Jared Leto, infamous Suicide Squad alum and lead singer of his self-founded band, Thirty Seconds To Mars, portrays Morbius the Living Vampire, a.k.a Dr. Michael Morbius, Ph.D., in the upcoming Marvel film, Morbius. Rather than originating from supernatural means, Michael Morbius, an exceptionally talented biochemist, performed an experiment intended to cure his rare blood disease. When the experiment fails, Morbius was imbued with pseudo-vampiric superhuman abilities and physical traits, thus earning him the nickname, “The Living Vampire”. In preparation for Morbius‘ release in January 2022, here is a brief history of vampires and an analysis of how Michael Morbius compares to the blood-sucking legends.
Vampires Originated in Folklore
For centuries, the history of vampires has been debated by professionals and scientists alike. Mentions of vampires date back to the 1800s; their existence stems from superstition and they were popular figures in mythology. Vampires properly originating in folklore were widely reported from Eastern Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Afterward, the legend of vampires was integrated into British and German culture, where they were established and popularized.
However, a rare blood disease could be the true origin of the bloodsucker myth. As Scientific American states, the history of vampires’ distinguishable features could be linked to cases of a rare blood disorder called “porphyria” in Eastern Europe may be the root of certain physical characteristics attributed to vampires. Porphyria is sometimes referred to colloquially as the “vampire” disease; the reason being that people with this condition often experience symptoms following exposure to sunlight.
As the BBC reports, “The effects of sensitivity to light can be so severe that sufferers lose their ears and noses—a physiognomy echoed in the looks of vampires such as Nosferatu.” Nowadays, the modern concept of vampires follows this visual reference for designing the widely accepted appearance of vampires in media portrayals, such as Michael Morbius’ physical distinctions in Marvel’s Morbius.
Vampires Share Distinctions With “Strigoi”
Vampires have long been associated with Transylvania, a region in Romania, that became the permanent residence of the fictional character, Dracula – or “Count” Dracula. In Romania, fears of the “strigoi” – once-human monsters who need blood to survive – have circulated for hundreds of years.
Strigoi in Romanian mythology are troubled spirits that are said to have risen from the grave; they possess the abilities to transform into an animal, become invisible, and gain vitality from the blood of their victims. These qualities are comparable to what modern society knows as the mythical creatures, vampires.
Vampires Became Scary Sex Appeal in The 19th Century
In the 19th Century, the vampire presence changed dramatically. While paying homage to their origin and history, vampires blended sexy and scary to appeal to more modern audiences. Vampires became the center of romantic tales incorporating elements of gothic and horror. As the 19th Century progressed, vampires continued to have a major makeover.
Even as early as 1931 with Tod Browning’s Dracula, that portrays vampires as dashing, desirable creatures that lure unsuspecting victims – often women – to their dwellings to feed on them and convert them into vampires. Bela Lugosi as Dracula is depicted as charming and eccentric, preying on young women in a strangely intimate fashion. Helen Chandler plays Mina Seward, the “damsel in distress” character that is pursued by Lugosi’s entrancing Dracula.
Since the earliest recollections of vampires – such as Dracula – becoming more handsome than frightening, vampires have continued to cross the streams of scary and sexy. More modern examples include female vampires, created to please the male gaze. Kate Beckinsale portrays Selene in Len Wiseman’s five-part film series, Underworld.
Selene has pale skin, brown shoulder-length hair, piercing blue eyes, and a slender physique – all of which are conventionally attractive attributes by society’s standards. She dons a leather ensemble complete with a flowing cape and boots, which is a dominatrix-esque fashion sense and therefore labels Selene as more sexy than threatening.
Marvel’s “Morbius” Is Scary, Sexy, And Historically Accurate
From what Marvel has released in previews, Morbius seems to merge all the aforementioned versions of vampires. It promises to be an accurate representation of the history of vampires, including a blood disease and the associated side effects.
However, by casting Jared Leto, a traditionally “attractive” male, Morbius will likely be incorporating more modern conceptions of vampires, blending the attributes that make them scary; the pointed fangs, inverted noses, and general disfigurements and the attributes that make them sexy; long hair (slicked back), chiseled facial features and charming personalities.
Trailers have revealed that Leto’s titular biochemist will have a rare blood disease that he attempts to cure that goes inadvertently wrong and changes his genetic properties – thus infecting him with a form of vampirism. According to IGN, “Leto was drawn to the character’s struggle with his disease and the moral implications of a hero who has a thirst for blood.”
Morbius adds an interesting twist that has been previously seen in adaptations like Underworld, wherein the typically “villainous” stereotype applied to vampires is removed and the bloodsucker is the protagonist and does the wrong things for the right reasons. From what premise summaries have hinted, Morbius will prey on criminals that he deems unworthy of life.
From what images and glimpses from trailers have implied, Morbius’ vampire form will resemble its comic counterpart; Morbius will have discolored skin, elongated fangs, pointed ears, long nails, and an overall hideous appearance, which is precisely the look illustrated in the history of vampires through folklore, novels, and other written works.
However, how accurate Leto’s Morbius turns out to be – both comically and historically – is yet to be seen. Marvel continues to branch out into multiverses and experiment with lesser-known characters; Morbius is owned by Sony, so its connection lies with Spider-Man as opposed to the MCU. There have even been hints that Morbius will correlate with Spider-Man: No Way Home, the last film in the MCU trilogy, including Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home.
To see the cinematic debut of Michael Morbius in all his glory, Morbius is scheduled for release on January 28, 2022.