EARLY BLADE THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

Blade black & whiteAs Halloween Month continues here’s a look at the very early years of  the Marvel Comics horror character Blade the Vampire Slayer, who debuted in 1973. In retrospect I prefer the original “look” for this dynamic figure: the long coat, the bandolier of six teakwood knives and the green-hued “photo-optic visor” aka goggles aka biker shades. I’ve never liked swords for vampire slaying so the wooden knives used by Blade back then appeal to me more.

We’ll skip over the stories about Eric Dickersonalleged legal fights with the original creator of Blade, fights that eventually necessitated the changes in Blade’s look and trademark weaponry. Suffice it to say that the 1970s Blade strikes me as an “Indiana Jones of horror” with a vintage Pulp Magazine vibe. And football player Eric Dickerson would have made a perfect cinematic Blade if a movie had been done in the early 1980s, right after Raiders of the Lost Ark. With Pam Grier as Safron Caulder and Oliver Reed as Deacon Frost.

Drac 10TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #10 (July 1973)

Title: His Name Is … Blade

Comment: The very first appearance of the original Blade came in the 10th issue of Tomb of Dracula, along with Ghost Rider one of Marvel’s longest lasting horror comics of the 1970s. The title villain/ antihero was THE Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel.

Blade made his badass debut by saving innocent British victims from three vampires who served Dracula. After killing the trio, Blade trailed Drac himself to a luxury liner loaded with the wealthy and the powerful. The vampire king planned to use the partying passengers as a blood supply AND as a cadre of Renfields to further his plans.

Eric Dickerson 2Our vampire slayer arrived in time to save all but a few of the “beautiful people” from Dracula.

After a battle royal between Blade and Drac, the Count escaped while Blade evacuated the surviving passengers to save them from explosives planted on the ship by one of Dracula’s thralls.   

Drac 12TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #12 (September 1973)

Title: Night of the Screaming House

Comment: FIRST APPEARANCE OF BLADE’S GIRLFRIEND SAFRON CAULDER, A STRIPPER AT THE JAZZ NIGHTCLUB WHERE BLADE (ERIC BROOKS) WORKS AS A PROFESSIONAL TRUMPET PLAYER.

Dracula’s most frequent foes in Tomb of Dracula were a group of rival vampire hunters to Blade who were led by Quincy Harker, descendant of Jonathan Harker (with his first name in honor of Lucy Westenra’s American suitor). Harker’s gang included Rachel Van Helsing, teenaged blonde descendant of Abraham Van Helsing who could have been Marvel’s Buffy if she had been handled correctly, and Frank Drake, a descendant of Dracula himself, but who had Anglicized his name to escape his shameful family history.

In this story Dracula led Quincy Harker’s team into a trap at a haunted mansion called Whispering Hell and, overreaching, lured Blade there as well, hoping to wipe out all of his greatest enemies in one night. After a running battle throughout the decrepit house Dracula was driven off but Quincy was forced to stake his daughter Edith, whom Drac had turned into a vampire.

Drac 13TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #13 (October 1973)

Title: To Kill A Vampire

Comment: In the aftermath of the previous issue’s tragic ending, Blade and Quincy Harker’s group set aside their differences and see to Edith Harker’s remains. They have her cremated and at her memorial service in Harker’s home, Blade reveals his origin to the group.

Blade’s mother had been a prostitute in the whorehouse run by Lady Vanity, a London madam. His mother got pregnant and for unknown reasons carried the baby to full term. On the night she was in labor a shady doctor was summoned.

That shady doctor was really Deacon Frost, an old, white-haired German vampire. Rather than deliver the baby he began feeding on Blade’s mother while he was still umbilically connected to her. Some of Frost’s ichor (vampire blood) thus umbilically infected the infant Blade, a circumstance which would have far-reaching consequences like making him a partial dhampir (human with a degree of vampiric strength and speed).

Lady Vanity and her prostitutes drove off Deacon Frost with crucifixes and delivered the baby Eric Brooks, but his mother died giving birth due to the vampire’s attack. Eric grew up in the brothel, and in his teens began protecting Lady Vanity’s stable of hookers from vampire attacks. Over the years he became a proficient vampire slayer in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe. His search for the vampire who killed his mother continues.

Blade killed DraculaThe next day Harker’s group plus Blade track Dracula to the mortuary he was currently using as a lair. They invaded, battling Drac’s vampire underlings before facing Dracula himself. In this battle Blade successfully killed the undead menace with one of his teakwood knives.    

Drac 14TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #14 (November 1973)

Title: Dracula Is Dead

Comment: Before Blade and Harker’s Gang can behead and burn the slain Dracula, some of the vampire’s current Renfields attack and spirit away the body. Ultimately the vampire’s remains end up in the hands of Reverend Josiah Dawn, a fake clergyman who runs a traveling revivalist church called the Church of the Forever Resurrected.

Reverend Dawn’s following is diminishing so he boasts of his ability to “raise a man from the dead” at his next mass. That man is Dracula, of course. Blade tries but fails to stop Josiah from removing the teakwood knife from Drac’s heart at his next mass. Drac rises, fights Blade and escapes after killing Reverend Dawn. 

Drac 17TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #17 (February 1974)

Title: Death Rides The Rails

Comment: Blade the Vampire Slayer trails Dracula to Paris. In the catacombs beneath the city our hero locates a few hidden coffins filled with dirt from Dracula’s native Transylvania so that the vampire king can sleep in them by day.

Blade destroys and sanctifies each of the coffins in turn, preventing Dracula from being able to use them. After the pair of adversaries keep missing each other in the labyrinthine catacombs, Blade and Drac at last come face to face.

Dracula realizes it is Blade who has destroyed all his coffins and the two engage in another vicious battle. This time Dracula wins and drains enough blood from Blade to turn him into a vampire in three nights. Drac then flees to a train headed for the Carpathians, leaving Blade’s body lying there.

Drac 18TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #18 (March 1974)

Title: Enter: Werewolf By Night

Comment: Back in Transylvania, Dracula clashes with the Jack Russell Werewolf over the mystic tome called the Darkhold, Marvel Comics’ version of H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.

Back in the catacombs beneath Paris, Quincy Harker has come across Blade’s body, three nights after his defeat by Dracula. Assuming that Blade is dead and will be rising as a vampire himself, Quincy prepares to stake the prone figure to prevent that from happening.

Blade immuneThis cliffhanger was carried over into Tomb of Dracula # 19, in which Blade regained consciousness and stopped Quincy from staking him. Blade has not been transformed into a vampire and Harker, piecing together info from Blade’s origin story, deduces that the umbilical infection of the infant Eric Brooks by ichor from Deacon Frost has granted him immunity to a vampire’s bite.

He cannot be turned into a vampire OR enthralled by them after being bitten, but he can be killed by vampires if they drain ALL of his blood or break his neck, etc. Blade relishes this immunity and plans to step up his international war on the undead.   

Drac 24TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #24 (September 1974)

Title: A Night for the Living … A Morning for the Dead

Comment: After returning to his and Safron Caulder’s apartment following his most recent vampire slaying mission, Blade gets caught up in another adventure. He must save Safron herself from an unnamed vampire, then when Safron’s fellow stripper Trudy Taylor tells Blade she escaped an attack from Dracula he begins scouring London for the Count.

The pair encounter each other and engage in a running fight across the city. Eventually Blade impales Drac, just missing the heart but injuring him enough that the vampire must flee. Blade cannot find him and returns home. 

Fear 24FEAR Vol 1 #24 (October 1974)

Title: Return to Terror

Comment: Blade is in New York City hunting a vampire. He kills the bloodsucker right before he can claim another victim – a woman in an alleyway.

Before he can leave for London, Blade winds up in a separate battle with Spider-Man’s old foe Morbius the Living Vampire.

As a living vampire transformed from his use of bat blood in a serum to cure his blood disease, Dr Morbius is immune to sunlight, crucifixes, garlic and Holy Water, baffling Blade. However, if impaled through the heart by one of Blade’s teakwood knives, Morbius will die the way any living person would if their heart was pierced.

The battle between the two ends in a stalemate since this is Morbius’ own comic book, and the living vampire escapes. 

Vampire Tales 8VAMPIRE TALES Vol 1 #8 (December 1974)

Title: Beware the Legion

Comment: Vampire Tales was one of the black & white magazine-length publications that Marvel launched for some of their horror characters in the 1970s. They were forerunners of the much later adult Marvel Max publications. Because these 70s magazines were in black & white they could get away with much more graphic violence and sexual themes than Marvel’s full-color comic books.

Blade became one of the rotating series of regulars in Vampire Tales with this issue. In London, Blade was taking care of his usual task of safeguarding the prostitutes and other nighttime street walkers from vampire attacks.

When some recent vampire attacks indicate organized activity that might mean a coven is at large in the U.K. Blade follows the trail to the mansion headquarters of a vampire named Anton Vierken. In the cliffhanger ending it turns out Vierken was luring Blade into an ambush, as several undead members of Anton’s “Legion of the Damned” attack the vampire slayer from all sides.

Vampire tales 9VAMPIRE TALES Vol 1 #9 (February 1975)

Title: Bloodmoon

Comment: Blade’s creator and author of most of his stories up to this point – Marv Wolfman – was joined by THE Chris “New X-Men” Claremont to write this tale.

In a vicious battle Blade manages to kill several of the vampires attacking him but is ultimately overcome by the Legion’s leader Anton Vierken. Vierken, like most vampires at this early date, has not yet learned of Blade’s immunity to being made a thrall from vampire bites. Anton drains a bit of blood from Blade’s neck then orders him to stand at attention while he contemplates using him to infiltrate and destroy Quincy Harker’s gang.

Blade plays possum by pretending to be enthralled and obeying, since he is still surrounded by many members of the Legion of the Damned. When Vierken and the others contemptuously leave him alone in the room, seemingly awaiting further orders, Blade slips away.

In Vierken’s computer room Blade reads some of the printouts, indicating that the vampire coven has allied themselves with many still-living movers and shakers around the world. Recognizing that the Legion is too big for him to handle alone, our hero tears off some of the computer sheets with the names of human and vampire members.

Blade black & whiteBefore he can leave, Blade is caught by a vampire  but kills him then flees. He makes his way to the brothel run by Lady Vanity, the London Madam who raised him after Deacon Frost killed his mother. She and some of her ladies, Daphne, Neva and Tamsin Ling, see to Blade’s wounds while he places an emergency call to Quincy Harker.

The vampire slayer tells Harker he needs his help, to which Quincy replies “I’m flattered” but before Blade can convey all the necessary information, the Legion of the Damned assaults Lady Vanity’s place en masse.

Ultimately, the nearness of sunrise forces the vampires to withdraw, but during the long battle they destroyed the computer sheets Blade stole AND killed Lady Vanity plus the prostitutes and customers who were on the premises during the attack. Blade, who was riddled with fresh injuries during the massive fight, bitterly resigns himself to having to deal with all the corpses in the brothel to prevent them from ever rising as vampires themselves.

The next day, Blade, sporting head, arm and leg bandages, meets with Quincy Harker. Our hero has changed his mind about wanting help. Lady Vanity raised him “like a mum” and he wants solo revenge on the Legion for what they did to her and her place.

Harker advises against it, but Blade doesn’t care and storms off into the night. Elsewhere in London, a beautiful thrill-seeking Italian rich bitch named Marguerite D’Alescio reveals herself to be one of the powerful human allies of the Legion of the Damned. She tells Anton Vierken that they must seize the first opportunity to kill Blade.

Drac 30TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #30 (March 1975)

Title: Memories on a Mourning’s Night

Comment: This was a flashback tale about Blade’s never before revealed first encounter with Dracula. The motor-cycle riding Blade was at the time also the leader of a black biker gang in the U.K.

As a plot to flush out Dracula, Blade engineered a deception in which he convinced Drac that he and his biker gang would willingly serve him in exchange for money and certain privileges. Since alliances with humans are always needed due to vampires’ vulnerabilities, Dracula was suckered in by the plan.

At length, Blade revealed his true intentions but in this first battle with Dracula neither one succeeded in killing the other and Drac escaped.

Vampire Tales 10VAMPIRE TALES Vol 1 #10 (April 1975)

Title: The Night Josie Harper Died

Comment: Chris Claremont wrote this Blade tale solo. This issue was supposed to mark the 1st of a 4 part Blade story. Ultimately the entire story had to be wrapped up in a black & white issue of Marvel Preview. What was set for this opening chapter:

In familiar fashion Blade interrupts a vampire right before he can prey on his intended female victim, named Arabella. This vampire wields a sword-cane, and therefore puts up a better fight against our hero than most solo vampires can. In the end of course, Blade kills him with one of his teakwood knives through the heart.

The slain vampire has not been undead long enough for his remains to immediately be reduced to ashes, so, as the narration tells us Blade must do in cases like this, he sticks around for the cops to show up. The police care for the intended female victim while hurrying Blade away in a paddy wagon.    

Chris Claremont showed his knack for Lore Development that would really shine in his stories of the new X-Men team beginning in 1975. In this Blade tale we see a very intriguing approach to how police would have to handle vampire attacks if they happened in the real world.

Blade catacombsWe readers meet Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Dai Thomas, who Claremont revived years later in a throwaway reference during the original Proteus storyline in the X-Men. (He’s who Moira MacTaggert’s evil husband demands to speak to on the phone after she warns him that their son wants to kill him.)   

At any rate, Thomas – as he’s done many times, apparently – is having Blade held at the Yard while he has a coroner examine the dead body with one of Blade’s knives in it. The coroner rules that the body really died a few months ago, like certain other vampiric victims of our hero.

We see the bind this leaves the authorities in. They know that vampires really exist but can’t publicly admit it. Still, they have to justify to the dead man’s next of kin why they aren’t holding Blade for murder. Dai informs the man’s father that his son died months ago, so Blade could not have killed him that night.

Thomas endures what seems to be a familiar, heartbreaking exchange with the outraged man, who insists his son couldn’t have died months ago. We get a sense of the citywide tension caused by some of Blade’s killings when physical remains are left.

Blade early picThere’s even a hint of citywide resentment against Blade because he is thought to be receiving preferential treatment because of his race. (Yes, Marvel was ballsy enough to go there in 1975)

Chief Inspector Thomas’ mood is not improved when he gets to his office to see Blade relaxing in his chair with his feet propped up on Thomas’ desk. We get to read a heated, but fascinating, exchange between Dai and Blade.

Thomas tells Blade he’s in no mood for his prima donna antics, because once again he’s had to deal with pain and anger from a mourner trying to understand why the authorities are letting their loved one’s seeming killer go free. Blade sardonically asks if Thomas told him the truth – that his “dear son” died months ago and has spent his nights since then as a vampire butchering young girls.

Dai retorts that he can’t do that because of the governmental coverup of the existence of vampires. Thomas complains that, unlike Quincy Harker’s gang who cooperate with Scotland Yard, Blade plays by his own rules as a lone wolf. He also reminds our hero that “Every time I drag you and a corpse in here I’ve got a potential lynch mob on my hands. I’ve got MP’s, grieving relatives, civic groups and even bloody goddamned racists in here screaming for your neck … And wondering why we don’t give it to them.”

Blade replies that “The kicker is, I’m doing this for THEM!” to which Thomas says “Oh, yes, your motives are so bloody Simon pure aren’t they? Ave, Saint Blade! Well the public doesn’t see your motives, mister. All they see are their loved ones, dead by your hand!”

“Good for them,” the vampire slayer replies, “because all I see are the victims and the motherfucking vampires who killed ’em.” Dai tries telling our hero that he’s not asking him to quit what he’s doing, just to back off after this most recent incident and give tempers time enough to cool before he goes looking for another vampire to shove one of his knives into.

Blade tells “Chiefy” as he calls him, to go to Hell, punches him in the stomach and storms out of Scotland Yard. Thomas is man enough to tell his subordinates not to bother grabbing Blade for hitting him. He recognizes the necessity of Blade’s actions but observes that one of these days Blade’s luck will run out “And God help him when it does, because no one in this city will.”

A few nights later, Marguerite D’Alescio kidnaps Blade’s stripper girlfriend Safron Caulder, whose crucifixes and Holy Water don’t do a thing to Marguerite since she’s human. She then has her limo go to Slow Boy’s, the after-hours jazz club where our hero plays the trumpet and jams with other musicians when he’s not on a hunt.

After Blade is done with his set, Marguerite invites him to join her at her table, where she makes it clear to him that she and the Legion of the Damned have Safron captive. He must cooperate if he ever wants to see her again. Blade agrees and accompanies D’Alescio in her limousine to a graveyard outside London.

Marguerite abandons him there, surrounded by Vierken and a few other vampires. Blade kills all but Vierken, who flees. Blade follows him and throws a knife at him through the cemetery mist but when he emerges from the mist our hero is horrified to see one of his knives sticking out of a 10 year old girl the narrative says is named Josie Harper. (Remember the title?)   

marvel Preview 3MARVEL PREVIEW Vol 1 #3 (September 1975)

Title: Blade: Wanted For Murder

Comment: Despite the awkward, cartoonish cover drawing, this was a full-length black & white “adult” magazine that was wall to wall Blade the Vampire Slayer. It rehashed his origin, his immunity to vampire bites and other background details. Among other things, it featured the final 3 parts of the Josie Harper/ Legion of the Damned cliffhanger now that Vampire Tales had been canceled.

(Don’t even ask about the writer tussles over who should get to write Blade and all the other jumbles that began around this time. For this story Chris Claremont got to finish his 4-parter and did a great job crafting more lore and a fascinating supporting cast.)

I won’t be as long-winded this time around. Parts 2 to 4 of The Night Josie Harper Died picked up with Blade recoiling in horror at the way it looked like he had accidentally killed a human girl while pursuing Anton Vierken. With cops – called by Marguerite D’Alescio – closing in on the cemetery, Blade realizes he’ll have to turn himself in since it appears he is guilty, but he must first find Safron and free her from the Legion’s clutches. He flees the graveyard.

Time passes while Chief Inspector Dai Thomas arrives at the crime scene. Again showing that he’s one of the good guys despite his bitter exchange with Blade last time around, he has Detective-Inspector Kate Fraser touch the wooden knife in Josie Harper’s heart.

Dai knows that Kate has the paranormal power of psychometry, which is a big help in her murder investigations. She touches the knife and is filled with mental images of its use earlier that night. She learns that Anton Vierken and his accomplices had abducted Josie and then killed her while Vierken was pretending to flee. The plan all along had been to frame the hard-to-kill Blade for murder and thus destroy him that way.

Kate and Dai discuss the fact that psychic “evidence” like she just obtained is treated as hearsay in a court of law so she will have to round up solid evidence to clear Blade if they don’t want a citywide outrage on their hands. 

Blade on roofBlade returns to Slow Boy’s jazz club, sneaking in since the cops are all looking for him. He tells them he’s turning himself in after he saves Safron. Slow Boy has Jalya, one of the sexy waitresses/ photographers at the club, develop the night’s pictures so Blade can get a better look at the woman who works with Vierken.

The woman photographed, proving at least that she’s not a vampire. Slow Boy recognizes her as a wealthy and powerful jet-set thrill seeker. Blade leaves to search some of Marguerite’s places to try to find clues to Safron’s whereabouts.

While fighting the Legion and dodging the police over the next few nights, Blade eventually joins forces with Kate Fraser, who tells him she knows he is innocent of killing Josie Harper. While lying low, Blade tells Kate about Jamal Afari, a black jazz trumpeter and vampire hunter who worked at Lady Vanity’s when he was a child. Jamal taught him all about vampire lore and how to play the trumpet. (So I have no idea why the Blade movies went with the white Kris Kristofferson as Blade’s mentor instead.)   

Blade and Kate uncover evidence that the Legion of the Damned is developing a Sunlight Serum that will let vampires live in daylight as well as at night. That would allow them to conquer humanity.

In the end the Sunlight Serum research is destroyed, and, in a showdown at one of Marguerite D’Alescio’s castles in Scotland, Blade kills Vierken and several other Legion members. Kate – who, unfortunately was sexually assaulted by Anton while Marguerite watched – compiles information clearing Blade of Josie Harper’s murder.

D’Alescio is rich and powerful enough that she won’t face any consequences but Safron is saved and our hero is no longer wanted by the cops.

Drac 42TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #42 (March 1976)

Title: A Final Battle Waged

Comment: Back to Marv Wolfman writing Blade’s adventures. Blade trailed Deacon Frost, the white-haired old vampire that killed his mother, to Boston, MA. While there he ran afoul of Dracula, who had formed a temporary alliance with Quincy Harker’s gang to stop the global domination plans of Doctor Sun, the disembodied brain which was all that remained of a brilliant Chinese scientist.

Doctor Sun, though in brain form, needed blood fed to his form to keep himself alive, which was how he first found himself competing with Dracula several issues earlier. Now, in Boston, Doctor Sun had used scientific imitations of a vampire’s hypnotic abilities to enthrall an entire platoon of soldiers that had been sent against him.

Sun and his troops were holding a small portion of Boston, with the mad doctor trying to provoke the U.S. government into sending more troops – or even better – the Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men against him so that they, too would be enthralled by him and boost his plans.

Blade and Dracula were inside Doctor Sun’s headquarters, fighting him (his brain-form could shoot deadly psychic rays) and his hypnotized soldiers while trying to survive all the high-tech death traps the doctor had set up all around his lair. As planned, Quincy Harker and his gang attacked at a crucial moment to turn the tide against Doctor Sun.

In the middle of the battle, however, Deacon Frost came to observe Blade in combat, making note of his fighting technique in anticipation of their own inevitable clash. Blade caught sight of Frost and was torn between fulfilling his quest to slay the vampire who killed his mother and helping to stop Doctor Sun. Saving the U.S. from Sun took higher priority, no matter how much Blade regretted it.

Doctor Sun was destroyed and the soldiers under his control were freed. Blade and Dracula clashed again when Drac refused to help him pick up the trail of Deacon Frost. As usual their fight ended with Dracula escaping. 

Drac 45TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #45 (June 1976)

Title: Crossfire!

Comment: Blade is still in Massachusetts on the trail of Deacon Frost. Staking out an apartment which Frost was using at least temporarily, Blade finds himself battling Hannibal King, a vampire detective introduced a few years earlier in Tomb of Dracula. Deacon Frost is the vampire who made Hannibal one of the undead and King wants revenge on Frost, too.

After initially fighting each other the pair discuss their mutual loathing of Deacon Frost and their reasons for wanting him dead. Blade also learns that Hannibal King hates being a vampire. He never passed his vampiric curse onto anyone else. He would steal blood from hospitals or drain fresh corpses but he never turned anyone else into a vampire. (This proves crucial years later.)

The pair join forces to find and kill Deacon Frost.

Marvel Preview 8MARVEL PREVIEW Vol 1 #8 (September 1976)

Title: Into the House of Terror

Comment: In an out of order tale taking place before Blade’s trip to Boston, the vampire slayer becomes aware of heavy vampire activity near a creepy castle on the Continent.

He investigates and finds himself clashing with the Children of Eternity, a coven of child vampires who are really hundreds of years old. Blade’s reluctance and distaste over killing children, even though he knows they are undead, is a nice touch on Marv Wolfman’s part.

This was another “adult” black & white story.

Drac 51TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #51 (December 1976)

Title: The Wildest Party

Comment: With Blade’s girlfriend Safron Caulder now moved to Boston to strip in clubs there, Blade and Hannibal King comb New England for Deacon Frost. At length they find another of the vampire’s hideouts and are attacked by a vampiric duplicate of Blade.

Somehow Deacon Frost has used genetic material from some of his victims over the decades to make vampire doubles of them. (It’s a comic book. Just go with it.) This particular duplicate is a fully vampiric Blade, who does battle with our hero while Hannibal King watches.

King is awed into inactivity by the macabre sight of the duplicate Blade at one point absorbing the real Blade into himself so that they both occupy the same body. (I know. It’s idiotic.) The Vampire Blade is in full control, however and attacks Hannibal. Their running battle leads them to the site of Dracula’s latest get-together with the big money and high-powered Satanists he is currently allied with.

NOTE: The price of being a subplot in Drac’s comic book is having the vampire lord awkwardly shoehorned into Blade’s saga.

Anyway, the Vampire Blade is distracted away from his fight with Hannibal by Dracula’s presence. Drac fights the duplicate Blade and impales him with wood. Hannibal King gets the dead body away to a secret grave in a New England cemetery until he can figure out how to separate the real Blade from the body of his vampire double.

Drac 53TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #53 (February 1977) 

Title: The Final Glory Of Deacon Frost

Comment: Further proving that Marv Wolfman was completely mishandling his creation Blade in this first incarnation comes this debacle. In Ridley Scott fashion with Alien Covenant, Marv showed that Blade was better off in Chris Claremont’s skilled hands.

Not only has Blade been wasted in this moronic, inane and pointless subplot about vampire duplicates who absorb their human prototypes, but what should have been an epic quest by Blade to get revenge on Deacon Frost was instead treated as an afterthought. 

The story starts with Hannibal King having hired professional exorcist Daimon Hellstrom aka the Son of Satan, another of Marvel’s horror characters. King and Hellstrom pay a nighttime visit to the cemetery where Hannibal digs up the hybrid body of Blade/ Vampire Blade.

King removes the piece of wood from the being’s heart, bringing it back to life. Son of Satan exorcises the creature, freeing the real Blade from the shared body. Hannibal re-stakes the vampiric Blade and reburies it. Son of Satan’s cameo in the story ends and he parts company with Blade and King.

Blade visor up 2After a brief but passionate reunion with Safron Caulder, Blade rejoins Hannibal King, who has located Deacon Frost’s headquarters in a New England mausoleum that the vampire has converted into a combination sanctuary and laboratory. (Nothing like making it seem that Hannibal was better off searching for Frost on his own, Marv.)

Hannibal also gives an information dump about Deacon Frost’s history. Did he JUST find all this out while Blade was buried? Has he known it all along but withheld the information til now for dramatic impact? Marv never tells us, but either way it makes Blade seem even more superfluous since he wasn’t on hand to dig up info on his own archenemy.

Anyway, King tells our hero that Dr Deacon Frost was an older German scientist in 1868 Munich who was experimenting with the bodies of slain vampires. He accidentally got a dose of the vampire blood he was experimenting with and became a member of the undead himself.

Over time he was able to use blood from some of the people he had bitten even casually to make vampire duplicates/ clones/ whatevers of them. Blade was one of them. (Presumably his mother could have been, too, but Marv was obviously against anything interesting happening. Later reboots of Blade at least DID bring him face to face with his vampiric mother.) 

Blade in doorAt any rate, Blade and Hannibal King break into Deacon Frost’s mausoleum HQ where they see that Frost is waiting for them. He has created even more Blade Vampire Duplicates AND has made several Hannibal King Vampire Duplicates, too. He sics the ten or so creatures on our heroes.

This inane fight ends with all the duplicates being slain. Deacon Frost’s Plan B is to hold up a beaker of a bio-engineered disease that can wipe out the human race. (Another waste, since that formula could have merited its own separate story.)

This standoff is pointless (why be surprised at this point) as Blade and Hannibal pay no heed to the threat and jointly kill Deacon Frost once and for all. He drops the beaker on some of his other chemicals which causes first a fire then an explosion. Of course.

Blade and King escape up the stairs of the mausoleum, reaching the graveyard at the surface just in time to avoid being killed in the explosion. A few nights later, Blade and Safron bid farewell to Hannibal King, who is still morose about his vampiric curse, but who feels a measure of relief from having avenged himself on Deacon Frost.

Drac 54TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #54 (March 1977)

Title: Twas The Night Before Christmas

Comment: Blade and Quincy Harker’s gang pool their resources to plot their next move against Dracula and the Church of the Damned, the Satanic Cult with which the vampire has allied himself in recent issues. The church’s leader, Anton Lupeski (a pastiche of the real-life Anton LaVey) used unholy rituals to enable Dracula to actually conceive a child with his new wife Domini, a beautiful and regal member of Lupeski’s cult.

As an added profanity, Dracula’s son is due to be born on Christmas Eve, which in the story is that very night. Anton Lupeski has come to resent Drac’s virtual takeover of his Church of the Damned and has been plotting to bring him down. He covertly enables Blade and Harker’s gang to infiltrate the Satanic cult’s primary church building there in Boston, where Domini has insisted Dracula take her to give birth to her baby.

While Domini is in labor, Blade and the others engage in a Yuletide “horror version of Die Hard 2″– style running battle against the Satanists and Dracula. At length the first cries of Dracula’s newborn son, Janus Tepes, bring all combatants to a halt.

Influenced by a Jesus oil-painting that neither the Satanists nor Drac have ever been able to remove from the wall, everyone agrees to Domini’s request to stop the fighting in honor of her son’s birth. Blade and the Harker gang leave for home, as do Dracula, Domini and their golden-skinned, pointy-eared newborn son.

NOTE: The Jesus painting that the Satanists and Drac have proven powerless against has been subtly influencing events. Unknown to Dracula, Domini has been aware of this and is intentionally going along with the role she feels Heaven has assigned her in this drama. Over the coming months it looks like an actual Angel has incarnated in the form of Dracula’s son, NOT an evil being. Marv Wolfman even screwed up that storyline, too, with the baby pointlessly getting killed off before the story could play out. 

Drac 58TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #58 (July 1977)

Title: Undead By Daylight

Comment: Ignore the cover blurb claiming Blade fights an entire legion of vampires in this issue. He only fights TWO. If you were hoping it meant a return appearance of the Legion of the Damned, forget it. Marv Wolfman apparently didn’t want ANY reminders of the Chris Claremont stories.

Musenda, part of the black biker gang that Blade belonged to when he had his very first encounter with Dracula, has been living in Boston for years. (Miraculous coincidence.) He learns from Rachel Van Helsing that Blade and Safron Caulder are in town, too, and calls on our hero for help.

Musenda’s wife Lorraine has been afflicted with a bizarre reverse-form of vampirism – she becomes a vampire at daybreak and reverts to a normal human once night falls. It is determined that a vampire who attacked Lorraine a few days earlier is an extremely rare symbiotic vampire. When the undead monster emerges from his coffin at night, Lorraine becomes normal but while he sleeps during the day she becomes a vampire thirsting for blood.

LorraineBlade battles Lorraine at Boston General Hospital, where she has risen from her bed and preyed on a doctor. The battle ends with the arrival of nightfall and Lorraine’s return to normal. Blade and Musenda secretly position themselves and, when Lorraine goes forth as a vampire at sunrise, they follow her, ultimately tracing her to an abandoned lighthouse.

Lorraine attacks them and Blade is forced to plunge one of his teakwood knives into her heart during the fight. The two old friends take Lorraine’s body to Safron’s apartment and, shortly before nightfall, Blade pulls his dagger out of the woman’s heart. She returns to life as a vampire but very soon the sun goes down and she is back to normal.

Blade predicts that the vampire which has a symbiotic bond with Lorraine will be able to trace her there to Safron’s apartment. He is proven right: the undead villain attacks and, after a furious battle, is killed by Blade. Lorraine is freed from the symbiotic bond and loses all memory of the past few days.

And Marv Wolfman never explained or elaborated upon the concept of “symbiotic vampires” ever again.   

Strange 61DOCTOR STRANGE Vol 2 #61 (October 1983)

Title: Power Be The Prize

Comment: Roger Stern wrote this story. Years have gone by. Dracula has been killed twice more and revived twice more, the most recent death coming at the hands of Rachel Van Helsing and the X-Men in X-Men Annual #6 (November 1982). Recently he has been resurrected by the Darkholders, a cult whose history can be traced all the way back to ancient Atlantis.

As their name implies, their worship is centered around the Darkhold, mentioned much further above. The Darkholders have brought Dracula back to life via their magic and have been gradually removing all of his previous vampiric weaknesses. He can now even function safely in daylight.

The only thing that can destroy Dracula now is if someone holds the actual Darkhold while reading aloud from it the Montesi Formula. That spell will destroy all vampires everywhere, including Dracula. Drac and his old foe Doctor Strange have been competing to get to the Darkhold first, Strange to use it to wipe out all vampires and Drac to destroy the only thing he is now vulnerable to.

Dracula kills off all the Darkholders to prevent them from trying to control him or share power with him. Through telepathic contact with his assorted Renfields around the world, Drac learns that Dr Strange has recruited Blade, Hannibal King and Frank Drake to help him obtain the Darkhold. That dark tome is currently in Bucharest’s Castle Mordo, the now-abandoned castle of Strange’s archfoe Baron Mordo.

Dr Strange, Blade, Hannibal and Frank penetrate the various mystical defenses that still surround Castle Mordo and lay their hands on the Darkhold itself and Strange prepares to go through with the Montesi Formula ritual. Dracula arrives and attacks our heroes.

Strange 62DOCTOR STRANGE Vol 2 #62 (December 1983)

Title: Deliver Us From Evil

Comment: While Dr Strange communes with the Darkhold in preparation for the coming ritual, Blade, Hannibal King and Frank Drake battle Dracula. The vampire king can no longer be harmed by crucifixes, garlic, silver, Holy Water, etc. Not even having Blade’s teakwood knives plunged into his heart hurts him now and the three heroes are defeated by Dracula.

Dr Strange is able to mystically outmaneuver Dracula, rendering him helpless while he, Blade, Hannibal and Frank set up an operating theater AND form a circle to be led by Strange in reciting the Montesi Formula.

And so Blade takes part in this ULTIMATE act of vampire slaying, as Dracula, Lilith and all the rest of Marvel Comics’ vampires of the time were shown being killed off by the Montesi Formula. NOTE: Marvel was – for just a few years as it turned out – getting rid of supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves from the Marvel Universe in a far-reaching editorial decision of the time.

Hannibal King was in danger of being destroyed, too, but THAT is why Strange and the others set up an operating theater. The former physician once again called upon his old medical skills and, assisted by Blade and Frank Drake, managed a complete blood transfusion of Hannibal.

Blade in deathtrapThe only reason King could be saved is because he was the only vampire alive who had NEVER consummated the curse by passing vampirism on to anyone else. (I TOLD YOU that would eventually be very significant.)

Because this is a comic book, the transfusion worked and the Montesi Formula simply cleansed Hannibal King of all traces of vampirism, making him a normal human again. Roger Stern’s writing is fairly good and he even remembered the gradual, reluctant friendship formed between Blade and Hannibal when they were hunting down Deacon Frost.

In a nice ending scene Blade holds Hannibal King up so that he can watch his first sunrise since he became a vampire years earlier.

And that was it for the original adventures of Blade the Vampire Slayer. Years later the editors had second thoughts and decided that the Montesi Formula was weakened and so vampires and werewolves were back in the Marvel Universe. That led to the “new look and new trademark weaponry” Blade.   

FOR MY LOOK AT FIVE INTRIGUING MARVEL COMICS HORROR. CHARACTERS CLICK HERE 

20 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season

20 responses to “EARLY BLADE THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

  1. Darryl

    I’m with you. The wooden knives make a lot more sense than a sword since the knives stay in the vampire’s heart like stakes.

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