From Page to Screen: Luke Cage by Jerry Whitworth
With the releases of Daredevil and Jessica Jones (as the second season of Daredevil featuring the Punisher, who maybe getting his own series later, arrives in March), the next series in Netflix’s Defenders block of Marvel Television programming in Luke Cage is being filmed to premier later this year (likely in the fall). Continuing the storyline of the mysterious Luke Cage (Mike Colter) from Jessica Jones, the eponymous character finds himself moving to Harlem several months after the events of the aforementioned series where his bar in Hell’s Kitchen was destroyed, his mind tampered with by the villainous Kilgrave (David Tennant), and his relationship with Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) left as complicated at best. At the end of Jessica Jones, Cage was left with a USB memory stick that belonged to his deceased wife Reva Connors (Parisa Fitz-Henley) with data she obtained (and subsequently hid) on scientists that experimented on children (a common trope in comics, notably with the likes of Spider-Woman Jessica Drew and Cloak & Dagger). Little is known about the origins of Cage’s super-strength and unbreakable skin save they were the result of some experiment but it was clear Cage wanted to maintain a low profile. In the upcoming series, night shift nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) from Daredevil and Jessica Jones will return to play a significant role in the show (which includes the emergence of her mother Soledad Temple played by Sonia Braga). Lets take a look at what other significant characters will emerge in Luke Cage.
Leader of the Rat Pack whom specialized in robbing the corpses of the recently deceased, Black Mariah would run afoul of Luke Cage when the wife of one of their victims hired him to track down his body. Locked up in prison, Mariah would later return to form a drug empire selling the narcotic Acid Z that drove its users mad, sometimes suicidal. When Cage’s friend D.W. Griffith began using the drug, the hero for hire and his partner Iron Fist tracked down Mariah and shut her operation down. For Luke Cage, the character of Black Mariah is instead politician Mariah Dillard, cousin of club owner Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes seeking to usher in a new, prosperous age for Harlem (drawing parallels to the character of Wilson Fisk in Daredevil and his desire to improve Hell’s Kitchen). When Luke Cage becomes engaged in conflict with Cottonmouth, Dillard’s plans and career is brought into jeopardy. Mariah Dillard will be played by Alfre Woodard (State of Affairs, Annabelle).
The Rivals was a street gang based out of Harlem consisting of Carl Lucas (the real name of Luke Cage), Willis Stryker, “Shades” Alvarez, and Comanche. Though engaging in larceny by trade under mobster Sonny Caputo, the Rivals largely worked as a counter to rival gang the Diablos. As time went on, Lucas would go legit and Stryker’s girlfriend Reva Connors would leave Stryker for Lucas due to the former’s lifestyle. Angered by the turn of events, Stryker stole drugs from drug lord Cornell Cottonmouth and planted them in Lucas’ home to frame him. Lucas would go to jail and the criminal organization the Maggia would kill Connors in an attempt on Stryker’s life for invading their territory. In prison, an experiment was performed on Lucas accidentally granting him super-strength and unbreakable skin which he used to escape. Seeking revenge, Lucas (now Luke Cage) found Stryker had become a crime boss called Diamondback. As Cage came after Diamondback, the latter would kidnap the former’s friend Claire Temple leading to a confrontation where Diamondback would accidentally kill himself. In the midst of all of this, Shades and Comanche had been previously incarcerated in the same prison that held Lucas and abused by the same guard in Billy Bob Rackham who accidentally gave Lucas his powers when he tried to kill him during an experiment. Eventually, the racist abuse doled out by Rackham came to light and he was fired. Jobless, Rackham would align with Daily Bugle reporter Phil Fox who learned of Cage’s past and tried to blackmail him into working for him. The pair conspired to kidnap Cage’s girlfriend Claire Temple only for Rackham to botch the job and instead take one of the hero for hire’s clients in Mrs. Jenks. Creating a dispute, Rackham killed Fox and went on the run with Jenks. Shades and Comanche had broken out of jail and sought revenge against Rackham, hoping to get Cage to join them. Cage refused them but would agree to work together to find Rackham for Jenks’ sake. The confrontation led to a massive confluence of elements as Stiletto, the son of the warden of the prison Cage, Shades, and Comanche escaped from (leading to the warden’s dismissal), tracked the trio down seeking revenge which inevitably lead to the demise of both Rackham and Jenks. As Luke Cage would later team with Iron Fist to form the Heroes for Hire, Shades and Comanche became the hoodlums for hire and would come to work for Ward Meachum, the man who killed Iron Fist’s father (Iron Fist would leave the mystical city of K’un-Lun in order to seek revenge on Meachum). Little is known about the character Shades in Luke Cage save it will be portrayed by Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy, Bad Hurt).
A lieutenant in the NYPD, Misty Knight’s life would change when she decided to pay a visit the bank only to discover a bomb had been shipped to the building. In trying to get rid of the explosive, it detonated blowing off her right arm. Her act of heroism gaining media attention, Tony Stark designed and built a robotic arm to replace the one Knight lost. Despite this, Knight was relieved of street duty and provided a desk job. Disappointed with this new position, Knight quit and started a private investigation business with her best friend Colleen Wing, trained in the arts of the samurai whom Knight saved when she was caught in the middle of a gun battle, called Nightwing Restorations, Ltd. Knight and Wing would subsequently become involved with the adventures of Iron Fist as the former became the hero’s longtime significant other. For Luke Cage, Simone Missick (Ray Donovan, A Taste of Romance) has been cast as Misty Knight, a Harlem police officer investigating the titular character. Frank Whaley (Under the Dome, Ray Donovan) will play Knight’s partner Rafael Scarfe (whom also played a significant supporting role in the Iron Fist comic series).
Cornell Cottonmouth was a drug lord in New York with a fascination with snakes. When Luke Cage was investigating the source of the drugs used to frame him in order to clear his name, his informant Flea uncovered they belonged to Cottonmouth at the cost of his life following being fatally poisoned. Intrigued by Cage, Cottonmouth tried to hire the superpowered man which Cage accepted in order to infiltrate his organization. Eventually, Cottonmouth would uncover what Cage was trying to do leading to the hero turning the gangster over to the police. Cottonmouth would return and again deal drugs as well as expand into running a prostitution ring. Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, The Hunger Games) will portray Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes in Luke Cage where he’s a nefarious Harlem club owner and cousin of rising politician Mariah Dillard.