The Hero for Hire had to get his Powers from Somewhere!
Everyone knows Luke Cage has his own Netflix show (and we’re so excited for season two, we’re just about to burst). But for those of you who can’t get enough, we are answering an important question: how did Luke Cage get his powers? Well, the good news is that the show and the comics remained pretty consistent, despite modernization. And, not content to simply handle the “how,” we like to tackle the “what” too, so we’ll also answer the equally important question: what are Luke Cage’s powers?
Luke Cage was written in the 70’s — a time when blacksploitation films were at their height. We’re going to stay away from that conversation for now, as it’s another article for another time. Suffice it to say that the update was sorely needed, as the original was a product of its time.
The Tragic Backstory
Like pretty much every hero ever, Cage has a tragic backstory that leads him to become a hero. It’s darker than a lot of Marvel characters, and tried to mimic the Harlem experience. He was born Carl Lucas and was raised in the bad part of New York City. He ran with a gang called the Rivals in his youth — which wasn’t a great call, but you do what you have to do to get by. Cage works with the gang for most of his younger years with his best friend Willis Stryker (a name you might recognize from the show as Diamondback), until he realizes how his actions were hurting those around him.
He leaves gang life behind and seeks gainful employment elsewhere. He stays friends with Willis, too, despite the man still running with gangs. Eventually Willis (predictably) gets himself into more trouble than he can handle, and Luke has to save him from a mob hit. Willis’ girlfriend leaves him because of his risky lifestyle and seeks solace with Cage. Willis freaks out, severely overreacts, and decides Luke was behind their breakup. Now, this is not what we would call a sane and rational reaction, but here we are. Enraged, Stryker plants drugs in Cage’s apartment and calls the cops, landing Luke in jail. Again, not a sane or rational reaction — choices were made.
Pretty angry about his best friend deciding he’s a scumbag and framing him for drug dealing, Luke lashes out at guards and does everything in his power to escape. He becomes the favorite punching bag of the racist guard Albert “Billy Bob” Rackham, who takes pleasure in putting Cage down. The guard becomes so brutal, in fact, that he gets demoted. He blames this on his victim — making him hate Cage more than ever. This is now the second crazy overreaction from people around Cage.
Becoming a Hero
Cage is recruited to a celular regeneration study by Dr. Noah Burstein while serving time. Burstein is testing to see to see if his super-soldier serum can be used to heal wounds and strengthen tissue. He immerses Cage in an electrical field and leaves him while he attends to other issues (doesn’t everyone leave their human test subjects alone with the equivalent of an egg timer?).
While the doctor is away, Rackham will play — and by play, we mean turn everything up to 11 in an attempt to kill Cage. The good news is it doesn’t work. The effort to kill him only makes him stronger — way stronger. The serum (you guessed it) gives him superhuman powers.
With such a rough backstory, you’re probably guessing he should end up in villain-town, but Luke Cage sets out on a different path. He uses his newfound powers to escape from jail and goes into hiding so he can regain some sense of normalcy. Unlike many heroes in the Marvel canon, he realizes he can’t offer his services pro bono — he has to feed and house himself, after all. Thus he takes up the moniker Power Man and becomes the Hero for Hire.
What are Luke Cage’s Powers?
Luke Cage recieves a great set of powers when Rackham decides to kill him. The first and most important to his crime fighting is super strength. He uses this one to escape the prison. Being able to punch through solid stone and steel has advantages, after all.
And his powers don’t stop there. Luke cage gets a huge boon as the serum makes him extra durable — like really durable. “You might as well be punching a brick wall” durable. His skin is so dense on the molecular level it can stop bullets, sharp objects, and impacts of all shapes and sizes.
He has one more added bonus — he heals incredibly fast, so he can get back to kicking butt in no time. Even if some villain does get through his skin (which is basically armor), he will be back for a rematch before they can turn around.
Apparently, that wasn’t enough — so Cage is exposed to the Power Man serum a second time! The second dose enhances all of his abilities. It also enhances his leather jacket — giving it the same properties as his skin. Can jackets have superpowers? Luke Cage proves yes. Yes they can.
Cage is no demigod, or billionaire with endless funds. He is a man from Harlem who does something with the powers he has. He has the ability to help people — and he chooses to do so. That’s pretty awesome in our book.