WRITTEN BY JOHN JOHNSON
Moon Knight is the latest hero to join the MCU, through an upcoming Disney+ show starring the long time Marvel character. I’m a huge fan of Moon Knight, and I have always been drawn to the dark tone of the comic series. It could be serious and grounded without it reaching a level of intensity and gore like a modern Punisher comic. For those who haven’t heard of Moon Knight, here’s a bit of history of one of the most underrated Marvel heroes.
First appearing in ‘Werewolf by Night’ Issue number 32, Moon Knight made his debut as a villain. Hired by a villainous group called ‘The Committee’, Moon Knight was to capture “The Werewolf” for the organization. Moon Knight hunts down The Werewolf and manages to injure him with his signature crescent darts. Towards the end of issue, Moon Knight realizes what The Committee really stands for and helps The Werewolf break free. Moon Knight later had his origin redefined in his own ongoing series.
Doug Moench was a comic writer who was approached by many different colleagues to take a shot at writing the character in a more heroic way. Doug eventually saw the potential that his colleagues did, and wrote a new origin for the character.
The new origin story goes as follows: Marc Spector, a mercenary for hire, soldier of fortune- died in an Egyptian tomb where he was “supposedly” revived by Khonsu (The Egyptian God of the Moon). Marc went on to fight his former mercenary boss and returned to America to fight crime as the Fist of Khonsu. Marc took on multiple roles to help him get information on the street that helped in his quest to fight crime.
Moench wanted a more realistic superhero that would make sense in the real world. He figured the hero would need multiple guises to get information from the thugs on the street AND the upper class, hence Moon Knight’s ‘Steven Grant’ and ‘Jake Lockley’ personalities. Along with his guises he also need a supporting cast of characters to help in his mission to fight crime.
Crawley, a sophisticated homeless man who is always able to get info from the street level thugs. Gena and her kids, a woman who owned a diner that he visits frequently. Marlene, the girlfriend of Moon Knight’s Steven Grant personality (side note: she loved all of his personalities but Steven was her favorite). And finally, Frenchie, the former mercenary partner to Marc Spector, friend, and a pilot for Moon Knight.
One of my favorite Moon Knight issues addresses how complex the character really is. In the issue, he fights a villain named Stained Glass Scarlet. Scarlet was a nun, an actress, and a villain (sort of). Scarlet uses a crossbow to murder the mob bosses that had gotten her son addicted to drugs. Scarlet managed to take them out one by one until only one remained.
She was at a stand off with the final boss, with her crossbow aimed at him, and his gun aimed at her. Moon Knight bursts through the door with only one crescent dart in hand. Moon Knight hesitates on which to go for but ultimately chooses the gun. Scarlet shoots the mob boss with her bow and the deed is done.
The man is dead and Moon Knight failed to stop it. He chases Scarlet to a train track but she gets away. After it was all over, he asks his friend Frenchie if a loser can ever truly be a winner. The final word box of that issue is that he will never know. To me, that is fantastic writing and it kept me hooked on every page.
At the top of my favorite Moon Knight stories list, is an issue called, “Hit it!” A man runs through the streets of New York punching and beating anyone in his way. Moon Knight sees the trail of beaten and bloody men and follows it finding the culprit.
We find out that the reason the man was lashing out was due to the fact that he had just lost his dad. His father was abusive and beat him as a child, and now that his father was dead, he had no way of dealing with it. So instead of being able to give his father the beat down he felt he deserved, he took it out on everyone else.
When Moon Knight hears this, he chooses not to beat on him. The man unable to process his emotions, punches Moon Knight in the back of the head. The man screams at Moon Knight to hit him back, begging for a fight. Moon Knight falls for the bait and throws punch after punch until the man goes down. After leaving the scene, Moon Knight punches a wall, furious with himself. The final word box of that issue is “And so. The drum beats blood red, forever.”
For more on Moon Knight comics I recommend reading the entire run by Doug Moench and even the ‘Werewolf by Night’ issues where Moon Knight debuted. Doug Moench really brought this character to life and made every story an absolute knockout. Other Moon Knight writers over the years consist of Charlie Huston, who took the character into a very dark place. Going as making Moon Knight cut off the face of his enemy, Bushman. In Doug Moench’s original run, Moon Knight went out of his way NOT to kill. But Huston’s version completely disregards that.
Post Huston, Gregg Hurwittz took on the character in a redemption arc called, “Vengeance of the Moon Knight.” The story of Moon Knight coming back to New York after hiding from S.H.I.E.L.D, the Thunderbolts and other people that were after him. Moon Knight has visions of Khonsu begging him to kill again and Moon Knight refuses. Along with no longer killing, another change this run made was that “Jake Lockley” was the only other personality that Moon Knight had.
Around 2015, writers Warren Ellis and Jeff Lemire started their take on the character. Ellis had some really good stories but his version of Moon Knight was very violent, even after the Vengeance of the Moon Knight arc. That arc was written to make Moon Knight go back to his heroic roots. And Ellis keeps that in mind, making sure that Moon Knight doesn’t kill. But he absolutely brutalizes people. Moon Knight even hit a random thug with his moon shaped jet. It doesn’t say if he lived or died but it’s safe to assume it was the latter.
Lemire took Moon Knight into a strange direction. Making Moon Knight fight zombies while wearing bone armor and fighting sleep paralysis demons (that’s not much of an exaggeration). This run is wildly loved by marvel fans, although I still prefer the original run more.
Another change Ellis made was that he created a new personality for Moon Knight. Creating Mr. Knight. It’s just Moon Knight in a white tuxedo and a mask. The idea is a lot of fun, but it has overstayed its welcome. It was only meant for that one-story arc, but still is seen constantly and can overshadow the original costume at times. It’s like if Spider-Man only wore his black suit and never the classic red and blue one.
Moon Knight has a very long and complex history in Marvel Comics, and the upcoming Disney+ show is a great opportunity for a more mainstream audience to discover an absolutely fantastic character. However, I have my reserves.
The MCU has a lot of power over the comics and I fear if the show screws up Moon Knight, it will skew how writers write him after the shows release. For example, Iron Man was fairly unpopular prior to the movies. When the character blew up in popularity due to Robert Downey Jr’s awesome performance, it in turn caused Marvel to now write Iron Man to be more like RDJ.
As a huge Moon Knight fan, I’m hopeful for a great show on Disney+. However, I’m okay if the show isn’t good, as long as it doesn’t affect the comics.