There are superheroes that everybody recognizes, even people who don’t read comic books, like Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man. There are superheroes that have risen in popularity (mostly thanks to the recent glut of movies and TV shows) to the point that they’re fairly well known, such as Green Lantern or Daredevil. And then there are the superheroes that only die-hard comic book fans know much about. This would be the case with the newest Marvel superhero to get his own Netflix series, Luke Cage, also known as Power Man. Unless you were reading comic books in the 1970s and 1980s, chances are that you are not very familiar with Luke Cage, which is a shame, as the character is one of the true bad asses of the Marvel Universe. Despite always being, at best, a tier three hero in terms of popularity, Luke Cage looks to be finally getting his due thanks to his upcoming Netflix show. So, in an effort to prime you for the debut of the TV series, here are some fun and interesting facts about the man with the unbreakable skin, Luke Cage.
10. The Character Was Originally Inspired By “Blaxploitation” Movies
Luke Cage first appeared in the Marvel comic book Hero for Hire, which was published in June 1972. Creators Archie Goodwin and John Romita, Sr. were under orders from their editors at Marvel to capitalize on the then popularity of Blaxploitation movies such as Shaft, Super Fly and Blacula. Looking back at some original cover art for the Luke Cage comic books, you can instantly see the similarity to Blaxploitation movie posters. Sadly, Cage’s initial popularity faded along with the rest of the Blaxploitation genre in the late 70’s. Marvel then decided to then pair Cage with another hero, Iron Fist, who was created to capitalize on the popularity of a different fad, 70’s martial arts movies (notably Bruce Lee films). The newly formed duo earned enough readers to save them from cancellation.
9. The Netflix Series Was Only Made After Everyone Gave Up On A Movie
Marvel had tried for many years to develop a Luke Cage standalone movie, but with no success. In fact, Quentin Tarantino (who is a noted fan of Blaxploitation movies) expressed interest in directing a Luke Cage movie all the way back in the late 1990s, but Marvel rejected his concept for the film. Tarantino would go on to make his own homage to Blaxploitation movies with 1997’s Jackie Brown. After passing on Tarantino’s vision, Marvel had lined up director John Singleton (Boyz n’ the Hood) to helm a Luke Cage movie, and everyone from Laurence Fishburne to Jamie Foxx to Will Smith were in talks for the starring role. Unfortunately, a decent script was never developed and marketers expressed doubts over the success of a feature film given the lack of recognition of the Luke Cage character. Eventually, the plans for a movie were shelved. Eventually, Netflix announced plans to develop four original series based around “street-level” Marvel heroes, with Cage, as well as Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones, getting the nod.
8. Nicolas Cage Is A Huge Fan Of The Character
Actor Nicolas Cage is such as big fan of Luke Cage that he actually took the last name “Cage” as a tribute to the hero when he created his stage name. Nicolas Cage’s real name, in case you were unaware, is Nicolas Coppola, and he is the nephew of legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now). Cage didn’t want people to think he was benefiting from nepotism and wanted to make it in Hollywood on his own, so he decided to ditch his famous last name and adopt a stage name instead. The actor is a noted comic book buff who was at point signed to star as Superman in the short-lived Tim Burton project, and did star as Johnny Blaze in a pair of movies about Marvel anti-hero Ghost Rider. The fact that the rights to that character eventually reverted to Marvel should tell you how successful those films were.
7. He Is A Team Player
Despite being incredibly badass on his own, the character of Luke Cage has never really been popular enough to support his own comic book series. His original solo comic book series lasted only 50 issues, and the team with Iron Fist made it to 125 issues before it was also cancelled. An attempt to relaunch the character as a solo hero in 1992 found even less success, ending after only 20 issues. Nevertheless, the writers and illustrators at Marvel have clearly always had a fondness for Luke Cage, so they have added the character to several superhero teams over the years. Most recently, Cage was a part of the New Avengers, but the character has also been a member of superhero teams, including The Defenders and The Thunderbolts, and even a new team called Heroes for Hire that saw their own series launched in 1997. Cage has also made cross-over appearances in many other superhero titles over the years, especially ones involving Jessica Jones, as well as titles ranging from The Punisher to Spider-Woman.
6. He Has Actual Superpowers
Most people assume that Luke Cage does not have any superpowers of his own, and is just a muscled-up vigilante like The Punisher, who takes matters into his own hands with just his fists and a lead pipe. The truth, however, is that Luke Cage has legitimate superpowers. After undergoing a scientific experiment with a variant of the Super Soldier serum used on Captain America, Cage develops both superhuman strength and unbreakable skin. These powers have helped to make him a real tough bastard, and pretty hard to beat, which means that, unsurprisingly, he rarely shies away from a fist fight or physical encounter. While he can’t fly or shoot lasers around, the character nevertheless has a few of the most impressive superpowers, as he is, by most conventional measures, invulnerable to injury.
5. He’s Been Parodied On The Simpsons
They say you haven’t really made it until you’ve been parodied on The Simpsons, which must be good news for Luke Cage. In an episode from 2003, Luke Cage is parodied as “Nuclear Power Man” (played, of course, by Carl Carlson) who is part of the superhero team “Heroes for Rent.” This plays directly on both Luke Cage’s superhero name of Power Man, and his origins in the comic book series Heroes for Hire. The parody was also related to the nuclear power plant that powers the fictional town of Springfield, which is the source of many problems and hilarity on the show. If nothing else, Luke Cage can take solace in the fact that he has been immortalized on a beloved cartoon show that has become a huge part of popular culture.
4. Mike Colter Gained 30 Pounds Of Muscle For The Role
Forty year old character actor Mike Colter has been kicking around Hollywood for quite some time. Over the years, he has had supporting roles and small parts in television series such as ER and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and in movies like Million Dollar Baby and Zero Dark Thirty. And while he’s always appeared to be in fairly good shape, Colter has never been what you would call “buff”. That all changed when he was cast as Luke Cage. The committed actor added 30 pounds of muscle to give himself a more convincing resemblance to Cage, and to make the character as physically intimidating as possible. Apparently, the actor worked out five hours a day for more than six months to bulk up for what is likely to be his signature acting role. That’s some pretty impressive commitment to a role.
3. He Has Been In A Lot Of Video Games
Despite being a lesser-known Marvel superhero, Luke Cage has appeared in many video games featuring Marvel characters. To date, he has appeared in a dozen Marvel video games, including Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, and Marvel: Contest of Champions. That’s right, you can use Cage to kick ass in a street fight, demolish buildings and generally cause mayhem with his strength and near invincibility in video game form. The persistent use of Cage in Marvel video games is a testament to the character’s enduring popularity with Marvel and comic book fans. While other Marvel characters are better known, Luke Cage somehow manages to remain a fan favorite.
2. His Jacket Also Has Superpowers
One of things very few people are aware about Luke Cage is that not only is his skin impenetrable, so is his favorite jacket. It’s true, Cage wears a jacket that is as durable as his unbreakable skin. It was exposed to the same Super Soldier treatment that turned Cage into Power Man (which was actually during the character’s second exposure to the serum). This means that it can also withstand knives and other puncture, adding a second protective layer to Luke Cage. This means that if people can get past the jacket, which is basically impossible, then they still have to try and puncture his skin, which is also impossible. That means that for the most part, Cage is practically indestructible. Oh, did we mention that he also has accelerated healing abilities similar to Wolverine? Although Cage’s are a lower level, since we’re pretty sure he can’t regenerate from a single atom, that’s still a huge advantage.
1. The Netflix Series Is Getting Rave Reviews, Even Before Release
While some people were skeptical about Luke Cage’s ability to carry a television show, early reviews of the Netflix series have been nothing short of ecstatic. Having seen the first seven episodes (out of 13), Allison Keene of Collider.com awarded it five stars out of five, saying that the series is “an intimate portrait of street life, detailing not only the inner workings of the crime syndicates, but also the beleaguered police, sleazy politicians, and the young people in the community who see guns and drugs as an easy way to make money”. Mike Cecchini from Den of Geek was equally effusive in his praise of the show, saying “Luke Cage boasts an excellent cast, tremendous atmosphere, and a willingness to go places that other Marvel Studios productions can’t”. Deadline.com’s Dominic Patten added “It is one of the most socially relevant and smartest shows on the small screen you will see this year”. With all this pre-release hype going for it, we can’t help but get excited!