One of my absolute stylistic dream teams. Ron Wagner inked by Mike Witherby, coloured by Gregory Wright, lettered by Janice Chiang, and written by Len Kaminski
I was just poking around for more of Ron Wagner’s pencils, as I lost track of Morbius, The Living Vampire around issue 12 (mostly thanks to the “Midnight Massacre” crossover that made it problematic to collect with my super-limited allowance funds, at age 8-9), and have since discovered that I happened to catch the good parts and miss the bad. The series takes a turn for the worse almost immediately after 12, as Kaminski is lost, Wagner is co-penciling (to the extreme detriment of the series), Witherby is nowhere to be found (and replaced by a pair of inkers who don’t do Wagner’s remaining work justice). The series turns from one of the most successfully dark, edgy, gritty, pleasantly-unpleasant series I’ve read in the 90s (the kind that really rides that line of horror movie without delving into the camp aspects, intentionally or not), about a hero that pretty well openly murders his foes whether he likes it or not (leaving him to once let a foe fall in front of a train–said foe carefully un-dismembering himself post-haste…). It’s twisted and weird and totally unlike anything Marvel was doing otherwise (Ghost Rider was solid, but more like the grittier end of standing heroes, Darkhold was terrible and cheesy, Nightstalkers was in the vein of Ghost Rider, but the team dynamic could let it drift off into more “normal” territory…). Morbius, as a character, is outside so much of what came before or after–his costume was short-lived, returned to his original open-chested giant red collar for subsequent appearances.
The stability of the look, the feel, and the quality of the book was ridiculous, but apparently really short-lived.
There was a back-up feature in a few issues that I remember thinking looked like absolute garbage even then, and returning to it is still baffling in its awfulness:
Isaac Cordova, who drew that monstrosity of terrible was later tapped to draw the book regularly, sealing its fate as incredibly shitty.
It’s sad. There are teams I’ve loved the hell out of (Starlin/Lim, of course; Miller/Janson; Bendis/Maleev¹; Conway/Buscema²…), but this one had so little chance, being on a semi-obscure character in a certainly-now-thoroughly-obscure book, creating a story no one was paying attention to (or remembers!) that was, despite all that, amazing. The above teams (with the exception, perhaps, of the last) are actually known for their work, by name.
The only comment I could find on this team was some dipshit insisting Janice Chiang’s lettering is terrible, clearly the result of an unfortunate case of mutually exclusive cases of blindness and illiteracy.
¹Yeah, that’s two teams from Daredevil. One of the interesting parallels is that Morbius, too, required a very unique touch to function appropriately. Despite it’s relatively long-running nature, few Daredevil stories are ever referenced or remembered, except the ones from those teams. Go figure.
²Yeah, Buscema started drawing Spectacular with Peter David writing (returning to the Sin-Eater–never a bad time!–though good lord it had to follow Fearful Symmetry, something I envy for no one), but once he and Conway really hit their stride? Holy shit, the “secondary” Spider-book started beating the snot out of Amazing with its consistency and quality, not having to resort to bullshit like Venom and Carnage–it was almost a functionally separate universe, one where characters were not so x-treme, but reliable, consistent, creative, interesting, without clinging to the limitations of decades past as the characters and stories changed, but never lost their Spider-Man-ness.