In his long career as Spider-Man, Peter Parker has battled many monstrous foes. The Lizard, the reptilian alter ego of Doctor Curt Connors. The symbiotically powered serial killer Cletus Kasady, better known as Carnage. But one of the most iconic monsters in his rogues’ gallery is Morbius, the Living Vampire. Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, Morbius, played by Jared Leto, is set to make his feature film debut this July. But before he spreads his reign of terror across movie theaters, here is everything you need to know about the Living Vampire.
Morbius made his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #101, in October 1971. Michael Morbius was a brilliant scientist who at a young age, was afflicted with a rare blood disease that was slowly killing him. In desperation, Michael concocted an experimental treatment that involved electroshock therapy and vampire bats. The side effects transformed him into a monster. His skin turned milky white, his eyes became blood red, and he gained abilities similar to a vampire’s, including the thirst for blood. Morbius’ search for a cure brought him into conflict with Spider-Man, who at the time was sporting four extra arms and the Lizard, who thought Morbius could hold the key to curing his own condition.
Morbius would befriend many of the supernatural creatures in the Marvel Universe, including Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, and the Werewolf from Night. He also came into repeated conflict with Blade, the Vampire Slayer. A bite from Morbius ended up granting the Daywalker enhanced powers including superhuman strength and a healing factor. Eventually, Morbius gained a pair of enemies; Doctor Loxias Crown, a Hydra scientist who kidnapped the Living Vampire to study him and ended up becoming the villain known as Hunger, and former CIA agent Simon Stroud, who made it his life mission to hunt and kill supernatural creatures.
Perhaps Morbius’ most heroic moment came during the Maximum Carnage crossover, where he joined forces with Spider-Man, Venom, and several other heroes and antiheroes to battle Carnage and a group of supervillains. The heroes felt torn between Venom’s insistence on using lethal force to deal with Kasady and Spidey’s insistence that they take him in alive. Eventually, they stole a device from Stark Industries that projected feelings and hope into Carnage’s gang, overwhelming them and allowing the heroes to seize victory.
Later, he secretly joined Horizon Labs in the guise of “Number Six.” It was revealed that Morbius was working to cure himself and the Lizard. However, the Lizard at that point had completely taken over Curt Connors’ body and mind. To cover his escape, the Lizard released a synthesized blood mist into the laboratory’s air vents, driving Morbius mad with hunger. Spider-Man eventually subdued him and took him to the superhuman prison known as the Raft.
Morbius managed to escape the Raft and forged a new life in Brownsville, until Spider-Man (whose mind, at the time, was overwritten by his old foe, Doctor Octopus) brought him back to Horizon Labs in order to cure him. He recently encountered Domino and her Hotshots when they needed his help stopping a vampire virus, and was brought into protective custody by the Agents of Wakanda during the War of the Vampires.
The experiment that transformed Morbius into a pseudo vampire granted him many of the abilities associated with vampirism; however, he is not a true vampire. He possesses superhuman strength, speed, senses, and a regenerative healing factor. He also possesses the ability to psionically glide on the air and mesmerize others into doing his bidding. When Morbius bites somebody, he transforms his victims into pseudo vampires who are susceptible to his bidding. Although sunlight will not kill him, he is extremely sensitive to it.
Morbius’ greatest weakness is his need to feed on blood. The more he feeds, the more his humanity ebbs away. And even though sunlight cannot kill him, it will slowly strip him of his powers over time, changing him from the brilliant biochemist who won the Nobel Prize to a monster.
Perhaps Morbius’ biggest claim to fame was being a multi-episode antagonist in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. There he shared a romantic relationship with Felicia Hardy, aka the Black Cat, and much like his comics counterpart transformed himself into a vampiric monster while trying to cure a rare blood disease. In the episodes “Enter the Punisher”, “Duel of the Hunters”, “Blade the Vampire Hunter” and “The Immortal Vampire” he came into conflict with Blade and the Punisher, as well as Spidey, and struggled to cure himself and salvage his relationship with Felicia.
Due to several strict censorship laws, Morbius was actually not allowed to be shown feasting on blood. Instead, he absorbed “plasma” from his victims through several mouth-like suckers on his hands, which was infinitely more disturbing.
Although he isn’t really a big name in the supernatural corners of Marvel’s universe or one of Spider-Man’s biggest foes, Morbius will definitely find a new lease on life with his upcoming movie and the ongoing comic series by Vita Ayala and Marcelo Ferreria. He may even gain a few fans in the process.
Morbius will premiere in theaters on July 31st, 2020.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.