If vampires suck, why do we love them so much? There has always been a fascination with the idea of these oh-so human-like creatures who feast upon us simply to survive, either by fully draining our lifesblood or simply sampling it. Whether presented as mysterious counts, sparkly boys or blood-soaked brides, vampires continue capturing imaginations.
However, for nearly two decades, everyone’s favorite bloodsuckers were missing from comics, nailed into their crypts by the Comics Code Authority. This self-governing body banned the use of vampires, zombies and everything else even remotely horror-related back in 1954. By 1971, the group decided to loosen its restrictions and almost immediately, Marvel began filling the House of Ideas with skulking monsters.
The fascination with vampires will jump from the page to the screen with at least two upcoming projects based on Marvel Comics. You have the Jared Leto-starring Morbius film from Sony, as well as the Marvel Studios Blade film in the works starring Mahershala Ali. On top of that, there’s rumors of a vampire presence in an upcoming Halloween-themed MCU special coming to Disney+. With so many bloodsuckers ready to haunt theaters (and streaming services), it’s the perfect time to stake out the comic roots of Marvel’s most bodacious blood fiends to get an idea of what might be in store for their live-action incarnations.
Though Marvel would soon unearth an entire line of monster comics, the first major step in bringing back the vamps came in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #101 and 102 from 1971. Far from the typical bloodsucker, scientist Michael Morbius suffered from a rare blood disease and focused his brilliance on finding a cure. To that end, he set up shop in a boat-based lab for safety reasons, bringing along his friend and fellow researcher Emil Nikos as well as his fiance Martine Bancroft. With his health failing, Michael rushed an experiment involving vampire bats and electricity that transformed him into a vampire!
Since then, Morbius has struggled with his condition, both needing blood to survive and feeling terrible after feeding. Given his unusual way of transmogrification, he has felt ostracized from both the human and vampire communities, though has often found solace with other monsters. Along the way, he has also come to blows with Spider-Man about as many times as the hero has tried to help his fellow big brain.
In the 90s, Marvel launched a new Ghost Rider series starring spike-and-chain enthusiast Danny Ketch. From there, they spun out an entire line of comics dubbed Midnight Sons that would grow to include Ghost Rider, Spirits of Vengeance, Darkhold, Nightstalkers, Midnight Sons Unlimited and Morbius: The Living Vampire with Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme crossing over every now and then. During that period, Michael became more brutal in his dealings with his food supply.
Over the years, Morbius has gone from being cured to regaining his vampirism. In his 2013 series, he defended the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn while the 2019 Morbius comic pitted him against an old friend turned enemy. He tried doing some more good in the Morbius: Bond of Blood one-shot just last year. The Living Vampire was also saved from Dracula’s forces by the Wasp and brought into the hero fold to try and figure out what Vlad has planned for the world in Avengers #14. Hey, speaking of the world’s most famous vampire…
As the Comics Code rules and regulations lightened up, Marvel got to work on a series called Tomb of Dracula which launched in 1972. Taking its initial cues from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, the series also seems to have been inspired by both the Universal and Hammer Dracula films, all of which focus on a vicious monster disguised as a distinguished count. Over the years, it has been revealed that the Marvel Universe version of Vlad Tepes Dracula has roots going back to the 1300s.
The original Tomb of Dracula series ran until 1979, racking up 70 issues along the way, but Marvel also published black-and-white magazines that could totally skirt the Comics Code like Dracula Lives and Vampire Tales. Dracula and the other vampires had some real problems when Doctor Strange used the Montesi Formula to banish their kind from the Earth, though it only lasted a few years.
Since then, he has tangled with all sorts of heroes in the Marvel Universe and donned red armor, though he is currently sewing some very interesting seeds in the pages of Avengers written by Jason Aaron. In #14-17, the heroes got mixed up in an apparent bloodsucker civil war lead by the Shadow Colonel and the Legion of the Unliving. This was all part of Dracula’s plan to set up the Vampire Nation in Chernobyl which was officially recognized by the United Nations in Avengers #45. However, it seems doubtful that Dracula will be happy with simple diplomacy. Expect more blood to flow!
With Dracula feasting his way through the Marvel U in Tomb of Dracula, a number of individuals rose to the challenge of putting him back in the casket. There is, of course, the van Helsings of Bram Stoker literature, but also the human-vampire Blade, who debuted in 1973’s Tomb #10. Hailing from 1920s England in the comics, Eric Brooks gained astonishing powers when vampire Deacon Frost fed off of his mother while she was in labor with Eric. Since then, Blade has used his enhanced strength and ability to go out in the sun to hunt down and kill vampires. For years, he played the role of preeminent monster hunter guest star, popping in and out of other characters’ books when they came up against enemies of the fanged variety.
Like Morbius, Blade became more of an ongoing fixture on comic stands in the 1990s when he co-starred in the Midnight Sons title Nightstalkers. His appearances in that title as well as the crossovers helped lay down his new image as the black leather clad version who would inspire, first, the character’s appearance on the 90s Spider-Man cartoon, but also Wesley Snipes’ no-famous big screen take in Blade — which featured Stephen Dorf as the aforementioned Deacon Frost — as well as, Blade II, Blade Trinity, plus a subsequent short-lived TV series (starring Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) and an anime series centered on the character.
Though his hit movies haven’t led to long-running comic series of his own, like his longtime foe, Dracula, Blade has also been showing up in the pages of Jason Aaron’s Avengers, going back to #10, wherein Wasp broke him out of Dracula’s Transylvanian stronghold. Since then he has joined the team and helped them take on the Legion of the Unliving, Malekith’s War of the Realms, the forces of Hell, former Heralds of Galactus and an unhinged Moon Knight. Recently, in the aforementioned Avengers #45, Dracula and Chernobyl were recognized by the United Nations as its own country, but on one condition: Blade gets to act as a kind of sheriff on behalf of the U.N. and the Avengers!
Marvel’s number one vampire slayer is also poised to make his long-awaited return to the big screen. With the rights reverting back to Marvel, the MCU will feature Mahershala Ali starring as Brooks in a film penned by Stacy Osei-Kuffour and helmed by Bassam Tariq. Of course, eagle-eared viewers of Eternals who watched until the very end of the closing credits already heard Ali’s debut as Blade. At the end of that film, while Dane Whitman struggles with picking up the Ebony Blade, an off-screen voice asks if he’s ready for that challenge which Eternals director Chloe Zhao confirmed was Ali as Blade. Combining these two characters might strike some as odd, but in addition to both being Avengers at different points in the comics, Blade and Dane Whitman (as the Black Knight) also both fought together in the pages of Captain Britain and MI13.
During World War II, a group of heroes came together to fight alongside the Allied powers. Calling themselves the Invaders, the team featured Captain America, Bucky, Namor, the original Human Torch and Toro. During the story told in Invaders #7-9, they chased off a costumed figure called Baron Blood who was feasting on a young woman named Jacqueline Falsworth. Afterwards, she introduced the squad to her father, who once ran around as the British hero Union Jack. At a Falsworth family dinner, the heroes learned of Union Jack’s battle with Baron Blood back during World War I, but the real history lesson came when it was revealed that the vampire was actually Lord Falsworth’s brother John, who had been masquerading as his own son for years. During another encounter with the Invaders, John wound up on the wrong end of a stalagmite and seemingly died.
Of course, being a vampire and a supervillain, he did not stay dead forever. In Captain America #253-254, Blood faced Captain America for the first time in the modern era. John may have surprised the Super Soldier, but he also found out first hand just how powerful that mighty shield of his can be. During the first arc of All-New Captain America, John Falsworth was resurrected as part of a Hydra plot to sterilize humanity. Though he was stopped by Sam Wilson during his time as Captain America, Blood did infect Sam’s bird sidekick, Redwing, with vampirism. Sam didn’t notice right away, though, because avians respond differently to the infection than humans.
The Falsworth name has become as synonymous with vampires as the title Baron Blood. After being bitten by her uncle, Lady Jacqueline received a blood transfusion from the robot Human Torch. That, combined with her newfound vampirism, has given her super speed and a long life as the Invader Spitfire. Meanwhile, at Dracula’s behest, a doctor named Jacob Cromwell resurrected Baron Blood yet again. He and one of his daughters were murdered for his efforts while the other girl, Lily was turned. She eventually became Baroness Blood and turned the modern day Union Jack’s best friend Kenneth Crichton into another Baron Blood. Dr. Strange’s brother Victor briefly took on the mantle during his time as a vampire.
Before his time as a vampire, Vlad Dracula was forced by his father to marry a woman named Zofia. Even though he hated her, they had a child named Lilith together. Once his father passed away, about a year later, Dracula divorced Zofia. She killed herself moments after handing the baby over to a Gypsy woman named Gretchin right in front of both of them. After being turned into a vampire by a Gypsy woman, Dracula decided to kill every member of that group he could find, including Gretchin’s son Arni. Seeking vengeance, Lilith’s surrogate mother used magic to turn her into a unique vampire who could go out in the day and not be hurt by crucifixes. She could also inhabit the soul of another who wanted to kill their father, if her body died before killing Vlad.
Five hundred years after her birth Lilith drank from Quincy Harker and had a terse-at-best reunion with her father wherein he rebuked her offer to rule in some kind of red reign together. From there, Lilith has spent a great deal of her afterlife trying to impair or kill her father. He’s gotten the better of her more than once, but her curse allows her to always find another body. Over the years, she’s also had run-ins with Spider-Man and Hannibal King and even worked alongside other monsters as part of the secret SHIELD operation known as the Howling Commandos. Dracula understands his daughter’s hatred from him so well that has even used it to remove obstacles from his own plans! She hasn’t appeared much in the past several years, but she feels ready to reappear as human-vampire relations become all the more complicated!
Note that there is another Marvel villain by the name of Lilith who is also known as the Mother of Monsters. She does have ties to the Midnight Sons line and is the progenitor of a kind of vampire in Ghost Rider villain Blackout, but is not directly associated with bloodcukers.
Yes, it’s true, a beloved member of the X-Men spent a notable amount of time as a vampire!
The X-Men have actually had their fair share of run-ins with Dracula, including the classic Uncanny X-Men Annual #6 wherein Vlad sunk his fangs into Storm and turned her, though she soon got better. Both Mutant X and X-Men: Blue feature alternate reality versions of a character called Bloodstorm, depicting a Storm who kept her bloodlust.
However, there is an X-Man who wound up dealing with vampirism for a much longer time in the central 616-universe Marvel stories, and that’s everyone’s favorite firework-making valley girl, Jubilation Lee! Xarus, Dracula’s son, wanted to bring mutants into the vampire family and knew he had to turn Wolverine to make that happen. So, he sent one of his minions to explode near Logan’s close friend, not only infecting her with vampirism, but also with hypnotic suggestions that would bring her into the fold. As planned, Logan followed and they managed to turn him, but Cyclops already had a contingency plan in effect for such an attack and used it to return Logan to normal. With that, the X-Men overcame Dracula’s son, but only after releasing the father back into the world.
With Xarus incapacitated, Jubilee was mentally in control again, but still had to contend with her newfound bloodlust, which was partially helped by consuming samples provided by Wolverine which included elements of his healing factor. Eventually, she returned to active duty as an X-Man, adopted a child she named Shogo and established herself at the Jean Grey School. While there, she began leading a new group of younger X-Men which included Quentin Quire. After he absorbed a piece of the Phoenix Force while helping Thor, he used it to remove Jubilee’s vampirism and restore her mutant abilities.
Vampire By Night
What happens when a women with a werewolf curse tied to her bloodline gets bit by a vampire? Well, in the case of Nina Price, she spends her days as a very normal human person. However, at night, she changes into a vampire. Oh, but also, if it’s a full moon, she transforms into a killer white wolf. She did everything she could to ensure that she would not hurt innocent people by either restraining herself, or specifically feeding on the worst society has to offer. Price was also brought in to work with two different versions of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos .
Bringing everything full circle, though, Nina’s uncle is also known as Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night, hence her code name. He was another character who came about in the early 1970s after the Comics Code got with the times. Both uncle and niece are rumored to play important roles in the as-yet-unnamed MCU Halloween special coming out later this year, directed by acclaimed composer Michael Giacchino, which might also feature some of the other ghouls mentioned above. Whatever the case may be, it seems likely that Marvel Studios will have plenty of new creepy costumes for kids and adults to put on for many Halloweens to come!