I never knew what to make of Luke Cage when I was a kid. I loved the iconic look of him, courtesy of John Romita, all primary colors and buccaneer boots. But the villains he fought were so off-the-wall outrageous (Black Mariah???) and, like Thor, the way he talked was so foreign to me that Cage might has well have been from Krypton. I grew up in rural Virginia and our house was nearly a mile from the nearest paved road. The African American kids I knew in school and played football with never once, to my knowledge, referred to anyone as a "jive turkey" or "sucka." So, whenever I opened a Luke Cage comic, I was like..."What the hell is this supposed to be?" It was like watching a French film without subtitles.
But there must have been something there because the book lasted nearly 50 issues before it merged with IRON FIST (itself only reaching, what...15 issues on its own?) And it was nice to see Marvel producing a book about an African American hero who didn't have the word "Black" in his name. (Even as a kid that was glaring and I remember wondering if anyone found it insulting.) But then they went and made him an escaped convict. Sigh.
Romita's Cage design is so eye-catching, though, that I've been wanting to do a sketch of him for a long time. I mentioned that to Christian while we were at one of our occasional Drink 'n' Draws at Legend last week. He promptly loaned me Brian Azzarello's MAX CAGE miniseries. While I appreciated the loaner and loved Richard Corben's typically beautiful artwork and Azzarello's clever reworking of the FISTFUL OF DOLLARS plot, the character of Cage left me cold. It seems to be a recurring theme with Marvel's MAX line that they take a popular character, strip away anything "comicbooky" (ie. costumes and selfless heroism) and give them a shattered psyche. Throw in R-rated dialogue and graphic sex and you got y'self a MAX book. It was a good read but it sure wasn't Luke Cage. Gone was the yellow flair-collared shirt, wrist and head bands and chain-belt. This time, Cage's "costume" was a puffy vest, jeans and ever-present headphones. And there were f-bombs and n-words aplenty. Ugh. I get that this is a sort of "Elseworlds" Cage but...no, thanks.
Anyway, I hope you like the drawing. I loved doing it. And it went really fast. For me, anyway. I really miss this version of Luke Cage. I can see why Marvel has felt the need to redesign him but this look will always be Cage to me. I think it may be fun to try redesigning his costume for a modern audience and seeing if I can retain the feel of Romita's design in the process. Something to think about.