Hero For Hire #1
Issue(s): Hero For Hire #1
Well, this was less offensive than i expected it to be. It was actually pretty good.
Carl Lucas, a black prisoner at Seagate who was jailed in a set-up by his once friend turned drug dealer named Willis Stryker, is the victim of continued abuse by the racist white prison guards. A new warden shows up and puts an end to the abuse, and then a scientist named Noah Burstein (with a "u" and no "n") arrives offering a chance for Lucas to participate in an experiment in return for a reduced sentence (shades of Tuskagee).
The experiment goes badly due to the intervention of one of the racist guards, and as a result Lucas gains super-strength and invulnerability.
Realizing that he may be in trouble for beating up the guard that sabotages the experiment, he uses his powers to escape from jail.
Out on the street he gets the idea to become a "Hero For Hire" when he gets a reward for stopping a robbery. He creates a costume (which he himself describes as "kind of hokey") and changes his name to Luke Cage.
He hands out business cards in the street, which attracts the attention of his former friend, Willis Stryker, who now goes by the name of Diamondback.
Luke and Stryker had a falling out over a mutual girlfriend named Reva Connors.
Stryker later framed Luke for the crime he was imprisoned for, and Reva was killed when mobsters tried to eliminate Stryker.
This comic would not even have been possible a year ago before Stan Lee forced the Comics Code Authority to revise its position on drugs.
Two other inmates in Luke's prison are Shades and Comanche, who will later become super-powered villains.
Inks are by Billy Graham, who is very likely Marvel's first black comic book artist post FF #1 (see the comments below for some earlier black artists). Graham will go on to ink all issues of Hero For Hire and will also alternate with Tuska on pencils.
My reprint came with the Luke Cage action figure, and the cover was altered to remove all the sex and crime images in the background. The inside seems to be unaltered.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: See the comments regarding the timeframe of this issue and the space between this issue and #2.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Legends Luke Cage Action Figure reprint
Inbound References (22): show
Billy Graham had previously worked for Warren, and before that did a pornographic comic strip for Screw in 1969.
Matt Baker was probably the first mainstream comic book black artist, and he started in the 1940s. Previous black artists for Atlas/Marvel were Alfonso Greene in the 1950s, Grass Green for a few things in the 1960s, and letterer Ray Holloway from the 1960s and a few decades afterwards.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 13, 2011 11:04 PM
the first 3 issues of Luke Cage are surprisingly good (by Archie Goodwin who is better than most writers). A really original concept with the falsely accused hero, also the hero for hire bit was much more realistic than the altruistic brand of hero. I might have missed it but I detected no real "blackexploit" in the early issues. I think the silliness came with later issues (Black Mariah, Mr Fish, etc) It wasnt there at the start
Posted by: kveto from prague | September 28, 2011 4:30 PM
I have a question about the placement. This story is not presented as a flashback, nor do you treat it as such by listing the characters appearing. Lucas doesn't become Cage until the second-to-last page and then we're told that "soon" he's already meddling in Stryker's affairs enough to have Stryker send goons after him. The next issue seems to pick up right after that with the goons going to bring Luke back to Stryker (although they could be different goons on a different occassion). The problem is that when Cage is recounting his origin in #2, he twice refers to the events of this issue as having happened a year before. So are we viewing the events of this issue as having taken place over a long span of time, compressed down to one issue? When Cage refers to a year passing, does he just mean a year since Burstein has seen him? Or is there meant to be an actual year gap between the two issues, and the ending of #1 and beginning of #2 are two separate incidents where Stryker sent men after Cage? It's worth noting in #2 Stryker's lawyer mentions this is the third time he's had to arrange release for his goons. He doesn't say specifically all three were Cage-related incidents but it is certainly implied. Anyway, my question about the placement is does the year reference change anything about how close you have this first issue to the others?
Posted by: Robert | March 14, 2016 2:27 PM
I treat this issue like the kind of issue that spans a period of time (where i list all characters but place it at the end of that period), which is why i'm counting characters that only appear earlier in the story. Note that on page two of issue #1, it says "It began here, one year ago" which i'm sure is the year that is referred to in issue #2.
As you say, it's possible that issue #2 continues directly from the end of issue #1, but the line from Stryker's lawyer suggests it might not be.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 14, 2016 3:35 PM
E.C. Stoner was another Golden Age black artist. He reportedly drew the "Speed Saunders" story in DETECTIVE COMICS #1. Another one active in the late 40s/50s was Cal Massey, who did work for Marvel. Baker worked for Marvel in the mid to late 50s.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 14, 2016 4:30 PM
It's really surprising to go back to this after watching Luke Cage and realize how well they incorporated so much of this issue into the show.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 29, 2017 6:54 AM
Romita designed Cage’s look, as he did so many other characters at this time (Wolverine, Punisher, Bullseye...). You can also see Romita’s distinctive style in many faces in the book, including 2 of the Stryker images.
Posted by: Andrew | December 23, 2017 7:42 PM
Usually George Tuska's pencils are easily recognizable, but not so much here. I only see two faces that really scream "George Tuska" at me, and the rest show what is probably a combination of the aforementioned John Romita character designs, and Billy Graham's inks. Maybe Tuska is following Romita's designs carefully, or, maybe more likely, Graham is imposing his own style over Tuska's pencils. Whichever it is, it's looking a lot better than Tuska's work usually looks for me.
Posted by: Holt | January 14, 2018 9:21 PM
Definitely Romita inks on Diamondback and other later pages.
Posted by: VtCG | March 4, 2018 5:16 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|