Why Blade is the oddest character in Marvel Comics
The character of Blade was created by comic book writer extraordinaire Marv Wolfman in 1973 within the “Tomb of Dracula” story arch. He was created as a English-born vampire hunter who’s mother was bitten by a vampire, Deacon Frost, during her pregnancy. This turned Blade into a non-aging human that was immune to vampire bites. In this first incarnation, Blade was an adequately skilled member of a vampire hunting team that did ultimately take down Dracula. Oh, and he also wore green leather pants with disco boots (see Luke Cage and other comic book characters created during the Blaxploitation era). During his run in the 80’s and 90’s his skills progressed to the point where he was capable enough a “superhero” to join the Midnight Suns, which was Dr. Strange’s version of the Avengers in a sense. Soon after this, his stint with the Nightstalkers (a trio of vampire hunters) ended and Blade became just another one of Marvel’s thousands of characters in its universe.
By the mid-90’s the character looked as if he would never be relevant again. But then he appeared in a two-part episode in “Spiderman The Animated Series” and, despite the cheesiness of the show, made him a somewhat cool and respectable character. They gave him the powers of vampires without their weaknesses (not just that BS immune to bite nonsense) and gave him a mentor-type figure, Whistler, who provided him with wisdom and advanced technology and weaponry. I’ll admit the motorcycle that scaled skyscrapers and green lightsaber were a bit much, but the characterization of Blade in the two episodes made him seem like an actual superhero that was on the level of a Spiderman (they never actually fought, but his combination of vampire-level attributes and advanced weaponry gave the impression they were in the same league).
And this is where it gets odd.
In 1998 Blade got his own feature length movie with arguably the 90’s most charismatic action star, Wesley Snipes, the year after the colossal bomb that was “Batman and Robin”. In this incarnation, Blade has the same powers as the Spiderman the Animated Series Incarnation! I don’t think a comic book character with at least a 20 year run has ever had their powers completely replaced from the source material in their very own live action movie ever. That’s like giving Deadpool Cyclop’s powers in his first live action movie appearance (Damn X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
Then an even odder thing occurred. The movie did extremely well! The movie made close to $200 million (adjusted for inflation) the year after “Batman and Robin” nearly killed the superhero movie genre. An after thought within the comic book character world saved the entire genre and helped green-light movies like “X-Men” and “Spiderman” which then led to the billion dollar blockbusters “Avengers” and the Dark Knight Trilogy. Wesley Snipes transformed Blade into a boring superhero with no real powers to a legitimate badass that was skilled and powerful enough to kill a vampire God! The movie did so well, that it spawned two more sequels. The second movie was a pretty good superhero movie considering it was made in 2001 and made over $200 million dollars (adjusted for inflation) with a budget of less that $75 million dollars. The second sequel was a dud, yet still brought in nearly $160 million (adjusted for inflation) with only an $80 million dollar budget. The success of the cinematic trilogy led to two video games on the major consoles, a television series and an anime series nearly a decade later.
Following the success on screen, Marvel gave Blade within the 616 comic book universe the appearance, powers and overall characterization of his cinematic counter part. This was the logical decision, but was executed terribly.
First, their decision to give him actual vampiric powers by a bite from Morbius was weak. He is supposed to be immune to all vampire bites, whether they be via science or mystical origins. Blade’s presence within the comics before the movies was not that significant therefore they could have easily gotten away with rebooting the comic book series altogether and giving him all of the powers without the weaknesses and establishing Whistler as his own version of Alfred/Lucius Fox. They also could have established him as more of charismatic/badass African-American like Wesley Snipes rather than an Englishman.
Second, they completely mismanaged his powers. This is common in comics (Werewolf by Night was able to strangle the Hulk, but nearly died against Sabretooth), but all of these inconsistencies happened in a standard 12-24 issue story arch. In this line of comics, Blade was able to overpower and outmaneuver a boosted Spiderman (via vampire bite) and was able to pull the head off an extremely powerful vampire, Draconis, with his bare hands, yet was outmaneuvered and knocked off his feet by Gambit and wasn’t able to break free from an every-day chain. Furthermore, Blade fought Wolverine to a stalemate and was able to take three claws through the brain and not be phased, yet couldn’t regrow his hand after having to gnaw it off. Let’s also not forget the fact that Blade easily defeated Dracula, yet Dracula has defeated the whole X-Men team single handedly. Power inconsistencies are common, but usually aren’t this apparent in the same story-arch and usually occur when writers don’t want an iconic character with little powers (Captain America, Punisher etc) to get wiped out by a more powerful, but less significant character. In this arch, Blade beats and cures Spiderman, Stalemates Wolverine, but gets outclassed by Gambit. This is illogical on so many levels.
The main reason the Blade comics following the movie failed though, were due to the lazy writing. The dialogue was boring, Blade didn’t have a third of the charisma Snipes portrayed the character with, and there was no real story or character progression. In the movies Blade was complex because he was the thing that he hunted with such passion. He was his own worse enemy. There was none of that in this incarnation. He just went along killing vampires as if he were a robot. There was no link to his impoverished past (his mother was a hooker and was born homeless), his race, how his powers affect his humanity or anything that could be alluded to. The character with so much potential went nowhere and wasn’t even renewed.
There are currently rumors that a Blade reboot could come within Phase 3 or later since monster movies are even more popular than they were when the trilogy came out, but they are just rumors.
The weirdness that comes from Blade’s character is the fact that he might be the most popular character comic book character among characters whose comics are irrelevant and poor quality.