Here we are with Marvel’s Next Big Thing press call for Friday, the last of the week’s five weekdays. And it’s a fun one, because Joe Keatinge is rapping on the casket of Morbius the Living Vampire to reawaken him for an all new ongoing drawn by Rich Elson! We spoke to Keatinge about the downsides to living forever.
It all starts with December’s Amazing Spider-Man #699.1 and Morbius’ escape from the Raft prison complex. The troubled scientist’s journey won’t take him terribly far though, as he’ll be carving out a semi-permanent niche for himself in a forgotten neighborhood in New York City. Keatinge wagers that it’s the first time any Marvel comic has really focused on this mystery area, and that that’s part of Morbius’ reasons for settling down there.
We asked about the various covers released alongside the call, two of which focus on the media scrutiny surrounding the fugitive vampire. While the one to the right for March’s issue #3 features the expected Wanted poster, another involves a prominent graffiti portrait similar to the viral “Obey” stencil seen tagged on walls across the globe. Does Morbius have a street team? Do some in the underground view him as a kind of folk hero?
“Yes,” said Keatinge. “That tag is definitely part of the comic and it comes in at issue #2.” While he didn’t want to give too much away, the writer suggested that the image becomes an important symbol in that forgotten neighborhood, perhaps a rallying cry.
So is Morbius a hero or villain in his own series? It’s not as clear cut as all that. The vampire is desperate the remain below the radar, but he’s got that blood thirst to contend with as well. But secrecy and a stable blood supply might not be the only reason Morbius has chosen to stick around where he does.
“One of the aspects I really love about this character is his relentless striving to do good,” said Keatinge. “It continuously goes really, really long and this continuous bloodlust addiction is getting in the way of who he wants to be.” The writer refers to Morbius as incredibly “noble” for his struggles and that he makes Peter Parker look like “the luckiest man in the world” at times.
Keatinge says he’s a big fan of the Legion of Monsters, but doesn’t want to introduce that element into the series too soon. The important thing is to establish Morbius, to usher him out of Spider-Man and the Legion’s shadows. Though Spidey’s involvement in Morbius’ origins will always be central.
The conversation turned, a number of times, towards the inescapable fact that vampires are so ubiquitous in modern storytelling. Keatinge and editor Sana Amanat are especially conscious of that and have spoken extensively about the need to ground the story and to avoid the common bloodsucker tropes. Keatinge seems especially focused on redefining what it means for a books to be considered a horror story in the world of capes and tights.
“A lot of it was really looking at how it works in the Marvel Universe,” he said. “He is a vampire, but a vampire to me is not really a genre. You can do a lot of things with that. Superheroes is like a super-genre. You can make a romance comic work, you can make a sci-fi comic work all in superhero comics. A lot of the monsters in the book are human. A lot of the worst guys in the book are human beings.”
On that subject of rogues and rogues galleries, Keatinge maintained that this is very much Morbius’ time to establish himself. ”I want to focus on him and build on him and cut a corner of the Marvel Universe that’s Morbius’ corner,” he said. “For now, it’s going to be all-new, all-different, all-Morbius, all the time.”
Look for Morbius the Living Vampire #1 in January. Until then, a preview!