OK, these days, I get the Misplaced Characters column out about three weeks in advance. That way, if some weekend comes along where I don’t have the time to write something up, I have one or two in the bank to hold the spot. The point is, as I am typing this, I have just seen the new Morbius movie. So, really, Morbius the Living Vampire may not be much of a “misplaced” anything, but he is, well, a really weird character to build a movie around.
So, here’s his backstory as a character, some of which may or may not be in the new movie.
Dr. Michael Morbius first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #101 in October of 1971. And yeah, 1971 would explain his open shirt, high-collared look.
Morbius, created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane, was a brilliant scientist with a rare blood disease. Oh, and he already had a bat-like face and nose. But he tried mixing some vampire bat DNA and, uh, electroshock treatment? Really? Alright. Anyway, that turned him into a living vampire, as opposed to a supernatural undead one. In such a state, he needed to drink blood to satisfy his hunger, and he did possess a good deal of vampire-like powers such as superhuman strength and a form of flight that was more like gliding on wind currents. But he was still a living person and not an undead monster. That meant that many “vampire weaknesses” didn’t work on him. Oh, he was a bit photosensitive to sunlight, but that was about it. I suppose a stake through the heart would also kill him because, you know, something like that should kill anybody. As it is, Morbius came along at the right moment. Spider-Man was temporarily stuck with six arms, and the Lizard wasn’t much help, but a serum derived from Morbius’s blood did cure both Curt Connors and Spidey. It just couldn’t cure Morbius himself.
That seems to be something of a pattern with Morbius. At one point, he was inadvertently spreading his condition to others, but working with love interest Martine Bancroft, he was able to find a cure for them…but it didn’t work on him. He also, despite the fact his condition was supposed to be scientific, found himself running into a lot of supernatural things, battling demons, Blade, and even eventually befriending the Werewolf by Night. Most Morbius stories often had him searching for a cure, and sometimes finding himself draining some poor soul he may have even been trying to protect.
By the time the 90s rolled around, Morbius was recruited by two different Ghost Riders to be part of the Midnight Sons, a group of titles that where all of Marvel’s supernatural monster heroes (who had their own book at the time), but an assassination attempt by two different individuals (one scientist and one demonic entity) backfired a bit and ended up mutating him a bit more. Furthermore, he made a deal with Ghost Rider to only drink the blood of the guilty.
It’s the sort of thing that makes Morbius a more sympathetic villain when he is a villain and a more tragic hero when he’s a good guy. Heck, he can even somewhat get along with Spider-Man now.
So, yeah, Morbius. Not a supernatural vampire, but he keeps hanging out with supernatural monsters. And he doesn’t really want to bite you.
Better Call Saul “Coushatta”
Noteworthy Issues: Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #8 (October, 2022)
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