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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Hmm...I actually like and can see the appeal of "giant" characters, particularly to children. They don't think "bigger target" but rather "ooh, cool! Being a giant would be awesome!" Of course, that's commensurate with having increased strength and damage resistance, so the big target thing becomes moot.

I think there are some characters that will not appeal to adults because we tend to think in terms of "why, that doesn't make sense". We know too much, we've been inundated by life, we're too smart, we've lost our sensawunda.

I can see the appeal but the fact none of them last suggests most people don't.

I think they're a better fit on a team than they are solo. I think Colossal Boy is reasonably popular, albeit not enough to support his own series. I think Hank Pym has been handled extremely poorly over the years and--whether it's fair or not--I think hitting Jan destroyed him as a character.

When I look back at the giant characters who have had their own series, there aren't many and the series that there have been have been mediocre to poor. Black Goliath suffered from the same issues as Ant-Man/Giant Man/Goliath in that he lacked a supporting cast and compelling villains. Perhaps a new approach with a new character could work.

Or perhaps the reality is that everyone secretly hates giants and the idea of giants. I can't say for certain, but I really think it's more of a case of them being poorly handled than the concept not holding water.

Peter hit Mary Jane, and she was pregnant at the time. Didn't hurt his character.

Books on drawing superheroes have suggested making the bad guy taller than the hero because people love to cheer for the little guy. So a giant hero might need a giant rogues gallery, which would cancel out his being a giant. It the Living Colossus only ran four issues. In his next appearance he was destroyed by the Hulk. The Huk is another character that needs very large enemies so he won't look like a bully.

Ron M. said:

Peter hit Mary Jane, and she was pregnant at the time. Didn't hurt his character.

I don't remember this and I was reading for her whole pregnancy. What issue was it?

Thanks. I must have blocked it out.

Ron M. said:

I feel I know the feature well, but I find I haven't read all that many of Cage's solo issues. Marvel's output was very variable in the 70s. I suppose the ones I've seen were middle tier by 70s standards.

I think Cage one of the best Marvel creations of the 70s. The hero for hire premise is good. He's powerful enough to be interesting, not so strong that he's out of place in street level adventures. I like Burstein and Claire as supporting characters, and his office over the Gem is a good detail. I also like his being secretly a fugitive, although it's at odds with job, as he'd need a public profile. He had a lot of anger, but he took it out on the bad guys.

I agree that the concept of the character was good. The execution, not so much. Pairing him with Iron Fist, IMO, didn't help. I was never very high on Iron Fist.

I remember the Mary Jo Duffy and Kerry Gammill issues as really good. I only read a few of them, as I discovered them after the fact.

I don't know I can say how I feel about the pairing in the abstract. I like their friendship and the way they were comfortable working together, and they had a good supporting cast - Misty, Colleen, Bob Diamond. By that point Cage no longer had his earlier anger.

I just finished reading #1-16 last night. I was going to post a reaction to the “What Comics Have You read Today?” discussion, but Richard Willis suggested I post here instead. That makes sense, especially since I have been reading along with this discussion as I read the issues. First, a bit of my personal history with the character.

Just about the only Luke Cage I read growing up (except for #7 in the holiday TE) was Giant-Size Power Man #1. I remember really liking it at the time (I would have been 11 years old), but I wasn’t inclined to buy any others. (Not surprising. The only title I actively collected was Hulk; everything else was by whim, but I bought every “Giant-Size” and every #1 I could find.) In college I started collecting Hero for Hire/Power Man as backissues, and I think I got up to #50 (or might have gotten as far as #30 or so, plus #48-50).

Last night I read #14-16, the “Retribution” story, the one I liked so much as a kid. (I don’t recall exactly what I thought of it when I re-read it in college.) I don’t know what happened to my Giant-Size Power Man #1 (I don’t have it anymore), but I suspect it was abridged. The story didn’t quite hold up to my memory of it, and I do think it would be improved by some judicious editing. I found most of the rest of the stories to be merely okay, but not great. I think “my” Luke Cage (early Luke Cage, anyway) would comprise issue #1, Spider-Man #123, and Giant-Size Power Man #1.

I think I might move on to Power Man’s guest appearances in Defenders and FF next.

 Randy Jackson said:

Let me say this: I cannot downplay the impact of this series (as well as Captain America and the Falcon) within the Black community at the time. As much as I loved superheroes at the time, seeing actual Black characters as the central characters really made these comics stick out in my mind. I was 7 years old when this series debuted, and I enjoyed the comics I was able to read on several different levels, but the most important was to see someone Black as the protagonist and hero. The comics may not have been well executed, but there was definitely  interest if only for that reason--there was more, but that was just really important.

I’ve always wondered about that. (I may not have read a lot of Power Man, but Captain America & the Falcon was the second series I completed, following Hulk.)

As far as that goes, certainly Captain America and the Falcon was a great read too back then. I appreciate that the Falcon wasn't just treated as Cap's sidekick, but someone who could hold his own and save the day just as readily as Captain America.

And yes, Luke Cage: Hero for Hire and Luke Cage: Power Man were very uneven series in terms of quality. It seemed as if Marvel wasn't sure exactly how to best utilize Luke, and the quality of writing and artistic talent wavered all over the place. My favorite use of him was as Marvel's detective superhero, as that filled a niche that Marvel didn't really have at the time, and I wish they could have stuck with that.

Jeff of Earth-J said

I’ve always wondered about that. (I may not have read a lot of Power Man, but Captain America & the Falcon was the second series I completed, following Hulk.)

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