Heroes for Hire is one of the most popular team-ups in Marvel comic book history. Founding members Luke Cage and Iron Fist took on the mean streets of New York City as far back as the 1970s. Since then, they have teamed up with various members of the Marvel universe… for the right price. Working as literal heroes-for-rent, they are willing to take down criminals as long as they can get paid. Often assisted by the dynamo duo of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing (aka the Daughters of the Dragon), these heroes played an integral role throughout Marvel history.
We will cover the comic book history of Heroes for Hire, from early publication history and to their possible inclusion into the current MCU. In the past, we have written articles about what you need to know about Luke Cage and Iron Fist as individual heroes. Now it's time to learn more about their unstoppable team known as the Heroes for Hire.
Here are 15 Things You Need To Know About Heroes For Hire.
The overindulgent 1970s gave birth to disco, gold lamé everything, and the Heroes for Hire. Who are these guys? Luke Cage was a jive-talking, street savvy product of the newly emerging Blaxploitation trend. Cage, whose real name is Carl Lucas, is an ex-con that has been incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. While imprisoned, he is subjected to numerous experiences that result in his superhero strength and impenetrable skin. He was created by Archie Goodwin, John Romita, Sr., and George Tuska.
Iron Fist, on the other hand, was born from the cultural phenomenon of Kung fu heroes and films. Daniel "Danny" Rand was the apprentice of Lei King in the other-dimensional city of K'un-L'un. Seeking revenge for the death of his parents, he gains the power of the Iron Fist after defeating the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying at the age of 19. His first appearance was in Marvel Premiere issue #5 in 1974. Iron First was the brainchild of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.
Hero for Hire issue #1 premiered in 1972 with Luke as a solo rent-a-hero. After escaping Seagate Prison, he starts this business under the alias Luke Cage. In New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, Luke catches criminals for profit and offers detective services. This business was the best way for him to help take back the streets of New York and earn a living with his new powers.
Issue #17 saw a change in the title to Power Man. In the comic, Luke Cage changes his name so he can get more attention for his business. Incidentally, another hero, Erik Josten, was already using the name Power Man. He and Luke got into a fight over the rights to use the name and Luke won.
The character of Luke Cage holds a special significance in comic book history. He was the first Black superhero to be both the protagonist and the titular character of a comic book. Right on!
The niche focus of both Iron Fist and Luke Cage began to wane as the years went by. Iron Fist, premiering in November 1975, fell victim to low sales and was cancelled after 15 issues. The final issue was released September 1977.
The diminishing Blaxploitation appeal of Luke Cage also took its toll, though writer James Owsley tried to shed this image by making him less of a 1970s caricature. He even reduced the number of time Luke would say his signature phrase, “Sweet Christmas.” But by the 1980s, the series had lost its appeal and was also on the verge of cancellation.
To save both characters, Marvel decided to merge the two heroes into one comic. Iron Fist was moved to Power Man for a three-issue story arc in issues #48-50. Issue #50 was the first issue to use the official new title of the comic: Power Man and Iron Fist.
The merging of Iron Fist into Luke Cage’s world was eased by two factors: they lived in the same city, and they had connections to the Daughters of the Dragon, a team consisting of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. Created by Chris Claremont and Marshall Rogers, they first appeared in the 1970s in the Marvel Premiere comics alongside Iron Fist. Colleen’s connection to Iron Fist dates back to his early training days. They met through her father, Professor Lee Wing, and she assisted him with several missions. When she eventually moved to New York, she met Misty Knight and they became best friends.
There were plans to include them in the Iron Fist comic, but it was canceled before that could happen. Instead, they were included in Power Man and Iron Fist and supported the new team. They have been an incredible asset to the Heroes for Hire. Though often seen assisting the heroes in their cases, they were never officially added as a part of the team. Colleen and Misty opened their own private investigation company instead: Knightwing Restorations Inc.
With the groundwork in place, Iron Fist was set to premiere with Luke Cage in his comic. The story begins with a case of blackmail and revenge. Luke has been coerced into kidnapping Misty and Colleen by the Bushmaster. Luke tries to kidnap Colleen, but she fights him off long enough to call Misty Knight for help. At the time, she and Iron Fist are having a dinner date together. Misty arrives to try to save her friend, but Luke overpowers her. After knocking both women out, Iron Fist arrives and fights Cage. Luke Cage almost chokes Danny Rand to death, but he comes to his senses and backs off.
Ashamed of his actions, he explains his circumstances to the group. They agree to help him recover his kidnapped girlfriend, Claire Temple, and his friend, Nate Burstein. In the course of issue #49, Luke is able to clear his name and has his original criminal charges dropped. Iron Fist and Luke Cage decide to get into business together as Heroes for Hire.
Despite their depiction in the Netflix series Luke Cage, Luke and Misty Knight do not have a romantic history. In the comic book world, however, Iron Fist and Misty were a couple. Their relationship achieved another first in comic book history: they shared the first interracial kiss between superheroes.
Misty and Danny first meet in Marvel Premiere issue #21. Their first encounter was much like the first encounter between the Heroes for Hire: an all-out brawl! Colleen had been kidnapped and Iron Fist was looking for her. In a chance encounter, Misty Knight mistakes him for one of the kidnappers and immediately attacks. Their fight ends with Danny using a nerve pinch move to knock Misty out. Later in Iron Fist #1, they decide to join forces to find Colleen.
Despite deeply caring for one another, their relationship was tumultuous, and they never actually defined themselves a couple. It wasn’t until the Immortal Iron Fist series that they were officially together and even got engaged. In one of the stranger storylines, Misty Knight learned that she was pregnant. But as it turns out, this was a false pregnancy that was caused by Iron Fist’s chi energy. This was the last straw for the couple, and they decide to end their relationship.
One of the biggest catalysts for the events of the Civil War event was the establishment of the Superhuman Registration Act. With this new law, superhumans must register as “living weapons of mass destruction.” The superheroes of the Marvel Universe were divided on their stance of this act.
To help with the dissonance, Knight was contacted by Iron Man, Reed Richards, and Spider-Man to form a new Heroes for Hire team. Their purpose would be to find any superhumans that decided not to comply with this new act. Misty's new team included Humbug, Shang-Chi, Orka, Black Cat, Paladin, Tarantula, and, of course, Colleen Wing. Luke Cage and Iron Fist were unavailable to assist her as they had sided with Captain America in his opposition to the law. In their fight again Captain America, they are betrayed by Paladin and they fail the mission.
This would not be Misty Knight’s last attempt to form a new team though...
In her second attempt to form another Heroes for Hire group, Misty Knight assembled a secondary group of villains which included Bombshell, Crossfire, Nightshade, and Tiger Shark. Purple Man created the Villains for Hire team with Headhunter in response to Misty’s new team, with a line-up consisting of Avalanche, Death-Stalker, Shocker, and Scourge. The two groups inevitably fought one another, however, it was revealed that Misty’s villains were part of an elaborate scheme by Puppet Master to seek revenge on Purple Man.
Heroes for Hire have been the inspiration for other superhero groups as well. In the third iteration of the Mighty Avengers team, Luke Cage‘s team works as a non-profit, often times for free or in exchange for a charitable contribution. Based out of the old Gem Theater in Times Square, the previous location for his Heroes for Hire team, he works with Spectrum, Ronin, Blue Marvel, White Tiger, She-Hulk, and the new Power Man. Superior Spider-Man was also involved but decides to quit the team instead.
There was a third instance of Heroes for Hire being recreated, but it never panned out. In a humorous twist of events, Deadpool takes it upon himself to start a new version of Heroes for Hire. After the All-New, All-Different Marvel event, he has found renewed fame due to Solo (James Bourne) cashing in on Deadpool’s popularity by impersonating him. This increased Deadpool’s recognition even more.
Deadpool decides to create a group of Deadpool lookalikes under the famous duo’s business name. This group included Solo, Madcap, Slapstick, Foolkiller, Terror, and Stingray. Luke Cage was not pleased to hear about this new business venture on the local news. He goes to Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) for legal advice. Murdock offers to send a cease and desist letter to Deadpool pro bono. Hawkeye has the pleasure of serving the papers to Deadpool via an arrow to the chest. Thwarted, Deadpool reluctantly changes the name to Mercw for Money.
Heroes for Hire have gone through their considerable trials and tribulations, forcing them to disband on several occasions:
Power Man and Iron Fist #125: In a confrontation with Captain Hero, Iron Fist is killed. Luke Cage is unjustly accused of being his killer. Heartbroken after losing his best friend, Luke decides to go back to his solo rent-a-hero career.
Heroes for Hire #19: When Stark-Fujikawa Corporation decides to purchase Namor’s business, Oracle, Inc., Heroes for Hire is now in jeopardy. Since they were sponsored by Namor’s company, they no longer have the funds to stay in business, and they choose to go their separate ways.
Heroes for Hire #15: Many casualties resulted from the Civil War and World War Hulk storylines that adversely affected Misty Knight’s Heroes for Hire team. Physically beaten and emotionally frayed, all members, including her best friend Colleen, depart the group leaving Misty Knight on her own.
Villains for Hire #3: As mentioned earlier, Misty Knight used her group of villains to seek revenge on behalf of the Puppet Master. After the truth of Misty plan comes to light, her team has no further reason to stay together.
In 2006, the cover of issue #13 of Heroes for Hire caused some major controversy upon its release. In the cover art, team members Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, and Black Cat can be seen tied up and injured. The tentacles of the Brood creature are hovering uncomfortably close to the heroines, dripping with slime. Their costumes are also either low-cut or unzipped to expose a lot of skin.
Some critics felt this sexually explicit cover was designed to look like hentai anime. In particular, this cover most closely resembled a certain genre of hentai: tentacle porn. In response, Joe Quesada, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics at the time, commented on the controversy by stating, “While I appreciate the sentiment and the feelings that some may have about this, I honestly feel that there is way too much being read into this cover.” The cover was not replaced, and no apologies have been made for its explicitness.
Director Quentin Tarantino has always had a deep love and appreciation for geeky genre things like superhero comic books, Blaxploitation, and Kung fu films. Imagine if he was able to combine those three genres into one Marvel movie? Since those three elements exist in Heroes for Hire, this could be the reason why he almost made a Luke Cage film.
In an interview with MTV, Tarantino expressed his initial interest to make a Luke Cage movie specifically during his Heroes for Hire era. He even considered making the film before he ended up making Pulp Fiction. In the interview, he says, "After ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ I had considered doing a ‘Luke Cage, Hero for Hire’ movie. [Producer] Ed Pressman owned the rights at that time, and we talked about it. I talked to [Laurence Fishburne] about being Luke Cage, and he really liked that idea. Then I ended up writing ‘Pulp Fiction.’"
The individual members Iron Fist and Luke Cage have been involved in several popular Marvel video games. Some of the games include Lego Marvel Super Heroes, the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series, and Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes. Luke Cage has appeared in 11 Marvel video games, and Iron Fist has appeared in 14 games. Mentions of Heroes for Hire can be found on billboards in the background of the games Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds and Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
On TV, only animated versions of the team have been seen so far and those have been pretty limited. Luke Cage and Iron Fist made it into one episode of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes where they assist Hank Pym in tracking down the thief that stole his Ant-Man equipment. On The Super Hero Squad Show, this version of Heroes for Hire is Luke Cage and Misty Knight. They are employed to find Brynnie Braton’s father but end up helping the Super Hero Squad too.
To date, no live-action onscreen version of Heroes for Hire has been depicted. Here’s hoping Marvel will make our dreams come true with The Defenders.
Over the years, Heroes for Hire have had partnerships with various members of the Marvel Universe. Beyond their pair up with the Daughters of the Dragon, they have worked with over 40 different Marvel heroes including Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, She-Hulk, and Punisher. Even members of the current MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) version of the Avengers have been involved. This includes Ant-Man, Black Widow, Falcon, Falcon, Spider-Man, and Black Panther.
This may only be speculation, but Heroes for Hire could open the door for some amazing cross-overs. In the perfect Marvel Cinematic Universe, Luke Cage and Danny Rand would appear fighting alongside Captain America in the Civil War arc. They could even make an appearance in the next Deadpool movies as the team Heroes for Hire. Many fans would love to see them move from television to the big screen. Hopefully, Netflix’s upcoming The Defenders TV series will contribute to making that transition happen.
We could see the first live-action version of Heroes for Hire pretty soon. Marvel’s Luke Cage star Mike Colter and Iron Fist star Finn Jones are set to team-up in the upcoming Netflix series The Defenders. Along with Jessica Jones and Daredevil, this foursome will premiere onscreen this summer. This will serve as the first meeting of the original Heroes for Hire and could be the launch of their future pair-up.
There is the possibility of the first formation of Heroes for Hire's favorite female duo too. With the Iron Fist series, we also get the first live-action onscreen portrayal of Colleen Wing. In recent pictures from the set of The Defenders, we see Misty Knight questioning Jessica Jones. This is the perfect setup to eventually get Heroes for Hire and the Daughters of the Dragon working together.
Here’s hoping they see the overall potential for these teams and add them to the Marvel Television world. The world needs Heroes for Hire!
Marvel's Iron Fist will premiere on Netflix worldwide on March 17, 2017. Marvel's The Defenders will premiere in Summer 2017. We will keep you updated on a finalized premiere date.