Marvel’s Luke Cage is going through a renaissance right now. He’s been an iconic superhero since his early 1970s debut, and an Avenger since Brian Michael Bendis was writing the adventures of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but his role in Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” on Netflix has raised his profile significantly. With Cage getting his own Netflix series this September, he’s poised to become a household name.
Created by Archie Goodwin, John Romita, Sr. and George Tuska as a response to the blaxploitation craze of the 1970s, Luke Cage has always been an active member of the superhero community. He’s been on teams ranging from the Avengers to the Defenders, but he almost always works best teaming up with another hero one-on-one. With his super-strength and unbreakable skin, Cage has worked with almost everyone in the Marvel Comics Universe, from Captain America to Spider-Man, but a few of them stand out above the rest. We won’t be covering his team efforts here, but the following breaks down Luke Cage’s best team-ups working alongside one other hero.
11. Iron Man
Luke Cage has skin as strong as armor, but in 1974’s “Power Man #17,” he met the man with literal metal armor. Tony Stark is the wealthy genius who also fights crime as Iron Man, armed with an advanced weaponized suit. But Stark doesn’t share his technology with everyone, and enemies are always wanting to get a hold of it. That’s where Cage came in.
Written by Len Wein and pencilled by George Tuska, “Power Man #17” started with Cage hired by a man named Orville Smythe claiming to be from Stark Industries. The mysterious client said he wanted Cage to test Stark’s security by breaking in and stealing a suit of armor called the “star-suit.” Cage reluctantly took the job, not realizing he was being set up to steal from Tony Stark. Cage burst into Stark’s facility and fought Iron Man, thinking it was all part of the test. But Iron Man managed to convince Cage he was tricked, just in time to stop the real villain from escaping with the “star-suit.” Iron Man and Cage worked together to take down Smythe, and the two left as friends. This team-up is important because it leads to them working together on other teams such as the Avengers. This fight also inspired Cage to take on his own superhero name, Power Man.
10. Black Panther
As legendary superheroes of African descent Luke Cage and Black Panther share a special bond. (It’s also worth nothing that Black Panther was the first Black superhero in mainstream comics, and Cage was the first to star in an ongoing series.) This bond was highlighted best in 2006’s “Black Panther” #10.
Written by Reginald Hudlin and drawn by Scot Eaton, Black Panther sought the help of Luke Cage to fight against ninjas and vampires in post-Katrina New Orleans. Along the way, Cage tells Black Panther the story of how he agreed to an experiment in prison that gave him his powers. He also expresses admiration for Black Panther, which highlights how the two heroes exist as minorities in the Marvel Universe. There’s a bit of retroactive continuity in this story, since it’s presented as the first time they ever met. However, it isn’t actually the first time Luke Cage and the Black Panther shared pages in a Marvel comic, since all of Earth’s superheroes met when the Grandmaster pitted them in a cosmic game against Death in “Contest of Champions #1” back in 1982. That said, this meeting was way more satisfying and meaningful for both the characters and readers.
Cage is a smooth operator, and he showed it in “Heroes For Hire” #17 when he put the moves on the emerald She-Hulk herself. And despite Jennifer Walters’s skeptic nature, Cage actually succeeded.
Released in 1998, this issue was written by John Ostrander and penciled by Martin Egeland. In the story, She-Hulk and Luke Cage are hired by the FBI to take down a militia with high-powered weaponry. When they visit the mansion where the militia was based, Cage tried to make a plan of action but She-Hulk revealed her intense distrust of ex-convicts. Cage bet her that if he could get into the mansion and get to the nerve center first, she’d have to go out on a date with him. Of course, Cage laid the smackdown on the militia and won the bet. Next thing you know, he’s at Heaven’s Grill restaurant with She-Hulk on his arm. They had a lovely dinner, where Cage explained his life story, ultimately leading to her understanding who he really was, not just his checkered past. But their meal was interrupted by the Absorbing Man and Titania, who tried to rob the restaurant. Bad timing. Cage and She-Hulk teamed up to beat the villains, and the date ended with a kiss. Ladies love Cage — even the green ones.
Luke Cage and Spider-Man have fought together on a number of teams, including the Avengers, but their first meeting came in 1973’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #123.
Written by Gerry Conway and pencilled by Gil Kane and John Romita, in this story, J. Jonah Jameson hires Luke Cage to capture Spider-Man — dead or alive. As a hero for hire, Cage took the case, but did so reluctantly. This issue came shortly after the death of Gwen Stacy, and Spider-Man was still grieving, making it somewhat cold-blooded for Cage to be harassing the web-slinger at a time like this. Still, Cage had a job to do. Spider-Man ended up arguing with him about whether he should be charging for his services. For Spider-Man, who considers his powers a near holy responsibility, a guy like Cage offering his powers to the highest bidder rubbed him the wrong way. Spider-Man fought Cage at a school concert, but called the fight a draw, webbed up Cage and walked away. It was a great moment showing how the two heroes seemed like polar opposites in terms of heroism, but they end up finding more common ground and enjoying a better partnership in the future.
7. Moon Knight
In “Power Man and Iron Fist” #87, Luke Cage helped out a billionaire superhero who harnessed the power of the night. No, not Batman. It’s Marc Spector, AKA Moon Knight, though it might seem easy to get the two confused. Written by Dennis O’Neill and penciled by Denys Cowan, the story sent Cage to save the hero and thwart his enemy’s plans.
When Moon Knight went after a terrorist known as Commodore Planet, he ended up injured and thrown into a water tower. Hey, every superhero needs help sometimes. His assistants Marlene and Frenchy asked Luke Cage to help track down their missing master. Luke Cage and his partner-in-crimefighting, Iron Fist, tried to track down Moon Knight by following the trail to where Moon Knight was supposed to meet the villain. They discovered Commodore Planet has a submarine to sell illegal arms, and race to stop him while Moon Knight struggles to survive as the tower fills with water. Cage rescues Moon Knight, and this is the beginning of an alliance that leads to the two working together later as members of the Marvel Knights superhero team.
6. Ghost Rider
Unlike heroes like Silver Surfer, who routinely faces intergalactic threats, or Captain America, who fights entire armies, Cage is the kind of hero who usually fights crime in the streets, tackling more everyday villains and helping everyday citizens. But in 1993’s “Marvel Comics Presents” #131-136, Luke Cage met an evil force of nature, and had to turn to the fiery biker and spirit of vengeance known as Ghost Rider for help.
Written by Karl Bollers, and pencils by Justin F. Gabrie (under the pseudonym Fernando “Freddy” Mendez), the comic brought Cage into an investigation of the death of a supermodel named Harmony Young. Young and Cage had been dating since his original series in the 1970s, so he took her death personally. It turned out she had been killed by the supervillain Darklove, and Cage vowed to stop him from killing anyone else. Fortunately, Ghost Rider joined the fight, trying to end a cycle of death Darklove was responsible for. With Ghost Rider and Cage working together, they were able to stop Darklove and avenge Harmony’s death. The story proved that Luke Cage can take on any opponent, even in the realm of the supernatural. It also proved that nobody messes with Cage’s woman and gets away with it.
The Hulk is undoubtedly the strongest man in the Marvel Universe, but is he an even match for Luke Cage? Written by Marc McLaurin with art by Rurik Tyler, this ’90s team-up tackled the question of who was stronger, Luke Cage or the Incredible Hulk.
In the two-part story in the self-titled “Cage” #9-10, Cage is hired to track down the Rhino after the villain escapes prison and allegedly kills some guards. But Cage discovers he and Rhino are being set up for murder charges. The Hulk, who at this time has Banner’s intelligence, is sent by his organization Pantheon to take them into custody. Hulk confronts Cage, who doesn’t take kindly to being arrested, and the two of them proceed to brawl. With Cage’s enhanced strength and Hulk’s newfound brains, the two are surprisingly even in terms of combat. They smash their way across New York, even careening through subway tunnels, until they finally come to a draw. The standard ending for a superhero fight comes, where they discover the whole fight was a misunderstanding and work together to fight the real villain. This was an awesome story, showing how Cage could even hold his own against one of the powerful heroes on Earth.
Luke Cage and Daredevil have a lot in common. Both of them are street-level superheroes, dealing with the problems of the common man instead of cosmic disturbances. They also both work in the more crime-ridden New York neighborhoods of Harlem and Hells Kitchen, respectively. That’s why the two of them tend to make a great team. Their best collaboration came in “Daredevil” #178, when Cage was sent to protect the Man Without Fear.
Written and penciled by Frank Miller, the story involves Daredevil’s alter ego Matt Murdock and his law partner Foggy Nelson. The two lawyers have taken on the Daily Bugle, which is being sued by a mayoral candidate whose connections to the crime lord Kingpin were exposed. When the Kingpin’s men try to assassinate Murdock’s star witness, Foggy hires Cage and his partner Iron Fist to protect them. Unfortunately, Daredevil is more frustrated by his new bodyguard than grateful. Daredevil wants to investigate the crime himself, but has to keep Cage from finding out his secret identity. Murdock has to actually jump into an elevator shaft just to get away from Cage, and change into his costume. That led to another classic superhero battle, where Daredevil fought Cage and Iron Fist in the middle of a parade, only to discover they were on the same side. They continued their team up in “Power Man and Iron Fist #77,” where they found themselves in a complex love triangle over a ballerina and the Russian government. It’s a great story that shows how Cage’s strength and Daredevil’s athletic skills are a perfect match.
Written by Mike Baron, and penciled by Val Mayerik, “Punisher” #60-62″ is one of the most infamous and outrageous stories in the Punisher’s history. In his team up with Cage, the Punisher ends up sharing more than a hatred of criminals. They shared a skin color, too.
When the Punisher (Frank Castle) escaped from prison, he went to a plastic surgeon to hide his identity. Taking his request to its furthest extreme, the surgeon turned the previously White Frank Castle into a Black man. The Punisher was almost immediately pulled over and beaten by White cops in a none-too-subtle statement on racism, but Cage came to the Punisher’s rescue. Without revealing his superhero identity, Castle hired Cage to get him to a safehouse where he had money and supplies stashed, but it turned the money had already been stolen. Castle (going by the name Frank Rook) was forced to work with Cage for several more weeks to pay off the debt, becoming Cage’s sidekick and experiencing life as a Black man. The storyline proved controversial, and remains so today, but proved a memorable attempt to explore racial prejudice in the Marvel Universe.
2. Jessica Jones
Of all the women that Luke Cage has loved, there’s one woman who rises above them all. And she didn’t even exist until thirty years after his creation. That woman is Jessica Jones.
Created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos in 2001, the Marvel MAX series “Alias” introduced Jones as a former superhero turned private investigator. She had been traumatized by her encounter with the supervillain known as the Purple Man, and retired from that life to make a difference as a P.I. Though she continued to work with superheroes solving cases, and used her superpowers to defend others, she remained haunted by her past. In the first issue, Jones visited Cage’s bar, and had a romantic encounter with him. At the time, it seemed like a minor fling, but it ended up starting a long-term relationship between the two of them. They would work together as Murdock’s bodyguards, as Avengers, and have a daughter together. Eventually, Jones married Cage, and they remain together to this day. And to think, it all started at a bar.
1. Iron Fist
Without a doubt, Luke Cage’s longest team-up has been with the martial artist Iron Fist, AKA Danny Rand. They went from enemies to friends to partners, and their close relationship continued even after death.
Iron Fist first met Power Man in a three-part story in “Power Man” #48-50, but he existed before then in his own comic. As a young boy, Danny Rand was taken by his father to the mystical city known as K’un L’un. On the journey, his parents were killed, and Rand vowed revenge. In an arcane ritual, he fought a dragon to gain the power to focus his chi in a technique known as Iron Fist. As Iron Fist, Rand returned to American and fought enemies in New York City.
Things changed for Rand when his girlfriend Misty Knight infiltrated crime lord John Bushmaster’s organization. Bushmaster kidnapped two friends of Cage to force him to kill Knight. When Cage went after Knight, Iron Fist fought him, but the two became friends. After defeating Bushmaster together, Iron Fist and Cage worked together as Heroes for Hire, Inc. Their partnership lasted for years, even when Rand seemed to be killed by a supervillain and returned to life. To this day, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are inseparable, and are one of the most famous and long-lasting partnerships in comic book history.
Marvel’s “Luke Cage” debuts September 30, 2016 on Netflix.
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