In the past few years, a certain bald-headed comic character has had a comeback. Wait, I take that back…. You can’t even call it a comeback, if he’s bigger than he ever was before. I’m talking Luke Cage.
From ex-con and street businessman to joining – and now leading – a team of Avengers, the man once known as Power Man has come a long way. But in the full bloom of Marvel’s Hollywood successes and small screen aspirations, I see where Luke Cage could fit in and make it big. All it needs is a good story, a good cast, and a good person in charge. Here’s how I think it could work.
Luke Cage might be a super-hero, but it’s the original tiara-ed super-hero get-up that held back “Power Man” for years until Brian Michael Bendis resuscitated and refashioned him as a street-clothes heavy. I’d carry that over with Luke Cage as the head of an ensemble cast featuring his Heroes For Hire team-mates. I’d open the series with Luke Cage fresh out of prison and trying to downplay the experiment that gave him his powers. Instead of Misty Knight being a friend with her own detective agency, I’d put Misty Knight in the semi-adversarial role of parole officer for the newly freed Mr. Cage. If you think about it, Knight was a cop before she went freelance so imagine if she was a parole officer for Luke Cage – keeping him on his toes, but also assisting him into a new life – a life of helping people, as an urban detective.
Luke could be on some tough times at first, but after seeing how another of Knight’s parolees, like Colleen Wing, is fairing, he might give it a second chance. Sure he might not think much of the scraggly-looking guy named Danny Rand that couch-surfs at Knight’s house, but hey – at least he’s not in prison. Along the way Cage could find out Rand’s more than just a True Romance-era Brad Pitt but a millionaire – and a trained fighter as well. They could go in together on this new “Heroes For Hire” venture, sometimes with a little assistance form Misty and Colleen.
As a television series, this could co-exist instead the realm of movies’ Marvel Cinematic Universe, but offering a street-level approach to things while seeing the movie’s events unfold on TV screens and in paper. On occasion you could even have some movie characters drop-in, from the likes of Iron Man’s Pepper Potts wanting to hire Cage & Rand for a unique job or even Agent Coulson trying to scout how who these guys really are.
The Creative Mastermind:
To make this work it needs to be different than other comic TV successes like The Incredible Hulk or Smallville – it needs a stronger street-wise sense of reality even with Cage’s powers and Rand’s flaming fists. I would enlist The Shield’s creator and showrunner Shawn Ryan. We’ve seen him do buddy-cop dynamics near perfect in The Shield and the short-lived Terriers, and if he could bring the harshly realistic criminal elements seen in the former and in Chicago Code they’d be set.
Luke Cage – Lance Gross: He might not be a household name, but he’s been in cable-subscribers’ household for the past four years as one of the leads in the comedy series House of Payne. Although that’s far afield from what a Luke Cage series would be, we’ve seen some of the biggest actors come from comedy TV roots: (Tom Hanks or Will Smith, anyone?) Gross has the looks, the acting chops and a high school athletic background that could add up to be a winning combination for depicting a young Luke Cage growing into his own.
Iron Fist – Fran Kranz: Fran Kranz might be known by the iFanboy audience more for his comedic brainiac role as the techie Topher Brink in Dollhouse, but he would be an admirable (and funny) scruffy millionaire-cum-kung-fu-fighter as Iron Fist, aka Danny Rand. Remember, this is a young Cage & Fist duo, so Cage’s hardened prison time would go well with Rand’s trust-fund-baby-with-kicks kind of thing. Sure Kranz might need to hit the gym almost Chris Evans-style, but I think he’d do it. Plus, imagine this Danny Rand taking Cage to K’un L’un for the first time.
Misty Knight – Monica Raymund: Fresh off her role in the TV series Lie To Me, the South Florida native Monica Raymund could be a hard-edged parole officer like Misty Knight with no sweat. For this role it’d be before Knight left the force and before she got her cybernetic arm; in fact, that accident could be a key cliffhanger to end a season and perhaps rope in the tech skills of Tony Stark & Stark International for some continuity connections.
Colleen Wing – Devon Aoki: This Colleen Wing would be another ex-inmate who successfully completed her parole. During her time checking in with Knight they struck up a friendship, and actress Devon Aoki could open up more than what was seen in Sin City to provide a unique counterpoint with her foreign perspective.