Friday, May 18, 2007

On Morbius, the Unpleasant Vampire:
Things like 90's X-Men comics, early Image, my Ultraverse collection...
I was thinking of that last panel there, but not in terms of the people or friends I've lost contact with and miss, or the memories of my own life that are a little fuzzy around the edges. I was thinking of the comics I've lost: large runs of Punisher and it's spin-offs, the various Avengers books of the 80's and 90's, a mess of Giffen Justice Leagues and Legion of Super-Heroes and the Heckler; and Morbius, the Living Vampire.

I had the complete run of Morbius' 90's comic, the Midnight Sons days; and I have no idea what I did with those. Sold, given away, lost, no idea. Annoying, but they aren't very good. Toyfare, in a sidebar on a Morbius figure, pointed out that while he's a cool character, there's no defining or essential Morbius story, which was true then and still true now. Even his origin is overshadowed by Spider-Man's extra arms, and the Lizard's in there as well for good measure. (Today's panels are from Marvel Tales #253, reprinting "Vampire at Large!" from Amazing Spider-Man #102. Written by Roy Thomas, pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Frank Giacoia; the reprint has a Moebius Morbius cover.)

Yeah, but number of Nobel prizes won by Richards, Stark, and Pym? None. Suck it, Initiative!Quick recap for those not familiar with him: Morbius was created as part of Marvel's pushing the boundaries of the Comics Code in regards to horror, hence his subtitle "the Living Vampire." For his origin, Michael Morbius was a rather homely-ass Nobel prize winning biochemist. He had a hot but not science-oriented fiance named Martine, and was dying of a rare blood disease. Instead of telling her that he was on the way out, Morbius lets her tag along with himself and his assistant, as they take a cruise (allegedly, for security reasons) for the final phases of his experiments to save himself.

Morbius' experiment is total B-movie material, involving the electrical creation of blood cells and "fluids distilled from vampire bats," and a spacesuit/electric chair combination. As you might guess, the treatment goes horribly awry, and Morbius becomes a pale, vampiric monster; quickly killing his assistant, but not feeding on him.

Doesn't that sound like a Celine Dion song?This is where we see the character trait that most defines Morbius, but is probably too difficult to base an ongoing comic on: weakness. Morbius is all about a man that, when in control of his faculties, has only the best of intentions; and absolutely no follow-through, no willpower to make things right. It could be argued that Morbius' vampirism makes him weak, that it would be impossible for anyone to resist a disease like that, but I think Morbius wasn't a strong person to begin with.

Consider: although he is dying of a rare blood disease, Morbius doesn't tell his girlfriend/fiance Martine, even when she's on the boat where he's doing research to save himself. Upon becoming a vampire, Morbius makes his first kill, his first contrition, and his first suicide attempt; a pattern he would repeat over and over again. I think making Morbius, the character, not a paragon of honesty or strength of will; would make him more interesting yet harder to write in terms of a monthly comic.

To muddy the waters further: at some point, Morbius was cured of his pseudo-vampirism, in the pages of Savage She-Hulk. (Of all places. I'm not 100% sure the link is to the exact issue in question, but it's a Michael Golden cover and the comic has Morbius in it, so eh, close enough.) He would appear later, as a regular human, as one of the scientific experts Reed Richards consulted during Sue's second pregnancy, in Fantastic Four #267.

And sometime later, Morbius becomes a Living Vampire again. Maybe he relapses, maybe his treatment failed, maybe something else happened, I don't recall. (He did appear in Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme a few times.) Him somehow becoming a vampire again is less an issue than the fact that he was publicly known as a former vampire, yet Morbius is somehow able to continue along in public, as a medical doctor, for at least most of his series. Makes a pretty good argument for registration, doesn't it? (And actually, I think Morbius is a registered hero. But, that would be the easy way out, wouldn't it?)

But, and this very well could just be because I've watched too much House lately, the medical angle could work well for Morby, and technically I suppose he had it first. (Just not, good.) Doctor by night, vampire by...later night. If the Night Nurse hadn't just been hired by Doctor Strange, that might've been a good practice for him; as well as a means to get blood without Morbius having to resort to vigilante bloodsucking.

Oh, what else? Again, Morbius seems a lot cooler than reading his actual comics would indicate. I'm pretty sure fiance Martine was turned into a vampire, a real, Dracula-type one; at least twice. Once in Morbius' regular series, and once in his run in Adventure into Fear, sometimes just called Fear, and it should have been called Morbius vs. Freaky 70's Crap. Well, at least the Freaky 70's Crap was unusual; I can't for the life of me remember any of his other villains. Maybe the character doesn't lend himself to it, maybe giving an established rogue their own rogues' gallery is just doomed to failure. (Name a villain Venom or Dr. Doom fought in their solo stories. OK, name one that appeared twice, smarty.)

My son pointed out that they forgot Spidey's extra arms in this panel, but for Gil Kane I'll give him a pass.
Back to his origin for a second: shortly after that above panel, Doc Connors/Lizard realizes if "that--vampire--didn't take anything out of me. So, he must have put something in. An enzyme!" Which is all well and good. Except later in the story, after Spidey and Connors get the enzyme from Morbius and turn Connors back to human, Morbius steals the enzyme serum back before Spidey can take it. So far so good, but Connors then shouts out unless Morbius replaces that enzyme, he'll die. But...why would Morbius secrete or excrete or whatever an enzyme that he had to reingest to live? Moreover, Spider-Man tears after Morbius to "help" him; which just leads to Morbius in the river and Spidey taking the serum, getting rid of his extra arms. Again, even for comic books, the science in these issues is dicey. Where do the extra arms go again, on either Spidey or the Lizard?

(The image of Spidey trying to dispose of four severed arms with his fingerprints just struck me as really, sickly, funny. Also, this has been a ton of words for a character that's probably behind Skrull Kill Krew and Lunatik in terms of getting relaunched.)

Dear Darick Robertson: Start drawing this right now. Thanks!
In the last issue of Nightcrawler, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa mentions the original plot for the second six issues was for two three-part stories; one with werewolves, the other with Morbius. I might've preferred that to the Soulsword story, but we'll never know. Anyway, Marvel, give Morbius a chance, and some writer enough rope to work with, and he might surprise you. Or tank. Either or.

No comments: