The Marvel Age of Movies is an ongoing feature that will profile every film produced by Marvel Studios from 1998 to the present. What started as a production company became a Hollywood powerhouse in its own right, and this column will chart the course of that unprecedented success beginning with adaptations across a handful of studios to the creation of a large and expansive cinematic universe involving dozens of characters. Marvel changed comic book movies, and it changed Hollywood in the process. This is the story of the Marvel Age of Movies.
Blade wasn’t supposed to be the big comic book movie of 1998. A little over a year before, all eyes were on Superman Lives, the Tim Burton adaptation of the Man of Steel starring Nicolas Cage as Superman/Clark Kent. But then they closed up shop in the wake of overwhelming fan criticism.
It was more or less the end times for comic book movies. Very few projects were getting off the ground, and the ones that did – Batman & Robin, Steel – were failures. When Superman Lives was quietly abandoned in the summer of ‘97, it seemed like there was no money in superheroes, and less will to do something that did those comic book movies justice. That all changed one year later, however, with a little known C-list character from Marvel Comics who started life as a small supporting character in a 1973 issue of Tomb of Dracula.
In the beginning – at the dawn of the Marvel Age of Movies – there was Blade, and New Line Cinema thought it would be the perfect vehicle for a vampire movie spoof. Enter David S. Goyer, who in the nearly 20 years since has become a screenwriter synonymous with comic book movies. He convinced New Line that doing a much more straight-faced Blade would be the better option. Goyer’s intent was to capture the spirit of the comic book, and the main character from it. Now that didn’t mean translating the comic chapter and verse to the screen, but what it meant was treating the material with respect, and not as a template through which millions of dollars of merchandise was translated through.