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I Love Ya But You’re Strange – It’s a Sweet Christmas, Luke Cage!

Every day this August I’ll be spotlighting strange but ultimately endearing comic stories, one a day (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books).

Today we look at an extremely offbeat Christmas story from Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #7 by Steve Englehart, George Tuska and Billy Graham titled “Jingle Bombs.”

This is quite the bizarre little tale (and I prefer “It’s a Sweet Christmas, Luke Cage!” as a title to “Jingle Bombs”).

I must imagine that after he finished writing this story, Steve Englehart’s eye must have been quite sore. You know, from all the winking that goes on in the telling of this tale.

During this story set on Christmas Eve, Luke Cage encounters three “different” men. First, he sees a man dressed like he’s living in the past whipping on a delivery boy…

Dude’s name is “Marley.”

Later, after a strong sequence with Luke and his then-girlfriend…

Luke has a confrontation with a man showing us the problems of the present…

Later on, Luke is accosted by a man from the future…

As you might imagine, all these guys are the same person. This fellow believes that humanity needs to be nuked away, but he was shocked to see Luke Cage continually risk his life to help others.

Even with this, the bad guy decides to detonate a nuke anyways, but someone distracts him…

The twist is that it is not Santa Claus, but a burglar…

The art by Tuska and Graham was strong and Englehart tells a charming enough story that it makes up for the fact that it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to frame your narrative around a guy continually testing Cage and then having those tests not matter to the plot of the book. But that’s why this is I love ya BUT you’re strange! We accept those little oddities here!

15 Comments

Yeah, it doesn’t work too well as a story, even less as a Xmas one.

How’d this guy take so many different forms? Was he a master of disguise? And btw why would Luke assume he REALLY had a laser gun (when he hadn’t fired it even once) or a nuke, for that matter? Especially since he was nuts.

The chimney bit WAS funny though. :D

Oh lord, Engelhart on Luke Cage, fighting the world’s most nonsensical villains. You had Senor Suerte/Muerte, a Hispanic gambling kingpin with a death touch that only worked if he won a roulette spin agaibnst his enemy using his chest emblem. Then there was the Phantom of 42nd Street, a a pair of burn-scarred little people standing on each other’s shoulders. And Cage’s premiere foe, Diamondback, who started out a drug dealer and then inexplicably decided to become a costumed villain who used gimmicked knives and blew himself up with an errant one.

Chemistro and Mace really come across as the most normal of his enemies and storylines, and they’re still somewhat bizarre. But Engelhart also did things like plugging Cage into a locked-room mystery in a Victorian Mansion, which was intentionally incongruous but not terribly interesting. And he never seemed to be sureif Cage was actually superpowered or not; the afromentioned stack of little people somehow managed to bean him a few times despite presumably being less powerful than a normal person.

Even the infamous Dr. Doom moment is even weirder in context: everyone remembers the $200 thing, noone rememebrs that Doom hires Cage because Doom’s renegade robots are disguised as African-Americans and there are no black people in Latveria who can secretly follow them.

That series really doesn’t become good until Tony Isabella and Don McGregor do some scripts — Len Wein providing some atypically bland but comepetent material in the meantime — and then iit almost immeidately gets hijacked by Claremont for its merger with Iron Fist.

And Cage’s premiere foe, Diamondback, who started out a drug dealer and then inexplicably decided to become a costumed villain who used gimmicked knives and blew himself up with an errant one.

That was pre-Englehart.

As was the Phantom of 42nd Street.

interesting luke cage bit for love the little touch of a christmas carol with the guy named marley. though always wondered who the bad guy could be more then one person with out luke catching on.

Wow. For some reason I remembered this series being Engelhart from the start, and had utterly forgotten Archie Goodwin’s involvement.

On the other hand, I also though Black Mariah was post-Engelhart, since I cann’t quite believe Engelhart created a character who would one day be played by Martin Lawrence in a fat suit.

You had Senor Suerte/Muerte, a Hispanic gambling kingpin with a death touch that only worked if he won a roulette spin agaibnst his enemy using his chest emblem.

That sounds amazing.

I got the gimmick a little wrong, actually: the roulette chest emblem determines which hand has the death touch, and he makes his victims choose. Cage accidentally killed him by using his chain-belt to tie both hands together, so Suerte/Muerte electrocuted himself. It was a pretty big day for utilitarian costume accessories all around.

The other part of his gimmick is that he’d insist people switch between calling him Suerte (Luck) or Muerte (Death) depending on whether or not he was murderously angry with them. Much later his two brothers took up the role, with one as Suerte and the other as…yeah, you guessed.

I think it still sounds amazing, but slightly less than the initial description.

Which issue was it that had a woman refer to Luke as a “nice shvartze boy”? Marvel caught a lot of flak for that.

“I’m a dealer in chains”. Heh. :)

“”I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

I remember reading this in on of the over-sized Treasury Editions Marvel used to put out (a Christmas themed one). I think there was an Avengers story by Thomas and Buscema in there and some other stuff. Yeah, it doesn’t make the most linear sense, but I actually recall kind of liking it the time. For some reason, the encounter with the cop has always stuck in my head as the thing I remember about it.

And damn, Tuska was a fine artist. I don’t think I appreciated how good he was back then.

That scene where they kiss is fantastic!

The sparking scene has always been a stand out moment for Cage in my mind. It’s about the most mature piece of romantic comedy I can remember in superhero fiction. It reminds me of a recently discovered underrated Christmas flick, Beyond Tomorrow (1940), which is available on YouTube and Hulu. Catch the scene with the mounted policeman and see if it doesn’t feel related.

I loved Suerte, a man who takes insane risks because he’s convinced luck will never let him down. And the scene where Cage gets trapped in a flooding tunnel was very effective.

[...] I Love Ya But You’re Strange – It’s A Sweet Christmas, Luke Cage! [...]

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