Those who’ve seen Marvel’s Jessica Jones Netflix series have witnessed seen Mike Colter’s portrayal of the superhero formerly known as Power Man, and now the actor is reprising the role of Luke Cage in his own series. With less than a month until Marvel fans and newcomers to the character alike get to see the new Luke Cage series, there is plenty of fodder for speculation when it comes to just what will be included in the show. With nearly a half century of comics featuring the Hero for Hire to pull content from, fans could find themselves discussing the possibilities nonstop until the series actually debuts.
Comic readers in particular are looking forward to some trademark Luke Cage material when it comes to the show, and while Marvel has been careful to create new angles for the characters who have enjoyed television series lately, the Netflix team has also promised to throw in some of the elements they know that longtime fans are clamoring to see. Here are 15 Comic Book References To Look For In Marvel’s Luke Cage.
15. Claire Temple
People who are even casually following the different Marvel series on Netflix know that Claire Temple of Jessica Jones and Daredevil will be returning in the Luke Cage series. Temple, played by actress Rosario Dawson, comprises the role of Temple of the comic books with “Night Nurse,” allowing her to work in several crossovers and possibly even play a short-term love interest for Cage. Although this will break with the comic timeline — given that Cage had a relationship with Temple prior to meeting Jessica Jones — fans are still very excited to have Dawson on the show. She has been a fan favorite, particularly in Daredevil, where she may be the only voice of reason among a cast of pretty insane characters.
In the comic, Temple is a doctor who first meets Cage when he’s had an altercation with the villainous Diamondback. Given that she has already met him in the series following Jessica Jones’ dubious shotgun attack to break his hold from Kilgrave, the series will likely take a new turn in how their relationship develops. Temple has already expressed her exasperation with supers, particularly when it comes to Matt Murdock, so she may not even have patience for Cage’s many bullet-ridden mustard t-shirts at first at all.
14. An Allusion to Jessica Jones
Many fans were disappointed to learn that Jones and Cage will experience some time apart during the latter’s show debut, especially given that after their affair in the Alias comics, the two become a solid item (and their baby makes three). Netflix will have to come up with another way to land them back in one another’s arms eventually. Perhaps it will be in the form of another one night stand, or the first season of Cage will take place in such a short period of time that Jones will still have time to start showing a baby belly. After all, in Alias, Jones was dating Ant-Man when she realized that she was pregnant with Cage’s baby, so all of this could still take place within that short time frame.
Fans aren’t expecting a big scene with Jones, as she hasn’t yet been confirmed to appear in this latest series (though someone pretty close to her has). However, most are looking out for some kind of mentioning of her to help link the characters’ future together and establish more continuity between their respective shows.
13. A Real Name Reference
With a badass name like Luke Cage, someone has to have a lame moniker in his background somewhere. In Cage’s case, it’s Carl Lucas (his birth name), which is the one that inspired actor Nicolas Cage to change his name from Nicolas Coppola. The actor has stated that the Hero for Hire was his own hero in the past. If you don’t think that Cage is a big enough comic fan after reading that tidbit, consider the fact that the actor also named his son Kal-El after Superman, proving an allegiance to both Marvel and DC in the process.
Carl Lucas isn’t too bad of a name to run away from — it’s simply linked to jail time that he does, in fact, wish to distance himself from. Fans should keep an eye out for a mention of the name at some point in the series. Perhaps it will be dropped during another secret revelation (such as the jail time itself), or when someone from his past surfaces.
12. The Power Man Costume
Given that Luke Cage is set to take place after the first season of Jessica Jones, there will likely not be as many references to the classic Power Man persona, though it could be a nickname he picks up at some point along the way. That said, in Jessica Jones, Cage did sport his more modern yellow shirt and blue pants that are reminiscent of his Defenders garb. Although it was confirmed that Cage would sport a more “muted” costume that is not as bright as the comic version, footage of proof of at least some of the costume has since been revealed.
Audiences were treated with a sneak peek (see: above) at Cage sporting a grounded take on the Power Man outfit just recently in a trailer for the TV show, but fans are still speculating about what it could mean for the Hero for Hire. It has all the appearances of a flashback, but could Netflix be planning to play with the timeline a bit to give Cage a different spin on his story? In the Easter Egg, Cage’s cuffs and head band are present, but he is shirtless rather than wearing the traditional canary yellow puffy shirt that he has classically worn in the past. It’s likely a glimpse at the origins of his powers, since the character’s old school look would be pretty dated by today’s standards. Regardless, the classic Power Man getup is likely to be a popular costume this Halloween season.
11. Jail Time and Super Soldier Serum
Most Defenders fans were scratching their heads regarding the decision to run Jessica Jones before Luke Cage. As compelling as Jones’ story is, Cage’s runs a far longer gamut and has simply existed decades before her story was told. There is a lot of story to tell. That said, the reason writers decided to go with Nuke (Will Simpson) as a key villain during the first season of Jessica Jones may have been to build up the soldier serum story, which is also part of Cage’s own comic backstory.
Fans are thinking that there will be some delving into Cage’s past in order to explain who he is in the present, and that trip down memory lane, whether via flashbacks or some other storytelling device, should include some explanation about his jail time for a crime he didn’t commit as well as his experimentation with the same serum, so the audience can understand where Cage is coming from. He’s not a reluctant hero or a superhero who is out for the bottom dollar for no reason. His story explains exactly why he isn’t your Captain America or Superman — at least, not until he’s a Defender.
10. His Pal Danny
Iron Fist, Luke Cage’s best friend and fellow Hero for Hire, will likely make his MCU debut in his buddy’s new series. The two were longtime partners in the comics, and longstanding rumors support the idea that Danny Rand will pop up at some point in the show, even if it’s just as a final episode tease of things to come.
Rand, played by Finn James (AKA Ser Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones), will soon have his own series as well, so it makes sense that the seeds for that show will be planted in Luke Cage. While many fans were hoping to see these two buddy up as soon as possible, it appears that Netflix and Marvel are choosing to play the long game, fully fleshing out the individual heroes before they become full-on Heroes for Hire (or Defenders, for that matter).
9. A Comic Client
Luke Cage isn’t known as one of the Heroes for Hire just because it sounds like a catchy team name. At one point in his career, he would take your case if the price was right, which means that he has a long list of sketchy clientele that is just itching to be portrayed in the series. At least one of his comic clients should absolutely be included in the series, but which one is the question.
Some might argue that Owen Ridgely or Frank Jenks might make good clients because they help identify who Cage is and helped further his story along through various conflicts, but Doctor Doom is the client who would be a fan favorite, if nothing else than the fact that the beating Cage gives Doom when he refuses to pay what he owes would be an amazing scene. Many fans consider this to be one of the top 10 moments of Cage’s career and if it is not shown during the first season, it should definitely be considered for another season in some capacity. Doom isn’t yet a Marvel-owned character though (his live-action rights are still with Fox — as far as we know), so consider this one a long shot.
8. Misty Knight
One of the most exciting things about this series is the presence of one Misty Knight on the show. Knight is a detective turned superhero who is tough as nails, and audiences are very much excited to see her make her debut in the MCU. Given her relationship with Iron Fist in the comics, it would make sense to tie them together in the program, though she’s still (somewhat confusingly) unconfirmed for the first season of Iron Fist. Keep your fingers crossed that we’ll get to see her become a bionic superhero sometime during this season.
As we’ve previously noted, “Misty was heavily influenced by the blaxploitation and kung-fu genres. Her hair was in an afro with her clothes blood red and skin tight.” Show producers have already confirmed that Luke Cage will be taking on some of the most relevant racial topics of the current decade, so hopefully we can expect a bit more nuance and thoughtful character development in the series for the heroine than she’s seen in the past. Simone Missick will be playing Knight, and first looks at her character look promising.
7. Grieving Reva
Before Cage can move on and become an item with Jessica Jones, grieving his wife (Reva Connors) and coming to terms with how she died at Jones’ hand will have to be a priority. There may be flashbacks involved that show how Cage complicated Connors’ life long before Jones ever did through his gang activity. In the comics, Jones had nothing to do with Connors’ death. Reva was murdered during an altercation between Cage, Willis Stryker and the Maggia over drugs that were planted in Cage’s home, which was how Cage ended up going to Seagate prison in the first place.
Given that Netflix put a good deal of the blame of this on Jones (though Kilgrave was chiefly responsible, of course), it will be interesting to find out how they plan on covering his time at the prison and his history with Connors, who was his fiancee and not yet his wife on the page. The show may not even depict Cage as ever having been a gang member, given the direction it went with Reva’s death.
6. Black Mariah
Some are dubbing Luke Cage the most political of the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet, and Black Mariah will not be an exception to that climate. Although she seems to be a legitimate politician who is working to improve Harlem the right way, longtime fans know that Black Mariah is actually a hefty gang leader and a regular thorn in Luke Cage’s side. While she is not a politician in the comic, she does eventually turn to drug dealing, and we expect that her Netflix character will be just as corrupt behind closed doors (footage for the series that was glimpsed at Comic-Con pretty much confirmed as much).
It’s too bad that Netflix had the chance to portray a plus size character in a powerful role and opted against it, but given that her original look also stemmed from the Blaxploitation genre, her new role may be an improvement. Mariah Dillard will be played by the brilliant Alfre Woodard, so even if her character is completely rewritten, she should be lots of fun to watch. Dillard is set to appear in several episodes of the first season.
5. Nods To The Defenders
Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are all leading up to the big Defenders team-up series, so fans are really expecting some nods or Easter eggs that point in that direction. The Defenders show will be one of the largest Marvel crossovers yet, on the big screen or the small one, and fans are pumped to see all these major characters share the stage for the first time. Marvel has done more to create a truly shared universe than any other company before them, but even that hasn’t been enough to satisfy some fans.
Defenders showrunners Marco Ramirez and Doug Petrie have spoken about how they envision the team-up playing out, and they are largely focusing on continuing the character development that has made Daredevil and Jessica Jones so popular, rather than the special effects and huge fight scenes of the MCU films. Given the buildup from each characters’ own show prior to the Defenders’ debut, they should have no trouble doing just that. The challenge will instead lie in balancing the different actors’ time in the show.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There hasn’t been much in the way of foreshadowing for the future NYC-based super squad in the three seasons of Netflix/Marvel action thus far. Expect to see the first true remnants of groundwork laid for the inevitable team-up this fall in Luke Cage, perhaps even a tease of the villains they’ll be squaring off against.
4. A Test Of Strength
As much as Cage likes to joke about being tired of having to purchase new clothes, his invincibility is what draws so many fans to him in the first place. In the comics, he has faced and survived everything from crowbars to bullets and everything in between, and the audience has already seen him withstand that and much more in Jessica Jones. What they want to see in his show — aside from the same kind of deft character development that has become the Netflix-Marvel union trademark — is Cage really pushing the boundaries of his power.
Cage’s impenetrable skin withstood the impact of a major explosion and even being shot in the face last year, so fans want to see his capabilities amped up even further with other boundary-pushing possibilities. Although most of the season’s villains have been revealed, it’s how Cage must come to battle these bad guys that will truly make it fun to watch.
Some fans of Luke Cage are scratching their heads over not the decision against making Willis Stryker (AKA Diamondback) the key villain of the series’ first season. It would make sense to start with the betrayal that was so instrumental in his origin story. Diamondback may simply have to wait for another season though, because Cottonmouth, played by Mahershala Ali, will seemingly be the big bad of year one. Like Mariah Dillard — and even similar to Wilson Fisk of Daredevil — Cottonmouth may not see himself as a villain but as an important piece of Harlem.
Of his character, Ali says, “As much as it’s in that comic book world, and we’re all very aware that it’s a degree removed from our own reality, as an actor, playing a guy who is struggling with some of the things that he’s struggling with—who is trying to maintain a hold over his business, over his industry—there’s an aspect of family legacy, manhood, responsibility; these things that Luke Cage begins to be a threat toward.” Fans are interested to see how this version of Cottonmouth will play out versus his comic version — and whether or not he’s a mere stepping stone on the path to Diamondback.
2. Working With Daredevil
One of the biggest complaints that fans have about the MCU is the reluctance to put too many main characters on the same set — or even to allow one main character a cameo performance. In the Alias comics, Cage was hired by Matt Murdock to serve as his bodyguard alongside Jessica Jones, which eventually leads to their budding romance. Given that Jones and Cage have shared more than a one night stand already, that timeline might already be wrecked, but it could still be utilized to eventually reunite the two. Cage’s story reaches much father back than his time with Jones, but given the timeline Netflix has already established, it would make sense to move in this direction.
Fans would enjoy at the very least an allusion to working as Daredevil’s bodyguard, but something even more concrete, like a Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones cameo, would be much more satisfying. A scene where Power Man and the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen team up would be even better.
1. Sweet Christmas!
Fans were able to hear Cage utter his trademark phrase during the first season of Jessica Jones, but they remain eager to hear it at least once more within the context of Cage’s own story. The story behind Cage’s epithet, of course, is that writers had desired the character to be able to curse in the comic. Since they couldn’t allow it at the time (this isn’t Deadpool, after all), they wrote in a phrase that could serve as a placeholder for profanity. According to beloved comic writer and creator of Static Shock Dwayne McDuffie, writer Archie Goodwin took the phrase from what he thought would be a true “Black” phrase from mystery novels he had read by author Chester Himes, believing that it would be an authentic phrase out of Harlem.
Unfortunately for Goodwin, the phrase “Sweet Christmas!” was not authentic at all. It was written more as a joke by Himes. Many fans considered the phrase a part of Cage’s Blaxploitation history, which led to writer James Owsley sharply cutting back on the phrase’s use in comics. Even so, the catchphrase stuck, and many of Cage’s fans still enjoy hearing it said decades later. Count us among them.
What comic references are you hoping to see in Luke Cage? Sound off in the comments.