Today we travel back 50 years ago when Luke Cage made his comic book debut and the hero for hire opened his first comic book store.
It’s “Look Back,” where every four weeks of a month, I’ll highlight a single issue of a comic that’s appeared in the past and talk about that issue (often on a larger scale, like the series in as a whole, etc.). Each spotlight will be a look at a comic from a different year that was released in the same month X years ago. The first spotlight of the month takes a look at a book released this month ten years ago. The second spotlight is on a book released this month 25 years ago. The third spotlight looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth spotlight looks at a book released this month 75 years ago. The occasional fifth week (we’re looking at weeks in a broad sense, so if a month has five Sundays or five Saturdays, that counts as having a fifth week) look at books from 20/30/40/60/70/ 80 years old.
Today, we go back to March 1972 to Luke Cage, hero for hire #1 by Archie Goodwin, George Tusks and Billy Graham, with the first appearance of Luke Cage.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE CREATION OF LUKE CAGE?
In 1970, the legendary Ossie Davis co-wrote and directed Cotton comes to Harlem, a film about two black NYPD detectives tracking down a drug shipment in Harlem. The film was a surprise hit, grossing $5 million off a $1 million budget, good for the 22nd highest-grossing film of the year.
The success of Cotton comes to Harlem led to two more major black-themed blockbuster films in 1971. While Cotton comes to Harlem was still a definitive studio film, the success of Baadassss song by Sweet Sweetback, written/directed/with Melvin Van Peebles, was the real success story. Shot for less than $200,000, the film earned over $15 million at the box office. A more traditional, but still very influential film, Tree (directed by the great Gordon Parks), was also released in 1971, grossed half a million and grossed over $10 million at the box office.
The success of these films featuring avant-garde black stars (notably Sweet Sweetback)…
obviously had a major influence on Marvel Comics, which (like most comic book companies) used to make creative decisions based on what was popular in pop culture at the time (which, of course course, makes perfect sense).
In the excellent American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1970s from TwoMorrows by Jason Sacks and Keith Dallas, Roy Thomas explained what Marvel editor Stan Lee told him he wanted from a new hero in the line. of those blockbuster movies, “Stan didn’t want a typical comic book superhero name, but wanted him to want to make a paying crime-fighting career, and was looking for a title. There’s a few months ago I had written an issue of Avengers called “Heroes for Hire”, so I suggested Hero for Hire. Stan also wanted a good one-word name for him that was atypical, and I suggested “Cage “.”
John Romita then designed Cage’s look and Thomas assigned the comic to Archie Goodwin and George Tuska, making sure to add Billy Graham as the book’s inker. Graham was one of the few black comic creators working for Marvel at the time and Thomas wanted to “make sure George’s African-American characters looked African-American.”
WHAT WAS THE ORIGIN OF LUKE CAGE?
In the first issue, we meet Lucas, an inmate regularly abused by the guards as well as the captain of the guards. Luckily for Lucas, a new manager takes over just as Lucas gets a hell of a beating…
The Warden then gives Lucas some alone time with his tormentor and demotes the guard captain to a regular guard, warning him that he had a week to change his act or he would lose that job as well. However, the guard continued to threaten Lucas.
The warden also brought in a new prison doctor, Dr. Burstein, who checks Lucas’ injuries and tells him about an experiment he was working on that could use a volunteer and that it will help Lucas get parole ( Lucas briefs Burstein on his life story that his former best friend, Willis Stryker, framed him for a crime he didn’t commit to keep Lucas away from the girl they all loved. two. She was later killed in an attempt on Stryker’s life and Lucas wants out to punish Stryker)…
Lucas agrees to the experiment, but during it the guard gets involved and things explode and in the process Lucas receives superior strength and super durable skin…
He’s apparently shot trying to escape, so everyone thinks Lucas is dead…
He got stranded in New York and after saving a store owner from an attack, he got the idea of becoming a local “hero for hire”, using his superpowers to help others while earning money. ‘money. He goes to a costume shoot and debuts an extravagant new look as well as a new name. He’s not Lucas anymore, he’s Cage – Luke Cage!
Of course, Stryker is still out there and the two are destined to meet on a collision course. Really strong debut for the series. Happy 50th, Luke Cage! You don’t look over 25!
If you have any suggestions for the April (or other later months) 2012, 1997, 1972, and 1947 comics to spotlight, message me at [email protected]! Here’s the guide, though, to book cover dates so you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional time lag between cover date and release date of a comic for most of comic book history has been two months (sometimes it was three months, but not during the periods we discuss here). So the comics will have a cover date that is two months before the actual release date (so October for a book released in August). Obviously, it’s easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago came out, because there was internet coverage of the books at the time.
KEEP READING: Who Was Batman’s First Replacement, Bill Randall?
Hayden Christensen Teases More Darth Vader After Obi-Wan Kenobi
About the Author