Luke Cage has been around for 44 years, originally conceived as a character to pull in readers and money from the 1970s blaxploitation film craze. Whole swaths of his publishing history are filled with poorly executed stories cranked out on deadline, but even these offer some surprising moments of poignancy.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been re-reading as many Luke Cage comics as I can get my hands on in preparation for the Friday debut of the TV adaptation. By 1978, Luke Cage had adopted the superhero sobriquet of Power Man, as a way of marketing his crimefighting-for-cash business and masking his past as an ex-con. There are metric tons of unmemorable stories in the character’s back-catalog, filled with goofy villains-of-the-month, overheated romantic melodrama, and wince-inducing attempts at portraying black life. The intentions were noble, by and large, but lacked the kind of sustained commitment and creative staff that made titles like Amazing Spider-Man standouts of the era.