How Did 'Luke Cage' Get His Powers? These Powers Don't Come Natural
Every character in the Marvel universe has an origin story, but because Luke Cage was first introduced on Jessica Jones his backstory hasn't been fully explored yet. Non-comic fans may not have a clue what made him indestructible, or what his life was like before Jessica came into it. Luckily his own series Luke Cage is set to premiere soon, filling in all the blanks in his history and bringing new fans up to speed with old ones. Until then, some questions can be answered by the series' source material, like: how did Luke Cage get his powers?
Like many superheroes, Luke wasn't born with his super-strength or bulletproof skin. One trailer for the series gives a glimpse of what happened to make him that way, and also makes it seem like the show will adhere closely to its comic counterpart when it comes to backstory. In Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, Luke ends up in prison after being framed by his former friend. While there, he undergoes an experiment intended to mimic the effects of Captain America's super soldier serum but it doesn't quite go according to plan. It leaves Luke with powers he didn't ask for but also sets him on the path towards becoming a hero.
Luke's wrongful imprisonment comes about when his childhood friend Willis Stryker plants heroin in Luke's apartment and then calls the cops on him. Stryker did so out of revenge after Luke became involved with Stryker's ex Reva Conners – who was Luke's deceased wife in Jessica Jones. While in prison Luke is targeted by an abusive guard named Billy Bob Rackham, who ends up being responsible for what happens to Luke. After Luke is recruited to take part in the experiment, Rackham intervenes and sabotages it.
While it's not clear how many of the details will remain the same in the Netflix series, some of this can be seen in the promotional material. In one trailer, Luke is shown undergoing the experiment while explaining what happened to him in vague terms. "I was put in some tank like an exotic fish," he narrates as the experiment goes wrong and equipment blows up. Luke remains unharmed in the wreckage. "I came out with abilities."
There is a lot of real world influence in Luke's story, from his time in prison to the experiment performed on him, which had its roots in the real life Tuskegee syphilis experiments. The Tuskegee experiments saw hundreds of black men unknowingly infected with syphilis over the span of forty years so that the effects could be studied. (Marvel also referenced this with Isaiah Bradley, one of many black men experimented on in an effort to recreate Captain America's super soldier serum.) Many have also noted the importance of Luke being bulletproof when so many real life black Americans have been unjustly killed.
Many superheroes have complicated relationships with their own abilities because they received them in an accident, or they don't know how to handle them. The way Luke acquired his abilities has an added relevance in the broader context of the world that will be sure to resonate with audiences.