The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in crisis mode, and it seems that Blade, comics’ most beloved Daywalker, is bearing the brunt.

Credit: New Line Cinema

It has been five long years since Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con that Mahershala Ali would be taking on the role of Blade in the MCU, and, in all that time, audiences have only gotten a single uncredited vocal cameo in Eternals (2021).

This is even more shocking when one finds out that Disney has actually had the rights to the vampire killer since 2012, having reacquired them from New Line Cinema over a decade ago. In those 12 years, Marvel has produced four Avengers movies, three Thor movies, two Black Panthers, and has seen the Infinity Stones come and go from the MCU. At this point, Marvel fans have been introduced to the cosmic weirdness of the Guardians of the Galaxy, traveled the Multiverse with both Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and broken the fourth wall with She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany).

Credit: Marvel Studios

The recent news that filmmaker Yann Demange had left the long-gestating project shocked many fans of the character, particularly since he was the second director to drop out of the film. Reportedly, Demange was specifically picked by Mahershala Ali after the departure of original director Bassam Tariq, which doesn’t imply good things for the future of the film.

At this point, Blade has gone through at least half a dozen credited writers and two filmmakers, all without a single frame of the movie actually being shot. Clearly, something is going on with the film, which has been described as a period piece set in the 1920s, a contemporary action film, and part of the MCU’s attempts to get into the horror game.

But why is it so hard to get a single Blade movie made? A successful trilogy of New Line Cinema films starring Wesley Snipes made the Marvel Comics character a household name (and the butt of South Park jokes) years before the MCU was anything but Kevin Feige’s pipe dream. The character himself has been around since 1973 and has teamed up with everyone from Spider-Man to Morbius (non-Jared Leto version) in the past. He’s been the star of multiple video games, appeared in anime and live-action TV shows, and, in short, he’s a brand name.

Credit: New Line Cinema

So what’s up with Marvel Studios, one of the most popular and well-funded production studios in the world, being unable to make a single move about the character? In order to explain things, let’s break down the character a little bit.

Blade and ‘The Tomb of Dracula’

First things first, we will go back to the beginning. Blade is the creation of writer Marv Wolfman (whose own real-life name is only marginally less cool than “Blade“) and penciler Gene Colan, first appearing in The Tomb of Dracula #10 in 1973. According to Wolfman, he had created a Black character for Teen Titans that did not end up getting used, and he made a vow to himself to use a similar character in his next project. Clearly, Wolfman was decades ahead of his time in terms of representation.

In the above interview, Marv Wolfman describes his creation of Blade as largely having to due with his inability to understand why people in the comic book industry thought it was “strange” to include a Black character in New York City. He says:

“I felt coming from New York City, going to a school, and everybody who attends that high school is pretty much everybody who lives within a few blocks of you, because that’s the way it works, I went to school in Manhattan, called High school of Art and Design, and it took people of all of New York, you saw people of all kinds there, so it didn’t sound strange to me, to use a Black character, and I just never understood why they didn’t, so [when] I came up with Blade it came to me literally in a second. I’m not joking, I had just gotten the Dracula assignment, and I wasn’t thinking about anything, suddenly, the character came full blown, I knew exactly who he was and what he looked like, and I knew everything about him.”

From the very beginning, Blade, the character, was presented as a vampire hunter, but he had not reached full Wesley Snipes levels of coolness quite yet. In his original incarnation, Blade (born Eric Brooks) was a human of peak physical ability who used wooden knives and other bladed weapons to kill vampires in hand-to-hand combat, earning his nickname the hard way. While he had some elements of vampiric powers, he basically was mostly just a guy who couldn’t be turned into a vampire because of his dead mother.

Credit: Marvel Comics

So, originally, Blade was more of a Batman who stabbed vampires to death than the superhuman he will become. The Batman comparison is even more apt when his origin is revealed to be that his mother was killed by the bloodsucker Deacon Frost, which will lead him to spend his life killing Nosferatu, just as Bruce Wayne takes his nightly revenge on his parents’ killer by proxy.

It would not be until 1999 that Blade would become the Daywalker that most audiences are familiar with. In that storyline, he fights Morbius, the Living Vampire; the good doctor’s atypical bite somehow unlocks his latent abilities and powers him up into a dhampir, a half-human, half-undead being with most of the good aspects of being a vampire. That must have been nice for him.

Enter: Wesley Snipes

Before the MCU, comic book movies were much more haphazard, often-times only loosely adapting the characters they purported to portray. Although modern fans would be horrified, it was actually considered something of an advantage for a director like Tim Burton to not actually care anything about Batman, with studios believing that it helped crossover appear.

It is then sad, but not all that surprising, that New Line Cinema (which had acquired the cinematic rights to Blade) in the 1990s had one big question about Blade on the big screen: can he be White? Thankfully, David S. Goyer managed to dodge that studio note, later describing his pitch as the “Star Wars of black vampire films.” Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, and Wesley Snipes were all shortlisted for the character, with the latter eventually being cast for the first self-titled movie.

Credit: New Line Cinema

Blade (1998) was directed by Stephen Norrington and co-starred Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, and N’Bushe Wright. In many ways, it presaged the streamlining strategy of the future MCU, modernizing the character and simplifying his origin and powers as a dhampir; the 1999 comic book revamp would follow and later lead to Marv Wolfman losing a copyright case in which a court decided the character was sufficiently different from his original version that Marvel could hold onto the copyright.

The movie was a financial success, grossing $131 million ($252 million in 2024) against a $45 million budget and leading two sequels, Blade II (2002) and Blade: Trinity (2004). David S. Goyer would eventually take over the director’s seat for the third movie.

Morbius (portrayed by Stephen Norrington) was teased in a deleted ending to the first movie, and by the 2010s, a revival of the Blade franchise as a crossover with the Underworld series was apparently in discussions. However, by then, Marvel Studios had the rights back, and Kevin Feige had other plans.

Blade: Mahershala Ali, Someday, Maybe?

As aforementioned, Marvel first announced that Blade would be brought into the MCU five years ago and basically nothing has gone right since. Mahershala Ali’s attorney, Shelby Weiser, told The Hollywood Reporter, “That deal was in 2019, and they still haven’t shot it, which is pretty much the craziest thing in my professional experience.”

It’s not a great sign when even the legal teams are sounding off about how wild it is that a movie can’t get made, but reportedly, Kevin Feige is just not going to let this one go. The 1998 film was a huge deal to the future executive and a template for using less-popular characters like Iron Man (whose film rights were available, unlike Spider-Man or the X-Men) in the MCU.

Credit: Marvel Studios

Feige has said, “A character nobody had heard of at all, had only appeared in a few issues of Tomb of Dracula or something, turned into a big franchise. That was always a great lesson for me, where you go, ‘It doesn’t matter how well-known the character is; it matters how cool the movie is.’”

On the other hand, Wesley Snipes has said of the struggling Blade reboot, “Blade, lordylordylordy 👀 folks still lookin for the secret sauce, ridin snowmobiles in traffic, kinda rough. Daywalkers make it look easy, don’t they? 😊 #DaywalkerKlique #Blade #Marvel”

That leaves things pretty up in the air. Original writer Stacy Osei-Kuffour was replaced by X-Men ’97 creator Beau DeMayo, then by Michael Starrbury, then True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, and then Michael Green. Currently, Eric Pearson is apparently working on a new script, making him the sixth writer on the project. The movie was originally scheduled for release in November 2023. It has since been delayed to September 2024, then February 2025, then November 2025.

Not a great sign for the Daywalker.

Do you think Marvel will ever actually make a new Blade movie? Give us your vampiric theories in the comments below!

“}]] It is anyone’s guess whether we will ever get to see Mahershala Ali as Blade in the MCU, but here’s what we know for now.  Read More