It's a hot night in Los Angeles. And the man known as Michael Morbius thirsts... for blood! So begin the adventures of Morbius the livng vampire in the pages of Fear, a 70's era comic with a decidedly weird tone. Morbius is a "living" vampire in the sense that he is not undead. Rather he's a scientist who tried curing himself of a rare blood disease by injecting himself with an enzyme derived from a bat- with unfortunate consequences! Now he is still alive, cured of his previous disease, but beset with a new one- an overwhelming need to drink the blood of others to survive. And when the madness is on him he cannot stop himself.
Morbius started out as a Spider-Man villain but quickly became the star of his own stories, both in Fear and in the black-and-white pages of Vampire Tales. This was the 70's and horror was a big draw for Marvel. Fear was a comic so Marvel couldn't go too crazy, but Vampire Tales magazine was something else again.
So Morbius is in L.A. looking for his fiancee Martine, who he almost killed after his transformation- his love enabled him to resist draining her, thankfully. Now he is looking for her- and also fights against his nature, trying to resist killing to sate his thirst, and failing miserably. He has just killed a woman and a rabbi- the last under the sway of an insane cultist- and has been sent by this cultist to to kill someone else- someone who turns out to be a little girl. Her name is Tara and her future self is aligned with a group called The Caretakers, who are a race of beings from Arcturus who have shepherded mankind through the ages. Have I mentioned how 70's Marvel was whack? Morbius cannot bring himself to kill a child, and this breaks the cultist's spell over him, but then his bloodlust rises and he does battle with Tara anyway! Emerging victorious, he immediately regrets harming the girl, and and when he seeks help he is taken in by The Caretakers.
They, of course, want to use him just as the cultist did, and furthermore they want him to kill the head of the cult! Morbius agrees but is beset by doubts- can he kill a man, even one who used him? The stage is set for a conflict between the super science of the Arcturians and the sorcery of the cult. And what is really happening?
As befits 70's Marvel there is social commentary here and some soul searching on the part of our hero. Morbius is a little different from a lot of Marvel's heroes because he is killing people on the regular- sure he agonizes over it afterward but is soon back to it. So it can be kind of hard to root for him. He destroys lives, he's preying on a child, although he tries hard not to- heady stuff for a comic that kids were buying off spinner racks at 7-11. Marvel was trying new things back then and breaking new ground- some things worked, some didn't- but little gems like this were experimental. The art was uneven at times and there was a revolving door of talent, but this little run of Fear has me hooked. In future issues we're gonna see Arcturus, more angst, a lot of soul searching, and more Morbius insanity.