|“||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 the 2016 Marvel TV series Luke Cage's first season.
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's mother was a secretary and had an affair with her boss, who was married. Willis was the result of said affair. Two years later, the man had a child with his own wife - Luke Cage. He did not acknowledge Willis as his son, however, which was the reason Willis always resented Luke. Although Willis knew about his half-brother, Luke had no idea. Willis always tried to get his father's attention but the man never had any feelings for him. Nonetheless, Luke and Willis grew up together and became best friends.
In their youth, the two stole a red Corvette just for fun. They were stopped by a policeman and Willis was sentenced to imprisonment at a youth detention center. Two days after arriving there, he was attacked by a fellow inmate with a shiv and killed him in self-defense. This resulted in him being sentenced to real prison. While being imprisoned, his mother died from cancer.
He is the one who provides the lesser crime lord Cottonmouth with high-tech weapons. When the deal in which Cottonmouth tries to sell them is attacked and the money is stolen, Diamondback sends his assistant Shades to help Cottonmouth solve his problems and to get his money back. When Shades arrives at Cottonmouth's nightclub Cottonmouth is concerned, believing that Diamondback wants to take over his operation. Shades, however, assures him that this is no takeover and that Diamondback is offering him help in good faith.
Later, after Cottonmouth's crime empire has suffered more damage by Luke Cage, Shades informs him video footage of a special ammunition, called "The Judas", which is incredibly strong, even against bullet proof vests. Shades also informs him that Diamondback has this kind of ammunition for sale. Cottonmouth is interested, but the price is much to high for Cottonmouth to afford at that point. Cottonmouth tells Shades that Diamondback can front him on the payment, but Shades replies that Cottonmouth made too many mistakes to receive credit from Diamondback. Cottonmouth grabs his phone to call Diamondback to ask Diamondback to deal with Cage instead but Shades tells him that if Diamondback does Cottonmouth this favor, he will take Harlem from him in return.
Coming after Cage
While Cage is walking through Harlem with Claire Temple, he is watched by Diamondback who is sitting inside an armored car. From there, he shoots Cage into the stomach with one of his destructive bullets, which is revealed to be strong enough to pierce Cage's skin. Cage falls to the ground and an ambulance is called. Inside his armored vehicle, Diamondback follows the ambulance and causes it to crash. Cage and Claire escape and take cover behind a car. Diamondback then walks onto the intersection, loudly calling Cage out to face him. He also addresses Cage by his true name. When he is alerted by the sound of police sirens, he gets back into his car and escapes, but not before screaming that he will hunt Cage and that he will enjoy the chase.The injured Luke escapes to a empty hospital, but Diamondback catches up to him. Through a window, he aims at Cage's head but Claire pulls Cage down in time. The Judas hits the wall instead, burning right through it and eventually exploding, giving Luke, Claire and Detective Misty Knight a clear view of what they are facing. While Misty heads outside to search for Diamondback, Diamondback grabs through the window, grabbing Claire who is standing right next to it. However, Claire grabs a scalpel and drives it into Diamondback's arm. Luke comes to her aid, grabs the arm and pulls Diamondback through the window into the clinic. During the struggle, Luke recognizes Diamondback's face. He is surprised and Diamondback uses this distraction to go for his sniper rifle. When he attempts to shoot with it, he realizes that the magazine is empty, so he decides to flee instead. While attempting to head outside, he is confronted by Misty whom he swiftly disarms. With Misty's gun, Diamondback shoots into Luke's already open bullet wound from earlier. He then leaves the clinic with Misty as a hostage. Outside the clinic, Diamondback claims that Carl's taste in woman has not changed. Misty is confused, not knowing whom Diamondback means. Diamondback reveals to her that Luke's name is Carl He then aims his gun at her head but is annoyed when she does not beg for mercy. Diamondback decides to spare her, claiming that she is slowing him down and that he, as Luke likes her, will hurt her later. He knocks Misty unconscious and flees into the night. He escapes into a nearby movie theater, leaving a trail of blood so that Luke can follow him.
Luke pursues him into the movie theater, calling him out by using his true name, Stryker. Still searching for him, Luke claims that the two can work out their differences. Diamondback reveals that he has not come for peace, but for revenge. While Luke searches for him, Diamondback reloads his rifle with another Judas bullet. Eventually, Luke stumbles into one of the rooms, where Cottonmouth is waiting for him on the balcony. He aims his rifle at Luke, thereby revealing his position. When Luke talks to him, addressing him as Willis, Stryker replies that he prefers the name Diamondback. Cage apologizes for not being a better friend to Diamondback. Diamondback responds by claiming that the people of Harlem do not yet know that they are worshipping a false idol. He tells Luke that he has come to bring pain. He reveals that he is responsible for the crimes Luke went to jail for and thus ruined Luke's life. Diamondback then angrily rants about how he sent Luke to hell, only for him to come back with superpowers.
Luke uses Diamondback's anger, which distracts him, and jumps forward, underneath the balcony. He rams one of the pillars holding up the balcony, causing it to crumble and send Diamondback falling over the edge. The two then start fighting each other but Diamondback is unable to harm Luke due to his steel-like skin. Only by hitting Luke where the Judas bullet struck is Diamondback able to hold his ground. However, Luke grabs Diamondback and throws him through the doors into the foyer. Leaving the show room to follow him, Luke sees that Diamondback has vanished.
While Luke stumbles home, he is pursued and encountered by Diamondback on the open street. Diamondback reveals that his rifle is loaded with the Judas. He asks Luke whether he has any last words. Luke tells Diamondback that he does not need to kill him and claims that he loved Willis like a brother. Diamondback replies "Ni**er, I am your brother!" and shoots Luke in the chest. Luke stumbles backwards, into the open back of a garbage truck which drives off. Afterwards, Cottonmouth sends men to find the truck but those prove to be ineffective. Diamondback also has a conversation with Shades, revealing that Cottonmouth was a friend and that he mourns his death. He also reveals to Shades that he knows that Shades manipulated Mariah into killing Cottonmouth so that Shades could take over the club and the gang. Although he plays with the thought, he ultimately decides not to kill Shades, instead sending him to find Luke Cage or, should Cage be dead, his body.
Destroying Cage's reputation
A meeting between crime bosses and Mariah Dillard is interrupted when Diamondback turns up and kills the crime bosses. Mariah is not intimidated by him, even after murdering the other crime lords. Diamondback is impressed and spares her. Mariah tries to assure Diamondback that she is out of the business but Diamondback replies that she remains 'in' until he decides otherwise.
Later, in his club, he is informed by Shades that a video in which Cage, who is also wanted by the police for the death of Cottonmouth, defeats two policemen, went viral. Diamondback is not concerned but claims that this is good, as Cage now has nowhere to go as his good reputation is shattered. He later calls Mariah to his hideout, where his weapon stash is located. He reveals that he has run the Judas bullets through mass production and that, although they are now slightly less effective, they can be used in a machine gun. Diamondback wants to sell this bullets legally to the police, so that they can use them against superhumans like Luke Cage. He wants Mariah to use her connections in politics to make that deal happen.
Diamondback then continues to destroy Cage's reputation, thereby also pushing the need for the police force being equipped with his Judas bullets. He attacks a police officer with an mechanical glove, giving him strength similar to that of Luke Cage. After murdering the policeman he loudly proclaims that he is Luke Cage, so that eyewitnesses can hear it. The attack also makes the policemen of Harlem furious, causing them to search for Luke more brutally. After he returns to his club, Mariah angrily chides him for murdering a cop in her city. Diamondback calmly tells her that Harlem is not hers anymore.
Hostage situation at the Harlem's Paradise
Eventually, Misty Knight is starting investigating the name Willis Stryker. By Domingo, she is informed that Harlem's Paradise is under new management. Meanwhile, Luke Cage finds out that Diamondback is indeed his brother. Misty heads to the Harlem's Paradise, where Mariah is rallying a horde of people against Luke Cage and police brutality. Misty heads up to the office where she is awaited by Diamondback. Misty tries to arrest Diamondback but Diamondback swiftly draws two guns and fires at Misty. He is able to injure her but cannot kill her as Cage, who has watched Mariah's speech, shields her with his own body. While Diamondback flees from the office, his henchmen open fire at Cage, causing panic in the club below. Once the people have fled the club and Cage and Misty have been cornered behind the bar, Diamondback resurfaces. One of his henchmen asks why they even bother shooting at him, given that he is bulletproof. Diamondback replies that Misty is not bulletproof and orders them to shoot her first. Although Shades advises him to leave immediately as the police will arrive any moment, Diamondback reveals that they will stay until Cage, who has escaped into the kitchen and barricaded himself, is dead. Diamondback tells his men to take everyone who remained in the club as hostage.
Shades then tries to convince Diamondback to retreat, also claiming that Diamondback lost his nerve as now, people are aware that Diamondback shot a female cop who was then saved by Luke cage, who was running from the bullets. Diamondback replies that all that people will remember from the confusion is that Cage turned up and everything got messy. Not the least convinced by Diamondback's plan, Shades asks how exactly he plans to hold of the policemen who will arrive any moment. Smiling, Diamondback tells him that they will be Luke Cage.
To break into the kitchen where Luke is barricaded, Diamondback shoots at the door with a grenade gun. However, Luke Cage and Misty have fled into a cellar beneath. Diamondback and his henchmen enter the kitchen and search it but do not find the hidden entrance. Diamondback then returns to the main stage where he forces one of his hostages, councilman Damon Boone, to call the police and tell them that they are being held hostage by Luke Cage, warning them that he will start killing people should policemen approach. Later he has Boone call again, this time demanding an escape helicopter. Diamondback has the man relay through that some of the hostages will be released as a sign of good faith but that he and some others will remain as hostages.
After some time, Shades and Diamondback are informed that one of the hostages, Claire Temple, has escaped while feigning to get medication for one of the other hostages. Shades realizes that Claire could blow up their entire cover story, as the hostage that supposedly needed medication was the one Mariah used to frame Cottonmouth's death on Cage. Diamondback also realizes that Claire was the one who stabbed him at the clinic. Diamondback sends Shades to kill the hostages to prevent any leaks. He also tells Shades that, should both of them get out of the club alive, they will have a long conversation. After Shades has gone, Diamondback loads his sniper rifle with his last Judas rifle and contacts Cage, still barricaded in the secret cellar, via the club's loudspeakers. He orders Cage to surrender himself, threatening to kill hostages every ten minutes. While waiting, he is informed by one of his henchmen outside that Mariah succeeded in convincing the mayor to equip his policemen with Janus bullets.
Preparing for Cage's arrival, Diamondback dons his power glove and murders his hostage, councilman Boone, with it. He is surprised when Cage deactivates the club's power, causing the lights to go out. In the darkness, Cage defeats Diamondback's remaining henchmen and frees the other hostages. When he turns around, he sees Diamondback on the balcony above him, holding the witness to Cottonmouth's death, as hostage. Cage tries to reason with Diamondback, telling him that he was sorry for the death of Stryker's mother as he always liked her. Diamondback replies that he never liked Cage's mother, calling her a bitch. When a SWAT team is about to enter the building, Diamondback gleefully tells Cage that Mariah supplied the police with Judas bullets and that, with the hostage 'Cage' killed, the police will shoot first and then ask questions later. Diamondback then kicks the girl off the balcony and Cage jumps forward to catch her. When Cage tries to walk to cover with her, Diamondback fires at him but Cage dives away. The Judas bullet hits a chair instead which explodes. Diamondback retreats to the office, where one of Cottonmouth's former henchmen provides him with a secret way out. Thus, Diamondback escapes the club unseen. From a side alley, he reaches a henchman that is waiting in a car and is driven away from Harlem's Paradise.
Diamondback bails Shades out of prison but, having grown tired of his many questions and objections, orders one of his henchmen to kill him. Unknown to Diamondback, Shades survives and escapes. Diamondback then calls Mariah, to whom he reveals that he has killed Shades. He also asks Mariah where her loyalties lie. During the conversation, it is made clear that Diamondback is in Mariah's house. He reveals himself to her, handing her a bag full of money, apologizing for the mess he made at the Harlem's Paradise but demanding her loyalty in return.
In his warehouse, Diamondback is later visited by Domingo and some of his henchmen who have decided to take out Diamondback. Domingo reveals to Diamondback that Shades is presumably still alive and moments later, a firefight between Domingo's and Diamondback's henchmen breaks out. Diamondback retreats to another room where he retrieves one of his high-tech weapons. With this weapon, Diamondback kills all remaining enemies and leaves a bomb at the warehouse to destroy all evidence.
Diamondback later disturbs a meeting between Cage, Shades and Mariah in which the three planned to combine their forces against him. Clad in a futuristic armor, Diamondback is unaffected by bullets when Shades attempts to shoot him. All except Luke escape to the back while Luke holds his ground. Diamondback coldly tells him that Luke should know that Diamondback would kill all the escapees later to which Luke replies that Diamondback would have to get past him first. Diamondback claims that he does not go past things, but through them, and then engages Luke in a brutal fight. Cage swiftly learns that Diamondback's suit is blocking out Cage's powers while accelerating Diamondbacks, making their fight an even fight.
In their fight, Diamondback is overpowered by Luke, who smashes him into the ceiling and then lets him drop to the floor. Diamondback gets back up and continues the battle, eventually throwing cage out of the window onto the street. Diamondback follows him onto the street and continues beating him, hurling him away with the powers of his gloves. However, while he is thrown around, Cage notices the engine on Diamondback's back powering Diamondback's suit.
Diamondback also makes the fight more personal, claiming that Luke's father never loved his mother and wanted to leave her for his mother and that he would take being a bastard over being a mistake anytime. Luke tries to end the battle on multiple occasions but Diamondback responds that the battle will end when one of them lies on the ground dead. Luke then stops fighting back, claiming that if Diamondback wants to kill him, he is welcome to do so. Indeed, Stryker continues beating up Luke who does not fight back. However, while he fights Luke his power charge drains swiftly. Noticing this, Diamondback stumbles backwards and Luke engages again. While the crowd cheers for Cage, Luke beats up Diamondback, his last punch throwing his half-brother backwards and knocking him unconscious. The injured Diamondback is arrested and imprisoned.
Diamondback is charged for all the murders he framed on Luke and, after the imprints on the corpses are compared with Stryker's power gloves, Cage's name is cleared. He is eventually imprisoned in the Raft.
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 he thing he does is 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 running 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 was 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 similar to the following villains:
- Kingpin from fellow Marvel show, Daredevil; They are both crime bosses who have authority over lesser crime lords, and they wind up defeated by the hero and arrested at the end. They also remained anonymous for the first half of the season before revealing themselves.
- Ernst Stavro Blofeld from Spectre: They are related to the protagonist (Diamondback: Luke Cage, Blofeld: James Bond) and were using lesser criminal organizations to cause the heroes harm while maintaining their anonymity, but eventually revealed themselves.
- Donquixote Doflamingo from One Piece: They are crime lords and arms dealers who have control of pretty much the entire criminal underworld, and are very intelligent and manipulative, and insane to boot; they ultimately get defeated by the hero, but not killed; they also adored their mothers and were crushed when they got sick and died, which was part of the reason they turned evil in the first place.
- Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame released 20 years earlier: They are religious and dress in black, and they're also insane. They are also related to the protagonist but seek to kill them anyway.
- For the first half of the season, Diamondback served as the Bigger Bad, as Cottonmouth was acting as the main antagonist at the time, and Diamondback was anonymous and only communicated with Cottonmouth through Shades.
- Partly because of this, but mainly to hide Diamondback's role as the real villain, Erik LaRay Harvey agreed not to do any publicity for the show and had not been publicly credited until after the first season aired.
- Diamondback bears a slight resemblance to the Candyman.
- 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.