The tagline for the long delayed Morbius starring Jared Leto states that "a new Marvel legend has arrived," but what exactly does this mean? Is Morbius actually connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, aka the MCU? Or is Sony Pictures, the studio behind Morbius, merely reminding audiences that, that the character has his origins in the pages of Marvel Comics via The Amazing Spider-Man?
The short answer is it's definitively the latter. The long answer, however, is greyer than fans may imagine.
Yes, Morbius is a Marvel Comics character, who first debuted in 1971’s Amazing Spider-Man #101. At first he was written as a villain for Spider-Man, and eventually Blade, to battle, yet the character soon evolved into a darker antihero. He would go on to star in solo stories in anthology-based comics like Adventure into Fear and make guest spots in Spider-Man and other comics throughout the Marvel Comics’ 616-Universe. He wouldn’t actually appear in his own solo series until 1992’s Morbius the Living Vampire, which ran until 1995.
The character of Michael Morbius is a brilliant doctor afflicted with a rare blood disease that left him with facial deformities. Despite those, he won numerous awards and met his fiancé, Martine Bancroft. Having spent his life trying to find a cure, he embarks on an expedition at sea for a cure trial run requiring the fluids of a vampire bat, radioactive materials and electricity. Martine insists on joining him and his associate, Nikos, despite Morbius’s attempts to dissuade her. They run the experiment unbeknownst to Martine, but it doesn’t cure Morbius.
Instead it increases his sensitivity to light, makes his bones hollow and gives him a hunger for blood. He ends up killing Nikos, but before he could kill Martine, he attempts to jump overboard and drown himself. It fails, but Martine gets away safely.
After hitching a ride on a passing ship and draining each of the crew members of their blood, Morbius makes it to New York, where he tries to eat Spider-Man and gets into a fight with The Lizard. They battle but Morbius gets away to live to bite another day.
What to expect from the Morbius movie
While Morbius is by no means an obscure character, he doesn’t have the same level of popularity among mainstream audiences as characters like Venom or Carnage (you see fans wearing Venom t-shirts, less so for Morbius). So why make a movie centered on him?
Long story short, given the only Marvel characters Sony Pictures managed to obtain the rights to prior to Disney’s acquisition of Marvel were those primarily featured or introduced in the Spider-Man comic books, Morbius was one of the few the studio could use to pad a cinematic universe consisting exclusively of Spider-Man affiliated characters.
Originally, Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, formally known as the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC), was created as an attempt to compete with Kevin Feige’s strategy of bringing comic book universes to life on the big screen. After all, in an industry where Marvel Studios’ MCU reigns supreme, it was only natural for Sony to attempt to compete with the ever expanding franchise of god-like heroes using characters they could spin-off from Spider-Man.
Currently, Sony Pictures has no claim or input into most anything related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but has made their own superhero movies like Venom, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, all of which exist outside Feige’s MCU in their own universes. So you won't have Loki popping up in a Venom movie anytime soon. This is the bucket Morbius falls under.
However, you’ll notice I said "most anything" related to Marvel Studios’ MCU. That’s because there is one significant exception: the Tom Holland Spider-Man trilogy, which is firmly set in the MCU.
Holland's Spider-Man trilogy is a co-production between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios, meaning Marvel Studios helps develop the stories and creative direction while Sony Pictures fronts the bill.
Now this is where things get even more complex, because anyone who saw Spider-Man: No Way Home or Venom: Let There Be Carnage will remember that Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock makes an extended cameo in an MCU bar. This proves that while Sony’s Spider-Man Universe is not part of the MCU, it can on occasion cross over with it, if the MCU narrative (and Kevin Feige) deems it possible via the Multiverse rules.
Morbius is neither co-produced by Marvel Studios, nor creatively informed by Marvel Studios in any way shape or form. Thus it is not at all connected to the MCU, just as the Venom movies have been completely decoupled. But that doesn’t mean that crossovers can’t happen.
The exitance of a Multiverse to the MCU means the potential for crossovers, variant characters or any number of imaginative methods is possible to get two studios to play in a giant sandbox with fandom’s favorite characters. So moments in the Morbius trailer, such as Michael Keaton’s version of The Vulture (originally introduced in the MCU-cannon film Spider-Man: Homecoming) making an appearance or Morbius spoofing Venom are perfectly plausible if explained clearly.
However, without actually seeing the film it’s hard to really tell. For now though, until April 1 (or potentially May 6, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) one can consider Morbius and all films within the Sony Spider-Man Universe to be the proverbial Schrodinger’s Cat of comic book shared universes: until we get official approval from Marvel Studios, it both isn’t and is part of the MCU. But mostly it’s not.
Mike is a proud, sarcastic nerd with a penchant for comic books, comic book movies, and movies in general, and occasional delusions of grandeur. He's also a UC Berkeley graduate who decided to go into writing over pre-med because he figured he'd ultimately save more lives by not being a doctor. He's a Slytherin and a Pisces, so he's very emotionally sensitive, yet also evil, but can be defeated by exploiting his insecurities. His goal is to live one hell of a unique life, and it's been working so far! His proudest moments are being retweeted by James Gunn and Ryan Reynolds in the same week, and getting 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland.
You can find Mike's writing around the web at publications like The Nerds of Color, What to Watch, Spoiler Free Reviews, and That's It LA.
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