When He Was Carl

Luke was born as Carl Lucas in Savannah, Georgia, spending much of his time alongside his childhood friend, Willis Stryker. He didn’t know, as Willis eventually learned, that Willis was his half-brother as a result of an affair that Carl’s father had. As teenagers, Carl and Willis stole a car for a joyride and were arrested. Their father James used his influence to get the judge to let Carl join the Marines rather than face jail time, but did not speak up for Willis. This turn of events would cement the growing hatred Willis had for not only James, but for Carl by extension.

After his time in the Marines, Carl went on to become a policeman before being imprisoned in Seagate Prison for a crime he did not commit. While at Seagate, Carl fell in love with therapist Reva Connors, while also being coerced into an underground fighting ring between inmates run by Albert Rackham, a corrupt prison guard. Carl hatched a plan to expose the fighting ring and Rackham, but before he could do so, Rackham found out and had Carl beaten to within an inch of his life by Shades and Comanche.

Luke Cage

After being sent to the infirmary, Carl fell under the care of Doctor Noah Burstein, who told Reva that unless something was done, Carl would die. She insisted that Burstein try and save his life using an experimental procedure she and Burstein were both involved in. Burstein agreed, though he warned Carl could die as a result. Rackham intervened, attempting to sabotage the procedure and kill Lucas. His intentions had the opposite effect—Carl was not only fully healed, but also imbued with super-strength and unbreakable skin that allowed him to escape from prison.


Lucas gains enhanced strength and near-invulnerability from Burstein’s experiment. Conventional bullets cannot pierce his skin, and a raging fire has no effect on him whatsoever. Receiving a punch from a normal human will result in more than a few broken bones for the person stupid enough to engage Cage. The only thing about Luke that takes a beating are his clothes.

Cage Rage

Luke’s happy life with Reva in New York City is short-lived thanks to the vile Kilgrave, who uses his powers to force Jessica Jones to murder Reva. Later, Kilgrave continues to cause trouble in Cage’s life by manipulating him with his powers, forcing Luke at one point to blow up his own bar and even attack Jessica.

Despite trying to live a quiet life after this, Luke finds himself at odds with gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and his cousin, politician Mariah Dillard. A parley at Pop’s Barbershop goes sideways resulting in the death of Pop, one of the few people who knows the truth about Luke’s abilities. Blaming Cottonmouth for the botched parley, Luke begins taking down Cottonmouth’s operations. The turmoil in Harlem brings out Cottonmouth’s gun supplier, Diamondback (later revealed to be Willis Stryker), whose personal connection to Luke has him particularly intent on taking Harlem’s hero down.

Luke also faces off against the evil organization called the Hand when their power-hungry operations threaten New York City as a whole.

Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem Nights

After Luke and super-powered private eye Jessica Jones discover that they have much in common, the two enter into a passionate love affair. Despite their strong feelings for one another, this is cut short when Jessica’s history and her involvement in the death of Luke’s wife is revealed. The possibility of reconciliation becomes even smaller when it turns out Kilgrave manipulated many of Cage’s interactions with Jessica.

Luke Cage

In Harlem, Luke becomes allies with NYPD officer Misty Knight and nurse Claire Temple—who he first encounters thanks to Jessica—when he decides to bring down the criminal reign of Cottonmouth, Mariah Dillard, and Diamondback. Misty and Claire both become Luke’s love interests at different points, but only Claire is in it for the long haul, as Misty cannot condone Cage’s vigilante actions.

Following his defeat of Diamondback, Luke teams up with Jessica Jones and fellow heroes Daredevil and Iron Fist in order to bring down Elektra and the Hand.

Luke Cage

From Fugitive to Hero

Carl Lucas met up with Reva shortly after his prison break, shaving his head and full beard, and taking on the new name of Luke Cage after his father’s favorite Bible verse. The two were married and moved to Harlem. Luke and Reva’s wedded bliss was cut short after Reva was purportedly killed in a bus accident.

Not believing that Reva’s death was truly an accident, Luke devoted much of his time and energy into researching the events surrounding his wife’s demise. During this time, he opened a bar in Hell’s Kitchen, which drew the patronage of private investigator Jessica Jones.  The two began an affair, but Jessica knew Luke was the husband of Reva—the very woman she had killed while under the mind control of the powerful and cruel Kilgrave. After Jessica finally admitted her involvement in Reva’s death to Luke, he stormed off, furious at her for keeping her secret and intent on killing Kilgrave himself. Instead, he temporarily fell under Kilgrave’s control, blowing up his own bar in the process.

After this, Luke seemingly forgave Jessica and the two teamed up to bring down Kilgrave, tracking him to a night club. It turned out that Cage had actually been under Kilgrave’s control for quite some time, and the villain instructed Cage to protect him and kill Jessica. More powerful than the investigator, despite her own super-strength, Luke nearly killed Jessica, who reluctantly shot him at point blank range in the head with a shot gun to stop him. The blow didn’t kill Cage, but did cause some serious cranial swelling, knocking him unconscious. Jessica brought him to a hospital, encountering nurse Claire Temple. When the nurses were unable to inject an IV into Cage’s skin, Temple, having dealt with Daredevil, understood the super-powered nature of this situation and went to Jessica’s apartment to help take care of Luke. She reduced the swelling in his head and he recovered, leaving the apartment shortly after.

Luke Cage

After Jessica had taken down Kilgrave, Luke returned to Harlem where he began working at Pop’s barbershop again, along with additional work at Harlem’s Paradise, a nightclub owned by the gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes. Pop tried to encourage Luke to become a vigilante like Daredevil, but Cage preferred to keep a low profile, especially since he was an escaped convict.

Cage began a brief romantic relationship with Detective Misty Knight, but considered leaving Harlem after encountering Shades, a criminal with whom he was imprisoned with at Seagate. Instead of giving into cowardice and running, Luke decided to stay and engaged in his first heroic act by stopping a group of thugs from intimidating the owners of Genghis Connie’s, a local Chinese restaurant.

Luke decided to take a bigger role in the life of Chico Diaz, one of the barbershop’s employees who stole money from Cottonmouth. Cottonmouth wanted to kill the thief, but Cage hoped to bring an amicable end to the proceedings with the money returned and Chico leaving town. Cottonmouth agreed to a parley at Pop’s, but one of his men (Tone) went rogue and shot the place up, resulting in the death of Pop. In an ultimate act of brazenness, Cottonmouth offered to pay for the funeral. 

Filled with sadness and rage over Pop’s death, Luke swore a vendetta against Cottonmouth and his cousin, Mariah Dillard. He took down several of Cottonmouth’s operations around Harlem before going for the coup de grace, hitting the place where the money from all of Cottonmouth’s operations was kept: the Crispus Attucks Complex.

Luke Cage

Taking all the money from the Complex, Cage intended for the funds to go toward fixing Pop’s shop after the shooting. Cottonmouth soon discovered who had taken the money and intended to kill Cage with a rocket launcher. The blast hit Genghis Connie’s, where Luke lived, causing the entire building to collapse, but failing to kill Luke. Luke emerging from the blast unscathed drew the suspicion of Misty Knight, who tried to convince Luke to let the cops get Cottonmouth the legal way, but he refused. 

After Cottonmouth was arrested, but then almost immediately freed due to lack of evidence, Luke confronted him at Harlem’s Paradise. Cottonmouth threatened to out Luke as an escaped convict. Luke was tempted to skip town, but Claire Temple—now living in Harlem as well—convinced him to stay and act as a symbol of good for Harlem by bringing down Cottonmouth.

Cage was shot in the stomach by Diamondback with a Judas Bullet, which was capable of piercing Luke’s skin. During the confrontation that followed, Luke was shocked to realize Diamondback was his childhood friend, Willis Stryker, who also reveals he was Luke’s half-brother and that he framed Carl Lucas for the crime that led to his imprisonment.

Luke was shot again by Diamondback and badly hurt. With no conventional way to remove the bullet from his stomach, Claire took him to the only man who might know how, Doctor Noah Burstein. Burstein devised a plan to dip Luke in a vat of extremely corrosive acid in the hopes of separating his powerful cells long enough to remove the bullet. The procedure was successful and Luke and Claire returned to Harlem for a final face-off with Diamondback. Meanwhile, Mariah Dillard intended to frame Luke for the murder of Cottonmouth—a murder she had actually committed herself.                                                                   

Luke first confronted Diamondback at Harlem’s Paradise where Mariah was holding a press conference. It turned into a hostage situation, ending in Diamondback’s escape.

Diamondback then donned a suit of power armor to be equally matched with Cage, beginning a battle that took the two into the streets outside of Harlem. Taking a piece of advice that Willis himself gave him when they were kids, Luke allowed Diamondback to tire himself out before delivering the knockout punch in front of cheering locals. A SWAT team arrived to arrest Cage, but Misty intervened, having them take away Stryker instead. Though he was cleared of the charges relating to Cottonmouth’s murder, Dillard identified him to the media as Carl Lucas, and Luke was taken back to jail to complete his sentence—something he allowed to occur, no longer wanting to have to run.

Cage spent less time in jail than expected thanks to his friend Bobby Fish and attorney Foggy Nelson, who helped prove that Diamondback had framed him and that Luke was innocent. Back in Harlem, Cage resumed his romance with Claire Temple, while investigating local kids who had been swept up in criminal activities by what turned out to be the organization known as the Hand.

Luke’s investigation led him to encounter Danny Rand AKA Iron Fist, who was also after the Hand—beginning with a fight between Luke and Danny where Luke found that Danny’s Iron Fist power was among the rare elements that could harm him. Claire eventually convinced the two to work together. They in turn discovered both Matt Murdock AKA Daredevil and Jessica Jones were involved in the battle against the Hand as well.

Luke Cage

In the ensuing battles between the four heroes and the Hand, Cage found a worthy opponent in Sowande, but Cage ultimately defeated him and took him prisoner. 

After Sowande revealed that the Hand’s plan involved using Danny and his power, the others insisted on tying him up and keeping him out of the fight, despite his protests. Luke, alongside Daredevil’s old mentor, Stick, watched over Danny and bonded further with him—only for Stick to poison Luke and knock him out, having decided Danny needed to be killed to end this threat. Luke awakened to find the Hand’s assassin, Elektra, had arrived and murdered Stick. Still woozy, he was defeated by her.

Cage and his friends were taken into custody as the police investigated the deaths of both Stick and Sowande (who Stick himself had killed), but promptly escaped. They headed to the Midland Circle building, which stood over the pit the Hand had dug as part of their dark plans, and there—joined by Misty Knight, Claire Temple, and Iron Fist’s ally, Colleen Wing—they fought the Hand. Using explosives brought by Colleen, the building was blown up, with everyone but Matt, who stayed behind to confront Elektra, making it to safety.

In the aftermath, as he and his friends mourned the apparent death of Matt Murdock, Cage was relieved when Foggy Nelson told him both he and Claire Temple would not be charged for any crimes. He then spoke to Jessica Jones, telling her he was glad she made it out of the building and asking her to keep in touch.