Second main character seen in the Jessica Jones promotional images, and this time quite a superstar in the Marvel Universe: Luke Cage, portrayed by Mike Colter. In the show, he’ll be a man with a mysterious past, whom Jessica Jones meets during one of her investigations; the two will become allies… and maybe something more, following the comics. Anyway, Colter is preparing to reprise the role in his own tv series, Luke Cage, which will be aired next year. In the muscular Cage there’s certainly more than meets the eye, and hopefully it will be explored during the show… in the meanwhile, let’s see who this giant of a man is in the comics.
Son of NYPD detective James Lucas and of his first wife Esther, Carl Lucas was born and raised in Harlem, New York City. As a teenager in one of the most violent blocks in the city, young Carl and his best friend Willis Stryker entered The Rivals, one of the gangs fighting for the control of Harlem. The Rivals’ greatest enemies were The Diablos, and the two groups often clashed violently in the city’s streets and alleys. James Lucas took distance from his son upon realizing he was a gang member, but Esther always tried to be close to her boy despite all the mistakes he was making; eventually, however, Esther got accidentally killed by one of the Rivals. Both James and his younger son James Jr. blamed Carl for the tragedy, and the young man lost his whole family in a single night. Heartbroken for his mother’s loss, Carl finally decided to change life, and abandoned his dream of becoming a racketeer and found a honest job. His friend Stryker, however, still stayed in the “business”, and rose in ranks. The two were still friends, and when the criminal cartel Maggia attacked Stryker, only Carl’s intervention managed to save the young man’s life. That episode, however, was the final drop for Reva Connors, Stryker’s girlfriend, who became quite scared because of her boyfriend’s violent life: she broke up with him, and she went to Carl Lucas in search of solace. Willis Stryker learnt that her ex-girlfriend was at his best friend’s house, and in his jealousy he believed Carl was the reason Reva had broken up with him. In order to get rid of the “rival”, he stole some heroine from the plantation of another gangster, and hid it into Carl’s apartment; then, he called the police, telling them Lucas was a drug dealer. Police arrived in Carl’s place, found the drug and arrested him. Carl was moved to the State prison, where he learnt of Stryker’s betrayal; because of James Jr. hiding all the letters he sent to his father, Carl also came to believe that his father was dead as well, and this only increased his anger for being unjustly imprisoned. His behavior became more and more violent, as he constantly ended up in brawls and tried to escape; eventually, he was sent to Georgia, to the maximum security Seagate Prison.
In Seagate, Lucas didn’t change much of his attitude, and this led him to become the target of Billy Bob Rackham, a sadistic prison guard who eventually got demoted for his abuses (something that he obviously blamed Lucas for). Seagate Prison also hosted the lab of Dr. Noah Burstein, a scientist who used the inmates as guinea pigs for his genetic experiments in exchange of a reduction of the term of imprisonment. Upon hearing this, Carl Lucas volunteered for these experiments, which involved a variant of the Super Soldier Serum that had given birth to Captain America during war times. While the prisoner was immersed in an electrified chemical compound, Rackham showed up and tampered with Burstein’s instruments, hoping to kill Lucas in the process; the sabotage, on the opposite, accelerated the process, and gave Lucas superhuman strength and an impenetrable skin. With his newfound powers, Carl escaped from Seagate and made his way back to New York. In his home city, Carl Lucas legally changed his name into Luke Cage, so to avoid (for the time being) problems with law. Upon his arrival, Carl/Luke met a couple of thugs, who he easily dispatched: the would-be victim of the two crooks offered Luke a reward for his help, and this gave the man an idea. Soon after, Luke Cage created the super-identity of Power Man, and opened a new activity he named Hero for Hire: he offered his services to whoever was able to pay his price, granting protection from the now so numerous criminals in the area. Soon, Cage’s profits were enough for him to open a real office in Gem Theatre in Times Square. Dr. Burstein, who believed in Cage’s innocence, soon reached him and opened a clinic near his office, so that he could provide him medical care in case of need. Burstein also hired another doctor, Claire Temple, who became Luke’s girlfriend soon after. Despite making his being a superhero a business, Cage often found himself working for free for people who couldn’t allow his services, or even refusing payment when he didn’t agree with the mission (like when Daily Bugle‘s editor J. Jonah Jameson hired him to arrest Spider-Man, whom eventually Cage befriended). After all, a true hero was starting to emerge…
Luke Cage is the quintessential tough guy, a man who built himself up from nothing and who managed to put his life together back again everytime someone or something (himself included) ruined it. Brutal and uncompromising with criminals, unexpectedly kind-hearted and gentle with his loved ones (especially his wife Jessica Jones and his daughter Danielle), loyal and reliable for his friends and allies, Cage grew up from being just another mercenary to be recognized as one of New York’s greatest heroes. As Power Man, he possesses superhuman strength and durability, and his skin is completely impenetrable to any kind of damage (bullets included); he’s also a skilled athlete and a street-smart fighter, able to stand his own even against expert martial arts and accomplished combatants. A charismatic leader (even for the Avengers) gifted with a natural nobility, Luke Cage never abandoned his humble origins, and he keeps fighting for the common man.