- Sweet Christmas!
- -- Luke Cage
Carl Lucas the man that would one day be known as "Luke Cage" was born and raised on the streets of the New York district of Harlem. He was the son of Esther and James Lucas, a retired N.Y.P.D. detective. Lucas spent his youth causing trouble on the streets with his friends Willis Stryker and Reva Connors. He eventually joined a gang called The Rivals along with his best friend Stryker, he fought the rival gang the Diablos and committed various petty thefts, often on behalf of deformed crimelord Sonny Caputo a.k.a. Hammer. Lucas was in and out of juvenile homes throughout his teens, he dreamed of becoming a major New York racketeer until he finally realized how his actions were hurting his family; he sought to better himself as an adult, finding legitimate employment.Meanwhile, Stryker rose through the ranks of crime, but the two men remained friends.
However Stryker's activities came to the attention of the Maggia (a.k.a. the Syndicate), who did not appreciate his activities and he was badly attacked in a mob hit, but Lucas there to save him. After that Reva ended the relationship and turned to Lucas for comfort. This created a rift between the two former friends and Stryker believed Lucas was the cause of the break-up. Stryker planted heroin stolen from Cottonmouth's organization in Lucas' place and tipped off the cops. Lucas was arrested and sentenced to prison; he attempted to get revenge by contacting the Maggia, only for the group's attempt on Stryker's life to go awry - Stryker survived, while Reva was killed in the process. After that Lucas lost contact with his family due to the resentment of his brother James, Jr., who intercepted his brother's letters to their father and eventually led each to believe the other was dead.
While in prison, Lucas was consumed with hatred and rage by his friends betrayal and the supposed loss of his father. He spent his time getting into brawls along with various escape attempts. Because of this he was transferred to Seagate Prison one of the toughest facilities off the coast of Georgia. On his various first day he became target of racist and sadistic prison guard;Albert "Billy Bob" Rackham. His brutality toward Lucas was the reason he was later demoted which made him hate the inmate even more. Dr. Noah Burstein came to the prison to carry out secret medical research and recruited Lucas as a volunteer. He was secretly working on experimental cell regeneration based on a variant of the Super-Soldier process he had previously used to empower Warhawk.
- He immersed Lucas in the "Electro-Biochemical System" a device that contained an electrical field conducted by an organic chemical compound. However when he left equipment unattended, Rackham tampered with the controls, hoping to kill Lucas. However the treatment was accelerated past its attended purpose causing mutagenic change throughout his body fortifying his cells giving him superhuman strength and durability. Lucas with his new found powers used them to escape the prison and his way back to Harlem. A chance encounter with criminals inspired him to use his new powers for profit.
Still a wanted man he adopted the alias "Luke Cage", now he had powers he decided to done distinctive costume, and start a new career as a "Hero for Hire". He would help anyone who could meet his price. He found an office office in Times Square's Gem Theater, which was owned by film student D.W. Griffith's family. Dr. Burstein also relocated to New York and opened the Storefront Clinic, assisted by Dr. Claire Temple. He first met Claire after he was attacked by hitmen hired by his old friend Stryker. When she rushed to help him she was shocked to find that he wasn't injured by the attack, but insisted on having her colleague look at his bruises but at the clinic he met old friend Dr. Burnstein. He however was attacked by the syndicate looking to convince them into paying a protection fee. Claire suggested that they take up Luke's services. However Claire was kidnapped and Luke tracked her to the perpetrators lair, where he was surprised to find that it is his old friend and betrayer Stryker. The two former friends fought Cage who hoped to clear his name, however, during the fight Stryker fell through a skylight and is blown up by one of his own trick switchblades, ruining any hope Luke had that Stryker could clear his name.
Luke was next hired by veteran; Owen Ridgely who had learned about Col. Gideon Mace, an embittered veteran who planned revenge on the US government. Mace enlisted disgruntled veterans, to paralyze Manhattan for a day to distract the cops. However this was a decoy as he planned to attack and rob Wall Street. Ridgely was murdered by Mace's men so he hunted down Mace and attacked his hideout, but when Mace tried to flee in a helicopter, Luke caused it to crash into the Hudson River.
After a ghostly attack at the Gem Theater in the middle of the night, Luke confronted by Daily Bugle reporter Phil Fox who was interested in doing a piece about Cage, he refused but only furthered his interest in the Hero for Hire. Luke was next hired by Jasper Brunt, to investigate the "Phantom of 45th Street". In investigating, Luke learned that the Phantom was really Armand Lorning, the son of Brunt's former business partner. The two men fought but they fell out the window to their deaths.
Luke had an appointment with a man named Frank Jenks in the upper balcony of the Gem Theater. Luke arrived to find two thugs beating on Jenks. Luke managed to fight off the attackers but not before Jenks was stabbed. Luke went to the lobby to call Jenks' wife to inform her of his death. Luke then placed a call to the police. Returning to the balcony, Luke was shocked to learn that Jenks' body had already been taken away by an ambulance. Luke made a vow to Jenks' wife to find his body.
Jenks' body had been taken by members of the Rat Pack, a group of criminals who use fake ambulances to rob dead people, working for Black Mariah, an obese crime lord.
Luke tracked the ambulance back to a warehouse on 17th street. He noticed an ambulance pull out of the warehouse but once the driver spotted Luke he turned around and quickly drove back inside. Suspicious, Luke went in after him, fully expecting an ambush. His suspicions were confirmed when he was attacked by Mariah's men. Luke pretended to get knocked out and was dragged before Black Mariah herself. Luke sprung back into action and beat up his captors. Mariah attempted to shoot him but the bullets bounced off Luke's unbreakable skin. Mariah tried a different tactic and lunged at Luke, using her weight and enormous size to her advantage. Reluctant to hit a woman, Luke braced himself against a wall and let Mariah run into it. Thinking herself bested, Mariah tried to flee on a speedboat. Luke jumped from a gantry and landed on the boat, capsizing it and leaving Mariah floating in the water. She was later arrested.
Doctor Doom the ruler of Latveria, hired Luke to defeat a bunch of rogue Doombots who have disguised themselves as African-American New Yorkers. Luke took the job and destroyed the Doombots with ease. However Doom skipped town without paying his $200 fee, Luke borrowed the Fantastic Four's jet, flew to Latveria, and beat the living hell out of Doom until he paid him his fee. After he was paid he left Doom in peace and returned to the States.
The Man Called Cottonmouth
Returning to his office after a recent battle, Luke found a package waiting for him. Inside were two live, venomous snakes. Luke easily defeated them, tied them both together, and tossed them aside. D.W. entered the office, attracted by the commotion, and informed Luke that he had visitors. Two large men walked in and introduced themselves as Mike and Ike. The duo noticed that Luke had received their boss's gift and wondered if Luke would appreciate his offer as well. Luke grew annoyed and grabbed Mike, demanding who they were working for. After a brief fight, Luke threatened to shove the two snakes down Mike's throat if he didn't give up his boss's name. Getting the answers he needed, Luke traveled to the Midtown office of drug kingpin Cornell Cottonmouth.
Cottonmouth explained that he had sent the snakes as a test to see if Luke was worthy of a position in his organization's hierarchy. Luke, suspicious that the heroin used to frame him and send him to prion came from Cottonmouth's organization, accepted the job, reasoning that he would have a better chance at clearing his name if he was on the inside.
For his fist mission, Luke was sent to retrieve a shipment of heroin that was stolen by Boss Morgan's gang. Luke succeeded and was fully welcomed into Cottonmouth's organization. Over the following days, Cottonmouth's diminutive assistant Mr. Slick showed Luke the ins and outs of the operation. During this time, Luke hoped to find records of Cottonmouth's dealings that could clear his name but to no avail. Growing increasingly frustrated by his lack of progress, Luke resolved to call the cops, figuring that maybe they could find the records or at the very least shut the operation down. Cottonmouth learned of Luke's betrayal and attacked him. During the fight, Mr. Slick was accidentally knocked out the window and plummeted thirty five stories to his death. Distraught, Cottonmouth surrendered. Luke demanded Cottonmouth show him his records, a request Cottonmouth laughed at. Cottonmouth told Luke that Mr. Slick, who had a photographic memory, was his records. Luke knocked Cottonmouth out and called the police to have him arrested.
Cage also befriended Jessica Jones, a.k.a. Jewel, a young woman whose super-strength and unconventional style matched his own.
When the Thing temporarily lost his superhuman powers, Cage was hired to replace him in the Fantastic Four, but his tenure proved brief after the Puppet Master took control of him to fight his new teammates. -->
At some point after this, Nick Fury asked Cage for a favor. He and a number of other superheroes including: Spider-Man, Daredevil, Wolverine, Captain America and the Black Widow were asked to travel to Latveria to help Fury overthrow the government of Lucia von Bardas, whom be discovered to be financing a number of technologically-based super-criminals in the United States. Recognizing the potential terrorist ramifications of such an act, Fury decided to eliminate the threat despite being told to leave it alone by the American President. Unbeknownst to the assembled heroes, Fury planned to make an example of von Bardas and brought down Castle Doom onto the city below, killing an untold number of people. Knowing that the superheroes could never condone such an action, he had the previous two days activities erased from their minds.
On the year anniversary of their attack on Latveria, Cage and Jessica Jones came home to their Harlem apartment to find von Bardas, who survived their attack, though now horribly disfigured, there waiting for him. She then blasted Cage with a concentrated energy beam which leveled his entire apartment as an act of revenge. Both Cage and Jones survived the blast, though Cage sustained a great deal of damage to his internal organs and lay in a coma. This was further compounded by the fact that Cage's unbreakable skin made it impossible for doctors to operate on him.Realizing that the attack on Cage was possibly a retaliation for their Secret War in Latveria, Fury visited Cage in hospital. Captain America also arrived and got into an argument with Fury, having regained his memories about their actions in Latveria some months previously. The two men and Danny Rand then took the unconscious Cage and removed him from the hospital to ensure his safety from further acts of retribution. When Jessica returned to Cage's hospital room, she found it empty and the hospital was under heavy attack. Jessica spent the next several days searching for her boyfriend with the help of Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich. They finally found him at the Night Nurse's medical clinic, a place where superheroes can secretly go to receive medical attention. Rand brought Cage here after Fury told him to bring his friend someplace safe. Nick Fury then appeared to both a now-conscious Cage and Jessica and apologized for messing up their lives. He vowed that he would no longer interfere with them, or anyone else, and told them that they were good people.
Marriage and the New Avengers
Cage was recruited by Captain America into a new incarnation of the Avengers after a massive prison break on Rykers Island and proving himself to Cap.
Jessica and Cage are now the parents of an unnamed daughter and have gotten married. At the start of the Civil War Luke sent both Jessica and his daughter to Canada to avoid registration, though he himself refused to leave. S.H.I.E.L.D. forces came to arrest him at the stroke of midnight despite not having used his powers since the Act went into effect, he fought his way to safety with the help of Captain America, the Falcon, and Iron Fist (posing as Daredevil), and was a dedicated member of Captain America's "Secret Avengers" until Cap's surrender to U.S. authorities.
After the events of the superhuman Civil War, Jessica returned with their baby from Canada due to horrific death of their good friend Captain America. Luke Cage and Spider-Man rounded up some of the remaining unregistered superhumans; Iron Fist (Daniel Rand), Spider-Woman (who was really the Skrull queen Veranke), Wolverine, and Doctor Strange to form a new team of New Avengers. Taking refugee in Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, Cage tasked the New Avengers with opposing the numerous escapees from the Raft prison while uncovering and exposing the truth behind the Raft breakout, the corruption in S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA, the Civil War, and finding the connection between each of them.
Cage and his comrades were often opposed by authorities and the Mighty Avengers for operating as illegal, unregistered superhumans. These actions caused him to develop a strong sense of caution, and even distrust when associating with registered superheroes such as Falcon. He initially found great difficulty trusting Clint Barton (formerly Hawkeye) for wanting to join the New Avengers' cause due to the former costumed crime fighter's original ties to the founding Avengers and why he wanted to work with a group of strangers instead of his friends. Doctor Strange however, proved to Cage Barton's loyalty and trustworthiness causing Cage to accept him as teammate and a friend.
- Cage proved to be an effective field leader, but was sometimes confronted with difficult situations that required additional tactical knowledge to determine the course of action. The New Avengers rescue mission in Japan and the time misplaced Invaders are two examples of this. He and Jessica eventually named their newborn daughter "Danielle" after his best friend Daniel Rand, whom they also declared as her godfather. Danielle and Jessica are, and continue to be, Cage's inspiration to his super-heroic activities.
In course of the New Avengers' mission to rescue Echo in Japan, the team discovered the Hand's leader, Elektra, to be a Skrull impostor after Echo killed her in battle. Cage and his teammates became very uneasy due to the alien's ability to perfectly impersonate any person and were not stray of the idea of there being more Skrulls on Earth. Suspicion became distrust as many of his teammates were no longer sure of one another's identity; Cage included. The team was soon betrayed by Spider-Woman (Queen Veranke), who stole the Skrull body in order to present it to Tony Stark and cut her ties to the New Avengers and new recruit, Echo.
After Strange's sanctum was stormed by the Hood and his underworld of superhuman criminals, Cage relocated with the rest of his team to one of Iron Fist's leased apartments, but his wife and child took refugee with the Mighty Avengers at Avengers' Tower. Angry that his wife had abandoned him with his child, he opposed her outside of the tower on her decision to register with the law and end all contact with him. Discovering she had no intention of returning with him with their child due to a dangerous, and unsuitable environment, Cage stormed back to his team's new headquarters. He was very disturbed with Jessica's decision. Due to the discovery of the Skrull invader, he was very worried about his family's safety; as well as his marriage.
After a Skrull ship crashed in the Savage Land, Luke took the New Avengers there, confronting the Mighty Avengers. During the battle, Luke ripped open the Skrull ship, only to have a large group of 1970's versions of several heroes, including himself, emerge claiming to be the real heroes. However they were exposed as Skrulls, thanks to a device made by Reed Richards. The Avengers flew back to New York and meet up with the other heroes to fight the final battle with the Skrulls in Central Park. During the midst of the fight Jessica Jones came into the battle and fought with the heroes, while admitting that Luke was right about the Skrulls and apologized. After the Skrulls surrendered the Skrull impersonating Jarvis disappeared with their daughter, leaving Jessica desperate and upset.
After the battle ended, Captain America (James "Bucky" Barnes) organized a meeting with the New Avengers at his home, offering it as their base of operations. When Luke, Jessica and Carol arrived at Bucky's home, the New Avengers contacted the Fantastic Four and Iron Fist to begin searching for Danielle. They attacked various villains such as A.I.M., HYDRA, Electro and Red Skull for any information regarding the Skrull Jarvis, thinking he might have contacted them for a way to escape New York City, possibly the earth. Eventually they found a Skrull pretending to be an ex-SHIELD agent at a bar. After a brief confrontation, the Skrull was about to reveal where Danielle was when another agent shot the Skrull in the head, leaving Jessica convinced Skrull Jarvis was going to kill Danielle. Meanwhile, with the rest of the New Avengers unaware, Luke asked Norman Osborn for help in their search, agreeing do to anything he asked of him. Osborn helped Cage recover Danielle, but when Bullseye killed the Jarvis-Skrull, Cage reneged on his offer to serve Osborn and returned to the New Avengers. Cage was attacked by The Hood's Gang when Harrow use his power drainer on the New Avengers. Afterwords Cage went into cardiac arrest forcing him to ask Osborn for help due to his unbreakable skin and the fact that he possessed the disruptor. Cage is later saved by the Avengers before he could be interrogated by H.A.M.M.E.R. But during the operation a bomb is placed in his heart forcing The Wasp and Doctor Strange to save him.
After Osborn was defeated in the Siege, Steve Rogers became the nation's top cop. Taking over the Avengers organization, he offered Luke a spot on the team. Unfortunately, Luke had no interest in joining up with another government-driven Avengers. Despite Steve assuring him that it was all on a voluntary basis, Luke considered taking the offer to be a giant step backwards.
As a solution, Tony sold the old Avengers Mansion to Cage for one dollar (which he had to borrow from Iron Fist), and Cage was allowed to operate his own independent Avengers team with minimal interference from the government. He, his wife Jessica, Iron Fist, and several other heroes soon moved into the mansion and set up shop.
Luke also took on the job of running the Thunderbolts program for Steve Rogers in order to give super-powered criminals a chance to turn their lives around like he did.
When Daredevil suddenly returned to New York by building a castle out of a destroyed building, Cage was one of the many "street-level" heroes who thought Murdock was getting out of hand. When news that he had a change of heart in his heroism (shown when he mercilessly killed Bullseye) reached his ears, Power Man and Iron Fist went to confront him, but the Man without Fear retreated. Later, while at Rand's restaurant, the two conversed about Murdock's growing 'insanity.'
Avengers vs. X-Men
When it was revealed that the Phoenix Force was heading towards Earth looking for a new host, he answered Captain America's call in invading Utopia. Cage helped Thing fight the Atlantean Namor. He later left the New Avengers to raise his daughter peacefully.
Luke and his Heroes for Hire fought the Plunderer, and after Spider-Man intervened, he and Power Man grabbed a coffee. He insists that the heroes aren't doing enough to keep the world safe. He and his team, now the Mighty Avengers began fighting off Thanos' invasion on Earth. After the initial threat was over, he officially declared the new assembled group to be Avengers.
The Mighty Avengers were eventually forced to close their operation after being sued by a morally inverted Tony Stark for using the trademarked name of "Avengers."
After dealing with former Heroes for Hire employee Jennifer Royce turned evil, Luke and Iron Fist reverted to crime-fighting as the Heroes for Hire.