Luke Cage, born Carl Lucas and also called Power Man, is a fictional superhero appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer Archie Goodwin and artist John Romita, Sr., he first appeared in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972).
A streetwise youth, the man called "Lucas" was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. In exchange for parole, Lucas clandestinely underwent an experimental procedure, originally intended to generate immunity to all kinds of illness, that inadvertently granted him titanium-hard skin and heavier, enhanced muscle (spawning a gag and plot device in early comics of Cage accidentally breaking means of support, plowing through walls, and mangling criminals). After escaping Seagate Prison, he forged the identity of "Luke Cage" and became a "hero for hire," although Cage commonly refused money (or simply received none) for cases gone awry (a decent amount, unluckily for Cage). Later, he formed a business partnership with the martial arts hero known as Iron Fist. Through the groundbreaking series Power Man & Iron Fist, the two became one of the better-known superhero duos of the 1970s.
Cage was one of the first African-American superheroes to star in an eponymous comic book series (the first African-American character to do so was Dell Comics' western hero Lobo). Cage was a groundbreaking but controversial hero. He was visibly Marvel's entry into the 1970s blaxploitation trend, and much of "Hero for Hire" saw him sport an exaggerated streetwise tongue, including the catch phrase "Sweet Christmas!" (In the 1990s Heroes for Hire series, Cage explained that he used this phrase in place of profanity because his grandmother, an important figure in his youth, hated profanity, adding, tongue-in-cheek, that she was even meaner and tougher than the villains he fought.) Azzarello's take on Power Man, Cage, was also criticized, this time for an overly thuggish portrayal (though Azzarello's revival also attracted attention to the character).
Consequently, Cage has been featured in the Brian Michael Bendis-written series Alias, Secret War, The Pulse, Daredevil and New Avengers.
Born and raised in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, Lucas spends his youth in a gang called the Rivals. With his friend Willis Stryker, he fights the rival gang the Diablos and commits petty thefts, often on behalf of deformed crime-lord Sonny Caputo, a.k.a. Hammer. In and out of juvenile homes throughout his teens, Lucas dreams of becoming a major New York racketeer until he finally realizes how his actions are hurting his family. He seeks to better himself as an adult, finding legitimate employment. Meanwhile, Stryker rises through the ranks of crime, but the two men remain friends. When Stryker's activities anger the Maggia (a.k.a. the Syndicate), he is badly beaten in a mob hit, saved only by Lucas' intervention. When Stryker's girlfriend, Reva Connors, breaks up with him in fear of his violent work, she sought solace with Lucas. Stryker is convinced that Lucas is responsible for the breakup, so he plants heroin in Lucas' apartment and tips off the police. Lucas is arrested and sent to prison where contact with his family was sparse due to the resentment of his brother James, Jr., who intercepts Lucas' letters to their father James and eventually leads each to believe the other is dead.
In prison, Lucas is consumed by rage over Stryker's betrayal and his father's supposed death, engaging in frequent brawls and escape attempts. Eventually transferred to Seagate Prison off the coast of Georgia, he becomes the favorite target of sadistic guard Albert "Billy Bob" Rackham, whose brutality ultimately leads to a demotion that he blames on Lucas. Later, research scientist Dr. Noah Burstein recruits Lucas as a volunteer for experimental cell regeneration based on a variant of the Super-Soldier process he had previously used to empower Warhawk. Burstein immerses Lucas in an electrical field conducted by an organic chemical compound; when he left Lucas unattended, Rackham misuses the experiment's controls, hoping to maim or kill Lucas. Lucas' treatment is accelerated past its intent, inducing body-wide enhancement that gives him superhuman strength and durability. He uses his new power to escape Seagate and makes his way back to New York, where a chance encounter with criminals inspires him to use his new powers for profit.
Adopting the alias Luke Cage and donning a distinctive costume, he launches a career as a Hero for Hire, helping anyone who can meet his price. He soon establishes an office in Times Square's Gem Theater, where he befriends film student D. W. Griffith. Burstein, aware of his friend's innocence, also relocates to New York and opens a medical clinic, assisted by Dr. Claire Temple, whom Cage begins dating. Although Cage is content to battle strictly conventional criminals, he soon learns that New York was hardly the place to do so. Stryker himself has become a Maggia agent as Diamondback and dies battling Cage.
Subsequent opponents included Gideon Mace, an embittered veteran seeking a U.S. takeover who will become a frequent foe; Chemistro (Curtis Carr), whose Alchemy Gun will be a weapon later used by others, including his own brother after Curtis reformed; and Discus, Stiletto, Shades, and Commanche, all criminals with ties to Cage's prison days who will face him repeatedly over the years.
Although Cage seems to have little in common with most of New York's other superhumans, an ill-conceived attempt to collect a fee from a reneging Doctor Doom leads him to befriend the Fantastic Four . He is subsequently hired by Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson to capture Spider-Man. Cage, however, comes to sympathize with Spider-Man and forcibly returns Jameson's deposit, earning a place on the publisher's lengthy list of superhuman personas non grata. Cage also befriends Jessica Jones, a young woman whose superhuman strength and unconventional style match his own. During a mission in which Cage and Iron Man track down Orville Smythe, who had duped him into stealing an experimental starsuit from Stark International to "test his [Tony Stark's] factory's security system", Cage follows the example of his new peers and took the codename of Power Man ("CAGE! But how? This ship's construction makes what you've done impossible!" "Just chalk it up to Black Power, man"). Cage battles a rogue Erik Josten (Atlas of the Thunderbolts) for the use of the Power Man name, winning the right.
Shortly afterward, Luke Cage begins associating with the loose-knit super-team known as the Defenders, alongside whom he battles the super-strong Wrecking Crew and the racist subversives known as the Sons of the Serpent. When the Thing temporarily loses his superhuman powers, Power Man is hired to replace him in the Fantastic Four, but his tenure proves brief after the Puppet Master takes control of him to fight his new teammates. Meanwhile, Power Man continues in solo action against an odd assortment of villains, including the maddened professional wrestler X the Marvel, the uninspired Maggia agent Mister Fish, mobsters Dontrell "Cockroach" Hamilton and Ray "Piranha" Jones, The Racist Wildfire, the vengeance-seeking Mangler and Spear (whose brother had died under Dr. Burstein's treatment), rival crime-lords Baron and Big Brother, the obsessive Goldbug, and Zzzax the Living Dynamo.
Called to assist the Defenders against the Plantman, Cage begins to complain that his participation in their group is interfering with his paying work. Wealthy Defenders member Nighthawk solve this problem by placing Power Man on retainer, giving Luke a steady paycheck for his Defenders activities. For some time thereafter, Power Man serves as a core member of the Defenders alongside the likes of Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, Nighthawk and the Red Guardian (Dr. Tania Belinskya). Together, they defeat minor threats including the Eel and the Porcupine, and major menaces such as the Headmen, Nebulon, Egghead's Emissaries of Evil and the Red Rajah; but Cage feels out of place in the often-bizarre exploits of the Defenders and eventually resigns. He believes he is unsuited to teamwork, little realizing how wrong he would be proven months later. He goes on to battle foes such as Moses Magnum, and the second Chemistro.
Having obtained proof of Cage's innocence in his original drug charges, the criminal Bushmaster abducts Burstein and Temple, using their safety and the hope of acquittal to blackmail Cage into abducting detective Misty Knight, who has humiliated Bushmaster in an earlier encounter. Cage's efforts lead to a fight with Knight's boyfriend, the martial artist Iron Fist, a native of the extra-dimensional city of K'un-L'un and still a newcomer to Earth society; however, upon learning of Cage's situation, Iron Fist and Knight help him defeat Bushmaster and rescue his friends. In the course of the encounter, Bushmaster forces Burstein to mutate him as he had Cage, but is nonetheless defeated and soon becomes paralyzed by the process. Cleared of criminal charges, Power Man briefly works for Knight's detective agency, Nightwing Restorations, but soon elects to join Iron Fist in a two-man team, Heroes for Hire, founded by attorney Jeryn Hogarth and staffed by administrative wunderkind Jennie Royce. Although the streetwise Power Man and the unworldly Iron Fist seem to have little in common, they soon become the best of friends; however, Cage's relationship with Claire Temple proves less durable, and he instead begins dating model Harmony Young.
Power Man also helps Spider-Man battle a tenement fire. With Iron Fist and the X-Men, he battles the Living Monolith. Alongside Iron Fist, he travels to K'un-L'un, and battles Master Khan.
Power Man and Iron Fist achieve great success with Heroes for Hire, earning an international reputation and fighting a wide variety of criminals, including the genius Nightshade, the international crime-lord Montenegro, Sabretooth and the Constrictor, the third Chemistro, Warhawk, and the drug-lord Goldeneye. They have several struggles involving the nations of Halwan and Murkatesh, including incarnations of Scimitar and the Black Tiger. They occasionally work alongside fellow street-level heroes such as Spider-Man, Daredevil and Moon Knight, but rarely participate in the larger-scale crises that occupied the likes of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers; however, their adventures take occasional turns toward the extraterrestrial or the extra-dimensional, areas which hold little appeal for the down-to-earth Cage. Their partnership's downfall begins when the mysterious government agency S.M.I.L.E. manipulates Power Man and Iron Fist into the employment of Consolidated Conglomerates, Inc.; during their first CCI assignment, Iron Fist contracts radiation poisoning. Cage takes him to K'un-Lun for treatment. Iron Fist apparently recovers, and soon after their return to the outside world, he is pummeled to death by the alien Super-Skrull. Cage is blamed for the apparent murder of Iron Fist.
Luke Cage possesses superhuman strength and stamina, and has extremely dense skin and muscle tissue which render him highly resistant to physical injury. Cage possesses these abilities as a result of his participation in dangerous, and highly controversial, experiments while in prison. The cellular regeneration experiment has fortified the various tissues of Cage's body, granting him a high degree of resistance to injury via skin that is as hard as titanium and can resist high caliber bullets, puncture wounds, corrosives, and extreme temperatures and pressures without sustaining damage. Despite this, it is still possible to cause him injury. For example, it is possible to injure him with adamantium weapons.
A second exposure to said experiments further enhanced his strength and durability to current levels. He is described as being significantly stronger than his first enhancement.
The same experiment which granted him his great strength and durability has also given him a faster than normal recovery time from injury. Cage's recovery time from physical trauma is about triple that of a normal human. A major drawback, however, to his superhuman durability is that when he does sustain serious injury beyond his ability to heal on his own, medical care is difficult, given doctors' inability to get past his hardened skin, as in the Secret War limited series.
Luke Cage is an exceptional street fighter and was a gifted athlete before receiving superhuman abilities.
He also owns a jacket that is as durable as his skin-having been exposed to the "Power Man" treatment during Cage's second exposure.
Cage, dressed in his original disco shirt outfit, is a member of the Avengers and one of the first heroes to become infected. He also encounters Ash Williams not long after being infected. He is also one the few heroes who manages to eat the Silver Surfer, and receives cosmic powers by doing so. At the end of the Marvel Zombies miniseries, he helps to devour Galactus and becomes a member of "The Galacti" (along with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Giant Man, Wolverine, and The Hulk), who travel across the universe devouring all life on planets. Currently, the Marvel Zombies are attacking a Skrull planet, only to encounter the Fantastic Four - currently consisting of Black Panther, Storm, the Thing and the Human Torch-, leaving the Zombies eager to capture the FF and transport back to their fully populated reality. He also has a role in Marvel Zombies 2, joining Spider-Man in fighting against the other Galactus as he realises that their hunger has faded over time.
A different version of Power Man appears in the Ultimate Marvel universe as a member of the Defenders, although he is never referred to as "Luke Cage." In this universe, the Defenders consist of several people who want to be superheroes but have no useful superpowers, and appear to be more interested in the celebrity aspect of being heroes than actually doing anything heroic. This version of Power Man does not possess superhuman strength or any other apparent powers.
American actor Nicolas Cage, born Nicholas Coppola, took his stage name from Luke Cage in order to prevent being immediately associated with his famous film director uncle, Francis Ford Coppola.