As part of our Mighty Marvel March feature, we were lucky enough to talk to Morbius The Living Vampire scribe Joe Keatinge about his brand new series, the place Morbius has in the Marvel Universe and much more!
Andy Burns: Joe, congrats on making a vampire (ish) comic that’s got a great, street vibe to it. Morbius neither shimmers nor pines for human woman. What’s the secret to making the character appealing for you?
Joe Keatinge: Hey, thank you. I’m glad you enjoy it. As far as the ‘secret’, I dunno, I’ve always liked characters who aren’t so easily classified as something so simplistic as ‘heroes’ or ‘villains.’ The story we’re telling isn’t one of redemption, really, as much as he’d want it to be or even about a flawed character embracing the hero within or whatever. It’s a guy who’s prone to making a lot of awful mistakes dealing with a lot of awful consequences all while fighting this disease, this addiction, he can’t overcome. I think everyone can relate to elements of all that, which gets into the ‘secret’ you’re talking about. If you can make a character as fantastical as a ‘living vampire’ relatable at their core, that gives them an appeal.
Andy Burns: As much as I’ve loved Spider-Man and his rogues’ gallery over the years, Morbius was never a character that really resonated with me until now. Is he a character you’d ever thought about working on, or was it fate, chance and the opportunity that led you to him?
Joe Keatinge: He’s a character I’ve always enjoyed, sure. I first encountered him around Todd McFarlane’s solo run on Spider-Man and dug he wasn’t just a typical vampire. Stephen Wacker and I were discussing future projects and when he brought up Morbius, I was all in from the get go. It took us – and Editor Sana Amanat — a bit to land on this take, but I’m glad we ended up where we did. It’s taken the book in a very different direction than I originally imagined and it seems people are digging on it.
Andy Burns: The idea of addiction, temptation and control is quite prevalent in the first two issues – Morbius is mistaken for a meth-head, he tries hard to control his cravings for blood and just can’t quite succeed. Is Morbius a character that, in your mind, will ever be able to be the good man he wishes he could be?
Joe Keatinge: Well, keep reading for the definitive answer, but I do think he ties into – at least for me – the element in all of us that strives to do better despite our circumstances. Better doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’, but Morbius’ seemingly eternal struggle to overcome his addiction is a driving force of the series.
Andy Burns: You’ve got the gritty streets of Brownsville as the center of Morbius’ story so far – why the decision to take him out of Manhattan (other than the fact that he’s on the run)?
Joe Keatinge: Because everyone is in Manhattan. I wanted to take away everything Morbius ever knew and sort of rebuild who he is today from there. For instance, I thought Remender and company did such a kick-ass job with Morbius’ role in Frankencastle that putting him back into the Monster Underground would just be a retread. I wanted to put him somewhere entirely new, which would give him a different direction, a different circumstance to deal with that would be totally unlike anything he’s dealt with before. At the same time, he has a kinship with the people of Brownsville, something that’s a much purer reflection of who he is at his core than, say, some werewolf. These are people striving to do better, despite horrific circumstance.
Andy Burns: On that note, can we expect to see Morbius bumping into any familiar faces anytime soon?
Joe Keatinge: Spider-Man shows up starting in issue #6 and with Otto at the helm, their relationship is going to be definitely different than it’s been before. Morbius was the one guy Peter just seemed to outright dislike and never want to give a second chance, but I’m thinking he and Otto could have the ultimate Marvel Universe bromance.
Andy Burns: Finally, when you’re not working on Morbius, what are you reading? Anything that Biff Bam Pop readers should be checking out?
Joe Keatinge: I just filled in most of the holes in my English-language Corto Maltese run. It’s the best comic ever made, but they’re only so many of them so I’m taking my fine time. Also just got obsessed with Napoleon, so I’ve got a stack of around four books going about different aspects of him – from a biography to an illustrated history of the armies in the Napoleonic war to one about his collaborators to the giant tome of Kubrick’s movie that I guess Spielberg is finally making into a tv-series. Other than that I’m going through the bibliography of Arthur Schnitzler, plus a bunch of comic books. So, yeah, check all that stuff out.
Thanks to Joe Keatinge for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop, and to James Viscardi at Marvel for making it happen. Check out Joe’s work on Morbius The Living Vampire, in stores now!