It’s finally happened. The announcement that is coming to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will introduce one of Marvel’s most popular mystical concepts into the wider MCU. What’s more, although the Ghost Rider in question is and not Johnny Blaze, it re-establishes a previously popular movie franchise in the MCU as well. But where does this decision leave other mystical properties? Specifically – what about Blade?
Who is Blade?
Created in 1973, Blade is traditionally depicted as a vampire who hunts his own race. The character was redesigned for 1998’s Blade, where he was played by Wesley Snipes, and is arguably one of the most important cinematic superheroes of all; until the success of Blade, studios had tended to dismiss Marvel properties, and Marvel had struggled to get their franchises taken seriously. Marvel quietly rewrote the comic book character to align with Snipes’s portrayal.
The film shows Blade as a stoic warrior, a Daylighter who can walk in the sun, and who has trained to fight vampires at every turn. He’s a physical powerhouse, skilled in countless martial arts, and wielding anti-vampire weapons with deadly skill.
Why Should We Have Expected to Hear About Blade At SDCC?
The Blade and Ghost Rider franchises have traditionally been linked quite closely together. In the comics, they were both part of the 1990s “Midnight Sons” range, and Blade even made a cameo in the 2007 Ghost Rider game for Play Station 2.
More interestingly, rumors began to sweep through the internet that Netflix had plans for both Ghost Rider and Blade. Now, it’s true that those rumors were wrong; we didn’t get a Ghost Rider Netflix series advertized at SDCC, for example. But both Marvel Netflix and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are produced by Marvel Entertainment, so the proximity of the rumor to the Ghost Rider announcement suggests that the rumor was indeed based on real discussions. Ultimately, though, Marvel seems to have only chosen to push ahead with introducing a version of Ghost Rider to the MCU.
Could Blade Still Have A Netflix Series?
Marvel Comics works to an annual calendar, in which each year’s event leads to a relaunch of the comic book range. Last year was the most dramatic, with the “Secret Wars” event temporarily destroying the entire Marvel Multiverse. Marvel followed this up with the largest-scale relaunch the company has ever attempted, on the scale of DC’s post-Crisis on Infinite Earths relaunch. It was only moderately successful, in large part because of delays with the core Secret Wars title.
In July last year, Marvel announced a whole new series as part of that year’s relaunch, called. Written by Tim Seeley, this would introduce us to Blade’s daughter, Fallon Grey, a high school teenager who would be thrown into the world of the supernatural when she discovered her father’s identity. It sounded to be a fascinating concept, and Seeley – who has great skill and experience writing books with a central teenage character – seemed a natural choice.
Unfortunately, the Internet disagreed. Social media fumed that Blade the Hunter wasn’t being written by someone who’s black, and Marvel backed down, pulling the book completely. Blade the Hunter has yet to happen, and possibly never will.
Here’s the interesting thing, though; from the very first moment that series was advertized, that Marvel Entertainment was deeply interested in the idea. It seemed like a natural fit for Marvel’s darker Netflix world. That’s still possible, with Marvel Netflix growing in importance.
There are problems with Marvel Netflix, though, and they’re just now becoming visible. While Netflix has a growing focus on original content, the company’s leadership seem to be wary of filling their service with superheroes. As a result, Netflix intends to release only a couple of Marvel shows each year. The announcements at SDCC 2016 suggested that may have changed, but Netflix leaders have since stated otherwise. Daredevil and Jessica Jones , for example.
This leaves us in an awkward position. Netflix has the rights to produce a wide range of shows – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and even The Punisher. But for every show Netflix signs up to, we’ll wind up with even bigger delays. If this year’s Luke Cage proves to be a success and Netflix signs up to a Season 2, at current release rate we’re unlikely to see it until 2019! The more Marvel franchises Netflix chooses to produce, the longer these delays will become. Perhaps this explains why Marvel’s plans for Ghost Rider shifted over to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Could We See Blade in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. moving to a later timeslot, ABC’s intention is to make the show darker than it’s ever been before. What’s more, as the Ghost Rider announcement makes clear, the show is about to delve into the supernatural. It’s entirely possible that Marvel will choose to introduce more than just the one mystical superhero in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
If Marvel did take this approach, though, it would probably mean a change in casting – Wesley Snipes is unlikely to return as Blade for anything other than a lead role in a series. For many fans, Snipes is seen as the very embodiment of Blade (it doesn’t hurt that Marvel Comics adapted the character to match the cinematic version). He’s openly said that he’s open to returning to Marvel, and fans are watching with eager hope. One of the advantages to a Netflix series such as Blade the Hunter is that it could easily use Snipes’s version of Blade, implicitly placing the movie trilogy in the wider MCU. Introducing a whole new version of Blade would certainly disappoint these fans.
For now, though, I can’t see any other way we’re going to have Blade enter the MCU. It’s not ideal, but sometimes the creative ideas are driven by practical decisions as much as anything. I can only hope we’ll see the Blade the Hunter comic soon, as it sounded like a really fun idea.
Do you want to see a Blade Netflix series or Blade appear in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Let me know in the comments!
I’m a British guy who has a particular love of superhero movies – and I’m having a great time writing for Movie Pilot! Feel free to follow me on Twitter @TomABacon!