Morbius the Living Vampire
Morbius The Living Vampire Vol 2 1.png
Promotional art for Morbius: The Living Vampire (vol. 2) #1 (March 2013) by Gabriele Dell'Otto.
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceThe Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #101 (October 1971)
Created byRoy Thomas
Gil Kane
In-story information
Alter egoMichael Alexander Morbius
SpeciesLiving Vampire
Team affiliationsMidnight Sons
A.R.M.O.R.
Legion of Monsters
S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of Wakanda
Notable aliasesDr. Morgan Michaels
Nikos Michaels
Number Six
Abilities

Morbius the Living Vampire, real name Michael Alexander Morbius, M.D.,[1] Ph.D.,[1] is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer Roy Thomas and originally designed by penciler Gil Kane, he debuted as a tragic, sympathetic adversary of the superhero Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #101 (October 1971).[2] For years, Morbius frequently clashed with Spider-Man and other superheroes while occasionally regaining his reason and helping those he regarded as allies. The 1992 Marvel Comics "Rise of the Midnight Sons" crossover event then revived and revised several horror-themed Marvel characters in order to present them as lead protagonists in new titles. The event launched the new series Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 1) which ran from 1992 to 1995 and now presented the title character as a lethal anti-hero and vigilante. After the cancellation of this series, various stories shifted back and forth between portraying Morbius as a conflicted and brutal anti-hero or a tragic character subject to episodes of madness and murder (once again, most often fighting Spider-Man).

In the Marvel Comics canon, Michael Morbius is a famous biochemist who contracts a rare blood disease he then tries to cure using a combination of experimental chemicals, electro-shock therapy, and genetic samples of vampire bats. The experiment mutates him into a "pseudo-vampire" or "living vampire", a life form with abilities and traits resembling, but not identical to, those of truly supernatural and "undead" creatures such as vampires (which exist in the Marvel Universe).[3] To keep his blood disease in remission, Morbius must now regularly feed on fresh human blood or face rapid illness followed by death. Initially, Morbius's mutation affects his ability to reason while experiencing hunger. This leads to blackouts and acts of violence that result in murder and villainy, occasionally followed by lucid periods during which he regrets causing harm.[3] A mixture of electricity and Spider-Man's blood restores his humanity for several years, but he later reverts to being a pseudo-vampire. During the "Rise of the Midnight Sons", a mixture of poison and genuine demon blood alters Morbius' physiology slightly while also restoring his mental capacity, allowing him greater control and awareness even while experiencing bloodlust. A new "anti-viral" serum involving Spider-Man's blood also allows him to regain humanity for hours at a time.[1][4] Concluding he now has greater control over his condition and wishing to regain some semblance of a normal life, Morbius creates a new cover identity as Dr. Morgan Michaels, while at night secretly acting as a lethal vigilante who only feeds on "the blood of the guilty." Later on, another mutagenic serum saves his life but results in Morbius once again being vulnerable to temporary madness and a loss of his faculties when his bloodlust is too strong. As a result, he abandons his Morgan Michaels identity and becomes a fugitive again.[5]

The character has appeared in several media adaptations outside of comics. In the 1990s animated series Spider-Man, Morbius is a recurring character voiced by Nick Jameson. In contrast to the comics, the cartoon depicted Morbius both as a regular ally of the character Blade and as a being who feeds on human plasma through his hands rather than with his fangs. Jared Leto portrayed Michael Morbius in the Sony's Spider-Man Universe live action film Morbius (2022).

Publication history

Initial creation as a villain

Morbius debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #101 (published in August 1971 and cover-dated October 1971). His creation followed the comic book industry's self-censorship board, the Comics Code Authority, updating its policies in February 1971, which included lifting a ban on comic book stories depicting vampires and certain other supernatural characters.[6] Morbius' introduction was the first issue of Marvel Comics' flagship Spider-Man series written by someone other than character co-creator and then editor-in-chief Stan Lee, who was busy writing a screenplay for an unproduced science fiction movie.[7] Lee bequeathed the role of series writer to his right-hand editor Roy Thomas.

In 2009, Roy Thomas said there was interest in having the company's flagship character Spider-Man fight a vampire, possibly even the famous Count Dracula. "We were talking about doing Dracula, but Stan wanted a costumed villain. Other than that, he didn't specify what we should do." Thomas added that part of the character conception came from the 1957 film The Vampire a science-fiction film he saw in his youth that depicted a man turned into a vampire by radiation rather than magic.[8] Thomas and penciller Gil Kane then discussed and created the character together, deciding it was more appropriate for the science-fiction based Spider-Man to fight a villain given pseudo-vampiric traits via scientific rather than supernatural means.[9] Kane based the character's look on that of actor Jack Palance.[10] Thomas said the name "Morbius" was not deliberately taken from the antagonist Doctor Morbius in the film Forbidden Planet.[7] The initial two-story arc emphasized that Morbius, like other Spider-Man villains such as the Lizard, was not truly a malicious villain but a tragic and sympathetic character who had unwittingly been changed into a monster, in this case as a result of trying to cure his own rare but fatal blood disease. The story also introduced Morbius' lover Martine Bancroft and revealed that his first victim had been his scientific colleague and great friend Emil Nikos. Later on, Giant-Size Spider-Man #1 (1974) did depict Spider-Man and Dracula together in a story, but the two characters only briefly cross paths while unaware of each other's true nature.

After their initial meeting, Morbius collided again with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #3–4 (July – September 1972) and the one-shot Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 (June 1974). Morbius went on to star in Vampire Tales, a black-and-white horror comics magazine published by Marvel's sister company, Curtis Magazines, appearing in all but two of the mature audience title's 11 issues (August 1973 – June 1975).[11] The first Morbius solo story was written by Steve Gerber, while the rest of the stories save for the last three were written by Don McGregor, with penciling by Rich Buckler and by Tom Sutton, primarily. These stories focused on Morbius as more of a tragic anti-hero, one subject to blackouts and violence but who could also act altruistically towards allies and those he saw as victims of unjust circumstances.

The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #101 (October 1971), the first appearance of Morbius, cover art by Gil Kane and John Romita Sr.
Adventure into Fear #20 (February 1974), Morbius's first starring feature in comics, cover art by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

After his first two Vampire Tales stories, Morbius concurrently became the star of his own feature in Marvel's bimonthly Adventure into Fear anthology series, beginning with issue #20 (February 1974) and continuing through issue #31 (December 1975), the last issue of the series.[12] These were written, successively, by Mike Friedrich, Steve Gerber, Doug Moench and Bill Mantlo, working with a wide variety of pencillers.

Morbius was seen as a tragic figure lamenting his past and willing to stand trail in The Savage She-Hulk #9–12 (Marvel Comics 1980). These stories also showed him willing to lend his expertise to help others who suffered from a mutation or "curse" they did not choose. This continued when Morbius is seen researching the condition of the Werewolf (Jack Russell) in West Coast Avengers (vol. 2) #5 (1986).[13]

1990s anti-hero

Following sporadic appearances as a villain throughout the next 16 years, Morbius was retooled as part of the 1992 "Rise of the Midnight Sons" crossover event, the purpose of which was to launch a new line of horror- and supernatural-themed comics following the success of the new Ghost Rider series. "Rise of the Midnight Sons" featured the new Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch) and Johnny Blaze (the previous Ghost Rider) seeking out the "Midnight Sons", different unique individuals who would eventually be crucial to stopping the demonic Lilith from laying waste to humanity (as well as potentially other threats just as great). This led directly into the new series Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 1), which would run for 32 issues (September 1992 – April 1995). Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 1) #1 showed the title character being mutated further, which altered his abilities slightly, revealed he had untapped "psionic" power, and gave him a more rational, introspective nature. Morbius takes on the role of a lethal vigilante, vowing only to feed on killers who are truly evil and beyond remorse.[4] The next month, Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 1) #2 retroactively explained much of the living vampire's villainy in the past as the result of his initial mutation altering his brain and making him "insane", a condition now alleviated with his latest mutation. Morbius also discovers that his blood disease is no longer in remission and is slowly killing him. This introduces an ongoing series sub-plot wherein Morbius and his trusted friend Dr. Jacob Weisenthal regularly research treatments and anti-viral serums that may put his disease and his condition as a living vampire both into remission. With his ability to reason restored and his newfound purpose as a vigilante rather than a villain, Morbius is seen creating a new cover identity for himself, that of human hematologist Dr. Morgan Michaels.

Rather than only pitting Morbius against Marvel heroes or previously established villains as had been done in the past, new enemies were introduced and created specifically to fight the Living Vampire. These included Dr. Thaddeus Paine,[14] the Basilisk II (Wayne Gifford),[15] Vic Slaughter,[16] Bloodthirst (a demonic presence in Morbius' mind and body who later manifests his own body in issue #20),[17] and Bloodbath.[18] Along with these foes, Morbius the Living Vampire featured recurring appearances of Simon Stroud. Introduced as a rogue CIA agent hunting the Man-Wolf in Creatures on the Loose #37, Stroud had first encountered Morbius in Adventure into Fear #27 and was now determined to end the vampire's life.

To increase awareness and popularity of the 1990s series Morbius the Living Vampire, a reprint series entitled Morbius Revisited was published from 1992 to 1993. The series featured material originally published in Adventure into Fear #27–31. Along with this, Morbius in short, solo stories featured in the anthology series Midnight Sons Unlimited (1993–1995), as well as in Marvel Comics Presents #144, (the one-shot issue Strange Tales: Dark Corners #1 (May 1998), Amazing Fantasy (vol. 2) #17 (March 2006), and the one-shot issue Legion of Monsters: Morbius (September 2007).

As he was now a vigilante and part of the Midnight Sons, Morbius engaged in several team-ups with heroes and anti-heroes throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. He frequently crossed paths with the sorcerer Dr. Strange as well as Ghost Rider and the Nightstalkers, a group which included Blade as well as Hannibal King, a "quasi-vampire" who was similar to Morbius in that he tried to curb his bloodlust so as not to compromise his morals, but unlike Morbius was a truly supernatural being rather than a scientific mutation. In Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 1) #12, Blade is possessed by a demon and, against his will, kills Morbius. Morbius is immediately resurrected in Spirits of Vengeance (vol. 1) #13.

During the 1993 Marvel Comics crossover event Maximum Carnage, Morbius and his longtime adversary Spider-Man temporarily become uneasy allies to stop a New York City murder spree led by the villain Carnage.[19] In Peter Parker: Spider-Man #77-80 (1997), Morbius again teams up with Spider-Man to stop HYDRA agent Loxias Crown, who then becomes another "living vampire" villain called the Hunger.[20]

Morbius the Living Vampire series writer Len Kaminski had regular conflicts with series penciler Ron Wagner. The two were collaborators who used the "Marvel method" of comic book scripting, meaning Kaminksi would plot out the stories, Wagner would then determine more of the narrative details by illustrating the scenes (potentially adding ones) and creating the narrative pace, after which Kaminski would see the art and any notes Wagner had, then either ask for changes or accept the art and fill in the final dialogue and captions. As time went on, Kaminski claimed Wagner often complained about his stories to the editorial staff and left "snide margin notes [in the art] in which he made his personal opinion of my plots clear." Wagner alleged he expressed concerns Kaminski's stories were too introspective and character-focused when a series about a violent vampire who hunted evil people needed to have more action and bloodshed. According to Kaminski, he was willing to discuss the story and series direction further but Wagner ignored his attempts at contact.[21] Marvel Comics sided with Wagner, replacing Kaminski with issue #9 by asking series colorist Gregory Wright to step in as writer.[21] A one-shot special issue, tentatively titled Spider-Man/Venom/Morbius was scheduled for 1993, but never published due to Kaminski's departure from the series. Wagner remained as series penciler until issue #15, then left as well.

Under writer Gregory Wright, the series Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 1) featured the resurrection of Michael's former love Martine Bancroft in issues #13-17. The storyline ended with Martine now alive again due to mystical forces but no longer able to experience her full range of emotions. Throughout the rest of the series, Martine shifts from supporting character to occasional antagonist as she sometimes clashes with Morbius due to resentment over the circumstances of her resurrection and the pursuit of restoring her emotions sometimes placing other in danger.

Wright stayed as writer on Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 1) until issue #23. Pat Mills wrote issue #24 in 1994, after which Lisa Trusiani took over as series writer. She remained in this role until issue #32, when the series was canceled due to declining sales and waning fan interest. The series ends with Morbius being mutated once again by an anti-viral serum that saves his life but results in his now once again losing his ability to reason and experiencing blackouts when his bloodlust is too strong. This leads him to abandon his vigilante life and the double identity of Dr. Morgan Michaels.[5] The final story arc of the series does not resolve whether or not Morbius' blood disease is still killing him, despite his vampiric regenerative abilities, or if the newest anti-viral system finally put the disease back into remission. The final story arc also does not resolve the fact that Martine is left an undead person obsessed with Morbius (though this is finally resolved in 2010). Since the series' cancellation, there has been no further depiction of Morbius' 1990s supporting cast of friend Jacob Weisenthal or his love interests Mandy Tyler and Lena Ivana.

For the next several years, Morbius once again made sporadic appearances as an uneasy ally or outright villain who encountered other heroes, particularly Spider-Man.

2000s

In 2010, Morbius and Martine both appear in Amazing Spider-Man #622, written by Fred Van Lente and illustrated by Joe Quinones. The story features Martine, having now become a true, undead vampire, fighting Morbius and Spider-Man. Morbius ends Martine Bancroft's life by driving a stake through her heart and then scattering her ashes.

In 2011, the Marvel Comics series Legion of Monsters (vol. 2) featured Morbius, Jack Russell, and other supernatural-themed characters as a loose-knit team hunting more dangerous monsters. Morbius then appeared in the 2011 crossover event "Spider-Island", after which he was seen being incarcerated at the Raft, a prison made for supervillains.

On October 17, 2012, Marvel announced that Morbius would appear in a new comic book series by writer Joe Keatinge and artist Richard Elson. Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 2) began publication in January 2013. Unlike the 1990s series that featured Morbius as a violent anti-hero, this series referred to him as a "hunted, haunted fugitive", who was now dealing with weakened abilities and mental depression following his escape from the Raft. The series featured the vampire protagonist once again attempting to cure himself of his condition while dealing with New York gangs, including the crime lord known as the Rose. It also expanded Morbius' pre-living vampire history, revealing more information about his mother and his childhood friendship with Emil Nikos. Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 2) met with mixed reviews and low sales, and was cancelled after nine issues.[22]

During the 2019 crossover event Absolute Carnage, Morbius was seen as one of several characters opposing the mass murderer Carnage and the Cult of Knull. In late 2019, Morbius starred in a new series, now simply titled Morbius, written by Vita Ayala with art by Marcelo Ferreira, Francisco Mobili, and Roberto Poggi. The series featured several appearances by Spider-Man, as well as new character Elizabeth Nikos, sister of Morbius' friend, scientific collaborator, and then victim Emil Nikos. Although plans and promotions were released for at least eight issues, the series was abruptly put on hiatus after issue #5 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced Marvel Comics to halt or slow down several operations. Rather than continue with the series, it was later officially cancelled.[23]

In 2021, Marvel published a one-shot entitled Morbius: Bond of Blood, written by Ralph Macchio, with art by Tom Reilly and Chris O'Halloran. The one-shot featured the appearance and death of Christos Nikos, son of Emil Nikos.[24]

Fictional character biography

Michael Alexander Morbius is born and raised in Greece by his single mother, and experiences a largely isolated childhood due to a rare and fatal blood condition. His only true friend during this time is a boy named Emil Nikos who, like him, is interested in medicine and science. Intellectually gifted, Morbius spends much of his isolation reading and studying. In time, he becomes a highly respected and Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and biologist with a medical degree in hematology. As an adult, Morbius researches a means to cure his own fatal condition, hiring Emil Nikos as his research partner and a woman named Martine Bancroft as his office assistant. Martine and Michael fall in love and become engaged to be married.[3]

After years of research, Michael Morbius attempts a radical cure on himself involving chemical treatments, samples of vampire bat DNA, and electroshock therapy. The experiment puts the blood disease into remission but radically mutates Morbius into a "living vampire" with enhanced abilities. To keep his disease in remission, Morbius must now feed on fresh blood regularly or risk death. His appearance and personality also shift, making him now prone to bouts of rage, paranoia, and bloodlust. During one of these early bouts of bloodlust and madness, Morbius' first victim is his friend Emil.[3] Horrified by his actions and mutation, Morbius leaves for New York to conduct more research in secret. He encounters the scientist-turned-monster known as the Lizard and the adventurer Spider-Man, who at the time is dealing with a mutation that has left him with extra limbs. Samples of Morbius' blood lead the Lizard to revert to his human form of Curt Connors and allows Spider-Man to lose his extra limbs.[3] It is discovered that a few of Morbius' victims did not die and are now infected with a form of his own mutation, giving them increased strength and bloodlust but no further superhuman abilities. Michael and Martine synthesize an antidote for these victims, but the serum does not work on his own condition. Overtaken by bloodlust, Morbius attacks Martine, turning her into a pseudo-vampire as well. After using their serum to cure her, Morbius leaves rather than endanger Martine again.[3]

Morbius eventually leaves New York, moving location frequently to avoid capture. During this time, he rescues Amanda Saint from a Satanic cult known as Demon-Fire,[25] then encounters John Jameson, who at the time is cursed to sometimes transform into the Man-Wolf. Alongside the Man-Wolf, Morbius battles Spider-Man again.[26] Later, Morbius encounters Reverend Daemond, the Caretakers of the planet Arcturus IV, the Cat People of the Land Within, Tara the Girlchild,[27] the Living Eraser,[28] and the extra-dimensional demon known as Helleyes.[29] He also meets superhuman adventurers such as the Werewolf (Jack Russell),[30] [31] Blade,[32] the Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze),[31] the Man-Thing (Ted Sallis),[31] the original X-Men[33] and the Human Torch[34] and the Thing,[28] both members of the Fantastic Four. During this time, he continues to frequently clash with Spider-Man.

Later on, Morbius meets rogue CIA agent Simon Stroud and together they fight a group of new pseudo-vampires created by Morbius's infection. One of these pseudo-vampires infects Martine, turning her into a living vampire as well. Thanks to Morbius' efforts, Martine is cured and the other pseudo-vampires destroyed. Morbius then flees, concluding he is still a danger to Martine.[35] After this, he befriends desperate landowner Alicia Twain (later avenging her murder)[36] and battles Morgana St. Clair, an enigmatic vampire expert living in England who was a member of the Satanic cult known as the Brotherhood of Judas.[37] Morbius later enlists help in finding a cure for his pseudo-vampirism from his old friend Ronson Slade, a scientist. Slade, however, becomes a werewolf and Morbius is forced to kill him.[38]

Remission

During another battle with Spider-Man, Morbius succeeds in feeding on a sample of the hero's irradiated blood. By chance, Morbius is then hit by a lightning bolt at the same time. Morbius survives the lightning and discovers he is seemingly human again, his appearance, sanity, and normal human traits restored, though his blood disease has returned and he now requires frequent treatment and blood transfusions.[39] While continuing to research how to stabilize a full cure, Dr. Michael Morbius agrees to stand trial for his several crimes over the years and hires attorney Jennifer Walters (whose identity as the She-Hulk is not publicly known at the time). Later, Morbius learns of Walters' status as the She-Hulk and that she suffers from sometimes erratic transformations. He gives her a serum based on research regarding his own condition and Walters finds herself now able to change form at will (though with effort). In court, Walters' argues that Morbius' crimes as a living vampire were due in large part to his "medical condition" affecting his ability to reason, while adding that most of Morbius' victims survived and were cured of pseudo-vampirism by the biochemist himself. Taking this into account, the court finds Morbius guilty of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder.[40]

For the next few years of his life, Morbius continues to research his disease while acting as a consultant to others. He becomes a closer friend to the werewolf Jack Russell and offers information to the Avengers that helps them on a case. Eventually, despite his efforts, Morbius reverts to being a living vampire.[41] Working alongside several allies, the sorcerer Doctor Strange is able to use the "Montesi Formula" (a spell found in the Darkhold) to banish all undead vampires from Earth's dimension. Morbius is unaffected since he is a scientific mutation and not a supernatural creature. The only other vampire to be unaffected is Hannibal King, a vampire detective who refused to ever feed on living people and so was spared from the spell's effects. Years later, alongside the sorcerers Doctor Strange and Brother Voodoo, Morbius battles Marie Laveau and witnesses the return of true vampires to Earth's dimension.[42]

Frustrated by his repeated failures to cure himself, Morbius takes refuge in the sewers of New York City and discovers a community of underground dwellers who offer to help him in exchange for protection. The community brings Morbius "bad ones" to feed on and Morbius believes from their descriptions that these people brought to him are killers themselves. After feeding on several victims, Morbius is confronted by Spider-Man, who accuses him of becoming a serial killer. Discovering the underground community deems anyone living on the surface to be a "bad one", Morbius is horrified to realize he has murdered people at random. Disgusted at himself, Morbius flees into the sewers and falls deeper into depression.[43]

Midnight Sons

Soon after Spider-Man and Morbius' confrontation in the sewers, Johnny Blaze and the new Ghost Rider (whose human host is Danny Ketch) learn that Lilith the "Mother of All Demons", has returned to Earth's dimension and intends to lay waste to humanity with help from her children and descendants, the Lilin. The Ghost Rider experiences a vision of several individuals who together can oppose Lilith, an alliance known as "the nine" or "the Midnight Sons." Seeing that Morbius is one of the Midnight Sons, the Ghost Rider and Blaze track him down with the aid of Martine Bancroft and her ally Dr. David Langford, a biochemist she hopes can cure Michael at last. Secretly, Langford is working with a villainous scientist named Dr. Thaddeus Paine who intends to kill Morbius and then conduct research on his mutated body. Langford's "cure" will actually simply kill. Not knowing this, and wishing to sabotage the effort to help Morbius, Lilith sends one of her Lilin to use their own demonic blood to poison Lanford's serum.[1]

After a brief battle with the Ghost Rider and Blaze, Morbius is subdued and taken to Lanford's lab, where he is given the false cure. The result of Langford's serum mixed with demon blood creates a new mutagenic agent, altering the living vampire's abilities and appearance while also largely restoring his sanity and true personality. Confused by his new state, Morbius seeks out his old friend and colleague, Dr. Jacob Weisenthal, a general practitioner. Meanwhile, Martine discovers Langford's treachery and he kills her. Morbius arrives moments later, feeding on Langford and then realizing he feels no guilt over ending the life of a corrupt and remorseless killer. When the Ghost Rider and Blaze arrive on the scene, Morbius explains the situation and vows he is not an enemy of the innocent. From now on, if he must feed on living people, it will be "the blood of the guilty," villains "who deserve to die."[1] The Ghost Rider accepts this, warning Morbius this vow may not be easy to follow. Days later, Morbius and the other Midnight Sons hold their first official alliance meeting and join forces against Lilith.[44] Despite his agreement to fight Lilith, Morbius is immediately looked on with suspicion by the Midnight Sons known as the Nightstalkers, a trio of vampire hunters and occult investigators that includes Hannibal King (whose vampire abilities have returned), the half-vampire Blade, and Frank Drake, the last living mortal descendant of Dracula.[44]

Over the next year, Morbius confronts several new foes, including Dr. Paine,[14] the Basilisk II (Wayne Gifford),[15] Vic Slaughter,[16] and Bloodbath.[18] During the initial battle with Vic Slaughter and his team the Hardcases, Martine Bancroft's tombstone is damaged by gunfire. Enraged, Morbius kills the Hardcases and drains Slaughter of some blood but then buries the villain alive rather than killing him outright. Morbius leaves, believing his bite no longer infects people with partial pseudo-vampirism. Morbius later discovers that if he drains a certain amount from a victim, the infection of his bite is actually more powerful than before. Vic Slaughter rises from near-death as a new living vampire, his abilities equal to Morbius.[45]

Despite not being trusted by many of them, Morbius continues to join the Midnight Sons in battles against evil whenever they need his help. He also aids Spider-Man, Venom, the Black Cat and other superheroes against a gang of supervillains led by spree killers Carnage and Shriek during the crossover event called Maximum Carnage.[46] During a battle with the dream-empowered villain Nightmare, Morbius learns that his new mutation due to demon blood has made him immortal in the traditional sense, meaning he can die from injury but no longer ages.[47] Soon afterward, Blade is influenced by outside forces and becomes the corrupted Switchblade. He kills several allies, including Morbius.[48] Soon afterward, Blade is cured of his possession and his victims magically restored, including Michael Morbius.[49] From Dr. Paine, Morbius learns that his blood disease is not in full remission and will eventually still kill him despite constantly feeding on fresh blood and his otherwise impressive regenerative abilities.[14] With help from Jacob Weisenthal, Morbius researches how to at least alleviate his condition if a cure is impossible. With newly obtained samples of Spider-Man's blood, Morbius and Weisenthal create an "anti-viral" serum that restores his human form for several hours at a time. Now able to operate for part of the day as a normal man, Morbius creates the cover identity of Dr. Morgan Michaels and attains a job as a hematologist at St. Jude's Memorial Hospital in New York.[16] As a hematologist, Morbius is able to steal collected blood donations to briefly alleviate his bloodlust in-between feeding on living people, although the preservatives and anti-coagulants used with donated blood means it will poison the living vampire if he ingests too much. He also attains a hyperbolic chamber and dialysis equipment, allowing him to oxygenate his blood and cleanse his system as he sleeps.[16]

Jack Russell tracks Morbius to St. Jude's Hospital, offering to help the man learn how to live with his newest mutation rather than attempt to fight it. Morbius refuses this viewpoint, arguing that being a living vampire is a curse he should not accept.[48] Later, fearing his condition is worsening, Morbius attempts to cure himself with "necro-technology" used by the Nightstalkers. But this fails. Morbius also attempts feeding on the blood of the vampire Hannibal King to see if it affects him, only to discover his body simply rejects vampire blood since it is "lifeless."[50]

At the hospital, Morbius meets and is romantically pursued by Mandy Tyler, the executive administrative assistant of the hospital's hematology department. Mandy later learns of Morbius' true nature and tells him she accepts it. On a date, Mandy reveals she is part of a private fetish club whose members emulate vampires by drinking blood. Morbius meets the club's leader, Brian DeWolff. Formerly the vigilante called the Wraith, Brian is secretly using psionic powers to turn the club members into followers who will perform terrorist acts against the NYPD. With the cyborg Deathlok, Morbius halts the "vampire cult" from committing a terrorist bombing and then seemingly kills Brian.[51]

Thanks to traces of Lilin blood still in Morbius' body, the spirit of a Lilin called Bloodthirst begins guiding the living vampire's mind. Bloodthirst influences Morbius to use the Darkhold, a book of corrupt magic, to resurrect Martine Bancroft. Morbius then realizes this was a scheme by the Lilin, who use Martine's body so that one of their own, a being called Parasite, may now have a body.[52] Bloodthirst then takes full possession of Morbius body and attacks the Midnight Sons with the help of Martine/Parasite. With help from Dr. Strange, Morbius reasserts control over his own body. To defeat Parasite, Morbius then kills Martine's body, forcing the Lilin spirit out of her form so it can be destroyed. Later, Martine's true spirit is revived and restored to her body, but the resurrection process leaves her undead, unable to feel touch. She also claims to lack her full ability to experience emotions, including the love she used to have for Michael.[52] Martine moves into Morbius' home but becomes frustrated by her new condition.[17] Soon afterward, Morbius expels the traces of Lilin blood in his body so the demon Bloodthirst cannot influence him further. Bloodthirst is able to manifest a new, vampiric body for himself and seriously injures both Jacob and Mandy before Morbius finally destroys him. Morbius decides to distance himself from Mandy in order to protect her.[17]

Morbius later encounters Lena Ivana, a woman kidnapped from her home in Eastern Europe and then forced into sex work in New York City. After freeing her, Morbius becomes enamored with Lena. In contrast, she fears Morbius after seeing how quickly he kills criminals. Despite this, Morbius hopes to see her again and suggests to Lena she seeks medical treatment from "Dr. Morgan Michaels." Unaware this is the living vampire who frightens her, Lena finds herself drawn to Dr. Michaels. Lena then takes a job at St. Jude's Memorial Hospital as well, working in the morgue and seeing Dr. Michaels often.[53]

Martine Bancroft becomes obsessed with having her humanity restored, accusing her former lover of stealing her emotions and dismissing her from his life. Morbius points out that Martine's changed attitude and lack of love for him cannot be due to a lack of emotions because she clearly feels anger, resentment, hope, frustration, and envy. Though he promises to continue searching for a way to cure her of being undead, he says that he and Martine cannot resume a relationship, due to their feelings for each other changing. After fighting Morbius and then hurling herself through a window, Martine leaves but rents a nearby apartment so she can continue spying on her former lover. She then begins a casual romantic relationship with Jack Russell.[53]

Return of the monster

Lena Ivana's influence leads Morbius to reconsider his vow to only feed on the guilty, realizing he does not investigate his criminal victims enough to fully if they are in need of help or can be reformed. He decides it is better to abstain from feeding and simply allow himself to die rather than continue to justify murder. Realizing his friend intends suicide, Jack Russell confronts Morbius and they fight. Weakened by the fight and a lack of blood for several days, Morbius is then exposed to the rising sun and quickly burns. Jacob Weisenthal arrives and administers his latest attempt at a cure for Morbius' mutation, but the pseudo-vampire seemingly dies. Jacob and Jack Russell arrange for a midnight burial attended by the Midnight Sons, Martine, and Lena. Possibly thanks to Jacob's latest anti-viral serum, Morbius suddenly heals and regains consciousness, rising from his grave.[54]

As a result of Jacob's serum, Morbius seems to lose his bloodlust and only temporarily achieves a partial vampiric appearance every night at midnight. Jacob becomes alarmed that Morbius is experiencing blackouts again and may be feeding without realizing it, but Michael insists he is cured and continues pursuing Lena romantically. Enraged with jealousy, Martine meets with Lena and tells her Dr. Morgan Michaels is actually the living vampire Michael Morbius. Feeling betrayed, Lena leaves Michael. Morbius then realizes he is experiencing bloodlust again and losing his reason as he regains his full vampiric appearance. After blacking out, Morbius realizes he has attacked and fed on a random person. Jacob's latest "cure" has only made him once again a monster who loses reason and sanity when he feels a need to feed, no longer able to maintain any kind of morality or any vow to only feed on the "blood of the guilty." Driven by his hunger and once again a danger to anyone around him, Morbius abandons his Morgan Michaels identity and leaves behind Jacob and St. Jude's Memorial Hospital.[5] Although Jacob's serum did not cure his pseudo-vampirism, it evidently put his blood disease back into remission, as it is never mentioned again that the disease is still killing him.[14]

Once again a fugitive, Morbius escapes detection for some time while occasionally clashing with Spider-Man. An encounter with the mutant Nate Grey leads Morbius' hunger to temporarily increase.[55] Frightened that his condition is worsening, Morbius seeks out help from hematologist Dr. Andrea Janson. Before he can be helped, he is captured and tortured by HYDRA agent Loxias Crown. He then assists both Spider-Man and S.H.O.C. against the terrorist organization and drains Crown of blood before leaving him for dead.[20] Rather than die, Crown becomes a new vampiric villain called the Hunger and creates a cult of vampire followers.[56] Later, Morbius is kidnapped and biologically engineered to be more powerful so he can oppose the Hunger. He is freed by Spider-Man and Blade, but the identity of who kidnapped and experimented on him is never revealed.[57]

Years later, the Superhuman Registration Act is passed, obligating anyone with superhuman abilities to register with S.H.I.E.L.D. and comply with its authority. For a time, Morbius submits to the SRA and joins an effort to capture Blade.[58] Later, during an invasion from the Marvel Zombies universe of Earth-2149, Morbius is seen as a member of A.R.M.O.R. and fights a zombie version of himself.[59] Shortly afterward, Morbius forms a new version of the Midnight Sons with Jennifer Kale, Daimon Hellstrom, Jack Russell and the Man-Thing. Together, they contain a zombie outbreak on an isolated island, briefly encountering the Hood in the process.[60] Morbius also helps the Man-Thing revive the Punisher (Frank Castle) into the monster called Franken-Castle.[61]

When Morbius concludes that Spider-Man's cells may help cure Jack Russell of being a werewolf, he steals samples of the Web-Slinger's blood. Spider-Man learns Morbius is behind the theft from Martine Bancroft, who has allowed herself to become a supernatural vampire. The hero finds Morbius and Martine arrives, declaring once more her desire to reunite with her former lover and offering to kill his frequent enemy Spider-Man as a show of love. Morbius refuses to endanger Spider-Man and argues that Martine's feeling for him is only a longing for completion because her soul has not been intact since her resurrection. Seeing that Spider-Man cannot bring himself to kill even a vampire, Morbius takes action and kills Martine with wood through the heart, causing her body to disintegrate to ashes that are scattered. Despite their history as enemies, the web-slinger voluntarily donates more blood samples to Morbius to aid his research.[62]

After briefly working with Doctor Octopus,[63] Morbius accepts an offer to become a researcher at Horizon Labs, given access to advanced equipment in exchange for sharing his research with company head Max Modell. To keep his identity hidden from the other researchers who may not approve, Morbius stays hidden and is referred to only as Number Six, since he occupies Lab 6. Peter Parker later learns the truth of Number Six's identity during the "Spider-Island" affair. Morbius is later confronted by authorities and taken to the super-villain prison known as the Raft, but escapes during a large-scale breakout. Taking refuge in the neighborhood of Brownsville, he becomes a local protector, leading to confrontations with the newest criminal to call himself the Rose (Phillip Hayes). During this time, he develops a friendship with Bucky Barnes and encounters his long-estranged father Makarioa Morbius.[64]

During a journey to Barcelona, Morbius is captured by local vampires. He then joins forces with Domino, Diamondback and Outlaw to defeat them before Domino helps him escape a vampire hunter.[65] Morbius later becomes involved in a Vampire Civil War and is rescued from Dracula's disciples by Wasp and the Man-Wolf.[66] When the mass murderer Carnage and the Cult of Knull threaten humanity, Morbius joins efforts to oppose them. Later, Morbius finds himself hunted by Elizabeth Nikos, the sister of his longtime friend, scientific collaborator, and first victim Emil Nikos. Not long after that, Morbius also meets Emil's son, Christos Nikos, who hopes the living vampire's genetics may cure him of his own fatal illness. These efforts fail and Christos dies.[67]

During the "Beyond" story line, Morbius briefly fights the new Spider-Man Ben Reilly (a clone of Peter Parker) before fleeing. After taking a sample of Reilly's blood, which is identical to Parker's on a cellular level, Morbius realizes Spider-Man's blood will no longer work in creating even a temporary cure for his pseudo-vampirism.[68] Upon being taken to Beyond Corporation's secret facility on Staten Island, Morbius' genetic template is used to help create Creature Z, a "binary clone" of Morbius himself and a genetic duplicate of the Lizard. Morbius helps Misty Knight and Colleen Wing fight it Creature Z and is able to destroy the creature with his own blood.[69]

Powers and abilities

Even before he contracted the disease of pseudo-vampirism, Michael Morbius already possessed a genius-level intellect. He is an M.D.[1] with a Ph.D in biochemistry. A biologist specializing in hematology,[70] Michael Morbius is an expert radiologist and a Nobel laureate.[1] His own condition as a "living vampire" and his frequent studies of superhumans such as Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Martine Bancroft (when she was resurrected as an undead being), and the werewolf Jack Russell have made him an authority on superhuman mutation, including those influenced by magical forces.

Experimental procedures have turned Michael Morbius into a pseudo-vampire. As opposed to a true undead vampire who is reanimated by supernatural forces, Morbius is still a living being with no inherent supernatural or magical energies (though he has at times been temporarily affected or tainted by demonic forces). As such, his abilities, traits, and weaknesses are similar to but do not exactly align with those of true undead vampires that inhabit the Marvel Universe. Due to his second mutation being influenced by demon blood, Morbius has become immortal in the traditional sense, meaning he no longer ages.[71] This immortality has remained with him even after all traces of demon blood were removed from his body.

Morbius' senses are somewhat enhanced, granting him greater hearing, taste, and smell, as well as night-vision.[72] His talons are able to easily tear through flesh, bone, and wood (though not metal or concrete). Morbius' mutation has altered and increased the strength of his skeleton, as well as his muscle tissue. He has superhuman strength allowing him to lift nearly two tons of weight.[73] He has resistance to physical injury a few times greater than that of an average human being, making it more difficult to burn him, pierce his organs, or break his bones.

Morbius has advanced regenerative abilities (though his healing is not as strong as that of Dracula or the mutant Wolverine).[74] Given time, he can recover from many and multiple wounds that would be fatal for a normal human being. Bullet wounds can be fully healed in hours, while more severe damage such as broken bones, major damage to organs, and severe burns may take a few days to recover (fresh blood will also enhance his cellular regeneration). If the injuries are severe enough and he is not given time to heal before further injury or is unable to ingest sufficient blood in due time, he will succumb to his wounds and die. Morbius has also concluded that he would be unable to regenerate lost limbs and organs if they were completely destroyed.

Morbius has psionic abilities that allow him to hypnotize others.[75] The strength of this hypnosis varies from person to person, allowing Morbius to either influence them subtly or to alter their short-term memory of a recent event. Some people, such as those who are aware of Morbius' hypnotic abilities, seem more resistant to this power. Morbius' psionic power also allows for a limited telekinetic-like ability that allows him to glide on air currents and aids him in climbing surfaces such as walls. While gliding, his top speed is believed to be roughly 35 mph.

Morbius has often used specialized clothing to aid him. His original costume had bat-like wings attached to the arms to aid him in gliding. He later wore a reinforced leather outfit to provide extra protection in battle. Later on, he used Horizon Labs resources to develop personal body armor.[76]

Most of Morbius's victims die from blood loss, even those he does not drain completely. On rare occasion, Morbius' bite has infected a victim with a mutation similar but weaker to his own, giving them some enhanced strength and a desire for blood but no psionic or healing abilities. This occurred with his former fiancé Martine Bancroft, as well as the characters Jefferson Bolt (seen in Marvel Team-Up #3), Emilio (seen in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #7), Nate Grey (in X-Man #24), and a woman named Roxy (Legion of Monsters: Morbius #1). When Morbius was temporarily infected by demonic Lilin blood, his bite caused the bounty hunter Vic Slaughter to become another living vampire with near equal power and abilities. On one occasion, Morbius bit Blade the Vampire-Slayer, who is himself a dhampir (or "half-vampire"), a being halfway between being a vampire and a normal human being, and the result was that Blade temporarily became a full vampire.

While he was infected with demonic Lilin blood, Morbius was able to collapse his body into a near-liquid, putty-like state that allowed him to pass through cracks in barriers and doors. He lost this ability after expelling the Lilin blood from his body.

Weaknesses

As he is not a true undead vampire, Morbius is unaffected by religious symbols or objects considered holy and he is not affected by wood or silver more than other metals or substances that may damage his body.[77] While he is vulnerable to direct sunlight, he will not be reduced to ash by it as may happen with supernatural vampires. Instead, Morbius' skin will take several minutes to blister and burn and it will take several minutes more before he risks being overwhelmed by pain and dehydration. If he is weakened, the burns may become more severe more rapidly, killing him after only a few minutes. Even if he is not in direct sunlight, ambient radiation from the sun weakens his abilities and health unless he is properly protected by lead or concrete barriers.

To keep his blood disease from returning at an accelerated rate that will quickly kill him, Morbius must regularly drain and feed on blood from living people. He does not require blood on a daily basis, but his need does increase the longer he goes without blood or if he is injured or engages in strenuous activity. Throughout his life since his mutation, Morbius has often been vulnerable to losing all reason and moral inhibition when he is overwhelmed by bloodlust, causing him to feed and not realize his own actions until minutes later.

Supernatural vampires in the Marvel Universe are sometimes able to survive by draining blood from animals or recently deceased people or even other vampires (the vampire Hannibal King survived for a time by feeding on the recently buried dead). Morbius, however, is unable to be nourished from these same sources and must rely on blood from living human beings. As a stop-gap, Morbius has used collected blood from blood banks when he is desperate to keep his bloodlust at bay. However, the chemical preservatives and anti-coagulants used by blood banks make donated blood a poor source of nourishment for Morbius and will poison him if he ingests such samples regularly or in great enough quantity.

On more than one occasion, Spider-Man's irradiated blood (used in tandem with electricity or other chemical agents) has put Morbius' vampiric mutation into remission for hours or even years at a time, leaving him a non-powered human being with normal human vulnerabilities.[39] On a few occasions, however, Morbius has been greatly injured while in his human form and instead of dying the shock of the injuries has triggered his vampiric form and abilities to immediately return.[16]

Reception

Accolades

Other versions

House of M

In the House of M series, Michael Morbius appears in a flashback as one of the scientists (along with Jonas Harrow and Farley Stillwell) behind Luke Cage's powers.[88]

Marvel MAX

Morbius appears in Dead of Night featuring Werewolf by Night #4 as one of the anomalous beings contained and experimented on by the Babylon Group. When Jack Russell attempts to escape from the Babylon Group with his infant daughter, the facility tries to stop him by unleashing Morbius and the Frankenstein Monster. In the ensuing brawl, Morbius's heart is punched out by the Monster.[89]

Marvel Zombies 4

A zombified version of Morbius the Living Vampire appears in the 2008–2009 Marvel Zombies 4 miniseries. The real Morbius of Earth-616 (the mainstream Marvel Universe) is kidnapped and beaten by his zombie counterpart, who found a way from the Marvel Zombies universe into the Marvel Universe. The zombie Morbius holds the real one captive while using a latex mask to look normal.[59] It is revealed that he plans to infect every member of the Fifty State Initiative with the zombie virus. His captivity is later inadvertently uncovered by an A.R.M.O.R. team member, whom Morbius tries to warn of an impending attack. The warning comes too late, as Morbius's zombie counterpart attacks the team member and infects her, thus creating a violent chain of events after she attacks another team member.[90] Towards the end of the crisis, the real Morbius appears out of nowhere and grabs a tree, which he uses as a stake and stabs his zombified version from behind and straight into the heart, killing him instantly.[91]

Ultimate Marvel

The Ultimate Marvel version of Morbius is more akin to a traditional vampire, the son of Dracul and brother of Vlad III Dracula himself.[92] He has all of the powers and abilities associated with the usual interpretation of Dracula. This version of Morbius, however, seems to be heroically struggling against his baser instincts and is, in fact, a vampire hunter. He meets Spider-Man in a typical misunderstanding, centering on a cabal of vampires attacking Ben Urich. He tries to stop Urich from becoming a vampire, in which he succeeds, despite the conflict. When Spider-Man is bitten by a vampire, Morbius sniffs Spider-Man and determines that the young superhero is immune to vampirism.[93]

"Spider-Geddon"

During the "Spider-Geddon" story line, different versions of Morbius are seen:

Infinity Warps

In this new universe, Morbius is fused with Morpheus and is an enemy of the hero Arachknight (a fusion of Spider-Man and Moon Knight).[96]

In other media

Television

Film

Video games

Miscellaneous

In The Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip, Michael Morbius returns to New York, seemingly cured of his pseudo-vampirism, and with a fiancé, Martine Bancroft. However, at night, he begins exhibiting his old symptoms and comes into conflict with Spider-Man. It is later revealed that Bancroft is behind his troubles and gained her own vampiric abilities after she was attacked and killed by Dracula.

Collected editions

Title Material collected Publication date ISBN
Morbius the Living Vampire: The Man Called Morbius Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 2) #1–9, The Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 November 5, 2013 978-0785183914
Morbius: Old Wounds Morbius the Living Vampire (vol. 1) #1–5 March 9, 2020 978-1302920999
Morbius: Preludes and Nightmares The Amazing Spider-Man #101–102, Marvel Team-Up #3–4, Fear #20, The Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 November 24, 2020 978-1302925925

Marvel Epic Collections

Volume Subtitle Years covered Material collected Publication date ISBN
1 The Living Vampire 1971–1975 The Amazing Spider-Man #101–102; Marvel Team-Up #3–4; Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1; Adventure into Fear #20–26; Giant-Size Werewolf #4; material from Vampire Tales #1–5, 7–8 February 23, 2021 978-1302928353
2 The End of a Living Vampire 1975–1981 Adventure into Fear #27–31; Marvel Premiere #28; Marvel Two-in-One #15; Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #6–8, #38; The Savage She-Hulk #9–12; material from Vampire Tales #10–11 and Marvel Preview #8 May 25, 2021 978-1302928346

Marvel Omnibus

Title Material collected Publication date ISBN
Morbius the Living Vampire Omnibus The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #101–102; Marvel Team-Up #3–4; Giant-Size Super Heroes #1; Adventure into Fear #20–31; Giant-Size Werewolf #4; Marvel Premiere #28; Marvel Two-in-One #15; Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #6–8, 38; The Savage She-Hulk #9–12; material from Vampire Tales #1–5, 7–8, 10–11 and Marvel Preview #8, plus extras July 7, 2020 978-1302922405

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