Adventure into Fear with the Man Called Morbius — the Living Vampire #30 (1975)

Yeah, I like new comics (witness my reviews the last few days), but my heart really does live with the silly comics of the 1970s. There’s just so much to grab onto. Like why such a long title? Did Marvel think that Fear wasn’t a good enough title? Or The Living Vampire? Or even the eerie Morbius? What purpoose is served by a title like Adventure into Fear with the Man Called Morbius — the Living Vampire? (I sound like Estelle Costanza – George’s mom – from Seinfeld. Hey, if ’70s Marvel published a Seinfeld comic, would it be called Adventure Into Laughter with the Man Called Seinfeld — The Living Comedian?
 
I know I kind of played this joke out a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about Marvel’s Space Born Superhero! Captain Marvel, but the Marvel line in the ’70s was plain bizarre if you look at it. Sometimes series would get their own book and not last – The Champions and Black Goliath pop to mind. Other times, series got shoved into anthology books that basically were just solo comics ("Tigra" in Marvel Chillers) and still other times series would start in anthology titles, and be "rewarded" for good sales with their own titles ("Iron Fist" in Marvel Spotlight, "Son of Satan" and "Ghost Rider" in Marvel Premiere, "The Man-Thing" in Fear).
 
"Morbius" was an especially odd case because although he appeared in two different titles at the same time. He was in the black and white magazine Vampire Tales, with exquisite writing by Don McGregor, and in Fear, with studiously mediocre writing by Bill Mantlo. McGregor’s stories were always controversial, since he may have the densest words-to-page ratio of any writer in comics history. His comics were crammed with text. I’ve always liked the way McGregor was able to pull out the deeper emotions and thoughts of his characters, but many people just wanted him to SHUT UP already and tell his stories.
 
But we’re here to talk about Bill Mantlo’s "The Vampires of Mason Manor", where Morbius, the chalk-white man who’s a vampire because he took drugs (paying attention, kids?) hangs out with a fast-talking newspaperman called Stroud as they fight some vampires. Yeah, vampire vs. vampire. It’s quick, cheap and dull.
 
The best part is actually the letters page where the editors announce the book is about to get cancelled. "Two issues from now, if you don’t save it, you’ll be holding in your hands the last issue of Adventure Into Fear featuring Morbius, and the only living vampire will go to his untimely death. Some other star will step into the spotlight, Tough, huh?"
 
Of course, it never occurred to Marvel to put a good writer or arist on the book (that’s actually a slightly unfair critiicism, since Steve Gerber’s run on the series was a stream-of-consciousness work of genius, though he was gone for over a year by this issue) or come up with something that’s legitimately scary. Instead, it was just another mediocre mid-’70s Marvel comic.
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