A Brief History of Marvel's Luke Cage, Your Latest Netflix Obsession

Luke Cage, Marvel and Netflix's latest entry in their ever-expanding television universe, is almost upon us. Much like Jessica Jones before, Luke's background isn't as commonly known as many of the other heroes on the Marvel roster. Many would be surprised to learn that "Luke Cage" isn't even the character's birth name. Here's what you need to know about the character before you dive into the show on Friday.

Growing up in Harlem, Carl Lucas and his friend Willis Stryker are both gang members who commit petty crimes. As he becomes an adult, Lucas begins resenting the pain his behavior is causing his family and others in the community. He turns his back on the crime world and never looks back. Although they remain friends, Stryker continues to climb the ranks of organized crime. The mob eventually puts a hit out on Stryker, who is only saved when Lucas gets involved. After this incident, Stryker's girlfriend, Reva Connors, breaks up with him out of fear of the violent work he continues to be involved with. Connors seeks comfort in Lucas, leading Stryker to blame him for the end of their relationship.

Stryker steals heroin from the drug kingpin Cornell Cottonmouth (played by Mahershala Ali in the series) and plants it in Lucas' apartment. Once he finishes, he tips off the police and Lucas is sent to prison. Furious at his friend's betrayal, Lucas would frequently get into fights with other inmates. He is eventually transferred to Seagate Prison and attracts the attention of an abusive guard named Albert "Billy Bob" Rackham. Rackham would constantly bully and harass the imprisoned Lucas.


Eventually, Lucas is recruited to be a volunteer in an experiment testing a new version of the Super-Soldier Serum, the same one that originally gives Captain America his strength. The scientist performing the experiment, Dr. Noah Burnstein, surrounds a secured Lucas in an electrical field containing an organic chemical compound. Dr. Burnstein leaves for only a moment, and a recently demoted Rackham seizes his opportunity. Turning the controls much higher than intended, he bombards Lucas with the electricity.

It doesn't kill Lucas. Instead, he gains impenetrable skin and the strength to lift 25 tons and punch through 4 inches of steel. He is able to escape the prison and upon doing so adopts the alias "Luke Cage." Shortly after, he establishes himself as a "Hero for Hire" willing to assist those in need — for a price. Jessica Jones doesn't enter his life until well after he is an established hero in the comics. The two have a drunken one-night stand (as seen in Jessica Jones), and shortly thereafter, Jessica lets Luke know that she is pregnant with who would become their daughter, Danielle Jones (not seen in Jessica Jones). They end up getting married and are involved with several different superhero teams over the years.

How closely the Netflix series will stick to this origin story remains to be seen, but a brief clip does show the character emerging from a tank with his original "Power Man" costume's metal cuffs and headband. The show premieres in its entirety on Netflix this Friday.