From the first appearance of Luke Cage in his own solo book in 1972, to the anxiously-anticipated launch of the new series this week, comic book readers have long embraced the concept of “Heroes For Hire.” Now writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning promise a new “Heroes for Hire” with gritty, street-level action but also with an eye back to the iconic qualities that made the original so great. Let’s take a brief look at the history and lineups of the many incarnations of the series.
Power Man and Iron Fist: Luke Cage, the original “Hero For Hire,” was joined on his title by martial arts master Danny Rand -- Iron Fist -- during a storyline in issues #48-50. The team-up proved to be so popular that by issue #50 the comic’s title was changed to “Power Man and Iron Fist” with “Heroes For Hire” sort of dropping off the cover (there are only so many words you can fit on logo). Cage and Rand set up shop as “Heroes for Hire” and often had friends Colleen King and Misty Knight make appearances (and battle baddies alongside them).
Many a late-seventies and early eighties kid look back fondly on this run, which boasted writers like Chris Claremont, Kurt Busiek, Jo Duffy, Steven Grant, and Jim Owsley (a.k.a. Christopher Priest). Kerry Gammill, Greg LaRocque, Frank Miller, Denys Cowan, and Mark Bright are some of the artists who lent their talents to the title.
Power Man and Iron Fist was cancelled at issue #126, with Cage being blamed for Rand’s apparent death.
Heroes For Hire (1997): Jump ahead about a decade, and now a very much alive Iron Fist and the original Human Torch start up a new Heroes for Hire. The team featured rotating members depending on the mission, and included at one time or another Luke Cage, Black Knight, a new White Tiger, Deadpool, Hercules, She-Hulk, and others. John Ostrander, no stranger to handing hard-hitting team books, scripted, and Pasqual Ferry provided art.
The new Heroes for Hire closed shop after 19 issues.
Heroes For Hire (2006): Spinning out from the pages of the Civil War event, a new Heroes for Hire hit the scene. Penned by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Billy Tucci, this new series focused more on the team of Colleen Wing and Misty Knight. An edgy/quirky line-up of heroes and anti-heroes lent their assistance to the female duo, including Shang-Chi, Paladin, Tarantula, and Black Cat.
This new incarnation of “Heroes for Hire” ended at issue # 15, with the team falling apart (and falling out) after the events of World War Hulk.
Heroes For Hire 2010: Born from the aftermath of the Shadowland storyline, the new roster of “Heroes For Hire” includes Iron Fist, Ghost Rider, Moon Knight, Punisher, Black Widow, Elektra, Misty Knight, Paladin and Silver Sable. Like its predecessors, the title seems to be a place where Marvel’s “street level” heroes can flourish, away from the more cosmic elements of the Marvel Universe. Ironically, two writers best-known for their cosmic, sci-fi-based titles are writing the book; Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. However, with Abnett and Lanning's proven track record on team books, their admitted love of the original "Power Man and Iron Fist" series, and art by Guardians of the Galaxy's Brad Walker, I can only expect great things from this new series.