Luke Cage Season 2 is on the way: A look at the comic book inspirations on the new Netflix series.
Luke Cage Season One on Netflix was very well received. Comic fans should have been especially pleased with the way the show drew inspiration from the original Marvel Comics depictions of Luke Cage and his world. It was no surprise, therefore, when the show was renewed for a second season and, lo and behold – after some waiting- the second season is finally upon us. Luke Cage Season Two will officially be available for viewing on June 22.
Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972)
Along with the return of Claire Temple and Misty Night many are excited because we get to see more of Mike Colter’s portrayal of the titular character Luke Cage. Cage’s first comic book appearance is in Hero for Hire #1. This comic launched the series that would give us not only Cage but also important supporting characters, like Claire Temple, ‘Shades’ and Willis Stryker aka Diamondback who all played major roles in Luke Cage Season 1. Hero for Hire #1 is a hot book – especially in hard-to-find higher grades (the curse of black covers and visible color breaks is strong in this one). For this reason, anything above 9.0 will cost you a pretty penny. Mid-grade copies can be got for around $200.00 but might not be as valuable an investment in the long term. To put this in perspective, Hero for Hire #1 was the number 26 most sought after Bronze Age comic last month so it will be interesting to see how demand goes after the new season of the show becomes available.
Of course, the Second season will present a new chapter in the Luke Cage Saga. Here’s what we know about the characters the writers will draw on for bringing to life Power Man’s second live action outing. In the rest of this post, I’ll give a quick summary of some of the new characters and then say something about the current status of the comic books serving as their key first appearances.
Punisher: War Zone #2 (April 1992)
The first new addition to the Luke Cage cast announced for the second season will be portrayed by actress Annabella Sciorra. Sciorra has been cast to play the character of Rosalie Carbone. In the comics, Carbone was a mafia Princess connected to the Carbone crime family and antagonist to the Punisher. She makes her first comic book appearance in Punisher: War Zone #2. We can only hope this means that the Punisher himself (brilliantly portrayed by Jon Bernthal) will make a guest appearance on Season Two of Luke Cage. The Punisher appearances on the second season of Daredevil were the highlight of that show’s sophomore outing. While we wait to find out, it’s a good sign that Netflix is taking a cue from the big screen Marvel movies and interconnecting characters from different series in different properties. Punisher: War Zone #2 is easy to find and can be purchased quite inexpensively as I write this. Prices for higher grades of this comic may heat up if continued success of the Punisher series influences demand for his comics backlog.
Captain America #164 (August, 1973)
Tilda Johnson is another new character announced for the second season of Luke Cage. She will be portrayed by actress Gabrielle Dennis. Johnson is also known to comic readers as the villain code-named Nightshade and her first appearance can be found in Captain America #164. Nightshade is a smart and cunning foe. Since Nightshade is rumored to be under consideration for the role of one of the villains in the next Black Panther movie (played by a different actress!) it will be interesting to see how they use her on the show. Captain America #164 is an affordable key and easy to find in mid-grade, but prices are heating up in the higher grades where value has risen 34% for 9.4 graded copies and 128 % for 9.6 graded copies over sales of the comic at this time last year.
Iron Fist #15 (Sept. 1977)
The central big bad of the second season of Luke Cage will almost certainly not be Tilda Johnson, but John McIver aka ‘Bushmaster’. It is Bushmaster not Nightshade who is featured in the trailers and he will be played by actor Mustafa Shakir. John McIver was born poor in the Caribbean where he took to gang life with his younger brother Quincy. In the comics, Quincy as Bushmaster was later made a member of the Serpent Society, but Bushmaster’s first appearance in his John McIver version can be found in Iron Fist #15. This is an overlooked issue in the original Iron Fist run overshadowed by the popularity of issue 14 which features the first appearance of Sabretooth. This is not to say that Iron Fist #15 is not worth seeking out. Not only does it feature the first appearance of Bushmaster, but this comic includes a meet up between Iron Fist and the newly assembled Uncanny X-Men. That the Iron Fist character is closely associated with Luke Cage is no secret. When the Iron Fist series was cancelled (in fact after this very issue), the Bushmaster storyline was carried over into the Luke Cage comic, which was itself renamed Power Man and Iron Fist for the remainder of its run. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that one of the few redeeming qualities of the less than stellar Netflix ‘Defenders’ miniseries from last year was the way Luke Cage and Danny Rand meet and eventually bond and became friends by the end of the show. Iron Fist’s own comic, spinning off from a series of appearances in Marvel Premiere, started off somewhat slowly but came to a creative peak and found its footing just before it was cancelled to be merged with the Luke Cage ongoing series. This creative surge in Iron Fist was largely due to the pairing of scripter extraordinaire Chris Claremont with the excellent art of John Byrne. The same Claremont-Byrne team that would go on to develop the classic X-Men Bronze Age storylines such as ‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’ and ‘Days of Future Past’ came together for the last 12 issues of the original run of Iron Fist. Iron Fist #15, therefore, can be considered important also because it features Claremont and Byrne’s first collaboration on the X-Men. In the context of the many great Marvel comics from the Bronze Age, the Claremont-Byrne formula frequently translates into two things: (1) great stories and art, and (2) highly sought after comics. Currently Iron Fist #15 can be purchased in 9.8 grade for 475 dollars and this price has remained steady over the last few years. This may change if the Bushmaster appearance on Luke Cage grabs the fancy of collectors, and compared to issue #14 of the series (9.8 = $1, 850.00) this one, at a fraction of the price in ultra-high grade, is currently much more affordable.