Luke Cage and Misty Knight: From clichés to icons

Marvel's Luke Cage.. Image Courtesy Netflix
Marvel's Luke Cage.. Image Courtesy Netflix /

Marvel Comics’ Luke Cage and Misty Knight weren’t always the characters you see today.

It was the 1970s. Blaxploitation movies were popular. Anyone who could was trying to cash in on the genre — Marvel Comics included. In 1972, Luke “Power Man” Cage made his debut in his own Marvel comic book entitled Heroes for Hire. The super-strong and bulletproof hero was one of the first black, comic book protagonists to headline his own series. Three years later, Misty Knight made her debut in Marvel Premiere No. 21, in which she fought none other than the Immortal Iron Fist. This was a misunderstanding that leads to them later becoming friends and eventually lovers. Sometime later, Luke and Misty would meet and become friends as well. But besides being heroes in their communities, they also shared another similarity — they both started out as stereotypes.

It wasn’t just the way they talked that made them stereotypes. Comic books have always taken slang and incorporated it into stories but, with Luke and Misty, it seemed a bit over the top. Sometimes it seemed like the only way they could speak was by using words like “jive” and “turkey.” And the people they fought weren’t any better, as they rarely went up against anyone significant.

There were a few times where Luke and Misty would pop up in other stories. For example, Luke went up against Spider-Man and had a good outing. However, it was rare that you’d see someone like Spider-Man or Captain America in a Heroes for Hire story. That’s not to say it was done in a racist way. You’d rarely see the Avengers in X-Men comic books as well. With Misty and Luke, it was as if Marvel had no idea what to do with them.

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Misty was a sassy cop and detective with a metal arm, and Luke’s power set was no better than the other invulnerable, strong people in comic books. So the writers took what was popular in TV and movies and emulated that. It was done poorly, and sometimes it was offensive. There was another Luke Cage ongoing series simply title Cage in the 1990s. Honestly, it wasn’t good. His costume (or uniform) was terrible, his battles weren’t great, and his stories weren’t memorable. Again, Luke Cage had another failed project. Then, Brian Michael Bendis started writing him and things took off.

Luke Cage became the leader of the Avengers during an important time in the Marvel mythos: the aftermath of the superhero Civil War. After Captain America died, it was up to Luke to lead the Avengers to keep the legacy going. They did things the way Steve Rogers would have wanted them to. To Luke, the war wasn’t over until he said it was over. Cage and his team kept on fighting and won. And Steve Rogers and the rest of his peers were proud of the way he did things. He never gave up even when things were at their darkest. And boy did they get bleak.

Misty Knight helped protect people, and she did it her way. Luke Cage may not have signed the Superhero Registration Act, but Misty did. She took Heroes for Hire and made it her team of super-powered bounty hunters. They hunted down people with powers who didn’t register their powers with the government. Her former teammates, Luke Cage and Danny Rand, may not have liked it, but Misty believed in what she was doing and kept on. Misty has continued to be a strong-minded person. It’s one of the reasons heroes like Black Panther trust her. They know her morality can’t be bought.

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Despite no longer being jive-talking heroes, Misty Knight and Luke Cage are proud of their black skin and heritage. Both heroes are more than happy to tell everyone they’re black and proud. They both know how important it is to be a hero of color. It shows the younger generation of heroes of color that they can be anything they want. In real life, it’s important for kids to see heroes that look like them. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. These kids will grow up and realize they can create heroes, villains, and everyone in between that look like them and that they can also tell stories that people can relate to.

What do you think of the changes made to Luke Cage and Misty Knight from then to now? Let us know in the comments below.