SDCC: LUKE CAGE Looks Fantastic

Or as Jon Bernthal, who dropped by for a visit, says, "LUKE CAGE looks very, very good, y'all!"

The Luke Cage panel was just one hour today in Ballroom 20, but Jeph Loeb released so much corresponding information we're only now getting to the panel itself. Here's the new Luke Cage teaser, the Iron Fist teaserThe Defenders teaser and, oh yeah, Daredevil Season 3 has been picked up by Netflix.

Loeb introduced the showrunner of Luke Cage, Cheo Hodari Coker, and the cast: Mike Colter (Cage), Mahershala Ali (Cornell Stokes, or "you might know him as Cottonmouth...but if I were you I would not call him Cottonmouth"), Alfre Woodard (Mariah Dillard), Simone Missick (Misty Knight), Frank Whaley (Detective Scarfe) and Theo Rossi (Shades). Not in attendance: Rosario Dawson (Claire Temple). Loeb said of her absence, "We love her, but she's back east filming something for Marvel. Marvel Television. Marvel Television for Netflix. We’ll tell you more about that some time.”

We were treated to several clips of the first season, including the scene revealed at the end of Daredevil Season 2, along with a great Marvel Netflix sizzle reel that you can watch below: 

Punisher! Jon Bernthal stopped by for the opening minutes of the panel, just long enough to charm us all and refer to Loeb as "The Professor." He said of Frank Castle, "I know this character matters. I know how much he means to members of the military and the police force. I take it as an enormous honor. Frank is in my bones now. He's part of me." 

We saw another scene, between Woodard's Black Mariah and Ali's Cottonmouth, that included lots of screaming and breaking of things with a baseball bat. "This is my shit to break!" Stokes says, outraged, when Mariah breaks something, herself. She replies, "You can always make more money. I can't get my name back." She's threatening to cut his ass when they're interrupted by a terrified-looking assistant. It's pretty great. 

Alfre Woodard said of taking on the role, "When I picked this up, it was one of the smartest pieces of writing that I had ever come across. That’s what I do. I follow the script. It’s gotta be there. That’s a tribute to Cheo’s concept, Cheo’s vision, he carried it all the way through. It was set in a place that I love. We all have numbers on the call sheet, but Harlem deserves a number on the call sheet, as well. It’s very much a character. We get all the culture importance, the historical importance, everything that makes Harlem important through the ages is all there.” 

Missick spoke about playing Misty Knight, a beloved character that was unknown to her before she got the part - but Loeb said that after she read, he and Coker turned to each other and said, "Well, that's done." Missick said of reading the script for the first time, she thought, "This is dope. This woman is funny, she’s fiery, she’s a little bit bold and brash. This is this iconic woman who was so strong and self-assured and determined. And to see that, to see a woman who is her own person, she’s not the wife, she’s not the girlfriend, she’s not somebody’s side piece or sidekick. She is her own thing. And for all of the Misty Knight fans out there, this show gives you everything you want for her and more." Loeb pointed out that the first time we meet Misty on Luke Cage, she's undercover, so Luke doesn't realize she's a cop. Missick sets up the next scene by teasing, "Misty ain’t in her work clothes when you first meet her."

The scene shows Misty on a street corner in a tight, short, low-cut, blue sequined dress, looking, it must be said, fine as hell. Luke shows up and offers friendly directions to the bus stop or to getting an Uber, and Misty snorts, "What are you, a cop?" Luke replies that she just looks cold, and tells her, "If you're looking for Mr. Stokes, he just left." She pretends to not know who he means, and he says, not buying it, "Black Escalade? Tinted windows?" Misty seems annoyed and asks, "Don't you have somewhere you need to be?" and when he tells her he just got off work, she asks, "Want to go grab a coffee?" Luke looks knowing and replies that he doesn't like coffee, and Misty smiles, "Neither do I." The scene cuts to them getting down in Luke's apartment before the clip, sadly, ended. 

Our last clip was of Cottonmouth again, standing in front of a large portrait of Biggie in a red room, with red lighting. 

Stokes is framed just so, making it look like Biggie's crown is on Stokes' own head, and the camera is facing him head-on, as he's speaking to someone out of shot. "It draws your eye, doesn't it? The crown? You know why? Because everybody wants to be the king." He slaps the off-camera person, again and again, asking for his money, and finally the camera draws back and shows a man on the ground. The man spits at Stokes, and Stokes replies, "Thank you. Now I can hit you like a man."

Coker says he knew Biggie Smalls, so the scene was important to him. "He was such a smart storyteller in his lyrics, and he loved gangster movies, so it's sort of an homage to him and also sets the scene." 

Gangsta rap is crucial to Luke Cage. Loeb says, "There's a musicality to the show," and Whaley added, "Cheo infused music into the script somehow. We all felt the soul that it was going to possess." Coker laughs, "That’s kinda what I call the Wu-Tangification of the Marvel Universe, meaning that it’s got attitude, it’s got grit, but it’s elegant at the same time. Every different episode is named after a different gangsta song. I wanted the thirteen episodes to feel like an album." He said that's because it used to be that when you got the new Biggie album or Wu-Tang album, you'd head straight home and listen to the entire thing, but in the era of streaming music, that's not really how we do it anymore. "The only thing like that nowadays is when you binge watch." And he said we're definitely going to need to binge Luke Cage. "Episodes one through thirteen - it's relentless."

Coker said that making Luke Cage was important to him, because the comic meant so much to him as a kid, but there's no better time for this story than right now. "As you know, there aren’t a lot of black superheroes, and Luke Cage stood out. Not only is he strong, he’s funny, he's cool. And even now, even though the character came out in '72, when I think about what’s going on now, the world is ready for a bulletproof black man.” 

Luke Cage hits Netflix September 30. 

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