For the latest Obscure Marvel Woman (OMW) of the Original Marvel Universe (OMU), we meet a beautiful blonde who seemed to have it all, until her life suddenly became one long adventure into fear.
Martine Bancroft was born in 1932 in Los Angeles, California. In the late 1950s, she fell in love with the brilliant biochemist Michael Morbius, despite his somewhat outré appearance. She was thrilled to accompany him to Sweden in 1961 when he received a Nobel Prize for Chemistry. With his funding secured, Morbius proposed to Martine and she happily accepted. They did not set a specific date for their wedding, but Martine nevertheless came to live with Morbius at his private research facility in Greece, on a rocky hilltop overlooking the Aegean Sea. There, with his research assistant Emil Nikos, Morbius pursued his research with ever-growing dedication. Martine had little interest in the nature of his work, and did not question the secrecy with which he pursued his experiments.
In November 1964, Morbius announced that the next phase of his research project would have to be conducted at sea. Over her fiancé’s strident objections, Martine insisted on coming along, seeing it as a chance for an ocean cruise. They traveled by ship across the Mediterranean Sea, then north to England, where they chartered a private yacht. Once Morbius and Nikos had outfitted the boat with their scientific apparatus, the trio set out across the Atlantic.
After dinner a day or two later, Morbius excused himself from Martine’s company to check on some routine matters in his laboratory. Knowing not to bother waiting up, Martine went to bed early. When she woke up the next morning, she was horrified to discover that Nikos had been strangled to death and Morbius was nowhere to be found. Distraught, Martine read through all the research notes she could find, and learned that Morbius was dying of an incurable blood disease. He had developed a radioactive enzyme to reverse the deterioration of his blood cells, but he feared the side-effects might leave him with certain vampiric tendencies. Clearly, the experiment had gone terribly wrong. In a state of shock, Martine sent out a mayday, and eventually made her way back to Greece.
Uncertain whether Morbius was alive or dead, Martine spent the next several months going through the rest of his papers, trying to learn all she could about the disease he had kept hidden from her. She discovered correspondence he had received from Hans Jorgenson, a biologist at Empire State University in New York, and Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four. She resolved to travel to New York City to seek their help.
It was October 1965 when Martine finally arrived at the Baxter Building to meet with the Fantastic Four. While she discussed her situation with Reed and Susan Richards, the Human Torch flew off to find Jorgenson on a hunch. The Torch returned a few hours later, reporting that he and Spider-Man battled Morbius on the college campus, and that the Nobel Prize winner had indeed become a vampire. Martine was nearly overcome with horror at hearing the Torch’s description of her fiancé’s chalk-white skin, his fangs, and his ability to fly like a bat. But the worst came when the Torch revealed that Morbius had killed two people before escaping. The Fantastic Four assured Martine that they would keep abreast of the situation. Martine then met with Hans Jorgenson, and he confirmed the Torch’s terrifying tale. He promised to do whatever he could to help. A few days later, she read reports that Morbius had tried to kidnap Jorgenson but was defeated by Spider-Man and the X-Men. The media had few details of the incident, and for months afterward there were no further sightings. By the summer of 1966, Martine could no longer stand the loneliness and isolation of her life in Greece, so she closed up the research facility and went home to Los Angeles.
In July, Martine met a mysterious man named Daemond, and over the course of several weeks, he exerted an influence over her that was uncanny. Before she knew what she was doing, she had joined his cult of demon-worshipers, was dressing in the ritual garb of a sorceress, and performing rites of black magic. Martine submitted her will to Daemond totally, and became devoted to his cause of destroying a triumvirate of scientific demagogues called the Caretakers. On a steamy night in August, she joined Daemond in his apartment to perform an incantation that would summon the Balkatar, the mightiest warrior of the Cat People, to serve them. Just as they completed the spell, Morbius crashed through the window, intent on killing Daemond. The Balkatar materialized just in time to defend them, and his battle with Morbius quickly carried them out into the street. Upon finally seeing Morbius again, Martine felt nothing but revulsion.
The Balkatar overwhelmed Morbius and pinned him down. When Daemond commanded the Balkatar to keep Morbius there until the sun rose and destroyed him, Martine concurred, saying the man she loved was dead, replaced by a creature of the night that was a slave of their enemies. Enraged, Morbius broke the Balkatar’s grip and fled, vowing to return to free Martine from Daemond’s clutches. They followed as the Balkatar pursued Morbius, but by the time they caught up to the monstrous combatants, the Balkatar had shaken off Daemond’s control. With Morbius’s limp form in his arms, the cat creature teleported away to parts unknown. Daemond informed Martine that he had neither the knowledge nor skill to find them.
Martine continued to serve Daemond, succumbing further and further to his mental domination, for the two months that followed until Morbius returned to Los Angeles. In October, Daemond and Morbius clashed again, and the “living vampire” was once more defeated. Daemond instructed Martine to pick up Morbius’s unconscious form, and she was shocked how impossibly light his body felt in her arms. Then Daemond teleported them to his Mansion of New Order, located elsewhere in the city. Once there, Martine laid Morbius upon a sacrificial altar, and Daemond began the magic ritual that would, the moment Morbius’s blood was shed, open a dimensional gateway and allow Daemond’s horde of demons to invade the earth. But the rite was interrupted by the agents of the Caretakers, who smashed through the windows, wearing jetpacks and firing their weapons. Martine ran for cover and hid while Daemond’s cultists battled the Caretakers’ strikeforce. During the conflict, Daemond, Morbius, and the Caretakers vanished into thin air, leaving their forces to fight to the death. When the sounds of battle ended, Martine emerged to find the mansion littered with corpses; the enemies had wiped each other out. In a state of shock, she left the mansion and wandered off into the city.
With no further contact from either Daemond or the Caretakers, Martine went about her life with her mind in a fog. She had little conscious memory of the last couple of years, and for months she drifted about Los Angeles with no sense of purpose or direction. Finally, in June 1967, Morbius succeeded in tracking her down and breaking through her mental blocks. Truly reunited at last, Martine was determined to stand by her fiancé and see that he got the help he needed to find a cure for his bizarre affliction. Their reunion was interrupted when they were suddenly attacked by a werewolf, but Morbius defeated the creature, and at dawn it reverted to its human form. Martine then led Morbius to a seedy hotel where he could sleep through the daylight hours. While he slumbered, she discovered the key to a post office box in her pocket, but could not remember how it got there. After Morbius awoke at dusk, they headed to the La Brea station of the Los Angeles Post Office to check it out. In the box they found a single sheet of paper with a complex biochemical formula written on it. A quick perusal led Morbius to suspect it was the cure for his condition, probably given to Martine by either Daemond or the Caretakers at some point to ensure her cooperation. Unfortunately, on the way back to their hotel to study it further, Morbius and Martine were attacked again by the werewolf, and the formula was lost during the ensuing battle at the La Brea tar pits. Still, Martine talked Morbius out of killing the werewolf, making a moral distinction between a desire for vengeance and the need to feed. Morbius was bitterly disappointed, but Martine comforted him as best she could.
Over the next few weeks, Morbius tried to recreate the formula from memory, but felt he had remained in Los Angeles too long, increasing the risk that his enemies would find him. As such, they decided to relocate to Boston, Massachusetts. Taking a list of supplies they would need, Martine sought out a secluded location where Morbius could conduct his research. She soon found a dilapidated Victorian mansion to rent on the outskirts of the city. The price was extremely low as the owner, Jennifer Mason, believed it to be haunted. Martine immediately purchased laboratory equipment and stocked the mansion with everything Morbius would need. She went so far as to steal a quantity of plasma from a nearby blood bank. But after she brought Morbius to the mansion, he insisted that no intravenous feeding would slake his thirst, as his bloodlust was psychological as much as physical. In the days that followed, as Morbius sought out anonymous victims, Martine convinced herself that he was not responsible for his actions, and that everything would go back to normal once he found the cure.
Then, one night in July, they were accosted by the monster-hunter Simon Stroud. After a brief tussle, Stroud shot Morbius in the side, wounding him. However, Martine intervened, allowing Morbius to escape out the window. Stroud arrested Martine and took her down to Boston police headquarters, where they discovered a female vampire had been caught in connection with the string of vampire-like killings Stroud had been brought in to investigate. Unable to get the female vampire to talk, Stroud and Police Commissioner Warner brought Martine into the interrogation room. Stroud argued that the woman was clearly one of Morbius’s victims, but Martine countered that, since Morbius’s affliction was medical rather than supernatural in nature, he could not pass on vampirism to his victims. Commissioner Warner then related the tales surrounding the haunting of the Mason estate, leading Martine to speculate that the mansion had probably been inhabited by a coven of vampires long before she and Morbius arrived. Stroud went off to investigate and Warner continued to interrogate Martine about Morbius and his affliction.
As the hours dragged on, Martine began to break down emotionally. Warner was soft-spoken but relentless in his questioning, the female vampire hissed and spit constantly as she struggled against the straps that held her in her chair in the corner, and Martine was kept in handcuffs the entire time. She begged Warner to stop hounding her fiancé, but he merely reiterated that Morbius was his prime suspect. Suddenly, the female vampire broke free and leaped on Warner, biting his neck and draining his blood. Then, still thirsty, she turned to Martine and attacked. Hampered by the handcuffs, Martine was unable to defend herself as the creature’s fangs pierced her neck. Martine screamed and passed out as the vampire sucked her blood from the wound.
Martine regained consciousness a short time later, but her attacker was gone. Looking around, she saw Warner’s pallid corpse on the floor. Martine crawled over to it, found the keys to her handcuffs and freed herself. But before she could turn away, she felt an overwhelming need for blood seizing her mind, and as her tongue rolled around in her mouth, she discovered fangs. She had become a vampire. Unable to control herself, she sank her teeth into Warner’s corpse, searching for any blood that might remain. Suddenly, Morbius and Stroud burst into the room and recoiled from her in horror. Martine told Morbius she finally understood his bloodlust, and invited him to join her in preying on humans. Her fiancé was too horrified to respond, and so, feeling rejected, Martine viciously attacked him. Morbius managed to fight her off, so she crashed through a window and fled into the night, burning with a thirst for fresh blood.
Hours later, Martine attacked a Harvard co-ed heading home from a date and dragged her into an alley to drink her blood. The girl’s screams brought Simon Stroud to the rescue, and he held Martine off with his gun until Morbius could arrive with an antidote he had concocted in the police laboratory. Reveling insanely in her predatory urges, Martine rejected his cure, knocking the hypodermic needle away. But Morbius was suddenly overcome by his own bloodlust, and so the former lovers fought savagely, tearing at each other’s throats like wild animals. Stroud retrieved the hypo and, after a moment’s hesitation to decide which of them to inject, leaped into the fray and jabbed the needle into Martine’s neck. As the solution flowed into her bloodstream, it took immediate effect and Martine reverted to normal. Unfortunately, Morbius was so consumed with bloodlust that he seized the opportunity to feed on her. Martine’s world dissolved in terror and despair as her lover’s fangs pierced her flesh. And then, oblivion.
Martine awoke the next day in a hospital bed, and learned that an emergency blood transfusion had saved her life. Although she was expected to make a full recovery, the trauma had left her emotionally scarred. In the evening, when Morbius and Stroud came in to visit her, she recoiled from her fiancé in fear. Morbius admitted that he was the cause of her transformation, through a radioactive enzyme in his bodily fluids that induced a form of contagious pseudo-vampirism. As such, the antidote he’d created had no effect on him. Accepting at last that he was nothing but a monster and the love they once shared was now impossible, Martine told Morbius she’d had enough. She just could not share the nightmare his life had become. Heartbroken, Morbius agreed to let her go. Stroud interjected that Morbius would still have to stand trial for the murders he’d committed, but Martine questioned Stroud about an insanity defense, giving Morbius the chance to slip out the window and fly away. Stroud proved surprisingly understanding, and thereafter left Martine in peace.
After making a full recovery, Martine Bancroft returned to Los Angeles to make a fresh start. About three years later, she learned that Michael Morbius had finally been cured of his vampirism, but having moved on with her life, she did not seek a reunion. They never saw each other again.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #102
Final Appearance: Adventure Into Fear #31