Original Run: November 19th, 1994 – January 31st, 1998 Created by: John Semper, Bob Richardson, Avi Arad, Stan Lee Directed by: Bob Richardson Written by: John Semper, various Based on:Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Music by: Kussa Mahchi, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy, Joe Perry, Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, Udi Harpaz Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ed Asner, Jennifer Hale, Roscoe Lee Brown, Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria, Joseph Campanella, Martin Landau, Richard Moll, Don Stark, Dawnn Lewis, Majel Barrett, David Warner, Earl Boen
New World Entertainment Films, Genesis Entertainment, Marvel Enterprises, Fox, 65 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)
After the success of the early ’90s X-Men cartoon on Fox, it was natural for the network to ask for more Marvel properties to adapt for their Saturday morning audience. The Spider-Man series was the longest running and most successful of these animated spinoffs.
While the X-Men show still stands as my favorite of these animated Marvel series, Spider-Man is a very, very close second and nearly as good.
The stories are generally well written and even if they have to take some liberties and alter the plots from the comics. This was due to time constraints and by trying to wedge in the debut of Venom really early in the series, which changes the overall timeline of events in Spider-Man’s life, greatly. Also, the showrunners probably wanted to get as many villains added into the mix, early on, so that each new episode felt fresh.
Spider-Man has a massive rogues gallery and this show utilized the core villains really damn well.
The tone of the cartoon is pretty perfect. Sure, there are cheesy and hokey bits in every episode because this is a kid’s cartoon but it does stay pretty true to the tone and style of the source material. Most importantly, it’s true to the characters and the writers obviously knew the Spider-Man mythos well.
I love this show and it’s still fun to have minimarathons of episodes. Honestly, to me, it’s one of the highlights of Disney+.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: the other animated Marvel television series from the ’90s.
Published: April 17th, 2019 Written by: Donny Cates, Nick Spencer Art by: Niko Henrichon, Frazer Irving, Szymon Kudranski, Rod Reis, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Mike Del Mundo (cover)
Marvel Comics, 341 Pages
This collection of Donny Cates’ Doctor Strange run started off with a bang but then it did what most Donny Cates comics do, it went too big, too fast and became a bloated, over-the-top spectacle. But he’s even admitted that everything he writes needs to be big and epic. He’s also pointed out that he’s always trying to top the last thing he wrote.
The problem with that is that he can tell pretty good human stories with a lot of emotion that gets the reader invested. But then he Michael Bay the fucks out of everything and then has to wedge in a large amount of characters because if it’s a Cates’ story, he’s gotta blow up the universe.
Big, over-the-top spectacles aren’t necessarily a bad thing but when it’s done as much as Cates does it, he becomes a one trick pony that negatively impacts the better sides of his creative work. The spectacle ends up overshadowing the real story and you sort of get lost in it all. And after a while, it becomes ineffective, as you expect everything to reach ludicrous spreed.
When I first started reading Cates’ work, I enjoyed the grandiose-ness. However, it didn’t take long to realize that larger-than-life Armageddon scenarios were his modus operandi. And with that, he has to keep trying to top what he did before. Everything just gets bigger, faster, crazier and the next thing you know, you’re reading the Marvel Comics version of Fast & Furious 14 where it’s just stunts, speed, CGI, action, yelling and then the end credits after characters refer to each other as “family” 97 times between explosions.
I think that this formula has worked so well for Cates that he’s kind of stuck doing it now. While this Doctor Strange stuff came out before his more recent work, I might have had a very different take on it had I read it when it was current.
The problem though, is this kind of shows me where that formula started. Well, at least with his more prominent Marvel work.
As I stated in the beginning, this started out really strong and I was invested. But then everything went ape shit crazy and then it was over. It may have read better if Cates stuck around and actually wrote about the fallout from this story. But I guess he had to move on to the next thing and give us more mega-event level chaos.
This initially created a foundation for something truly great. After the first story arc, however, it immediately went to a Hell-on-Earth scenario with two dozen characters involved. Whatever emotional investment I had, disappeared, as I kept reading and it never quite circled back around to the great character work and found a way to use that within the chaotic spectacle that followed.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other Donny Cates comics by Marvel.
Published: October 3rd, 2018 Written by: Gerry Conway, Chris Claremont, Gary Friedrich, Tony Isabella, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman Art by: Gene Colan, Ross Andru, John Buscema, Dick Giordano, Don Heck, Mike Ploog, Gil Kane (cover) Based on:Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Marvel Comics, 512 Pages
Over the last few months, I’ve been reading a lot of the ’70s Marvel Comics stuff. I dabbled in some of these stories when I was a kid but they were before my time and weren’t as easy to get when I really started collecting comics circa 1990. Plus, my attention, at that time, was focused on superhero stuff, as well as G.I. Joe.
I enjoyed the first volume in this massive collections of The Tomb of Dracula, so naturally I wanted to check out this one too. In the end, I liked this one even more. I think a lot of that has to do with this taking place more in the modern world, which allowed Marvel’s incarnation of Dracula to interact with some of Marvel’s famous superheroes.
In this collection we get to see Dracula meet Spider-Man, Werewolf by Night and Marvel’s version of Frankenstein’s Monster. We also get a small cameo by the Human Torch, as well as the debut of Dracula’s daughter, Lilith. This even had a swashbuckling tale in it.
Now this had a ton of different writers and artists, as it bounces around to different titles that featured Dracula, at the time. Despite this, the book feels consistent, which is a testament to how great Marvel’s editorial was in the ’70s. As far as that company has fallen in recent years, they wouldn’t be able to pull this feat off in 2020.
Most of the stories here were good, it was an energetic read with great art by several legends and it is a fantastic example of ’70s Marvel horror at its finest.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Marvel Dracula stories, as well as other ’70s Marvel horror titles.
Published: October 4th, 2017 Written by: Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin Art by: Gene Colan, Alan Weiss, Gil Kane (cover) Based on:Dracula by Bram Stoker
Marvel Comics, 518 Pages
This was an interesting collection, as it not only featured the first few story arcs of The Tomb of Dracula comic book series but it also featured issues of the black and white comics magazine Dracula Lives!
Additionally, this features the first appearance and first story of Blade, the character made most famous by Wesley Snipes in the film trilogy that kicked off in 1998. It also has a story that pits Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane against Dracula, capitalizing off of the popular sword and sorcery trend in comics at the time.
Overall, this is a pretty neat comic and since I love the Dracula character in many of his incarnations, it’s cool seeing Marvel’s take on him. I also like that Dracula exists within Marvel canon, as well as Robert E. Howard’s canon, because it opens up a lot of possibilities. Sadly, I don’t think we ever got a Dracula and Godzilla crossover even though both of them existed at Marvel at the same time.
I absolutely love the art in this whether its the stuff from the Tomb stories or the Lives! ones. But I do kind of wish that they would’ve made this a beefier collection of just The Tomb of Dracula while also making a collection just for Dracula Lives!
Both series are great but they’re also very different in that the Dracula Lives! comics didn’t have to adhere to the Comics Code Authority and therefore, were a lot darker, more violent and much sexier.
Anyway, I enjoyed both halves of this huge collection and I look forward to delving into the second volume in the near future.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the later Marvel Dracula stories, as well as other ’70s Marvel horror titles.
Published: July 10th, 2019 Written by: Marc Guggenheim Art by: Dave Wilkins
Marvel Comics, 40 Pages
This was a comic book that I didn’t know I wanted until I saw it hit the shelves. It came home with me immediately and I gave it a read, twice.
Now it’s not a classic and probably won’t be heralded for years to come but for a Marvel comic in 2019, this was some solid f’n stuff! But maybe it would’ve worked better as an annual. Granted, I don’t think Wolverine or Blade have regular titles, right now. Wolverine has just been in a lot of recent miniseries, as Marvel just resurrected him after being on the shelf for a few years.
Anyway, this is a badass comic. Marc Guggenheim, now mostly known as the guy behind all the CW superhero shows, penned a cool story that understood its characters and gave them real life. The banter between Blade and Wolverine was entertaining and they made a formidable pair.
Now calling this Wolverine Vs. Blade might have been a bit of a stretch. The two fight but it’s pretty short and they realize that they need to team up to stop a vampire threat.
The big twist as to who the big villain is, is pretty neat. I don’t want to spoil it but it makes sense for the story and for being a good match for the combined powers and skills of the heroes.
Also, there is a Doctor Strange cameo in this.
But apart from my satisfaction regarding the story, I also loved the art. Dave Wilkins created a beautiful looking comic.
In fact, I’d like to see Guggenheim and Wilkins work together again. Marvel should just greenlight a sequel to this or let these two work on some sort of team up miniseries.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: other Blade stories, as well as mid-’00s X-Force featuring Wolverine leading the team as a black ops group.
Also known as: Blade III (working title) Release Date: December 7th, 2004 (Hollywood premiere) Directed by: David S. Goyer Written by: David S. Goyer Based on:Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan Music by: Ramin Djawadi, Rza Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Parker Posey, Dominic Purcell, Triple H, Natasha Lyonne, John Michael Higgins, James Remar, Patton Oswalt, Christopher Heyerdahl
Marvel Enterprises, Shawn Danielle Productions Ltd., Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 112 Minutes
“[licking one of Hannibal’s wounds] You’re tasting a little bland, lover. Are you getting enough fatty acids in your diet? Have you tried lake trout? Mackerel?” – Danica Talos, “How about you take a sugar-frosted fuck off the end of my dick?” – Hannibal King, “And how about everyone here not saying the word “dick” anymore? It provokes my envy.” – Danica Talos
Well, revisiting Blade II wasn’t fun but at least this one was a bit better, in my opinion, even if the consensus doesn’t agree with me.
But let’s be honest, this is also pretty much a total turkey unworthy of being a sequel to the first film.
What’s kind of baffling is that this installment has the best cast out of all three films. I mean, there is a lot of talent on the roster but what we got was a movie that has given most of these actors something to scrub off of their resume.
For instance, Parker Posey is a dynamite actress. In fact, she may be mostly known as an indie darling but she’s one of the best actresses of the past twenty-five years. She has range, she delivers and it’s hard to think of anything else that sees her performance be anywhere near as cringe as it is here. But I don’t blame Posey, I blame the atrocious script and poor direction of David S. Goyer.
So speaking on that, I have to point out how bad the dialogue is in this picture. It’s heinously bad. So bad, in fact, that it almost makes the dialogue in the first Blade come off as Shakespearean. It’s worse than the dialogue in Blade II, which was also shit. But I guess it’s kind of surprising, considering that Goyer wrote all three films. But maybe it’s worse here because he took over the directing duties and thus, didn’t have a more talented director that was able to work around terribly written lines and find a way to salvage them. Maybe Goyer kept a tighter leash on his actors than Guillermo del Toro or Stephen Norrington.
I mean, even Ryan Reynolds who is one of the most charming and funny actors of his generation, stumbled through his clunky and unfunny lines, trying to make them work but failing at delivering anything other than unfunny edgy boi humor that sounds like it was written by a middle schooler trying so hard to impress his older brother’s high school friends.
Don’t even get me started on Triple H’s performance but regardless of how convincing he is as a wrestler, his heel game is weak as hell here and I actually had to subtract some cool points from him when I saw this in 2004.
This chapter also lacks a real story and it isn’t even sure which character it wants to make the big bad of the movie. Dominic Purcell plays Drake, who is really just Dracula, but he comes off as the lamest Dracula in the last twenty years of film history. But Purcell is another guy that’s cool and pretty capable of putting in a good performance if given the right direction.
Ultimately, this is a film entirely bogged down by poor performances, bad writing and sloppy direction.
However, the story is better and more clever than the previous film. This had elements that could have saved it and turned this into something great. The opening in the desert and then the first action sequence were all well done and set the stage for what could have been a really solid picture but everything becomes a mess after that.
I also liked the idea of Blade finding a team to work with but the film fucks all that up by having Limp Bizkit Dracula killing just about all of them off except for Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel.
Now I really liked Biel in this, even if fighting vampires while jiving to your iPod seems incredibly careless. She gives a better performance than this weak script should have allowed and maybe Goyer was more lenient on letting her alter her performance, as she’s pretty hot and this was only the second time he directed.
Other great performers were all pretty much wasted and were forgettable. In fact, I forgot that James Remar, John Michael Higgins, Christopher Heyerdahl, Patton Oswalt and Natasha Lyonne were even in this.
In the end, this had the ability to be something much better but it suffered for all the reasons I’ve already bitched about. I liked that this wasn’t over stylized like del Toro’s Blade II and that it had a more interesting story that put Blade up against Dracula but the film’s execution snuffed out the possibility of something solid.
And while it seems as if I’m bashing Goyer, he would improve. But his best work has always come when he’s worked under a much more talented director than himself. Christopher Nolan, for instance. But he’s still put out some shitty scripts and unfortunately, the shit outweighs the gold.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.
Also known as: Blade 2: Bloodlust (working title) Release Date: March 21st, 2002 (premiere) Directed by: Guillermo del Toro Written by: David S. Goyer Based on:Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Luke Goss, Danny John-Jules, Donnie Yen, Matt Schulze
Marvel Enterprises, Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 117 Minutes
“They tortured me almost to death, and then let me heal in a vat of blood so they could go at it again. Sorry sons of bitches could’ve at least fixed my damn leg while they were at it.” – Whistler
I think I liked Blade II when I saw it in theaters, which was the last time I saw it. However, seeing it with 2019 eyes, this thing is a total failure when compared to the solidness of the first picture.
Guillermo del Toro directed this, which means something to a lot of people, but if I’m being honest, del Toro rarely wows me. I don’t know why. I like his style to a point but I think he’s a severely over hyped filmmaker and his faults are really apparent in this movie.
The first movie in this franchise had superb character development and world building. This just takes all of that and makes it darker for the sake of making it darker and it adds in so much of del Toro’s narrative and visual tropes that its a flat movie with flat, predictable characters that act more like caricatures than real people. Blade II is a perfect example of style over substance.
This also has a new vampire threat that is very del Toro-esque and while these new, more dangerous vampires should be scary, they’re just kind of weird and go so far outside of what a typical vampire is that they feel like a different type of monster altogether. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I just don’t like these creatures and they seem pretty generic and lame. Plus, they all basically look the same, which is just shirtless, bald and pale things. If I’m being honest, it’s as if del Toro is trying to channel some of the visual cues from Dark City‘s baddies while adding in a bit more fright factor with their jaws splitting open and revealing vampire vagina faces like the aliens from the Predator franchise.
While there are several actors I like in this beyond Snipes and Kristofferson, all of them are poorly used. Ron Perlman is underwhelming, Norman Reedus is annoying, Donnie Yen is wasted and Danny John-Jules feels like a watered down and less fabulous version of his most famous character, the Cat from Red Dwarf.
I didn’t like the bad guys, I didn’t like the plot twists that one can see from ten miles away and there was nothing here that justifies the need for a sequel.
I’m trying to think of one scene or sequence that stands out in the movie and I’ve got nothing. This is just an almost two-hour music video full of late ’90s techno and industrial scene cliches. And the whole shebang is derivative as fuck.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.
Also known as: Blade, the Vampire Slayer (working title), Blade: The Daywalker (Norway, Denmark, Finland), Blade: Cazador de vampiros (Mexico, Argentina, Brazil) Release Date: August 19th, 1998 (premiere) Directed by: Stephen Norrington Written by: David S. Goyer Based on:Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan Music by: Mark Isham Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Sanaa Lathan, Arly Jover, Traci Lords, Jeff Imada (uncredited)
Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, Marvel Enterprises, New Line Cinema, 120 Minutes, 110 Minutes (cut)
“Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill.” – Blade
Revisiting Blade has been long overdue but I’m glad that I finally did.
While I loved this movie, back in the day, I think I like it even more now. Maybe that’s because it is the least formulaic Marvel movie ever made and because it is just so balls to the wall badass that every time I watch it, I sprout another testicle.
Wesley Snipes is a man’s man and he’s got no time for some prissy ass bullshit. He just fucks shit up, does a cool pose, fucks up more shit, smiles and then fucks up whatever shit he hasn’t yet fucked up.
Also, this stars another man’s man in the legendary Kris Kristofferson. Add in Udo Kier, Donal Logue and Stephen Dorff being the best he’s ever been and you’ve got one hell of a cast. I also love the small role for Traci Lords, the coolness of Arly Jover and the loveliness of N’Bushe Wright.
Almost everything in this film feels right. The only real hiccup is some of the really dated CGI effects that didn’t look great even in 1998. But I can look past that, as this flick is one of the coolest comic book movies ever put to celluloid.
The script is great, the characters have real depth and the movie has perfect pacing.
There aren’t any dull moments and the action is aplenty, even with the story itself being pretty rich and layered.
Although, I don’t entirely understand Duncan Frost’s evil plan to turn the entire population of Earth into vampires because that would leave them without food. But hey, maybe the high tech vampires have a lab where they can clone and mass produce human blood. So my brain can just file that away as a plot point from a deleted scene I’ll never see.
One thing that really works well in this movie is the music. It hits the right notes, provides the right tone and propels the action sequences to another level. The soundtrack is mostly made up of hip-hop and techno or a hybrid of the two. In fact, I feel like this may have had an effect on the production of The Matrix, which came out a year later.
All in all, Blade is a fantastic comic book adaptation and in a lot of ways, I think it exceeds the source material, as the Blade character wasn’t all that popular before the movie and his interpretation in the film would go on to alter him in the comics themselves.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the Blade sequels, as well as other ’90s action films with Snipes.
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