I’d say there’s a new suspect for the villain of The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Morbius, the Living Vampire.
A few weeks ago, Stan Lee said that Morbius was one villain he would like to see on film. It’s a slightly unusual answer as this is one of the few notable Spider-Man villains that Stan Lee didn’t co-create. Since Sony commissioned a script for the sequel before The Amazing Spider-Man came out, it’s certainly possible for Lee to know who the bad guy of the sequel is supposed to be.
This wasn’t the biggest Morbius related news of the month. A few days ago, Marvel announced an upcoming Morbius monthly by writer Joe Keating and artist Rich Elson. Keating and Elson are respected, but largely unknown, so without some kind of publicity push, the creative team is unlikely to get even modest sales for a title about Spider-Man’s 19th most popular villain. The decision to commission the book makes sense if the character’s profile is going to increased tremendously in the near future, and Marvel anticipates demand for more material with the Living Vampire. Keating and Elson had previously been announced as the creative team for a since cancelled project on Thanos, the villain from The Avengers cliffhanger.
It is worth noting that Morbius was introduced in the first post-Stan Lee issue of Amazing Spider-Man, and has appeared in the Spider-Man comic strip, which is ostensibly written by Lee. So Stan Lee would still be familiar with the character. And the Scarlet Spider monthly series is not seen as a sign that anyone’s planning to adapt the Clone Saga in an upcoming film.
But it seems like Morbius could easily fit the narrative of the Amazing Spider-Man saga, in which a dying Norman Osborn seeks scientists willing to take tremendous risks to cure his unknown condition. It could easily be established that Osborn and Morbius suffer from the same condition, which would provide him with additional incentives to try to save Osborn, even if the effort didn’t work out well for Curt Connors. In the comics, Morbius is already connected to the Lizard since his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #101, and his recent role in Dan Slott’s Lizard epic “No Turning Back.”
My hunch is still that the villain is going to be Venom, but Morbius has a few advantages, starting with greater suitability as a solo villain. It’s possible that the lesson Sony will take from the poor reception to Spider-Man 3 is that multiple villains are a poor fit for the series. With a Venom adaptation, there’s a lot of material to cover before it’s time for Spidey to fight the bad guy, so another villain is almost required. Peter Parker has to meet Eddie Brock, and have some kind of meaningful interactions with him. He also needs to find the Alien Costume, and discover its abilities, before it tries to take control of him. And then there’s the falling out between Peter Parker and Eddie Brock that has to happen before Brock gets access to the suit. This all explains why long before Spider-Man 3 came out, many on the internet suggested that the story should be split into two films: one for the alien costume, one for Venom.
Morbius can be a solo villain for the second Spider-Man film, perhaps as a dark mirror of what Peter Parker is afraid that he’ll turn into. His transformation could occur at any point that is convenient for a particular narrative. He could be introduced as a scientist working for Norman Osborn, before his transformation at the end of the first act. Or he could even be introduced after his metamorphosis. There’s a lot of flexibility with casting, as he could be depicted as a contemporary of Peter Parker’s, or an older scientist, whatever provides the best fit for the story.
Morbius hasn’t appeared in the Raimi trilogy. That would mean that at least one movie in the new trilogy wouldn’t feature a retread of something most viewers have seen before, which can be advantageous. The first Amazing Spider-Man featured Spider-Man’s origin, while a sequel is likely to feature Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin.
Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy was an important part of the first Amazing Spider-Man, and it’s entirely possible that she’s the biggest star in these films. So it makes sense to keep her role in the sequels as prominent as it was in the first film. Providing a link between her and the villain would give her a strong role in the narrative. This would have been easier to do if she was still the daughter of a police captain, but her father was killed off at the end of Amazing Spider-Man. If Morbius is a fellow scientist with ties to Oscorp, Gwen could figure into his story. Perhaps she would feel as guilty about what happened to him as Peter Parker did with Connors in the first film.
Thanks to Twilight, True Blood and a few other series, vampires are popular right now. There could be a backlash if it seems that Sony has distorted the Spider-Man series to fit some fad. And it could result in an underwhelming film, like when the producers of Superman 3 decided to shoehorn the character into a Richard Pryor vehicle. But it does suggest that there would be more interest in Morbius than the typical supervillain.
From a purely mercenary standpoint, Venom makes more sense. But Morbius is a strong contender, for both financial and artistic reasons.