|“||I am a snake. I shed my skin for something better...... stronger.||„|
|~ Diamondback about himself.|
Willis Stryker, going under the alias Diamondback, is the main antagonist of Season 1 of the 2016 Marvel TV series Luke Cage.
He is a feared crime lord and weapons dealer. Throughout the first half of the season, Diamondback is merely an implied threat, who sends his henchman Shades to assist his close friend, Harlem crime lord Cottonmouth, in solving problems inside Cottonmouth's organization. After the death of Cottonmouth, Diamondback reveals himself. Having arrived in Harlem, Diamondback is only driven by his thirst for revenge and he starts hunting down Luke Cage, his half-brother and best friend from when they were younger.
He was portrayed by Erik LaRay Harvey, who also portrayed Dunn Purnsley.
Willis Stryker grew up with Carl Lucas, the son of the respected reverend, James Lucas, and they became best friends despite Stryker's strong animosity towards Lucas due to being the illegitimate child and therefore not allowed the Lucas name whereas Carl was the supposed firstborn and revered for it. Despising this injustice for most of his life until his breaking point was when he was sent to prison yet Lucas was only forced to join the army for a crime they both committed, Stryker was overpowered by hatred and jealousy in captivity. He eventually became conniving, traitorous, calculating, manipulative, temperamental, unscrupulous, egotistical, compulsive, conceited, stubborn, haughty, arrogant, sarcastic, vindictive, obsessive, and ruthless to the point of insanity.
Upon discovering that Lucas was not only alive but returned from Seagate Prison with superpowers, Stryker's hatred festered, citing that he was sentenced to Hell but was granted yet another miracle given to him from the God Stryker himself believed within so devotedly and wished to destroy his life the way Lucas destroyed his. After meeting with Luke Cage over years apart, the first thing he does is to reveal the secret that the two of them were brothers that he kept to himself for years and tormented Misty Knight upon discovering that she was close to Cage, only keeping her alive so he could torture his half-brother further before ruining his life. Once again, Stryker became deeply frustrated over Cage's idolization by the people of Harlem, having suffered for it his entire life, he framed him for the murder of an officer and a hostage crisis in Harlem's Paradise to destroy his legacy as a hero as well as his name as a Lucas in the past. For all of his negative qualities, Stryker loved his sweet mother dearly as he wasn't there for her when she got cancer and died because he was imprisoned due to not being a Lucas and Reverend James simply stopped caring for her without Stryker being there, also greatly motivated his need for revenge.
Stryker's ruthlessness and cutthroat demeanor extends to those whom he does business with, Mariah Dillard, Cottonmouth, Shades and Domingo Colon all seem to be submissive towards him and Stryker does not hesitate to kill the other mob bosses for purchasing Justin Hammer weapons from other buyers. Despite this Stryker regards loyalty in his allies very highly. He was prepared to kill Shades to avenge Stokes as he considered the latter to be friend, he spared Colon partly to send a message to the absent mob bosses, but also because Colon only purchase Hammer weapons from Stryker's "friend" and representative Stokes. He also showed some respect for Zip and Turk Barrett and was willing to trust Barrett whilst most do not, and are wise to do such. When Stokes' former enforcer Zip helped Stryker escape, Stryker asked if Zip had his own method of escape showing some form of concern. Whilst Stryker did not approve of Zip copying Shades's style, he briefly hinted that Zip should try and be his own man and even stated to like Zip, probably due to his loyalty to Stokes and Stryker.
His misotheism seemed to enforce his revenge mission against Cage, quoting several bible verses that directly link to Cage's betrayal against Stryker within the theatre and to illustrate his point across multiple times. The Judas Bullet was designed to symbolize this act of treachery; stating "one Judas to another" before shooting Cage in the abdomen and vowing to repeat the same words that Cain said to his father after slewing Abel when he finally did kill Cage.
- Diamondback is a huge fan of The Warriors and Friday; in fact, his first line is Luther's famous quote.
- This interpretation of Diamondback is a composite of the mainstream comics version of Diamondback and the supervillain Coldfire; in the comics, Coldfire's identity was James Lucas Jr., the blood brother of Luke Cage, whereas Willis Stryker had no blood relation to Luke Cage. While their circumstances slightly differed, Coldfire's vendetta against Luke Cage directly parallels the MCU version of Diamondback.