Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Power Man and Iron Fist
Hero For Hire/Power Man
Originally the series had debuted as Hero For Hire #1, though it became Power Man from #17 onwards. The cover logo included Luke's name, so from #1-16 the cover logo read Luke Cage, Hero For Hire and from #17-up Luke Cage, Power Man. Luke's name was not, however, part of the official comics title though it was part of the cover logo.
Hero For Hire (later Power Man) was not a chart-topper, but it should be noted that it did survive 40+ issues in the 70s where black superheroes were not commonplace yet. In a marketplace where Black Panther and Black Lightning were struggling to sell 10 consecutive issues, Luke Cage carried his own title for much more than that. Luke Cage can very much be considered a comics pioneer and is definitely a top black superhero in terms of solo series length. Other notable long runs for black superheroes are Steel and Black Panther in the 1990s, both by Priest, and of course Todd McFarlane's Spawn. (Though in Spawn's case his blackness could theoretically be argued; some Spawn readers are not even aware of the hero being black.)
Eventually, however, Power Man's sales became unsustainable. At this time, the decision was made to combine his series with that of another Marvel hero whose series had just been cancelled: Daniel Rand, Iron Fist. Danny's solo series had run for 15 issues, and after that his dangling Steel Serpent storyline had been wrapped up in a two-parter in Marvel Team-Up (vol.1.). But other than that, there was no longer a showcase for the character of Iron Fist (and his supporting cast, famously including Colleen Wing and Misty Knight).
Power Man/Iron Fist
Iron Fist (as well as Colleen and Misty) joined the cast of Power Man in a three-parter in #48-50. Power Man's name changed to Power Man/Iron Fist from #48 upwards. Again, there was a discrepancy between the cover logo and the way the title was usually nominated on things like checklists: the cover logo said 'Power Man and Iron Fist', but other than that, the common way the title was named anywhere was Power Man/Iron Fist with a slash.
Luke and Danny, who separately might have remained somewhat trivial in the big picture, combined to create a memorable pair who, arguably, was approaching the A-list of Marvel properties. In crossovers like Secret Wars II , Danny and Luke were as much involved as many of the A-listers, and group shots often included Danny and Luke alongside people of such magnitude as Daredevil and Spider-Man. Not a bad place to be for a couple who separately might have plummeted into the same degree of obscurity that Nova (Richard Rider) did until his New Warriors revival. The Power Man/Iron Fist property could be compared to properties like Dr Strange and Nick Fury/SHIELD who have had repeated attempts at ongoing series, a couple of whom have been very long-lasting and have had an impact on the Marvel Universe. The characters have hit the Marvel mainstream, so to speak. They can't quite be called A-list, compared to properties like Fantastic Four and Spider-Man who have no trouble keeping an ongoing title for 40+ years, but we're talking the category right below the A-list: properties who keep being resurrected repeatedly and who are just a step or two short of having run 200+ issues.
In the #50-100s, the title was written by such luminaries as Jo Duffy and Kurt Busiek, and past #100, the title was taken on (and brought to its conclusion) by the aforementioned Priest, then known as James Owsley. The series ultimately concluded with #125 due to poor sales. The conclusion killed off the character of Daniel Rand, leaving Luke Cage once more a solo operative.
Since the conclusion of the series in the eighties, there have been a few attempts at reviving the properties of Iron Fist and Power Man. John Byrne resurrected the Iron Fist character in the pages of Namor around #20-25, bringing Danny in as a supporting character for that title, while fairly simultaneously, Luke was given a new shot at an ongoing series, simply dubbed Cage. Neither was wildly successful. Namor was cancelled at #62 (though Danny had fallen into disuse before that, when Byrne had left the title), and Cage didn't reach #20. Trying to stretch their wings apart from each other had not been very successful for Danny and Luke.
Then came Heroes Reborn in 1996, and the Marvel Universe suffered a power vacuum after the Fantastic Four and Avengers were lost. Following up on the status of the Oracle corporation that Namor had set up in the pages of Namor, Jim Hammond (the Golden Age Human Torch) and Danny Rand decided to try to set up a new Heroes For Hire organization. Danny recruited Luke for this. Heroes For Hire debuted in 1997, with a core team consisting of Danny, Luke, and an assortment of hangers-on: Black Knight Dane Whitman, a new White Tiger, Hercules, She-Hulk, Ant-Man Scott Lang, Human Torch Jim Hammond and more were included in the cast of the book, though much of the cast rotated a lot in a Defenders-like manner, hired for missions as necessary. Heroes For Hire was written by John Ostrander and illustrated by Pascual Ferry. It lasted for 19 issues before it was cancelled.
In the 2000s, there have been a couple more revival attempts, but these have also kept Danny and Luke separate. Danny's path has been on a limited series front, while Luke's has been as a supporting or core character in books often written by Brian Michael Bendis, such as Alias, Pulse and New Avengers, where Luke is a core team member. This is without a doubt the most mainstream that the character of Luke Cage has ever gotten (although his brief stints as Fantastic Four and Defenders member in the seventies certainly are nothing to scoff at, either).
As long as Bendis maintains his fixation on Luke Cage and continues to be popular among the mainstream, it is unlikely Luke will fall into disrepair again. Unfortunately, Danny does not seem to have a similar champion on the writerly front, and he has no prospects for exposure currently.
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