FanExpo Canada 2012: Joe Keatinge And Rich Elson Suck Up To ‘Morbius: The Living Vampire’

When last we left Morbius, The Living Vampire, he was locked away in a floating prison forever. When last we left the team of writer Joe Keatinge and artist Rich Elson, their Thanos series had been suddenly and mysteriously scuttled by Marvel. Well, now we know – if not the reason why that happened, at least what other series will be taking over most of their time… And what’s happening next for Morbius. Turns out? Their destinies are intertwined, as the duo is taking on Dr. Vampire, M.D. into a new, ongoing series, starting this January:

MTV Geek: This may get into spoiler territory right off, but last we saw Morbius, he was locked up in a floating prison, and feeling really, really bad about himself. Where is he when we pick things up?

Rich Elson: Joe is working on ASM # 699.1 which, I believe, will use Dan’s Spidey stories to set up the background and locations for Morbius #1. I’ll be finishing up the art on ASM 698 and wrapping up a few non-comics jobs before I join Joe on issue #1.

Joe Keatinge: This is a huge aspect of Amazing Spider-Man #699.1. How he goes from where Dan Slott and company took him with Horizon Labs to where Rich and I are taking him with… Well, something completely different. I don’t want to get too big in specifics now, but Morbius is being plunged head first into a never-before-seen, really weird haven for the outcasts of the Marvel Universe – the people too odd for the X-Men. What exactly that setting is… I’d rather folks wait on this one. I can definitely say after reading a lot of Morbius comics that he hasn’t been in a situation at all like the one we’re putting him in.

Geek: Taking a step back, what’s your take on Morbius? There’s a lot of “vampire with a soul” characters out there, so what makes him unique?

RE: In his first appearance Morbius was set up by Roy, Gil and Stan as a character balanced between superheroics, science fiction and horror. Due to this quirk of his origin he is able to slip between a multitude of genres effortlessly and this really opens up the possibilities in terms of story, character and location. He is a tragic monster. Everybody loves a tragic monster. But he’s not like other vampires; he has different abilities and weaknesses. In fact, when you take all of his aspects into account, he’s not like anything else out there. Where exactly does he fit in? I think Joe’s about to tell us.

JK: It’s all in the execution. The Morbius we’re presenting is tired of hanging around on stone gargoyles and hiding in sewers. He wants a different life. He thinks other vampires are idiots. He doesn’t fit in any of their sub-cultures, whether it’s those who wish to slaughter humanity or the sparkling sad sacks. Morbius identifies more as a scientist than anything else and we’re playing this aspect up more than anything involving being a vampire.

Geek: What’s the tone of the series?

JK: This is not a typical Brooding Vampire book. This is something very different, even a bit of a departure from where Morbius has been before. I think the closest kin it has in comics is Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s Doom Patrol run, but even that is a stretch. This is a look at a side of the Marvel Universe thats been ignored since its inception. A weirder side. A side with a really disturbing, albeit hidden quality.

RE: It’s always fun to draw monstrous characters skulking in the shadows, but there’s more to Morbius than just that. In the hands of his original designer – Gil Kane – he could be elegant, acrobatic, dramatic; a powerful and brutally effective fighter who had little problem dispatching both Spidey and The Lizard when he first meets them. He’s also super-smart – the guy has a Nobel prize. He’s a very versatile and unusual guy and I’ve been looking in a variety of places to get inspiration for how to present him. Aside from making nightly observations of the bat who appears to have taken up residence in my garden I’ve been studying Goya’s Caprichos and Black Paintings and immersing myself in suitably creepy music.

Geek: Morbius walks that line between horror and superhero comics… How do you navigate that, and will we find him more on one side or the other here?

JK: One of my favorite things about superhero comics – especially Marvel superhero comics – is the ability to fuse it with pretty much any genre or sub-genre you want. There aren’t limits like there are in, say, a western. If you start putting, I don’t know, giant robots in a western, it becomes sometimes else entirely. You can filter superheroes through horror and it still make sense. We’ll be doing a lot of that.

Geek: There’s of course a lot of different places you can take him, but it seems like we’ll be getting a Hard Travelin’ Vampire type story?

JK: He’ll be sticking around the New York area to start, but from there…? To be continued.

RE: There’s no doubt that Morbius’ stories could be greatly enhanced by environment and we will probably want to get into some interesting, unusual and unsettling locations as we develop the series.

Geek: How about supporting cast… Are we going to see any monsters we might know and love? Or alternately, some of the cast from A.R.M.O.R.?

JK: That would be cool, wouldn’t it? Keep reading.

Geek: He’s also been tied into the Spider-Universe for a while… Are we going to be seeing him leaving that behind, or will ol’ Peter be popping his head in now and again to pick up some sugar?

JK: I sure do love Spider-Man. That’s all I’ll say.

Geek: It’s almost like you want us to read the book, Joe! Okay, any final thoughts? Things you can’t wait for people to see?

JK: Everything Rich Elson draws. I was bummed when Thanos: Son of Titan stalled out, in largest part because I really wanted to work with Rich. Having him on board Morbius has me ecstatic. He’s so damn talented. Not a lot of people can ground the fantastic as well as him. He’s an ideal collaborator in every single way.

RE: After the disappointment of the Thanos book getting cancelled it is great to get the chance to work with Joe again so soon on another classic Marvel character. Having seen what Joe had in store on Thanos, I can’t wait for people to see his take on Morbius. Gil Kane is one of the all time greats and I love the man’s work to a degree that is probably a little unhealthy (his run on Spidey is second only to Ditko, for me). To get the chance to work on one of his great co-creations is an honour and I want to hit the ground running and turn out the best work I have ever done on this series.

Morbius: The Living Vampire #1 is on sale in January, 2013 from Marvel Comics.