Blade: The Wolfman's Vampire
(This Stripped column originally appeared in the September 3-9, 1998 Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)
by Beth Hannan Rimmels
If you gripe about how Hollywood wrecks most comic books, put this story down and go see Blade, the best comic book-derived movie since Men in Black, which most people forget came from Lowell Cunningham's black-and-white miniseries.
Last year's Spawn movie was also a faithful adaptation of Todd McFarlane's source material, but it didn't go over quite as well. (Maybe the parents who bought their kids Todd's awesome action figures didn't quite realize how violent the Spawn canon is.) Anyway, Blade is everything Marvel could have hoped for: exciting, cool, well-acted and mostly well written, even though I still say they should trim the Frost/Karen scene. Plus, Wesley Snipes is perfect as a man who is trying to save humanity yet must stand apart from it himself.
Screenwriter David S. Goyer took quite a few liberties, but the tone and core character remained true. Purists may quibble, but Batman fans have bigger complaints. Anyone who scripts Batman dialogue like, "You see I'm both Bruce Wayne and Batman not because I have to be. Now, because I choose to be," as Lee and Janet Scott Batchler did in Batman Forever, doesn't have a clue about the original's motivation. Goyer didn't make that mistake.
Still, there are differences. The celluloid Blade has a silver katana, silver throwing knives and garlic-filled silver bullets. The comic-book hero's arsenal had only wooden knives that functioned like stakes. But Hollywood always adds gadgets, and it's not a big deal.
Blade's abilities are different. In both, he's half human/half vampire because his mother was attacked by a vampire shortly before she gave birth. The movie Blade is stronger and faster than normal (but not as fast as a vampire) and can regenerate. The original Blade was more human but immune to vampire bites.
Blade creator Marv Wolfman "played him as a very human character with a few differences. He was essentially just an incredible fighter, so people identified with him," says Marvel writer/editor Glenn Greenberg. In the comic book, Blade's eyes were a vampire-like red and sunlight sensitive, so he wore green-lensed wraparounds. Snipes' dark glasses might also be designed to protect light-sensitive eyes that's never quite clear but his eyes, like all the vampires', look normal.
The biggest difference is Blade's thirst for blood: The comic Blade didn't need blood. The movie seems to have crossed Blade with Hannibal King, the detective-turned-vampire who resisted his bloodsucking urges and helped Blade kill vampires. It gives Snipes' Blade a dilemma cure the thirst and he loses the abilities that make him a great vampire killer but I'm not sure it was needed for audience sympathy.
Unfortunately, Wolfman, creator of Blade and his nemesis Deacon Frost, couldn't comment on his creations because he's suing Marvel Entertainment. Fans suspected something was amiss when not only was he omitted from the Blade panel at the recent San Diego Comic-Con International, but resisted joining when fans prodded Stan Lee into inviting Wolfman on stage.
One sad fact about the comic biz is that few writers and artists have shared in the profits from their creations even though less were employed in work-for-hire" situations than is commonly assumed. According to Michael Diliberto and Adrian Askarieh, Wolfman's Los Angeles attorneys from the firm of Kleinberg and Lerner, Wolfman was an independent contractor at the time Blade and Frost were created and he owns the rights to the characters. The attorneys say Wolfman has been quietly trying to work out an amicable arrangement with Marvel for several years. Finally, on Aug. 20, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in California, charging copyright infringement and unfair competition against Marvel, New Line Cinema, Toy Biz and TeeVee Toons Inc., parent company of the record label for the Blade soundtrack.
It's interesting to note that a few months ago Marvel released a Hannibal King story in #520-521 of Journey into Mystery written by Wolfman, so his lawyers' "amicable" contention certainly seems to be true. I hope the lawsuit's resolution will set a precedent allowing other writers and artists to claim a portion of the proceeds from their creations without scaring off Hollywood's interest in quality adaptations of comic books.
Regardless, if you've got a friend who loved the movie Blade, get them copies of the one-shot in stores now and the first issue of a six-part Blade miniseries that debuted Sept. 2. They might come back for more.
Column © 1998 Long Island Voice.