When Luke Cage hits Netflix on September 30th, following in the celebrated footsteps of fellow Defenders Daredevil and Jessica Jones, the premiere is going to be a bigger deal than many realize. In today’s world, where issues of systemic racism, mass incarceration, and America’s lingering prejudices have become some of the most talked about issues of the day, there couldn’t be a more relevant time for Marvel to finally drop Luke Cage onto Netflix, marking the first time that an African American superhero has led a Marvel movie or TV series (other than Blade).

Though he played a major role in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series, Luke’s backstory has yet to be explored on screen… but that’s all about to change. Luke Cage comes from a hard world, and he’s faced a lot of hard losses. Between imprisonment, the deaths of his loved ones, racist prison guards, and losing his job, Luke has made it through a lot without losing himself in the process. Today, he stands tall as one of Marvel’s most prominent characters, and in recent years, one of their strongest role models. Read on to find out the 15 Worst Things That Have Happened To Luke Cage.

15. He Grew Up in A Rough Neighborhood

marvel luke cage comic con 2016 15 Worst Things That Have Happened To Luke Cage

Even when he was young, Luke Cage whose birth name was actually Carl Lucas  came from troubled beginnings, largely due to the excessive crime scene around his family’s neighborhood in Harlem. Carl is raised by his loving mother Esther, his stern ex-NYPD father James, and his older brother James, Jr., who all try to instill strong moral values in him. Despite the tightness of this unit, Carl rebukes his father’s authority by being a rebellious kid, and he and his best friend Willis Stryker get involved with the local gangs. He spends much of his adolescence in juvenile homes, continually embarrassing his father whenever the former detective has to pick up his son from the police station.

As they get older and more experienced, Carl and Willis join up with a gang called the Rivals, working for local kingpin Sonny Caputo. The Rivals often show down against their rival gang, the Diablos, and commit small crimes and thefts around Harlem. From an early age, Carl is an ambitious dreamer who likes working for himself instead of others, which is at least one quality of his that has never changed. He likes to be the boss. So it’s no surprise that at this point in time, the young Carl entertains fantasies of a wealthy future in the criminal underworld.

But Carl’s real future turned out to be a powder keg waiting to combust, and the match was about to be lit.

14. His Mother Got Killed by His Own Gang

Luke Cage and his mother 15 Worst Things That Have Happened To Luke Cage

Though Carl rebels against his father’s strictness, he has a good relationship with his mother… until his criminal activities put up a divide between them. The turning point occurs when Esther is murdered by one of Carl’s own gang members. Because Carl witnesses his mother’s death, and as a result becomes roped in with the resulting court case, both Carl’s father and older brother blame him for the event. Carl’s family cut ties with him. James, Jr. even moves both he and his father away, and through intercepting Carl’s letters, leads both his brother and his father to believe that the other has died.

This death has a huge impact on Carl’s future. Though he initially submerges himself deeper into his criminal lifestyle, he soon comes to a realization about how much his lifestyle has destroyed his family, and he is forced to reconcile with the moral consequences of his actions. Carl decides to turn his life around, terminating his relationship with the gang, and begins looking for more conventional employment.
Though Carl does break off from most of his old criminal friends, he nonetheless maintains his childhood friendship with Willis Stryker, who still remains involved in the criminal underworld. As the years go on, this turns out to be a relationship that will do him more harm than good.