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Razor Sharp: Guggenheim talks “Blade”

by  in Comic News Comment
Razor Sharp: Guggenheim talks “Blade”
Cover art by Marko Djurdjevic. Interior artist to be announced at a later date.

In the Motorhead song “You Better Run,” frontman Lemmy Kilmister sang, “I’ve got a blade like lightning, silver bullets in my gun.” This September, the blood-sucking fiends of the Marvel Universe better run because the vampire-killing machine, Blade, is back in a new ongoing series. CBR News spoke with “Blade” writer Marc Guggenheim about the series.

“Blade” came about for Guggenheim like all his other comic book projects. It was the result of a phone call. “It was an editor calling me and asking me if I’d be interested,” Guggenheim told CBR News. “In this case, the editor was Tom Brevoort, who I’ve been working with in connection with the ‘Civil War’ness’ of my ‘Wolverine‘ run.”

To help reintroduce their premier fearless vampire killer, Marvel selected Guggenheim who they felt could bring a fresh take to the character. “I’m gonna take a risk here and be brutally honest: I’m familiar with the character and liked him well enough — there’s a really cool concept behind him — but I wouldn’t call myself a ‘fan’ the way I’m a fan of Wolverine,” Guggenheim explained. “It’s sort of like Blade was an acquaintance, but now that I’m ‘working with him,’ he’s become a friend if that makes any kind of sense. Because we’re looking to make this series appeal to a broader base of readers than just the die-hard Blade fans, I think I’m the right choice, since I’m asking a lot of readers, the ones who weren’t Blade fans before, to go on the same journey of discovering the coolness of this character with me.”

Guggenheim feels one of the coolest aspects of Blade is the complexity of the character. “Blade’s a really interesting character,” Guggenheim stated. “Here’s a guy who has more in common with vampires than humans, but who does he choose to kill? Who has he dedicated his life to killing? Vampires. The guy’s got some serious self-hate issues going on here. I find that fascinating and, more importantly, unique. Tom and I have been talking a lot about Blade’s similarity to the Punisher — both in terms of their respective (and similar) crusades and in terms of Blade’s need for the kind of commercial rehabilitation that Punisher needed pre-Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon. However, despite the similarities between the two characters, there’s one big thing that distinguishes Blade from the Punisher: Blade’s crusade is against his own kind. Moreover, as Tom is fond of pointing out, the Punisher’s ‘mission’ is pretty hopeless — there will always be criminals — but Blade’s mission of wiping out all vampires can be, at least theoretically, achieved. In fact, it already has been once in the Marvel Universe.”

Readers won’t have to know all the details of Blade’s other Marvel appearances to pick up and enjoy the new series. “I’m writing the book to be very new-reader friendly,” Guggenheim explained. “You won’t have to know what’s happened to Blade in the past. You won’t even have to know his origin. All information will be disclosed on a need-to-know basis. As such, I’m not placing him in a particular emotional place based upon his past history. When we see him on the first page of the first issue, he’s kicking vampire ass and he’s enjoying it — because that’s the ‘baseline’ state of the character’s emotions: He loves what he does.”

Guggenheim hopes readers will love the way he’s structured the plot of “Blade.” The series won’t unfold in multi-part story arcs. “To pack as much story into individual issues as possible, and to make the book as new-reader friendly as possible, for the time being, each issue will be self-contained, done-in-one stories (remember those?),” Guggenheim stated. “That’s not to say an overarching mythology won’t develop — I’ve got a whole one worked out — but for the time being, I want the focus to be on tight, self-contained stories.”

The tight self-contained stories will take Blade all over the world. “We’re going everywhere, baby,” Guggenheim said. “The first issue is set in New York. Then we’ll be going to Latveria. All sorts of other places. The beauty of doing self-contained stories is that each issue can be different. We can have fun and try new things, new places and new situations. If I make a mistake, the mistake will only last for 22 pages.”

Guggenheim wants to cram the 22 pages of story in “Blade” with a horde of eclectic and evil adversaries for the Daywalker to eliminate. “One of my ‘mission statements’ for the series is to depict a broad range of vampires. There are all sorts of different vampires in the Marvel Universe, some we’ve seen before and others we haven’t. I want to have fun with that. However, that’s not to say Blade will only be fighting vampires. I want to give him a wide range of adversaries — not all of them supernatural.”

Some readers might be wondering if Blade’s supernatural slaying compatriots from the Nightstalkers, Frank Drake and Hannibal King, will be making their return to the Marvel Universe in the pages of “Blade.” “I want to keep the focus on Blade for the time being,” Guggenheim stated. “As I said, Blade is in need of some ‘rehabilitation.’ Let’s be frank: He’s never enjoyed very impressive sales. I need to show readers that he can be cool, that his adventures are worth picking up each month. I don’t want to take the spotlight away from him by forcing him to share it with other characters, new or old. As for old, such as King and Drake, I’ve found — maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ve found — Blade’s back-story to be very convoluted, you see all the different attempts writers have made at making him cool. I want the series to be free of that baggage, at least initially. So for the time being, no King or Drake — but they will eventually make it into the book.”

Guggenheim doesn’t have any immediate plans for King and Drake in “Blade,” but readers will see many familiar faces and organizations in the series like SHIELD, which appears in the first issue. “I’m far more interested in bringing in Marvel’s non-horror characters,” Guggenheim explained. “Tom’s brilliant plan for Blade — and his pitch to me — was that Blade shouldn’t be a horror book, it should be a superhero book with horror elements. I really agree with that and I’m writing in that direction.

“I’m not a big horror guy,” Guggenheim continued. “I like it well enough, but not enough to pick up Marvel’s horror-centric titles in the past. I think Tom chose me because I’m like the target audience for this book: A superhero fan who doesn’t mind his superheroes mixed in with a bit of horror, but doesn’t like pure horror stuff. Hence, the aforementioned Blade-as-superhero-comic take. I think Blade has previously failed to connect with readers because his focus was too narrowly tailored. Also, that convoluted back-story really wasn’t a help — it never is. As for what makes this series different, this is — I believe — the first time someone’s tried placing Blade squarely in the Marvel Universe, in the superhero aspect of that world. That’s why the very first page of the very first issue is Blade fighting Spider-Man. I want to send as clear a signal as possible that this is a different Blade book than you’ve seen before.”

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