Friday, November 11, 2016

The Vampire Strikes Back! (Marvel)
Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #10 When: November 1989 Why: Roy Thomas & Dann Thomas How: Jackson Guice

The Story So Far...
To the world at large Dr. Stephen Strange was for a time dead, but in truth, he remained all along Earth's final defense against threats of magic: The Sorcerer Supreme!

Of the many evils Dr. Strange has thwarted, the feat of erasing vampires from the Earth is one of his greatest triumphs! Imagine, then, the surprise when a desperate call from his younger brother Vic summons him to the scene of a vampire attack!

Indeed, the ghastly figure that stalks Victor Strange is a specimen most rare. Not a creature of the night - but a mistake of science! A living vampire! He is Dr. Michael Morbius: afflicted with a bloodlust similar to that of the undead - and strengths every bit as great! Dr. Strange has chosen a truly worthy foe, unaware that the true vampire menace is not the attacker - but the victim!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Morbius 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Morbius 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Dr. Strange 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Draw 3 (Average)
Fighting: Morbius 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Dr. Strange 6 (Mass Destruction)

A couple of weeks ago we ventured into the alternate reality of What If...? #24, to see mutant vampires rule over New York City! In that universe, Dr. Strange patrolled the night skies - a lone sentinel of sorcery against the undead horde!

One good vampiric turn deserves another, and since there wasn't any time during Halloween, we're going back to horror to see what happens when The Sorcerer Supreme meets one of my favourite cult heroes: The Living Vampire!

Dr. Michael Morbius is an accomplished biochemist whose affliction with a rare blood disease led him to attempt self-experimentation. The strange science he developed cured his ailment, but transformed him into a chalk-skinned, fanged, sun sensitive "living vampire" with a lust to consume the blood of other men!

His struggles with bloodlust led Morbius into a famous feud with Spider-man, and early conflicts with Human Torch, X-Men, and Blade! In time, he would vow to drink only the blood of the wicked, forging alliances with his former enemies, and the likes of The Werewolf, Man-ThingSon of Satan, Ghost Rider, and even Dr. Strange himself! He has belonged to the ranks of The Legion of Monsters, Midnight Sons, and ARMOR, always fighting to keep his inner darkness at bay.

In the past we've seen Morbius go toe-to-toe with The Werewolf, Jack Russell [Marvel Premiere #28], and lead The Midnight Sons against The Hood's agents of Night Shift [Marvel Zombies 4 #2]. These conflicts demonstrate both his physical strength, intelligence, and familiarity with the world of mysticism! Impressive, but can a living vampire really contend with The Sorcerer Supreme?

A vampire Juggernaut reminded us just how human Dr. Strange really is! Under the right circumstances, any physical threat can cause him considerable harm! Just look at Wolverine running a possessed Strange through with his claws in New Avengers #2! Strange's domain is the mystic, and although Morbius has been possessed by demons - he's a living vampire of no inherent magic quality!

Strange has spells of protection and bondage that can defend him from, or contain physical threats. They depend on his inclination to use them, though. If Morbius can catch Dr. Strange unawares, and use his enhanced speed and strength to press the advantage - this could be over quickly!

Given the apparent unfamiliarity between the two, and the fact Dr. Strange is under the impression there are no vampires left since he spoke the Montesi Formula -- an element of surprise is there! It's Dr. Strange's fight to win or lose!

Only a few rungs separate the two in The Comic Book Fight Club rankings. Morbius trails at #47, with only four recorded results to Dr. Strange's eight featurde fights. All of this data spells an intriguing match-up! Let's check it out!

The Tape: Dr. Strange Ranking: Dr. Strange (#42)

What Went Down...
The cloak of levitation allows Dr. Stephen Strange to fly through the air - just in time to catch his brother Victor, who falls from a top storey fire escape! Strange places his mortal kin unconscious on the ground and turns his attentions to eerie, pursuing figure who glides to the Earth behind them!

Though he doesn't recognize the man called Morbius, the Sorcerer sees the fangs, unnaturally pale skin, and weird glide that signal something other than human! He invokes Great Oshtur and Satannish the Supreme, but before the sorcerer can complete any incantation -- Morbius is upon him!

The strength of the hand at Dr. Strange's throat choke him into silence. Morbius commands, "No spells!" as his second hand meets his first and throws the mystic against a brick wall!

He rips at the Doctor's cape with talon-like finger nails, separating the magician from the source of his amazing aerial prowess. Escape is no longer an option!

Calling upon martial arts training taught to him by his old friend Wong, Strange throws a chop at Morbius' neck! It stuns him for a moment, but the living vampire's superior strength allows him to clutch Strange shoulder to groin and powerslam him against the wall!

Strange endures the pain and throws his elbow backwards - stunning Morbius once again. He follows it up with a devastating left cross that snaps Morbius' neck one way - and then brings his foot colliding into it with a roundhouse kick!

Doc Strange is on a roll, he would've thought to himself, had Morbius not broken his rhythm with a two-handed shove!

The Sorcerer Supreme tries to resort to magic, but his words still croak in his crushed throat. He cannot defend himself as Morbius thrusts a black boot into The Doctor's face and sends him back to his knees!

Outmuscled and fading fast, Dr. Strange searches for a way to turn the fight and save himself. Though separated from his cloak of levitation - he can still command its movements!

Like the proverbial bat, the cape rises into the air and launches at an unsuspecting Morbius! It wraps him up from behind like a red and gold trimmed straight jacket! Dr. Strange knows taloned fingernails could tear free at any moment. He mutters a finally irony, "You said it -- f-friend -- No spells!"

One all mighty blow sends Morbius sprawling to the ground! Strange re-fixes his cloak of levitation around victorious shoulders as Morbius speaks -- cleared of the bloodlust that overwhelmed him.

The Hammer...
Did you expect to see the Sorcerer Supreme resort to mere street fighting? In uncharacteristic fashion Dr. Strange is victorious!

I chose this atypical showdown mostly because of my undying appreciation for The Living Vampire - Morbius. As noted in The Tape, we didn't find time to feature his exploits in October, so it seemed like a nice time to double back for some cult fandom.

Truth be told, that early fascination with Morbius led me to covet this issue as a young reader. I don't remember the dawning days of 1990 with enough clarity to be sure if I ever actually saw the issue in person. A dramatic printing of the cover in an issue of Marvel Age -- Marvel's comic book sized fan magazine and advertising spread -- was enough to get me on the hook!

As it turned out, this issue was the doorway to an on-going association between Dr. Strange and Morbius.
An interesting time in Dr. Strange's over fifty year history, where things feel curiously fresh. Who knew The Sorcerer Supreme's kid brother would turn out to be a vampire? Morbius, apparently!

There'd be a little break for a few fun Acts of Vengeance tie-ins, but eventually Morbius would find his way back to The Sanctum Sanctorum, and into the middle of a plot bringing vampires back to the Marvel Universe in a big way.

Vampires had, of course, been taken completely off the board by Strange's reading of The Montesi Formula. One of those sweeping changes made when an idea seems impractical and played out, but is inevitably missed.As much as I'm never entirely sure if I like the idea of Count Dracula and vampire hordes in the Marvel Universe, I think it's probably a mistake to erase them completely. The shadows are deep and dark enough to let them dwell in the fringes. The conceit of a dark, occult reality existing just below and beside our every day lives is something I absolutely can go with.

The relaunch of the series in '88 seemed to be a conceited effort to make everything new again, whilst getting back to basics. One of my favourite additions of the time is Rintrah as Strange's apprentice in residence -- a demonic looking interdimensional entity with a heart of gold.

This issue is a fine example of the juggling of occult gatherings, super-heroics, and soap opera of Stephen Strange's private life. A balance that allows for the highfalutin esoterica that defines Dr. Strange, with a sense of humanity that grounds it all. I don't mind leaning in to the grandiose magicka, but I can definitely see how this approach makes it all more inviting. A lot of fun, too!

We're having fun throughout November as the world embraces magic through the Doctor Strange feature film - now in theatres! Last week we watched as Strange battled the baffling black magic of Baron Mordo. Up next: A cross-dimensional struggle of brain and brawn! You won't want to miss it!

For more of the exploits of The Sorcerer Supreme and his allies you should venture into the book of the Issue Index Archive! Therein you will find a guide to all the documented struggles of good, evil and beyond!

To have your own experience in the world of magic, use the Amazon link provided to purchase the collected edition with this issue and many more inside! By doing so, you help support The Comic Book Fight Club at no extra charge! Blessings of the Vishanti!

Winner: Doctor Strange
#32 (+10) Dr. Strange
#57 (-10) Morbius

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