Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Spider-Man's History With Morbius Explained

Given that he's one of Marvel's premier street-level superheroes, it's no surprise that Spider-Man's adversaries are typically mobs and crime bossesordinary folks in super-suits, or products of science gone awry. Rarely do the webslinger's adventures take him in mystical directions — and when they do, they usually have some sort of scientific angle as well.

Take Dr. Michael Morbius, for example. A quick glance at the wall-crawler's pale-faced, bloodsucking foe would give anyone who's unfamiliar with the character the wrong impression about his origins. Despite his vampiric looks, the so-called "Living Vampire" isn't a full-fledged vampire, at least not in the traditional supernatural sense. He's actually a product of science, a Nobel laureate who, in his attempts to cure his mysterious disease, conducted some experiments on himself using bat DNA and inadvertently transformed himself into a super-powered creature driven by equal parts self-loathing and self-preservation. 

Sometimes acting as a hero and sometimes as a villain, the one constant about the Living Vampire is his indisputable connection to everyone's favorite web-head. This is Spider-Man's long and somewhat complicated history with Morbius, explained.

Three science experiments gone wrong

The world of fiction offers numerous glimpses at how science experiments that don't go as planned can bring about both wonders and atrocities. When Peter Parker was bitten by an irradiated spider, the tiny creature gifted him with amazing powers. When Dr. Curt Connors attempted to regrow the arm he had lost during his army days by unlocking the secrets of reptilian regeneration, his efforts created the monstrous Lizard, the Mr. Hyde to his Dr. Jekyll. And when brilliant biochemist Dr. Michael Morbius experimented with vampire bats and electric shocks to find a cure for his unique blood disease, he developed both vampiric powers and the curse of bloodlust. 

The three characters crossed paths in the pages of 1971's "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #101, a particularly stressful point in Parker's life. In the previous issue, the webslinger had tried to get rid of his powers by ingesting an untested potion he'd been working on since he first became Spider-Man. Unfortunately, it ended up giving him four extra arms. Desperate for a cure, he calls Dr. Connors, who lets Parker work at his Southampton lab. There, they encounter Morbius in his debut appearance, and the sudden rush of excitement turns the one-limbed scientist into his scaly alter ego.

Morbius' bite, however, causes Connors to partially revert; Parker and Connors theorize this is due to an enzyme in Morbius' blood. Working together, they defeat Morbius, obtain his blood, and successfully craft a cure for Spider-Man.

Spider-Man, Morbius, and the Man-Wolf

Despite successfully ridding himself of his extra arms, Spider-Man's troubles didn't end with their disappearance. In fact, he comes close to dying in the pages of "Marvel Team-Up" Vol. 1 #4, as he unexpectedly falls terribly ill and finds himself up against Morbius once more. With assistance from the Fantastic Four's Human Torch and the X-Men, Spider-Man is able to defeat Morbius and rescue the Living Vampire's hostage, biology professor Hans Jorgenson. Fortunately, Jorgenson is able to whip up a cure after the group identifies the cause of Spider-Man's mysterious affliction: A toxin from Morbius' blood (the one Dr. Connors used to create a cure for Spider-Man back in "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #102) that was essentially attacking Spider-Man's body from the inside.

However, while Spider-Man was able to find an effective remedy for his condition, Morbius wasn't so lucky. 1974's "Giant-Size Super-Heroes Featuring Spider-Man" #1 sees a desperate Morbius using his powers to take control of another Spider-Man villain, the Man-Wolf (who is really John Jameson, the astronaut son of Daily Bugle publisher and top Spider-Man critic J. Jonah Jameson). Together, they prowl the grounds of Empire State University. Morbius unleashes the Man-Wolf and uses him as a decoy for Spider-Man, distracting the superhero while he makes his way to his real target. Spider-Man quickly ascertains Morbius' true goal: to forcefully take a biology professor's research and try to cure himself with it. Working with the professor, Spider-Man successfully tricks Morbius into leaving empty-handed.

Encounter with the extraterrestrial Empathoid

Morbius briefly disappears from Spider-Man's world — and from the world, literally — after an unexpected team-up with the Thing in "Marvel Two-In-One" Vol.1 #15 leaves the Living Vampire stranded in another dimension. Initially, Morbius welcomes this development, as he believes this to be the only way he can finally be free from his cursed bloodlust. As it turns out, however, fate has other plans for him — and those plans involve a powerful android with a voracious appetite for emotions.

In 1977's "Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #7, Morbius returns to the physical plane via the machinations of the Empathoid, a synthetic human whom Morbius had unknowingly awoken after his abrupt arrival. The Empathoid merges with Morbius' body and uses him to escape his interdimensional imprisonment, leading to a confrontation with Spider-Man in the next issue. As the two foes square off, the Empathoid seizes the opportunity to switch hosts, transferring to Spider-Man's body and pushing him to fight Morbius once more.

However, after learning about the origin and feeding habits of the Empathoid, Spider-Man quickly comes up with a plan to capture the mad android. He takes his battle with the Living Vampire to a crowded sports stadium and successfully overwhelms the Empathoid with the high, tense emotions of the cheering sports fans in the stands. Spider-Man and Morbius declare a temporary truce, and the villain flies off into the night.

Back to being human (temporarily)

Spider-Man and Morbius face off once more in 1980's "Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #38 in a rain-soaked battle that serves as a significant (albeit ultimately temporary) milestone in the Living Vampire's seemingly never-ending search for a cure.

In the issue, Morbius is seen doing his best to give in to his bloodthirsty urges without killing his victims. Meanwhile, an increasingly jumpy and irritable Peter Parker struggles to balance his superhero responsibilities and his civilian life. Seeking to unwind, Parker attends a party at his classmate's mansion — a costume party for which he is ironically unprepared. Things start to go off the rails, however, with the startling arrival of Morbius, who is in search of his next source of blood. Acting quickly, Parker puts on his Spider-Man suit and takes his battle with Morbius out of the mansion and away from civilians.

The two foes end up fighting each other in the middle of a thunderstorm, with Morbius briefly getting the upper hand. Just as he begins to drink blood from Spider-Man's neck, however, a bolt of lightning strikes the pair. Fortuitously grounded at that precise moment, Spider-Man and Morbius survive their ordeal, but something unexpected happens to Morbius: Perhaps due to the combination of Spider-Man's radioactive blood and the electric charge, Morbius seemingly reverts to his warm-fleshed, rosy-skinned human self.

A skirmish in a sewer

While under his temporarily "cured" state, Morbius mostly stays out of Spider-Man's hair for a few years, occasionally lending assistance to other heroes and even teaming up with the likes of Doctor Strange when his vampiric affliction returned. However, his next encounter with the webslinger happened under less-than-cordial circumstances, in a "sub-city" hidden deep in New York City's sewers.

In 1991's "Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #13, the wall-crawler investigates a slew of disappearances involving homeless folks in the city. His spider-sleuthing takes him underground (literally) as he tries to get answers from the Subhumans, a community of impoverished people living in the sewers. However, when the Subhumans become hostile, Spider-Man's colorful suit puts him at a severe disadvantage in terms of camouflage. He escapes, dons a cloth version of his old black costume, and returns to explore the tunnels. He discovers that Morbius has actually been living with the Subhumans, offering them protection in exchange for food — the people they snatch from the street.

The next issue pits Spider-Man against Morbius, who informs the hero that he has lost hope of ever finding a cure. The Living Vampire also defends the actions of the Subhumans by saying that they only choose bad people as their victims. This is quickly revealed to be a mistake: Since the Subhumans have no proper concept of good and evil, they simply define "bad" as anyone living aboveground. Mortified by this revelation, a shame-filled Morbius hastily leaves the Subhumans.

Maximum Carnage and the birth of a new Living Vampire

Sometime after living in the Sub-City, Morbius lends a hand in 1993's "Maximum Carnage" event. Venom, the Black Cat, and Cloak recruit the Living Vampire in their fight against Carnage, Shriek, Doppelganger, Carrion, and the Demogoblin, but Spider-Man is hesitant to work with Morbius because of the "bad blood" between them. The conclusion of this story sees Carnage defeated and Morbius flying off to parts unknown, seemingly in better control of his condition.

Alas, Morbius' story takes another tragic turn in 1997's "Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #78, as his hunger comes back even worse than before. He seeks the aid of Empire State University's Dr. Andrea Janson in finding a cure, but a distrustful Spider-Man shows up and picks a fight with him. Only the timely intervention of Mary Jane Watson-Parker stops their skirmish; Morbius agrees to work peacefully with Dr. Janson and swears to take his own life if their combined efforts still fail to cure him. 

Unfortunately, "Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #79 reveals that Janson is actually a Hydra scientist working with a mysterious man named Loxias Crown to conduct experiments on Morbius. Pretty soon, Spider-Man gets involved once again, in a fight that concludes with a massive explosion that seemingly kills both Morbius and Crown. As it turns out, Morbius managed to bite Crown before they both disappeared in the blast — and as "Peter Parker: Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #4 reveals, this transformed Crown into Hunger, another "Living Vampire."

Morbius acquires Spider-Man's blood (but not to drink it)

Even though Spider-Man is well aware of Morbius' affliction and the lengths he has gone to get rid of it, experience has taught the webslinger never to let his guard down whenever the Living Vampire is involved. Thus, their brief tussle in 2010's "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #622 comes as a breath of fresh air in an otherwise predominantly antagonistic relationship.

When Spider-Man hears that a sample of his blood has made it into the hands of vampire-obsessed party-goers, he infiltrates their hangout to get some answers. In doing so, however, he falls under the thrall of a mysterious woman with hypnotic powers. She points him in the direction of Morbius, using Spider-Man to find the tortured antihero by telling him Morbius is the one who has his blood. Spider-Man successfully tracks Morbius down, but the woman steps in before they can talk properly and reveals her true identity: Martine Bancroft, Morbius' ex-fiancé, who had turned herself into a vampire-like creature so that they could be together forever. Realizing that the woman he loved was no more, Morbius tricks her and kills her by pushing her into a wooden stake that Spider-Man was holding.

Initially angered, Spider-Man calms down when Morbius tells him why he has Spider-Man's blood: He actually wants to use it to cure his friend Jack Russell, aka Werewolf By Night. Moved by Morbius' altruistic mission, Spider-Man sits down and lets Morbius take another blood sample. 

Morbius joins Horizon Labs

While Morbius has acted as both friend and foe to Spider-Man on different occasions, he is also one of the few members of the wall-crawler's rogues' gallery who could say that he actually became the webslinger's officemate. 

In 2011's "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #671, Morbius is revealed to be the mysterious scientist Number Six at Horizon Labs, one of the top technology and research companies in the Marvel universe. He is able to keep his identity at the lab a secret because of his college friend, Horizon CEO Max Modell. Morbius plays a key role in developing the Anti-Spider virus serum that restores New York to normalcy during the "Spider-Island" storyline. 

Unfortunately, Morbius' presence at Horizon is exposed some time after Peter Parker joins the team. In "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #679.1, Parker's spider-sense and curiosity regarding the mysterious Lab 6 get the better of him, and he sneaks in via its air ducts. When he discovers that Number Six is Morbius, a fight immediately breaks out. Spider-Man unintentionally breaks some vials containing Modell's blood, which Morbius intended to use in developing a cure for his condition. This drives Morbius' hunger over the edge, and the two super-powered combatants end up fighting in Horizon's cafeteria. With the help of Horizon's youngest scientist, Uatu, Spider-Man subdues Morbius. However, Modell is angered by Spider-Man's recklessness, and swears to beef up Horizon's security so that the webslinger and other intruders can no longer enter the premises at will.

A failed attempt to cure the Lizard

During Morbius' tenure at Horizon Labs, he attempts to find a cure not just for himself, but for another tortured scientist as well. Unfortunately, this kicks off a series of events that ends with both of them locked up in the maximum-security supervillain prison called the Raft.

In 2012's "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #688, a call from the cops alerts Spider-Man to a gruesome crime: The grave of Dr. Curt Connors' son Billy had been robbed, and the child's corpse is nowhere to be found. An eyewitness account helps Spider-Man piece together the identity of the grave-robber: Morbius. Spider-Man angrily makes his way to Horizon's Lab 6 to confront Morbius, who reveals that he has been using DNA from Billy to devise a permanent cure for the Lizard. The pair find Connors in his transformed state in the sewers and successfully inject him with the cure. Unbeknownst to them, however, they only manage to revert him to his human form physically — the Lizard's brain is secretly still in control. This gives the Lizard (while in Connors' body) the opportunity to hatch a scheme to transform Horizon's scientists into lizard-human hybrids. He also unleashes Morbius' bloodlust by releasing blood into the air vents.

With the aid of Horizon's staff, Spider-Man is able to capture both the Lizard (now trapped in his reptilian form, but with Connors in the driver's seat) and the rampaging Morbius. The two are subsequently incarcerated.

Meeting the Superior Spider-Man

When a dying Doctor Octopus successfully switches minds with Spider-Man, he leaves his old foe trapped in his rotting body at the Raft. In a last-ditch effort to return to his own body, Parker stages a breakout — one that also allows Morbius to escape captivity.

In 2013's "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #699, Parker (in the body of Doc Ock) tricks some of the Raft's inmates into helping him break out of the maximum security prison. When Morbius sees Doc Ock's team making their getaway, he begs the deteriorating supervillain to take him with them. However, due to the Horizon incident that led to Morbius' incarceration in the first place, Parker ignores the Living Vampire's pleas, opting (and failing) to recruit the Lizard instead. Regardless, Morbius quickly discovers that he doesn't need help escaping anyway, as the containment features of his own cell were deactivated in the chaos. This incident leads directly to his ongoing series, in which he takes refuge in a rough corner of Brooklyn called Brownsville.

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, which is why the inevitable clash between Morbius and the newly "Superior" Spider-Man (Parker's body with Doc Ock's mind in control) takes place in the series' sixth issue. That said, their confrontation quickly becomes a team-up (with Morbius even serving Spider-Man a slice of humble pie by improving upon one of his inventions).

Worsening hunger and a new cure

After his adventures in Brownsville, Morbius emerged from hiding during the events of the 2019 "Absolute Carnage" storyline to pitch in against the dark god Knull and his invading forces. A new volume of his solo title followed, focusing on yet another attempt by the brilliant scientist to cure his condition. 

Things rapidly take a turn for the worse when the serum he ingested accelerates his vampiric transformation. Soon, he comes face to face with Spider-Man after breaking into a chemical facility to grab reagents for another cure attempt. After a brief scuffle wherein Spider-Man's blood proves to be effective at pushing back Morbius' worsening condition, the webslinger agrees to help Morbius devise a better serum. The pair head to Dr. Curt Connors' Southampton residence (the same place where they first met) to put their scientific talents together. 

In the end, Spider-Man, Morbius, and a woman from Morbius' past named Elizabeth Nikos team up against a supervillain called the Melter, who stole Morbius' research and transformed himself and his henchmen into monsters. The series concludes with Morbius reverting to semi-humanoid form — albeit with a gigantic pair of bat wings sticking out of his back — and still trying to get rid of his condition once and for all.

Against the Beyond Corporation

When Peter Parker's clone Ben Reilly takes over as Spider-Man in the 2021-2022 "Beyond" storyline, one of the first classic rogues he fights is Morbius. 

In "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 5 #77, Reilly investigates a reported sighting of Morbius in Midtown, biting a slew of civilians. Morbius tricks the new Spider-Man into thinking that he ran away, then attacks him from behind and bites his neck. Morbius is shocked to discover that Reilly's blood doesn't work as a minor antidote the way Peter Parker's had. The Beyond Corporation-sponsored superhero leads the Living Vampire to the Beyond Tower, where the building's high-tech security system severs Morbius' left arm. As Morbius attempts to make a run for it, Reilly collapses from his injuries. Beyond then sends Colleen Wing and Misty Knight after Morbius, and they successfully subdue him using Beyond technology. 

Some time later, a fully-healed Morbius assists the original Spider-Man and the Daughters of the Dragon in fighting off a monstrous Beyond creation: A Lizard clone fused with Morbius' own DNA. After defeating the Lizard/Morbius chimera, Morbius escapes to Staten Island, where he plans to start experimenting once more. Apparently inspired by Beyond's pet project, he keeps the genuine Lizard in captivity, and plans to use Dr. Connors' genetic matter to make similar "miracles."