Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1 dramatizes not only the origin story of the superhero Luke Cage but also the transformation of his pre-superhero identity, Carl Lucas, from a young black man in Harlem into an inmate and an ex-offender attempting to survive. This parallel origin story depicts the mass drug arrests that would enable the false imprisonment of a black man in the late 1970s and the dehumanizing conditions of privatized prisons. After Carl Lucas escapes Seagate, his attempts to set up a business illustrate the perilous undercaste ex-convicts enter upon release. Lucas decides to capitalize on his extraordinary body and sells himself as a "hero for hire." He adopts the alias Luke Cage and fashions a costume that includes a chain around his waist and cuff-like bracelets. Cage's new persona suggests that he is unable to escape imprisonment even after release, a problem familiar to other ex-offenders who are often disenfranchised and denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Cage's extraordinary physical abilities allow him a measure of independence, but it shouldn't take a superhero to escape the stigma of criminality. Luke Cage, Hero for Hire speaks back to the War on Drugs, carceral expansion, and the second-class citizenship bestowed upon ex-offenders who are overwhelmingly poor and of color.


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pp. 165-185
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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