The Weird, Convoluted Origin of Blade
This will be a slight spoiler for Eternals but remember the movie’s post-credits scene when Kit Harington’s character is about to pick up the Ebony Blade, and an off-screen voice asks him if he’s ready for that?
Well, that wasn’t actually a reenactment of Harington’s clairvoyant agent asking him if he really wants to sign up for that HBO fantasy show that will start out great but end … not so great. It was actually the first official appearance of the MCU Blade since the voice belonged to Mahershala Ali, who’s been cast as the original Buffy back in 2019.
There are rumors we might see Ali’s Blade in the upcoming Moon Knight series, or maybe we’ll have to wait for his own movie to come out. What we know for sure is that his origin probably won’t follow the comics because the backstory of the comic-book Blade is even weirder than the backstory of Blade III when Wesley Snipes tried to kill director David Goyer, who later had to hire bikers to protect him.
Blade first appeared in the 1972 issue of Tomb of Dracula, where he sported a lime green coat, yellow shades, an afro, and a bandolier of wooden teak knives that he used to give vampires cardiac piercings. Now, this character was created when the vampire Deacon Frost fed on his mother as she was giving birth, accidentally transferring some of his vampire enzymes (vamzymes?) into the infant’s system. So, his getup aside, so far so Snipes, right? Well, no. Besides immunity to vampire bites/hypnosis and, uhm, “savageness borne from other conflicts” (interpret that however you will), this character had no superpowers. He was just a guy in great shape who was really good at sticking his wood into vamps.
And it stayed this way for over 20 years until Spider-Man: The Animated Series reinvented the character. In the Season 2 episode “Blade, the Vampire Hunter,” the cartoon introduced him as a half-vampire half-human hybrid with super strength and reflexes and a lightsaber and a sweet-ass motorcycle that could drive up buildings! Hey, don’t sound so surprised. That Spider-Man series is way better than you remember. Another case in point: it also invented Blade’s mentor and weaponsmith, Whistler. So even though the most famous version of Blade was popularized by Wesley Snipes (and later retconned into comics), that character originated in a Saturday morning cartoon.
Interestingly, the reason why the Spider-Man series came up with Whistler was that Blade’s comic-book mentor was long dead. Introduced and killed off back in 1975, Jamal Afari was a jazz trumpeter and an ex-vampire hunter who came across a young Blade when he was attacked either by vampires or goths who really hated jazz. In any case, the 9-year-old orphan came to his aide, impressing Afari enough to take Blade under his wing and teach him all he knew about hunting the undead. He also taught him jazz. It didn’t really come up much in Blade’s line of work and was mostly phased out of his characterization. So, if you’re listening, Disney: here is your chance to make Mahershala Ali’s Blade stand out from Snipe’s.
Many more retcons of Blade’s origin would follow Spider-Man. In 2006, for example, it turned out that Blade’s biological father was one Lucas Cross who, in an amazing coincidence, would later become a vampire himself. But if that surname sounds A) ironic due to the whole vampire connection and B) vaguely familiar, it’s because it totally is, and it has appeared in the MCU. Specifically in Ant-Man in the form of its Big Bad Darren Cross, aka Yellowjacket, aka Blade’s half-brother in the comics. Guess the Cross family carries some kind of gene for building your whole brand around flying animals that like to stick their pointy body parts into people.
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Top Image: New Line Cinema