Why Was Luke Cage In Prison? His Netflix Series Should Reveal His Complex Origins
Fans of Netflix's Marvel universe were introduced to Luke Cage in Jessica Jones, as the serious and alluring bartender with unbreakable skin. But if you read the original comics, you would have first met Luke Cage when he was in prison. That's no reason to fret though because his incarceration doesn't mean this superhero was ever a villain. Since his own Netflix series will get to show his backstory and how he came to be so powerful, it will also explain why Luke Cage was in prison and spoiler alert: His time behind bars won't make you love him any less — in fact, it will probably make you even more sympathetic to his plight.
Luke Cage first appeared on the Marvel scene in the 1972 comic, Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 as "Carl Lucas" (but I'll continue to refer to him as Luke). Although Luke was involved in illegal activity when he was younger by joining a gang with his friend Willis Stryker, he rejected a life of crime relatively early. Stryker — later known as Diamondback — was a minor character in the Luke Cage comics and is the reason why Luke ended up in jail. And while Netflix hasn't released anything officially stating that Diamondback will be in Luke Cage , ScreenCrush reported that photos from the set seem to prove that actor Erik LaRay Harvey will be portraying the character, which is pretty essential for a Luke Cage origin story.
Like many other superheroes before and after him, Luke was framed by his best friend-turned-foe Stryker and it all started with a character that fans of Jessica Jones will be familiar with — Reva Connors. In Jessica Jones, Reva was Luke's deceased wife who Jessica had pushed in front of a bus and killed when she was under the mind control of Kilgrave, but when the characters were younger, Reva dated Stryker. She was turned off by Stryker's dangerous line of work and of course, fell for Luke (cause who wouldn't?). Stryker then jealously framed Luke by planting heroin in his apartment.
To make matters worse, the heroin Stryker planted was stolen from his rival gang, led by Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes. Stokes will be a major villain in Luke Cage Season 1 and House of Cards fans should be celebrating since Remy actor Mahershala Ali is portraying this menacing crime boss. And if IMDb is to be believed, there are actors playing young Carl, Cornell, and Stryker, which means that viewers are most likely going to have some flashbacks on their hands.
Luke went to jail for the heroin and it was there that he gained his superhuman abilities, thanks to agreeing to participate in some experiments by Dr. Burstein. Burstein is relatively well-meaning in the comics with Luke getting his unbreakable skin and super strength by the prison guard Billy Bob Rackham messing with the experiments intentionally since he had a vendetta against Luke. IMDb has no actor portraying Rackham as of yet, but Michael Kostroff is rumored to be playing the scientist doctor on Luke Cage. While Dr. Burstein isn't evil in the comics, Kostroff typically plays characters with some questionable morals, like Charles Froines on The Good Wife or Maury Levy on The Wire, so he could end up being more directly responsible for Luke Cage's superhero powers. Either way, based on the first trailer, these experiments inside a tank that made Luke who he is will be shown on the series.
As bad as a science experiment gone wrong can be, those powers are what enabled Luke to escape jail and become the man who fans saw in Jessica Jones. The Netflix series may change some details about Luke's origin story, but the fact that most of the characters who are involved in his past seem to be cast is a good sign that his story will stay mostly intact. Although his history is in the past now since the series takes place after the events of Jessica Jones , everyone knows that superheroes are not only pros at fighting crime, but also at holding grudges, so expect to see the repercussions of his time in jail play out on Luke Cage.
Images: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix (2)