Marvel’s latest Netflix series is poised to be groundbreaking television.
Don’t call it a comeback. When Marvel’s Luke Cage made his live action debut in last year’s award-winning Netflix series Jessica Jones it was a co-starring role that saw the character doing his best to keep a low profile. Wonderfully played by Mike Colter, the series served as our first look at the character, but accordingly kept him in a secondary role next to everyone’s favorite alcoholic, super-powered private eye. Now Luke Cage is ready for the spotlight. Come September 30 Netflix drops all 13 episodes of Luke Cage, the fourth entry in Marvel’s gritty Defenders saga of Netflix series. And while we’re certain to see all the requisite backstory that was glossed over in Jessica Jones that’s hardly what has fans so hyped. Perhaps more so than Daredevil or Jessica Jones, audiences are seemingly giddy with anticipation for Luke Cage and a deeper look at the project reveals why.
I GAVE YOU POWER
Luke Cage’s journey to live-action has been a storied one. First created in 1972 by writer Archie Goodwin and artist John Romita Sr. in the pages of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, the character was Marvel’s attempt to capitalize on popular trend of 70’s Blaxploitation films. Luke Cage, who later adopted the moniker Power Man, stood unique among other heroes as he dealt more with street crime and offered his services in return for cold, hard cash. The character proved to be popular and became increasingly high-profile as the years passed, shedding his gaudy costume and trademark jive along the way. By the early double-0’s, Cage was one of the most prominent black heroes in all of comics and poised to join the superhero movie boom.
Luke Cage was initially optioned by Columbia Pictures way back in 2002 with director John Singleton (Boyz in tha Hood) set to helm the project. It never managed to get off the ground and the rights eventually reverted back to Marvel in 2013. The timing couldn’t have been better. Marvel Television was in the process of securing a deal to produce a series of hard-edge superhero dramas to air exclusively on Netflix. Luke Cage found its way into their slate and fans everywhere rejoiced over Cage finally getting the live-action treatment after more than a decade in limbo.
MADE YOU LOOK
Jessica Jones was a show of many merits, from its unexpectedly authentic portrayal of PTSD to exploring the trauma of sexual abuse, though its greatest revelation would be Mike Colter as Luke Cage. The actor gave the character a reserved confidence and vulnerability that would belie his unbreakable skin. He was tough, but never token, and that’s a thin wire to walk. Colter quickly earned the admiration of fans. Unlike Daredevil, we’re not walking into Luke Cage blind (pun unintended, honest). Colter is a known factor that has helped to whet the appetite of fans. It was simply a matter of building the series around him.
When it was time to select a showrunner Marvel tapped writer and veritable hip-hop historian Cheo Hodari Coker. Simply put, the decision was perfect. Coker had previously worked as a writer and executive producer on shows such as Southland, Almost Human, and Ray Donovan. His unique blend of genre experience and authority on black culture makes certain Luke Cage will deliver a distinctly urban feel that a show centered in Harlem requires. Coker titillated fans when he spoke on the red carpet at the premiere of Captain America: Civil War about how he planned to adapt Luke Cage for a modern audience. “I would like this to be, I mean, I know this is heavy but, The Wire of Marvel television, because we really deal with a lot of different issues,” said Coker. Lofty aspirations indeed, but the creative team appears to be equipped for the task.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Don’t think for a second the significance of Luke Cage is lost on its creators. This will mark the first time a Marvel Studios film or television series stars a black superhero and predominantly black cast. The roster is rounded out with highly respected acting talent such as Alfre Woodward (12 Years a Slave) and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards). Simone Missick stars as private eye Misty Knight and Rosario Dawson reprises her role from Daredevil and Jessica Jones as trauma nurse/superhero magnet Claire Temple. The project brings the opportunity to supply representation the superhero genre has lacked.
“The world is ready for a bulletproof black man.”
Luke Cage carries a weight and will not shy away from the issues. During a San Diego Comic-Con panel Coker explained the cultural substance Luke Cage will touch on. “When I think about what’s going on in the world right now, the world is ready for a bulletproof black man,” said Coker. While the series won’t duck the tricky topics, don’t expect to get beaten over the head with them either. Make no mistake this is a Marvel feature and promises all the action and excitement we’ve come to expect with the brand. In the same Comic-Con panel Marvel Television vice president Jeph Loeb explained “While it is unapologetic about those things, that is not what the show is about. The show is about a man who is looking for redemption. The show is about the making of a hero. The fact that that man happens to be black and is in a black community is the story of Luke Cage.” It’s a story we’re all excited to see.
Luke Cage debuts on Netflix on September 30. See the official trailer below.