Last night I watched the special that aired on ABC celebrating the career of Stan “The Man” Lee. It was a loving tribute and did justice to the man who was, up until the time of his death, the world’s greatest living writer. (Don’t believe a “comic book” writer could be deserving of such an honor? I challenge you to name one writer, just one, who has had a greater impact on human culture in the past century. J.R.R. Tolkien is a contender, but the Professor died decades before Stan Lee.) It warmed my heart and put a lump in my throat a couple of times, but there was one area where the special got it wrong.
Focusing on Stan Lee’s work as a television and film producer, the program stated that the first Marvel comic book-based movie was Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN. This isn’t accurate. The first movie based on a Marvel comics character was BLADE. If BLADE had not succeeded then SPIDER-MAN might never have gotten made. SPIDER-MAN led to X-MEN, which led to all the movies that followed, all leading to Marvel collectively being the biggest pop cultural phenomenon in entertainment history. (It wins by sheer numbers alone. There’ve been more Marvel movies now than STAR WARS movies, or Tolkien movies, or Harry Potter movies, even James Bond movies.) But it all started with BLADE, and BLADE was a hit not only because it was good—it was—but because it was a *Horror* movie, a *vampire* movie. In a sense, then, vampires made Marvel. Credit where credit is due.