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From the Claw to the Blade

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Fresh off his Civil War Tie-In run on Wolverine, Marc Guggenheim has been picked to write another of Marvel’s more famous dark characters: the famous vampire hunter named Blade.  He stopped by for a chat about his newest assignment.

BROKEN FRONTIER: When last we spoke, I asked you "Why Wolverine?" and your answer was "Marvel asked."  Was it the same situation with Blade or did you have a more active role in choosing the character?

MARC GUGGENHEIM: Am I going to disappoint you if I said it was the same situation? That's the way I roll, Marvel says "jump" and I'm hopping...

BF: From your perspective, how much have you learned about writing comics and writing for Marvel based on your Wolverine experience that will "improve" your writing with Blade?

MG: Oooh, good question.  I'm not sure my writing HAS improved.  It's completely possible that it's gotten worse.  But all self-effacing humor aside (which is pretty much the only kind of humor I have to offer), there's nothing concrete that I can put my finger on.  Every script I write, every single one, is a learning experience of some kind so, hopefully, I'm getting better with each script.  Theoretically.

BF: Similarly to Wolverine, Blade has always been portrayed as a "no nonsense, take names, ask questions later" character.  Did this make the transition easier for you?

MG: Yes and no.  For Blade #1, I challenged myself by refusing to write an internal monologue, like the kind I've been writing for Wolvie.  That alone made the transition pretty friggin' hard.  And maybe it was too hard because I used it in Blade #2—but not out of laziness.  Out of necessity.  There's a lot of plot in Blade #2 and the only way to
tell the story in 22 pages—which I'm trying to do for every issue—was to use the internal monologue to cover some ground.

BF: Is this the type of voice that you will be writing for the character and is this how you see him working best?

MG: Like Logan, I don't see Blade as a guy who contemplates his navel.  And he'll be kicking plenty of ass in this series.  However, we'll also occasionally see him let his hair down—so to speak.  For example, in issue #3, we'll see what Blade is like on a date.

Yeah, people have been just clamoring for that.  Hello?  Hello?  Is this mic on?

Sorry.  Marvel would like me to point out that although we do see Blade on a date in Blade #3, we will also see him kicking plenty of ass, as well.  Perhaps even the ass of his date.  No, really.

BF: In terms of history, Wolverine is obviously Marvel's biggest characters while Blade has been something of a minor character.  How much of the character's history did you know already?

MG: Not as much as Wolverine's, but in my defense Blade's history is so murky it makes Wolverine's... what's the opposite of murky?  Not murky?  Let’s go with that.  There've been so many false starts and stops in Blade's history, it's hard to keep it all straight, or even make sense of it in some cases.  If you just read his latest Marvel Handbook entry, you can see the fingerprints of all the reboots and retcons and new approaches that came before me.  It's pretty daunting, dense stuff.  That's why I'm not going to address it any more than I have to. 

By "have to," I really have issue #1 in mind, because I think we need to give everyone an idea of how Blade became half vampire.  But even that's consistent with my approach:  Blade fans are probably going to pick this book up because they're, well, Blade fans. But I also want people who are unfamiliar with the character—or only familiar with his TV and film appearances—to pick up the book and be able to follow what's going on.

BF: How much research did you do, and was it required, to learn of his past?

MG: I have copies of almost every Blade appearance and I've been making my way through them, focusing mostly on those issues that really depict or changed his backstory.

BF: Is there any particular Blade story that you feel best represents the character?

MG: No.  Isn't that sad?  But we're talking COMICS stories, right?  I mean, the movies did a great job of getting at the essence of the character and making him cool.

BF: Speaking of the movies, in terms of popularity, Blade is somewhat unique in that his popularity stems more from his movies than from his comic series.  Now, with the new television series was there any push to make this series more easily accessible to an outside audience?

MG: That push is definitely there.  It's the reason why I'm trying to write it independent (as in "not dependent," not "contradicting") of Blade's convoluted history.  It's also the reason why I'm writing self-contained issues.  However, I don't think it'd be accurate to say we're making the series "new reader friendly" to be accessible to an outside audience.  I'd settle just for making it accessible to the general COMIC BOOK audience 'cause it's not like they've been all that interested in buying Blade in the past. 

Waitaminute. Marvel's coming after me again...

BF: Did you have to make any concessions or add anything to accommodate anyone who only knows the character from the movie versions considering how little is known about his comic history?

MG: Blade has undergone an odd ... how shall I put it? ... evolution insofar as the movies have clearly been an influence on how the character has been depicted.  (And Blade is by no means unique in this respect.  Have you seen Superman's new Fortress of Solitude?)  For example, Blade's addiction to blood was an element "introduced" by the movies. 

However, the comics never really addressed the issue one way or the other, so it's hard to say that the comics were retconned to become consistent with the movies.  This is all a long-winded way of saying that I'm not conscious of making any "concessions" to the movies.  Rather, I'm trying to write the "best" version of a character whose limitations and abilities, at least in comic book form, are as murky as his backstory.

BF: When announcing the series, Joe Quesada said that it would not be a horror title but more of a standard superhero book.  What are your thoughts on this and is this how you think the character works best?

MG: Great idea, and Tom Brevoort should get the lion's share of the credit for it.  It's the take that he came to me with and it's what got me to get on board.  However, that's not to say that my run won't have plenty of horror and vampire elements to it.  It's just being written with the acknowledgment that those horror and vampire elements co-exist with the larger Marvel Universe.  Co-existing is the key word here.  If you're only a horror comics reader, you won't be disappointed, believe me.

BF: Due to this designation, is it safe to assume that there will be many other characters showing up?

MG: Spider-Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. in issue #1, Doc Doom in issue #2, for starters...

BF: And considering his history simply as a "vampire hunter" was it hard to get him to interact more within the Marvel U.?

MG: You know, not as much as you'd think.  Even I was surprised.

BF: Talk a bit about the artist choice for the book. Howard Chaykin is something of a legend in the industry.  Was he your choice for the book?  How did the pairing of you with him come about?

MG: My understanding is that they were pursuing Howard for the book at the same time they were making the invitation to me.  However, Tom Brevoort didn't want to name names; he just told me that they were going after "a name."  At the time, I thought he didn't want to tell me who so I wouldn't be disappointed if it didn't work out.  But then I learned that Howard signed on after reading my proposal.  Talk about pressure.  I've been a longtime fan of Howard's work.  I think he's really going to find a new audience with his work on Blade.

He's doing some amazing work and I think it's evident in his art that he's having as much fun as I am.  Hopefully, that sense of fun will transfer over to the readers...

BF: Finally, how long can we expect you on the book?

MG: My commitment is open-ended.  I'll stay on until (a) it stops being fun; (b) Marvel fires me; or (c) the book gets cancelled.  I think (b) is the most likely scenario...

Especially after this interview...

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