The Marvel Universe is a strange and occasionally terrible place.  At any moment, a building could collapse because of rogue Hulks, or your entire neighborhood could get utterly annihilated by alien space bugs.  Even back in the day, before the X-Men outnumbered the combined population of every town I lived in before the age of 17, it was a difficult place to live, where a random prison guard with a grudge could change your life forever (and that’s AFTER you were betrayed by your oldest friend and your first love murdered before your eyes.)  Not everyone could bounce back from that kind of tragedy. Coming back from a situation that untenable takes the kind of person with steel-hard resolve to keep punching, to fight for justice even when everything falls apart around you.  This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Carl Lucas, known to some as the Hero For Hire, to others as Power Man, but best known as…  LUKE CAGE!


The story of Luke Cage actually starts well before there actually WAS a Luke Cage, with a quiet man known only as Lucas, an inmate in the infamously inescapable Seagate Prison.  Though Lucas swears he’s innocent, that doesn’t keep the regular politics of pop-culture prisoners from being the norm, with corrupt and wicked guards, racial politics and unpleasantness at every turn.  In his very first ever appearance, we find Lucas getting out of solitary only to end up being courted by one of the prison gangs, hoping to rope him into their upcoming riot/escape attempt…


Sadly for the future Power Man, his reaction to Shades (a faceful of fist, with the caveat that if there’s gonna be a group escaping, he’ll be at the front) earns the enmity of the prison duo, while his attitude gains the attention of a particularly horrible guard named Rackham.  That attention results in a particularly brutal beating in front of the whole cellblock, but also opens up Rackham’s ‘Cool Hand Luke’ philosophy to the new warden, who is not impressed…


Doctor Noah Burstein treats Lucas’ wounds, but also tries to understand the man, and eventually hears his whole story:  A former gang kid, Lucas and his best friend Stryker grew up into racketeers, then split over issues of money and a woman named Reva.  Lucas ended up framed for unidentified narcotics, slapped in prison, and left to rot, his anger growing with every day inside.  A research scientist, Burstein offers him a way out, but not without risk…


Trapped in the electro-chemical soup, Lucas finds himself in intense pain, lashing out, only to find his now steel-hard fists smashing the metal of the chamber.  Never one to turn down an opportunity, Lucas smashes through the walls of the inescapable prison and heads for the ocean.  When over-eager guards open fire, Lucas finds that he is also immune to bullets, falling into the ocean and disappearing.  Some months later, after working his way back to New York, he stops a robbery by pure instinct, only to have a passerby herald his actions as those of “a real super-hero!”  Never one to miss a perfect opportunity, Lucas visits a costume shop…


Choosing a new name, Luke Cage strides forth into the mean streets of the Marvel Universe, quickly making a name for himself as a Hero For Hire.  But a businessman’s got to have a respectable office, leading him to the derelict Gem Theatre on 42nd Street, where another piece of the long-term puzzle falls into place…


Through the kind of synchronicity that only happens in Bronze Age comics, Doc Burstein has likewise relocated to New York, and his free clinic is under siege by a nefarious criminal.  Burstein agrees to keep Luke’s secret, but begs for his help against the racketeer putting the squeeze on him:  Diamondback, formerly Luke’s turncoat pal Willis Stryker!


Luke’s skills as a fighter and his quick thinking make their reunion surprising for Stryker, who has risen to the level of Costumed Criminal, Third Class (just below Kraven The Hunter, but well above Stilt-man.)  Using his mastery of blades, Stryker prepares an explosive stiletto with enough power to kill even the man called cage, but as a wise man once said, ‘Live by the ridiculous gimmicked blade, die by the ridiculous gimmicked blade.’


With Lucas’ old business complete, the man called Cage began carving a living out of the streets of New York circa 1974 (though in Marvel’s sliding timescale, these stories took place right around the turn of the century, which puts this all in a WHOLE new light.)  After a few semi-successful missions as the Hero For Hire, Luke is tapped on the shoulder by destiny, as the mainstream Marvel realities come a’callin.’


The man in the hideous tie makes Cage an offer: Round up a few malcontents for his boss, and get a big payday.  Trouble is, the “malcontents” turn out to be rogue robots in the service of a European nutjob who styles himself a king.  Cage makes short work of the ‘bots (who, for complex and bizarre reasons, have disguised themselves as young African-American men) but returns to embassy to collect, only to find that they’ve skipped out on his 2 bills.  Being a man of action, and a big believer in the shortest distance between two points, Cage decides that the enemy of his enemy should be his ally, and heads uptown.  Oh, and did I mention that the man who stiffed him was VICTOR VON DOOM?  This leads to some consternation upon his arrival at the Baxter Building…


After the requisite Marvel “meet, misunderstand, manhandle” introductions, Reed Richards agrees to loan Luke transportation to Latveria, only to find himself in the midst of an attempted coup by the self-same rogue robots against their green-robed monarch.  Using the chaos to make his way into Doomstadt, Luke quickly confronts his nemesis with the resilience and tenacity of Lane Meyer’s paperboy…

Cage9Amazingly, where the hammering fists of The Thing and The Hulk fails, Luke manages to apply pressure to a specific point, targeting a weak spot and besting Doom in hand-to-hand combat.  Moreover, he ends up saving Victor from the revolutionaries at his door, gaining a measure of respect from the usually unflappable Doctor D…


Returning home, Luke finds that Doom has retained power, partially thanks to his own actions, but somewhat satisfied that he stopped what would have been cold-blooded murder.  After facing a number of foes, including the wonderfully-named Senor Muerte y Senor Suerte, Luke Cage’s profile is high enough that even New York’s hoi polloi become aware of his actions.  Enter: J. Jonah Jameson.


(You have got to love that John Romita Luke Cage, too.  Makes you wish he’d been drawing Luke’s own book from the get-go…)  Jameson’s vendetta against Spider-Man has been unsuccessful with the likes of the Scorpion and the Spider-Slayer (the Human Fly is, at this juncture, still in the future) but he believes that street-smarts and steel-hard skin are just the combination that can take down the Web-Slinger!  There’s truth to this claim, as Luke initially overwhelms Spider-Man with his seemingly superior strength (which also gives us a rough idea of where Luke ranks in the Marvel U. power charts) before Spidey gets creative and drops a little knowledge on the Hero For Hire…


With a short conversation, the friendship that would build The New Avengers 35 years later is born, and Luke Cage finds himself not only believing Spider-Man’s explanation that he’s no menace, but respecting the man as well.  With that in mind, Cage returns his “finder’s fee” to Jameson, with the usual Luke Cage flair…


Heh.  You have to hand it to Luke Cage, he has little use for blowhards and captains of industry, even if he would enjoy their money.  Indeed, many of his cases end with the realization that Luke WON’T do anything for cash, with his fees returned, revoked or, in many cases, never even proffered for his services.  And, speaking of blowhard captains of industry: IRON MAN!


Luke gets embroiled in Tony Stark’s heroic life when he was hired to steal an experimental suit from Stark Industries, only to find that he was on the wrong side of the law.  Iron Man and the Hero For Hire team up to take down the resulting bionic menace, but more importantly, Tony’s alter-ego inspires Luke to take another step towards super-herodom.


…choosing a real superhuman sobriquet for himself.  The villain is taken down, and even Iron Man finds himself appreciative of Luke’s unorthodox-but-effective method of operations, and agrees to “talk to his boss” about paying Luke’s fees, leading to a very important moment in the life of Luke Cage…


Power Man!  With a new name, Luke crosses swords with bigger menaces, and more actual villains (although I still have no explanation for Cockroach Hamilton or Mister Fish), including a few with some serious muscle.  Of course, not EVERYONE is happy with the newly christened Power Man’s actions, especially not… Power Man?


The original Power Man, empowered by Heinrich Zemo with the same ionic energies that would eventually revive Wonder Man of the Avengers, does not take lightly to someone biting his gimmick.  The rules of wrestling state that there must be a battle for the name, even though none of those battles has ever gone well nor entertained anybody.  Still, Luke Cage is not one to back down from a fight, and thus began the fight known to fans of Muhammad Ali as “The Crater In The The-Ater!”


Oh, it’s also pretty short.  With his ionic powers on the wane, Erik Josten (yes, THAT one) is knocked back down to his job making class rings or something, while Luke Cage steps up as the new champion, with a message for his P.M. predecessor…


And, that’s why he one bad mot- (SHUT YO MOUTH!)  Okay, fine.  Be that way.  With his bona fides now clear to the flagship hero and the founding super-team of his universe, Power Man’s star continues to rise.  When Nighthawk, of the Defenders, finds his own major domo has turned on him and used his fortune to equip a new version of the racist Sons Of The Serpent, the non-team leaps into action.  Unfortunately, some of that money also made its way down to 42nd Street, leading the Defenders directly into the path of the freight train known as Power Man…


Power Man actually holds his own against the Defenders, out-maneuvering Nighthawk and matching The Hulk for power, temporarily.  But it’s not long before he realizes that he’s on the wrong side of things, and assists them in taking down the superhuman Wrecking Crew, each of whom has the power to face Thor one-to-one.  Power Man ain’t skurred, though…


His battle with the Defenders leaves him on good terms with another super-team, but the life of Luke Cage is an ever-changing and fascinating place, leading him to places you might never expect.  When Benjamin Grimm loses his rocky hide, The Fantastic Four is down a man, and seriously short on power.  Given that Reed has incorporated the team as a four-man band, he picks up the phone and sends for the man…  (Wait, was Colt Cabana corpsing again?)


Is “obsolescent” really a word?  Inigo does not think it means what Reed thinks it means, but in any case, Power Man takes his place as the strong-arm of the Fantastic Four (which is somewhat ironic, given that they refused to pay Spider-Man for his services just a few years prior.)  Luke’s tenure with the team leads them into a strange series of events involving mind-control, which bodes poorly in FF-land.


His presence also exacerbates the chronic self-esteem problems that plague Benjamin J. Grimm, leaving the former Thing angry and alienated from his family.  But, it quickly comes to a head, with a little basic Marvel Math:  Mind Control + Fantastic Four = Puppet Master!  When Luke falls under the control of the bald badman, Ben Grimm puts on a suit of mechanical Thing armor (implicitly the same armor currently worn by Miss Thing of the FF, interestingly enough) and faces him down.  But even that isn’t enough to defeat Luke by itself…


Even with the power of The Thing hammering him, it takes Power Man’s own indomitable will to end the conflict.  Conflict is the name of the game for Luke Cage, though, and even the simplest jobs usually require the bustin’ of suckers’ heads…


After his stint in the Fantastic Four, Luke not only continues his solo work, but joined forces once again with the mighty Defenders, led by Doctor Strange and bankrolled by Nighthawk.  Though initially wary of joining, Power Man finds his appreciation of the group dynamic to be greatly improved by the presence of cold, hard cash.


Alongside Nighthawk’s team, Power Man forges a strange friendship with the second Red Guardian, bonds with the Asgardian Valkyrie, and generally makes the Defenders front line an unstoppable mix of mythical might, gamma-powered grit and steel-hard skin against which few villains could long stay upright.


In addition to his regular duties at the Gem, Power Man accompanied the Defenders to other dimensions, across the gulf of mystical something-or-other, and into the inner mind, eventually fighting off the godlike manipulations of Nebulon (who makes Korvac look like a piker.)  Sadly, the ever-shifting nexus of the Defenders shifted just enough to give Luke (never one to overstay his welcome) a quiet moment to step away…


“Bein’ a regular member of a super-team just ain’t my bag,” says the man who has now done a stint with the FF and the Defenders, with a couple-three more super-teams  in his future.  You have to love irony.  Of course, when it comes to teaming up, there’s another big surprise waiting in the wings for Power Man, as the criminal overlord named Bushmaster kidnaps his old friends Doc Burstein and Claire Temple, using them to blackmail Luke in to working for him.  Worse than that, Bushmaster finds evidence that would clear Cage of the original charges that put him in jail, and uses the twin blackmail plots to send Power Man after detective Misty Knight…


Misty, the head of Nightwing Restorations, is no slouch in the combat department herself, having vexed Bushmaster in the past, but her bionic arm and street-smarts are no match for the steel-hard fists of Power Man, at least not alone.  Good thing she’s not traveling solo…


With those four words, Luke Cage meets the best friend he will ever have in this world.  Five seconds later, he also meets that friend’s right fist.


While I researched the history of Luke Cage, I found myself amused by how often that seemed to also be the history of people getting punched through walls and into the metaphorical camera.  After their initial clash, Power Man and Iron Fist join forces to take down Bushmaster once and for all, seizing the evidence, and clearly Luke Cage’s name (or, to be honest, his ORIGINAL name, which we’ll get to soon enough.)  The two men find common ground, and initially work for Misty’s detective agency, but Luke Cage doesn’t take kindly to bosses.  Soon enough, he has retained a lawyer, one Jeryn Hogarth, to help him rekindle his old business, much to Iron Fist’s initial chagrin.  There is, however, one important change to the business model…


POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, HEROES FOR HIRE!  Daaaamn right.  Their unusual camaraderie serves the duo well, as they face down crime-lords, ninja, thugs, pug mugs, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, $#!+-kickers and the occasional god-like ancient being who wants to take over both Earth and K’un Lun.  Together, the man with fists like a thing unto iron and the man with steel-hard skin make a great team…


Their bond transcends the differences in their up-bringing, and it soon becomes clear that Power Man would sacrifice even his own life for his friend.  For this first time in his heroic career, it seems that Luke really trusts in someone else, rather than the more difficult (and occasionally strained) relationships he had with his FF and Defenders teammates.


Though their partnership was successful both personally and financially, there were occasionally struggles and strife.  Over the course of nearly a decade (our time, mind you) the Heroes For Hire were an inseparable pair.  Neither man suspected that the harbinger of their eventual doom would come in red-and-blue spandex.


He called himself Captain Hero, and his secret was that he was a barely pubescent young boy, transformed by scientific means into a powerful figure who wanted to join Heroes For Hire.  Though they turned him down, his interactions brought the Heroes For Hire to the attention of Consolidated Conglomerates, Inc, a corporate juggernaut that purchased their business, and railroaded Power Man and Iron Fist into working for them.  Their very first CCI mission was an utter disaster, leaving them to nearly die in sub-zero wastes, followed by a run-in with a severely deranged CCI employee who engaged the ultimate security countermeasure…


…A NUCLEAR BOMB.  Though Luke was unharmed, partner Iron Fist received a dangerously high dose of radiation, forcing them to return to K’un Lun and relearn the ways of the Iron Fist.  While I.F. dealt with a serious crisis of the spirit, the Heroes For Hire business spiraled the toilet under CCI management, and young Captain Hero’s health deteriorated.  When Iron Fist used the healing power of his own chi to help Hero, he was so exhausted that he fell into a deep sleep…


Driven mad by pain, Captain Hero broke free, lashing out against anything and everything, the excruciating sensations driving him to transform, while an exhausted Iron Fist slept.  Then, the unthinkable…


With Iron Fist beaten to death, Captain Hero fled into the skies, leaving behind a body and bad news for Power Man.  Since the police had clear evidence of murder, and knowledge that Power Man and Iron Fist had a rather loud disagreement before things went south, they put two and two together, and took the man called Cage into custody.


In desperation, Luke Cage once again went on the run, hiding from detection while occasionally helping out innocents wherever he can.  Fleeing to Chicago, Luke Cage is eventually cleared of the murder charges when Iron Fist turns up alive (a tale involving time-travel, alien plant-creatures, a Skrull, John Byrne and almost super-human suspension of disbelief.)  Arranging a deal with Chicago’s struggling Spectator newspaper, Cage drops his Power Man nom de guerre, as well as the trademark yellow silk, and works again as a freelance Hero For Hire (while charging the Spectator for exclusive rights to his cases.)


Much of Luke’s anger resurfaces in Chicago, and old debts keep popping up around him.  The son of Bushmaster comes after Luke with a grudge for the defeat of his old man by the PM/IF team, and captures Doc Burstein to reverse-engineer a way to remove Luke’s accidental super-powers.  The villain is able to engineer the power process into a highly contagious virus, but things go off the rails quickly.  Luke is exposed to a SECOND dose of Burstein’s process…


…which raises his already super-human strength, endurance, and toughness even more (and also gives him an indestructible leather jacket, a must-have in the 1990s.)  Moreover, Luke finally comes face-to-face with the family he thought lost to him forever, as his father and heretofore-unseen younger brother turn up in Chicago as well.


We discover that “Luke Cage” was once Carl Lucas, and that his criminal stature alongside Stryker was a great shame for his family.  In order to keep big brother away from the family, James Lucas throws his lot in with the nefarious criminal organization known as The Corporation, even going so far as to get his OWN super-powers to beat down big brother.


Their conflict ends when the Corporation kidnaps their father, to ensure James Jr./Coldfire’s loyalty.  Cage and Coldfire together turn on the Corporation, saving their dad, but Coldfire seemingly dies in the process.  After this loss, and a brief stint in the second version of the Secret Defenders (like regular Defenders, only goofy) Luke Cage finally decides it’s time to put up the chain belt and wrist-shackles, pooling his funds and buying his old stomping grounds, The Gem Theatre.  The Power Man has retired, and not even Iron Fist can bring him back into the game… at least, not at first.


But Iron Fist isn’t the only one who wants to put the Power Man back into play.  Luke finds himself kidnapped by the alien Master Of The World, who wants him to serve as The Master’s agent in the superheroic community…


Fascinatingly, Cage seems to have learned from his years of ‘punch-first-ask-questions-never’, and calmly tries to reason with the lunatic Master, finding that maybe the madman might have a point about superhuman conflict and such.


The initial mission of Iron Fist’s new Heroes For Hire goes okay, but they quickly lose both The Hulk and Hercules, leaving a gap in power.  How will they get more raw power, man?


Had that shirt been yellow, this would have been my favorite of all of Luke’s various super-hero costumes.  Even though he has returned to duty, and is wearing the most costumey super-hero costume of his career, Luke continues to go by his original street name alias, rather than reclaiming Power Man for himself.  He also reports back to The Master Of The World, and the two build and unlikely respect, and even a fondness for each other…


Heh.  Chuck…  Cage soon finds that the Master is still a wackjob world-conqueror, and eventually the Heroes for Hire defeat the Master’s scheme (seeing as how his answer to endless war and conflict is to murder a massive portion of the world’s population.)  Staying with the team, Cage strikes up new friendships with Scott “Ant-Man” Lang, the original android Human Torch, and another teammate, one who initially wants nothing to do with him.


Cage is able to overcome She-Hulk’s disdain, explaining what put him in prison, and showing a side of himself that many never got to see.  He even told her the greatest secret of his life:  Luke says “Sweet Christmas” because his granny hated profanity, and she was scarier and meaner than any villain he ever had to face.  It’s a wonderful moment, and the invulnerable twosome date briefly.  Sadly, Heroes For Hire is forced to close their doors when their funding runs out (The Sub-Mariner’s Oracle Industries was bankrolling the team.)  Cage’s experiences with his father and the H4H experience have once again tempered his anger, and he makes a point of reminding his old friend about the real secret of Heroes For Hire…


Luke parlays his movie theater ownership into a stake in a local bar, where he once again comes into contact with a struggling booze-hound detective named Jessica Jones.  Years ago, she was the heroine called Jewel, and (retconnedly speaking) shared an adventure or two with Power Man and Iron Fist.  Now, however, she’s just a mess…


Luke and Jessica fall into a strained on-again/off-again sexual relationship, one that continually gets sabotaged by Jessica’s anger and self-doubt.  Working as a bodyguard for Matt Murdock (himself outed in the tabloids as being Daredevil) Luke finds himself continually bumping into Jess (in more ways that one.)  Having learned the lessons of loss the hard way, Luke Cage finally decides to lay his cards on the table…


Jessica does not immediately respond well, but Luke perseveres, standing by her side as she comes to grips with being a colossal screw-up, and eventually discovering that she is pregnant with the Power Man’s child.  Their courtship is a complicated one, and what starts as a desire to make sure his child is taken care of blossoms into a full-on romance.  Jessica even cleans up her own act, becoming a “superhuman consultant” to the Daily Bugle, much as Cage had down in Chicago.  During this time, she runs afoul of Norman Osborn, secretly the murderous Green Goblin…


With his girlfriend and unborn child threatened, Luke channels the anger of Carl Lucas into action, taking to the streets to confront Norman Osborn man-to-crazy-rubber-mask-wearing-madman.  True to form, the former Power Man knows how to get Norm-O’s attention…


Their confrontation forces Osborn’s hand, and reveals to the world that Osborn is actually the Green Goblin, nefarious thrower-of-girls-off-bridges-after-probably-date-raping-and-impregnating-them.  Luke ends up joining an off-the-books mission for Nick Fury that leads him into Latveria, and eventually places him in the superhuman detention facility known as The Raft at the time of a massive superhuman breakout, orchestrated by… somebody or other.  (That was, like, seven major crossover schmageggis ago, I can’t keep track of ALL of this stuff.)  Either way, it places Luke directly in the cross-hairs of The Purple Man…


Years before, it was Purple Man who kidnapped Jessica Jones, psychologically tortured her for MONTHS, and destroyed her entire life.  It was Purple Man who made the woman Luke Cage loves into an alcoholic basket case for years.  And, it was Purple Man who made the one mistake that you simply DO NOT make with Power Man:

He threatened Luke Cage’s family.


That first panel is possibly the most cathartic moment in any modern comic book story ever, and the epic beatdown is more deserved than perhaps any incident of swift and blinding violence in Luke’s entire career.  The Raft breakout leads to a heroic alliance, which quickly leads to a new incarnation of the Avengers, of which Luke Cage becomes a founding member.  Alongside men such as Captain America and Iron Man, Luke still shows off a true heroic nature and a flair for leadership, and continues to show his tendency to bring the truth to light, no matter how powerful the liars.  During his tenure with the team, Jessica goes into labor…


…giving birth to a child whom he and Jessica name Danielle, after his brother Iron Fist.  When Captain America prods him about making an honest woman out of Jessica Jones, Luke proposes, and she accepts.  Though they make for an odd couple, the Power Man/Jewel team are nonetheless perfectly suited for marriage (if only to one another.)


(Also, please not that Stan Lee doesn’t just cameo in Marvel movies, guys!)  Unfortunately, the new Avengers are torn apart when an ideological struggle erupts between Captain America and Iron Man.  After a tragedy in the city of Stamford, Connecticut, the government hastily pushes through a mandatory superhuman registration act, that forces all heroes to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. or something.  Luke Cage is one of the first heroes to point out how quickly and how badly that can all go wrong, and when combat erupts between the two factions, he quickly becomes one of the leaders of the anti-registration groups.  Iron Man’s Avengers immediately target him and his family, forcing Luke and Jessica to separate…


When Captain America is assassinated, the anti-registration forces collapse, save for a few stragglers.  With the help of a few old friends (partner Iron Fist, former Defenders colleague Doctor Strange, and that Canadian guy with the pointy hat), Luke assembles his own team of Avengers, refusing to bow down to the Man and operating as outlaws, fighting injustice with a little touch of “IN YOUR FACE!” for Iron Man.


Things get more complicated, as Iron Man is ousted from power, and Luke’s old foe Norman Osborn takes over as head super-honcho, putting Luke and his team right in the crosshairs of a psycho with a grudge. After a battle with Osborn’s costumed jerks, Luke nearly suffers a heart attack, and is fitted with a tiny explosive tracking device in his innards.  Perhaps the greatest test of his superhuman strength comes when Yellowjacket and Doctor Strange are forced to perform impromptu heart surgery on Cage to remove the bomb, only to have the Power Man back up on his feet within days.  In a whirlwind of blah blah blah, Osborn is outed, aliens attack, Captain America comes back from the dead, and fiddle dee dee said Scarlett, tomorrow is another day!  After Iron Man and Captain America regroup (a process involving a brain reboot and a mystical time-gun resurrection, mind you), Luke finds himself uncertain whether he wants to give up team leadership…


Iron Man heads up his own team of Avengers, while Luke fronts his team, featuring old friends like Spider-Man, Iron Fist and The Thing coming onboard.  As a sideline, Luke is also given control of Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts project, taking convicted prisoners into the field to use their powers for good, something that Seagate Prison’s sole successful escapee has some important ideas about how to handle…


Both teams have their struggles, including an influx of magic hammers from beyond, Nazis with machine guns, and some nonsense involving time travel, but Luke remains a quiet leadership force.  When the Avengers decide it’s time to restructure after the events of Avengers Vs. X-Men (a battle during which Luke was once again imprisoned, this time by people he considered colleagues and friends), the Hero For Hire is finally ready to hang up his Avengers hat, asking Iron Man to give him five dollars…


With his wife and his beautiful daughter, Luke Cage sets off into the next phase of his life, a phase that his ever-quick mind has already started formulating…


Throughout his career, Luke Cage has always stood up for what he believed in, and always fought (albeit sometimes TOO readily) when it was time to fight.  Though others called him a criminal, an opportunist, and sometimes worse (the covert racial slurs flew fast and furious in his earliest appearances), Cage takes any and all the abuse and let it bounce off like bullets from his steely hide, waiting for his moment to respond in kind.  Fiercely loyal, intensely streetwise, and always ready to slap the taste out of the mouths of jive turkeys and suckas alike, he’s a complicated man whom no one but his woman is fully able to comprehend.   Daaaamn right…

HH4**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! You can just click “Hero Histories” in the “Columns” section on our main page, and read an ever-increasing number of other guys and gals who are likewise awesome as heck. The adventures of Hero For Hire Power Man Luke Cage have been published by Marvel Comics since 1972, and one thing is clear from these issues:  They really need to bring back his cool silver tiara…







About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Excellent work, Matt. Luke Cage has come a long way since 1972, the very year I was born. I remember waiting for him to return after Power Man/Iron Fist wrapped its run in 1986. It took a while, but he finally made it into the A-List. I hope his new version of Heroes For Hire shows up soon.

  2. One of my favorites… I remember quite a few of those stories fondly, but I also didn’t know a couple of them. Thanks!

  3. I suppose buried within Luke Cage’s long history is a great metaphor for the minority experience in this country. Starting with very little, and being more than a bit of an outcast for the larger society, Cage through sacrifice and hard work, and a steadfast faith in his personal principals has managed to make the long climb from D-List street mercenary to A-List hero. Along the way, he made many friends of all cultural backgrounds, had a family, and eventually joined the “establishment” with the Avengers. Pretty cool character arc.

  4. Very good read. Thanks for writing. I always Loved Power-man (old school Luke Cage), the New Avenger version is still cool, bit I liked him as a hero. Once again, thank you.

  5. Paris Rivers on

    Luke Cage is a bad mother!! Shut yo mouth! I’m talking about Powerman! We can diggit!!

    This post was frigging sick!! I really enjoyed reading it!! Definitely one of Marvels underrated heroes! Great piece of work!!

  6. Thanks for telling me the story of one of the heroes I have the most respect for. I really love how Luke shows how far an indomitable will can get you. He’s got friends and family at his side, and he fights for what’s right. ALWAYS.
    Just, thanks for posting.

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