Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Many Foes of Luke Cage, Power Man (Part 4)

Where'd we leave off? Steeplejack? Okay, feeling good about this decision!

He is indeed far more than a chair.
#16 It never doesn't sound like a racial slur
Your Humble Editor has to admit to a personal failing in that -for all the bazillions of comics I read as a wee little shaver - I never really got around to Captain America. I am, in fact, just now getting around to reading the Caps of the 70s and 80s, and in the process of doing so I am learning that many characters whom I thought were enemies of both America's shield-slinging Avenger and our own beloved Hero for Hire, Luke Cage, are in no way whatsoever related.

Like, for instance - and I actually find myself embarrassed about this for no sane reason because dude I conflated two out of a hundred million comic book characters it's understandable - I thought the the Hero for Hire's supporting character Misty Knight was the same character as evil biologist and sassy afro-puff possessor Nightshade. I guess what makes that embarrassing is that it turns out Nightshade is insanely awesome and everything I ever wanted out of a comic book villain, primarily because her epithet of choice is "Oh poo" and she makes werewolves, and I should have known better, earlier.

Anyway, same fate befell me with the Serpent Society's Cottonmouth and Luke Cage's foe Cottonmouth. The Luke Cage villain is crime boss Cornell Cottonmouth (of the Alabama Cottonmouths, I presume) who decks himself out in snakeskin and is sort of generically strong and tough, in the mold of most of Cage's crimeboss enemies, and also kills people with cottonmouth snakes (and bazookas).

The Cottonmouth associated with Captain America is a guy in a purple suit who famously swallows people whole. So while they are, in fact, two distinct characters, it's possible that one day we could see the people-eating Cottonmouth eating the non-people-eating Cottonmouth in what I preemptively call the single moment which superhero comics were waiting for.

ALWAYS with the racial slurs, these guys!
#17 I meet people with my first name, too, and I don't try to hit them with theater seats
Before Luke Cage claimed the nom du guerre Power Man, it was the property of a villain and occasional Avengers foe - later known and reformed and the Thunderbolt Atlas. Considering that Luke Cage is, these days, in charge of the Thunderbolts program, there must be some uncomfortable conversations about the time Atlas picked a fight with Cage and then let slip a racial slur and all.

Presuming Atlas isn't dead. He's dead, isn't he? Everybody's dead these days, swear to god ...

Anyway, Power Man busted into the theater over which Luke Cage had his office and started hucking seats and empty popcorn boxes and sandbags - WHY DOES A MODERN DAY MOVIE THEATER HAVE SANDBAGS? - at him. Not to fail to give the original Power Man credit where it's due, he also tore down the movie screen, rolled it up and smacked Luke Cage with it. That is not a thing I've ever really wanted to do in my life, but now I have a goal: Some day I'm going to roll up a movie screen and whack someone in the face with it. I'll need to start carbo-loading.

#18 Well, for starters, I imagine it glows in the dark ...
I engineered for myself much merriment many months back imagining Stan "The Man" Lee being called on to provide a spectacular sobriquet for Spider-Man vibro-villain THE SHOCKER, and I double my delight imagining writer Steve Engelhart and editor Len Wein walking out of Stan's office, shaking their heads. I don't know what a Night Shocker is, but it sounds even more or a rude surprise than the regular kind.

Obviously, Len and Steve crafted here a vampirey version of Kolchak, television's Night Stalker (ohhhhhh I get it now) character, in a story which is actually very well done, with some twist and turns and a very sneaky murder plot. It would have ranked among my favorite Luke Cage stories simply because I was getting to the end and none of the white characters felt they had to mention how ding-dang black Luke Cage had the temerity to be, but then it turns out the would-be victim of the crime was an albino and he had to mention that his skin lacked "what yours holds in such abundance - pigmentation!"


#19 Most villains would consider it flattering to have a theme song, but this guy's is played on novelty car horns.
It was only a matter of time before Luke Cage got himself a villain called "The Cockroach". That he predated Mister Fish is one for the books, frankly, but what constitutes the bottom of the barrel for other books is sometimes the cream of the crop for poor Lucas.

Cockroach worked for another crime boss, one of the bazillions who bedeviled Cage time and again in the long quest for a color-conscious Kingpin to set up against Marvel's most prominent street-level black superhero. He also dressed like a character from The Electric Company, carried around a six-barreled shotgun called "Josh" and exclusively ate Cheese Snips.

Hey, you know what they did a lot of in the Marvel offices in the Seventies? Drugs. I bet this routine seemed like the goddamndest funniest fucking thing since Cheech and Chong, at the time. Maybe I'll find it funny, too, if I lit a blunt, but comic books have left me utterly incapable of finding and buying drugs on my own. According to Captain America, marijuana comes from space aliens and they only give it to aspiring Little Leaguers, so I don't even know where to begin buying drugs, even though all my friends are artists and I live down the street from a high school.

We're going to wrap this series up with the next installment, even though Cage has about forty-seven thousand more dumb foes, but life is short and I get the premium channels on cable now, so I've got things to do. In the meantime, allow me to transport you back to those magic days of long ago when we, as a nation, were in the grip of a massive gas shortage and were at the mercy of spiraling prices...


1 comment:

John VanHouten said...

I wish gas was still that cheap.

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