While Tom Holland's Spider-Man is off battling aliens in the MCU, Sony is hard at work building out its own Spider-Verse populated with the various characters from the web slinger's impressive canon. Fortunately for Sony, Spider-Man has a plethora of villains, allies and frenemies that have yet to make a splash onscreen. The new Spider-Verse kicks off in earnest this fall with the release of Ruben Fleischer's Venom and that is just the start. There seem to be a lot of irons in the fire, or spiders in the web if you prefer, at the moment and while some like Nightwatch and Silver and Black are still in development, the Morbius spinoff film has gotten a jump on the casting process, with the DCEU's Joker, Jared Leto, signing on to play Marvel's Living Vampire.
Unlike Venom, who is almost as recognizable as Spider-Man himself, Morbius is probably unknown to many people by name or image. Daniel Espinosa is attached to direct Morbius, which does not yet have a release date set, though it's never too early to get an idea of who we're dealing with. So who exactly is Morbius? And what the heck is a living vampire? Isn't that a contradiction? Read ahead for everything you need to know about Morbius.
Morbius Has A Tragic Origin
Doctor Octopus, The Lizard, Sandman: Spider-Man has no shortage of tragic villains and Morbius is no exception. The character created by Roy Thomas and designed by Gil Kane first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #101 in 1971. Born in Greece to a single mother, Michael Morbius grew up with a rare blood condition that made him extremely weak. Intellectually gifted, Michael Morbius went on to become a doctor and a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist. In an attempt to find a cure for fatal blood diseases, to save himself and others, Dr. Morbius developed an experimental treatment using his knowledge of biochemistry. The treatment involved the use of vampire bats and electroshock therapy. He subjected himself to the process, which both succeeded and failed, proving sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. His blood condition was cured but he was left with truly horrific side effects.
After the experimental procedure, Morbius underwent major physical changes. He transformed to look more like the vampire bats that were a part of his experiment with his ears and nose reshaping to become very bat-like. His skin turned white and he grew fangs. Basically, he looked like a man-bat and also a vampire. More than just a physical transformation, Morbius became afflicted with that traditional vampiric thirst for human blood, which he needs to consume in order to survive.
Powers And Weaknesses
Because his vampirism is the result of an act of science, not the supernatural, Morbius is not a true vampire in the traditional sense, hence the title "Living Vampire." It is also worth noting that supernatural vampires do historically exist in the Marvel universe, as evidenced by Blade's very existence (more on him later), so Morbius inhabits a world where he is unique among humans and vampires. As a pseudo-vampire, Morbius shares some of the benefits vampires traditionally enjoy, including superhuman strength and speed as well as flight (sort of gliding really). He also has enhanced senses like night vision and echolocation and the ability to hypnotize people. Morbius has a healing factor, similar to, but not as strong as, Wolverine's. Unlike a regular vampire, those that suffer his bite only transform into living vampires like him some of the time. Of course, these powers and his continued existence are all reliant upon him consuming the requisite amount of blood.
Being a pseudo-vampire who can lift heavy things and fly isn't all sunshine and rainbows though, as Morbius shares some of the weaknesses of supernatural vampires, including sunshine. Although he doesn't burst into flames if he ventures out during the day, Morbius' skin is photosensitive, so you won't catch him on the beach without a dorky hat and caked in SPF. His powers are also diminished during the waking hours. Morbius doesn't share all vampire weaknesses though. Any amateur vampire hunters encountering Morbius will be unpleasantly surprised to find out that because his condition is not mystical, he is unaffected by garlic, holy water, silver or crucifixes.
While having fewer weaknesses than vampires, Morbius also misses out on some of the cooler powers like shape-shifting and the ability to control animals. All in all he is a formidable opponent for Spider-Man or any other foe, but he is not without his weaknesses, even if they are different from what you might expect.
He Has Been Both Villain And Anti-Hero
Morbius is traditionally thought of as a villain, one of the many in Spider-Man's iconic rogues gallery (Marvel's best). However, the truth is more complicated and while he has been an antagonist, like many before him, Morbius has become something of a tragic anti-hero.
When Morbius first transformed into a Living Vampire, he was consumed by bloodlust, killing the crew of a ship to sate his cravings. Morbius and Spider-Man first encountered each other at Curt Conner's beach house when both were trying to cure their respective afflictions (Spidey had six arms at the time). The two battled when they first met and multiple other times as Morbius sought Spider-Man's radioactive blood, which sustained him for long periods and even temporarily cured his condition. In his quest for a cure and because of his need to consume the blood of human innocents to stay alive, Morbius has run afoul of multiple heroes. In addition to his run-ins with Spider-Man, he has also battled members of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men.
Eventually, after a personal tragedy, Morbius vowed to no longer drink the blood of innocents and only feed on the wicked. Morbius took on the alias of Morgan Michaels and got a job at a hospital. As an anti-hero, he has served as a part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff agency A.R.M.O.R. and more notably Morbius has been a member of the Midnight Sons. The Midnight Sons were first formed by Doctor Strange to battle the goddess and mother of demons Lilith. They have since fought against dark and supernatural forces. Morbius has even led the group and has fought alongside famous members like Doctor Strange, Wong, Iron Fist, Ghost Rider and the vampire hunter Blade. Morbius and Blade have an interesting relationship as the two have fought as allies against common enemies but have fought each other as well and maintain a healthy level of mistrust.
Morbius is a rich and tragic character so you can see what makes him an interesting choice for his own spinoff movie and what might have drawn Jared Leto to the role.