One of our most popular posts is listing the references to Marvel Comics history and the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe for the shows and movies. I started Luke Cage at midnight on Thursday and was done before the weekend was over. I didn’t intend to binge but it’s just so watchable. Anyway, my brain is stuffed full of useless comic book trivia so I’m putting it to use here explaining who the characters, settings and comics history are used in the show, as well as any references to previous Marvel TV shows and movies.
Episode 1: Moment of Truth
- Gotta mention this at the top. Every episode title is also a track listing by early East Coast rap duo Gang Starr. They are known for pioneering the New York hardcore hip hop sound in the late 80s. This show is infused with authenticity, filmed on location in Harlem and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker began his career as a music journalist. Coker wrote the screenplay for the 2009 movie Notorious about the life of the late Brooklyn rapper The Notorious B.I.G. which helps explain his huge poster in Cottonmouth’s office.
- A guy on the street is selling DVDs of “The Incident”, also known as the Chitauri invasion back in Avengers. He literally says you can see: “Tony Stark. the blonde dude with the hammer, the old dude with the shield, the green monster and I don’t mean Fenway.”
- Pops calls Luke “Power Man” when he casually lifts a washing machine in back of the barber shop. That was Luke’s original superhero name. His book was originally titled “Luke Cage: Hero for Hire” for issue #1 in June, 1972 but was retitled “Luke Cage: Power Man” for issue #17 in February, 1974.
- Luke also wears a black and yellow hoodie in this episode, which are the colors he wears as a superhero. In the 70s and 80s he wore black pants, a loose yellow shirt and a metal tiara. In the 90s he wore black jackets and cropped his hair short. In the 2000s, he showed up in “Alias” by Brian Michael Bendis and began a relationship with Jessica Jones. There, he simply wore street clothes and suits, had shaved his head and grew a goatee. The character in the show is based on this look.
- Luke says he doesn’t swear and there’s a curse jar at Pop’s. It’s probably a coincidence but in the current “Power Man and Iron Fist” comic, Luke won’t swear because he has a young daughter. Instead he says things like “fiddle faddle” when he wants to curse.
- Mariah warns Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes about what happened to Fisk. She’s talking about Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, who Daredevil took down in season one of his show (but who we learn is still planning on how to get out and control New York’s crime scene in Daredevil season 2.
- Mariah Dillard is loosely based on the comics villain Black Mariah who first appeared in “Luke Cage: Hero for Hire” #5 (January, 1973). Her name made sense then because her first criminal exploit was to pick up dead people in a fake ambulance and rob them. A Black Mariah is also a name for a police van. Anyway, in the comics she was a very large woman in a red dress who ran a gang and after she got out of jail got into the drug dealing business. She had no relation to Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes or any connection to politics. I think we can all agree that Alfre Woodard’s version is a big improvement.
- Cottonmouth first appeared in “Power Man” #18 (June, 1974) as Cornell Cottonmouth, a drug dealing crimelord. Willis Stryker (Diamondback) stole a shipment of heroin from Cottonmouth to frame Carl Lucas (Luke Cage’s real name) and send him to prison. The comics version is still around as a small crime lord who has teamed up with other supervillains.
- The guns that Cottonmouth is running come from Hammer Industries. Justin Hammer is an Iron Man villain in the comics and appeared in Iron Man 2 played by Sam Rockwell. Looks like his company remains shady even with their CEO in jail.
- Shades is a supervillain from the comics as well. He appeared in Luke Cage’s first issue, “Luke Cage: Hero for Hire” #1 as a criminal who spent time in prison with Luke. After he gets out, businessman and criminal Ward Meachum gives him a visor that can shoot energy blasts. He remains a recurring opponent throughout the 70s and 80s comics. In a 2010 storyline it is revealed he’s gone straight and had a kid. His building is blown up and he dies but his son, who has super strength, now goes by “Power Man.” On the show he works for Diamondback as a liaison with Cottonmouth. In the comics he teamed up with Diamondback but never worked for him per se.
- Seagate Prison is the fictional Georgia prison that Luke Cage goes to in the comics. It appeared in the movies in a Marvel short film called “Hail to the King” where we see Justin Hammer and Trevor Slattery (the actor pretending to be Mandarin) are imprisoned there.
- Misty Knight first appeared in the comics in “Marvel Premiere” #21 (March, 1975) as an NYPD police officer. In the comics she actually dates Iron Fist, Luke’s superhero partner and best friend. There is a story where they break up and she briefly dates Luke but traditionally she works as a private investigator after an accident prevents her from working as a police officer except behind the desk.
- This is an obscure one but the reporter we see is named Megan McLaren. She is in fact a comic book character who first appeared in “Thunderbolts” #1 (April, 1997) and worked for WJBP.
- Luke mentions to the proprietors of Genghis Connie’s that he isn’t for hire, another reference to his comic’s original title.
Episode 2: Code of the Streets
- Turk shows up. Read our Daredevil references to learn about him but he’s a low level recurring criminal in Daredevil’s comics and he’s been in both seasons of the Daredevil show. He mostly operates out of Hell’s Kitchen.
- Misty’s partner, Rafael Scarfe is also from the comics, first appearing in “Marvel Premiere” #23 (August, 1975). He was Misty’s partner and teamed up with her, Power Man, Iron Fist and even Spider-Man in various stories. In a 2010 storyline, he and some other cops killed a mobster and framed Daredevil but were eventually exposed and Misty knocked him out and arrested him.
- Throughout the episode, Luke is reading Walter Mosley’s Ezekial “Easy” Rawlins mystery “Little Green.” It’s a story about a man who wakes up from a coma and searches for a missing boy. Luke Cage moved up to Harlem because he was injured and put in a coma when he appeared on Jessica Jones. And now he’s looking for Chico. It’s a pretty great parallel.
Episode 3: Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?
- Scarfe said he saw “The Incident” up close and unless his sidearm can turn into a magic hammer the whole job he’s working is irrelevant. Pretty clear references to Avengers and Thor.
- Cottonmouth shouts at his cousin “Shut up Black Mariah!” which directly references her comic book character.
Episode 4: Step in the Arena
- Cottomouth is shown footage of a test of a new Hammer weapon, the Judas bullet. This simultatneously references Justin Hammer from Iron Man 2 and the alien metal from the fight in Avengers.
- Luke’s prison-based origin is very close to the one we got in the comics. Warden Stuart, Dr. Burstein and correctional officer Billy Bob Rackham were pretty much lifted from the page. Warden Stuart only appears in the show on a poster behind Reva during group sessions. In the comics, he stopped Rackham from killing Luke and later had a kid who was the superhero Stilleto. Billy Bob did mess with the experiment to kill Luke, which instead ended up giving him his powers. One difference is that in the comics Dr. Burstein was explicitly working to duplicate Captain America’s super soldier process. Still, I think any world where Captain America exists means that we could assume that’s what the doc is up to.
- Comanche is Shades’ prison ally. In the comics he is also a supervillain that teams up with Shades frequently and mostly shoots trick arrows.
- When Luke emerges from the prison experiment he has on a headpiece and handcuffs that look exactly like the bracelets and tiara he wore when he first appeared in the comics.
- When Luke punches a hole in the prison wall he mutters “Sweet Christmas” which was his comic book catchphrase. It’s… pretty weird.
- Luke escapes prison and steals clothes which are also a duplicate of the very 70s costume he originally wore.
- Reva has ties to the Jessica Jones show and also the comics. In Jessica Jones she had a flash drive of experiments done in prison which also included how Kilgrave was greated. So he had Jessica Jones kill Reva. In the comics, Reva is killed when Diamondback frames Luke Cage for a crime, jealous over Reva falling for Luke. This leads to her accidental death.
Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep
- Claire Temple arrives in Harlem, working for her mom and explaining that she lost her job as a nurse at Metro (that happened in Daredevil season 2). Claire has appeared on all the Netflix shows so far. She originally appeared as DOCTOR Claire Temple in Luke Cage’s second issue and became a romantic interest for the character. But Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple is a mix of that comic character and the characters in “Night Nurse” #1 (November, 1972). That book featured three nurses working the night shift: Georgia Jenkins, a black woman who grew up in NY; Christine Palmer, from a wealthy midwestern family (and who will appear in Dr. Strange this November); and Linda Carter who eventually would go on to literally call herself Night Nurse and provide free medical care to superheroes, off the books.
- The man who gives Luke his new suit is a real person: Dapper Dan, the Hip Hop Tailor of Harlem.
Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards
- The episode begins with a radio broadcast and we hear Rachel Taylor as Trish Walker who she played throughout Jessica Jones. Her talk show is discussing the now publically known Luke Cage. Makes sense! In the comics, Patsy Walker becomes Hellcat but for now she’s just Jessica’s best friend.
- Claire mentions both Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock from Jessica Jones and Daredevil.
- “First Fisk. Then Cottonmouth. This is huge,” says the Captain to Misty Knight, referring to Kingpin from Daredevil season 1 and 2.
Episode 7: Manifest
- Someone calls Luke “Harlem’s Captain America” which is something I definitely believe someone in that world would say.
- Zip, Cottonmouth’s henchman, mentions a John Blaze. A double Easter Egg. It’s the alter ego of the comic book Ghost Rider, the spirit of Vengeance (in the MCU, Robbie Reyes is the only Ghost Rider so far, on season four of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and it’s also an alter ego for Method Man from the Wu Tang Clan, who has a cameo in episode 12. Method Man also contributed a song to the show, “Bulletproof Love.”
- Diamondback shows up at the very end. Willis Stryker/Diamondback is probably Luke’s most personal enemy. He grew up with and was friends with Luke in the comics but got jealous when Reva fell for Luke and framed him to put him in prison. He appeared in the first issue of Luke’s comic book. He wasn’t really a crime boss, just a criminal. He was good with knives and hand to hand combat.
- We see a closeup of Luke Cage’s ID. It says it expires in February, 2016. So, chances are this means the Netflix shows are taking place before Civil War, possibly even before the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
- It’s mentioned that President Obama sang Al Green. But wait, the president in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is President Ellis, as seen in both Iron Man 3 and season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, Obama was still president in the MCU, just for one term. Because in Iron Man 2, Tony Stark holds up a poster of Iron Man that is done in the same style as Obama’s famous “Hope” poster. So he was probably just a one term president in Marvel. Maybe folks wanted something new after aliens literally invaded New York City.
Episode 8: Blowin’ Up the Spot
- When Mariah talks to the press, you can see a microphone from WHIH prominently. WHIH has appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Incredible Hulk, Avengers, Iron Man and more.
- There’s a dumpster with the name Timely Trash with the Timely logo next to it. I’m talking Timely Comics, which eventually changed its name to Marvel Comics. Now that’s a pretty obscure easter egg. Some set designer was being cool.
- Wilson Fisk’s lawyer, Ben Donavan shows up. He was a laywer and a really strong bodyguard in Daredevil comics and appeared in season 2 of Daredevil. He first appeared in “Luke Cage: Hero For Hire” #14 (October, 1973).
- It’s revealed that this version of Diamondback also grew up with Luke Cage and is also the one who framed him, like in the comics.
Episode 9: DWYCK
- In the comics, Diamondback injured Luke Cage with exploding knives. He was saved by Dr. Burstein and Claire Temple. That also happens here on the show, although they go into way more detail here and include an acid bath to weaken Luke’s unbreakable skin.
- The crime bosses at the meet seem to be discussing Madame Gao and her activities. She appeared in Daredevil and her drugs had the mark of Steel Serpent, an Iron Fist enemy.
- Diamondback kills one of the crime bosses with a throwing knife, his weapon of choice in the comics.
- At the gym, there is a poster for a fight between J. Riggins and G. Turiello. According to imdb, Gabe Turiello was the driver for the show, as well as on Jessica Jones and Daredevil. I assume there is someone on the crew named Turiello, too.
- Diamondback refers to “The 48 Laws of Power” (a 1998 self-help book), which is appropriate for a show about a superhero known as Power Man.
- Diamondback literally name checks photographer Barron Claiborne who took the famous photo of Biggie that prominently features at Harlem’s Paradise office.
Episode 10: Take it Personal
- In the show, we learn that Diamondback wasn’t just Luke’s childhood friend, but his half brother when Luke’s father had an affair. In the comics, Diamondback is not related to him. But Luke did have a full brother who didn’t like Luke and lied to both Luke and his father that the other had died. He later forced Dr. Burstein to give him superpowers and became the supervillain Coldfire. They seem to have condensed some of that into just Diamondback.
- During a rally, Mariah stokes the public’s fear of superpowered individuals, saying: “That woman over in Hell’s Kitchen snapped a man’s neck because he was … mind-controlling her.” She’s referring to events from Jessica Jones. It’s also interesting that Alfre Woodard played a different character in the MCU, Miriam Sharpe. In Captain America: Civil War, Miriam confronts Tony Stark about the devastation caused in Sokovia during Avengers: Age of Ultron, which cost her son her life. This leads to the Sokovia Accords, regulating superhumans. The two characters she plays are unrelated and separate but both represent the public’s fear of superheroes.
- Misty looks at old newspapers to learn Luke Cage’s history. The article to the right of the main one mentions a Doc Martin Brown who was experimenting with time travel and the “thrust capacitor”. Just a weird little easter egg.
- Misty gets shot in the arm in this episode. In her initial comics appearance, her arm is injured in a bomb explosion.
Episode 11: Now You’re Mine
- During the hostage situation at Harlem’s Paradise, Sugar calls Claire “Night Nurse”. I mentioned above her origins as Night Nurse. Originally the character was literally going to be Night Nurse (probably Linda Carter) but the movies said they may use that character so they changed her to Claire Temple for Daredevil season 1. Dr. Strange ultimately used Christine Palmer.
- Assistant DA Blake Tower appears. He was a supporting character in Daredevil season 2 and was from the comics. Read our Daredevil season 2 easter eggs for more on him. One interesting thing he does is specifically mention Frank Castle (soon to appear in his own Netflix show as Punisher), who caused plenty of damage with just regular guns. Tower is nervous about cops with Judas bullets.
Episode 12: Soliloquy of Chaos
- Here’s Stan Lee’s cameo. We’ve seen him in photos as some sort of police chief in the background on Daredevil and Jessica Jones but those took place in the same precinct. Now we’re up in Harlem. This time he’s on a crime prevention poster outside a bodega that some thugs try to rob.
- Shades’ real name is revealed as Hernan Alvarez. That’s straight from the comics.
- Method Man has a cameo as himself appearing on real talk show Sway’s Universe and he drops his song “Bulletproof Love.” The song mentions both Tony Stark and “heroes for hire.”
- The outfit Diamondback puts on is pretty close to his look from Luke Cage issues 1 and 2.
Episode 13: You Know My Steez
- Diamondback’s suit is made by Hammer. That guy really wants to make an Iron Man suit!
- Luke’s hoodie has a yellow lining giving him a look closer to his comic book counterpart who tends to wear tees and jackets with yellow.
- Claire tells Luke she knows a really good attorney if he ever needs one. Yeah, Foggy Nelson.
- Misty’s hairdo and red dress are very evocative of her look in the comics. But she didn’t get a bionic arm yet! In the comics when she loses her arm she gets a bionic replacement.
- Claire takes a number off a flyer for a self defense class. And it’s taught by Colleen Wing. Colleen Wing and Misty Knight are investigator/superhero partners in the comics. She’ll appear on the Iron Fist show.
- Diamondback ends up in the care of Dr. Burstein. So I think the show has definitely merged Diamondback with Coldfire.