Characters Appearing: Morbius
Vampire Tales #1
Issue(s): Vampire Tales #1
...few issues of a certain superhero comic-book called THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN have ever been more warmly received or more greedily collected and hoarded than those which introduced a tortured soul named Morbius... Each time this 20th-century vampire has appeared in print, so great has been the outcry to give him his own magazine that finally nothing was to be done but to grant him a place of honor in this premiere issue of VAMPIRE TALES. And here, hopefully, he'll remain - a more science-fiction-oriented monster in some ways than any before him - in many ways Count Dracula's spiritual descendant, yet because of his nagging conscience in other ways his opposite.
The highlighting of Morbius' science-based, as opposed to supernatural, origins is interesting, but Morbius' stories in this title will definitely be the sort of thing that you might expect of any vampire, in contrast to the stories in his other series, Fear, which definitely has science-fiction elements. In this series, Morbius' science-based origins don't amount to much beyond him constantly refusing to believe all the supernatural stuff that he's encountering.
As for his conscience, that's a laugh. Just about every issue of this series has Morbius attacking, if not killing, an innocent victim for their blood. Sure, he "comes to his senses" and regrets it afterwards, but then shrugs and moves back to whatever adventure he's currently on. It's very hard to consider him a hero. Especially when Morbius became a vampire to save himself from dying from leukemia. If you have a conscience, at what point do you say to yourself that your own life is not worth having to kill someone else once a day, and step in front of a train or at least turn yourself over to SHIELD (or allow yourself to remain a prisoner of Professor X) or something? I think it's interesting to have an amoral protagonist, but the stories often treat him like a tragic hero. In any event, his constant attacks on random people are pretty hilarious in the way it's always incidental to the main story.
Morbius is really in LA looking for Martine Bancroft. He disguises himself with some clothes found in a Goodwill box, and nearly fits in among the people at Sunset Strip.
And he bumps into a friendly Satanist named Carolyn.
Carolyn offers to bring him to another Satanist who is also a fortune teller. Despite Morbius' skepticism about such things, Carrie convinces him to go along.
The 70s were an interesting time.
According to Madame Laera's crystal ball, Martine is dead.
Morbius smashes the ball, revealing a demon that lives inside.
The demon's name is Nilrac. That happens to be Carlin backwards, but i don't know the significance of that.
Morbius starts to realize that the demon might be real, but his brief moment of fear is overcome by the return of his blood hunger, and he bites the demon. However, the demon has no blood. But that's no problem; he just moves on to Laera.
Carolyn finds the whole thing "fascinating" and "far out". She also tells him that he can't just run around murdering people, but Morbius is like, "Please!" and he leaves.
Totally groovy, man. There's something very 70s about this whole story, which i guess is normal for Gerber. One thing to note is that normally a part of a vampire's appeal is the sex appeal. But unlike most popular vampires, Morbius is not in any way attractive; he's either monstrous or cartoony, depending on the artist. So having him bump into Sexy Satanists isn't quite the same as if he were a young David Boreanaz or something, or even Dracula. No one is on Team Morbius.
Morbius' search for Martine Bancroft in this issue is not followed up on in the rest of this series. Instead, Steve Gerber takes that plot with him when he moves to Morbius' other book, (Adventures Into) Fear. Don McGregor begins an unrelated six part epic beginning next issue.
These issues also feature additional horror stories, mostly, but not always, about vampires. Most are new, but some are reprints from older books. I won't be covering them, and i'll only list the credits for stories that include characters that belong to the Marvel universe (Lilith, Blade, and Satana will also appear in this series). I will, of course, pull out awesome panels when appropriate:
The magazine also had reviews and summaries of vampire movies, and Chris Claremont writes a five part (!) review of a book about vampires. The features in Marvel's magazines always seem a little bizarre to me, and a later editorial admits that they were just there to pad out the early issues, but i guess the movie listings could have been quite useful in pre-internet days.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted above, Morbius' search for Martine gets moved to Fear when Steve Gerber moves to that title; Morbius is in LA in this story and at the beginning of the Fear run. So this should take place before Fear #20-23. Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 should probably take place prior to this: Morbius is purely in villain mode in that story, he's not looking for Martine, and he's not in LA. That means that i've pushed this story forward in publication time. Morbius does say that he's broken free of Professor X and traveled across the continent, but it makes more sense for him to escape and go on his rampage in New York in the Giant-Size story before coming to LA here rather than for him to escape, go to LA, then go back to New York, and then back to LA again.
Agreed with fnord about Morbius. It always drives me nuts when Spider-Man stops someone like Blade from killing Morbius. He's already killed who knows how many innocent people because of his blood lust, and if you allow him to live, sooner or later he is inevitably going to lose control and kill again.
Of course, I think there was also one story where Spider-Man tried to stop Blade from killing some actual vampires, i.e. the kind that are reanimated corpses. I realize that Spider-Man's vehement opposition towards using lethal force under *any* situation is well-established, but come one, vampires are *already* dead. Even Captain America has killed vampires without much reluctance.
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 28, 2016 12:41 PM
I agree, Morbius the Living Vampire is also not a good role model for young children. As for all that bombastic hype in the intro about the popularity of Morbius, why didn't Marvel then put multiple titles featuring Morbius on the stands? Who owns the Hollywood IP rights to Morbius right now? Do anybody know?|-D ha
Posted by: Holt | February 2, 2018 1:48 PM
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