Luke Cage, Hero for Hire

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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, alias 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".

The character is latter used by Brian Bendis's Alias In Name Only, as well as following works. Divorced from his original characterization and appearance he's now largely used as Bendis's self insert [1]. On the upside, he's managed to be one of the few superhero comic characters get to married and have a kid in the normal canon.

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 has also become the man in charge of the new generation of Thunderbolts.

The character appeared in Netflix's Marvel Cinematic Universe set Alias adaption (A.K.A. Jessica Jones) with his own series in production.

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.

Comics featuring Luke Cage provide examples of:

  • Babies Ever After: Danielle.
  • Badass: Hey, if one of your achievements is beating down Doctor Doom (and not a Doom-bot) by attacking his chest repeatedly, revealing that Doom's armor cannot take continuous sustained damage in a single area, all for the sake of getting back $200, you gotta BE badass.
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: As the leader of the Thunderbolts and New Avengers.
  • Bash Brothers: Cage and Iron Fist.
  • Berserk Button: Back in the day, he strongly objected to being called a mercenary. These days, if you want to get messed up real quick, try messing with his family.
  • The Big Guy: Works well for any team he's on, and when he teamed with Iron Fist.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Rarely does he miss the chance to trash talk and punctuate them between punching.
  • Cain and Abel: Cage and his brother Coldfire.
  • Catch Phrase: SWEET CHRISTMAS!
  • 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: Luke Cage's superhero career starts with him being frame for the (surprisingly light for this trope) crime of heroin possession. He eventually clears himself after breaking out of 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.
    • It's also worth noting that you should never... ever... ever try to run out on a debt to Luke. As referenced under the Badass 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. 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.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck: 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.
    • Subverted these days...


  • Greed: A rare heroic example. One of Cage's best moment's (and Doom's worst) was to join the Fantastic Four in attacking Doom because Doom didn't pay Cage the 200 bucks he owed.
  • Happily Married: With Jessica Jones
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Cage and Daniel Rand, aka Iron Fist. 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 SHIELD because he was promised that the New Avengers would be totally autonomous. Jessica immediately calls him out on this. A complete 180 from the founder of Hero for Fire.
  • Immune to Bullets
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim
  • Jive Turkey: Like we said, joker, he first appeared in the seventies.

By the gleamin' gates of funky Asgard, you suckers are gonna eat hammer!

  • The Lancer: Interchangeable when working with Iron Fist.
  • Legacy Character: 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.
  • Likes Older Women: A gag in New Avengers was that he and Ann-Marie Hoag of Damage Control once had a fling.
  • 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. ("You married me. Take the name." "But I'm my own person." "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. See also: Author Tract
  • Only Sane Man: When the rest of the group 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. Originally averted, Cage is infamous for chasing Doctor Doom, one of the most dangerous and notorious supercriminals, over a mere 200 dollar debt.
    • Subverted 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.
  • Papa Wolf: You put his child in danger, good luck surviving the rest of the day.
  • Rated "M" for Manly
  • Really Gets Around: Apparently has had relations with Tigra, Black Cat, Jessica Drew and She-Hulk. Ms Marvel once joked that he was known as a habital "cape chaser."
  • 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. And 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?
  • Salt and Pepper: With Iron Fist.
  • Scary Black Man: Subverted in the sense that even though he grew up in the 'hood and did have the mentality, he's fully aware of the stereotypes and acknowledges them.
  • 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 birthname, 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 the current New Avengers leader.
    • Despite Iron Fist being his lifemate, Spider-Man and Cage often come across as this in New Avengers.
  • Super Strength: His defining power. Over the years, Depending on the Writer, his strength level was anywhere between Spider-Man's or the Hulk's.
  • Symbol Swearing: A modern staple of Luke's, a stark contrast to the man who wouldn't swear because he was afraid of his grandmother.
  • 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 chequebook and put Luke on retainer so he gets paid for helping the Defenders.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: The 'cage' in his name and the chain-belt his old costume had.
  1. This was satirized by Dwayne McDuffie with the "Brown Bomber", an alternate universe version of Black Lightning based on Black Lightning's scrapped prototype the Black Bomber (a white racist who turned into a super powered black man when he said Nigger. It was canned for a reason), who looks like Bendis and transforms into a man who looks like modern Luke Cage by saying Black Power