Marvel's Jeph Loeb on Real-World Relevance of "Luke Cage"

Since "Daredevil" debuted in spring 2015, Marvel Television's multiple series on Netflix have given audiences a different side of the live-action Marvel world -- one considerably more grounded and gritty than the globally successful Marvel Studios films.

Though while set in the same New York City neighborhood of Hell Kitchen's, "Daredevil" is a very different viewing experience than "Jessica Jones" -- a trend that will continue as the action moves to Harlem for "Luke Cage," starring Mike Colter in the title role and with its full first season set to debut Sept. 30 on Netflix.

"I think, very much, as not just the Head of Marvel Television, but also as one of the executive producers of all of the shows, it really is our responsibility -- not just to Netflix, but to the audience -- to be able to see how rich the Marvel characters are," Head of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb told CBR in a video interview (watch in full above) last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. "It really is incumbent on us to make sure each show has a different feeling to it. when we brought in [showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker], one of the things that we talked about was what makes Luke different. there are some obvious differences in the sense that we're talking about really the first African-American superhero that comes from the street and lives in that world. when we started there, we said, 'What is that physically going to look like?'"

Loeb stressed the importance of location to not just "Luke Cage," but all of Marvel's Netflix series -- saying that New York City is the "fifth Defender," along with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

"We really looked hard into the practicality of shooting up in Harlem [for 'Luke Cage,']" Loeb said. "The people of New York, the mayor of New York, the governor of New York -- everybody works towards making that stuff happen. places like the Apollo, places that are so rich in terms of culture, in terms of the ethnic quality, what Cheo and I always refer to as the musicality of that area, is what set the tone."

And while "Luke Cage" will be grounded in the real world, it may also touch on some real-world issues. Though making it clear that "Luke Cage" is first and foremost a superhero show, Loeb discussed how a character like Luke Cage -- who was created in 1972 by Archie Goodwin, John Romita, Sr. and George Tuska during the era of Blaxploitation film and a time of high racial tension -- still has major resonance in today's society, 44 years after his introduction.

"You can't set out to do 'Luke Cage' and not deal with the reality of what's going on in this country, and what's going on in general," Loeb told CBR. "It's not what the show's about, but if we can get our message out, which is, 'This is all one planet, and we're going to have figure it out' -- you just can't put up walls and try to figure it out that way. We made a show which has great fun, great action, all the things that you want out of 'Luke Cage.'"

"He's a total badass," Loeb continued. "Mike Colter just plays the role. it's a very different Luke Cage than you saw in 'Jessica Jones,' even though it's the same actor. On 'Jessica Jones,' you were seeing Luke through Jessica's POV, because it was Jessica's story, and that's the way it should be. There weren't scenes where Luke was just doing stuff on his own. Now you're going to get to see him with his friends, with his worlds, with what's going on. Detective Misty Knight is in that show, and Simone Missick is just killing it."

Nods to the real world and splashes of cultural relevance has been a major part of the Marvel formula for decades, and Loeb sees "Luke Cage" as continuing in that tradition, even as action and adventure remains unquestionably in its center.

"Marvel always works best when it lives in the real world, but then has the Marvel touch around it," Loeb said. "There are people with superpowers, there is that little magic icing of humor, the people are aware of how unusual this is. It's one of the things that's very different about Marvel -- if someone is suddenly bulletproof or able to lift up a car or tear off a car door, there are people there going, 'How did that happen?'' as opposed to, 'Oh, I guess it's just yet another person with superpowers.' By making it real and grounded and feel like it is of our world, then if we happen to be able to get a message in along the way, great -- but if you just want to watch the show and enjoy the show, enjoy the show."

"Luke Cage" is scheduled to debut Sept. 30 on Netflix. Keep reading CBR for more form Loeb, including his comments on what will make season four of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." different.

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