Friday, April 8, 2016

How Sharper Than A Vampire's Fangs

The character of Blade, the Vampire Slayer became a fixture not only in the undead life of Dracula, but also acquired a reputation among many of Dracula's legions--a relentless stalker and slayer of vampires, obsessed with his search for the white-haired vampire who killed his mother. His first appearance was fairly early in the long-running Tomb of Dracula series--armed with his weapon of choice, carved wooden knives, which of course proved deadly to his adversaries.

Given the abilities and strength of a vampire, as well as the odds against him if he should face more than one at a time, it's fair to say that Blade is an alert and capable hand-to-hand fighter whose luck had held for quite some time--and, naturally, having no qualms about killing is a distinct asset in his line of work. In his first appearance, he receives a generous introduction where he tackles three vampires who have a young couple at their mercy--a quality that Blade doesn't possess when it comes to the undead.

Blade is also known to Quincy Harker, the elderly long-time foe of Dracula who leads a network of vampire hunters and slayers and who has attempted to convince Blade to join his group, to no avail. To Blade, Harker and his group are too focused on planning and not enough on action, their methods too circumspect to suit him--and as Blade doesn't hesitate to point out, Harker's long, never-ending hunt for Dracula speaks for itself.

In this issue, Dracula has boarded a ship of the wealthy and influential, in order to subvert them all to his will and use them as he sees fit. Yet before he strikes, he amuses himself by pretending to be a guest of the night's host, Garbiel Trulaine (you may find yourself wondering if writer Marv Wolfman had meant the man's name to be spelled "Gabriel," though apparently that's not the case) and enduring the inane questions of these spoiled, privileged humans.

Soon, however, Dracula makes his move on the ship and its passengers--enslaving its captain, and giving the passengers an ultimatum to serve him or die. The passengers, to their credit, gang up on Dracula with some success, if short-lived (an apt choice of phrase, considering the circumstances)--but by the time Dracula regroups and regains control, Blade has boarded the ship and is ready to take down this vampire.

Though it may look like a standoff here, it's really nothing of the kind, since Dracula has proven able to prevail over any and all those assembled and could likely do so again despite the interruption of the woman he had previously made his mindless slave. But the story is drawing to its close--and if Blade is to become a recurring character, Wolfman is apparently intending him to exit this story with a strong showing for himself.

Blade's motivation for vampire-hunting is later revealed to Harker and his core group in the character's origin flashback, involving his pregnant mother who is desperate for medical care during her delivery and receives a doctor whose offer to help seems too good to be true.

Blade had reappeared as Harker and his followers were fighting a pitched battle with Dracula, who had kidnapped Harker's daughter, Edith, and planned to use her as revenge against the group. Edith unfortunately meets her death--but Blade proves his mettle by driving off Dracula, as his luck continues to hold with this foe.

If you're sensing implied disparagement in these descriptions of Blade's engagements with Dracula, that's a fair enough assessment; it's difficult at times to give props to Blade, as able and brave a fighter as he is but a man who appears to rely more on cockiness to present himself as a challenge to Dracula. In some ways his approach is like that of Frank Drake, whose equally overconfident attacks against his ancestor have always been met with contempt and a backhand that sends him hurtling through the nearest window--treatment that Dracula has often given Blade.

Nevertheless, Blade has gone on to receive exposure in other titles and stories, a popular character who would also find his way to the big screen in three motion pictures.

Artist Gil Kane's cover of Blade's premiere appearance in Tomb Of Dracula.


Anonymous said...

Blade was a cool, innovative character. A welcome addition to Wolfman's Draculaverse, which relied on a large and varied supporting cast.
And the films are a guilty pleasure of mine!
Don't tell anybody!

Comicsfan said...

M.P., I've been meaning to start that trilogy of films myself, when time permits. If one ever appears on Netflix I'll make a point of it.

dbutler16 said...

Oh, don't be embarrassed. They're a guilty pleasure of mine, too. Especially the first two, with the second one being the best.

I finished the Tomb of Dracula run recently, having never read it before, and was surprised that Blade didn't have any vampire-like powers, as in the movies., Did he get those at some point in the comics and I missed it?

Comicsfan said...

dbutler, the only "power" I'm aware of Blade possessing is his immunity to the bite of a vampire converting him into one of the undead once his blood has been drained--an immunity due to his mother being bitten by a vampire while she was in labor. Of course, Blade should still be dead from the blood loss itself, following the attack, since we can assume he would left for dead far from any transfusion facility--but Blade understandably doesn't question his good fortune of still being among the living. :)

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