Warning: This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Luke Cage.
First conceived in 1972 by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr. as a Blaxploitation and superhero pastiche, Luke Cage rapidly became a popular character, joining forces with Danny Rand’s Iron Fist in Heroes for Hire, as well as the Avengers and Defenders. It’s only fitting that Netflix’s third Marvel series, Luke Cage, is without a doubt one of Marvel’s most political entries yet
As Marvel TV’s first major African-American screen presence, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker sought to make Cage a force to be reckoned with on his own, while also highlighting the music and culture of Harlem. At the same time, the exciting new series also connects directly and indirectly to its Netflix predecessors. Like pretty much every new addition to the MCU, Luke Cage also contains a wealth of Easter eggs for fans to look out for.
Though this isn't a 100% comprehensive list, we’ll examine the most relevant, intriguing, and - of course - enjoyable Easter eggs and references within Marvel’s latest streaming hit.
22. The Incident
For many, the inclusion or non-inclusion of Netflix’s Defenders in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe won’t necessarily be a deal-breaker. Still, many fans have hoped the crack team of street-level superheroes will at least have a cameo in the massive gathering of Avengers: Infinity Wars or its untitled sequel. Even if there haven’t been any direct connections (although fan theories about Alfre Woodard's characters abound), the MCU does get a few shout-outs in Luke’s first outing.
For instance, the very first episode mentions ‘The Incident,’ where a certain avenging team took on some aliens. A few unscrupulous New Yorkers are even trying to profit from the cataclysm, such as one fellow who sells bootleg footage of “Tony Stark, the big blonde dude with the hammer, the old dude with the shield, the green monster – and I don’t mean Fenway.” Misty Knight’s (Simone Missick) partner Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley) also mentions seeing “the incident up close,” and says the city does need “magic hammer” wielding heroes to stop events like those in The Avengers from tearing up the city.)
Another major nod to “The Incident” includes Tony Stark competitor Justin Hammer, whose corporation has developed a “Judas bullet” in his absence – one which seems to be made from Chitauri metals. With all these crazy new weapons, perhaps the Avengers could use a little help from the Heroes for Hire when the next “incident” occurs.
21. Heroes For Hire
Patiently waiting Marvel devotees may have been a little disappointed that the Heroes for Hire never opened its doors during Luke’s first season. However, all of the groundwork and references are now in place for the comic book team up, which will likely take place during Iron Fist’s inaugural season or Cage’s second round. In several instances, though, Cage and his compadres joke about hiring the hero. In fact, the first episode ends with the owners of Genghis Connie trying to put Luke on the payroll, to which he says “I’m not for hire.” Well, at least, not yet.
Also, in episode 6 “Suckas Need Bodyguards,” Bobby Fish tries to convince Luke to make some moolah from his superpowers. In doing so, he coins the unofficial slogan “I ain’t no hero. Pay me.” Of course, while we all know Luke will found his famous pay-per-rescue service at some point, the Heroes for Hire won’t happen just yet.
One the other hand, with Pop’s barber shop is now out of commission. It sure would be a great place to set up shop. It even looks the part. Perhaps even some Defenders will meet and greet at the one-time house of hair before they right some wrongs.
20. Little Green
During the second episode, “Code of the Streets,” Luke Cage, is frequently seen catching up on his reading. At first glance, it may seem like a redundant piece of character development showing the street-level hero at his book smart best. But in the Marvel Universe, there are few coincidences. The book he’s reading happens to be Walter Mosely’s whodunit, Little Green.
In the novel, Mosely’s detective extraordinaire Easy Rawlins emerges from a comatose state – something Cage does at the conclusion of Jessica Jones before his own series begins. In a further parallel, Rawlins also spends much of the book searching for a missing boy. Luke stays true to the homage during the show, scouring the city for Chico. It’s a fitting tribute to an amazing fictional detective and one of the best mystery writers of all time.
19. Luke's Classic Costume
Speaking of throwbacks, Luke Cage spends the bulk of his series looking quite dapper in his modern suits and threads. When he’s not classing it up, Power Man keeps his beat easy in a t-shirt, jeans, and a sweatshirt. His modern look, however, is a far cry from his comic book look as devised by Romita Sr. and Goodwin – who took a page straight out of 70s superhero comics and Blaxploitation films.
Episode 4 explored how the superhero received his powers due to the failed experiment at Seagate Prison. After the Dr. Burstein’s machine literally explodes in his face, Luke rises from the rubble wearing big metal bracelets and a headband. In a possible homage to the Incredible Hulk’s garb-snatching days, he yoinks a yellow shirt from a nearby hanger, et voila: the Luke Cage look is complete. Naturally, once the hero himself catches a glimpse of himself, the only quip is: “you look like a damn fool.
18. Misty Knight's Classic Costume
Luke’s isn’t the only throwback costume from the Bronze Age of comics on the show. Although he rapidly abandons his 70s look, another of his cohorts, Misty Knight, is only yet discovering her heroic aptitudes. Always a straight shooter, the police officer sticks by her guns for the bulk of season one – even railing against her partner’s defense of vigilantism.
Nonetheless, Knight goes through some serious travails during Luke Cage’s inaugural season. During the eleventh episode, “Now You’re Mine,” the tough-talking cop gets shot in her right arm, alluding to (or at least teasing) the days when her bionic arm takes its place. Fortunately, so far, she’s still fully armed. In the finale, fans are also treated to her classic ‘do, as well as a tight red dress which points to the color and style of her costume from the comic books.
17. Diamondback's Classic Costume
Willis Stryker a.k.a. Diamondback and Luke have a long history, but revelations of Stryker’s betrayal don’t sit well with the hero. Although Diamondback eschews his comic weapon of choice, exploding knives (although he does get a switchblade-kill) for Chitauri metal-powered exploding bullets, his 70s comic look gets a little revival of its own during the final chapters of the first season.
In the twelfth episode, Diamondback emerges wearing a Hammer-powered anti-superhero suit (more on Hammer later). The over-the-top gear, while being a nod to the billionaire’s rival Tony Stark, also is a perfect retrogression to Stryker’s classic costume from the 70s. It also gives the show a fantastic Disney IP-crossover moment, when Bobby Fish throws shade at DB, saying “what are you, a pimp stormtrooper?” Nice!
16. Jessica Jones and Daredevil
Throughout Luke Cage’s first outing, the writers weren’t shy about peppering reference to his fellow Defenders. Everyone from the future team gets some sort of a mention, from Mariah discussing Wilson Fisk to Turk’s chess game with Fish. Turk jokes about heading back to Hell’s Kitchen “where it’s safe.”
The series kicks off, though, with Pop’s reference to the “fellas Downtown.” Luke Cage also has Mariah railing against against “powered” people in her stump speech, alluding to the Jessica Jones finale where she takes out Kilgrave. Daredevil ADA Blake Tower also drops by, discussing his concerns over what would happen if Frank Castle “shot the city to hell” with Judas bullets.
In addition, Claire Temple is also key name-dropper throughout the series. At one point, she discusses Jessica Jones as Luke’s girlfriend. She also informs her mother of the madness from Daredevil’s second season, including the evil ninja and zombie attacks. Several times, she mentions – almost without prompting – that she knows a good lawyer.
15. Stan Lee Cameo
Whether as an oblivious record shop customer, a thirsty security guard, or a military bigwig, Stan Lee always makes his presence felt in little (and big) ways around the Marvel Universe. However, his appearances in the Defender series all have a common theme: Stan’s apparently a legend with the NYPD.
In both Jessica Jones and Daredevil, Stan the Man shows up in a pair of police precincts as a plaque on the wall. To up the ante, Luke Cage’s team put the comic book legend on his own poster outside the bodega – the same one where Method Man gets mugged. Ironically, Stan’s poster reads “See a crime? Report it!” We hope the anonymous tip line also spells out “Excelsior!”
14. Dapper Dan
Whether you remember, revere, or at least appreciate the 80s hip-hop sound, one man more than any other was responsible for the New York look. Dapper Dan’s Boutique clothed many of the biggest names in rap and beyond, including LL Cool J, KRS-One, Mike Tyson, and Erik B. & Rakim. The hip-hop clothier also managed to sling some threads at one of Marvel’s own.
During a great sequence, Dapper Dan himself, real name, Daniel Day, dropped by to give Luke Cage his swanky new suit. Yes, the “Hip-Hop Tailor of Harlem” himself provided Power Man with his kickin’ threads. Sweet Christmas, that’s cool!
13. "Sweet Christmas!"
Speaking of catchphrases, longtime fans and readers of the series were expecting to hear Luke utter his unique exclamation at some point. He already let the cuss out of the bag after his initial romantic interlude with Jessica Jones. Thankfully, showrunner Cheo Coker saw fit to limit the use of his classic slogan. At the same time, one classic turn of the phrase deserves another.
Fans of get their second helping of “Sweet Christmas!” during the fourth episode. After gaining his powers, Luke punches his way out of Seagate Prison in a hail of brick and mortar. Somewhat stunned by his explosive abilities, Cage utters his famous catchphrase for, theoretically, the first time in his life.
12. Hammer Time
As mentioned, Netflix’s Defenders have generally shied away from direct references to the movies and those other TV shows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter). Be that as it may, Luke Cage has some pretty direct ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of those connections comes during the revelations of what Stark Industries competitor Hammer Industries has been up to lately.
While the company head, one Justin Hammer, is (supposedly) still imprisoned in Seagate, the company has moved forward with its ‘stuff to kill Tony Stark-types with’ initiative. The latest Hammertech includes the Chitauri metal-infused dum dum rounds referred to as Judas bullets and Diamondback’s comic-accurate super-armor. Not too bad for a company whose boss has been locked away for five years.
11. Episode Titles
Since the show’s inception, Mike Colter and showrunner Cheo Coker discussed the importance of giving Luke Cage a distinctive sonic flavor. As a result, music plays a major role in the series, as it’s infused with the hip-hop, jazz, and rhythm ‘n blues which blend into Harlem’s legacy. Luke references Wu Tang Clan, Method Man drops by for a bit part, and each episode resounds with the rhythm of Harlem.
The power of a good tune even extends to the very episode titles. From the premiere show “Moment of Truth” to mid-series explainer “Manifest” to the finale “You Know My Steez,” Coker named each outing after a classic Gang Starr song. Not only is it a fun homage to the hip-hop group and the feel of Harlem, but it’s also a real trick to pick a song which fits each storyline so well. The song-themed episodes also fitting for Power Man’s inaugural season.
10. "Power Man"
Luke Cage’s ongoing series debuted under his own name. Sixteen issues in, Marvel swapped the title to Power Man. The name stuck, and even the current Power Man (who happens to be Shades’ son) goes by the moniker. At the same time, Netflix’s street-level series seems to prefer it when their characters go by their given names (although Daredevil certainly gets his due). Nevertheless, throughout his first run, Luke found his alter-ego popping up from time to time.
In the very first episode, Pop (Frankie Faison) affectionately refers to Cage as “Power Man.” Throughout the rest of the season, “Power Man” crops up a couple of additional times, including Luke denoting himself as such. For the most part, though, much like Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, and Black Mariaih, the superhero prefers to keep nicknames out of things.
9. "Black Mariah"
A far cry from her comic book character, Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) plays a much different role in Luke Cage. Originally, she was essentially villain whose own criminal attributes were literally outweighed by her comical elements. However, in Netflix’s redux of the baddie, “Black Mariah” is a politician who doesn’t take guff from anyone. Also, don’t ever call her “Black Mariah.”
One of the rare times the aspiring civic leader/drug lord hears her comic book persona comes when “Cottonmouth” (who doesn’t cotton to his own nickname) yells at her to “shut up, Black Mariah” during a fight. The term itself has a derogatory angle to it as well, referring to paddy wagons from 1800s. Whether or not Mariah lives up to her villainous moniker, it will be interesting to watch Woodard’s stellar version evolve as the second season arrives.
8. "Night Nurse"
Originally, Claire Temple’s Night Nurse was slated to attend to the medical needs of the Defenders’ superhero team up. Unfortunately, Marvel balked a little, deciding instead to use the comic book heroine in their forthcoming Doctor Strange adaption. Claire will still wind up as the primary medico for the series, but she also acts as a unifying filament for Netflix’s gritty superheroes.
At the same time, the series decided to poke a little fun at its own parent company, teasing what she could have been (or could theoretically still become). During episode 11, Ms. Temple fools some heavies into letting her escape into the safety of Luke’s domain. Before she’s taken away, one of the thugs tells his people to “escort the night nurse here downstairs.” Initial skepticism aside, the captions confirm the fun little inside joke. Nevertheless, fans are still hoping the MU has room for two Night Nurses.
7. Trish Talk
In addition to Easter eggs for comic book heroine names who never will be (perhaps), Luke Cage also sees the return of one hero who has yet to emerge. Jessica Jones first introduced Trish Walker, host of the popular Marvel radio program, “Trish Talk.” Astute viewers were quick to recognize Ms. Walker from her more valiant role in the MU as Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat.
Trish became one of Jessica’s best friends on her titular show (with more Walker to come in JJ’s second season), but she also made it into Luke’s show – at least sort of. During episode 6, she hosts a special edition of “Trish Talk” which focuses on our titular hero and his recent exploits in Harlem. It’s a fun cameo which continued to hint at her possible very cool future in the MTU and the Defenders.
6. Back to The Future
Astute viewers might have found themselves taking a little trip back to the future (via io9). It’s only a brief moment during episode 10, as Misty Knight researches into Luke’s past. The very same page which reveals his criminal background also brings Robert Zemekis’ 1985 classic to the forefront of the MCU (wishful thinking).
In the next column over, a headline commends a certain inventor by the name of “Martin Brown.” His discovery, the “Thrust Capacitator,” looks like a leap forward in the field of time travel. While the paper also questions the doctor’s use of a teenage boy, Mac Fly, in his experiment, it also quotes the inventor, saying that time travel would be realistic “when plutonium is available at every corner drugstore.”
Keep your DeLoreans on standby, though.
5. Seagate Prison
Once upon a time, a young man found himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit (lots of stories seem to start that way, don’t they). Carl Lucas found himself shipped off to Seagate Prison, where he volunteered for Dr. Noah Burstein’s experiments. Unfortunately for the young man, his lab rat days ended poorly. However, he was gifted with incredible powers which allowed him to break free of Seagate and rechristen himself as Luke Cage.
Seagate itself gets several mentions in Luke’s first outing. Shades (Theo Rossi) refers to the institution where he first met Cage, as a joke of an institution. In addition, Shades’ prison bud Comanche (Thomas Q. Jones) also gets a brief reference. The island prison is also the home of several of Iron Man’s foes.
4. Millionaires in the Basement...
During episode 4, fans are introduced to Luke’s now-deceased wife Reva Connors (who was murdered for a flash drive incriminating Kilgrave). At one point, she indicates that there are “millionaires hidden in the basement” of Seagate prison. Her slightly veiled reference is likely a connection to Tony Stark adversary’s Justin Hammer – who S.H.I.E.L.D. locked up after his deal with Ivan Vanko to acquire one of super suits in Iron Man 2.
Another inmate of the facility was controversial Iron Man 3 faux-nemesis Trevor Slattery. After he revealed that “The Mandarin” was a ruse, implicating Aldrich Killian, he also found himself slung into Seagate and living a rather comfortable prison life – at least, for a time. If the “All Hail the King” short from Thor: The Dark World is accurate, he’s long since left to meet The Mandarin (and an uncertain fate).
3. Trayvon Martin Hoodie
Early on, it was clear Luke Cage would be a different kind of Marvel series. Although most of their Netflix outings ring closer to reality (as much as super-heroics allow, anyway), Showrunner Coker revealed that he wanted to inject his Power Man adaption with more the African-American experience. In doing so, the show would explore modern life in Harlem, including topical issues – while maintaining its sense of adventure.
One way the show stayed maintained its roots was through the use of suggestive imagery. Few moments from the first season better defined it contemporary relevance as Luke wearing a bullet-riddled hoodie. As confirmed by Huff Post, the parallel ties the show into tragic moments like the death of Trayvon Martin and movements like Black Lives Matter. Nothing beats great entertainment with social commentary-based Easter eggs.
2. Colleen Wing
The final moments of Luke Cage wraps up with a montage which explains the forward thrust of the series, as well as connecting future chapters of the Defenders to it. One of the most exciting moments shows Claire Temple snagging a phone number for a self-defense class. The flyer itself is teases from the next Netflix offering, Iron Fist.
Advertising a martial arts course taught by Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), Claire’s action suggests a great deal of what’s could happen in the series. Assuming the Netflix series continue to skew relatively close to the source material, Colleen and Misty may team up as the crime-fighting team “Daughters of the Dragons.” Even if this comic book bad-assery doesn’t come true, Wing will likely play a major role in Iron Fist, Heroes for Hire when it gets going, aand The Defenders.
1. Stilt-Man Drawing?
Last, but certainly not least-curious, is a drawing from the wall of Pop’s barber shop in the Luke Cage finale. While difficult to see in the background, the youthful scribbling seems to matches the telescopic-legged baddie Stilt-Man. Originally appearing in Daredevil #8, the super-suited criminal once battled Iron Man and Thor throughout the years.
While his entrance into the show sounds a little farfetched, similar Easter eggs surrounding the character have popped up in Daredevil. Could one of several iterations of the supervillain wind up battling it out with Luke, Daredevil, or the Defenders? Only time will tell whether this egg is nothing more than an obscure teaser.
Which Luke Cage Easter eggs were your favorites? Were there any important references we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments.
Luke Cage season 1 is available in its entirety on Netflix.