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Marvel, Blade, and Vampire Fiction

Written by: Phillip Conroy

For most of this year, the Internet has been filled with rumors of a possible continuation of the Blade film series. That series wrapped up in 2004 with Blade: Trinity, and while it wasn’t completely clear at the time that there wouldn’t be any more movies, the interest just wasn’t there for a fourth installment. Now, however, Marvel owns the rights to its popular vampire character (whereas New Line Cinema distributed the trilogy), and many believe a reboot is coming.

And somewhat surprisingly, such a project wouldn’t be out of place. For one thing, we know that Wesley Snipes, who played Blade, believes it’s going to happen. Snipes has said he thinks the reboot is “a go” and in multiple interviews and public comments since he’s indicated that Marvel is ready to make it happen. These comments from Snipes have effectively helped to resurrect interest in the character, as comic film lovers are always on the lookout for a new project or hero adaptation—and now they’ve all been talking about Blade for a year.

On top of that, the Blade character never really left the public conscience to begin with. He’s rarely left out of collaborative Marvel projects, whether that means appearing in a comic or even video game. In terms of the latter, Betfair’s gaming site features a whole lineup of games based on Marvel characters, including teams like the X-Men and the Avengers. In each of these games, slot machine and jackpot icons are replaced by character faces, weapons, and accessories to interest players who might be interested in superhero fiction. And even in the company of characters currently thriving in movie franchises, Blade gets the front page, showing just how much fans still enjoy having him around.

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But what will be interesting if all of this does ultimately lead to a reboot is just how dark Marvel Studios will be willing to go with it. The original Blade films are arguably the closest Marvel has come (albeit through New Line Cinema) to a horror movie, but in recent years the studio has shown its willing to get its hands dirty. In particular, the Netflix original series Daredevil, made in collaboration with Marvel Studios, was decidedly scarier and bloodier than any other Marvel project of the past 15 years.

Could that mean that Marvel Studios would be willing to fully embrace vampire horror with a reboot? And might that mean even more invocation of the myths and history on which the entirety of vampire fiction is based?

Those who remember the original Blade will recall a heroic take on a “daywalker” vampire slayer in the form of Wesley Snipes. The character was something of a cross between a modern martial arts hero (there are elements of Keanu Reeves’ iconic Neo character from The Matrix) and the actual Blade character from the Marvel comics. Infected as a half-vampire by his bitten and dying mother, Eric Brooks becomes destined to hunt and destroy vampires. In the comics he does so out of a morbid obsession, whereas in the movies it comes across initially as a lifelong vengeance quest, and later as a specific means to an end. That end is to save himself and Dr. Karen Jenson from Deacon Frost, a power-hungry vampire seeking unlimited power.

What follows is a pretty typical good vs. evil saga, filled with ups and downs and a triumph. But the truly interesting detail that gives the film depth, connection to history, and a possible starting point for a newly rebooted origin story, is that Blade ultimately finds his mother, whom he believed to be deceased, in an apparent relationship with Frost.

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It’s no secret that the entire Blade comic saga is based at least loosely on the work of Bram Stoker, who wrote the original novel Dracula. This is in part because pretty much all vampire fiction points back to Stoker, but also because Blade first appeared in a comic called The Tomb Of Dracula. But what many don’t fully realize is that Stoker’s work actually has some basis in real human history.

The popular theory is that Stoker’s Dracula is based on Vlad the Impaler, a notorious 15th century European ruler who was born in Transylvania and developed a reputation for unmatched brutality. Vlad is best known, as his name suggests, for impaling his enemies. He is rumored to have killed possibly hundreds of thousands of adversaries while in power. His other claim to fame is repelling an invading Turkish army (much of which was impaled, of course). But past his military achievements, Vlad is known for one detail that’s of crucial importance in delving into the history of Stoker’s work, and even the Blade character: he was also known as Vlad III Dracula.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Dracula is based entirely on Vlad the Impaler. The name “Dracula” doesn’t really have anything to do with sucking blood, as some have assumed over the years. There’s no known evidence of Vlad having anything to do with human blood, other than that he most certainly shed a great deal of it. However, there are similarities that go further than the use of the name; it wasn’t as if Bram Stoker just thought the name of a legendary cruel overlord was cool and decided to use it as the title of a novel.

Specifically, the book Dracula actually refers to a character ancestor who earned his reputation for a triumph against a Turkish ruler, and who was betrayed by a family member. That’s pretty much concrete evidence that Stoker intended his vampire character to be a descendant and/or disciple of Vlad the Impaler. As for where the whole vampire aspect of the character comes into play, it may simply be a fictionalized version of the bloodlust of Vlad’s royal line. However, there are also a few other historical figures known for creepy activities involving blood who could have served as Stoker’s inspiration, and it’s worth noting that he wasn’t the first writer to imagine the concept of a vampire.

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Given that historical background, aspects of the original Blade actually appear to have at least a sliver of historical context. The betrayal by a family member is of particular note, and while in Stoker’s novel it’s the brother, this may well have been the inspiration for the subplot involving Blade’s mother—seduced by an “invader,” of sorts. Additionally, Blade doesn’t make a habit of wandering around impaling his enemies, but his very namesake calls to mind the connection between Vlad and vampire fiction.

For such a fantastical hero saga, the Blade story has a lot to work with should Marvel Studios decide to make a slightly more grounded movie. By employing some historical context, either directly or as inspiration, the studio could even make a new Blade movie that would fit in to the cinematic universe containing the Avengers.

About The Overseer (2283 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

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