Luke Cage is back! In his own show! And so are our Marvel-Netflix episode notes where we’ll do a bit of commentary and reference-spotting for each episode of the series. Feel free to read along as you watch too, but please don’t spoil future episodes for anyone in the comments!
This first episode spends a lot of time placing Luke in Harlem, allowing us to get a feel for the man and his friends and enemies. You may know Luke Cage from his appearance in the previous Netflix series, Jessica Jones, but if you don’t then rest assured you get all you need to know in this episode: he’s a good guy with bulletproof skin.
Reference-wise, there’s a lot of comics-related stuff here so we’ll tackle it in as much detail as possible to begin with:
Luke Cage was created by Archie Goodwin, John Romita Sr. and George Tuska. He debuted in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1 in 1972, riding a wave of Blaxploitation culture. Originally given super-strength and invulnerability, his powers were more recently redefined as literally bulletproof skin. His current design – a bald head, goatee and casual clothing – dates back to New Avengers #1 (2004).
There are a few references to his past too: the yellow-lined hoodie he wears harks back to his original costume, which was a bright, open-necked yellow shirt. Pops nicknames him “Power Man” which was Cage’s superhero name (and later, the name of his comic). And when Luke tells his neighbours he isn’t for hire, that’s a reference to his original role as a superhero-for-hire.
Cornell Cottonmouth (there’s no “Stokes” surname in the comics) first appeared in Power Man #18 (1974). Created by Len Wein and George Tuska, Cottonmouth was a drugs kingpin (small K) who was taken down by Luke Cage.
Mariah Dillard first appeared in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #5 in 1973. Created by Billy Graham, George Tuska and Steven Englehart, “Black Mariah” (it was the 70s…) was a gang leader rather than a politician.
And, of course, there’s Mercedes “Misty“ Knight, created by Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones. She first appeared in Marvel Premiere #21 (1975) alongside her Daughters of the Dragon co-member, Colleen Wing. When she was in the NYPD, her partner in the comics was Rafael Scarfe, essentially the same guy as in the TV series, created by Chris Claremont and Pat Broderick for Marvel Premiere #23 (1975).
Marvel Premiere was actually headlined by Iron Fist at the time, so she’s essentially an Iron Fist supporting character. In the comics she was Danny Rand’s (Iron Fist’s) girlfriend and never got quite as close to Luke Cage as she does in this episode…
Shades (you know, the guy with the shades) also first appeared in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1, and was in the same gang as a young Luke Cage. In the comics he once wore a visor that shot energy blasts but, er, not so much here. At least, not so far. He’s working for Diamondback, but it’s probably a little early to say anything about that character, at least until he appears on screen.
When Pops talks about the heroes “downtown” we can assume he means the Avengers, whose sometime base in Avengers Tower was located in Midtown Manhattan. Although he might also mean Daredevil and Jessica Jones from Hell’s Kitchen. Likewise, if you don’t already know “The Incident” is the alien attack on New York seen in the first Avengers movie. And of course, when Dillard mentions “Fisk”, that’s Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.
Seagate was the prison Luke Cage spent time in, introduced in Luke’s debut appearance – but it existed in the MCU before now because it’s also the place that Justin Hammer and Trevor Slattery (aka the Mandarin) from Iron Mans 2 and 3 respectively both ended up. You can get a look at Seagate in the Marvel One-Shot, All Hail The King, on the Thor: The Dark World DVD release.
Blink and you’ll miss it, but Megan McLaren is a TV journalist who first appeared in Thunderbolts #1 (1997) created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley. Not a major character by any stretch but if you’re into minor comics references (and that’s what you’re here for…!) it’s worth notable.
Is that everything? That feels like everything.