By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the news. If you haven’t, here’s the deal: Marvel and Netflix are teaming up to create and release live action shows on Netflix. These shows will be based on a select group of superheroes from the Marvel Universe. One of those characters is Luke “Sweet Christmas” Cage, who has gone from a fairly stereotypical blaxploitation mercenary to certified A-List hero and Avenger. I know for a fact that I’m not the only fan that’s been waiting for one of Marvel’s high profile black characters to get a solo treatment, and it looks like we’ve gotten our wish.
If you’re a fan of comic books and a person of color, you likely follow comics news and the industry and stories with a sort of trepidation. For black folks, we often wonder whether any black characters are going to ever get worthwhile origin stories (hint: not every black person is from the ‘hood) or be allowed to carry a great series due to the comics’ industry’s prevailing belief that books with nonwhite characters at the helm don’t sell.
We also have to deal with the all too familiar narrative monsters that insist on rearing their ugly heads when non PoC decide to take on stories that feature us heavily. Will black characters speak “black english”? Will [insert black character here] feature a nerfed power set because he/she can’t be more powerful than the Great White Hope?
These are the kinds of misgivings that I carry alongside my excitement that one of my most favorite heroes of all time is going to get the small screen (depending on the size of the TV that you’re going to be watching netflix on) treatment.
Despite not having the fan base of Spider-Man, Iron Man, or Hulk, Cage is still a top notch hero, with a completely different background and philosophy than either of those heroes. Because of this, the success of the Luke Cage miniseries largely depends on whether the writers and directors translate a few things to screen effectively. Here’s what I think can make or break Cage’s foray into television.
New York – The Marvel announcement says that the shows will be “taking Netflix members deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York.” This is cool, because Cage is a street-level hero. He does cosmic, but he’s at his best when he’s interacting with everyday people. The thing is, Hell’s Kitchen isn’t Cage’s historical stomping ground. Cage operated in Harlem for most of the beginning of his career, and it would be cool to see him continue to do work in Harlem on the miniseries. This isn’t a deal breaker, though I do wonder the statistical likelihood of the casting people deciding to portray Harlem as being populated by mostly young white people. (New Yorkers, help me out. Is Harlem really white these days?)
Cameos – When you think Luke Cage, you should automatically think of Iron Fist next. If you don’t think of Iron Fist, that’s cool, they’ve only been a team on and off since the 1970’s and best friends since forever. I mean, there doesn’t have to be an Iron Fist cameo, but since Cage isn’t super known outside of fans of the comics, what reason is there not to have one? Everyone pretty much expects it.
Another cameo (or recurring role) that would be awesome and perhaps set up a neat romance angle (recurring role) would be having Misty Knight show up somewhere along the way (hopefully in a recurring role). I understand that that’s a lot to ask, and Marvel is grimdarking this whole shebang up so much that it’ll probably wear black eye shadow, but I’m sure they could find a way. I mean, look how many cameos of established DCU characters there’s been in Arrow.
Staying…Cage-y – One of the coolest thing about choosing Cage as the focal point for a TV show is that you have so many ways to craft a narrative surrounding him. He starts out as a regular dude with super-hard skin and a knack for cash, and turns into one of the most powerful regular dudes in the Marvel U. He’s been a mercenary, a bodyguard, a leader of various super teams, and an Avenger (and he quit doing all of these things when his family was in danger). There are several very interesting stories that could be spun around him that are based in established canon. But none of this matters if they make Cage into a stereotype or violate the core of who he is. Cage is–and has been since his Power Man days–a man possessed of an impressive moral code and sense of self. If the writers of this show decide to make him into an Angry Black Man or something similar…well, the show will flop spectacularly.
Maybe somebody can get Christopher Priest on this?