A new Marvel movie is on the way but its subject isn’t quite so mainstream as Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America. Morbius, The Living Vampire isn’t exactly a flagship character for Marvel but he has a five-decade-long comics history, both in independent stories and crossing paths with other famous characters — primarily Spider-Man and Venom.
The new film, predictably titled Morbius, is directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Life) and hits theaters July 31, 2020. It stars Jared Leto as the vampiric antihero and, despite Sony owning the rights to Spider-Man, Venom, and other characters in that universe, the trailer offers a clear indication that elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be present in this film. Namely, an appearance from Michael Keaton reprising his role as Adrian Toomes, aka Spider-Man: Homecoming villain, Vulture.
So, who is Morbius and how exactly does he tie in with the MCU? Well, we don’t know precisely just yet — we haven’t seen the movie — but we do have some context and history with which to work.
Dr. Michael Morbius was a brilliant biochemist who suffered from a rare blood disorder. Through a self-inflicted treatment involving vampire bat DNA and electroshock therapy, he attempts to cure that disorder but — as so often happens when Marvel geniuses fly too close to the sun — the treatment backfires, resulting in him acquiring supernatural abilities, along with an insatiable hunger for blood.
Morbius, however, is not a true vampire. His condition is “pseudo-vampirism” which gives him the strength, speed, and healing of a vampire, and requires that he drink blood and avoid light, but he is still living. That’s a key difference that gives him a bit more in common with another famous Marvel pseudo-vampire, Blade, than it does with a full, undead vampire like Dracula. The failed experiment also gave him a grotesque appearance which makes a brief cameo in the film trailer.
Morbius has primarily been a recurring character in Marvel comics, mostly as an adversary to Blade. In 1992, however, the character gained his own solo series, Morbius the Living Vampire. This supernatural series intertwined his story with the likes of Ghost Rider, Hellstorm, Jennifer Kale, and Werewolf by Night.
Morbius was created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane and first appeared in a 1971 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. He’s the first Spider-Man villain not created by Stan Lee. Although he was originally written as a horror-based enemy to Spider-Man, Morbius went on to have his own tragic antihero series and was even featured in an alternate ending to 1998’s Blade. This upcoming film, however, will be the first official introduction to the character in film.
In his nearly 50-year history, Morbius has fought both against and alongside Spider-Man at various points in Marvel comics. Most of the time, he is desperately struggling to control his bloodlust and, most of the time, he is defeated. Like Venom, Morbius is typically a violent vigilante in the comics, feeding on criminals to savagely sate his cravings for blood, much to the chagrin of superhero adversaries.
Morbius has often sought cures for his vampiric condition but has been foiled time and time again by Spider-Man, Blade, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and others. Unfortunately, since Morbius has attacked and transformed humans into vampires in the past, he doesn’t exactly get a clean slate from superheroes to do whatever he wants.
While Morbius isn’t quite Dr. Octopus when it comes to iconic Spider-Man villains, the Vulture tease in the trailer seems to indicate that Sony might be angling to create a new Sinister Six. While the trailer doesn’t indicate where Morbius’s moral compass will point, it seems a good bet that his insatiable hunger for blood will be a problem.
Morbius is a Sony Pictures production, which has a famously hot-and-cold relationship with Marvel that previously resulted in Spider-Man briefly leaving the MCU. While Sony owns the rights to the famous web-slinger and his comic counterparts, over the last few years the studio conceded some ground to Marvel, likely due in part to the massive success of the MCU.
After 2018’s Venom, Sony announced plans for more films connected to Marvel’s Spider-Man comics canon, including Venom 2. In addition to that film and the upcoming Morbius, Sony is working on a number of other films based on Spider-Man’s allies, enemies, and supporting characters. Some of those include films based on Madame Web, Black Cat, Silver Sable, and Kraven the Hunter, among others. The big money item, however, is likely The Sinister Six, of which Morbius, Vulture, and Venom may be founding members.
Although it’s unconfirmed whether Spider-Man will appear in any of these films, Morbius will be set in the same universe as Venom, and if Vulture is here too, there are some obvious connections back to the MCU given Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s tie-in with the first Avengers film. Additionally, the introduction of the “multiverse” concept in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Far From Home also suggest some creative ways that the web-slinger could be integrated.
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