Every day this week, Marvel Comics has promoted its upcoming Marvel NOW! titles in a series of live press conference calls. Everything from already-launched titles like Kieron Gillen’s “Iron Man” or Rick Remender’s “Uncanny Avengers”; or upcoming books like Dennis Hopeless’ “Avengers Arena” and “Cable And X-Force” was covered this week, and the publisher is set to wrap with another new book in the Marvel NOW! library: Joe Keatinge and Rich Elson’s “Morbius: The Living Vampire.”
Keatinge and Marvel editor Sana Amanat were on hand to speak with reporters about the writer’s take on Spider-Man’s sometimes-ally and the escapades he has planned in the wake of the upcoming events of “Amazing Spider-Man.”
Moderated by Sales & Communications Coordinator James Viscardi, the call began with Keatinge describing what’s in store for fans for the series.
“I’m really excited because it’s a really different take on horror than we’ve seen in a lot of comics,” he said. “What other kinds of horrors are there other than traditional monsters in the Marvel Universe? There’s going to be a lot of sweet action. It’s going to be cool, I’m really stoked.”
Amanat said the series picks up after Morbius escapes from The Raft in the upcoming “Amazing Spider-Man” point one issue.
“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.”
One of the challenges for the series was to tell a vampire story that hasn’t been told. “What is a scientific vampire in the Marvel Universe right now? How does that work?” said Keatinge. “It has a different twist that makes it unique.”
Viscardi joked that Amanat shot down a Shimmer Variant for the series.
Keatinge went on to talk about the status of the character and how he doesn’t see himself as a villain. “His intentions are always noble — but he makes Peter Parker look like the luckiest person in the Marvel Universe,” said Keatinge. “None of this stuff is coming from any sort of villainous intent.”
“I think a lot of villains are villains because they try to do something bad. In this case, Morbius’ villainous side comes from this intrinsic quality,” said Amanat. “That’s what makes him such an interesting character. He’s fighting this other side of him that has these villainous consequences.”
In terms of research, Keatinge said he had been a Marvel fan all his life and he was already into the character. “I’ve never done a vampire before, but when you boil things down — especially in Marvel comics — the core of the character is someone everyone can relate to,” he said.
For supporting cast, Keatinge stated it will mostly focus on the Living Vampire. “I want to find people and introduce people that he can relate to, and I’m introducing a bunch of character from the get-go that are in the background — but the focus is on Morbius,” said Keatinge. “I’m sure down the line we’ll get to familiar faces, but I wanted to focus on who is this guy now, what is his deal and how he’s on the run trying to resist sucking blood all the time. Who can directly relate to that aspect of it?” The writer also noted there will be supporting character that help to reflect this, but the focus will stay on who Morbius is in Marvel NOW!
The conversation circled back around to the overexposure of vampires and Keatinge stated the editorial staff talked a lot about that aspect of the supernatural character. “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.”
Amanat stated editorial was attempting to showcase a supernatural being in a very real world. “As much as I think the vampire trope has been done, we’re trying to look at this from a very different angle and isolate him as much as possible,” she said. “We’re not trying to bring in the Dracula world. It’s very helpful for him to be on the run … so we can deal with him separately and examine that world of being a solo vampire on the run.”
One of the variant covers below showcases a tag featuring Morbius’ face — which Keatinge says will play a role in the series. “Yes, that tag is definitely part of the comic and it comes in at issue #2,” he said, stating that the tag and him being a symbol for something had to do with Morbius trying to do good in an area where everyone else has given up.
Keatinge spoke about what it means to create a horror comic and how he’s approaching it, noting his approach had a lot to do with the original Marvel Comics mission statement of making characters relatable; real people with superpowers. “It’s kind of taking a similar approach,” said Keatinge. “You take the personal aspects and put it into a horror setting, in the struggles of self, trying to do good, overcoming addiction and a lot of big, heavy things. After ‘Avengers vs. X-Men,’ the landscape changed a lot. It’s a different universe. I don’t want to say too much about what that actually means, but I think it’ll be pretty evident by the time people read the first issue.”
Keatinge stated Morbius will get an updated look in the series. “We wanted to rethink the way it appeared,” he said. “Also, he’s on the run. It’s a lot of just finding stuff as he goes. Things will evolve over time.”
Amanat stated Morbius’ look will become more apparent at the end of issue #5.
The setting will take place in an area of New York, but not a familiar one. “It’s specifically a part of New York that I don’t believe we’ve ever even seen in a Marvel comic before,” Keatinge said. “It takes place in a familiar corner of the Marvel Universe, but it’s a foregone part of New York.”
Morbius’ association with the Legion of Monsters will not show up at first, despite Keatinge’s love for the group. “Definitely down the line, I’d love to get them in there, but for now, it’s all Morbius all the time,” he said. “There’s a lot of throwbacks to that stuff, if you’re an eagle-eyed reader, you’ll get it. If you read ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #699.1, there’s a lot of that stuff.”
The series won’t directly relate to “Amazing Spider-Man” #700, but Keating hopes the fallout will affect the series later. “I am extremely excited for the #700, but Morbius is out right before that stuff happens, so it won’t directly relate right away,” he said.
The Marvel U does have a decently dense vampire population, but Keatinge emphasize he was more into focusing on Morbius and making him relatable from a human perspective. “For me, the story for now is who this one dude is and what his plight is and what his struggle is. That’s what the focus is for now instead of making it a vampire thing,” said Keatinge.
To wrap up, Keatinge spoke briefly about Morbius’ rogues gallery — and that the vampire will be developing his own stable of enemies. “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.”
Amanat said the creative team wanted to bring in Spider-Man at some point. “We do have an idea of integrating Spider-Man and Spider-Man’s other villains into another arc or another story down the line,” she said.
“To really appreciate ‘Superior Spider-Man’ #1, you really have to buy the whole run [of Morbius],” joked Keatinge.
With that, the call wrapped. Check out Keatinge’s lead-in story for the book in “Amazing Spider-Man” #699.1. “Morbius: The Living Vampire” #1 goes on sale in January.