Marvel’s Luke Cage might not be getting his own television series until late September on Netflix, but in the comic books, he is a character that has been in publication for nearly 45 years.
The character first appeared in the first issue of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire cover-dated June 1972, where he became the first African-American superhero to headline his own regular series. The series went through two major title changes (becoming Luke Cage, Power Man with #17 and Power Man and Iron Fist later on with #50), and ultimately ran for 125 issues through 1986. Since then, Cage has headlined his own 20-issue series and a limited series or two, but most of his appearances have been in team books such as New Avengers and Thunderbolts. Currently, Marvel is publishing a Power Man and Iron Fist revival, with issue #6 recently hitting stores as part of their Civil War II event.
Cage was created at a time of “Blaxploitation” films were the current trend, and he could have easily just been left to the past. However, writer Brian Michael Bendis (creator of Jessica Jones and Powers) had plans for Marvel’s erstwhile Hero for Hire, making him one of the company’s heavy hitters within the 21st century. Luke Cage currently appears in the Power Man and Iron Fist ongoing series from Marvel Comics, in which Luke is [perhaps reluctantly] teamed up with his old pal Iron Fist yet again.
Whether it’s as “Cage,” “Power Man,” or just the “Hero for Hire,” Luke Cage amassed one of the most impressive rogues’ galleries in comics. Villains such as Chemistro, Cottonmouth, Black Mariah, Mister Fish, Shades, Comanche, Stiletto, and Discus all have faced the powerful hero over the years. There aren’t many characters outside of The Flash or Spider-Man who could boast such a large group of foes. Ultimately, for a character who was created to cash in on a fad, it is thanks to some talented creators that Luke Cage has endured for so long.
Below is a look at some of his history on the printed page, and a recommendation for the top 15 comics you should check out as we prepare for Luke Cage (starring Mike Colter as the hero) to drop in a few weeks. They are definitely not the only ones worth reading, though, as there are hundreds of issues to choose from—but this should get you started!