Yona Harvey puts Luke Cage to the test as he enters a new fight!

While Harlem burns, Luke Cage enters the ring to fight for what’s right—even if that means discovering the horrible truth about his late mentor Ezra Miller in BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW #4 on July 12.

If Luke survives, it may fall to a little help from his friends on the Crew to pull him through. Oh, and writer Yona Harvey, who along with co-scribe Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Butch Guice, knows a little bit about teamwork and the best way to play to an ally’s strengths…

Marvel.com: Yona, for someone who might jump into the story here, where’s Luke’s head at going into BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW #4. What’s going to be his prime “mission”—or is he even focusing at all?

Yona Harvey: Anyone coming into the story at this point should know Luke’s a little disoriented at this point. He’s been attacked, his wife and daughter were put at risk. His prime “mission” going into [issue] #4 is to punish whoever’s responsible. But he’ll soon discover he’s got to get past his anger in order to solve Ezra [Miller’s] murder and, perhaps, a larger mystery.

Marvel.com: What kind of friction is going on between Luke and the Crew? Who among them is going to present his biggest challenge?

Yona Harvey: There’s definitely friction between Luke and Misty Knight. In terms of personality and general tactics, Misty might present the biggest challenge.

Marvel.com: Likewise, who of all the regular Harlemites can he count on? Where are the police at this time?

Yona Harvey: One of Luke’s most helpful Harlemites was someone he’d actually been avoiding for many years. The fact that this person is able to help surprises even Luke in #4. It was kind of exciting to see the story take this turn. The police are slightly in the background at this time. The Crew has more leads.

Marvel.com: You’ve talked before on what Ezra means to you as a character; how do you make a reader feel the presence of a firebrand character like this when he’s not actually physically present?

Yona Harvey: I have to trust and give readers credit. If they can understand Spider-Man’s drive or credo based on losing his uncle, for instance, they can understand how Ezra’s loss helps keep the Crew members’ egos in check.   

Marvel.com: What kind of a lasting impact will this story have on the Crew, both individually and as a group?

Yona Harvey: The Crew will come to understand that Ezra had far more power than they ever imagined. This story will hopefully shed more light on the internal struggles of each individual and create a framework for the Crew to take on future mysteries.

Marvel.com: Overall, what’s it been like working with Ta-Nahesi on this particular storyline?

Yona Harvey: Working with Ta-Nehisi on this particular storyline has been like running an intense relay race, or writing a renga poem. You have that individual drive, but you also have to have something to pass to the next person—something they can work with. We both understand the essential storyline and goals, but there’s always this moment when we read the script and there’s this funny line, revelation, or wrinkle in the story. Then we have to run with it.

It’s the very best kind of collaboration. The joys as a writer are falling asleep at night and waking up thinking about these characters. Then I “what if, what if, what if” all day long. It’s addictive.

Marvel.com: Likewise with Butch Guice—what in particular of his work on BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW #4 made you sit back and say “wow”?

Yona Harvey: I haven’t seen the images for issue #4 yet! I’m on the edge of my seat. So far, though, Butch’s images of Luke out of the flames in issue #3 definitely made me sit back and say, “wow.” And the ways he’s drawn Misty? Just breathtaking.

Luke Cage takes center stage in BLACK PANTHER & THE CREW #4, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey with art by Butch Guice, available July 12!

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David F. Walker maps out the former Power Man’s trip to New Orleans!

Luke Cage’s mentor, Dr. Noah Burstein, has died in New Orleans. When Luke leaves Harlem to pay his respects in The Big Easy, a mystery unravels around the good Doctor, his past, and everything Luke thought he once knew about his father-figure.

Players emerge and puzzles present themselves in a secretive city still contending with its own past—and this time, Luke won’t be able to simply fight his way out. On May 17, join the one-time Power Man as he journeys south in his new series with LUKE CAGE #1!

Fresh off his run with POWER MAN & IRON FIST, writer David F. Walker joins artist Nelson Blake II to take Luke Cage to America’s most unique city. We sat down with Walker to speak about the trip from NYC to NOLA and the new kind of obstacles standing in Luke’s way.

Marvel.com: Why New Orleans? What kind of new texture does this idiosyncratic setting bring to the story?

David F. Walker: In part, because of that idiosyncratic atmosphere. I wanted to place Luke in an environment that carries with it a certain amount of preconceptions and New Orleans is one of those cities that sparks the imagination, even if someone has never been there. I also wanted to take Luke out of his element, and drop him in a place where his reputation doesn’t cast as big a shadow.

Marvel.com: How does New Orleans influence the story in a different way than Harlem and New York would? How does it influence Luke?

David F. Walker: New York and Harlem are Luke’s home—it is where he feels most comfortable, and it is where he is accepted. You take a character out of their home, and place them somewhere that they don’t know the lay of the land, and things become uncertain, maybe even dangerous. Dorothy left Kansas, Frodo left the Shire, Luke Skywalker left Tattooine, and in the process they faced great dangers, and learned something new about themselves. I wanted to take Luke Cage on a journey of discovery that forces him to rethink his own ideas of himself, and the best way to do that for a character is to take them out of their element.

Luke Cage #2 cover by Rahzzah

Marvel.com: You’ve mentioned before that a big inspiration for this new series was being able to position Luke in a challenging moral grey area. As an artist, what makes that such an exciting concept? Why does that always feel so modern and relevant?

David F. Walker: Most people live in a moral grey area, even if they think their moral code is clear and absolute. Luke Cage, for me, has always been a character that has his own moral code, but it is firmly rooted in his own personal experiences, which places this code in an ambiguous state. Here you have a guy who started out as a petty criminal, ended up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and then ended up becoming a super hero. He has lived on either end of the moral spectrum, and in the middle. He knows that innocent people go to prison, but he’s also been friends with people who were cold-blooded criminals. For me, that is a bit more interesting—and true to life—than a simplified code of ethics and morality we see a bit too often in popular culture, notions of good and bad, period.

The reason it is an exciting concept to explore, and the reason it feels modern [and] relevant is because it is actually what real life is like. In real life we all know people that do questionable things, but we give them something of a pass, or look the other way, because they are our friends or family members. And that is part of that moral grey area, which is tied to the complexity of what it means to be a human.

Marvel.com: This is your first time working with artist Nelson Blake II; what’s your process like for starting a project alongside a new collaborator?

David F. Walker: Whenever possible, I like to talk to the artist. Sometimes communication is limited to emails, and sometimes there is no communication at all. But with Nelson, we got on the phone a few times, and talked through what my goals were, and what his goals were, and worked on establishing frames of reference. By “frames of reference,” I mean influences and inspiration. Often these frames of reference are abstract: “This scene feels like an Eric B and Rakim song, as opposed to a Kendrick Lamar song,” or I might say something crazy like, “Imagine if ‘Goodfellas’ were a graphic novel drawn by Alex Toth.” But because we have established a connection—talked about our influences, and the things we enjoy—it makes this kind of communication possible.

Nelson and I had a conversation at one point about a specific character that I hadn’t done the best job of describing in the script. I was really struggling with how to describe this character, because it was more about personality than appearance. Nelson and I are talking, and he’s asking me all these questions, and finally he says to me, “You’re talking about Tupac Shakur.” And I was like, “Exactly,” even though it never occurred to me to describe the character that way, especially in terms of their personality; that was one of those moments you look for in comics, when the collaborative nature moves to the next level.

Kick off the brand-new series with LUKE CAGE #1, by David F. Walker and artist Nelson Blake II, on May 17, and then continue the action into LUKE CAGE #2 ON June 21!

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Artist Nelson Blake II talks the man, his clothes, and more!

It seems like a great time to be Luke Cage, so why’s he getting involved in a mysterious battle in New Orleans? The man who continues to mature as a leader, hero, parent, and husband, will find trouble in his past as seen in his self-titled May 17-debuting series.

Written by David F. Walker with Nelson Blake II on art, the one-time Power Man will head down to the Big Easy to find out what happened to Dr. Noah Burstein, the deceased doctor whose experiments turned Luke from a wrongly incarcerated inmate into a man with impenetrable skin. We talked with Blake about Luke’s past, his trip down South, and what makes him such an appealing character to draw.

Marvel.com: Luke Cage is in a great place right now between his new status as a media star and his various comic appearances. How does it feel to be drawing the character at this time?

Nelson Blake II: While I am a huge fan of the show, my excitement for the character really started with [writer Brian Michael Bendis’] take on him over the years. I read a ton of that stuff in DAREDEVIL, NEW AVENGERS, etc. He wrote Luke as a great leader, but also as a powerful hero and overall interesting guy. That kind of thing really gets my imagination going for a character, which is what really made me happy when [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel [Alonso] and the crew offered me Cage.

Marvel.com: This is a character who had a very signature look back in the day, but has gone more modern as the years have gone on. How do you balance the classic with the new in that sense?

Nelson Blake II: From the classic era, I think there is a tone that is always present in Cage, but he’s definitely older and I enjoy that. Some characters get modernized, not because they actually grow, but because times have changed. Luke has actually matured as a man and his current look reflects that. It’s not often that a character can look at their own original incarnation and get that same feeling that we all get when we look at old pictures of ourselves, for the good and the embarrassing parts of all of it.

Marvel.com: In addition to his choice in clothes, Luke has also grown up a lot since his first appearance. He’s a father and husband now. Does that change how he carries himself in your mind? 

Nelson Blake II: Absolutely. One of the most important parts of adulthood is learning that your actions affect others and you’re responsible for that. As much as any character in comics, this resonates with Luke. Even down to the nature of his powers, being bulletproof. While he is quite strong, his signature ability is defensive and protective and that becomes a metaphor for his personality.

Marvel.com: It sounds like Luke will be looking into his own past as well as that of Dr. Burstein. How is it peering back into that world?

Nelson Blake II: Luke revisiting his own past is very personal and challenging for the character. I can’t reveal too much, as Luke’s interactions with his origin and Burstein’s role in it are all key moments in the story. It’s a great take by David and the editorial crew that makes the events matter to Luke, as opposed to a villain-of-the-week approach.

Marvel.com: What can you say about the tone you’re working with in the series? Will this be a street level book mixed with some super hero elements or something else altogether?

Nelson Blake II: It’s got a crossover with crime, noir, sci-fi, and straight-up comics stuff. I’m a big fan of dynamic contrast, so I like going from a scene that’s totally still and could be shot with an ABC camera setup, then pushing things to a level that’s comics only, in your face and over the top. That’s reflective of my influences from novels and Michael Mann movies all the way to animation and manga. That’s the fun of comics, being able to bring all those things into one place and hold them together with an art style and pace that doesn’t sacrifice drama for action, or vice versa.

Marvel.com: This first arc takes place in New Orleans. Do you enjoy diving into that kind of real world setting while also mixing in some of the more Marvel Universe elements?

Nelson Blake II: I’m a New Yorker, so the New Orleans research has been a really fun departure from my own experience. The architecture, weather, and culture dictate a feel and tell of history that’s another world compared to Luke’s more common NYC/Harlem roots. It also serves well to isolate him from the comfort of his fellow heroes, which is a great place to start in a solo title.

Marvel.com: David guided Luke’s adventures in the previous series with Iron Fist. How is it working with him on this character he’s become even more familiar with?

Nelson Blake II: The first thing that struck me is how much David cares. He infuses Luke with a dignity and personal approach without skimping on the fun comic book elements. Dave is also somewhat of a comics historian and that comes through in a lot of his staging and sequencing. His vision is rooted in comics tradition without being trapped by it, and his experience with other great artists makes telling his stories really easy. Talking to him about the scripts and the characters gives me a lot to work with, because he has thought through the drama and characterization, and you can just tell that each issue is a film in his head. This makes sense, as David has a history as a filmmaker. It’s been a joy so far and I hope he’s having as much fun as I am. The whole team is great to work with, from editorial to colors.

LUKE CAGE #1 by David F. Walker and Nelson Blake II bursts on sale on May 17!

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Writer David Walker gets into the head of the original Hero for Hire!

Can’t get enough Luke Cage? The man with unbreakable skin heads down south to the bayou in his own self-titled solo series starting May 17.

Hot off his run on POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, writer David F. Walker teams with artist Nelson Blake II to take a deeper look into the toughened Hero for Hire as he revisits his past in the form of the scientist who gave him his powers.

But not everything remains as Luke remembers it, according to Walker, who spoke with us about his old school influences for this comic, using super hero action to its fullest potential, and the significance of tax season on Luke’s story.

Marvel.com: When thinking about writing your take of Luke Cage did you go back to the drawing board so-to-speak? What parts of his origin did you consider most important when crafting the story?

David F. Walker: That’s a good question. I mean, the most well-known version of his origin is, I think, the most important. The fact that there’s a guy who’s in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and then he got experimented on while he was in prison and it’s that basic nuts and bolts of it. And obviously that story itself hasn’t been told nearly as many times as Peter Parker getting bit by the radioactive spider or Bruce Banner being exposed to gamma rays, but now, with the Netflix show, his origin has become more ingrained in the public consciousness, but there’s so many details that you can fill in because it hasn’t been told a thousand times, over and over again. And so yeah, it’s that very basic nuts and bolts that I’m playing with and that I draw from and then I just start building upon that.

Marvel.com: How did you want to tell his origin story in a way that caught up newcomers to the character while keeping it fresh for longtime fans?

David F. Walker: Stuff like this has become trickier now with films and TV because someone will watch all [13] episodes of the show on Netflix or they’ll watch a movie and suddenly they’re an expert in the character, even though that character may have been around for 40 or 50 years and then you have the hardcore fans and you have the new fans or the new readers who might not be familiar in either capacity so it’s about trying to find that balance and for me, that balance lies really in the core of his character and making his personality interesting enough that people will engage with him, you know? Like if there’s people who are upset that he’s not wearing the metal headband—and it’s a headband, it’s not a tiara—then [they] didn’t really like the character. It’s like when people argue over “Who’s the best James Bond?” Is it Sean Connery? Is it Daniel Craig? Is it…most people don’t say Roger Moore, but it’s like, well, James Bond is James Bond and it’s not so much the actor who’s playing him as it’s the stories in the movies themselves. And so, it’s always about playing with that character and making sure that there’s enough to that character, to his personality that, whether someone is a long term fan going back 40 years, whether it’s someone who discovered him during NEW AVENGERS very recently, whether it’s someone who only knows him from the show—you take all of those into consideration, you throw em’ into a big pot, you make a stew, but you add just the right spices so that the flavor works for as many people as possible. But for some people, they’ll go, “Oh, there’s too much pepper” or “There’s too much salt” or whatever it is and those are the people you just kinda go, “Huh, well we tried! Maybe next issue!”

Marvel.com: Luke was very much a product of his time when he first debuted back in the early ‘70s at the height of the Blaxploitation era. Will we be getting some of these groovy old school vibes in your series?

David F. Walker: Yeah there’s some—I tried to play with some of that with POWER MAN AND IRON FIST. [There have been] a couple of interviews over the years with different creators, including, I seem to recall reading something about Archie Goodwin and what his influences were with creating Luke Cage and to me, what’s interesting is that I’m a huge Blaxploitation fan. Honestly, you’re not gonna find anyone who’s a bigger Blaxploitation fan than me; I’ve written a book about it and I made a documentary about it and I’ve given college lectures on it. I know more about that than I know about comics, actually and so the interesting [thing] to me is that Luke Cage is actually more a product of the writing of Chester Himes whose work predates Blaxploitation by 10-20 years and I’ve read enough Chester Himes that when I’m going back and re-reading the early issues of [LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE] from the ‘70s, [I say], “Oh yeah, this is total Chester Himes more than anything out of Blaxploitation” because Chester Himes created this very stylized and surreal world that almost looked like the real world, but it wasn’t like the real world and so you go back to one of the driving ideologies behind Marvel is, “The world right outside your window,” but it really isn’t the world right outside your window, right? That’s what Chester Himes did in his writing and to me, it’s so clear and it’s so obvious and in Chester Himes books, “Blind Man with a Pistol” and “A Rage in Harlem” and “For Love of Imabelle” and books like that—and his “Harlem Detective” series—they’re this weird mix of hardboiled noir thrillers and just also a dash of the surreal and comedy. That’s really what I wanted to go for with LUKE CAGE and sure, there’s some Blaxploitation elements in it.

Marvel.com: You’ve gone on record as saying the Netflix series was one of your influences for this comic. What elements of this version of Luke’s story, in terms of the show, really caught your attention?

David F. Walker: Well, the thing I like about the Netflix show a lot was that it went a long way to humanize Luke and I give all credit to the writers and the producers of that show. The original LUKE CAGE comics read like they were written by a white man who had very little experience or relationships with black folks, it’s a fact. And the thing about the TV show, as I was watching it, there were scenes where I was like, “Yeah, yeah a black person wrote this scene” or “It was written by a white person who has spent every waking moment of their life with black people” [Laughs]. And so there was obviously a huge element of the fantastic and there’s a lot of “over-the-topness” to the show and there was aspects of the show that were very much entrenched in the super hero tropes, but there’s a humanity to Luke Cage on the TV show, but honestly he didn’t start getting [humanized] in comics until sometime around the time he showed up in ALIAS or NEW AVENGERS and that’s the biggest influence that the show’s had on me and what a lot of people don’t realize is that we were developing the POWER MAN AND IRON FIST comic series before the Netflix show debuted; the Netflix show debuted October 2016 and by that point I think we were like maybe six or seven issues into our run on the comic and there was no back and forth between us and the show so how I developed that character for POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, a lot of it was just obvious like “It’s obvious!” like [show runner] Cheo Hodari Coker and the rest of the writing staff [for the TV show] had read the same books I’d read and watched the same movies I’d watched and listened to the same music that I listen to and there was a very serendipitous amount of coincidences in how that version of the character turned out and how the comic book of that character turned out and so when I saw the show, more than anything, it validated a lot of the beliefs and a lot of what I was pushing for with the comic and with the character in that [I said], “Yeah, this is gonna work, we can show him this way and that he shouldn’t be a guy who’s just about getting into fist fights” because as much as I love those original books from the ‘70s, every issue it’s, Oh, here’s in a fist fight with a D-level villain that hardly anybody knows or a Z-level villain [Laughs] specific to his world and that’s [how] we [got] like Cockroach Hamilton and Piranha Jones and people like that.

Marvel.com: You also said you want to show a Luke who’s not punching the stuffing out of people all the time. Can you talk a little more about that?

David F. Walker: Yeah, I mean I’m just old, you know? [Laughs] I grew up watching action movies before Michael Bay movies were considered action movies. So to me, an action movie is like something from the ‘70s like “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” the original version from 1974, or even “The French Connection” or “Bullit,” going back to the ‘60s. These are movies that I grew up on, that I love and if you were to sit down and clock out the number of minutes that are actual car chases and fights, they’re fairly brief. If you had a two-hour movie, there might’ve been 15 minutes of hardcore action whereas now, you watch a movie like “John Wick,” which I love, don’t get me wrong, but it’s mostly action and I’m more of a story guy so to me, when I read a comic, I don’t need to see, whether it’s Spider-Man or Daredevil or Hulk, I don’t need any of these characters fighting for six and seven pages out of an issue that’s only 20 pages of content. With the exception of, I’m thinking of one or two action sequences that really stand out in my mind—I’m in my late forties, so I’ve been reading comics for over 40 years and the one action sequence that stands out in my mind more than any other is [DAREDEVIL #181] where Bullseye kills Elektra. That’s the most powerful action sequence and that stands out in my mind, but when I think of all the other moments that stand out in my mind in the history of comics with all the comics that I’ve read, absolutely none of them are action moments, they’re all character-defining moments. There’s the issue of FANTASTIC FOUR where Sue Storm is pregnant and she loses the baby. There’s the trial of Galactus. A lot of that stuff was really compelling and I think for a lot of us, we think of super heroes when we think of men or women in these weird suits beating the crap out of each other and that’s cool for a little bit, but even with the movies, some of the best moments in the movies aren’t the action. And so to me, it’s like I know my dream comic would actually be boring because I’ve written my dream comic and reading over it I was like, “Well this is boring” and that was just some character sitting around talking, but it is tough, finding that balance, that right ratio of action to moving the story forward and a fight doesn’t necessarily move the story forward. Mayhem and destruction does not move the story forward.

Marvel.com: The first issue of this ongoing series revolves around the death of the scientist who helped give Luke his unbreakable skin, Doctor Noah Burstein. How does Luke feel about revisiting his past? 

David F. Walker: Obviously it’s a difficult time for him because he’s resisting his past while mourning this person who was really pivotal to him, but the story’s also about him realizing that his past isn’t exactly what he thought it was and that he isn’t exactly who he thought he was. He isn’t who he thinks he is and Burstein isn’t who [Luke] thought he was. It’s playing with the notions of what happens when, as an adult, you start to see your parents in a very different way, you start to look at them through the eyes of an adult, as opposed to the eyes of a child, which is how you saw them growing up and so it’s playing with that in a much more exaggerated, super heroic sort of way, but it’s like that moment you first get a bill from the IRS and you’re like, “Oh, this is what my mom was always freaking out about every March and April. Now I get it! Now that I’m paying the taxes I understand.” It’s all that sort of stuff; it’s what it’s like the first time that you go grocery shopping on your own with your own money or the first time you get a pay check and you look and you see how much the taxes have been taken out—I’m going back to taxes because it’s tax time right now and that’s part of what this is about for me. It’s really [Luke] looking at his own past through the eyes of an adult as an adult. What so many of us do is look at our past and we get caught up in the nostalgia. There’s no nostalgia. This is Luke having his nostalgia ripped away from him.

Marvel.com: And how does changing the setting from New York to New Orleans change that dynamic of who he is and what he does fighting or otherwise?

David F. Walker: It just puts him in a really uncomfortable, foreign environment where he doesn’t know anybody and he doesn’t necessarily know who to turn to. If I had set the story in New York, the moment something bad goes down, he can get on the phone and he can call his wife [Jessica Jones] or he can call Iron Fist or he can call Spider-Man or Daredevil or, you know, he was a member of the Avengers [Laughs], but you put him in a place that’s completely foreign to him and it throws his game off. One of my favorite movies of all time is a movie called “The Third Man,” directed by Carol Reed based on a book by Graham Greene and it’s all about a guy who’s completely out of his element and then on top of that, there’s something sinister going on and so, he shows up in Vienna for one reason and everything goes wrong and there’s nowhere to turn and even where he turns he doesn’t know, can I trust this person? Can I trust this person? I would have to say that my two single biggest influences in this first story arc of LUKE CAGE is “The Third Man” followed closely by Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye,” which is an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel so it’s really “The Third Man” and “The Long Goodbye,” those two movies, I watch them regularly anyway, and I was like, “Ok, I love the themes that they’re playing with,” the past is not exactly [as] we remember and people aren’t exactly who we think they are and if the past isn’t exactly how we remember it, then the people that we care about aren’t exactly who we think they are, then what does that say about who we are?

Marvel.com: How will this solo Luke differ from the one you portrayed in your POWER MAN AND IRON FIST run?

David F. Walker: After 17 issues of stories [with] him teamed with Iron Fist, which [had] a lot of serious stuff, but was also very light-hearted I was like, “Well, you did that. Now let’s try something different” and [Marvel] Editorial was in agreement with me and we talked about it and it was like, I don’t wanna be known as the guy who only wrote Luke Cage stories that were a little more comedic and light-hearted; I wanted to explore something different and I knew going in that what I wanted to explore with this character wasn’t gonna lend itself to a lot of the humor that we had in POWER MAN AND IRON FIST.

Marvel.com: I can’t wait to read the first issue next month!

David F. Walker: Yeah. Less than a month…I just saw a bunch of the art for issue #2 and yeah, it’s comin’ together. I’m having a fun time writing it and I hope people enjoy it. You give it your all and to me, the greatest part of writing comics is the moment you see what you’ve written translated into art. There’s nothing better than that and if that’s all I had to do, I would actually be the happiest guy in the world [Laughs].

David Walker and Nelson Blake II revisit the past and forge the future in LUKE CAGE #1 on May 17!

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It’s the origin of a Hero for Hire as he goes from prison to protector!

Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!

Marvel has always kept their fingers on the pulse when it came to pop culture. If a subgenre becomes popular at the theaters, then it usually makes its way into the hallowed halls of the House of Ideas. You can thank Hong Kong martial arts imports for Shang-Chi and Iron Fist, horror films for TOMB OF DRACULA and Blaxploitation flicks for Luke Cage!

Cage first appeared in 1972’s LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE #1 by Archie Goodwin and George Tuska. Instead of the streetwise hero we’ve all come to know and love, we instead met an inmate desperately looking for a way out of jail. Locked up in the southeastern Seagate Prison, he wanted nothing to do with his fellow prisoners, but also refused to snitch on them.

This led to brutal treatment from some of the guards and eventually a house call from one Dr. Noah Burstein who wanted Cage for a particular project. Before getting into the details of that, the future Avenger explained how he went from thief to gang leader to being set up by his former best friend for selling drugs which ended up with his stay at Seagate.

Though he didn’t like the idea of participating in Burstein’s experiment at first, Cage eventually changed his mind, realizing that death might be better than further incarceration. Upon Luke entering his lab, Burstein explained that he will test “an Electro-Biochemical system for stimulating human cell regeneration.” Cage hopped in, but the experiment came under literal fire when one of the corrupt guards burst in guns blazing.

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire (1972) #1

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire (1972) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Though not a success for Burstein, Cage felt the benefits of the experiment, namely impenetrable skin and superhuman strength, which he quickly used to bust out of prison. In the escape, the guards shot at him, sending him into the water below. The prison officers assumed their quarry died and marked him as such officially, which gave Luke Cage cover to return to his home in Harlem. There he realized that the super hero game can actually bring about some money, so he became the Hero for Hire!

Eventually, Cage took on the name of Power Man and Iron Fist joined him in his solo book with #50, becoming POWER MAN AND IRON FIST. With 49 issues under his belt before that, though, Luke Cage became the first black solo hero to rack up that many consecutive installments!

The characters continue to be associate with one another and even have a series hitting stands right now. Cage also got involved with a woman named Jessica Jones in the pages of ALIAS. Since then, they became an item, had a baby, joined up with various Avengers teams and went on to star in their own Netflix shows!

Even more important, though, Luke Cage and his stories didn’t shy away from some issues that still demand discussion like racism, unfair prison treatment, the complexity of urban living, and crime. Cage navigates those topics in a way that many could and can relate to.

History Lesson

It’s interesting that a character like Luke Cage, who partially owes his existence to the world of film, would eventually come to have an effect on the medium itself. About a decade after the character debuted, an actor by the name of Nicolas Coppola decided to borrow Cage as his stage name. Nic Cage eventually went on to play another Marvel character, Ghost Rider, in a pair of films. Luke Cage eventually went on to appear in “Jessica Jones” and then in his own Netflix series as played by Mike Colter.

Next, we’ll be sticking around New York City for the introduction of the best private eye-detective-cyborg around, Misty Knight!

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David Walker takes the Hero for Hire on a trip down south in his new ongoing series!

For New Orleans, Christmas comes in May this year—Sweet Christmas, that is.

David Walker, fresh off the POWER MAN AND IRON FIST series, continues to chronicle the adventures of one half of that daring duo in an all-new LUKE CAGE ongoing series, joined by Nelson Blake II on art and Rahzzah on covers.

When Luke heads to the Crescent City for the funeral of the man who gave him powers, he runs into trouble; mysterious billionaires, amped up gangs and shadowy figures add up to some bad gumbo for the Hero for Hire. We spoke with Walker about the new series and what kind of fiddle-faddle Cage finds himself in this time.

Marvel.com: We’ve spoken before about your love for the 1970/80’s Power Man and Iron Fist material. What are your thoughts on the character now, having gotten the chance to write his adventures with Danny in their most recent series?

David Walker: Writing Luke as one half of Power Man and Iron Fist was a blast. Now that I’m writing his solo adventures, I can focus on him in a different way. I’m switching up not only how I write, but the types of stories I’m telling as well. In some ways, it feels like I’m writing Luke for the first time.

Marvel.com: What’s the premise of the new comic?

David Walker: This is all about Luke finding trouble and busting heads. The first story is about him dealing with the death of an old friend, and finding out there’s more to the death than meets the eye. Luke is definitely in the role of the private detective; he just happens to have super powers.

Marvel.com: It’s been a while since Dr. Noah Burstein has appeared in the comics, although we did see him in the recent “Luke Cage” Netflix TV series. For those who may not know, who is he, and what’s his relationship like with Luke?

David Walker: In the original comic series in the 1970’s, Burstein was the scientist who experimented on Luke, and in the process gave him his powers. The character on the show plays essentially the same role, but in the comics Luke and Burstein have a different, more positive relationship. In the comics, Burstein thinks of Luke as a son.

Marvel.com: You’re taking Luke out of New York to the Big Easy. How does this change of setting affect the former Power Man?

David Walker: I just wanted to pull him out of his element for this story. Taking a character out of an environment where they are sure of themselves, and then putting them in a place of physical and psychological uncertainty often makes for good drama.

Marvel.com: It sounds like Luke is away from home and, presumably, away from allies like Danny and Jessica Jones. Will we be seeing any of his friends or family in the comic?

David Walker: Eventually, yes. But right now he’s on his own, and that is difficult for him. I want the reader to get a sense of Luke Cage as an individual, and it’s been a long time since we’ve really seen that.

Marvel.com: You’ve got a great team in place for the first issue, with artist Nelson Blake II and cover artist Rahzzah. What’s it been like working with them?

David Walker: It’s been great. Both have come to the table with great ideas and amazing visuals. Rahzzah’s covers are amazing. His work is so good that I worry about my writing doing the covers justice. Same with Nelson’s art—I worry my writing isn’t half as good as what he’s drawing. Between the two of them, LUKE CAGE will be a visually dynamic series.

LUKE CAGE comes your way this May courtesy of David Walker, Nelson Blake II, and Rahzzah!

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‘Harlem Burns’ with the return of Alex Wilder and more, and we’ve got all the details from David Walker and Sanford Greene!

What do Power Man and Iron Fist do when an enemy places a target not on them, but on Harlem itself?

Luke Cage and Danny Rand go up against a former hero, Alex Wilder—formerly of RUNAWAYS—in the new “Harlem Burns” arc beginning in December’s POWER MAN & IRON FIST #10. Wilder’s time in hell has changed him, and with a mix of technology and magic he plans to depose all other crime bosses of Harlem and take the neighborhood for himself.

We sat down with the masterminds behind this story—writer David Walker and artist Sanford Greene—to get the lowdown on everything we’ll see as Luke and Danny attempt to stop Harlem from burning.

Marvel.com: “Harlem Burns” is a title with real power behind it. What feelings are you trying to instill in your readers? What are your goals with this story?

David Walker: There are multiple connotations with the word “burns.” First of all, Sanford and I are bringing the heat with this story—we’re setting the whole place on fire. We are giving the readers a sense of character and an emotional resonance that we hope will stay with them a long time.

Sanford Greene: This arc is influenced by some of my favorite movies coming up like “New Jack City” and “Juice”—with super powered characters!

Marvel.com: Alex Wilder hasn’t been seen since AVENGERS UNDERCOVER over two years ago. What has he been up to since then, and why is he coming for Luke, Danny, and Harlem itself now?

David Walker: Alex isn’t coming for Luke and Danny; they just happen to be in his way. It isn’t so much about what he’s been doing since we last saw him, it’s about what he was doing when he was dead. We’re going to give just a glimpse of what Alex is fully capable of as we build him up to be a major player in the Marvel Universe; this storyline is just the beginning for him.

Marvel.com: There are already a lot of big names vying for control of Harlem like Black Mariah, Cottonmouth, and Tombstone just to name a few; how will Alex’s sudden appearance affect their plans?

David Walker: Alex is a new generation of villain—a new kind of gangster. Old school guys like Tombstone and Cottonmouth don’t know what to make of him. What people are going to soon realize is that Alex is as dangerous as it gets. He is this generation’s Doctor Doom.

Marvel.com: What’s been different about bringing to life this villainous turn for Alex? Is he sporting a whole new look? Or are the changes subtler?

David Walker: Sanford has played around with the look, but he’s still very much the Alex Wilder we all know and love, at least physically. The thing everyone needs to keep in mind is that Alex was pretty much a bad guy from the beginning, all the way back in the Runaways. The difference now is that he’s back from the dead, after doing time in hell, and he’s not hiding his agenda; he wants to be Nino Brown meets Childish Gambino.

Sanford Greene: Like David said, when we talk we discuss something similar to what we do for all the characters. For me to take the basic classic information on the character and modernize them.

Marvel.com: You’re nearing a year working together on POWER MAN & IRON FIST. Have your ideas of Luke and Danny as characters changed as you’ve lived in these stories? How do you think their relationship has changed over the course of these first nine issues?

David Walker: Their relationship has grown stronger, and they’ve become closer. My personal ideas of the character [haven’t] really changed, but I think the readers are starting to better understand my take on Luke and Danny, and it was always my goal to build them slowly—to let them evolve.

Sanford Greene: Yes, Luke and Danny’s friendship has been refined by fire, thus making them that much more appreciative of one another. They are family.

Marvel.com: How has your own relationship working together changed? What was it like kicking off the series in issue #1 vs. starting this new wide-reaching arc in issue #10?

David Walker: I have to say that working with Sanford has been a blast. We knew each other going into the series, but it was casual. We have a great collaborative relationship, but we’ve also become friends. I’ve loved every issue Sanford has drawn, but #10 is some next level work; it is him at a level he’s never been before. I apologized to him when I turned in #10, because creatively I knew I was asking for a lot. I was pushing for more knowing it would be difficult, but also knowing he could deliver.

Sanford Greene: David has been open to every idea I’ve presented to him. That has been the greatest thing about our partnership. I can’t think of anyone I would rather work with on this project. He’s alright in my book, even though he was trying to bring me to my knees with issue #10.

Alex Wilder invades POWER MAN & IRON FIST with issue #10 in November from David Walker and Sanford Greene!

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Access new looks and abilities with your favorite Hero for Hire, plus other fresh goodies in the Marvel MMO!

Want to pound bad guys into the pavement while shrugging off bullets and look great doing it? Gazillion’s throwing a Power Man party in “Marvel Heroes 2016” to celebrate the Avenger’s Netflix series debut with chances to earn Luke Cage costumes and other fun Heroes for Hire in-game swag.

Game Designer Brian Waggoner stopped by to chat with us about the Luke Cage lowdown on all the cool stuff in store for players.

Marvel.com: The team is dropping a bevy of awesome Luke Cage action coinciding with the release of his show on Netflix, not least of which are a couple of visual updates. How are you guys making Luke look fresher than he already does?

Brian Waggoner: We gave both his Modern costume and Classic costume visual updates. For his Modern costume, the art team went for more of a realistic look instead of a more stylized look this time around. The costume has an incredible amount of detail—you can see folds in fabric, different textures and significant amount of new facial detail.

Luke’s Classic costume now brings his original 70’s look to life more than ever. His shirt now has a great texture to make it look like an era-appropriate silk shirt, and our art team has added some sideburns and enhanced his hair. He also got the same facial detail upgrades as his Modern costume.

Marvel.com: And he’s getting an all-new Netflix series costume too right? He sports a fairly street-style outfit in the series, so what’d you guys look for to make it pop visually?

Brian Waggoner: The goal was to focus on accentuating the materials. The team built his hooded sweatshirt look with some new, larger materials to make it stand out more than you would expect. In a world full of flashy super hero costumes, a black hoodie can stand out without a lot of help. The costume also has some nice yellow fabric around the hood that is a nice throwback to his yellow shirt that he wore in the comics to tie it all together.

Marvel.com: But the fun isn’t just about Luke Cage. Jessica Jones is entering the game as a Team-Up character! How well does she complement her main squeeze?

Brian Waggoner: As only Jessica could. She is very melee oriented, much like Luke Cage, so they are in the fray, mixing it up with bad guys together a lot. They excel at throwing things like cars and chunks of concrete, which showcase their extraordinary strength. If you love throwing punches and heavy things, she is your kind of Team-Up!

Marvel.com: And apparently there’s some fancy XP event and a tournament? What can you tell us about that?

Brian Waggoner: Our Heroes for Hire event is focused on celebrating not only Luke Cage’s history in the comics, but also the Heroes for Hire team. Players who play as Luke Cage, Iron Fist, She-Hulk, Human Torch, and Black Cat will gain increased experience for the duration of the event. Additionally, while playing as those characters, we have an in-game tournament that tracks how many Gang Members, Maggia, and Mercenary enemies that you defeat, as well as how many civilians you rescue, placing you on a leaderboard with other players. The higher you rank the better rewards you receive at the end of the tournament. The tournament is very casual-player friendly, resetting every four hours, so everyone has many chances to participate. As you would expect, we have many exciting rewards, including an item that lets players tag the ground with “CAGE,” letting enemies know who just took them down!

Marvel: And I think finally players are going to get a crack at a Heroes for Hire Fortune Card. What do they have a chance of winning?

Brian Waggoner: This Fortune Card is focused on showcasing the 1997 HEROES FOR HIRE comic run. It contains costumes for Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and She-Hulk as they appeared in that series. It also contains two different pets, including our first cat! Mr. Hammond’s Cat is a cute little guy that I know players will love, and Ignatz is a Deviant that Ant-Man teamed up with during his time with the Heroes for Hire. The Fortune Card also includes chances to obtain random boosts as always.

Marvel.com: How long does the fun last?

Brian Waggoner: The event will run until 12:01 AM PDT on Friday, October 10. 

Marvel.com: Anything else we need to know?

Brian Waggoner: Be sure to log in to “Marvel Heroes 2016” on Saturday, October 1 to get a token to completely unlock Luke Cage for free!  Players who already have Luke Cage can use this token to upgrade his ultimate ability.

And as a side note, you’ll want to visit MarvelHeroes.com for all the nitty-gritty details on the biggest systems update we’ve ever made for the game, which will be coming later this year.

Check out Luke Cage on Netflix today, power up Power Man in “Marvel Heroes 2016,” and stay tuned to Marvel.com for more “Marvel Heroes” news and interviews.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the role Harlem plays in ‘Marvel’s Luke Cage,’ premiering exclusively on Netflix Sep. 30!

In the latest Street Level Hero featurette, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the role Harlem plays in “Marvel’s Luke Cage” from star Mike Colter, producer Cheo Hodari Coker, A$AP Ferg, Method Man, as well as legendary Harlem style icon Dapper Dan.

The presence of a super hero living in Harlem is significant. The new original Netflix series showcases the strong culture that’s present in the neighborhood along with the grim realities of what the streets of Harlem can be like.

“[‘Marvel’s Luke Cage’] is all these things wrapped up into one,” says Coker. “Black culture, politics and crime.”

Method Man adds, “To have [Luke’s] foundation in a place with that much culture, it makes it even more authentic.” 

“Marvel’s Luke Cage” arrives on September 30th, with all episodes available exclusively on Netflix. Make sure to follow @LukeCage on Twitter and like “Marvel’s Luke Cage” on Facebook for all the latest news and updates.

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Learn more about the man with unbreakable skin before 'Marvel's Luke Cage' premieres only on Netflix Sep. 30!

We’re just nine days away from the arrival of “Marvel’s Luke Cage”!

What has Luke Cage been up to in Harlem since we last saw him on “Marvel’s Jessica Jones”? To hold you over, check out the video above to learn more about the man with unbreakable skin who isn’t trying to be a hero from the cast and producer, including series lead Mike Colter.

“Marvel’s Luke Cage” arrives on Friday, September 30, with all episodes streaming only on Netflix. Make sure to follow @LukeCage on Twitter and like “Marvel’s Luke Cage” on Facebook for all the latest news and updates.

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