The success of Blade in 1998 was a watershed moment in the history of comic book movies, one that went a long way to launching the superhero craze at the turn of the millennium that turned the genre into the most lucrative and successful in the entire industry, with the trend continuing even to this day. Star and producer Wesley Snipes was one of the driving forces behind the project, but this wasn’t the first time he had tried to make a movie based on a Marvel Comics character.
In 1992, Snipes bought the rights to Black Panther, with the intention of bringing the King of Wakanda to the big screen. However, difficulties in cracking the script and finding a suitable director, along with budgetary concerns caused by the cutting-edge special effects that would be needed to bring the story to life, saw the actor eventually drop the project altogether and move onto Blade.
While doing a recent interview to promote upcoming Netflix biopic Dolemite Is My Name, in which the 57 year-old plays a supporting role, Snipes divulged some more details about his abandoned attempts at making a Black Panther movie, saying:
“I tried to get Black Panther made, I had the rights to Black Panther, maybe four or five years before the Blade project came around. When Blade came around because we didn’t do Black Panther, our version of it, I thought it would be a cool opportunity for me to do something for truly my friends. All the martial arts cats, all the cats that love Shaft. At that time, we didn’t have the technology, but we would have done all the vibranium. I wanted it to be like what the comic was, with the super-city with the super-science.”
At least Snipes managed to scratch his comic book itch with three Blade films, and he seems fine with Marvel Studios now rebooting the character with Mahershala Ali stepping in as the Daywalker. Besides, it would be another fifteen years before Black Panther finally made it to the big screen, with Ryan Coogler’s blockbuster going on to become a cultural milestone, earning over $1.3 billion at the box office and becoming the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Given the frighteningly low quality of movies based on Marvel characters in the early-to-mid 90s, it’s probably for the best that Wesley Snipes’ Black Panther never made it past the development stage.