Before anti-hero/”good guy” vampires were all the rage, Marvel Comics beat nearly everyone else to the punch with Morbius, the Living Vampire, who is neither true hero nor villain. Dr. Michael Morbius first debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #101, exactly fifty years ago. Back in 1971, the Comics Code censorship rules loosened up. This allowed vampires and other monsters to appear in comics again.
Thus, Stan Lee wasted no time, quickly jumping on these new allowances. He commissioned writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane to come up with a vampiric villain for Peter Parker to fight. The result was a character who will star in his own Marvel film soon and Morbius may even someday join the MCU. Morbius will be played by Jared Leto in the upcoming movie, and it likely will lean toward the bizarre. Whichever cinematic universe Morbius belongs to, his comic book history is undoubtedly stranger than anything Hollywood can conjure up.
Morbius’ Tragic Comic Origins, Explained
From a very young age, Michael Morbius lived with a rare and debilitating blood condition. Raised mostly in isolation by his mother in Greece, he had only one true friend in the world, Emil. The pair became like brothers, and both grew up to become lauded scientists and biochemists. Their research to create a cure for Morbius’ condition even earned a Nobel Prize. Michael and Emil decide to take stage two of their experiment to the open sea as a way of avoiding anyone getting hurt.
But how does Morbius become a vampire and get his powers? Well, feeling like this was his last chance, Dr. Morbius performed an experiment using electricity and vampire bat DNA. (We’re not sure how that works, but we’ll go with it). The results of these efforts turned him into a pseudo-vampire, and then he killed his best friend and jumped ship. But, because he did not gain his abilities via supernatural means, it meant that he wasn’t a true-blue Nosferatu; hence Morbius’ name, the Living Vampire.
Morbius’ Powers: His Similarities and Difference to the Traditional Vampire
Morbius does have to drink blood to survive, like a regular vampire would. And Morbius’ powers resemble those of typical vampires. Morbius can fly, he has super strength, and has some psionic abilities, like hypnotism. But the similarities ended there. Morbius, the Living Vampire, can go into the sun and walk in daylight, albeit with less power. He also does not have any of the usual weaknesses of vampires, such as aversions to religious iconographies or vulnerabilities to stakes through the heart. Morbius also does not turn into a bat, nor can he change his appearance/shape-shift beyond shifting into the vampiric version of himself. While Morbius can move at high speeds, he cannot actually teleport on his own. Finally, though Morbius has some regenerative powers.
Still, Morbius has his own weaknesses. If Morbius does not consume enough blood, his regenerative abilities will fail, making it possible to wound and kill him. But even with the ability to repair himself, Morbius is not invulnerable and can die.
Morbius’ Journey From Villain to Anti-Hero
Morbius began his comic life as a villain. Morbius’ Marvel introduction was primarily as a baddie for Spider-Man to fight. Peter Parker’s radioactive blood put Moribus’ disease into remission and was therefore quite tasty. Despite these battles with Peter, he quickly went on to headline his own solo adventures in Vampire Tales. And later, Adventure into Fear. Both showcased Morbius as a tragic Marvel anti-hero rather than a straight-up monster. But is Morbius a hero in these runs? The answer to that is complicated. In the end, Morbius is neither good nor bad.
Morbius often saved innocents, while giving in to his bloodlust and killing off bad guys. (Although sometimes innocents would die, too.) As a living vampire, the “real” vamps of the Marvel universe often came into conflict with Morbius. Specifically, Morbius’ enemies include Dracula and his daughter Lilith. He also crossed paths several times with Blade.
After receding into the background for much of the late ’70s and ’80s, Morbius had a big revival in the early ’90s. This was very much Marvel riding a wave of goth/vampire trends of the time. In the early ’90s, Vampire: The Masquerade was an RPG phenomenon, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles were flying off the shelves. Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula was also a box office smash. Marvel revived Morbius, the Living Vampire, as a trenchcoat-wearing, brooding, and kind of sexy hero, headlining his own comic series in 1992. The book lasted three years and thirty-two issues. He also joined other “spooky” Marvel heroes in the team book Midnight Sons.
The ’90s was also the time when a much larger audience first met Morbius, thanks to his debut on Spider-Man: The Animated Series. On this show, actor Nick Jameson gave him his thick accented voice. His origins remained largely the same as his comic book counterpart, with one hilarious change. Because network standards and practices didn’t allow for biting necks and the word “blood” on a kid’s show, instead Morbius drained “plasma.” And he did it with strange suction holes in his hands. If you ask us, that’s way more disturbing than fangs. Morbius also nearly made it into the movie Blade as a tease for Blade II, as seen in a deleted scene on the film’s Blu-ray release. But, for now, audiences will have to wait to see a Morbius vs. Blade showdown on the big screen.
Modern Day Morbius: Morbius In The Comics and Morbius’ Movie
Over the past few decades, Morbius has consistently appeared throughout the Marvel Comics universe. He’s fought the Punisher, Deadpool, the Hulk, and his old nemesis Spider-Man. The Ultimate line of comics introduced us to an alternate take on Morbius, one related to Dracula, and who was a traditional vamp. He received a new ongoing series in 2013, which lasted nine issues, and another title which came out in 2019. He continues to struggle to find a cure for his bloodlust while walking the line between hero and monster.
It is also worth noting that Disney+’s MCU show Loki features Owen Wilson as Mobius. However, despite the similarity in name, Loki‘s Mobius has nothing to do with Morbius, The Living Vampire.
The next time we will see the vampire will be on the big screen. Jared Leto has been cast as this Morbius. Morbius will now release on April 1, 2022, another slight delay from its prior January release date. The film will be an origin story for Morbius and bring his character to life in this new form.
Which Universe Does Morbius Exist In? Is Morbius Part of the MCU?
Trailers for the Morbius hint that this movie will also have a lot to do with a possible Spider-Verse. Morbius is not yet a part of the MCU. But given that Venom 2 brought the worlds of the MCU and Sony-Marvel together for a time, it could make sense that Morbius too will eventually appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Morbius does mention Venom in the Morbius trailer. Additionally, one detective notes to another, “We haven’t had anything this good since that thing in San Francisco.” What thing in San Francisco, well the events of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, of course. Thus if Morbius takes place in Venom‘s universe and Venom connects to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Morbius too could soon make the leap into the MCU proper. But if he does travel to the MCU, whether Morbius does so MCU hero or MCU villain, we don’t know.
This possibility is made even more likely by the presence of Adrien Toomes, a.k.a. The Vulture in Morbius’ trailers. Toomes suggests that he and Morbius should stay in touch. This leads to several questions. Could Vulture be trying to recruit the vampire to join an eventual version of the MCU version of the Sinister Six? And will we ever see Morbius meet Tom Holland’s Spider-Man or any of the other Spider-Mans? (Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield did recently both suit up again.)
It could be, of course, that Keaton’s Toomes in Morbius is merely a universal variant of the Vulture, and not the one from the MCU’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. However, even if he is, that technically does make himm and Morbius by extension, a part of the MCU’s multiverse. Even if Spider-Man No Way Home did seemingly separated the worlds again by sending Venom back to his own universe. The only thing clear is that the multiverse is an incredibly tricky place.
Perhaps we’re most likely to one day see if Morbius can beat Venom in a fight. For now, only time will tell.