Comicbook movie fans tend to view the MCU and DCEU as competing entities, but for Hollywood, one successful comic character is much the same as another, and both equally ripe for a movie adaptation, no matter which company the character belongs to. In an interview set during a virtual Wizard World panel with Wuhl, the producer of the 1989 Batman movie, Michael E. Uslan, revealed that he almost made a Luke Cage movie soon afterward.
"Way back, right after our first Batman movie, I optioned the rights from Marvel to Luke Cage, Hero for Hire. This was when Marvel was mired. All they had was Captain America, and Fantastic Four, neither of which could be released theatrically. Marvel was in a mess."
It might be difficult for younger audience members to imagine, but Marvel movies were considered unwatchable dreck for decades. While DC had huge hits on their hands with Christopher Reeves' Superman movies and the Batman films starring Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer, Marvel struggled to adapt their characters for the big screen in a way that was not cheesy and riddled with poor special effects.
A Luke Cage movie would have been the perfect antidote for Marvel's woes at the time. The character, known as Powerman, was one of the original Black superheroes, and his superpower of invulnerable skin and super strength could have easily been depicted onscreen in a convincing manner. Michael E. Uslan pitched the idea of a grounded superhero movie set in New York to Motown Productions.
"We had a meeting with Universal, Motown, where we talked about doing this as the first real, true-blue Marvel movie. I had some great ideas for Luke Cage. We talked about ways to make it feel real and the tone of New York in the late '70s, early '80s. The whole world could have been changed. But he and I were on the verge of doing it, when what do you think happened right after that meeting? Motown folded and then Universal got sold."
With the closing down of Motown, Uslan's dreams of adding a Marvel movie to his repertoire were dashed. It would not be until 1998 that another Black Superhero, the half-vampire called Blade, would score the first goal for Marvel by creating a successful superhero movie franchise.
From there Marvel's luck kept turning. 2000 brought Bryan Singer's first X-Men movie to the big screen. The Spider-Man movies by Sam Raimi with Tobey Maguire in the lead soon followed. Then came 2008, and the first Iron Man movie was released under the watchful eye of Kevin Feige, giving rise to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that fans know and love today.
Uslan's dream of making a Black superhero movie that changed everything was carried out by Blade, and to even greater success by Black Panther. Meanwhile, the character of Luke Cage finally made his live-action debut in the well-received Netflix show named after him, and also showed up in The Defenders.