Staying Sharp: Guggenheim Talks "Blade"

Thu, December 7th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

Cover for "Blade" #4.

He may have only been back for three issues, but Eric Brooks AKA Blade has made his presence in the Marvel Universe felt in a very big way. In those three issues Blade has blown up a helicarrier, staked Dracula, met face-to-face with Dr. Doom, and escaped police custody. CBR News spoke with "Blade" writer Marc Guggenheim to find out what's next for the series.

Like its title character the Daywalker, the new "Blade" series also walks in two worlds – the supernatural world and the mainstream Marvel Universe. "That's the mandate, yes," Guggenheim told CBR News. "For, say, 95% of Blade's previous incarnations, he was ghettoized in the supernatural corner of the Marvel Universe.   He never interacted with any of the non-supernatural Marvel characters.   Part of the mandate for this series is to get him out of that corner a bit, get him rubbing elbows with those characters who aren't vampires, vampire hunters or sorcerers supreme."

"Blade" #4, page 13.
New readers can pick up the next issue of Blade or any of the issues after that without fear of getting lost. "I try to write each issue to be as new-reader friendly as possible," Guggenheim explained. "Each issue contains two self-contained stories:   one set in the present and the other set in Blade's past. The stories set in Blade's past follow chronologically and you would certainly benefit from reading the issues that came before, but I write the flashback stories so that you don't need to read the issues that came before.   I just plop you down in the middle of the action and tell you whatever you need to know to follow the story in that individual issue."

The single issue format in "Blade" will continue through issue #10. "Issues 11 & 12 will comprise our first two-parter," Guggenheim stated. "I thought that'd be a nice way to 'pay off' the end of the book's first year."

Guggenheim doesn't know if he will go back to one-off stories in Blade's 2 nd year. "Issue 4 only comes out on the 13 th of December, so Year Two of the book feels very far away," Guggenheim explained. "I'd like to get a sense of whether people are responding to the done-in-one format or not.   Those books are very, very hard to write.   It's a real challenge to craft a self-contained story yet still maintain a lot of the modern storytelling conventions books use nowadays.   Every month, I grow a new brain tumor trying to do it.   And as if that wasn't challenge enough, I'm doing this present/flashback structure on top of it all.   Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking when I suggested to Marvel that we do it this way."

"Blade" #4, page 16.
He might not know if he'll continue with the same type of format in the books 2 nd year, but Guggenheim definitely wants to continue telling a variety of stories in "Blade." "One of my inspirations for this project believe it or not, was 'Planetary,'" Guggenheim stated. "I liked how Ellis & Cassaday would use the self-contained format to explore different genres and ways of telling stories. That's the exciting part of the done-in-one's:   you can really experiment."

Guggenheim's diverse tales have taken place and will take place in a variety of locales worldwide. "Issue #2 took place mainly in Latveria," Guggenheim said. "Issue #3 brought him back to New York.   Issue #4 finds him in Pennsylvania. Issue #5 begins in California.   Issue #6 takes place in – ah, but that would be telling."

As Blade travels the globe on his adventures, the people he encounters might notice something unusual about him; he's having a good time. "One of the mandates of the book was to make Blade accessible and interesting.   Dark and brooding really runs counter to that," Guggenheim explained. "Plus, I like to write dialogue with kind of a smile behind it.   It's just my style.   It happens to work, I think, for Blade because one of the things Editor Tom Brevoort said to me was that Blade really, really enjoys what he does.   And I agree.   And if this guy enjoys hunting vampires, why is he so dour about it?"

"Blade" #4, page 18.
Issue #4 of "Blade" opens with the character trying something different – he's taking a bit of a break from the vampire-hunting. "He finds himself in a town he wouldn't ordinarily visit and he kind of likes the people and the change of pace.   The quiet life is more alluring to him than he expected.   Of course, things don't stay 'quiet' for very long.

"Issue #4 is definitely a Christmas issue," Guggenheim continued. "I'm a big fan of comic books and TV shows that do Christmas stories, so I jumped at the chance to do one in 'Blade.'   Issue #4 is also the first issue of this run where Blade's opponent isn't a vampire.   I felt the time was right to mix things up.   It appears that Blade's antagonist is Santa Claus, but not all is necessarily as it seems."

After tangling with a foe that may or may not be Ole Saint Nick, issue #5 of "Blade" finds the Daywalker embroiled in the midst of Marvel's "Civil War." Readers can expect Blade to have a definite opinion on the Superhero Registration Act and Guggenheim will show what side he's on. "But that's not the only piece of it," Guggenheim said.   "Blade also has much to answer for after the events of Issue #1 – where he blew up a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier – and Issue 3 – where he went on the run from the police."

Cover for "Blade" #5
When the story calls for it, Guggenheim plans to have Blade encounter Marvel's other costumed champions. In issue #5 he meets another Marvel hero who is also famous for his choice of sharp edged weapons. "Wolverine appears in Issue #5 because that's the 'Civil War' tie-in and bringing in another Marvel hero like Wolverine seemed appropriate," Guggenheim stated. "It's a delicate balance: Having Blade interact with Marvel heroes while still maintaining the tone we're working with."

Guggenheim also has plans to have Blade occasionally run afoul of Marvel's costumed villains, like Morbius who makes an appearance in issue #5, and just because Blade hunts supernatural predators like vampires, readers shouldn't expect nosferatu to be the only antagonists he'll go up against. "We'll certainly jump around quite a bit," Guggenheim said.   "In Issue# 4, Blade's antagonist is not a vampire.   In Issue# 5, his prey isn't a vampire or, for that matter, even supernatural.   In Issue# 6, his struggle is largely against – himself.   Ooohhh, mysterious!

"Issue # 7 will introduce a new antagonist for Blade. Apart from Dracula – and I feel he's been played out a bit – Blade doesn't have any antagonists who are truly his own.   He doesn't have his Joker or his Green Goblin.   Issue #7 aims to rectify that.   And I can think of no better way to establish the 'street cred' of a new super-villain than to have him kill the hero."

"Blade" #5, page 4.
Long time Blade fans can also expect a familiar face to show up in an upcoming issue. "I think it's time to see Hannibal King again," Guggenheim stated. "Possibly in Issue #8.   I'm still noodling around with it, but I'd love to do a kind of 'Lethal Weapon'/ 'Rush Hour'-style story with those two guys."

Guggenheim has plans for Blade to encounter many friends and foes both old and new but there will be one continuing mysterious threat looming in the background of the series, an organization that readers first got a glimpse of in issue #1 "The group is called the Order of Tyrana.   Yes, some members of the Order are vampires, but we'll learn in Issue #4 that they may not all be vampires," Guggenheim explained. "It's one of the longer-term mysteries of the series. As is their agenda.   I can tell you that their agenda is vampire-related, but it's not necessarily what you think.   For example, the Order's endgame doesn't involve making it so that vampires can walk in sunlight.   Yawn.   Been there, done that."

"Blade" #5, page 6.
The head of the Order is a figure just as mysterious as the organization he leads, Blade's father Lucas Cross. "I can tell you that we'll learn a lot about Lucas in Issue #6," Guggenheim said. "Issue #6 actually will mark the first time the flashback story doesn't star Blade.   It stars Lucas and it's set in Latveria."

As readers learn more about Cross it will become very clear that he is man with an agenda. "I can tell you that he has one and that Blade plays a big part in it.   I can tell you that Lucas' agenda isn't necessarily what it appears to be," Guggenheim explained. "For more hints, you can check out 'Blade' #4 which contains the full text of the prophecy hinted at in 'Blade' #2."

Readers shouldn't expect Blade and his father to be engaging in any father-son bonding moments. "It's a complex relationship," Guggenheim stated. "Events have kind of overtaken Lucas and forced his hand in many areas of his life, including – and probably especially – his relationship with his son.   His son plays a big part in his agenda and that agenda just might have to take priority over father/son bonding.   That's kind of the tragedy of his character."

"Blade" #5, page 14.

Guggenheim has worked hard on his scripts for "Blade" and he's been consistently wowed by the way his artistic collaborators on the book bring his scripts to life. "Howard Chaykin and Edgar Delgado are doing simply magnificent work," he stated. "I really believe that if people weren't already familiar with Howard's work, this book would make him a breakout talent.   If you're not familiar with his work and you're a fan of guys like Frank Quitely or Steve Dillon, you really should check his stuff out. Howard's art has that kind of avante garde sophistication to it – particularly in the flashback sequences, where he just nails the time period.   He just brings the book an immense amount of class.

"And Edgar's coloring is just the perfect accompaniment to it.   Edgar is one of the best colorists around and in this book; we've given him a real challenge:   Selling the transition between past and present with color.   He's developed an entire palette for the flashbacks that gives the book a very cool and distinct look."

"Blade" #5, page 16.

Guggenheim and his collaborators are working overtime to make "Blade" a compelling and solidly entertaining book and he urges anyone who is intrigued by the series to give it a try. "This is one of those books, and Blade is one of those characters, that could really use some fan support," Guggenheim said. "Our sales are strong – particularly for Blade – but I don't think we've maxed out our potential audience by far.   Even if you're not a fan of the character, I'm really proud of the fact that we're employing a very ambitious storytelling structure (self-contained stories set in the present and past that fit together to create a larger picture) that isn't being employed by any other comic book now – or possibly ever.   With Issue #4, we're over the learning curve of telling these stories.   It took me two – some might say three – issues to 'crack the code' on how to do these stories and we're really humming along now.   The response has been very positive, and for that I'm grateful. So, all I can ask is that people give the book a try and see for themselves."

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