child in danger, good luck surviving the rest of the day.
  • Reaching Towards the Audience: Frequently has his fist in the foreground of official art.
  • Really Gets Around: Apparently has had relations with Tigra, Jessica Drew and She-Hulk. Ms Marvel once joked that he was known as a habitual "cape chaser." Luke Cage however disagrees when Jessica brings this up. He points out that if he was a lawyer or a professional, it's more than likely that most of his relationships would be with fellow professionals, and that he doesn't have any particular thing for superheroines aside from it being the women he meets in his line of work most often. Though it doesn't change the fact the man really likes to sow his oats.
  • Reformed Criminal: A large part of Luke's past. Luke spent his youth causing trouble on the streets and eventually joined a gang called The Rivals, committing various petty thefts and robberies while being in and out of juvenile homes throughout his teens. He dreamed of becoming a major New York racketeer until he finally realized how his actions were hurting his family and tried to go straight. Unfortunately he was framed for drug possession and sent to prison.
  • Running Gag:
    • In the 70s and 80s he had a coffee machine that always got his order wrong. Clearly a god was behind it because the one time it got his order right, Cage slipped and dropped his drink. When it was getting replaced the new one got smashed very quickly.
    • Subtler one — can you name any of his old comics that didn't feature him losing his shirt? Or his office getting trashed? Likewise, can you name any of the newer comics he's in that don't feature him losing his shit?
    • In the first issue of the 2017 book he notes that he goes through so many of his iconic yellow t shirts that he's had start buying them in bulk.
  • Salt and Pepper: He had a partnership with fellow superhero, Iron Fist who is a white martial arts master raised in an other-dimensional city while he himself is a wrongfully accused black ex-con living in Times Square and freelancing as a superhero) in the Marvel comic Heroes for Hire. Both were created in the '70s during the Kung-Fu and Blaxploitation crazes. Best Odd Couple ever.
  • Scary Black Man: Even though he grew up in the 'hood, was an ex-convict, and had the mentality, he's fully aware of the stereotypes and acknowledges them. He's sort of made it his thing.
  • Secret Public Identity: He didn't use "Power Man" for long and even when he did, it was more of a nickname since everyone knew him as Luke Cage and he obviously did not wear a mask. While Luke Cage was not his birth name, it did eventually become his legal name.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad:
    • Cage bears the brunt of being one of Brian Michael Bendis' big favorites, thus he often takes a lot of roles in Bendis' series such as Alias and Daredevil where he eventually snagged a major supporting character slot. Also, he's a Mighty Avengers leader.
    • Despite Iron Fist being his lifemate, Spider-Man and Cage often come across as this in New Avengers.
  • Stealth Expert: Played for laughs in one issue of Mighty Avengers, when he claims that living with a baby daughter means he's learned how to be very quiet when he needs to.
  • Super Strength: After undergoing the original experiment, Cage's strength was increased to superhuman levels. Over the years, Depending on the Writer, his strength level was anywhere between Spider-Man's or the Hulk's.
  • Symbol Swearing: Sweet *$!%&# Christmas, this has been a modern staple of Luke's.
  • Terror Hero: The reason he wears a plain yellow top instead of armour is because seeing an Angry Black Man get hit by a shotgun blast and completely No-Sell it is highly intimidating.
  • We Help the Helpless: There's a reason he called himself a Hero For Hire. At one point while working with The Defenders, he complains that all the time he spends with them takes away from good-paying jobs. This prompts Nighthawk, alias multimillionaire Kyle Richmond, to pull out his checkbook and put Luke on retainer so he gets paid for helping the Defenders.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: As part of above-mentioned speeches. If Luke Cage feels someone needs a yelling at, they are damn well getting a yelling at.
  • Working with the Ex: The 2016 run has Luke and Danny's relationship as this when they're pulled together for one last job when their former receptionist gets out of prison with a job for them.

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