History: The man who would come to call himself Luke Cage grew
up in Harlem, often committing petty thefts with friend Willis Stryker.
As the two matured, Cage took odd jobs in legitimate fields of employment,
while Stryker turned to crime as a profession. The young men differed
on another matter, as well: They had become rivals for the affections
of Reva Connors. Stryker, whose ill-gotten wealth cast him as a
more able suitor than his childhood friend, was badly beaten in
a mob hit. Only Cage's intervention saved his life. Connors and
Cage developed a deep friendship while Stryker was recovering, often
meeting during hospital visits. Insanely jealous, Stryker planted
two kilograms of heroin in Cage's apartment and tipped off police.
Following a raid, Cage was arrested and incarcerated. A few days
later, Connors was killed in a mob hit targeting Stryker. From prison,
Cage swore vengeance against his former friend. Consumed with rage,
he frequently engaged in brawls and attempted to escape. Cage's
reprehensible behavior landed him in Seagate, a maximum-security
prison in Georgia. There, he was taunted and beaten constantly by
racist correctional officer Albert Rackham.
While serving out his sentence, Cage was approached by research
psychologist Dr. Noah Berstien. After hearing his story, Berstien
promised to do what he could to secure Cage's parole if he participated
in an experiment. Although suspicious at first, Cage agreed. In
Berstien's absence, Rackham relieved the guard on duty and ignorantly
operated the machine's controls. He hoped to maim or kill Cage;
instead, Rackham unintentionally advanced the experiment beyond
its design, inducing a body-wide mutagenic effect that enhanced
Cage's body tissue and strength. Cage freed himself and knocked
Rackham unconscious. Thinking he had killed the guard, he fled.
When the authorities discovered Cage's bullet-riddled shirt, they
assumed he had been swept out to sea. A free man, Cage returned
to New York to exact revenge on Stryker. On one of Cage's first
nights back, he foiled a robbery at a diner. When the owner offered
him cash as a reward, Cage was inspired to put his newfound powers
to use for profit. Subsequently, he established himself as Luke
Cage, Hero for Hire.
To promote his business, Cage routinely sought out and fought mob
collection agents. Following each brawl, he would hand out business
cards to onlookers. After he found and defeated Stryker, who had
assumed the underworld identity of Diamondback, Cage's enterprise
began to turn a sufficient profit. Frustrated by the lack of publicity
his exploits garnered in comparison to the adventures of New York's
other crimefighters, Cage adopted the super-heroic moniker "Power
Several years later, the European crime lord known as Bushmaster
coerced Cage into kidnapping private investigator Misty Knight in
exchange for the life of Dr. Berstien and his friend, Claire Temple,
whom he held captive. As further incentive, Bushmaster had acquired
videotape of Stryker planting the heroin in Cage's apartment. Hoping
to clear his name, Cage found himself locked in battle with Knight's
friend: the martial-arts master called Iron Fist. Learning of his
predicament, Knight and Iron Fist elected to help Cage. Following
Bushmaster's defeat, the videotaped evidence was presented to the
court. Finally, Cage was acquitted of the crime that had dogged
him for years. Although their backgrounds and temperaments were
diametrically opposed, Cage and Iron Fist formed a new Heroes for
Hire agency and soon became close friends.
For years, Power Man and Iron Fist were in high demand as special
bodyguards and private detectives. Following the seeming deaths
of most of Earth's heroes at the hands of the sentient psionic menace
known as Onslaught, the duo decided to expand the membership of
Heroes for Hire. The agency merged with Oracle Inc. -- the corporation
owned by Prince Namor, the Atlantean Sub-Mariner -- to protect the
world from danger...for a price. The World War II-era Human Torch,
Jim Hammond, lined up the jobs; Iron Fist acted as field commander.
The team rarely collected its fee, however, and eventually disbanded
when Namor saw fit to diffuse Oracle Inc.