Midnight Sons


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Midnight Sons

(pop culture)

At the end of 1983, Marvel Comics killed off all of the vampires in the Marvel Universe, especially those that had survived from the popular 1970s series The Tomb of Dracula. The means chosen for their demise was the use of a magical operation called the Montesi Formula by occultist Dr. Stephen Strange, as told in Doctor Strange, No. 62, December 1983. In that process, Hannibal King, who had been a vampire character introduced in The Tomb of Dracula, was returned to normal life. Almost no vampire appeared in any Marvel comic books for the next six years.

By the end of the 1980s, however, it had become obvious that the horror theme in general and the vampire theme in particular had a large and growing audience among readers of comic books. Marvel, the largest of the comic book companies, addressed this growing public by reintroducing the vampire in November 1989, when Morbius burst upon the pages in Issue 10 of a relatively new series, Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme. Four issues later, in February of 1992, Marvel announced the return of vampires to the Marvel Universe, their return made possible by a weakening of the Montesi Formula. At the same time, Hannibal King found himself transforming back into a vampire.

The full effects of the reversal of the Montesi Formula became evident in 1992, when Marvel initiated the creation of a new region of the Marvel Universe populated primarily with superheroes. Marvel brought together some of its older titles, to which were added several brand new titles in a shared story line called the “Midnight Sons.” The idea of the Midnight Sons recalls the February 1976 issue of Marvel Premiere (No. 28), in which Morbius and Ghost Rider joined Swamp-Ooze and the Werewolf by Night in the Legion of Monsters.

The older heroes incorporated into the Midnight Sons were Ghost Rider (Daniel Ketch), Johnny Blaze, Vengeance (Michael Badilino), the Nightstalkers (Frank Drake, Hannibal King, and Blade), and the Darkhold Redeemers (Louise Hastings, Sam Buchanan, Victoria Montesi, and the sorcerer Modred). Morbius was also revived and given his own series. Blade the Vampire Slayer, Frank Drake, and Hannibal King, the three vampire fighters from The Tomb of Dracula series in the 1970s, were dusted off and given their own story line as The Nightstalkers. The Nightstalkers operated as a detective agency in contemporary Boston.

The Midnight Sons now lived on the edge of reality where the occult and supernatural, in their most sinister form, were a constant threat.

The story of the Midnight Sons officially began in fall 1992 in a six-part story carried in a variety of Marvel titles: Ghost Rider (No. 28), Spirits of Vengeance (No. 1), Morbius (No. 1), Darkhold (No. 1), Nightstalkers (No. 1), and Ghost Rider (No. 31). The lead characters of these titles comprise The Nine, who together protect this world from crumbling under the pressure of the supernatural evil world. The initial story pitted The Nine against Lilith, Queen of Evil and Mother of Demons, a sorceress of obscure origin based upon the ancient Semitic demonic personage, and not to be confused with Lilith, the Daughter of Dracula, who had appeared in previous Marvel vampire comic books. As the Midnight Sons combined to defeat the forces of evil called together by Lilith, they discovered their own questions about one another. They especially questioned the legitimacy of Morbius and Hannibal King, vampires who were not that different from some of the entities from the evil world. Their inability to work with one another except when attacked has led to both independent and interrelated stories during the first year of the Midnight Sons.

A favorable response to the Midnight Sons was immediately noticeable, and in April 1993 Marvel added a seventh title, Midnight Sons Unlimited, and soon afterward began to reprint the old Morbius stories in a new series, Morbius Revisited. Then, in October 1993, Marvel moved to promote the Midnight Sons by giving them their own unified Marvel imprint introduced with a seventeen-part story, “Siege of Darkness,” the first part of which appeared in Nightstalkers (No. 14). The Midnight Sons who survived the “Siege of Darkness” (several were killed) became a more united team. “Siege of Darkness” was printed complete with its own dagger-like logo and firmly established a supernatural realm on the edge of the old Marvel Universe of super (but very human) heroes and villains. The development of this separate supernatural Marvel realm also recognized the problems encountered by the superheroes (the main characters in the Marvel universe) whenever they had to deal with supernatural evil.

As part of its promotion of the new imprint, Marvel issued a Midnight Sons dagger logo pin and a new Ghost Rider and the Midnight Sons Magazine. Soon after the conclusion of “Siege of Darkness,” Nightstalkers was discontinued. Hannibal King and Frank Drake were killed in its final issue.

Blade survived and continued in his own new title, Blade, the Vampire Hunter that lasted for ten issues into 1995. Within a short time, all of the Midnight Sons titles were discontinued as Marvel went through a major reorganization in the mid-1990s.

After several years without any titles featuring their vampire characters, In 1997, a new Blade comic appeared, heralding the revival of the series in conjunction with the release of the Blade movie with Wesley Snipes in 1998.

Interestingly enough, also in 1998, Hannibal King was brought back from the dead (and Marv Wolfman from his other projects) in a new story for the longstanding Journey into Mystery series, an anthology series that had King operating as a detective out of an office in New York City.

After essentially disappearing from the Marvel Universe, the Nightstalkers reappeared in a highly revised context in Blade: Trinity, the third Blade movie. The Nigh-stalkers were formed by Whistler, Blade’s colleague from the first two movies, and are now led by his daughter Abigail Whistler (portrayed by Jessica Biel). They include only one of the old Nightstalkers, Hannibal King (portrayed by Ryan Reynolds). In the story, Dracula captures King and threatens to turn him into a vampire, the rescue attempt setting up the final battle between Blade and the first vampire.

Sources:

Blade, the Vampire Hunter. Nos. 1–10. New York: Marvel Comics, 1994–95.
Ghost Rider and the Midnight Sons Magazine. Nos. 1—. New York: Marvel Comics, 1993—.
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire in the Comic Book. New York: Count Dracula Fan Club, 1993. 32 pp.
Midnight Sons Unlimited. Nos. 1–9. New York: Marvel Comics, 1993–95.
Morbius the Living Vampire. Nos. 1–32. New York: Marvel Comics, 1992–95.
Nightstalkers. Nos. 1–18. New York: Marvel Comics, 1992–94.
Wolfman, Marv. “The Long Cold Kill!” Journey into Mystery, Pt. 1. 520 (May 1998); Pt. 2. 521 (June 1998).

Midnight to Midnight see: Vampire Fandom: United States