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It’s 1998. Blade has yet to be released, and in fact few are expecting it, let alone aware of the comic book origins for the film that would hit on Aug. 21, 1998. Marvel is a struggling brand. Less than two years earlier Marvel Entertainment Group filed for Chapter 11, facing bankruptcy in the aftermath of several failed publishing initiatives, the loss of a number of its top artists to Image, and an overall decline in the interest of comic books. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are recovering from a convoluted and controversial year-long storyline, Heroes Reborn, that failed to reignite interest and relevancy of characters once considered staples of the brand. Marvel’s film prospects are even more dire. The last theatrical movie based on the company’s characters was the critically panned Howard the Duck (1986). Straight to video releases The Punisher (1989) and Captain America (1990) didn’t fare any better. And then there was the matter of the unreleased The Fantastic Four (1994), later alleged by Stan Lee to be a scheme by Constantin Film Production to retain the rights. A muddled sense of continuity, unclear character direction saddled by endless events, and no movies, was what Marvel fans could look forward to in the late 90s. That is, until Marvel got its blood flowing again.
From The Hollywood Reporter: