Netflix’s Luke Cage series, set for release in 2016, is primed to be as progressive and complicated as Jessica Jones. Marvel seems to have done its homework in pre-production, hiring actors and directors versed in police dramas and soft sci-fi fare. After poring through Luke Cage casting news, I’ve gathered that the show is going to feature a bunch of new heroes and villains, all played by black performers. Misty Knight, Cottonmouth, Diamondback, the Night Nurse, and Luke Cage himself will round out the series and get us all one step closer to the release of The Defenders, Marvel’s New York City-based, smaller-scale Avengers.
Luke Cage will be, at once, a cop procedural, a superhero story, and most importantly, the first Marvel production led by a black man since Blade. The internet exploded with excitement over Black Panther’s small appearances in the Captain America: Civil War trailer, but Luke Cage has yet to receive his full due. Pre-production news hints that Luke Cage will be a huge step forward for the Marvel Universe, in several ways.
So what do we know about Luke Cage so far?
Its director is almost eerily well-prepared
The series showrunner, Cheo Hodari Coker, co-wrote the screenplay for 2009’s Biggie biopic. He also won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series in 2013, for his work on Southland, a police drama. Coker also wrote for the severely underrated cyborg cop drama Almost Human, which gave him the best possible experience necessary to helm Luke Cage.
Iron Fist will make an appearance
It was reported last summer that Netflix execs were having trouble integrating the weirder, more magical aspects of Iron Fist’s storyline into the gritty New York City they had built for Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but news on Iron Fist has been quiet since.
Iron Fist and Luke Cage are old buddies in the comics, and since Iron Fist’s own Netflix series was primed to hit in 2016, it’s likely the mystical hand-to-hand-combat expert will have a cameo here.
The show will avoid the comics’ Blaxploitation
The original Luke Cage, as he appeared in comics in the 1970s, wore a disco-era yellow shirt with a ridiculous v-neck, and a silver headband. Everything we’ve seen online suggests this costume won’t be used in the show, unless it’s a quick fan-service shot like the one we received in Jessica Jones, when she rejects a costume that her comics counterpart wore.
As actor Mike Colter told DenofGeek.com this week, “As far as the Luke Cage comic books, Blaxploitation was so long ago when it was introduced to the fans, those stories, those comic books didn’t help a lot because ultimately, we’re trying to tell a story that’s so modern day, every day, here and now, we didn’t want to or at least I didn’t want to get lost in the story they were telling back then.”
Although Luke Cage will not touch upon the hero’s black identity as it was defined in the 1970s, Colter believes it won’t comment on contemporary race issues in America either. Asked if the series will address Black Lives Matter, Colter replied, “I’m very aware of the current environment that we’re in, especially in America, what’s going on with the police and what’s going on with these incidents. I’m acutely aware of it. This is not necessarily the platform to hit it head on. That being said, I really feel like Luke Cage is a timely hero right now. I feel like what we’re doing subtly — with the storytelling and how he is as a character — that’s going to be different than what you saw in Jessica.”
The series will take place in Harlem, months after the events of Jessica Jones
While Jessica Jones and Daredevil inhabit Hell’s Kitchen, Luke Cage’s drama takes place primarily in Harlem.
Colter told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s no secret that you’re going to find Luke Cage uptown after the [Jessica Jones] series is over, so the things that happen to him and Jessica will affect him. And then when you find him months later in Harlem, you’ll see him in a different setting. That’s going to be a setting that’s surrounded with different characters and different light all unto itself.”
Luke Cage will have sex.
Plenty has been written about the frank sexual scenes between Jessica and Luke in Jessica Jones, including think-pieces on the first onscreen sex scene between two superhumans with physical abilities.
Sex is a huge part of Luke Cage’s storylines in the original comic books, and in the Alias comics, Miss Marvel even calls Luke a “cape chaser,” accusing him of having a fetish for female superheroes. When asked about Luke’s sexuality, Colter said, “He gets a lot of traction with the women just because he doesn’t try that hard, and that’s a good quality to have. It’s something, either you have it or you don’t, and Luke has it. We may see some moments where Luke is a little careless, but hey, that’s what he does to pass the time. He has a lot on his plate and he does have to burn off some steam every once in awhile. You might see Luke out and about, but it’s all in good fun and anything that happens between two consenting adults, whether it be superheroes or regular people, it’s fine.”
At least two characters who will appear in Luke Cage, including the night nurse Claire Temple and Reva Connors (more on her later), have history with Luke Cage, and will probably explore their attraction on screen.
Diamondback and Cottonmouth will be the series’ big bad guys
The series’ official synopsis, released by Netflix months ago, confirms that Luke Cage’s childhood friend Willy Stryker (and fellow former member of the Bloods) will play a pivotal role. Comic book fans know that Willy Stryker means Diamondback, the supervillain who once framed Luke Cage and had him wrongfully imprisoned. Luke Cage and Diamondback, in the comics, are also locked in a love triangle with a woman they both know from childhood: Reva Connors.
In some comics, Diamondback has filed teeth. While we don’t have confirmation that the Netflix villain will try and make himself look more like a snake monster, it’s an interesting thought.
CinemaBlend confirmed that House of Cards’ Mahershala Ali will play Cottonmouth, a nightclub owner and crime boss who will most likely employ, or associate with, Diamondback.
Luke Cage will say “Sweet Christmas”
Colter has confirmed with several sources that his character in the Netflix series will use the Luke Cage catchphrase. Here’s hoping it’s played for laughs, and not shoehorned into “gritty” dialogue.
Misty Knight will probably lose her arm
CinemaBlend confirmed the casting of Simone Missick as Misty Knight, a vigilante who famously loses an arm in combat and has it replaced with a bionic arm from Tony Stark. Misty Knight may be one of the key characters in the blending of the cinematic and Netflix Marvel universes, which previous shows have hinted at. She may also join The Defenders, eventually.