Luke Cage possesses superhuman strength and unbreakable skin, so villains who attack him physically are in for a heck of a fight. When it comes to mental assaults, though, even the strong-willed Defender is just as vulnerable to the psionic assaults of malefactors with mind control powers as any other citizen in the Marvel Universe.
In Luke Cage#166, the kickoff to a new Marvel Legacy arc titled “Caged,” writer David Walker and artist Guillermo Sana illustrated that vulnerability with an issue that found their title character inadvertently stumbling into a town taken over by the Ringmaster, where and then being thrown into prison after the villain used his hypnotic powers on him.
CBR News spoke with Walker about making the traditionally comical Ringmaster far more sinister, what sort of life and psychological horrors Luke will encounter in the Ringmaster’s prison, and the big story he hopes to tell next with Luke Cage.
CBR: Luke Cage #166 felt like it was one part Marvel Universe mystery, one part Get Out-style horror story. Is that a fair way to describe “Caged?”
David Walker: I didn’t realize the similarities to Get Out when I first started writing this, but now I can see it. I loved that movie and thought it was really interesting. It actually beat me to the punch on a project I had been developing for, like, five years. Get Out was kind of a cautionary tale for every writer, because every writer I know has that project that they talk about doing and they never get around to it. Then somebody comes out with it and it’s like, “They stole my idea!” That’s never true. It’s just that you sat on your ass for far too long. [Laughs]
So to answer your question, yes. That is an accurate description. Now, I’m having fun leaning into it.
At the center of “Caged” is the villain known as the Ringmaster. Usually, he comes off as almost comical, but his appearance in issue #166 was pretty terrifying. What inspired you to use the Ringmaster in this story?
To be 100 percent honest, the Ringmaster was not my first choice. It’s irrelevant who my first choice was, but there were some shifts that came, editorially, late in the process. That happens often because something is going on elsewhere in the Marvel Universe and certain characters suddenly are no longer available.
I couldn’t use the character I originally intended to use, and I was like, “Well, you guys tell me who to use.” [Laughs] Then Ringmaster’s name came up pretty quickly. I thought we could have a lot of fun with him as long as I play with him in a way that he hasn’t been played with that much and really turn him into something more sinister. Because you’re right, he’s more of a comical villain than anything else.
Other writers have done some interesting stuff with him over the years and played with trying to make him more serious. I thought, let’s keep him looking ridiculous, but let’s play with the idea that maybe his powers have improved in some way and he’s more of a threat. Also, maybe there still is some of the comical nature about him. When Luke first sees him he’s like, “Oh, it’s you. I thought this was something serious.” We’re going to find out how serious things will get over the next few issues.
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