Moon Knight premiered on Disney+ last week, and it’s been a smashing success so far. I am so glad to see everyone so pumped for this long-underseen hero from the Marvel Universe. In last week’s podcast, we discussed Moon Knight’s history in comics, and we recapped the “must-haves” for the show to be a real representation of Moon Knight that fans of the comics would enjoy. A quick recap for those who don’t have the time to listen to the whole show.
The Core of Moon Knight’s History
There are five real keys to the character’s long-lasting appeal that haven’t changed since the character really took life in the seminal Moon Knight series written by Doug Moench in 1980. These are the key core character attributes and pieces of his origin and history that, while they have been intrepreted in various ways, are so critical to Moon Knight that leaving one of them out is a huge miss.
Marc Spector – Mercenary / Global Adventurer
The shortcut, but inaccurate, reference to Moon Knight is always “he’s Marvel’s Batman”. Moon Knight’s origin and background could not be further from DC’s caped crusader.
While the Moon Knight TV series introduces us to Steven Grant, it’s already given a nod to “Marc” – who is the true “secret identity” of Moon Knight that comics fans are most familiar with. In Moon Knight #1 (1980), readers are introduced to Marc Spector – a mercenary for hire working in Egypt for a brutal gang of treasure seekers led by The Bushman. While Bruce Wayne / Batman are inextricably linked to Gotham, Spector / Moon Knight are adventurers with the globe as their stalking ground.
I’m glad to see that the Disney+ series is already taking the cue from the comic with a wide-open adventure-scape that is not confined to a single city or location. Off to a good start here.
Moon Knight – Fist of Khonshu
The first Moon Knight comics I ever latched onto was the 1985 series “Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu” written by Alan Zelentz. But, Khonshu has been present in almost every Moon Knight story since the beginning – including being key to Moon Knight’s very origin.
As a mercenary, Marc Spector turned against the gang that hired him to raid treasures in Egypt. When he did so, he was left for dead in the desert – set out to wander in the hot sun until his expiration. Exhausted, Marc stumbled into an ancient Egyptian tomb, where he quite literally died.
Lying in the tomb, the Egyptian god – Khonshu – brought Marc back from the grave to serve as his spirit of vengance here on Earth. Most of Moon Knight’s supernatural abilities are tied to the moon and to his patron god, Khonshu. The downside is that Moon Knight and Khonshu don’t always see eye-to-eye and are often in conflict with one another.
Viewers should expect Khonshu – and other Egyptian gods – to play a large role in this series. When you’re hearing the deep voice in Steven’s head on the show – that’s Khonshu speaking to him (with the deeply melodious pipes of F. Murray Abraham). You’re also already seeing nods to this in the gift shop where Steven works and his statement that not all the panoply of the Egyptian gods are represented on the poster they’re looking at.
The Resurrection from the Dead
As referenced above, the key to Moon Knight’s origin is that he actually died and was brought back to life by Khonshu. This explains why Khonshu has such direct, intense mind-to-mind contact with Moon Knight/Steven/Marc, and why they are compelled to serve his will – up to a point. This component is also critical to the next item on the list.
Marc / Steven’s death and ultimate rebirth has already been referenced in an aside on the show. Early on in the first episode.
Just about five minutes into the show, Steven is talking to a young girl about Egyptian mummies and the underworld. He tells her how they would remove all the organs from the body, except for the heart, for the process. Steven explains that they left the heart because they believed that the deceased needed the heart so they could be judged in the underworld and “only the worthiest would be allowed to pass into the Field of Reeds”.
The girl’s response to him is, “And did it suck for you? Getting rejected from the Field of Reeds?”
Puzzled, Steven can only say “That doesn’t make sense, because I’m not dead, am I?”
Somehow, this little girl knows what’s up with Moon Knight and Steven’s death and resurrection.
So what’s with all the Steven/Marc stuff that going on in the series to-date? Another Moon Knight essential is that he is a character with multiple personalities. I hope that the TV series is able to present this in a more forward-thinking way than the early comics that often referenced “split personality” or “Dissociative Identity Disorder”. As our culture’s understanding of mental health continually evolves, I think that the comics have found a way to hang onto this aspect of the character in a less, ummm… frankly a less offensive manner.
The best way it’s been explained – to my thinking – was in the 2014 series from Warren Ellis. It’s described this way. When Khonshu raised Marc from the dead, Marc’s mind was in direct contact with that of the ancient Egyptian God. Khonshu has four main aspects – Pathfinder, Embracer, Defender, and the Watcher of Overnight travelers.
As a mercenary, Marc had developed many aliases to help him do his work – the most relevant being Marc Spector, Steven Grant, and Jake Lockley. As Khonshu “remade” Marc in the process of his resurrection, each of those four aspects grabbed and intensified one of Marc’s aliases, truly splitting Marc’s mind in a way that – when one of those three aliases/identities (plus, the fourth being “Moon Knight”) is engaged – the others are so far in the background that they “disappear”.
The allies of Moon Knight
In the comics, from day one, there are two constant presences in Marc / Moon Knight’s corner: Marlene and Jean Paul Duchamp (aka – “Frenchy”)
If there’s going to be a good Moon Knight series, at least one – but hopefully both of these characters will have to be enlisted to his aid. Again, we’re off to a good start here. In the phone that Steven retrieves from a hidden spot in his apartment, there are dozens of missed calls from a mystery woman named Layla. And, one missed call from “Duchamp”. This 100% has to be Jean Paul, and Moon Knight fans are excited.
Jean Paul Duchamp was a French soldier who later left to become a soldier of fortune. He’s an ace helicopter pilot and Moon Knight’s tightest associate – eventually designing a custom helicopter for Moon Knight and serving as the pilot on Moon Knight’s most critical missions.
The Next Phase of the Moon (Knight)
With those five elements in place, the Moon Knight stories can flex in almost any direction. In the most recent comics, Moon Knight is most frequently associated with the dark, supernatural side of the Marvel Universe. He serves as “Protector of those who Travel by Night” and founded the Midnight Mission to aid those who are hounded by vampires, werewolves and the like.
With the MCU starting to incorporate the supernatural elements of the books into the next phase of the movies – beginning with Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness – Moon Knight would easily slide into those stories. There’s already been a standalone Blade movie announced, and Marvel’s vampire hunter had a voiceover cameo in The Eternals, so there’s a strong possibility we’ll be seeing Moon Knight on the big screen in the not-too-distant future.
And with Charlie Cox’s Daredevil appearing in Spiderman: No Way Home, plus the former Netflix series moving to Disney+, can a Marvel Knights team-up on the small screen be far behind?
Members of that team included a lot of characters already introduced – besides Daredevil, the line-up consisted of Black Widow, Dagger, Moon Knight, Shang-Chi and Luke Cage. And the team was originally formed to capture – The Punisher!
Hope this list of essentials helps you all enjoy the series even more. If you’re interested in more, we recap several early, seminal issues of Moon Knight on our most recent podcast – the real Moon Knight talk starts around the 15 minute mark.