Willis Stryker (Diamondback)

diamondbackfilmIn Luke Cage episode Manifest we meet yet another character, and one surely to be remembered: Diamondback, the main villain of the second part of the series, portrayed by Erik LaRay Harvey. Diamondback makes his presence felt throughout the entire season, being the one who provides Cottonmouth with high-tech weapons produced by Justin Hammer; when he finally appears in person, he’s the one and only villain able to take Luke Cage head on thanks to said technology. We also learn that he’s Luke’s half-brother, born from an affair James Lucas had with his secretary, Dana Stryker: he and Cage grew up as the best of friends, but when only young Willis Stryker was arrested for a crime both he and Luke committed, he started nurturing a grudge against the “favourite son”, that ends up in an all-out war. Without spoiling anything else, let’s take a look at the original Willis Stryker…who’s not Luke Cage’s brother in the comics. Let’s see.

Willis Stryker was born and raised in HarlemNew York City, and grew up as a street kid. Since his youth he had a natural affinity with knives, and he used this skills to become a petty criminal; he always hanged out with his best friend, Carl Lucas, and while the latter provided the muscle, Stryker’s blades always came in handy. The two soon became ambitious, and along with two other friends, Shades and Comanche, they founded their own gang, The Rivals. With their group, Stryker and Lucas fought for power and territory with a rival gang, The Diablos, and gained quite a reputation in the neighborhood…but for Willis that was just the start. Gang wars seemed to be childplay to him, so he started working for Sonny Caputo, a local crime boss, to follow the real money. During that time, Carl on the opposite decided he had had enough, and he turned on a new leaf, finding himself a honest job; despite Willis had become a skilled and respected gangster, he and Carl were still the best of friends…until Reva Connors arrived. Reva was a unique woman, and both Willis and Carl got smitten by her; Reva, diamondbackcomics1on her side, was fascinated by them both, but she eventually chose Stryker…at first. When Caputo sent Stryker against a gang that had become a little bit too cocky, the mission didn’t go as smoothly as planned, and Willis got severely injured. Reva took care of him, but she also realised what kind of life (and risks) Stryker had embraced, and she decided to leave him for Carl Lucas. Mad with jealousy, Willis stole drugs from the Maggia, one of the world’s most powerful criminal cartels, and hid it in Carl’s apartment, later informing the police with an anonymous call; Carl Lucas was arrested for drug dealing and sent to Seagate Prison. Alone and afraid, Reva came back to him: Willis Stryker had won…or at least, so he thought.

Maggia wasn’t seriously damaged by Stryker’s theft, but they couldn’t afford to lose their name and reputation by letting him get away with it: they sent hitmen to dispose of him, and Willis defended himself…but in the crossfire, Reva got killed. Stryker was eventually defeated, but the Maggia saw some potential in him, and instead of killing him they hired him in the Syndicate, opening the doors of organised crime to the ambitious gangster. In the following years, Stryker rose in ranks, and earned the name Diamondback thanks to his speed and swiftness with throwing knives. Then, eventually, Carl Lucas escaped from prison and came back to New York, with the alias Luke Cage: still resentful, Diamondback immediately sent his men after him, but they got all defeated, since Carl/Luke had gained superhuman abilities while in prison. Not the least impressed, Diamondback summoned one of his subordinates, Gadget-Man, and ordered him to build special weapons able to harm a man with steel-hard skin. Gadget made some special knives (explosive ones, gassing ones, sonic ones etc), and Diamondback decided to lure Luke Cage to his lair by kidnapping his newest friend, nurse Claire Temple. As expected, Luke tracked Diamondback to his diamondbackcomics2lair…and was quite surprised to meet his old friend and betrayer, Willis Stryker. Wanting to clear his name, to save Claire and to avenge Reva, Luke engaged Diamondback in battle, and the gangster succesfully tested his new weapons…unfortunately, they were still not enough to cut Cage’s impenetrable skin. The fight moved to a rooftop, where Diamondback did his best to kill his once best friend, but he failed, and fell through a skylight. Along with him, even one of his special knives fell…an explosive one, that blew up the moment it touched the ground, killing Stryker instantly. Ironically, once dead Diamondback couldn’t clean Luke Cage’s name, and Carl Lucas was destined to remain a wanted fugitive.

Willis Stryker is a cruel and ambitious man, ready to sacrifice anything (and anyone) to his personal interest. Violent and greedy, he finds in crime his natural environment. As Diamondback, he’s an extremely skilled combatant, and his talent with knives is legendary; Gadget-Man built for him trick-knives that can explode, emit gas or powerful soundwaves, and many other effects, making him even more lethal than before. Often blinded by rage and ambition, Diamondback is an overconfident criminal, who’s habit of biting on more than he can chew will eventually cause his downfall.



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