Randy Jackson Re-Reads Luke Cage Hero For Hire/Luke Cage Power Man

Yup, I threatened to do this, now it's going to happen.  I'd thought about waiting until I was finished with Howard the Duck but I decided to go ahead and get started.

For this discussion, I'll be covering Luke Cage: Hero For Hire #1-16, Luke Cage: Power Man #17-27 and Power Man @28-48.

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I wonder how many fans in 1972 got the "D.W. Griffith" reference?

As to slang/accents, Denny O'Neil's advice in "How to Write" was "don't do them."

Also, I just want to mention that when Sam Wilson was introduced, he was a social worker, which was a refreshing change from black guy as gangster/felon from the hood/barrio/slum. Then what do you know? Years later, they retroactively made Sam a gangster/felon named "Snap" Wilson, from the hood/barrio/slum, and said the previous identity was an invention of the Red Skull's Cosmic Cube! I cannot express how unhappy that made the Li'l Capn.

I'm not sure if that part of Wilson's biography has held up -- I haven't heard "Snap" mentioned in quite a while. Let's hope it got Mopeed.


Dean R. Koontz gave the same advice on how to write time travel stories, "Don't."

Unfortunately they tend to like poking things they shouldn't to see if fans might want them brought back. I remember in CBG reading that one Marvel writer, I forget his name, wanted to do a sequel to The Crossing and Teen Tony. That's another story I wish was completely Mopeed away. 


 Captain Comics said:

I wonder how many fans in 1972 got the "D.W. Griffith" reference?

As to slang/accents, Denny O'Neil's advice in "How to Write" was "don't do them."

Also, I just want to mention that when Sam Wilson was introduced, he was a social worker, which was a refreshing change from black guy as gangster/felon from the hood/barrio/slum. Then what do you know? Years later, they retroactively made Sam a gangster/felon named "Snap" Wilson, from the hood/barrio/slum, and said the previous identity was an invention of the Red Skull's Cosmic Cube! I cannot express how unhappy that made the Li'l Capn.

I'm not sure if that part of Wilson's biography has held up -- I haven't heard "Snap" mentioned in quite a while. Let's hope it got Mopeed.

Captain Comics said:

I wonder how many fans in 1972 got the "D.W. Griffith" reference?

As to slang/accents, Denny O'Neil's advice in "How to Write" was "don't do them."

Also, I just want to mention that when Sam Wilson was introduced, he was a social worker, which was a refreshing change from black guy as gangster/felon from the hood/barrio/slum. Then what do you know? Years later, they retroactively made Sam a gangster/felon named "Snap" Wilson, from the hood/barrio/slum, and said the previous identity was an invention of the Red Skull's Cosmic Cube! I cannot express how unhappy that made the Li'l Capn.

I'm not sure if that part of Wilson's biography has held up -- I haven't heard "Snap" mentioned in quite a while. Let's hope it got Mopeed.

Of course D.W. Griffith made the silent movie epic Birth of a Nation, which celebrated the Ku Klux Klan and portrayed all of the freed slaves as either evil or otherwise contemptible.

There is or was a tendency to have African American characters' dialogue written as "th-" for "the" and "enuff" for "enough." How else would you pronounce these words?

Just before I gave up buying (I wasn't reading them) the Green Lantern books, DC introduced Simon Baz as a Muslin Lebanese American. They had to make him a car thief.

Simon Baz was created by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke; Johns is half-Lebanese.  I think the Arab-American community is alright with the character:

http://comicbook.com/blog/2012/09/09/arab-american-green-lantern-ce...

Richard Willis said:

Just before I gave up buying (I wasn't reading them) the Green Lantern books, DC introduced Simon Baz as a Muslin Lebanese American. They had to make him a car thief.

I think with a little tweaking, the first two issues could be adapted into a decent movie.

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #3 - "Mark of the Mace!"
Cover Date: October 1972
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: George Tuska

The police burst onto the rooftop as the issue opens. The cops are going to arrest Luke when Dr. Temple steps in and tells them he saved her. Cage explains what happened to Stryker. The police tell Cage that while there will be some questions, there shouldn't be any hassles because they like the clinic run by Drs. Burstein and Temple.

Cage leaves and goes to see Dr. Burstein. He asks Burstein why he hasn't turned him in, and Burstein says he was hoping that Cage could take Stryker alive so he could confess to the police, but obviously that didn't happen. He tells Luke they'll talk after he's done with the police.

There's a quick recap of Luke's origin. Next thing, Luke is talking to Burstein, who says he has no recourse but to turn Luke in. Luke leaves, telling Burstein the cops can find him at his office. Burstein stops him, and tells him that as long as Luke isn't using his newfound powers for evil that he'll refrain from telling the police. Cage tells him to stuff it, ignoring Claire's invitation to dinner.

We shift scenes to a man manipulating toy soldiers and talking to some other people. He tells them that no matter how well planned an operation is, there's always a weakness, and that knowing this, it must be eliminated. To drive home his point, he destroys a table with a mace. He then tells his men that one of the recruits to the current operation must be eliminated.

We shift to an early morning scene in Harlem, as a furtive figure heads towards Luke's office. Cage and D.W. are talking when Luke hears someone running up the stairs. The man bursts through the door and then collapses, exhausted.  He has one of Cage's business cards in his hand. Cage tells D.W. to get going if he doesn't want any trouble, and D.W. leaves. The man who burst through the door earlier recovers enough to understand where he is. Cage gives him a cup of coffee and asks him to spill the beans.  Meanwhile, D.W. runs into a man or men with a gun.

The man upstairs begins to talk. His name is Owen Ridgely. After coming home from Vietnam, he tries to get a job but can't find one. He hears about a protest group of combat veterans that plan on making some noise, so he goes to check it out. He's taken to a house in New Jersey where he meets former Army Colonel Gideon Mace, who's right hand has been replaced by a...mace. He tells the assembled former soldiers that he has a plan to take back the power for them through something he calls "Operation Overpower".  As it turns out, his plan is to forcibly take control of every strategic bridge, tunnel and power station with their help. Ridgely understands that Mace is insane, but then he thinks that if the Statue of Liberty can be taken over, why not New York?  He signs up.

Cage asks Ridgely why not go to the police, and Ridgely tells him that most of the guys involved are just like him, and they shouldn't suffer. He also tells Cage that if Mace were sane, he might have been in, but he discovered something in a strategy meeting the day before.  Luke tells him to be quiet as D.W. knocks on the door.

we see that D.W. is being held at gunpoint and made to lull Cage into a trap. However, D.W. tells Cage that he brought back the stuff from Orange Julius that he wanted, and they had discussed the fact that the Orange Julius was closed, and Cage knows it's a trap. Cage thinks about where someone might be holding a gun to D.W.'s head and smashes through the wall right there, taking out one of the gunmen. He tells D.W. to hit the floor as he takes on the second gun wielding thug. He shoots Cage, but nothing happens. Cage drops him down the stairs. He thinks that it's over, but gunfire comes from his office. Ridgely's been shot, and Cage pursues the assassin onto the fire escape. He shoots at Luke with a machine gun, and while it hurts Luke, it doesn't stop him. Luke pulls the fire escape off the wall, causing the gunman to fall off the ladder. Back inside, Ridgely gives Cage money to hire him just before dying.

We switch to Mace's operation. Some men are loading up a helicopter, while others are loading ammo and explosives on a truck. Mace is waiting to hear what happened with Ridgely before he gives the go ahead to start. We find out that this protest is actually an elaborate distraction for a robbery of Wall Street banks. They see a car come up the drive, and think it's the men they sent after Ridgely. Cage is with one of them, and he pushes the man out of the car before ramming the front window headfirst. Mace calls in everyone to attack Cage, but Luke is having none of it. He easily defeats the various soldiers at Mace's disposal, finally going toe to toe with Mace himself. Mace begins pounding Cage with his mace, but Luke is able to withstand his blows. He knocks Mace down but Mace has something up his sleeve, namely a chemical attack from another mace. He smashes Cage through the wall into the kitchen (seriously sub-standard walls in the Marvel Universe in 1972).  However, Luke finds the sink and is able to rinse his eyes. When he's done, he sees Mace heading for his helicopter. Luke jumps through a window in pursuit.

Mace throws a grenade at Luke, but he leaps away in time and survives. He sees the helicopter taking off, and leaps at it's rotor getting a grip. He then smashes the rotor, causing the helicopter to crash into the Hudson. He leaps away just before contact. Mace escapes the crash, but is dragged down into the river because he's unable to swim with the mace.

Back at the Gem, the repairs are underway, and D.W. suggests that Cage will be able to deal with the costs if his uncle won't due to the money he earned on the case. Cage is seen sending an envelope to Ridgely's widow with the money he was given.

My rating: 7/10

This is certainly exciting enough. One thing I really enjoyed about Cage when I was a kid was that his costume would frequently get ripped and torn to shreds when he was fighting. Coming from mostly DC experience, that seemed very unusual and very realistic to me as a kid. It's also nice to see that Luke has an altruistic side.

On the other hand, there's a lot of stuff here that really stretches the credibility.  For instance, it's obvious from the beginning that Mace was insane, yet he got all of these former soldiers to commit to this demonstration. For another, where are the police investigating Ridgely's death?  Or for that matter of fact the death of the man who shot him?  Given the premise of the comic, it's hard to believe that Cage was never seriously investigated during this time period.

Finally, while Gideon Mace is high on the list of Cage villains, that's pretty much damning him with faint praise. Sure, he's better than Mr. Fish, but honestly I think the Trapster would have given Luke more of a problem. It's a problem that makes all of these stories a bit of a mockery.

Still, I can't say it wasn't fun.

Doc Savage also tended to get his shirt ripped to shreds during a battle. Funny how you have to go back to pre-Superman to find an earlier case.
I think Paste Pot Pete gluing Luke to a wall would make him so furious Pete would wish he'd stuck to fighting the FF.

I was 7-8 in 1972. I had zero clue who Doc Savage was. I'll give you that his clothes ripped. Still it was unusual at the time for a superhero.

Ron M. said:

Doc Savage also tended to get his shirt ripped to shreds during a battle. Funny how you have to go back to pre-Superman to find an earlier case.
Back in the day, my guess is that the Trapster would not have been happy. Still, more of a threat than Gideon Mace in this story.

I think Paste Pot Pete gluing Luke to a wall would make him so furious Pete would wish he'd stuck to fighting the FF.

I first heard of him when the Ron Ely movie came out. Like the Dr. Strange movie there was absolutely no advertising, no warning what it was. I was just about to turn it off when it registered I was watching a superhero movie. Looked for the advertised but never filmed sequel for years. Finally read the "sequel" was an unsold script that was going to be made first, but they decided to film his origin instead, then film the earlier script. Not sure but I believe the director passed away and no one wanted to pick up his project. I think it was George Pal?

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #4 - "Cry Fear...Cry Phantom!"
Cover Date: December 1972
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: Billy Graham

We open on Luke sleeping in his office as a spectral figure dressed in robes enters.  While the figure appears to be entering through a door on the

splash page, he appears to be coming through a wall in the next panel. The figure attacks Cage, as disembodied hands attempt to strangle him. Cage fights back, yanking the sheets off of the figure's head, revealing a face that has been hideously scarred.

D.W. knocks on the door, asking for help because something weird happened with the movie. Luke opens the door, the apparent apparition has disappeared somehow. Luke describes his assailant to D.W., and D.W. tells him that the "ghost" showed up in the theater beforehand, crashing through the screen.

Luke tells D.W. that the "ghost" seemed very interested in one of the walls inside his apartment, and D.W. remembers there used to be an old poster there. Luke gets dressed and goes down to investigate. As he's dressing, he tells D.W. that all of his silk shirts have been destroyed and he's got more on order, which is why he's wearing a yellow muscle shirt this time around.

Cage looks around behind the screen while D.W. calls his Uncle Max to tell him what's going on. He doesn't find anything in the back, so he goes to look out in the street, unaware that the Phantom is watching him. On the street, it's a ghost town, and the only one around is a man carrying one of those placards advising people that their lives are sinful. Luke watches the man walk away, and is suddenly surprised to be interrupted. The man's name is Phil Fox, and he's a reporter for the Daily Bugle. He wants to tell Cage's story to everyone. Fearing discovery that he's an ex-con, Cage declines. Fox tells him that he's going to do great things for him, whether he likes it or not.

Back in the theater, D.W. tells Luke that all the other theaters in the area were attacked as well, but the big thing he wanted to show Luke was the poster that the Phantom was after. Luke identifies the man in the poster as the one who attacked him, and D.W. identifies the man as Adrian Loring, who used to own all the theaters in the area, but who was killed in a fire at the Gem years ago.

Luke goes up to his office and finds Claire Temple waiting there for him. She tells him that she has something she needs to talk to him about, and asks him to walk her to her office. Luke asks her about Phil Fox, and she tells him that both she and Noah Burstein are giving him the cold shoulder. They enter the clinic to see Dr. Burstein being tossed aside. Burstein tells Luke that one of his patients has gone berserk. Luke attempts to reason with the man but is attacked. The man picks up a 200 pound filing cabinet and throws it at Luke, who is unharmed but angry. However, a little man enters the room speaking French and calms down the patient. He introduces himself as Armand then explains to all assembled that the patient Jacques doesn't understand English and has had bad experiences with doctors before, and when Dr. Burstein tightened a bandage a little too much on his hand he went crazy. Luke is wondering if Jacques was the man who attacked him the night before. He asks Dr. Burstein if he has any information on the two, and Dr. Burstein tells Luke that they are circus performers at a place called Hobart's Miracle Emporium, which happens to be across the street from the Gem theater. Dr. Temple gets a phone call for Cage from D.W. saying it's urgent. Cage leaves the clinic before Dr. Burstein can talk to him about another problem. He and Dr. Temple ruminate over their inablity to nail Cage down.

D.W. has gone to see an unpleasant fellow by the name of Jasper Brunt to look in on last night's problems. Apparently, Brunt was at one time a partner for Adrian Loring, and has benefited from his death. He rages at D.W. about how the Phantom is ruining his business and about Luke being late, but the Luke shows up, saying he was late because he wanted to make a good impression and wear his normal uniform. Brunt is angry, so Luke tells him that the other reason he was late was because the elevator operator suggested he take the freight elevator, and Luke demonstrated why that should not be the case. He also shatters Brunt's cane. He starts to walk out, but Brunt stops him. He begs Luke to stay, because Luke is the only one who has seen what he's seen--the face of the Phantom. He says the face was that of his former partner, Adrian Loring. He says the Phantom promised to ruin and then destroy him.

That evening, Cage spots the sign carrier again and wonders if it might be Loring, as his investigations suggest that his body was never found in the fire. He's stopped by Phil Fox who senses Luke is on a case. He asks Luke if he saw Fox's column in the Bugle that day about him, but Cage essentially ignores him. Fox tries to follow him, but Luke jumps up to a fire escape and eludes the reporter in that fashion. He heads to the roof of the Gem to get a birds eye view of things and notices movement in his office. Luke enters and tackles the Phantom, but the Phantom escapes by heading into Luke's closet. Luke goes into the closet and kicks a hole in the wall, revealing a secret passage. He follows the passage and discovers several more, finally ending at the Miracle Emporium. He spots the Phantom and gives chase. The Phantom pushes a pinball machine down the stairs but it doesn't stop Luke. He tackles the Phantom and knocks him out, revealing Jacques under the robes. However, there's another Phantom running away, a short one. Guess who that might be?

Anyway, Armand attacks Luke using his acrobatic skills. He knocks Luke into an electrical panel, and the chains in Luke's costume cause him to be electrified. However, it's not enough to kill Luke. Armand threatens to raise the current unless Luke tells him where that poster is. cage refuses to tell, and Armand turns up the current, then runs away. Luke manages to escape by shutting off the power. He calls the police and an ambulance for Jacques.

At Brunt's office, he's preparing himself a drink after working late. He sees Armand entering his window. Armand accuses him of embezzling from Loring , then murdering him and covering it up by setting the fire at the theater. He then reveals that he's Loring's son. He says that he ran away as a young man, but that Loring never gave up trying to find him, then found him in jail in Haiti, as he had been working as a thief. He told Armand that he suspected Brunt, and that he had hidden the evidence he had gathered. Since Loring's death, Armand has been attempting to track down the evidence. Brunt pulls a gun, and is ready to shoot Armand when Luke bursts through the door and intercepts the bullet. He tells Brunt that he's seen the evidence in the poster. Brunt is ready to challenge the inconsistencies in the evidence when Armand tackles him and takes him through the window, with both falling to their deaths.

My rating: 7/10

If one were to take away the action trappings of this story, one might have a fairly decent mystery tale of revenge. I like the fact that Cage is thinking throughout the story, I like the explanation of why he wasn't wearing his trademark yellow shirt at the beginning, and the mystery is decent and easy to digest. Additionally, the other subplots that are introduced have some interest as well.

Unfortunately, the thing that didn't work is the action sequences. There's a ton of confusion in each fight scene in regards to who Luke is fighting against and what's actually happening. I think that this was one of Billy Graham's first jobs pencilling, and I would say it shows. His lines aren't as sharp as they would get later, and his storytelling isn't quite up to snuff.

Archie Goodwin's last issue, and he'll be missed, at least by yours truly.

FYI, I have not forgotten about this.  I've just been ridiculously busy lately.

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