Writer Joe Keatinge (Glory) and artist Rich Elson (Thor) were announced in July as the creative team of Thanos: Son of Titan, a five-issue Marvel miniseries intended to tell the origin of the cosmic villain. Marvel surprised observers by canceling the series later that month, but fans were assured that Keatinge and Elson would both end up elsewhere at the publisher. As announced Saturday during the "Amazing Spider-Man" panel at Fan Expo in Toronto, they're back together on a new Morbius: The Living Vampire ongoing series debuting in January, picking up directly where the character left off in the recent "No Turning Back" arc in Amazing Spider-Man. Newsarama has the first interview with Keatinge on the series, discussing what's in the works for blood-drinking biochemist Michael Morbius.Newsarama: Joe, though obviously it must have been disappointing for the Thanos miniseries to be cancelled, it's definitely heartening to hear that you and Rich Elson are now working on a Morbius ongoing series. Given that change in direction for you and Rich, do you see any similarities, however vague or subtle, between Thanos and Morbius — either as characters or in your approach to the series?
Joe Keatinge: Yeah, absolutely. One of the main reasons I love the Marvel Universe so much is the complexity of their villains. There's not a lot of guys running around to be evil for the sake of being evil. That bores me to tears.
Doctor Doom has noble intent corrupted by the world's most massive ego. Magneto is someone who is trying to protect his species. Thanos does everything out of most likely the purest, albeit twisted love seen in a Marvel comic.
Morbius isn't that bad of a guy. He isn't trying to conquer the world. He's trying to do right. Heck, he won a Nobel Prize! But everything just keeps going wrong. Everything gets worse and worse and worse. His sins keep piling up, despite good intent.
Nrama: Also, how much of a Morbius fan were you before this gig? You've mentioned your fondness for early '90s Marvel in the past, and given the character's "Midnight Sons" visibility during that era, I'm guessing those comics were probably on your radar.
Keatinge: As a reader, I'm a Marvel lifer. There are photos of me two or three years old with Marvel Comics around. My fourth birthday involved my dad dressing up like Spider-Man and crawling over a fence in our back yard and scaring me to death even though I thought it was the coolest thing ever. During that same era we rented one of those Prizm Marvel Video Library Spider-Man VHS tapes that I watched so much my parents had to buy it from the video store because the physical tape was worn so much it tore.
So, I've been reading Marvel Comics for a long time with an obvious fondness for Spider-Man.
Morbius has been there through all that and I've definitely loved many of his different interpretations, whether it was the Gil Kane take way back when or Todd McFarlane's run with the character and so on.What Dan Slott and company has been doing with Morbius lately has injected a new life into the character and I was already adoring it. Dan really, really gets what motivates a character in the Marvel Universe, especially in the Spider-Man corner. In said corner, they're largely all tragic characters trying to do better. In the case of Peter Parker, the result is usually for the greater good. In Morbius' case, everything just keeps going to Hell. As a writer, there's a lot to work with.
Nrama: If it's not revealing too much at this point, what can you say about your take on Morbius at the onset of the series? As of the recent Amazing Spider-Man arc, it's clear that he was having some trouble controlling his bloodthirst, and Spidey pretty much washed his hands of him. But he's still very much a sympathetic character, and downright heroic at times. How do you gauge him on the good/bad continuum?
Keatinge: I don't want to say too much at this point, but the current Spider-Man run is obviously a major launching point for us. What happened at Horizon Labs is the major reason for where Morbius is at the beginning of our run.
Like I was saying earlier, I don't think Morbius is that bad of a guy. Nothing ever works out for him. It all goes horribly wrong.
Nrama: Genre-wise, how would you describe the book? Obviously Morbius is a character with horror tinges that comes from a superhero book, and, fittingly, the character seems to exist in something of a hybrid of both worlds.
Keatinge: There are very strong horror elements to it, but there's a lot more to it that than. The closest comic I can even think of in terms of the types of stuff we're doing in here might be Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run, but we're ultimately having a very different end result. This is a book largely about people who have absolutely no easy role in society. The outcasts. The people on the fringe. The people of the Marvel Universe who are even too weird for the X-Men.
Nrama: Morbius was last seen imprisoned at the Raft in Amazing Spider-Man #691. One guesses that he won't stay there for long, so what's his mission statement at the beginning of the series? What's motivating him (beyond, presumably, still trying to cure his condition)?
Keatinge: I really don't want to get into specifics about this just yet, but in general he's looking to figure out his place in the world and atone for his past as he does so.
Nrama: It's early still, but what has you excited about what Rich Elson brings to a book like this, visually?
Keatinge: Rich is an astonishing talent. He has this amazing ability to ground the fantastic so damn well. The biggest blow about Thanos: Son of Titan not coming together was us not working together anymore, so when Stephen told me he was on board for Morbius, I was extremely thrilled. I'm writing for him all the way. I want him to have a blast with it.
Nrama: In the past (including the very recent past), Morbius has been closely associated with the Legion of Monsters. Do you have any plans for them — or any other monster-ly Marvel characters?
Keatinge: That would be cool, wouldn't it? Keep reading.
Nrama: That said, it sounds like at least part of the goal of the series might be mixing Morbius up with some different sections of the larger Marvel Universe. What kind of settings are you eyeing for the series?
Keatinge: That would also be cool, wouldn't it? Keep reading.More from Newsarama:
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