David F. Walker dives deep into the past, present, and future of Luke Cage!

On November 22, writer David F. Walker and artist Guillermo Sanna send our hero back to the slammer in LUKE CAGE #167!

This time, however, the prison Luke gets trapped in can’t be easily escaped—as the metal bars exist as much mentally as they do physically. Stuck in this incarceration of the mind, the only pathway to freedom will be found by embracing the man he used to be…

David F. Walker stopped by to discuss Luke’s legacy and how the comic continues to evolve.

Marvel.com: Issue #167 will be the second chapter in the “Caged” storyline—catch us up on the events so far.

David F. Walker: With the first arc we had Luke in New Orleans dealing with some ghosts from his past and going through a sort of existential crisis. Which seems like a thing I have all my characters go through because I’m constantly going through an existential crisis. [Laughs] So we have him in New Orleans and he dealt with a bunch of nonsense that he got through—I don’t want to spoil it in case some readers haven’t read through—but he had to go back home for an event

But now, in issue #167, he’ll be in worse trouble than he got into in New Orleans. It essentially starts out as a road trip—which only really lasts two pages—and now he finds himself back in prison! Marvel wanted to do Legacy storylines for characters across the board and I knew from the very beginning that the obvious thing to do for us would be to send Luke back to prison. Then it just became an issue of how do we get him into prison and then how do we try to get him out of prison.

When the character debuted in the ‘70s, we saw him as a prisoner, a guy locked up in the joint for a crime he didn’t commit. And I thought to myself, well, that feels like a great place to start again. You don’t have that opportunity with too many characters in the Marvel Universe. It’s not like all of a sudden we could have Peter Parker bit by a radioactive spider all over again, but with Luke we can put him in prison—we just had a few little things to iron out, a few little details. And that’s where we are!

Marvel.com: Now that we have the backstory, what can you tease about part two of “Caged”?

David F. Walker: Well, I think the lenticular cover for issue #166 gave away The Ringmaster as the villain already. I’ll say that not only is Luke in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he’s actually incapable of punching his way out.

He finds himself in a situation where he’s not just trapped or wrongfully accused…part of the story will be about calling into question who Luke actually is—not only as a person, but also in terms of what he’s capable of doing as a super hero. What would happen if Carl Lucas went back to prison?

Marvel.com: Coming back to his origins feels like such a great choice right now—especially as so many people just got their first exposure to the character in “Marvel’s Luke Cage” on Netflix.

David F. Walker: And that’s an interesting thing because there’s that balance now—and every single writer at Marvel has to deal with it—because there are all these characters that have been known for decades to readers and hardcore fans but they’re just being discovered for the first time by new people jumping onboard.

Whether it’s from the Netflix shows or the movies or something like that, there’s that balance of trying to write a story that will appeal to Luke Cage fans—whether they’re a middle-aged guy like me who’s been reading the books since childhood, or someone who discovered him in NEW AVENGERS back when Brian Michael Bendis wrote them, or in THUNDERBOLTS when Jeff Parker wrote them, or they just discovered him from the TV show. That balance hasn’t been without its challenges, but dealing with challenges is part of being a writer.

Marvel.com: What kind of research did you do to get back to Luke’s origin?

David F. Walker: Well, here’s an interesting side-note that not a lot of people know: Archie Goodwin wrote the initial Luke Cage adventures, but the writers of Luke Cage were actually more influenced by the works of Chester Himes than they were blaxploitation films of the ‘70s. Chester Himes’ work goes back 10-20 years before blaxsploitation, which is why, when you read the Luke Cage stuff, some of it seems almost otherworldly; Chester Himes wrote these really gritty crime novels but they also felt really surreal. If someone read a Chester Himes book and didn’t know any better, they would think, oh, this is what life in Harlem must be like. But it wasn’t—it became almost, like, this weird fairy tale world.

And that’s the stuff that I’ve studied for years—not just blaxsploitation films, but also the works of Chester Himes and Donald Goines and all these crime novelists from the ‘50s all the way into the ‘70s. So when you read Chester Himes stuff you’re like, oh yeah! I can see it! This is where Luke Cage came from!

So that’s just me on a super nerd level. [Laughs]

Marvel.com: “Caged” seems like the perfect opportunity to explore Luke’s psychology. Did getting past his bravado and diving into his vulnerability prove a difficult task?

David F. Walker: You know, there have been a couple retellings of his origin, but usually it’s within a flashback or something like that. I still think—and I sort of beat my chest as I proclaim this all the time—that there’s so much of Carl Lucas that’s been left unexplored. And you saw it! It seemed like every issue of POWER MAN back in the 1970s saw him, like, running into someone he knew from his past before he had his powers and getting into a fight with them. And between Big Ben Donovan, and Diamondback, and Shades, and Comanche—all these crazy villains that he had!—it felt like there’s all this stuff to do there. Someday I’m hoping to get to some of it because I think it’s really fun to play with all that.

Marvel.com: What inspires you about the character?

David F. Walker: For me, Luke Cage needs to be as developed and as nuanced as all the greatest Marvel characters. Like Tony Stark with his alcoholism, or Steve Rogers as the man out of time, having a different set of morals and values than everybody else. Luke deserves that as much as everybody else and not just be relegated to being the “cool black super hero.”

With many black characters in the media, you get no sense of character, no sense of depth and humanity…and that drives me insane! I think that within our medium, industry, and society, we have evolved past that point where just being the cool black guy can’t be enough. It’s certainly not enough to some readers—myself being one of them—and we should try for more.

Marvel.com: You’ve mentioned before that these elements of Luke’s past make big impacts on his future. Can you expand on that thought?

David F. Walker: Every time you take on a new character as a writer—especially if it’s an old, established character—you start looking for these things you could sink your teeth into that maybe no other writer has sunk their teeth into before; to carry on an exploration of that character. A lot of him has just been on the surface and he’s always been just sort of a cool and kick-ass character, but I personally think it wasn’t until he hooked up with Jessica Jones and joined the NEW AVENGERS—all within the last 15 or 20 years—that he became a truly interesting, fully developed character and not just a trope.

Marvel.com: In the spirit of Marvel Legacy, what does the legacy of Marvel mean to you personally?

David F. Walker: Oh, man. I wouldn’t even know who I would be without these characters and these stories. So much of who I am as a person and how I think was informed by these morality tales.

I’m an old school Marvel guy; a kid growing up in the ‘70s. And I’m not saying this just to say this, but I was a “Make Mine Marvel” kid. I learned how to read with comic books and they taught me the art of storytelling—I do believe that they’re our modern mythology. I learned the power of story with Marvel. And as for what that legacy means to me…it’s practically in my DNA.

LUKE CAGE #167, by David F. Walker and artist Guillermo Sanna, drops on November 22!

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Writer David F. Walker takes Luke back to his roots for Marvel Legacy!

Once upon a time, Carl Lucas got thrown into jail for a crime he didn’t commit and emerged as Luke Cage, the humbled Hero for Hire. Now, courtesy of writer David F. Walker and artist Guillermo Sanna, he’s going back in.

On October 18, Marvel Legacy begins with a trip back to the crucible that forged this future Avenger in LUKE CAGE #166! The “Caged” story arc catches Luke out of his element, at a low point in his life—and stuck in a prison he can’t escape with his fists.

We sat down with Walker to hear more about heading back to the character’s iconic roots.

Marvel.com: What can you tell us about Luke getting chucked back into prisonand the threats both inside and outside those walls?

David Walker: Well, when Marvel first announced the whole Legacy initiative and we were discussing it, we talked about bringing some of these very iconic characters back to their core and their essence. And to me, it was pretty simple—why don’t we take Luke Cage back to where he started when we first met him back in 1972? Let’s put him back in prison.

And then it became a question of getting him there. What might he be in prison for? How do you keep him in prison when he’s got super strength? We reverse engineered a certain amount. To a certain extent, this storyline that we’re doing could almost be a retelling of his origin in a weird sort of way. So then our questions were: who’s our villain going to be? Who will be his allies? And how will this story take Luke to someplace new?

For me, as a writer, there’s no point of tackling something if you don’t have the opportunity to try to get the character to someplace new—some realization about themselves that they never had.

Marvel.com: Unlike the first time he found himself in jail, Luke heads inside as an established hero. How will this new stint in jail affect him?

David Walker: That’s a really good question and it’s loaded with potential spoilers…but there are some obstacles that keep him from being the Luke Cage we know and love; that keep him from being Luke Cage that he knows he can be, if that makes sense.

A lot of it will be about him rediscovering himself and, in the process, older readers and old school fans will hopefully appreciate the trials and tribulations we’re putting him through. And new fans will jump on to see a guy really going through, essentially, discovery.

Marvel.com: You touched on this, but Luke has his powers now…so what’s stopping him form just breaking out of jail?

David Walker: Ahh, now there’s a big spoiler right there.

There will be obstacles—he’ll face a lot of obstacles and that ended up being one of the tricky things we had to try to figure out: how do you keep him from just busting out? We didn’t want it to be the standard “special prison” that has like, you know, some sort of de-powering ray gun or something like that. But how he’s kept locked up, why he’s locked up, all that stuff becomes interconnected and a lot of it gets revealed within the first issue of the arc. Then we build upon that and then it becomes about overcoming these things that are keeping him trapped.

A lot of it becomes a metaphor for the way all of us can become trapped in circumstances that may be beyond our control and seek to define us in ways that are not accurate or truthful to who we actually are.

Marvel.com: Being behind bars has always been crucial to the Luke Cage legacy because it helped transform Carl Lucas into the hero for hire. Since this kicks off Marvel Legacy, how did you want to explore the character’s history?

David Walker: I’ve been doing a lot of whispering to my editors that I’d love to do a “Luke Cage: Year One” sort of story.

In the original series, back in the ‘70s, the time he spent in prison covered, I think, one or two issues. He didn’t spend a lot of time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. They would recall that a lot—though they didn’t spend a lot of time showing him there. We’re spending a fair amount of time showing him in this place where he actually doesn’t have the control that he thinks he has or that he’s used to having—and that’s the part of the exploitation of the character.

I really wanted to use this opportunity to tell a story that explored not just Luke Cage at his core, but who Carl Lucas at his core—because a lot of people sort of forget that before he was Luke Cage, he was Carl Lucas. What exists deep down inside? What makes him the hero that he is? That’s part of what I wanted to get into in a way—now he’s in prison with a lot of history and a lot of experience, so who Luke now feels very different than Luke then.

I don’t know if that answers the question or not. I’m worried about dropping spoilers because it seems like this whole story arc is full of spoilers.

Marvel.com: Can you talk about how you went about writing the overall narrativeand perhaps offer a few teasers about what we can expect as the “Caged” storyline begins?

David Walker: There will be more than one cliffhanger. Issues #166-#169 just keep getting worse for Luke. Issue #166 ends pretty bad, #167 feels like, “Oh, I didn’t know it could get any worse,” and then it just keeps getting worse, and worse, and worse for poor Mr. Cage.

Writing it turned into a question of finding the right beats. The first beat, in terms of cliffhanger endings, will be Luke in a situation where he’s unaware and he doesn’t know what’s going on. The second one ups the danger level and will be like, “OK, now we’re going into uncharted territory. And then life and death territory.” We’ll turn up the tension with every single issue.

LUKE CAGE #166, by David F. Walker and artist Guillermo Sanna, hits on October 18!

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Series returns to Netflix in 2018!

Misty Knight just got an upgrade – a bionic one at that. Following the events of “Marvel’s The Defenders” where she loses an arm to the Hand’s Bakuto, it’s nice to see Misty fully recovered and ready for more action in the second season of “Marvel’s Luke Cage.” Take a look at Misty Knight (played by Simone Missick), her extraordinary bionic arm, and her formidable ally Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter) in their full glory below!

After a sabotaged experiment leaves him with super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) becomes a man trying to rebuild his life in modern day Harlem, New York City.

The Netflix Original Series “Marvel’s Luke Cage” returns for a second season in 2018. Follow @LukeCage on Twitter and like “Marvel’s Luke Cage” on Facebook for all the latest news and updates!

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Get ready to defend!

The Guardians flew back down, Spidey swung through again, and now the Defenders of Hell’s Kitchen return to Avengers Academy to battle a new threat in their neighborhood. Kingpin’s been imprisoned for nearly a year, and in that time Madame Gao stepped in to fill the power vacuum left in the criminal underworld of Hell’s Kitchen. The Defenders and the rest of the Academy students – with the help of a few new friends – need to dispatch Madame Gao and take back the neighborhood once more.

We grabbed a few minutes with Allen Warner, Lead Narrative Designer at TinyCo, to see what The Hand has in store for us at the “Marvel Avengers Academy”.

Marvel.com: The Defenders are making their way back to Avengers Academy! What’s bringing the team to campus once more?

Allen Warner: With the Kingpin imprisoned, Madame Gao has seized control of the Hand, and conquered Hell’s Kitchen.  The Defenders held her off as long as they could, but she countered by kidnapping some of their closest friends and allies, forcing them to regroup and call in reinforcements.  With a firm hold on Hell’s Kitchen, and the combined resources of both the Hand and Kingpin’s entire operation, Madame Gao sets her sights on retrieving a powerful artifact that Director Fury has locked away in one of his secret vaults, launching a full-scale assault on Avengers Academy.

Marvel.com: Will players be returning to Hell’s Kitchen with the new event district?

Allen Warner: Yes, we’ll be revisiting Hell’s Kitchen and all of its iconic locales like Alias Investigations, Josie’s, and the law offices of Nelson and Murdock.  We’ll also be bringing back the Academy Courthouse from our Daredevil event, and giving some new recruits fun courtroom animations.

Marvel.com: How will the Avengers battle Madame Gao and her Hand minions?

Allen Warner: The Defenders and Avengers will team up to battle Madame Gao and her special henchmen on campus, as well as traveling away from the school to stop the Hand ninjas from attempting to take over the world.

Marvel.com: As with the Guardians and Spidey events before this, will players once again be able to recruit Defenders heroes from the previous event?

Allen Warner: Yes, this is a similar structure where players will be given another opportunity to get characters from the original Daredevil event, as well as some other characters who weren’t part of that event, but make sense to be involved with the Defenders.  Players will have a chance to get Iron Fist, Daredevil, Hellcat, Elektra, Misty Knight, Punisher, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones.  They may also have an opportunity to get some characters who you wouldn’t associate with the Defenders TV show, but who have been part of various Defenders teams in the comics.  We’ll also be resurfacing all of the outfits from the Daredevil event, including what might be my personal favorite Avengers Academy outfit of all time, Lawyer Loki.  We learned in the original Daredevil event that Loki has a gift for lawyering, and a fondness for lawyers and the profession, and that will continue in this event with some fun results.

Marvel.com: While those who missed out will be excited to try for all those returning favorites, what new faces join the mix?

Allen Warner: A cool and diverse group of characters who are often thought of as supporting players, but who will take center stage and show their heroic sides during this event: Foggy Nelson, Colleen Wing, Stick, and Claire Temple.  They each bring a really unique and fresh perspective to not only the events at hand, but the Avengers heroes and Avengers Academy traditions.  Our awesome art team did some really great and brand-new things with their various visual levels, and their animations are really fun, and play to their unique occupations, personalities, and talents.  I’m really excited about this group from a narrative perspective because there is so much unexplored territory.  These characters typically only interact with the characters in their respective spheres, so there’s a ton of opportunity to do things that no one has ever seen before.  Foggy will form relationships and go on adventures with Loki and Captain America.  Claire Temple will go on an intergalactic rescue mission with Cosmo the Spacedog.  Stick will butt heads with J. Jonah Jameson.  Madame Gao will match wits with Mephisto, and so on.  One of my favorite things about the world we’ve built in this game is having the opportunity to reimagine and expand upon existing characters and Marvel lore, and this event and this group of recruits provided an awesome opportunity to do a lot of things that have never been done before.

Marvel.com: What new ways will our heroes suit up to dispatch the Hand threat?

Allen Warner: In addition to the resurfaced outfits from the previous Daredevil event, there will be new outfits and stories for Hulk, Punisher, Elektra, Iron Fist, and Misty Knight.  We love coming up with new looks for our characters that are unique to the world of Avengers Academy, but we decided to take a different approach this time around and only include outfits that have appeared in the comics.  Some are very recent looks that fans may not even be aware of, while others are iconic looks that have been around for decades.  They all look incredible, are completely different from the characters’ usual outfits, and add a new angle to their personalities and powers that make for some really fun animations and stories.

Marvel.com: As excited as we are to dive back into Hell’s Kitchen and dispatch Madame Gao, there’s always one eye on the horizon. Can you tease anything coming down the line for the Academy and its heroes?

Allen Warner: One of our frequently teased schools will finally have to come out of hiding, and they’ll be bringing more recruitable characters with them than ever before.

For all the latest on “Marvel Avengers Academy,” stay tuned to Marvel.com and @MarvelGames on Twitter!

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With Miles Morales held by Hydra, check out these other heroes who have spent time behind bars.

Not every hero in the Marvel Universe stays on the right side of the law. Sometimes they go one step too far—and other times, the law works actively against them. Take Miles Morales for instance: the SPIDER-MAN star fought against the vision Ulysses gave him back in CIVIL WAR II and surrendered himself to Hydra instead of killing Captain America.

Surely the former denizen of the Ultimate Universe will find his way out of the clink—but until then, he can take solace in the fact that a few of his fellow heroes have had their own stints under lock and key.

CAPTAIN AMERICA

Look at that, even the honorable Steve Rogers spent time in the pen! More than once, too! Most notably, Cap was locked up between his surrender in the last issue of CIVIL WAR and his apparent death in CAPTAIN AMERICA #25.

LUKE CAGE

Carl Lucas might have become a hero without heading to jail, but he probably wouldn’t be super strong and possess his signature impervious skin. Wrongfully accused in a drug bust and sentenced to the big house, the future Avenger agreed to participate in an experiment that gave him super abilities. After his transformation, he escaped from captivity and resumed life under the name we all know him by today.

PUNISHER

Over the years, many people have wanted to lock Frank Castle up—but no one seems capable of actually keeping him imprisoned. During the mid-‘90s, the authorities tried to send him to the electric chair—and failed. And during the most recent PUNISHER WAR ZONE, he sat in an underwater prison, but of course no walls—not even ones surrounded by water—could stop The Punisher.

DAREDEVIL

At the end of Brian Michael Bendis’ epic run on DAREDEVIL, he left ol’ Matt Murdock in quite a pickle—inside a jail cell where new series writer Ed Brubaker kept the blind lawyer incarcerated for a while. Murdock eventually got out when none other than master escape artist Frank Castle was purposefully captured as part of a jailbreak plan.

SONGBIRD

Since their inception, the Thunderbolts revolved around characters who served time in one way or another. The original squad, including Songbird, was assembled by Baron Zemo and consisted of villains masquerading as heroes. After her stint in jail, the former Screaming Mimi took to the lawful side of things—and even served as a warden on the maximum security prison known as the Raft!

IRON FIST

During CIVIL WAR, nearly every hero who sided against Tony Stark’s Superhuman Registration Act wound up incarcerated—including Iron Fist. While posing as Daredevil in an attempt to keep Hell’s Kitchen safe, Danny Rand was captured as a means to help Captain America and the other anti-registration heroes to the Negative Zone prison for a jailbreak!

WOLVERINE

Not at all unfamiliar with jail cells, Wolverine found himself imprisoned in the pages of LOGAN. Captured by the Japanese during World War II, the mutant was kept in Nagasaki before he escaped and fell in love with a local woman named Atsuko. When Atsuko was murdered, Logan followed her killer to Hiroshima, where they were caught in the atomic bombing of the city. Wolverine survived the blast, but was left scarred by the loss of his former love.

BUCKY BARNES

Even though he stepped up and filled in for Steve Rogers after the original Cap died, Bucky Barnes still stood trial for his crimes as his previous identity, the Winter Soldier. Declared innocent in the United States, Russia judged him differently—and locked him up on heightened charges. Thanks to help from someone familiar with Russian prisons—Black Widow—Bucky escaped and headed back to the U.S., where he then decided that his days holding the mantle of Captain America were over.

PETER PARKER

Miles Morales doesn’t lay claim as the only Spider-Man to wind up incarcerated—back in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #219, Peter Parker attempted to sneak into a jail as part of an exposé, but instead got caught and tossed in a cell! After Matt Murdock helped him get out of the predicament, Pete managed to publish his exposé—and apprehend a few escaped inmates in the process.

Go behind bars with SPIDER-MAN #20, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Oscar Bazaldua, available September 6!

 

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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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