It was a bit of collateral damage, really. One of the drawbacks with buying any random assortment of comics like the plastic-wrapped bundled of coverless older books that my local drugstore chain had begun to sell meant that when you bought a particular package, you were going to wind up with stuff that you simply didn’t want. And such was the case for me with this issue of ADVENTURE INTO FEAR (or simply FEAR in the indicia). When this happened, the books in question would typically become trading fodder, the sort of thing thrown in to sweeten a potential deal you were trying to make. But for whatever reason–including the very real possibility that nobody I knew wanted this book either–I wound up keeping this one. My copy is coverless, though, so this cover is alien to me.
During much of the 1970s, monster comics were a bit of a thing. Marvel had moved into the field in a big way, with titles such as TOMB OF DRACULA, MONSTER OF FRANENSTEIN and WEREWOLF BY NIGHT. Even GHOST RIDER started out on that side of the street before embracing a more super hero flavor. This was also the period when the company was flooding the stands with reprints of the old 1950s and 1960s monster suspense stories, a cheap way to eke out a few dollars, in books such as MONSTER ON THE PROWL, CREATURES ON THE LOOSE and WEIRD WONDER TALES. And I didn’t care for any of it. I was into reading comic books for the super heroes, primarily, and so the monster titles, for all that they were often written as being only half a step removed from the super hero books, didn’t appeal to me.
The Morbius series in ADVENTURE INTO FEAR was one of two attempts to build a narrative bridge between the spooky side of the Marvel Universe and the traditional super hero side–the other being the Man-Wolf series that starred John Jameson, the son of Daily Bugle Publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Like the Man-Wolf, Morbius had been introduced in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane. Thereafter, he’d bopped around through other books such as MARVEL TEAM-UP and GIANT-SIZE SUPER-HEROES (which sadly only featured typical human-sized super heroes, rather than giant ones) as a conflicted quasi-villain before an attempt was made to spin him off into his own horror-tinged series. But it wasn’t enough for me. Like Man-Wolf, while I knew the character had connections to the world of Spider-Man, that wasn’t enough to get me interested in following his adventures.
Despite the vampiric trappings, Morbius wasn’t really a true vampire at all. Rather he was Michael Morbius, a brilliant scientist who was stricken by a rare disease of the blood. In trying to cure himself, he instead found himself transformed into a blood-seeking creature capable of flight and possessed of extraordinary strength. But his background was entirely scientific, as suited the world of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. But here, as this issue opens, he and his ally Simon Stroud have returned from a sortie into another dimension to battle a demonic creature only to find themselves under attack by true vampires upon their return. Why it should be that Morbius can accept the otherworldly demon Helleyes but not the existence of actual supernatural vampires is just one of those things.
But real or imagined, Morbius and Simon Stroud need to fight for their lives against this horde of blood-suckers. And as the vampires of tradition, these guys are vulnerable to a stake through the heart (as they would be if they were merely human, come to think of it) and so Stroud breaks up a convenient chair, using its pieces as makeshift stakes while Morbius holds his own. Once the immediate threat is dispatched, the pair moves upwards through the mansion, out of the basement they’d materialized in to the main floor–where they find an entire party in progress, with all of the guests being vampires themselves.
So it’s fight, fight, fight, and somehow our two heroes manage to stave off this menagerie of undead blood-suckers, leaving only one last vamp remaining to provide them with some answers. With their captive vamp guiding them, teh pair leaves the mansion and journeys back towards Boston, where Morbius has been charged with a string of murders–murders now clearly the work of these other vamps. But when they arrive at the police station where they’d left Morbius’ girlfriend Martine, the place is in chaos. The female vampire that had been left in custody was able to tear herself free and go for the police chief. So now the whole place is a riot zone, as the cops attempt to grapple with this new menace in their midst. Morbius and Stroud wade into the melee, not having had their fill on the pages prior to this one.
Morbius attacks the female vampire, eventually staking her and causing her body to disintegrate. But the damage has already been done. Because before she expired, not only did she murder the chief of police, but she also drank from Martine–and now Morbius’ girlfriend has herself been transformed into one of the undead! To Be Continued! I can’t say that I was grabbed by any of this as a reader. There’s no point where I feel a whole lot of empathy for Morbius, despite his frequent claims to be tortured by his transformation into a quasi-vampire. And none of the stuff he and Stroud were fighting were especially interesting, nor was the supporting cast. So this entire outing was a bust for me.
And apparently I wasn’t alone in that regard. The letters page in this issue takes up 1/4 of its space with an entreaty to the readership: sales on ADVENTURE INTO FEAR are flagging, and if they don’t jump up fast–like immediately–the title is going to be cancelled with the following issue. I’m not sure what good appealing to the current readership was expected to do–they were already buying the book–but nothing came of it, and #31 did wind up being the final issue of the series. Morbius himself would go back into the rotation of Spider-Man enemies, occasionally headlining another project over the years–the longest-running of which was the 1990s series as part of the Midnight Sons imprint.