Posted by:
Byron Brewer

Morbius 411: True love At First Bite!

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As earlier announced on Cosmic Book News, writer Joe Keatinge (who was booked to re-tell Thanos’ origin story before Marvel pulled the proverbial rug) and artist Rich Elson (Journey into Mystery) are now slated to bring back the first Comics Code Authority-approved vampire, Morbius!

The “living” vampire who was once Dr. Michael Morbius was created in response to the comic-book industry’s self-censorship board, the CCA, lifting its ban on vampires and certain other supernatural characters in February 1971 and not as a challenge to the code, as many believe.

Writer Roy Thomas and penciler Gil Kane created the character as a living man who is given vampiric abilities via scientific rather than supernatural means. Kane was instructed to specifically avoid gothic fashion elements and design a costume for Morbius that was akin to those of superheroes, and he specifically chose the red and blue primary colors that were the staple of characters like Spider-Man and Superman.

Morbius, a tragic and sympathetic character in his own right, debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #101, the very first issue of Marvel’s flagship Spider-Man series written by someone other than creator Stan “The Man” Lee. Lee, busy writing a screenplay for an unproduced sci-fi movie, bequeathed the series to his right-hand man, Thomas.

For the uninitiated, Michael Morbius was born in Greece. He was attacked by the Lizard and defeated when Spider-Man and the Lizard joined forces. A flashback reveals that Morbius was actually a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist who had attempted to cure himself of a rare blood disease with an experimental treatment involving vampire bats and electroshock therapy.

The scientist instead became afflicted with a far worse condition that mimicked the powers and blood-thirst of legendary vampirism. Morbius now had to digest blood in order to survive and had a strong aversion to light. He gained the ability to fly, as well as superhuman strength, speed and healing abilities. His appearance became hideous: his canine teeth extended into fangs, his nose flattened to appear more like a bat's, and his skin became chalk-white. He also gained the ability to turn others into similar "living vampires" by biting them.

The arrival of Morbius and the CCA’s lifting of a band on certain monsters brought a renaissance to horror comic books from Marvel, including the well-remembered Tomb of Dracula.

In the modern day, during the events of the Spider Island story arc, it is revealed that Morbius is indeed the mysterious “Number Six” working at Horizon Labs. He assisted, in a hazmat suit to protect his identity, in preparing the cure to the spider-powers virus.

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When Peter Parker tried to investigate the identity of Number Six, he accidentally provoked Morbius (who had been using the cure to try to develop a basis for his own condition) into a frenzy, prompting the staff at Horizon to step up building security (making it harder for Peter to enter and exit the building as Spidey in the future) and also driving Morbius to leave, where it was revealed that he has been working with -- the Lizard (ironic, no?), presumably trying to find a cure for both of their conditions.

As announced at the Toronto Fan Expo, Morbius’ new ongoing series begins in January. But first, Morbius will be featured in December's Amazing Spider-Man #699.1, written by Keatinge, which will serve as a good starting point for new readers.

As mentioned by CBNE-I-C Matt McGloin, it's been theorized that the Amazing Spider-Man movie’s post-credit scene features Morbius, and now Marvel is launching an ongoing series with Morbius — a more obscure character, something Marvel hasn't been doing much as of late -- unless it's movie-related.

This may be a strong indicator that Morbius will be featured in an Amazing Spider-Man movie sequel.

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