I am a huge fan of vampires in entertainment, so it is hard to root for the vampire hunter, but Blade makes it seem so cool. To be more specific, Blade, the 1998 film starring Wesley Snipes, made this character cool. I know there is some comic book loyalty that makes that hard to swallow, and the fact that some people think the second film is better, but I am here to explain why the original theatrical release was the best version of Blade to date.
Blade, as a comic book character, was originally introduced as a supporting character for the pages of The Tomb of Dracula #10 in 1973 by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan. Wolfman and Colan spent a lot of time on the character and had a hard time fitting him in with their existing story, troubles with the dialogue and concerns of Blade overshadowing the other characters. It was hard to deny though that the pair had created an outstanding character, that with a little bit of tweaking over time, would continue to pop up in the Marvel universe to hunt the vampire menace.
My first encounter with Blade was in a random comic that my older brother had, and to be honest, I did not think much of him at the time. It was actually his appearance in the 90s Spider-Man cartoon that made me like Blade. In it he was a good guy who always seemed to end up fighting the other heroes. He was an anti-hero in a lot of ways, with a strong purpose and ferociousness, against what seemed like overwhelming odds. He also stood out as one of the few African American heroes on the show at the time. It was a shame that his comic book counterpart was a bit more of a letdown.
Though the Daywalker started with a good motivation, writers have had trouble keeping Blade busy with things to do. Looking at the highlights of his career, there is simply a laundry list of dead vampires and deceased allies, both of which have a way of coming back multiple times over the years when things get stale. One storyline simply brought back to life every vampire Blade had ever killed, and that is not even the craziest thing that has happened to him. Some of the later series were pretty ridiculous, I still have the issue where an entire mall is murdered just to kill one demon possessed Santa Claus. Blade is a hard character to write well, especially in an on-going series. Blade can be silly at times, too quirky and over the top in many cases. His longevity has not produced many exciting new villains, causing his good ones to constantly be resurrected through more craziness. In truth, he was introduced as a supporting character, and I think that is how Blade is best used. Some of the best Blade stories are left as a mini-series or character tie-in.
The best representation of the character so far in my opinion has been the 1998 film from New Line Cinema. Directed by Stephen Norrington, the film was written by Wolfman and Colan who created the character, along with David S. Goyer, who all put a lot of care in the project. The film was kept dark and serious in its tone, but wanted to stay somewhat grounded in the comic book world, letting in just a bit of the crazy at the end. The titular character’s origins, powers, and weaknesses were revamped to trim some of the excess that the comics had added on over the years, and to retool the character slightly. Some say that the biggest addition was the character of Abraham Whistler, who was created for the film but was first introduced in the 90s Spider-Man cartoon. Played by Kris Kristofferson, the character resembled some of Blade’s allies from the comics, but Whistler himself has never appeared in one. Though the other movies did no favors for the character, he was one of my favorite parts of the first one.
Deacon Frost is one of Blade’s most famous villains, and the role was wonderfully played by Stephen Dorff. The movie did a lot for the social structure of the vampires, establishing a struggle between the pure-blood and mortal-turned of their race, which provided Frost with a proper playground and motivation as he worked to become the blood god La Magra. I do not mind seeing vampires as the bad guys for a story if they are handled well, and Blade does their society justice, adding in a good amount of detail and a ton of mythos.
Wesley Snipes is incredible in the role. The Blade from the comic books was different, especially in the beginning, arrogant and talkative, showing emotion on a lot more occasions. Snipe’s version made Blade silent and powerful, but still left room for the relationship with his mother and the slightest tinges of emotion or the wicked smiles he often flashed. He added to the world, showing the in-between of the dark world that hid what lurked in the shadows. Snipes worked hard to look right for the role, and being a marital artist, wanted to make the actions scenes look quick and fierce. The music also helped make those moments memorable, and the few comedy moments were still kept bleak.
I do not think Blade was a perfect film, not even close, but it is the best representation of the character, and in a world that felt more developed than most of the comics. That is odd to say that about a film, but the statement holds up. Blade does not need his own series, but if it is going to happen, Marvel could learn a thing or two from the film.
**This article originally appeared on Culture Mass**