‘Batman: The Animated Series’ Creator Bruce Timm Didn’t Care For The Way Morbius Was Handled In Fox’s ‘Spider-Man’ Cartoon – And The Reason Is Personal

Help Morbius
A disoriented Morbius (Nick Jameson) accosts Felicia Hardy (Jennifer Hale) in desperation inseason 2 episode 6 "Morbius" (1994), Marvel

Bruce Timm broke ground when it came to Batman: The Animated Series, and he fought the network to give the series what made it great. However, he didn’t always get his way. At times, he had to relent early in the creative process. This was the case for an episode idea that didn’t make it past the pitch stage.

Bruce Timm-FanDome
Bruce Timm during the Batman: Caped Crusader panel at DC FanDome 2021

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But why? What was so bad that Fox drew the line when TAS already had Man-Bats, a werewolf, Scarecrow, the tragic body horror of Clayface, the soap opera of Mr. Freeze, the personality disorder of Two-Face, and occasional hints of mass genocide?

The short answer is blood, but not just the kind of blood seen in Mask of The Phantasm. It goes deeper than that. At one point, Timm had the idea of turning Batman into a vampire struggling with a craving for human blood – or plasma, which was the go-to term for kids shows back then.

Phantasm wants you
Phantasm (Stacy Keach) confronts Chuckie Sol (Dick Miller) in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Warner Bros. Animation

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Never mind the fact vampires would be explored later in a much tamer show (and we will get to that); vampirism and certain creatures of the night were a bridge in Transylvania too far. 

“The only thing that I can think of really, and it’s not a big thing, definitely not something I lose sleep over, but I had an idea to do an episode where Batman got turned into a vampire temporarily,” Timm explained in a Science Fiction interview marking 25 years of BTAS

Batman stands on a rooftop, illuminated by a lightning strike via Batman: The Animated Series (1992), Warner Bros. Animation
Batman stands on a rooftop, illuminated by a lightning strike via Batman: The Animated Series intro (1992), Warner Bros. Animation

“And it didn’t get much past the idea phase, we floated it past Fox Kids and they said ‘Nope! No Vampires!’ and I said ‘well what if he wasn’t really a Vampire?’ and they said ‘No Vampires!’” he added. Something, however, changed their minds when they let Spider-Man have vampires years later.

Morbius would debut and transform into one in the second season of the Marvel show, but with a few accommodations that missed the mark in Timm’s mind, and only made the Living Vampire weirder. “Yeeeeah, but they did that really lame one right? He had like suction cups on his hands? So that was fine,” he jested.

Morbius the living human
Michael Morbius (Nick Jameson) in human form in Spider-Man season 2 episode 6 “Morbius” (1994), Marvel

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Morbius adsorbed plasma through pulsating suckers on his palms which, even as a softcore Cronenberg trait, is a tad extreme for a show that was rated TV-Y.

But for Timm, who wanted to be as authentic as possible, it was about getting things right. “Like if I wasn’t going to do it properly, I wasn’t going to do it. That’s probably the only thing that I can really think of because everything else we kind of got to do what we wanted to do!” he said.

Spidey lends a hand
Spidey (Chris Daniel Barnes) checks a retro-forming Morbius (Nick Jameson) at sunrise in Spider-Man season 2 episode 6 “Morbius” (1994), Marvel

By getting what he wanted, Bruce Timm and his gang at Warner Bros. Animation created the definitive Batman in many eyes.

Producers Avi Arad and John Semper at Marvel Films, conversely, may have taken liberties with Spider-Man, but guaranteed, there’d be no ‘Morbin Time’ without their efforts – for better or worse.

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