Who Is Morbius In The Marvel Comics?

Morbius_The_Living_Vampire

The second trailer for Sony’s Morbius gave us our first full look at the company’s latest addition to the Spider-Man Universe. But who is the comic book character also known as The Living Vampire?

Morbius arrived as a Spider-Man foe in October 1971. He was the second of the web slinger’s major horror-based villains, following in the wake of the Green Goblin’s glider. While Hobgoblin, Morlun, and Symbiotes like Venom and Carnage would later join that club, Morbius was to take a distinctive path of his own. 

Morbius was introduced less than a year after the Comics Code Authority lifted its ban on supernatural creatures like vampires featuring in mainstream comic books. That ban had been in place since graphic horror overtook superhero action at the end of the Golden Age of comics, restricting creatures of the night to comedy comics. Suddenly, the CCA’s revised rules allowed vampires, werewolves, and other ghoulish creations in any comic, suggesting that they should be treated in the classic literary tradition of gothic horror. But the catch with Morbius is that although he looks and acts like a traditional vampire, he never has been.

Spiders and vampires

Morbius

Morbius made his debut in the history-making The Amazing Spider-Man #101, the first issue not penned by Stan Lee. Although Lee had suggested a costumed villain for his successors, writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane were interested in bringing a vampire, albeit with a twist, to the comic. Thomas was determined that this monster’s condition would be caused by science, not magic. True to his title, Morbius isn’t undead, but the living result of an experiment gone wrong.

In the comics, award-winning biochemist Michael Morbius had suffered from a painful blood condition all his life. When he attempted to cure himself with an experimental combination of electricity and the blood of vampire bats, he was left with superhuman powers. In hindsight, vampire bats weren’t a good idea. He soon started to develop some very specific vampiric traits. 

Pale skin, extended canine teeth, and a flattened nose? Check. A sudden sensitivity to sunlight and a compulsion to drink blood to survive? He developed that, too. Hollow bones gave him the ability to fly, supplemented by enhanced strength, speed, and an accelerated healing factor. Morbius even gained the ability to infect others with his condition by drinking their blood, although unlike his “pseudo-vampire” disease, theirs could often be reversed.

Meeting Spider-Man

Morbius meets Spider-Man

Spider-Man first met the Living Vampire in the company of the Lizard. Peter Parker had offered to help that villain’s alter-ego, Dr. Curt Connors, find a cure for his condition, but the wall crawler’s stakeout was interrupted by a blood-thirsty Morbius. The issue’s front cover proclaimed “The Monster Morbius,” leaving the audience in no doubt that the Living Vampire was a villain. That was saying something considering that the wall crawler had grown four extra arms at that point. It turned out that both Parker and Connors could potentially reverse their conditions with a dose of the Living Vampire’s blood. 

From that point on, Morbius clashed with Spider-Man and other New York heroes as he continued to seek help to cure himself. Morbius developed into one of Marvel’s most exciting and intense antiheroes across serial titles and his headline comic books.

Morbius had a resurgence in the 1990s as a new breed of horror characters were introduced at Marvel. Outside of comics, he found new fans thanks to memorable appearances in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. However, this version softened some of his more vampiric qualities thanks to the strict censorship that still governed kid shows.  

In the comics, Morbius gained new abilities, including hypnosis. He even became an unlikely ally of Spider-Man’s when the two took on Carnage. Shortly after that, he was also an essential member of Marvel’s supernatural super team in Rise of the Midnight Sons. Marvel’s forthcoming video game adaptation of that team won’t feature Morbius since his media rights remain at Sony, who are hoping that he continues their success by establishing a darker comic book universe. 

A new Marvel legend

The second Morbius trailer suggests that we’ll be meeting a Dr. Michael Morbius with a very similar origin to his comic book counterpart. Heavy on horror and action, with a strong dose of Dracula thrown in, fans will be particularly intrigued by the mentions of Venom and a cameo by Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes. Could Morbius form part of the Vulture’s Sinister Six in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Following the success of the two Venom films, Sony has decided to explore their horror properties. To paraphrase the trailer, they’re eager to break that line between hero and villain. As Morbius references Venom and features the MCU’s Vulture, it’s looking likely that Sony will soon combine the two Spider-Man universes that have so far stayed distinct from one another.

If, as many predict, these universes are combined in the multiversal mess that is Spider-Man: No Way Home, few villains are ready-made to walk both sides like Morbius, the Living Vampire!