In the early days of his crime fighting career, Luke Cage operated under the super hero moniker of Power Man and was one half of the duo of Heroes for Hire along with his friend and partner Iron Fist. In recent years, Cage has joined the Avengers and abandoned the Power Man identity, but he and Danny Rand AKA Iron Fist are still the best of friends. This August, Cage’s former heroic identity comes back to haunt him when a teenager defies the ban that Daredevil and the Hand have placed on superheroics in New York’s Hell Kitchen area and becomes the new Power Man. This is the premise of the four issue Marvel Comics miniseries “Shadowland: Power Man” by writer Fred Van Lente and artist Mahmud Asrar. CBR News spoke with Van Lente about the project, which plays an integral role in the publisher’s overall “Shadowland” event storyline that kicks off in July.
“Shadowland: Power Man” came about because of the way Marvel is approaching its event-style storylines. “The great thing about events as they’re currently constituted, at least at Marvel, because that’s where I work – I’m not trying to diss DC – is that we’re always trying to look for permanent things to take from the event. We ask ourselves, ‘How can events matter and last beyond the actual mainline story itself?’ So you’ve got ‘Secret Warriors’ coming out of ‘Secret Invasion.’ You’ve got ‘Dark Avengers’ coming out of ‘Dark Reign’ and ‘Incredible Hercules’ was spawned out of ‘World War Hulk,'” Van Lente told CBR News. “So the theme of ‘Shadowland’ is the battle for the soul of New York and in many ways Power Man is the soul of New York. He’s the critical component of the storyline.”
When Van Lente accepted this assignment, the writer began reading scores of old “Power Man” and “Iron Fist” comics for research. “I worked my way backwards. I started with ‘Power man & Iron Fist,’ their team book and I enjoyed it. In a lot of ways it reminded me of ‘Incredible Hercules,’ because it’s a book about this totally mismatched pair of buddies,” Van Lente said. “So it’s a lot of fun now writing and reading the interplay between Danny and Luke because their backgrounds are almost ludicrously dissimilar. Luke is a blue collar kid from Harlem who ran with a bad crowd, ended up being framed for murder, got super powers in prison and has been clawing himself back up from obscurity to being the leader of the Avengers. Luke Cage has had this incredible arc.
“Iron Fist obviously was born to wealth, but grew up in a very sheltered existence in one of the Immortal cities of Heaven,” Van Lente continued. “I like that because with these two characters you have that contrast of idealism versus street smarts. You’ve got rich man/poor man. It’s just really a fun dynamic and I can see why fans have always reacted to it so well.”
“Shadowland: Power Man” picks up where the recently concluded “Immortal Iron Fist” series left off, with Danny Rand running a martial arts school in Harlem where he trains kids in kung fu. “According the the Hand, one of Rand’s students has decided to put on a costume and start calling himself Power Man. This leads into direct conflict with the Hand because they’re not allowing super powered people to operate in the Shadowland area,” Van Lente revealed. “This kid appears to be ripping off not just Luke Cage’s heroic identity, but his modus operandi as well. Because, just like when Luke started out, this new Power Man is also hiring himself out [online] as a hero for hire. So Luke and Danny decide to investigate but the situation is not at all what it seems.”
The new Power Man isn’t exactly what he appears to be, either. “He has sort of a split personality. He’s a bombastic, sort of over-confrontational personality when he’s Power Man. Then, in his civilian guise, he’s considerably different and I think that’s going to surprise people,” Van Lente explained. “What’s exciting about this new character is that there is a lot of mystery around him and we’d kind of like to leave it that way for right now. He’s half Hispanic. So it’s been exciting to write a Hispanic character in the Marvel Universe. He’s half Dominican. His family and his connection both to Luke Cage and the events of ‘Shadowland’ play a major part in his origin and his storyline.”
Cage and Rand’s investigation into the activities of the new Power Man will lead to them running afoul of the Hand as well as several other familiar foes. “Luke Cage has had some of the strangest villains of all time. Like Cockroach Hamilton, who’s a definite favorite of mine. And I’m just going to say it right now – he will be appearing in this series! Some other classic Power Man and Iron Fist villains like Cottonmouth will also appear in this series,” Van Lente revealed. “And I’m pretty sure Comanche and Shades will be appearing in the new ‘Power Man’ series as well. We’re going to bring back all these terrifically strange ’70s Blaxploitation-era Marvel villains.”
According to Van Lente, “Shadowland: Power Man” will also feature a large supporting cast of heroes. “You will definitely see Misty Knight. You’ll definitely see Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu, who is one of my all time favorite characters both to read and write. Spider-Man also makes a major appearance in ‘Power Man’ #1,” Van Lente said. “Plus, this book is very intimately connected to the main ‘Shadowland’ title. Pretty much anyone who shows up in ‘Shadowland’ will be appearing in this series.”
Artist Mahmud Asrar is primarily know for his work on superhero titles like “Nova” and the Image Comics’ series “Dynamo 5”, but Van Lente feels that when fans get a look at his work for “Shadowland: Power Man” they’ll see he has a flair for street level adventure as well. “I met Mahmud at the recent Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo and he’s a great guy. I love his style. He was selling these terrific sketchbooks of these cyberpunk characters that he created and they definitely had a street feel but not necessarily a dark feel. This series is a lot of fun and brings back a lot of these fun Luke Cage/Power Man characters, so it’s perfect because I think you can have a street level, urban, crime book and not have it be an angsty, noir, gloom and doom fest.”
“That’s definitely what we want to do here with the new Power Man. His power set makes him a new and different kind of street hero. Mahmud designed a terrific character and he’s going to kick ass on this series,” Van Lente continued. “His design evokes the classic Cage look, but completely updates it. So we’re sort of honoring the original Cage costume, or at least this kid is.”
Luke Cage and Iron Fist are also some of the central characters in the main “Shadowland” miniseries by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan, which starts in July, so events in that book will resonate in “Shadowland: Power Man” and vice versa. “It’s all intimately connected,” Van Lente said. “I guess the simplest way I can put it is that you have a situation in ‘Power Man’ where the new Power Man has picked the absolute worst time to become a hero for hire in New York City because he’s caught between the wrath of the Hand and Luke Cage and Iron Fist who are trying to get this kid to stop these activities for his own safety.”
Van Lente had a great time writing the title character of “Shadowland: Power Man” and would love to continue the character’s adventures once the miniseries wraps. ” You always create something with the hope that it’s going to last and I think this character has the potential to be something special,” the writer said. “And I think as we roll him out through the course of ‘Shadowland’ the readers will agree with us.”