In 1998, exactly 20 years before Black Panther, the first Marvel Comics superhero made its theatrical debut. It was the vampire known as Blade. And he was Black.
To be fair, there had been a handful of films based on Marvel properties before this—but 1944’s Captain America was a black-and-white serial film, 1989’s The Punisher and 1990’s Captain America were both direct-to-DVD, 1994’s Fantastic Four was never released, and though it’s a cult classic, the less said about 1986’s Howard the Duck, the better.
Blade was the first Marvel superhero film produced with the intention of honoring the comic book that inspired it. It’s important as well that Blade was a Black superhero, played by Wesley Snipes—one of the most popular Black actors of the time. It’s also worth noting that, due to the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Blade has been mostly ignored while Marvel touts Black Panther as the biggest cultural event of the year. Black Panther is a Black superhero film that truly celebrates Black culture and filmmaker Ryan Coogler has delivered a cinematic gift, yes, but the MCU debuted 10 years ago. If Blade was successful enough to spawn two sequels, why are we only now getting a second Marvel film with a Black lead after twenty years?