David F. Walker is going forward and not looking back as he and artist Nelson Blake II are launching a new Luke Cage ongoing title at Marvel. 15 years after the one-time Power Man's last solo ongoing, Luke Cage comes on the heels of the concluding Power Man & Iron Fist title and, of course, the Netflix series.
But in this new Luke Cage, the former Carl Lucas isn't starting in Harlem - but New Orleans. Revisiting his origin on the occassion of Dr. Noah Burstein's funeral, Luke will discover new secrets about f their relationship as helooks for answers on who murdered his father-figure.
Newsarama had the opportunity to talk to Walker about continuing on with the character and taking him out of his element, as well as how, if any, it pulls from the Netflix series and what Cage meant to him and what he could mean now to a new generation of fans.
Newsarama: Okay, David, are we going to see some slices of life with Luke Cage being a superhero dad thrown in?
David F. Walker: Not in this first story arc. I wanted to launch Luke’s solo series by taking him out of his element, and dropping him some place where the only certainty is uncertainty. He has no one to turn to, nowhere to run. This way, we are seeing him at his most essential, relying on nothing more than himself. In time, we’ll see him being a father, but for now, this is Luke stuck in a bad situation, having to deal with it on his own.
Nrama: What makes this the right time for a Cage series, aside from the Netflix show debuting last year?
Walker: The time has been right for a Luke Cage solo series for a long time - it just never happened. I thought for sure he’d get his own book after Brian Michael Bendis left New Avengers, but thankfully that didn’t happen, otherwise I might not be doing this series now. I know there was a mini-series a while back, written by John Arcudi and drawn by Eric Canete, but that’s all there’s been in terms of a solo run for Luke. As for why it is happening now, I just think that sometimes the wheels grind slow, and there wasn’t any sense of urgency, until the Netflix show debuted.
Nrama: Will this series emulate any of the aesthetics from the Luke Cage TV show?
Walker: Aside from having the same character as the lead, I’m trying to make this its own thing. I’m not one of those people that wants the comic to be just like the show or the movie, or vice versa. The show is the show. The comic is the comic. What I’m attempting to do in this series is more like a neo-noir thriller than anything else. I’ve been watching a lot of noir films from the 1940s, as well as detective thrillers from the 1970s. If there is any one piece of work that has inspired me the most while writing this first story arc, it is Robert Altman’s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye - an amazing film, based on a great book.
Nrama: He's already a former leader of the Avengers and is actually seen as a leader among his peers, but was sort of shuffled around in recent years. So do we see Luke getting pushed to the flagship status he deserves this time around?
Walker: Well, he is the star of this book. And he is going to go through some personal changes and evolution that will help inform who he is as a member of the Defenders. As for him getting the flagship status he deserves… I’m certainly pushing for it. So much depends on how he is received by the fans and the retailers - they are the ones that make or break a character or a series. Who would’ve thought Squirrel Girl would be the hit she’s become? But it was a combination of fans and retailers and librarians that pushed that character into the spotlight. Personally, I think Luke is one of the best characters in the Marvel universe, he deserves status that reflects how awesome he is, but that’s up to people other than me.
Nrama: Are we looking at Cage against supervillains from his past-or new villains-or more grounded situations handling the likes of organized crime?
Walker: It is a combination of all three. The first story arc will bring back an old villain, introduce a new villain, and set up a criminal organization that will be a problem for Luke down the road. The old villain is someone that hasn’t been seen in a long time, and his relationship with Luke will be very different now than it was back in the day. If everything works out, the new villain will prove to be a formative foil for Luke, on various levels.
Nrama: Why is the history of the character important compared to his counterparts in the Marvel Universe?
Walker: I think part of what makes Luke such a popular character is how much he has grown and evolved over the years. There are some characters in the Marvel universe that have pretty much stayed the same, but Luke has really transformed. A lot of that transformation happened by way of Bendis’s pen, and he did some amazing things with the character, especially by turning him into a husband and father. Luke Cage spent a long time as something of a caricature of black superhero, but he’s evolved into a much more complex person.
Nrama: You're working with artist Nelson Blake II on the series and he's talked about his excitement about the series on social media, so what's been the collaboration process like? Do you both se eLuke the same way?
Nrama: Nelson and I talked a lot while I was developing the story. Mostly we talked about different artists - who we liked, and who influenced us. We also talked about our individual goals, and what we’d like to accomplish as a team. We’re both on the same page when it comes to guiding Luke in the next stage of his journey. What I’ve seen of Nelson’s art gives me a lot of confidence that he’s bring both the heroism and the humanity I want to explore with Luke.
Nrama: How do you feel about Cage's social relevancy since the Netflix show? Do you feel like it's grown?
Walker: Luke has always been important and, to a certain extent, socially relevant, because he was one of the few black superheroes. Yes, there were some problems with how he was portrayed at times, but as a black kid, growing up in the 1970s and 80s, Luke Cage meant a lot to me. It wasn’t until much later that some writers helped take him to another level, and it was that iteration of the character - the version that appeared in Alias and New Avengers - that really helped set the tone for how he was presented on the Netflix show. All of this happened at a very crucial time, when as a society a lot of us were engaged in spirited conversation about police brutality, and the value of black lives. Luke Cage gave many people a sense of hope, or at the very least a sense of escape within the context of a power fantasy. I believe we need Luke Cage at this moment, because we need someone that will act as a champion and protector at a time when a great many people are being victimized.
Nrama: As the writer of this series, what are you looking forward to the most?
Walker: There were a lot of people that discovered Luke Cage through Netflix, but had no idea that he also goes by the name Power Man. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who didn’t know that Luke Cage is Power Man, and because of that, they never bothered to pick up Power Man and Iron Fist. That was heartbreaking, because Sanford Greene and I did some of our best work on that series, and we developed Luke into a deep and complex character. I’m simply hoping that this new series will find its place in the market, and that Luke will continue to find new fans. For those that are already fans of the character, I hope they appreciate the journey he’s about to take, and the man he will be when he breaks on through to the other side.