Michael Colter recently confirmed that ‘Luke Cage’ – the latest Marvel Comics/Netflix collaboration – will arrive for our binge-watching pleasure on September 30th. A mainstay of Marvel Comics’ roster since 1972, Luke Cage (are they still gonna call him ‘Hero For Hire’? I’m betting no, but…) made his screen debut as a supporting character on last year’s superb ‘Jessica Jones’. Colter’s subtle, charismatic performance was one of that show’s many highlights, so it’s good to see that he’s getting a full turn in the spotlight.
It’s further been confirmed that Rosario Dawson will appear in at least one episode of ‘Luke Cage’ as Claire Temple, an ER nurse who has also appeared in ‘Daredevil’ and ‘Jessica Jones’. (Interestingly, the character Claire Temple first appeared in the comic book ‘Luke Cage: Hero For Hire’ back in 1972. So this is really sort of a homecoming for her!)
Also crossing over from ‘Jessica Jones’ is cinematographer Manuel Billeter. (Great news in my book, as Billeter’s work on ‘Jessica Jones’ was jaw-droppingly gorgeous.) The showrunner will be Cheo Hodari Coker, writer of the 2009 feature ‘Notorious’. Cast members will include Frank Whaley, Alfre Woodard and Simone Missick.
What remains to be seen is how closely the show will hew to the comic-book roots of the character. Created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr. to blatantly cash in on the popular “Blaxploitation” movie genre, Luke Cage has had a slightly bumpier ride than some of the other Mighty Marvel Heroes. Starting off as “Hero For Hire”, Cage was a cynical, streetwise brawler. He’s do the right thing, but for a price. In his comics career, Cage would do jobs for anyone – including arch-villain Viktor Von Doom. Doom made the mistake of welshing on a deal with Cage, leading to one of the more, uh, interesting confrontations in comics history.
After trading punches, however, Doom and Cage come to an understanding of sorts. It’s all oddly endearing.
Given the more… let’s say, “lucid” tone adopted by the Marvel/Netflix productions, I somehow doubt that’s the direction ‘Luke Cage’ the TV series will take. ‘Daredevil’ and ‘Jessica Jones’ managed to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a “street-level” vantage point, while crucially managing to still feel like a part of the big screen MCU. Luke Cage is a character that is rich in possibilities for “real world” heroics. If ‘Daredevil’ deals in questions of faith and flawed justice, and ‘Jessica Jones’ unflinchingly looks at sexual assault and trauma, then it’s not too big a leap to imagine that ‘Luke Cage’ will be going into issues of race and class. In an interview with LA Times, Colter himself had this to say on the show’s dynamic:
“We start with stereotypes — we start to judge people based off of their appearance — and those things we think may or may not be true. In exploring this character, we’re going to get a chance to see something that’s very unique in the sense that everyone goes through this. How you look is going to tell people who you are, but it may not be true, but you have to live with that and you have to then try to figure out a way to go on with your life.”
So far these Marvel/Netflix adaptations have been among my absolute favorite live-action realizations of comic-book stories. All the signs point to ‘Luke Cage’ being a sure bet for continuing this winning streak. We’ll find out for certain in six months’ time. Personally? I can’t wait. Excelsior, True Believer! Bring on September!