When Marvel and Netflix team up for five TV series, four solo stories and then a Defenders show, one of the most-anticipated among them will be Luke Cage.
Called either Power Man or Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, the character is arguably the most sought-after role at Marvel for actors of color and there are no shortage of A-list (or high B-list) stars who have expressed a desire to play the part and stand toe to toe with Captain America and Iron Man.
At one point, it seemed as though he may be introduced as a love interest in AKA Jessica Jones, but then that show fell apart; not long ago, fans speculated that he might be the mysterious super-powered antagonist in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, but that didn't pan out either. Now that he's getting his own show, what do we hope to see from it?
Look, Luke Cage's powers are pretty basic ones, and so there will be a temptation to go cheap and easy with them. In fact, there's already a report out there that the inexpensive nature of replicating his powers was part of the consideration for making the show.
And that's fine--but don't let the show look cheap. The easiest thing in the world to convey is super-strength, because you can make some big, dopey prop and show the guy tossing it effortlessly around. There needs to be some weight to the world, or it will lose all the "gritty," "street-level" appeal and it'll be another Incredible Hulk or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.--a show where things don't seem to have a lot of weight.
A sense of place
Hell's Kitchen, where the Defenders series are staged, is burned into the DNA of Daredevil as a character, and it makes perfect sense for him. Luke Cage and Iron Fist fit there, as well, because of their very populist backstories. It's Jessica Jones who will really have some trouble fitting in there, which means that one of the things the other shows need to do is create a place that she can fit into.
Cage, with his backstory and also his company, is a great centerpiece to hold a lot of disparate elements of the team together, so a lot of it will probably flow through him. So making him fit naturally into the environment is a must.
As we talked about when Booster Gold was expected to come to TV, nobody outside of comic books have made a serious run at the superhero-for-profit story arc, and it certainly is one that's worth exploring. At a minimum, it seems like an obvious starting point for Cage, and a place the story can build from, making him less mercenary and more heroic as it goes along.
Heroes for Hire is a key part of his backstory, and might actually have been a better concept than The Defenders to bring all of these characters together except that the title sounds so generic that anyone outside of comics would scoff at it.
At its core, though, it's a concept that will blow back some hair with the non-comics-reading crowd; the capitalist superhero has really only been done once in mainstream media--that's in Mystery Men, where it was played completely for laughs (and not that many people saw the movie anyway), so this is a great opportunity to offer what feels like a new idea to the masses.
As we said above, a lot of things will probably flow through Cage. That's especially true because his longtime best friend--Iron Fist--and current wife--Jessica Jones--from the comics are part of the Defenders initiative.
So while Daredevil is the best-known, and the one with the sleekest, most identifiable costume, it's Luke Cage who's poised to be the heart of the team, and we'd like to see at least some of that hinted at here. If he's going to have a solo series, he should be interacting with Jones and Iron Fist whenever it makes sense for the story. That will help with both character development and world-building.
Marvel's movies have humorous elements to them that help set the tone for the overall cinematic universe, and even in this "dark and gritty" corner of the Marvel U, if these shows are going to be compatible with or taking place in the same universe as The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World, everything can't be horrible all the time. Let's have some of the strange and the absurd that characters like these demand. Don't hide behind the fact that it's less slick and more street-level, or you'll just have four Arrow knock-offs and a Defenders show.