Morbius is an odd supervillain from the beginning: he is a tortured scientist who gave vampire-like abilities to himself — and vampire-like pangs of hunger — that often need a superhero from Marvel to often keep the vampire in check. However, there was just one story that Morbius director Daniel Espinosa used to show his executives why his film Morbius is way more than being Spider-Man’s frenemy:
The time when Morbius nearly ended Doctor Strange’s life
“I love the moment where he sucks out the life energy of Doctor Strange,” Espinosa revealed to Polygon over Zoom. While Espinosa didn’t state an issue number from the comics, we believe that he was talking about Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #53 (1993), where the villain Nightmare pits Dr. Stephen Strange and Dr. Michael Morbius against one another.
“I just kept pounding that to all the executives, like, You don’t get it. This guy has been on the verge of beating Doctor Strange! This is not a nobody. And we don’t really know the ends of his powers. I wanted to express the thing of — in comic books, 15 years ago, it was introduced, the idea of the Spider Totem.”
In the early 2000s, J. Michael Straczynski went on to introduce a few god-like characters to the Spider-Man comics — known as the Spider Totems — who chose mortal beings through the multiverse to carry forward their true essence. They are the real reason why multiple universes in the Marvel multiverse have some sort of Spider-Man in it. In 2015, Dan Slott picked up that idea, using it for the debut of the multiverse-hopping Spider-Person event known as Spider-Verse, which became the inspiration for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018).
However, the comics did imply that there could be other animal-themed Totem cabals in the universe, and director Espinosa believes that, like Spider-Man, Morbius is also a mortal avatar for god-like forces.
How Can Morbius Take On Doctor Strange?
“I always felt that the reason he beat Doctor Strange was that he in reality is the Bat, like the Totem. So in the same way as the Spider, they have an eternal amount of cosmic power to draw from.”
If this sounds a bit far-fetched, it’s the same kind of creativity that drove Marvel comics at the time Morbius came into existence. In 1971, Marvel comics was ending its first decade in a different national mood than in 1961. A new generation of creators came in the driving seat, and the eventual loosening of American comics’ content restrictions meant that new and old stories were more available to narrate.
“Comic books didn’t quite know where to go,” Espinosa mused over Zoom. “Were they going to go into blaxploitation? Or maybe an older way of telling things? Would they retreat back to the ’60s instead, which were much more representative? […] When Morbius came [to be invented] you didn’t quite know if it was [a return to] the Twilight Zone kind of Marvel, which was way more the way it started, with stories about monsters.”
The entire idea of giving fans a Marvel monster movie did appeal to the Life director.
“That’s why if you begin to listen to the score, it’s a horror score,” he said. “If you go to Spotify, and just listen to just the score, it’s,” he imitated dramatic and ominous orchestral stomps. “That’s what I liked, to play with those things.”
One more thing that the long-time Marvel fan enjoyed? Well, it’s elevating the Daily Bugle from showing the New York Post to the New York Times.
“I was a kid during the ’80s, OK? So for me, the Daily Bugle is a good newspaper. Ben Urich, for me, is the best journalist in the world, and he doesn’t work on some trashy — and Robbie Robertson is the proudest chief editor in the world, and he’s a good guy, and he tries to do good journalism. So that’s why I changed I changed the design of the Daily Bugle, so it looked more like a proper newspaper.”