To better understand what Morbius represents, we share with you everything you need to know about the character
Sony Pictures chose Jared Leto to bring to life Morbius, the living vampire, one of Spider-Man’s most iconic villains… but who like many of the Spider-Man’s other foes, has also become something of an anti-hero when the world needs him.
Who is Michael Morbius?
Dr. Michael Morbius was a high-level biochemist suffering from an extremely rare and deadly blood disease. Desperate for a cure, he conducted dangerous experiments with the DNA of a vampire bat and inadvertently transformed himself into a “living vampire”. While he was not bitten by one of the many vampires that live in the Marvel Universe, Morbius’ condition has many similarities to these characters; he has an endless thirst for blood and must live forever away from humanity.
Despite the cruelty that life has dealt him, Morbius does his best to use his vampiric knowledge and abilities for the greater good. He has proven himself to be a hero on several occasions and an ally of Spider-Man in teams such as the Midnight Sons.
Powers and abilities
Although Morbius is not a vampire in the traditional, supernatural sense, he has many of the same abilities. He possesses superhuman strength and speed, limited flight, and the ability to hypnotise others. He also has a Wolverine-like healing factor that allows him to recover from otherwise fatal injuries. Morbius can sometimes infect his victims with “pseudo-vampirism”, although this only happens in certain cases.
Morbius also possesses some traditional vampire weaknesses. He has a constant need for human blood, a need he goes to great lengths to satisfy by using serums rather than taking human victims. He has developed a special formula using Spider-Man’s blood that quenches his thirst for longer periods of time. His skin is also susceptible to daylight, though not to the same extent as most vampires. Morbius also lacks traditional vampiric weaknesses such as crosses, garlic, and holy water.
Morbius was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane. He debuted in 1971 in The Amazing Spider-Man #101. He was the first Spidey villain not written by Spider-creator Stan Lee.
The character was conceived after the Comics Code Authority removed certain restrictions on the use of vampires and supernatural creatures in comics. Morbius’ status as a “living vampire” was necessary to comply with CCA regulations. The character was inspired by Thomas’ love of classic science fiction films, while Kane specifically modelled Morbius’ appearance on actor Jack Palance.
Initially, Morbius was cast as a tragic villain. His own story was intertwined with that of Lizard, another classic Spider-Man foe, who inadvertently transformed into a hideous monster while trying to cure a physical ailment. However, it wasn’t long before the character branched out on his own. He became a recurring character during the 1970s in titles such as Vampire Tales and Adventure Into Fear. Evidently, a rivalry with Marvel Comics’ Blade the Vampire Hunter emerged.
It wasn’t until 1992 that the character gained his own solo series in Morbius the Living Vampire. That series was one of several supernatural-centric books to launch from a crossover called “Rise of the Midnight Sons”. During this period, Morbius’s adventures became closely intertwined with supernatural heroes such as Ghost Rider, Hellstorm, Jennifer Kale, and Werewolf by Night.
After the end of Morbius’ solo series in issue #23, the character continued to play a recurring role throughout the Marvel Universe. For example, he appeared in Marvel Zombies 3, working alongside other heroes to prevent his universe from being infected by the zombie plague that had devastated other universes. He also appeared in a story called “Frankencastle”, where he helped bring the Punisher back to life as a Frankenstein-like beast after the character’s fatal clash with Daken.
More recently, Morbius played a pivotal role in writer Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-Man storyline, where it was revealed that he was secretly working at Horizon Labs. The Amazing Spider-Man and Superior Spider-Man paved the way for another short-lived Morbius comic in 2013, written by Joe Keatinge and drawn by Rich Elson.
Beyond the comics
Morbius has proven to be a complex character to adapt to other Marvel multimedia projects. The character made his animated debut in 1994’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series (voiced by Nick Jameson), where he was depicted as a scientist transformed after being bitten by a vampire bat that had drunk Spider-Man’s irradiated blood. Due to strict censorship standards, this version of Morbius was only allowed to drain blood through suction cups on his hands, and his dialogue emphasised his need for “plasma” rather than blood.
He later appeared as a recurring character in the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man vs. The Sinister Six (voiced by Benjamin Diskin), where he was reimagined as a Hydra scientist who specialises in symbiotes. Morbius eventually transformed into his living vampire form in the series, with the main difference being that he absorbed the life force of others rather than consuming blood.
Morbius has appeared in several Marvel video games, including as a supporting character in 1993’s Maximum Carnage (based on the comic book story of the same name) and in certain versions of 2007’s Spider-Man 3. He also appeared as a playable character in Marvel: Avengers Alliance, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 and Marvel Super Hero Squad Online.
Morbius has yet to appear in live-action projects, although there have been rumours of a movie for the better part of two decades. At one point, the character was considered for the lead villain role in 2002’s Blade II. In fact, an alternate version of the first film’s finale features a masked character whose intention was to reveal himself as Morbius.
Instead, he will make his cinematic debut in Sony’s upcoming movie. Jared Leto has been cast as Dr. Michael Morbius, with Daniel Espinosa directing and Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless writing the script. The film will presumably be part of the same shared universe as other upcoming Spider-Man adjacent projects such as Venom.