Marvel’s Next Big Thing: Joe Keatinge Awakens Morbius the Living Vampire

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!


  1. I think I can probably guess the answer to this, but is this going to be black and white? Because I can’t think of a black and white book from the Big Two (not that I read everything, mind you) and that would be really interesting.

    Also, those covers are fantastic. I’ll probably check this out.

    • I don’t know if you consider Vertigo part of the Big Two (because it is under DC), but they are doing Punk Rock Jesus, which is black and white, and also happens to totally kick-ass.

    • Is that the Sean Murphy book? I’ve only heard the name, and haven’t gotten a chance to flip through it. I didn’t realize it was black and white. I’ll have to look for it!

      I seem to always think of Vertigo as its own thing even though I know it obviously isn’t, but I always forget it’s part of DC for some reason. It’s an imprint of DC though, so yeah, I would call it part of the Big Two.

  2. I’m about to drop all things Marvel (the whole Marvel NOW! thing just confuses me), but I’ve always been a fan of Morbius.

    I’m torn!

    @MisterKyleW: A black and white book would be fantastic!

    • Maybe we can help you out. What confuses you about Marvel NOW! specifically?

      For the most part it’s just the start of new chapters in each character’s story. The creative teams have shuffled. Bendis is moving from The Avengers after a decade to refocus on the X-Men. Gillen’s taking Iron Man to outer space. The Hulk is joining SHIELD. Any big shifts are explained in the first issues. Lots of clean jumping on points, really.

    • Its amazing how everyone says they’re dropping entire publishers every time there’s a relaunch and yet sales never seems to get any lower…All those people jumping off on last years DC relaunch really tanked their sales right? Oh wait…

    • I don’t really get the publisher boycott mentality either. I mean, I’m not thrilled with the majority of what DC are doing with their superhero line and up until the NOW! I’d grown pretty disinterested in Marvel’s superhero output but I remain realistic that artists & writers I like are going to continue to work for these companies and put together some fantastic stories along the way. It’s a whole other conversation, but I think the people who tend to say this are more “character-followers” than “creator-followers”…

    • Thanks everyone for the feedback!

      Short response: Was worried about continuity / renumbering, but makes sense, AND not a Marvel hater / boycot, just playing wait-and-see.

      Long response / my CSB: Thanks, Mr. Montgomery for explaining the Marvel NOW! movement succinctly. Even when I’ve asked my local comic store owner about it, he wouldn’t give me a straight answer; he’s a great guy but a bit of curmudgeon, especially about any major changes to comic books.

      Overall, I was feeling intimidated by Marvel’s renumbering of several titles and had worries that I would need to be familiar with AvX or several previous story-lines in order to understand what was going on if I jumped into a new title.

      Additionally, I’ve lost interest in several of the Marvel comics that I have been reading, so I see Marvel NOW! as an opportunity to jump off and evaluate Marvel titles. I did something similar when DC relaunched with the New 52, and some of the books that I picked up from that are among my favorites. I also intend to spend less on comic books altogether.

      I might get some Marvel titles, but I plan to wait and see what’s good.

  3. I love that Marcos Martin cover!! To my own surprise, I’m excited about more of these books than not and Morbius is no exception. Hopefully this can get some kind of traction and we’ll see more of the Marvel Monsters make their way to the NOW! banner. C’mon, imagine a Werewolf By Night with Elsa Bloodstone series spinning out of the end of Hopeless & Doe’s “Legion of Monsters” mini… Marvel seriously undervalues their horror characters and this is a step in the right direction in my humble opinion…

  4. I will be checking this out for sure, especially since it’s a normal price of $2.99. I love Morbius. Now we just need to get a Ghost Rider title back and we will have 2 of the old Midnight Sons back!

    • I remember “Midnight Sons” as being one of the better ideas to come out of Marvel in the ’90’s. I have my fingers crossed for this new Morbius series. The idea of a “scientific vampire” is cool, and Morbius has always had an interesting look.

    • Yeah, I was collecting all the Midnight Sons titles back in the day. That was a fun time.

  5. I’m down for this.Really liked what Keatinge is doing with Glory, but wasn’t a big fan of Hell Yeah at all so I hope he brings his A game. I really hope they keep Morbious in the sweater hoodie look., just screams dangerous hobo Vampire which to me is cooler then Wrestling Tights with a Elvis collar.