In 1998, audiences were caught off-guard by the release of Blade. The film managed to gross over $70 million despite several factors that worked against its success: a lack of any substantial advertising campaign, a spring release (instead of the horror movie's traditional Halloween), and, perhaps most damning of all, a basis in comicbooks.
Born to a mother who died of a vampire's bite, Blade is continually searching for the bloodsucker that took her life. Gifted with supernatural powers but cursed with a thirst for blood, Blade fights a lonely battle against the forces of evil and his own dark side,
both of which threaten to overwhelm him when his unnatural hunger is strongest. Nevertheless, armed with his anti-vampire arsenal, Blade stalks the day and the night, destroying the undead with a vengeance!
While Joel Schumacher was busy dragging the Batman films deeper into a "Biff! Bam! Pow!" mass-merchandising neon abyss, Blade crept into theatres without much hype, and without even any outward indication that it was a comicbook film. Instead of a cape and cowl, Blade took to the streets (and the screens) with a trenchcoat and sunglasses. The garish colors were replaced with a palette of blacks inky enough to make a squid jealous. The film was rated R, and the character hadn't had his own comicbook in years. Despite that, ToyBiz gambled on a line of four figures to accompany the film. They weren't overly well received, and languished in the Aisle of Misfit Toys before quietly disappearing.
But wait! Suddenly, it seems, everyone realized what they had missed; secondary market demand for the figures shot up, especially in the case of one figure: "Blade with Anti-Vampire Weapons."
More commonly known as "Trenchcoat Blade."
Trenchcoat Blade is named for his fashion sense; he comes with a removable cloth/pleather coat, just like the one Wesley Snipes wore in the film. Actually, "just like in the film" could very well be the title of this review, given how often it's likely to be said. The detail on this figure is wonderful; his facial sculpt is dead-on, definitely giving us Wesley Snipes (or Grace Jones). He's got the appropriate build, a steely gaze, and a painted-on tattoo.
His bulletproof vest has every strap, buckle, and pouch that it did on-screen, right down to a few sculpted bullets that have struck it. ToyBiz even sculpted seams and pockets on Blade's jeans. In fact, if he had just a bit more articulation, he'd fit in perfectly with the more recent Marvel Legends figures.
It was Blade's articulation
that made him such a big draw: he moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees, and toes. That's 16 points, which may not seem like much now, but you have to remember; this was in 1998, two years before Spider-Man Classics showed that a figure could easily have 30+ points. Back in the day, no 6" figure had 16 points of articulation. Blade was outstanding.
Even the figure's weapons are from the film, if a bit exaggerated. He comes with his sword, glaive, handgun (a modified MAC-11
with the shell of a MAC-10 over the tip), shotgun, and crossbow. They're all a little too large, but at least that's consistent. Everything but the crossbow (which snaps onto his arm or the shotgun) can be attached to Blade's belt either directly or with holsters. He can hold the guns in his right hand and the sword in his left. There are three silver stakes strapped to the figure's left thigh.
In a nice bit of detail, Blade's glaive folds in half to be stored on his belt. The pump on the shotgun moves, revealing a muzzle flash. The clip in the MAC-11 slides down (but not out). His sunglasses are even removable, yet another thing that wasn't done back then but is still a nice feature today. The paint scheme is rather muted, all greys and... well, other greys, but it works well in this case.
When everyone started hunting high and low for Trenchcoat Blade, I felt extremely fortunate to already have mine. Thing is, I almost didn't: I had seen the film (and enjoyed it immensely) by the time I saw the figures at Toys Я Us, but I decided to pass; on the drive back home, I kept thinking about the toy. I was home for about 15 minutes before I decided to drive the half hour back to TRU to pick up Trenchcoat Blade. Yeah, rather ridiculous, I know, but I've never regretted that extraneous roundtrip. Especially once the figure on my desk would have cost me upwards of $50 on eBay. There was some hope that there'd be new figures based on Blade II (excellent film; read a review here), but it was not to be.
When this Blade figure came out in 1998, it won the title of Toy of the Year. It was the best of the best. Five years later, it stands up as still a very good figure; while it wouldn't win any awards today, it would still be a satisfying purchase. Good design is timeless, and Trenchcoat Blade is a prime example of that.