Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Luke Cage Is the "Superhuman" Black Man That America Keeps Shooting

The entire internet lost its damn mind thanks to all of the teaser trailers at San Diego Comic Con. All of them were pretty great, but that Luke Cage Netflix Series trailer...It had to have inspired at least 50 thinkpieces about it.. If you haven’t seen it, please view, give yourself time to squeal like a chipmunk on helium, breathe, and come back to this article:

Aren’t you glad you got that out of your system? Not only is this dude walking, not running, through Harlem beating up bad guys with a car door, he is doing it to the soundtrack of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”! How hardcore is that? ODB was the Wu-Tang member who was born with the least amount of fucks to give!Now can we talk about how they blacked up SDCC? I'm pretty sure this is the blackest thing to happen there, short of someone cosplaying as CB4's Dead Mike and repeatedly singing his solo effort, "I'm black y'all! And I'm black, y'all! And I'm blackety-black and I'm black, y'all!" It looks like Luke Cage was the blackest thing anyone was going to see this weekend. It’s the blackest comic production Marvel has dropped. It’s even blacker than Blade being Marvel’s first blockbuster R-rated film, but Deadpool getting the credit for Blade’s hard work years ago!
Oh yes. I went there.
The Original
Luke Cage has come a LONG way from his 1970s comic days. Back then, he was a caricature of the disco era and blaxploitation. Think a bulletproof Shaft, complete with jive talk. It’s all you could ever hope for in a black superhero created by three white guys. As schlocky as the 70s were, Cage was developed into a more complicated hero that by the 21st century he has become a well deserved first-tier powerhouse in the Marvel universe in terms of significance and popularity. He’s been an Avenger, a Thunderbolt, and he even had a Marvel Max miniseries and a comic cameo-to-love interest in Alias, which led to his role in Jessica Jones. This is all great, but I’m not sure if Marvel knows exactly what they’ve done by giving us a live action Luke Cage…
For those who don’t know, Luke Cage is born Carl Lucas in inner city Harlem. He grows up in the streets, has family problems due to poverty, he gets into trouble with the law a few times, but nothing serious, until finally he goes to jail on a trumped up drug charge. In jail, he suffers abuse from prisoners and an especially sadistic corrections officer. He is volunteered for a scientific experiment to re-create a Super Soldier serum, but it goes wrong due to sabotage, and this is how he gets his powers. Now, Lucas has superhuman strength, agility, and unbreakable skin. Nothing, not needles, bullets, or RPGs, can pierce him. Lucas “left” prison using his new powers and adopts the name “Luke Cage”, Hero for Hire. As Luke Cage/Power Man, he clears his name and runs the streets of Harlem fighting mostly local superpowered bad guys and government officials. He befriends Danny Rand/Iron Fist, has romantic escapades with the likes of She-Hulk and eventually Jessica Jones, maintains a vigil on his stomping grounds, no matter with what major team he joins or leads.

Looking at this synopsis is why I’m not sure if Marvel knew or planned to do what they did. They just popularized a black man who is generally a good man, but because of his spotty past, will likely be viewed with disdain and derision by general (“white”) America should he ever fall publicly victim to any abuse. He is a product of the Prison Industrial Complex because of a minor drug charge, and you know that whether he is guilty or not is irrelevant to some. Many would  deem guilty at the charge. On top of that, the administration went all Tuskegee Experiment on him, which along with slave style hard labor, used to happen a lot to prisoners and poor people of color. Despite all of these major social hindrances, Luke Cage, in all of his activities, still does his best to do right, often bordering the blurry line between what’s lawful and what’s not, as vigilante heroes do. He is a man who has a past a lot like a lot of other people from the city. Best of all, he has no filter when he talks.
So glad the gold teeth
didn't stick.
Luke Cage is the black man in the hoodie that we keep seeing getting shot or beaten in the news, except he is actually bulletproof. This is the “scary thug” that people saw in Amadou Diallo and Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Jordan Davis and Yvette Smith and Renisha McBride and Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and Levar Jones and Natasha McKenna and Tamir Rice. Look at the words used in the police reports describing the situations surrounding these people. You’ll see phrases like “lightning fast” and “superman strength” and “I felt overpowered” and “he/she looked dangerous/aggressive”. Luke Cage is the black “Superman” of which these white people were so afraid that they felt they had to use lethal force. And just like them, Luke Cage is a good man who had a bit of a complicated past.  You cannot place him in one cubbyhole of your sense of “morality”.
I’m excited for Black Panther’s upcoming movie because he’s the first black superhero, but I’m even more excited for this African-American superhero. He isn’t even the first African-American superhero. Sam Wilson/Falcon is the first, but he was originally a sidekick for Captain America. We’ve all seen the Black Best Friend and Magical Negro trope enough times. It’s about time for another black comic superhero who goes out on his own. Don’t think that other future minority characters’ three-dimensionality in comics was not influenced by creation of Luke Cage! I doubt that DC would have had the idea to develop John Stewart’s “Mosaic” storyline were it not for the success of Cage. Sam WIlson may not have become the new Captain America.
A lot of people identify with Peter Parker, being a nerdy science kid who likes comics. I get that, but that’s just the lust for science and feeling of solitude. What if there is more to your youthful experience than that? I haven’t had all of the experiences that young Carl Lucas had. However, I do identify with being poor, black, from a troubled family, and tempted to bend the law in order to survive. I have had the experience of being abused by neighborhood bullies and people of authority. I maintain my determination to do right in the midst of the easy temptation to do less than that. Luke Cage is every one of us. This is the black superhero I always wanted to see on screen. I’m extra happy that the mainstream is loving Luke Cage as much as I have. Let’s hope they keep loving him when they find out his past and how he got to be who he is. Luke Cage is the baddest motherfucker.
Shit...Now I can’t get “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” out of my head...
luke-cage.jpg

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