By Ian McMurray with Mack Johnson
MORBIUS, the long-delayed Sony horror movie about Marvel's Living Vampire, is finally here. Morbius is not a new character, and you may be surprised to learn that he has been around since 1971, when Marvel attempted to make him a headliner.
The story of Dr. Michael Morbius was a tragedy: he had a blood disease and attempted to cure himself with a vampire bat serum. In doing so, he gained vampire-like powers and thirst, but he lost Martine, the love of his life.
After a few appearances as a villain in The Amazing Spider-Man, he was given the lead in a black and white magazine called Vampire Tales, and shortly after, he took over a second book called, ridiculously, Adventure into Fear, With the Man Called Morbius-- the Living Vampire.
The twelve issue run of Morbius in Adventure Into Fear had four writers and seven artists, and this was at the height of the Marvel method where writers gave artists plots, not scripts, so the artists were contributing a fair amount to the story, and it was tied together with the final script. On the one hand, it's like a sprawling sci-fi version of The Big Sleep or The Long Goodbye, with Morbius being bounced around from side to side, and the outcome being there are no good guys. On the other hand, with so many different writers and artists, it was a complete mess, and utterly incoherent, with characters switching directions over and over because the artists couldn't be bothered to follow what came before. I think a single writer and artist could actually remake this into something amazing, but that would be the key: a single set of creators for the whole of it.
The stories in Vampire Tales are of a very different tone, much more episodic. They reminded me of TV series with an overarching dramatic stake from back in the day, like The Fugitive or Quantum Leap. Morbius and a woman he saves, Amanda, travel from town to town, and each one has some member of her family who has joined a Satanic cult. It's very B-movie type stuff. At a plot level, I could barely follow them, but in the moment they were fun. These were black and white magazines meant for a little older readership, so there's more sexual energy than the full color comics of the day, and lots of blood.
It seems like Marvel (I'm guessing Roy Thomas in particular) decided Morbius was something Marvel needed, as the Comics Code was loosening up and allowing supernatural characters to be published again. Marvel had science heroes, magic and mystical heroes, but not so much supernatural. Morbius wasn't a real vampire, he was a living vampire. . . but he was immediately sold as a vampire.
Morbius has been revived every ten to fifteen years, including his Rise Of The Midnight Sons series in the '90s, and most recently in 2019 and 2021 to generate excitement leading up to the often-delayed movie release. However, it won't be the first screen appearance of Morbius, as he was a regular character in 10 episodes of the 1994 Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
Watch for the POP Culture & Comics MOVIE REVIEW of Morbius, when it swoops into theaters this April!
The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, #101 (First Appearance of Morbius)
Adventure Into Fear #20-31
Morbius, The Living Vampire (2019)
Morbius, Bond Of Blood (2021)
Spider-Man Animated Series (1994-98)