Marvel’s Luke Cage is available for streaming on Netflix since September 30th and, if you were already a fan of the related shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones, you can expect a similar high-quality cinematography, musical score, action shots, and plot twists. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
If you’re familiar with the comics, there are minor differences between the TV character and the books. Nothing that changes the story substantially, though, but more of an adjustment to the reality of New York to the 21st Century.
If this is your first introduction to the Power Man, here are 9 things you should know about Luke Cage before diving into the Netflix show. Absolutely spoiler-free!1. Luke Cage Is the First African-American Superhero
In the early 1970s, America witnessed the rise of an ethnic sub-genre of the exploitation film called Blaxploitation. Luke Cage debuted in comics around that time as the first African-American superhero. In the Netflix show the cultural trend returns in a couple of references to films from that time, particularly “Shaft.”
2. All the Show’s Main Characters Are Played by African-American Actors
After recent years of very public outrage denouncing the lack of diversity in entertainment (like the much-covered #oscarssowhite), Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix is a pleasant surprise. Not only is the show full of references to hip hop, street culture, and the history of Harlem (thanks to an African-American majority in the writer’s team), all the main characters are played by African-American actors.
3. Harlem Is a Crucial Part of the Story
It wouldn’t make sense to film the show in any other neighborhood than Harlem in New York. It would most certainly lose half the energy if it were to be shot in some studio make-believe set.
As Luke Cage’s home, Harlem is more of a supporting character than a scenario for the superhero’s action-packed days. It’s also a powerful political message against the gentrification of historic neighborhoods that’s been sweeping New York, and which is threatening to hit Harlem next.
4. Keep Your Eye on Luke Cage’s Shelf and Mind the Books
The show’s creator Cheo Hodari Coker never misses an opportunity to slip some knowledge about the African-American culture into the show. Everything is there for a reason. If you’re about to binge watch all 13 episodes on Netflix, make a list of the books on Luke Cage’s shelf. There’s plenty to keep you entertained (and informed) before the show’s season 2.
5. All Episodes Are Named After a Hip-Hop Song by Gang Starr
Before he switched to a career in the television industry, the Luke Cage TV series’ creator Cheo Hodari Coker was one of the best music journalists specializing in hip-hop. His background and knowledge shine through using songs by 1990s rap group Gang Starr’s as titles for each one of the first season 13 episodes.
6. All of Luke Cage’s Names
Carl Lucas, aka Luke Cage, aka Power Man, aka Hero for Hire. The show on Netflix mostly swings back and forth between his former identity, Carl Lucas, and his newfound name, Luke Cage. But references to Power Man and Hero for Hire do come up, every now and then, in a light-humored way.
7. How Did Luke Get His Superpowers?
Well, like most other superheroes, Luke Cage’s remarkably impenetrable skin is the result of an experiment gone wrong. He, literally, grows a thick skin.
In the fashion of other Marvel shows on Netflix, all will be properly explained in a full flashback episode 99% inspired by the comic’s story. Keep your eyes peeled for the “fan service” moment in this one.
8. The Origin of the (Slightly Odd) Catchphrase
If you’ve watched Jessica Jones by now, you might have heard Luke Cage utter his famous “Sweet Christmas!” catchphrase once or twice. In the new show, it’s equally used as a reference to the comic books.
What is the meaning of the catchphrase? Not much, really. Although in “Blaxploitation” films street slang was abundant and welcomed, in comic books, language had to be cleaner for kids. Hence the attempt of soothing things down with “sweet Christmas.” Watch closely. Not even Mike Colter, the actor who plays Luke Cage, can say it without a smirk.
9. The Outfit in the Comics vs. the Outfit in the Show
In the comics, Luke Cage has a distinct 1970s look (headband, bright yellow shirt open all the way down to the navel, big afro) but in the upgraded Netflix version the hero for hire’s outfit of choice is a pair of jeans and a hoodie.
Emphasis on the hoodie-wearing hero refers to the racist-driven implications that an African-American man wearing one is always up to no good: another hint from the show’s creator at the underlying political message. The show is bound to spark conversation around pressing topics on racial and cultural stereotypes.