A Reader’s Guide to “Luke Cage” on Netflix
I cannot claim to be a Marvel/comic book/graphic novel type — but I know a few things about Harlem and I am a book nerd, so I made a list of literary allusions in Luke Cage. I was more than a bit surprised and delighted that there are so many of them. Since dating my current comics-nerd partner, I’ve seen a lot of superheroes and capes and villains and there’s not a one who I’d share a bookshelf with until now.
Here’s my list. I’ll be updating as I try to not-binge-watch the heck out of the series this weekend. Apparently I am not alone.
What was the real Harlem Renaissance?
You can’t have a new one without an old one. “New Harlem Renaissance” is the villains’ movement in this show, and they want to stop the rampant gentrification of Harlem -a very real thing- by being gross villains. Why? Because comics. The true life Harlem Renaissance was an era during the 20’s and 30’s during The Great Migration where an insane number of artists, musicians, and poets emerged from Harlem. Poets.org has a good quick longread (trust me, it’s a thing) here. Some folks associated with this include:
— Jean Toomer
— Countee Cullen
— Sterling Brown
— Nella Larsen
— Marcus Garvey
— Zora Neale Hurston
— W.E.B. DuBois
— Every known jazz musician pretty much
— And more!
We can’t have a list of Harlem Renaissance anything without:
Episode 1, Invisible Man, Duh
Black Folktales (wink, wink, wink, this show has become self-aware)
The Attica Report
— Invisible Man
Episode 2: Mosley v Goines (“You’re saying Kenyatta was better than Easy Rawlins??”)
— Little Green (Luke carries this one around for most of the ep)
— Devil in a Blue Dress — This one starred Denzel that one time!
— Most recent Easy Rawlins: Charcoal Joe
— The Man in My Basement (my favorite Mosley)
— Crime Partners
— The Whites
— The Color of Money, Sea of Love, Night and the City
— The Night Of
Chester Himes (Harlem bonus points)
— The Harlem Cycle (presented by Melvin Van Peebles? I die.)
— If He Hollers, Let Him Go
— “The Buick Roadmaster: Motion, Agency, and Defeat in “If He Hollers Let Him Go,”” LA Review of Books Oct 2016
— Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation
Episode 9: What’s the 49th Law of Power?
— The 48 Laws of Power
I feel kind of dirty recommending this book, once described to me as a textbook for douchebags, and yet I’ve bought it twice. Supervillain training? Also, I haven’t read it but Greene wrote a biz book with 50 Cent. The 49th Law remains elusive.