Diamondback (Willis Stryker)
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|First appearance||Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972)|
|Created by||Archie Goodwin|
|Alter ego||Willis Stryker|
Skilled in throwing sharp knives
Skilled hand to hand combatant
Diamondback (Willis Stryker) is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. He is primarily an enemy of Luke Cage and is notable for being the first major supervillain that he faced.
After 45 years, Stryker returned to comics in All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Free Comic Book Day (July 2017).
Fictional character biography
Willis Stryker, one of Luke's childhood friends, first appeared in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1. Known as Diamondback for his mastery of knives, including specially-gimmicked knives that exploded, released toxic gases or created sonic waves.
Willis Stryker was born and raised in Harlem, New York City. He grew up on the street alongside Carl Lucas, his best friend and future partner. He was recruited into one of the local gangs, The Rivals. The gang consisted mostly of Carl Lucas, Stryker, Shades and Comanche. They engaged in many gang fights with The Diablos, a rival gang. He also committed petty crimes and worked for a crime lord named Sonny Caputo. Carl changed his life and found an honest job while Willis became a skilled gangster but they remained good friends.
A girl named Reva Connors loved them both but was more attracted to Carl. Willis, devastated by jealousy, framed him by hiding drugs where Carl lived, causing Carl Lucas to be sent to prison. The drugs belonged to the Maggia so they hunted Willis but ended up killing Reva.
Carl changed his name to Luke Cage and escaped from prison thanks to his bulletproof skin and searched for revenge. Luke Cage was attacked by hitmen hired by Diamondback. When the attack failed, Diamondback has his inventor Gadget-Man create new gimmicked switch blades to deal with Cage and kidnapped Claire Temple. Tracking Diamondback to his lair, Luke was surprised to find that it was his old friend Stryker. Diamondback battled Cage who hoped to clear his name. During the fight, Diamondback fell through a skylight and was blown up by one of his own trick switchblades, ruining any hope Luke had that Stryker could clear his name. Just then Claire arrived with Noah Burstein (the man who conducted the prison experiments) and the police, and Luke wonders if Burstein will turn him over to the authorities.
Diamondback later turned up alive. He then began to make plans to become a crime lord where he will start in Harlem and then rule the crime on the Eastern Seaboard. Upon having his men arrange for a meeting with the crime lords at Club Ultimate, Diamondback planned to have waving network of influence. The meeting was crashed by Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones. During the fight, Diamondback managed to injure Jessica Jones. Diamondback later had a meeting with Black Cat which is crashed by Luke Cage. Using toxic dust, Diamondback struck Luke Cage and proceeded to beat him up. Unbeknownst to Diamondback, Black Cat dropped Luke Cage off at Night Nurse's location and she was able to cure him. After recuperation, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and their allies went after Diamondback and attacked him at Club Ultimate. Diamondback demonstrated his new abilities like superhuman strength and speed. Although he was injured in the fight, Diamondback got away. During their stakeout of Club Ultimate, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones were ambushed by Diamondback where he knocked over Jessica Jones' car and injured Iron Fist's back. While gloating over Iron Fist, Diamondback was caught off guard when Jessica Jones attacked him. After being defeated by Jessica Jones and Iron Fist, Diamondback was arrested by the police and transferred to a prison as he was deemed too dangerous to be placed in the county lockup.
- In the alternate timeline of the 2005 "House of M" storyline, the Willis Stryker version of Diamondback is a mutant with reptilian features.
- Willis Stryker appears in Luke Cage Noir, in which he is a former friend of Luke Cage, and a Harlem crime boss.
Powers and abilities
Willis Stryker is an expert knife fighter and an expert hand-to-hand combat specialist. Outside of conventional knives, Willis Stryker uses trick knives that were modified by Gadget where they can emit gas, contain sonic disruptors, and cause explosions. Following his return from the dead, Diamondback appeared to possess some degree of superhuman strength, being able to throw a person across a room, catch a punch from Jessica Jones and lift her up with one hand as well as having some degree of superhuman speed.
In other media
- Diamondback appears in Luke Cage, portrayed by Erik LaRay Harvey, while his younger appearance is portrayed by Jared Kemp. He is Luke Cage's older half-brother as a result of an affair that Luke's father James Lucas had with his secretary Dana Stryker, making him a composite of the comics' Willis Stryker and Coldfire. When they were younger, Willis and Luke were best friends until they were arrested for car theft. Luke was sent to military school and joined the Marines, while Willis served juvenile detention and then jail when he was forced to kill in self-defense. This event, along with his mother's death from cancer after his biological father abandoned her, made Willis swear a vendetta on Luke. He eventually gets revenge by framing Luke and sending him to Seagate Prison. By the 2010s, Willis has become an arms dealer, trafficking Hammer Industries weapons to Harlem crime boss Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes and his cousin Mariah Dillard. When a couple of young men attack an arms deal between crews working for Cottonmouth and Spanish Harlem crime boss Domingo Colon, Willis sends in Shades to help them. Upon hearing that Luke is alive, Willis comes out of hiding to exact revenge with a weapon of his known as the Judas bullet, a line of exploding hollow-point bullets developed by Hammer Industries from salvaged Chitauri metal that can penetrate Luke's skin. He manages to critically wound Luke with a Judas bullet the first time they face off. While Luke goes into hiding with Claire to get treatment from Dr. Noah Burstein, Willis assists Mariah and Shades in framing Luke and continuing Cottonmouth's criminal empire. In an effort to draw Luke out of hiding, tarnish Luke's name, and also persuade the NYPD to buy his Judas bullets, Willis murders a random police officer in broad daylight by punching him in the chest with a specially designed glove that replicates Luke's physical strength. This action, along with his decision to shoot Misty Knight when she tries to apprehend him in Harlem's Paradise and stage a hostage situation when Luke comes to her rescue, causes him to have a falling out with Mariah and Shades. Willis sends Zip and two associates to kill Shades, but Shades kills all three of them and escapes. He later kills Domingo when he and his men try to kill Willis to assert a monopoly over organized crime in Harlem. After killing Domingo, Willis dons a specially armored battle-suit designed by Hammer and challenges Luke to a fight in the street outside Pop's barbershop. After a lengthy fight, Luke manages to defeat Willis, leaving him for Misty to take into custody. He is last seen in an unidentified infirmary where Dr. Burstein is tending to his wounds.
- In the third season episode of Jessica Jones titled "AKA Everything," Luke mentions Diamondback is now incarcerated in the Raft prison and how it was the hardest thing he had to do.
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