Morbius, the Living Vampire: Can Jared Leto Do the Job?

Jared Leto is dipping his toe into another cinematic universe. Sony has signed Leto to play Morbius in a new Spider-verse spin-off about the Living Vampire. Daniel Espinosa (Life) is directing. The Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama team (Lost In Space, Power Rangers) are writing.

Who Even Is Morbius?

Morbius, the Living Vampire
Art by Sarah Szabo

Morbius debuted in 1971, in The Amazing Spider-Man #101. Roy Thomas, one of Stan Lee’s trusted editors, was tasked with creating the villain. Marvel released Morbius “following the February 1971 updating of the…Comics Code Authority, that lifted the ban on vampires…” Morbius began as an award-winning biochemist named Michael Morbius. He became “imbued with vampiric superhuman abilities and physical traits stemming from a failed biochemical experiment” using vampire bat DNA and electroshock therapy to cure his blood disease. As a result, he became a “pseudo-vampire,” relying on human blood to survive. He also gained superhuman strength, speed, and healing abilities, the ability to fly, and a strong aversion to light. Both Morbius’ abilities and appearance resembled legendary vampirism; he grew fangs, went pasty white, and his nose flattened like a vampire bat’s. Truly—and canonically—an ugly, ugly man.

Morbius kicked around in the Spider-verse for a while. He fought Spider-Man a handful of times, as well as the Human Torch, the X-Men, and other various and sundry. He had dealings with She-Hulk, Man-Wolf, and Ghost Rider. While fighting Spider-Man once again, a bolt of lightning struck Morbius. This freak accident cured him of all his pseudo-vampiric tendencies except the lust for blood, although he no longer needed to drink it to survive. Other versions of Morbius appear in House of M, Marvel MAX, Marvel Zombies 3, and Ultimate Marvel. He has also appeared in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, The Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip, and a large handful of video games.

They Went to Jared

Jared Leto as Morbius?
It works, but do we like it?

And what about Jared Leto? Relatively fresh off the coattails of Suicide Squad, he’s once again donning clown white and terrorizing his costars in the name of method acting (sorry for telling the truth). There are mixed feelings about this casting, as Leto already plays a pivotal role in the DC Extended Universe as the Joker. Fans of both franchises are asking: what does this mean for my cinematic universe? (This is the perfect time for a Civil War meme.) Rest assured, there’s no need to panic. This is nothing new: Tom Hardy took on the role of Venom in the Marvel stand-alone after being Bane in the DCEU. Technically it’s not as convoluted as Chris Evans playing two characters who have interacted within the same universe. But, plausible deniability, right?

There is a Joker stand-alone film in the works exploring the origins of the Clown Prince of Crime. Allegedly, it will take place in 1980s Gotham and follow the Joker’s failed career as a comedian, following his journey to villain status. There are rumors that Joaquin Phoenix is attached to play the Joker, but nothing has been confirmed. Bad news for anyone who liked Jared Leto’s Joker. Great news for everyone who thought he looked like a hard-boiled egg with prison tats and a bad dye job.

The Possibility for Horror

Taking a peek at a Morbius interpretation from digital artist BossLogic on Twitter, there is some real potential for horror in this film, if Marvel wants to lean that way. Here’s a concept I’m on board with: Morbius looking as nasty as possible. I’m talking cheekbones sharper than Tilda Swinton’s, mouth made mostly of fangs dripping blood and gore, long spidery fingers with dirty, raggedy nails. Toe the line between actual bat physiology and the truly, horribly fantastic and you’ve got the perfect recipe for the Living Vampire.

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About the author

Lauren Boisvert

Lauren Boisvert is a writer and pisces from Florida. She has had poems published with Memoir Mixtapes, spy kids review, The Mochila Review, and others. She loves Mystery Science Theater 3000, classic horror, and making everyone in the car listen to the Beastie Boys.

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