Comic Book Movies Are the Next Evolution in Vampire Entertainment
Vampire movies wax and wane in popularity, but Sony’s Morbius may represent the future of the genre.
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Vampires haven’t fallen out of popularity since Dracula first saw publication in 1897. Instead, the genre has tettered in and out of the spotlight, always learning to adapt to the times while also taking inspiration from other sources. So, if there’s anything that the upcoming Morbius and Blade films tell us, it’s that adapting to audiences in 2020 means taking from comic books.
The fact that vampire fiction adapts to the times is pretty apparent from its history. Although Dracula first established its reputation for classical gothic horror at the turn of the 20th Century, culminating in the artistically praised Nosferatu of 1922, it moved away from the world of high art and into the realm of pulp fiction in the ensuing decades. By the 1950s, vampires were a fixture of EC Comics’ horror line, appearing in titles like The Haunt of Fear and Tales from the Crypt. 1975’s ‘Salem’s Lot and 1976’s Interview with a Vampire continued to evolve the genre, intermingling its classical and pulpy pasts to give vampires a seductive quality.
What’s interesting is that the evolution of the vampire genre seems to jump back and forth between the ruminative world of literature and the titillating thrill of comic books. The ’70s saw a resurgence of vampires in the world of comics as the Comics Code Authority that forbade them for years fell to the wayside, but in the world of cinema, it was adaptations of literature that dominated the box office. Into the ’90s the filmed adaptations of Dracula and Interview with a Vampire were the face of the genre, but the decade would not close out without comics striking back with a vengeance.
1998’s Blade introduced vampire fiction to the world of action-horror in a big way, creating a successful trilogy while inspiring multiple other films and franchises that thrived at the time. Films like Van Helsing and the Underworld series became the new face of vampire fiction, proving that the bloodsuckers could still provide the thrills and excitement of its pulpier days.
The pendulum would swing back toward literature, however, and with the immense popularity of the Twilight series, it didn’t seem like the trend would ever end. Vampires once again found their romance, and although the novels and films were critically derided, there was no arguing with their titanic financial success. Unfortunately for fans, however, the popularity of the genre seemed to wane ever since as audiences had little appetite for Twilight imitators. But fear not, the tide may just be shifting again in the near future.
Superhero movies have completely dominated the market and cultural zeitgeist since the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuted with Iron Man in 2008. In the decade thereafter, they became not only a fixture year-round at theaters but a constant source of excitement and speculation from audiences hungry for more. Comic book adaptations are still as big as ever, and with Sony’s Morbius set for release in July, it suddenly seems obvious that a union between vampires and superheroes is on the way.
While Blade was already technically a comic book adaptation, it held little fidelity to the comics it was based on. 30 Days of Night tried a more straightforward take on adapting comic vampires to film, but the movie gained little traction with audiences in 2007. In this new market, though, a vampire movie catered to and dictated by diehard fans will cause them to line up out the door for the latest horror-inspired superhero movie.
A new Blade adaptation starring Mahershala Ali is already in the works from Marvel, and with Sony potentially pacing the way for Morbius, the groundwork is being set for a resurgence of vampire content in a superhero-filled market. Everything is lining up perfectly with the historical trend of the genre, and there appears to be a feast of comic book vampire movies on the way that fans can really sink their teeth into.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa, Morbius stars Jared Leto as the titular character, Matt Smith as Loxias Crown, Adria Arjona as Martine Bancroft, Tyrese Gibson as Agent Stroud and Jared Harris in an undisclosed role. The film arrives July 31.