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Comic Book / Luke Cage: Hero for Hire

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Sweet Christmas!
"You're right, Stryker. I lost my way. I lost my humanity. I forgot who I was...but then something happened — Something I didn't expect — I was reborn!"
Luke Cage

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, (aka Power Man) is a Marvel Comics series debuting June, 1972. Originally created as part of the 1970s blaxploitation craze. the series was created by writers Archie Goodwin and Roy Thomas, along with artists John Romita, Sr. and George Tuska.

Carl Lucas 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".

The title was 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).

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.

See here for more info on Luke Cage in general.

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire provide examples of:

  • Actually a Doombot: One story has Deadly Nightshade working with a guy named Chubby, supposedly acting as The Man Behind the Man. It's only when Luke and Danny catch up with the guy it turns out he's a highly sophisticated robot Nightshade made for... no reason.
  • The Alcatraz: Seagate Prison, where Luke was sent to, located in the middle of the Florida Everglades. The bigger problem is the insanely racist and corrupt guard, Billy-Bob Rackham, who has it in for Luke.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Luke and Danny have to deal with a super-charged Living Monolith, whose power boost means he's turned kaiju-sized.
  • Badbutt: This comic is the result of an angry black 70s revolutionary whose dialogue was written by comic book writers and then run through a filter to make sure it was rated G. Luke had to compensate for his inability to say bad words by putting his fists through all the background objects.
    Luke Cage: That's how you want to play it, Doom? You motherless son of a witch, you'll find out how Luke Cage plays it!note 
  • Category Traitor: When Luke starts hanging around with Iron Fist, there's more than a few angry mutterings of "tom" and "honky" thrown his way. Very few people are stupid enough to do it directly to Luke's face.
  • Catchphrase: "Sweet Christmas!"
  • Conveniently Empty Building: Iron Fist's first encounter with Luke has him punch Luke out of the building they're in, across the road and into the one across the street, which immediately collapses. Fortunately, the narration assures us it was abandoned and condemned.
  • Death by Origin Story: Reva Conners. Diamondback sets Luke Cage up so he can get with her, but she's killed while Luke's in jail.
  • 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: Doctor 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.
  • Disney Villain Death: Many issues of Luke Cage: Hero For Hire and Luke Cage: Power Man ended with the villains falling from great heights. Mr. Fish, Steeplejack, and Lionmane all met their end this way. It almost happened to Gideon Mace too.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Luke and Danny are walking in civvies, already in a bad mood after some friends of theirs have been attacked. A group of thugs decide to mug them, one slashing open Danny's shirt.
    Thug 1: Wait, that dragon brand... That's...that's the mark of...Iron Fist!
    Thug 2: A-and if he's the Fist...then the other dude's gotta be...
    Thug 3: Oh, no...
    (cue Luke and Danny trashing the gang to within an inch of their lives)
  • False Innocence Trick: Deadly Nightshade pretends to have a crying breakdown when her robot is smashed up by Luke. When he gets close, she draws a gun on him and runs.
  • Frame-Up:
    • How everything starts for Luke. His "friend" Willis Stryker plants some drugs on Luke with enough evidence for him to get set down for life in a Hellhole Prison.
    • One of Luke and Danny's early jobs is working guard detail at a museum display of Egyptian antiques. While they're there, the entire exhibit is stolen. It turns out it's the Living Monolith, who'd used them as patsys while he concocted his own scheme.
  • I Have Your Wife: Bushmaster forces Luke Cage to do his bidding in attacking Misty Knight by holding Claire Temple and Doctor Bernstein hostage.
  • Immune to Bullets: Unbreakable skin and all. But it never seems to dissuade people from trying.
  • In Medias Res: The final story before it became Power Man and Iron Fist begins with Luke randomly storming Nightwing Investigations and attacking Colleen Wing. It turns out he's being blackmailed into doing so.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Stiletto and Discus try to kill Luke Cage after he's found innocent because they believe he was off on a technicality. Danny Rand quite angrily points out there was no technicality, the judge found him innocent fair and square thanks to a huge pile of evidence showing he was framed. They just want to kill him for being, in their mind, a criminal.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Three guesses how Luke and Iron Fist's first encounter goes. They become friends later.
  • Mad Scientist: Deadly Nightshade grew up in the slums of Harlem, where there were only two ways out - learning or crime. She chose to learn... and then applied that learning to crime. Now she plans to use her unbelievable genius to take over all crime in the world, and show them! SHOW THEM ALL! (it was the 70s.)
  • Megaton Punch: As part of aforementioned Them Fighting, Luke injures Misty Knight right in front of her boyfriend, Danny Rand. Danny punches Luke through the wall. And across the street. And then the building he falls into collapses on top of him. The watching Shades and Comanche decide to run for it, and can you blame them?
  • Mythology Gag: Mr. Fish's real name (Mortimer Norris) combines the names of Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, the creators of Aquaman.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Bushmaster's attempt to make Luke Cage work for him involves using blackmail of the footage of Willis Stryker setting him up in the first place, allowing Misty to grab it and, with the assistance of Danny's lawyer Jerry Hogarth, get Luke's name cleared.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Luke and Danny's first team-up ends with Bushmaster being coated in the same stuff that made Luke Power Man, followed by the entire island they're on exploding. Misty sincerely declares that there's no way he could've made it out. The issue ends with Luke curtly pointing out he did.
  • Put on a Bus: Claire Temple, with the changeover from Power Man to Power Man and Iron Fist, having decided Luke Cage's life is far too dangerous for her (an argument sadly underscored by the fact moments later Stiletto and Discus try to kill Luke).
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Shades, Comanche, Discus, and Stiletto. The former two were usually Bantering Baddie Buddies, with the latter two as Bash Brothers. Eventually, all four of them were recruited into Nightshade's Flashmob and played this trope straight.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: Nightshade (originally a Captain America villain), Purple Man (previously a Daredevil villain but now Jessica's Arch-Enemy), and Man Mountain Marko (originally a stock henchman fought by Spider-Man).
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Diamondback is killed by his own exploding knives. He did get better... after forty years.
  • Thematic Rogues Gallery: At a glance, it seems like a lot of Luke's villains are themed around either cold-blooded animals (Diamondback, Cottonmouth, Mr. Fish, Piranha Jones, Cockroach Hamilton, etc.) or weapons (Spear, Discus, Stiletto, Gideon Mace, etc.)
  • Trauma Button: Misty Knight suffers occasional flashbacks to the bank robbery that cost her her right arm. Stilleto nearly killing her former partner triggers her, and she nearly kills him.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Joy Meachum blames Iron Fist for the death of her father, no matter how often he tries to say otherwise. In Power Man & Iron Fist, this continues, her screaming about how much she hates him at the top of her lungs as he saves her from some crooks, and then turning around and offering their leader millions to kill him for her, an attitude that weirds the man out. Fortunately, Danny is finally able to resolve the problem.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine:
    • Luke Cage, Power Man, had a Running Gag feud with the coffee machine at the local police station based on its supposedly hostile behavior.
    • And the soda machine at his old office. Clearly, Luke had no luck with crazy vending machines.
  • Villain Respect: From Doctor Doom, during the above-mentioned quest for the $200. In Doom's own words:
    Doctor Doom: You have amply earned my respect this day, and it is more difficult to obtain than my funds - which are not easy to obtain! Take what you say I owe you - and then go!
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: "Jingle Bombs" was a more cynical take on the story, where a villain named Marley tested Luke Cage to see if humanity was worth him not nuking New York. He decided that Luke was all right, but humanity needed to go, and it was only through a robber's unwitting interference that Luke saved the day. The narration box says that while the world has survived, it hasn't changed a bit.