While we are still many months away from the debut of the Netflix show Marvel’s Luke Cage, the anticipation and excitement around this show continues to grow. Since we are still many months away from an actual trailer to detail any potential plot, we are left to speculate with the casting choices, images that pop up from filming, and statements from the cast and crew. One very unique thing that many are missing: The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is about to have its first black superhero.
But wait? Doesn’t the MCU already have black superheroes? After all, the New Avengers has Falcon and War Machine/Iron Patriot both of whom are African-American. [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) will be introducing the Black Panther, so yes we will have superheroes of color. But there is a difference between a black superhero, and a superhero who is black which will be explained in this article.
As with most groups of color, at times there is the need to identify with one’s own group (black, Latino, Arab, Asian). There is also a time to be a part of the broader America. This conversation comes up especially in the workforce. When a young person of color goes to get a job, the first question internally they have is “am I going to be a Black Lawyer, or a Lawyer Who is Black?” Basically, will they dedicate their professional lives to their subgroup/community, or will they service their own need of ambition? This is a complex question that happens all the time. Most of the time, people chose to be the “______ who happens to be black.”
The same can happen in the world of superheroes. War Machine and Falcon are superheroes who have dedicated themselves to saving the country/world. So they don’t have the luxury to focus on a specific community. After all, when the Chitauri or Ultron’s drones are attacking, they aren’t focusing on one community, their ambition is global, and so too must the defense be.
Luke Cage is a more “street-level” superhero, so he has the ability to focus specifically on Harlem, NY. The comic book character was created in 1972 and the original was inspired by the Blaxploitation films of that time. He has a more focused origin story as well: he was wrongly convicted and sent to jail. While in prison, he volunteers for a Tuskegee-like experiment that ultimately grants him super strength and steel-like skin. With his new powers, he escapes prison and heads back to Harlem to become a “Hero for Hire” collecting a fee for using his powers (in a similar way that Jessica Jones does with Alias Investigations). Throughout the years, he has teamed up with fellow superhero Iron Fist, worked with The Avengers, and married Jessica Jones. One constant has been most of his activities have been specific to Harlem, NY.
When he was first introduced to us in the MCU it was in Jessica Jones. He was a Hell's Kitchen bartender who Jessica Jones at first is following, then has an intimate relationship with, who is then betrayed by her, who is then taken over by Kilgrave, who Jessica then has to shoot in the head with a shotgun to save herself from his attack. Jessica takes him to the hospital where Daredevil's nurse Claire Temple helps save him, and then he simply disappears.
The proposed plot for his upcoming show is that he has landed in Harlem and (if following the comic book of him escaping prison) and will still be trying to remain on the low to not raise any eyebrows, but at the same time he will be performing heroics in a new city. Because this centers on Harlem, this also seems to be a story Marvel is telling with almost exclusively black characters/actors. Here are some of the newcomers who have been cast.
Veteran actress Alfre Woodard will be joining the cast as and is rumored to be local gangster Black Mariah. However, there are also rumors that she might possibly be a local politician who crosses paths with Luke Cage, so expect her to be at odds with him.
Actress Simone Missick will be playing former cop turned superhero Misty Knight. It will be really cool if she has the robotic arm on the show. After all, it was given to her by Tony Stark (Iron Man) after she lost it in the line of duty. The storyline could easily set up for her to have lost it during the Battle of New York in the first Avengers movie when the Chitauri attacked the city. However given that this is a TV show that doesn’t have the same budget as a Marvel movie, perhaps not (but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. also had a robotic appendage for Agent Coulson, so you never know). Actor Mahershala Ali has been cast as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, one of the primary villains. Sons of Anarchy vet Theo Rossi will be “Shades” Alvarez, another thorn in Luke Cage’s side.
Rosario Dawson returns for her third Netflix/Marvel show as the “night nurse” Claire Temple. This is especially interesting because in the comic books, Luke Cage was romantically involved with Claire Temple before marrying Jessica Jones. Since he has already been romantically involved with Jessica Jones (“Sweet Christmas!”) and we know they end up together, will Claire and Luke get together? She is rumored to have a much bigger role on this show than she did on Jessica Jones.
Of course, Jessica Jones should make an appearance. They end up marrying and have a child together. But so far there has been no announcement of actress Krysten Ritter returning, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
In addition, the showrunner is Cheo Hodari Coker (who is also African-American). His producing and writing credits include the film Notorious, and television shows Southland, NCIS Los Angeles, Almost Human, Ray Donovan, and now Luke Cage. Now a show that centers on a predominantly black cast and storyline doesn’t need to have a black director/writer/producer, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt. This allows the people in charge on the content to have a unique perspective that can improve the overall quality of the show.
The show will also be addressing hot button issues given our current political climate. Recently released images show Luke Cage (wearing a full hoodie) with guns pointed at him by local police and then taking them out due to his superhuman strength and bullet-resistant skin. Given that many police officers in the Daredevil TV show were portrayed as corrupt, it can be assumed that they will also be which echoes the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
In addition to dealing with law enforcement, Luke Cage will have to deal with intra-community violence. The show will be addressing Black-On-Black crime in a big way, since most of the characters on the show will be black. It has also been said that the show will even be tackling The N-Word and its use within black circles and outside of black circles.
There is also a stress that because this takes place in Harlem, there will be a certain musicality on the show. It is rumored that much of the soundtrack will be “urban,” but it is also described as soulful.
The show looks like it will have a very impressive cast, and be able to tell a unique story to a general audience. It’s likely that Marvel and Netflix’s partnership will continue to provide great entertainment on a much more grounded/adult level than we've seen on the big screen and Luke Cage looks to be a hit!