Moon Knight: The History of Marvel’s Next TV Star
Moon Knight is joining the MCU with a TV series on Disney+. To say Marc Spector has a complicated history would be an understatement.
Since Moon Knight was created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin in 1975’s Werewolf by Night #32, the Fist of Khonshu has been a fixture of the Marvel Universe. Through it all, Marc Spector has swapped identities, costumes, and supporting casts. But the one motif that has stayed constant with Moon Knight is the very thing that sets him apart from Batman and other caped avengers: he suffers from severe mental health issues but still fights for justice and it has made the character unique in Marvel’s pantheon. There have been a number of talented creators that tried to find the key to Moon Knight’s publishing success, but few have ever really managed to bring Moon Knight to mainstream success.
That’s all likely to change with the announcement that Moon Knight is joining the MCU with a TV series coming to Disney+. Here’s a look at the character’s history and long journey to the screen…
The Early Days
Marc Spector was first introduced as a foil to Marvel’s Werewolf by Night. Moon Knight’s unique look made him popular with fans so Marvel gave the vigilante his own try out in the pages of Marvel Spotlight. To help distinguish the character from Batman, Doug Moench and Don Perlin tried to put some more distance between Marc Spector and Bruce Wayne. Yes, Moon Knight had the European man Friday in his right hand man Frenchie, the palatial mansion, the billions, the women, and the gadgets, but he also had a very different method of fighting crime. These early stories not only gave readers their first glimpse into the man behind the cowl, they revealed that Spector would also operate as a cab driver named Jake Lockley in order to get closer to the criminal elements Moon Knight was sworn to stop. Spector also masqueraded as Steven Grant, millionaire playboy. This playing with identities would become a Moon Knight staple as Spector would bounce around between the three, trying to find a balance and meaning through any of them. Soon, Frenchie would be fleshed out to much more than an Alfred clone and Moon Knight’s constant love, Marlene Alraune, would be introduced to give the hero a diverse cast of players for the dramas ahead.
After Marvel Spotlight, Moon Knight popped around the Marvel Universe before settling into a solo feature in the back of Hulk! Magazine and his own black-and-white one shot feature in Marvel Preview. These issues’ claim to fame is the absolutely stunning art by some of the industry’s finest talents. The magazine appearances began the long association between Moon Knight and Bill Sienkiewicz, the artist that would visually inform the character for a long time to come.
The First Solo Series
The first Moon Knight solo series finally revealed Marc Spector’s origin, further removing the character from accusations that the silver caped warrior was simply a Batman clone. The monthly revealed Spector’s background as a soldier of fortune in Egypt who was left to die at the hands of his brutal enemy, the Bushman. The god Khonshu promised to bring Spector back to life if the soldier would become an avatar of vengeance in Khonshu’s name. Spector agreed and, wrapped in Khonshu’s silver raiment, eventually found and defeated Bushman in single combat. The series also revealed that Spector was the son of a Rabbi, so now fans had a pagan god blessing the son of a Jewish holy man with magical life to serve as a sort of golem against crime.
This series was a celebration of comics’ sheer insanity, a chaotic melding of concepts and worlds, mythological gods combined with real world religious dogma to create a hero like no other. At this point, Bill Sienkiewicz came into his own as an artist as the book built up some critical cache. Many of the adversaries in the book, such as Cyclone, Conquer Lord, Randall, the Hatchet Man, Midnight Man, and the Committee failed to become anything more than one-off antagonists, although the book did introduce Stained Glass Scarlet, a femme fatale that should have, could have, would have become Moon Knight’s Elektra. The historical importance of the title was the mood and tones that Moench, Sienkiewicz, and company set, a more mature and brooding book that targeted the adult comic buyers of the newly minted direct market.
Moon Knight’s second, short lived title abandoned the multiple identity angle and instead, had the wealthy Marc Spector travel the world opening art galleries. While a roaming artistic vigilante does have a certain daring and originality, it wasn’t the direction fans seemed to want. The new series also saw alterations to Moon Knight’s perfectly designed costume adding busy visual elements such as gold braces, a belt, and a gigantic ankh.
Moon Knight soon popped up in the pages of the West Coast Avengers where the usually solo vigilante joined the team. Sadly, this alliance was marred by the fact that for most of his run with the team, Spector was possessed by the Spirit of Khonshu. This moment created a rift between Moon Knight and the Avengers and also defined the character of Khonshu for years to come. He was no longer a magnanimous god, but a cruel puppet master that saw Spector as a hapless servant. This violation further fractured Spector’s delicate psyche. Strangely, it was revealed that Khonshu possessed Spector because it was the god who wanted to join the team, not the hero.
Marc Spector: Moon Knight
Moon Knight’s longest series, Marc Spector: Moon Knight ran for five years with some amazing stores by writers like Chuck Dixon and J.M, DeMatteis that saw the urban hero interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe like never before. The book returned Spector to his vigilante roots, with a healthy dose of the street level mysticism that made him famous in the early 80s. The series saw the return of Bushman along with the introduction of a teen sidekick Midnight (probably not the best move for a character that was always being compared to Batman). The book fleshed out Spector, Frenchie, Marlene, and even Khonshu who was revealed to be a god of justice, not vengeance.
Dixon and DeMatteis penned some of the best stories to ever grace a Moon Knight comic. Sadly, the excesses of the ’90s was soon to trump solid storytelling as the book was shoehorned into a number of crossovers like Acts of Vengeance and Infinity War (not that one), while countless guest-stars almost pushed Moon Knight out of his own feature. Oddly enough, it was at this time that Moon Knight would also experience its greatest sales success when newcomer Stephen Platt took over the art chores. The story was forgettable at best, but Platt’s anatomy bending style fit so perfectly into the Image generation of comics, that Moon Knight became one of the hottest titles on the market for a brief time. With Platt’s final issue, the series that started off as one of Marvel’s coolest titles devolved into a crossover laden guest-star fest that killed off Marc Spector. At this point, death was old hat for Moon Knight who would not stay in the cold grave for long.
Like all good mainstream superheroes, Moon Knight had to be resurrected at least once, and when he was it was by returning creator Doug Moench who brought the wonderful strangeness back to the character in two late ’90 mini-series. Resurrection War and High Strangers were a return to Moon Knight’s roots, jettisoning the baggage of the ’90s of sidekicks, adamantium suits, and guest star clutter, these stories were a breath of fresh air for fans wanting to get back to the pure and unapologetic weirdness that defined Moon Knight in the early days of the character.
The 2006 relaunch saw Marvel put a major marketing push behind the arrival of popular novelist Charlie Huston and mega-star penciller David Finch. Marvel seemed to be determined this time to force Moon Knight to work as more than just a periphery character, and boy, was it violent. While the book brought in many elements from the modern Marvel Universe it at times delved so much into gore and violence that it bordered on parody. Moon Knight had always been an edgy character, but in the first issue, he defeats a returned Bushman by carving his face off with one of his crescent moon darts. An increasingly broken and unstable Spector began to view the removed visage as a spiritual guide which he believed contained the spirit of Khonshu. So yes, Moon Knight carried around a hunk of rotting skin that he thought was a god. Makes the four personality thing seems like a Norman Rockwell painting, huh?
The series examined Moon Knight’s role as the most unstable member of Marvel’s pantheon of heroes and often brought in other Marvel heroes with the sole purpose of telling him he was batshit. Most importantly to Moon Knight history, the book retconned Marc Spector into a Gulf War soldier.
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Vengeance of the Moon Knight saw the vigilante try to make amends for the face-ripping carnage of the previous series by swearing to stop killing his foes. The series returns the multiple personality shtick to the forefront as Moon Knight abandons his other civilian identities in favor of Jake Lockley. This is probably the most Marvel-centric of the many Moon Knight titles as almost every issue sees the hero team with a modern popular Marvel character. With guest spots from Deadpool, Spider-Man, and others, the series’ aim seemed to be to return Moon Knight to his original motivations while embedding him firmly in the contemporary Marvel Universe. The book’s main villain was Norman Osborn which went a long way to give the book a more mainstream Marvel feel.
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The Jake Lockley experiment didn’t last long, as Moon Knight adopts the Spector persona once again to defeat the new villain, the Shadow Knight, who was revealed to be Mark Spector’s brother. Shadowland was a Daredevil driven event featuring Marvel’s street heroes, and the inclusion of Moon Knight solidified the character as a major player in the grittier street side of the Marvel Universe.
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The Big Push
No matter how hard Marvel had tried, Moon Knight had never been accepted as mainstream. So in 2011, the company took its biggest talent and allowed them to try to up Moon Knight’s cache in the eyes of many fans who dismissed him as a b-lister. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev were as high a profile creative team as one could imagine. The book acted as a prelude to major events in the Marvel Universe (such as Age of Ultron) and had a different and twistedly commercial take on the multiple personality motifs. Gone were Lockley and Grant, instead, Spector had developed a new group of multiple personalities, notably taking on the identities of Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine…men he fought beside and admired. This new wrinkle was just what the doctor ordered for a fresh batch of Moon Knight adventures as the book gave off the vibe that the hero was a truly disturbed, but well-meaning and heroic, individual.
The series also saw Spector become a Hollywood television executive, a perfect profession for a man who had such a delicate hold on sanity. When Echo, the book’s romantic lead, is killed, Moon Knight’s Wolverine persona becomes dominant and “slaughters” the Cap and Spidey personas. The book only lasted about a year, though.
read Moon Knight by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev on Amazon.
Listen, if you want to put a fresh, vibrant, and probably disturbing spin on a super hero, call Warren Ellis. In 2014, Ellis and artist Declan Shalvey leaned into the pulp noir of it all to create one of the darkest twists on Moon Knight yet. This series introduced a new personality for Marc Spector: the white suit-and-tie clad Mister Knight. As Mister Knight, Spector works with the New York City police to take down thugs, gangsters, and scumbags. But as Moon Knight, Spector battles the supernatural with high tech weapons. In this series, Ellis was able to balance the werewolf fighter of yore with the street level crime buster elements. Great creators followed Ellis and Shalvey on this volume of Moon Knight making it one of the most well received Moon Knight series in the character’s rich history. Don’t be shocked if Marvel Studios pulls from this dark gem for the upcoming Disney + series.
read Moon Knight: From the Dead on Amazon.
Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood managed to take Marc Spector on his most insane journey yet. Marc Spector wakes up in a mental institution and learns that his entire life as Moon Knight has been a hallucination. All the Moon Knight supporting characters are residents of the institution and Spector must find the truth of his identity so he can finally leave. Lemire leads Moon Knight and readers on a fevered quest through the darkest corners of Spector’s mind in this wacked out volume. Hey, you ever notice that writers really, really bring the sick and twisted when it comes to Moon Knight? One really wonders how far the Disney + series will go, because you know, Disney +.
read Moon Knight: Lunatic on Amazon
In this series, Moon Knight villains Bushman and Sun King team up to kill Moon Knight. They discover that the Jake Lockley persona of Moon Knight has a child with Moonie’s longtime lover Marlene. This shocks all the other Spector personas as Moon Knight must come to terms with his place as the avatar of Khonshu in order to defeat his enemies and find peace. This series just underscores the fact that Moon Knight is many things: a street level hero, a weapon of the gods, a warrior, a soldier, and a hero.
Moon Knight is probably Marvel’s most complex hero, and we can’t wait to see him come to life in the MCU.