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 film soon and 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. But Morbius’ 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? 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.
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, 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.
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.
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, Morbius’ Movie, and Morbius in the MCU
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.
The next time we will see the vampire will be on the big screen. Jared Leto has been cast as this Morbius. Morbius will release on January 22, 2022. The film will be an origin story for Morbius and bring his character to life in this new form. Additionally, trailers for the movie 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, it could make sense that Morbius too will eventually appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Morbius does mention Venom in the Morbius trailer.
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. Could he be trying to recruit the vampire to join the MCU version of the Sinister Six? Will we see an early glimpse of Morbius in Spider-Man: No Way Home alongside Tom Holland’s Spider-Man? And most importantly, will Morbius lean into his villain-side, or go the way of good if he does appear in any of these places… Only time will tell.