Who Is Morbius? A History Of The Living Vampire - Comic Years
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Who Is Morbius? A History Of The Living Vampire

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BY November 5, 2021

When a new movie from either Marvel or DC comes out, there’s often a host of new characters to learn about. The most recent trailer from Marvel and Sony was Morbius, with Jared Leto playing the living vampire. We learn that Michael Morbius has a rare blood disease and in a misguided effort to cure himself, he ends up giving himself vampiric abilities along with access to a darker, more sinister power. But how did the Morbius character come about? What is his place in the Marvel world and his connections to other popular characters such as Blade and Ghost Rider? In this blog post, I’ll be asking: who is Morbius?

Who Is Morbius And What Are His Powers?

who is morbius Image via Marvel Comics

Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Dr. Michael Morbius grew up in Greece and was raised by a single mother. He didn’t have many friends because his mom kept him indoors and forbid him from participating in any activities due to his rare blood condition. Despite all of this, he was a bright child and ended up studying science in college with his friend Emil Nikos, a neighborhood boy from his time in Greece. They both wanted to find a cure for Morbius’s condition and researched ways to use vampire bat blood as a cure, which resulted in their earning a Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, Morbius gets sicker and weaker, and he decides to continue the research on a boat for security’s sake, bringing along Nikos and his fiancée, Martine Bancroft. Knowing that he’s on the brink of death, Morbius rushes to create a new experiment to create blood cells using electricity, which turns him into a living vampire. He’s “living” in the sense that he’s not a vampire all the time; rather he has to struggle between his human form and his bloodsucker form.

Unlike another vampire named Edward Cullen, Morbius does not sparkle. He does, however, have superhuman strength and speed, as well as heightened senses that include night vision and echolocation. Looking at the trailer, it appears he also can fly as well, but this is probably from his transvection ability, which enables him to navigate wind currents and glide for great distances (similar to how a flying squirrel “flies”). He has the ability to hypnotize those with weak willpower and has accelerated healing (gunshot wounds heal in less than an hour and broken bones or severe burns can take up to a few days). Because Morbius is still part vampire, he has to drink fresh blood on a regular basis to stay alive. While in his vampire form, he stops at nothing to feed, but when he reverts back to his human form, he must deal with a heavy sense of guilt and shame. One interesting thing is that Morbius’s bite doesn’t necessarily turn a person into a living vampire; they might either die or be severely injured by the wound. There are a few cases where his bite did turn someone (e.g. Jefferson Bolt, a young man first seen in Marvel Team-Up #3; Emilio, another young man first shown in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #7; and Vic Slaughter, a bounty hunter who first appeared in Morbius the Living Vampire vol. 2 #7). Why they turned and didn’t die though is never fully explained.

Conversely, Morbius isn’t affected to garlic, holy water, crucifixes, or silver as traditional vampires are. He doesn’t like sunlight, but at the same time he’s not turned to dust by it. If given the choice, he would definitely choose shade. Additionally he can’t turn into a bat (although when he’s in his vampire form his face looks more bat-like) nor can he control or “speak” to creatures that are usually associated with vampires, like bats, wolves, dogs, rats, and mice.

A History of Morbius

who is morbius Image via Marvel Comics

The Morbius character was created by writer Roy Thomas and designed by penciler Gil Kane, who based the character’s look on the actor Jack Palance. He made his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #101 in 1971 as an enemy of the webslinger after the Comics Code Authority lifted the ban on featuring supernatural creatures, including vampires. He appeared in a few other comics going head-to-head with Spider-Man, but from 1973-1975, he starred in Vampire Tales, a black and white horror comics magazine published by Marvel’s sister company, Curtis Magazines, appearing in all but two of the 11 issues. Morbius also became the star of his own feature in Marvel’s bimonthly Adventure into Fear anthology series, beginning with issue #20 through issue #31. For the next 16 years, Morbius was brought back in the 1992 series, Morbius the Living Vampire, launched as part of the “Rise of the Midnight Sons” crossover story arc in Marvel’s supernatural/horror comics. It ran for 32 issues, from 1992-1995. Additionally, the character was also in various issues throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2012, Marvel announced that Morbius would appear in a new comic by writer Joe Keatinge and artist Richard Elson starting in 2013.

Morbius In Television

Besides comic books, Morbius has also made appearances in television, namely Spider-Man: The Animated Series and Ultimate Spider-Man vs. the Sinister Six. In the former, he was voiced by Nick Jameson and drained blood plasma through his hands which left his victims with welts all over their bodies. In the latter, he was voiced by Benjamin Diskin, and instead of being a doctor, he’s a HYDRA scientist who specializes in symbiotes.

Morbius In Film

While the Jared Leto version of Morbius is the first time the living vampire will be the star of a feature film, the character had made a cameo appearance in a deleted scene from the 1998 film Blade. It was included as a bonus feature on the DVD release. Morbius the 2022 version has been in the works since 2017, when Sony Pictures announced that they planned to make a live-action adaptation of the supervillain. In 2018, it was announced that Jared Leto would play the titular role.

Morbius In Video Games

Morbius has also appeared in numerous video games, from a non-playable character to a playable unlockable character. A couple of the games include Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage and Spider-Man Unlimited.

Morbius In The Newspaper

Morbius randomly made an appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip, where he returns to New York with his fiancée, Martine Bancroft. He is seemingly cured of his vampirism until one night when he begins to exhibit old symptoms and fights Spider-Man.

Is Morbius A Superhero, Villain, Or A Little Of Both?

who is morbius Image via Marvel Comics

While Morbius was originally supervillain to Spider-Man’s superhero, the character is complicated and could be seen more as an antihero a la Tom Hardy’s Venom. When Morbius is in vampire mode and hungry, that’s all he can focus on. Once he changes back, he feels extreme remorse for what he’s done. Throughout comic book history, he’s vowed to protect the innocent and only prey on the guilty, something that the Morbius trailer shows him struggling with. There have also been instances when Morbius has teamed up with his enemies for a common goal, namely Blade and Ghost Rider as the Midnight Sons, when the three antiheroes joined forces to take down Lilith, the Mother of All Demons. There’s already some talk of a potential Blade-Morbius crossover since a new Blade movie is coming out, and Disney+ has a series about Ghost Rider in the works, so there’s plenty of potential to show that Morbius is more than just a blood thirsty living vampire. Even Leto doesn’t seem to want to call Morbius a villain. In an interview with Variety, Leto mentioned the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde aspect of the character, hinting that Morbius wants to do right by people, but his animalistic other half takes over. He also said:

“It was hard for me in some way, because I’m not used to playing roles that are a little bit closer to who I am, day in and day out. Dr. Michael Morbius is a little closer to the way that I talk and the way that I behave.”

It’s a statement that I feel a lot of people can relate to: we’re not cheerful and obliging all the time. Sometimes we lose our tempers or lash out at others, and I think that’s ultimately the core of Morbius’s character. He’s definitely flawed, but he’s also not out to kill all of humanity. The Sony-Marvel contract is still a bit messy, but given the connections that Morbius seems to have to the MCU and the Spider-Verse, fans can remain hopeful about Sony working more with Marvel and Disney, potentially revealing even more about Morbius and adding depth to a misunderstood character.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, watch the trailer for Morbius below:

Morbius comes out January 28, 2022. 

Did I answer your  questions as to who is Morbius? Are you excited for the movie and to see Jared Leto as a living vampire? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured image via Sony Pictures

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Keilin Huang is a freelance writer that likes the Oxford comma, reading from her neverending pile of books from the library, and Reeses peanut butter cups. She thanks her Dad for introducing her to his Superman comics and probably majored in Journalism because of Lois Lane. Contact her at [email protected]

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