Final issue of Morbius's series..


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1971
Creators: Roy Thomas (writer) and Gil Kane (artist)
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In 1971, when Comics Code Authority strictures against werewolves, vampires and the like were loosened, Marvel Comics began a wholesale move in that direction. The first …

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… such character they introduced, preceding their version of Dracula by an entire six months, wasn't quite a supernatural guy. He merely looked and acted just like a vampire and had all the usual vampiric assets and deficits with the sole exception of not being undead.

Morbius the Living Vampire started out as a Spider-Man villain, appearing in the wall-crawler's 101st issue (October, 1971). The story was written by Roy Thomas (The Invaders, Infinity, Inc.) and drawn by Gil Kane (The Atom, Space Cabby). A few years later, the same team was responsible for Iron Fist.

Unlike most super-villain monickers, "Morbius" was not an assumed name. He was originally Dr. Michael Morbius, a Nobel-winning scientist dying of a rare blood disease, who attempted to find a cure by experimenting with vampire bats (which in reality are tiny creatures that wound their victims and lap up a little blood while it's flowing, but in the Marvel Universe apparently have more potent qualities). His attempt failed, until he tried activating the bat enzymes with electrical shock. The results were instantaneous — by the time the electricity had finished coursing through him, he had super strength, chalk-white skin, and even sharp fangs. He also had an intense craving for blood to replace what the disease was eating away, so his first act as a "pseudo-vampire" was to kill his assistant. Sated, he reverted to human form, and at least had the decency to be appalled by what he'd done. Still, he did it again whenever the blood-lust hit him.

After a few bouts with Spidey (one of which also involved The Human Torch and The X-Men), Morbius got a series of his own in the magazine-sized (i.e., packaged like Mad magazine) Vampire Tales, starting about the middle of 1973 (the first issue didn't have a cover date). He was handled there by several writers and artists until the title's demise in June, 1975. Vampire Tales also introduced a couple of minor Marvel she-demons, Lilith and Satana.

Morbius also had a regular-sized, full-color series, scripted by Mike Friedrich (best known as a comics industry talent agent) and drawn by Paul Gulacy (Master of Kung Fu). In the 20th issue of Adventures into Fear (February, 1974), he replaced the resident horror, Man-Thing, beginning a two-year stay in that title. It ended when Fear folded, with #31 (December, 1975). During the course of the series, he naturally clashed with Blade the Vampire Hunter, and equally naturally, it wasn't easy for the reader to decide to who root for.

In the February, 1975 issue of Marvel Premiere, he had an adventure with The Ghost Rider, Man-Thing and Marvel's Werewolf, who collectively were dubbed The Legion of Monsters. Since he was the only one in the group that made even a remotely credible team player, it wasn't seen again.

Meanwhile, Morbius continued looking for a cure for his condition. But when he finally found one, he turned it over to Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, who was also suffering from a blood malady that made sense only in the superhero world. In return, when he finally did get human again, she represented him in court and managed to engineer a mere slap on the wrist for his multiple murders.

As a scientist and former living vampire, Dr. Michael Morbius still turns up in Marvel comics from time to time.


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Text ©2003-04 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.