It’s safe to say that Blade is one of the most popular comic book characters ever. IGN ranked him the 63rd greatest comic book character of all time. Even people who aren’t familiar with Marvel comic book story lines are aware of the 1998 movie starring Wesley Snipes and its subsequent sequels, Blade II (2002) and Blade: Trinity (2004). Rapper Sticky Fingaz portrayed the character in a short-lived TV show in 2006. Disney Plus subscribers are gearing up for another Blade TV series launching later this year starring Mahershala Ali. But who is the mysterious vampire slayer? Let’s delve into the character’s history.
Blade (Eric Stokes Brooks) was created by writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan. Initially introduced into the Marvel Comic Book Universe as a supporting character, Blade first appeared in a comic horror series entitled, The Tomb of Dracula (issue #10, 1973). The series featured a group of vampire hunters who often battled Dracula as well as other supernatural threats to humanity. (Dracula has a history of fighting several popular superheroes in various horror adaptations of Marvel comics.) Blade has made appearances in titles throughout the MCU, most notably Ghost Rider in the early 90’s. His first solo series, Blade: The Vampire Hunter, debuted in July 1994 and ran for 10 issues through April 1995. The character got solo comic book reboots in 1997, and then again in 1998.
Blade was born in a London brothel to a prostitute. The doctor tending to his mother while she was in labor turned out to be a vampire who attacked her before being chased away. Blade’s mother died, but he survived and ended up absorbing vampire enzymes into his bloodstream. That is how Blade developed some of his vampiric traits. He has a rapid healing factor, superhuman strength, and speed. He is immune to vampire bites and vampire hypnosis, nor is he affected by traditional vampire weaknesses like daylight and silver. Blade’s not immortal, as he has retained some of his human characteristics, but he does age slowly.
He continued to live in the brothel and eventually met Jamal Afari, a jazz trumpeter who took Blade under his wing. Afari taught Blade how to use weapons, fight (Blade is a martial artist specializing in multiple styles), and basically groomed him to become the legendary vampire slayer that we all know.
Blade’s character lives many lives in the MCU. In one storyline, Daywalker, he loses his hand after going up against his long-lost father, Lucas Cross. Cross kidnaps Blade, chains him up, and tries to force him to feed on a virgin girl in an attempt to fulfill a prophecy. Blade escapes by biting his own hand off. He goes on to partner with S.H.I.E.L.D., an affiliation that comes into play when he registers with the government as a superhero during the Civil War timeline. At that time, S.H.I.E.L.D. replaces Blade’s stump with a cybernetic hand as repayment for his cooperation.
He also became a member of the Mighty Avengers under the alias Spider Hero until his true identity was leaked. There’s also an X-Men story arc where Blade helps them fight vampires. In that series, entitled Curse of the Mutants, vampires bioengineer a bomb that goes off and spreads blood all over San Francisco. Jubilee is one of several people covered in blood and turns into a vampire during that attack. Blade helps the X-Men to slay the vampires responsible for the attack, but he also tries to convince them that the only way to cure Jubliee is by killing her. He attempts to stake her but has a standoff with Wolverine, who refuses to let him do it. Despite being convinced that the only way to cure Jubilee is death, Blade stands down. Luckily for Jubilee, she is eventually cured. But that’s literally another story.
Blade’s most recent storyline in the MCU is 2019’s The War of the Realms where he works alongside Doctor Strange, Wolverine, Daredevil, Punisher, Ghost Rider and more to save the world once again.
The work of a hero is never done. Blade’s unique position as a vampire slayer adds an interesting twist to the concept of what it means to be a superhero because he is horror meets sci-fi. The line between the two genres is very thin, especially when it comes to Marvel.
Perhaps that’s why he is so popular.
Where would you rank Blade on the list of greatest superheroes? Will you be watching the new upcoming TV show on Disney Plus?