Who is the Moon Knight? Since Kevin Feige announced last year that Disney+ is going to produce a series about this rather obscure Marvel character, many people has made themselves the same question. Who is it? In my personal experience, it´s one of the Marvel characters personally have been fond of. I know, it’s not at Batman, Spider-Man or even Daredevil level, but it’s quite a particular and interesting character.
So if you want to know more about him, it’s origins, and best series in comics to start getting to know him better before the TV series is released, keep reading… you won’t be disappointed.
Who is the Moon Knight and which are his best comics?
My personal story with Moon Knight
At the beginning of the 80’s, I was a teenage kid about 14 years old and lived in Argentina (yes, I AM Argentinean!). There were almost no comics books being published here at the time, I didn’t know where to get comics from USA, so I was limited to some old Mexican DC editions and one Spanish title that brought one story from Spidey and one from Hulk. Aaaand that was all.
I used to vacation at the south of Brazil when I was a kid, and I found a whole different world there: there were small editions that included many different comics in the same book. That’s were I made contact with Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu, The Black Panther’s saga, and Moon Knight.
I remember buying one of these mags because of some other character, it was a Captain America magazine from John Byrne’s run. As a matter of fact, it didn’t matter to me: I bought everything that crossed my eyes at the time!
Buried inside the pages, there was this story about a serial killer hunting nurses, and a strange hero with some kind of shared background story going after him. The art on that book was different to anything I had seen. And the story ending with the villain burying a hatchet in Marlene’s back, his girlfriend, just in front of him! My mind was blown away…
Problem was: I came back from Brazil and I couldn’t buy the ending of the story!! I had to wait many, many years, until by sheer luck I found the magazine with the ending of the story. So probably, that made the Moon Knight dig deeper into my mind that many other characters.
I was lucky. That story is one of the first stories of the Moon Knight, one of the most iconic ones, and one you don’t wanna miss. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
First appearances of the Moon Knight
Moon Knight first appearances were in a title many don’t know it even existed, Werewolf by Night, created by Doug Moench. He appeared first as an antagonist to the hero, then was turned into hero. After a couple brief appearances in Marvel Spotlight , Marvel Two in One and Defenders, the real story of the Moon Knight begins.
In 1978, the Hulk was one of Marvel’s hottest characters, pushed by the Bill Bixby & Lou Ferrigno TV series. Hot on the series debut, Marvel launched a new title, Hulk! Magazine, which included a backup feature. In issue 11, Moon Knight began on the title.
But the real success for the character began on issue 13, when Jim Shooter put 20 years old artist Bill Sienkiewicz on the title. Sienkiewicz’s art was vivid, intense and reminiscent of Neal Adams’ work on early 70’s Batman, so that and the fact that both characters were millionaires by daytime and vigilantes by night made to a common misconception that Moon Knight was a Batman’s rip off.
The Moench / Sienkiewicz duo was an instant hit, and finally, in 1980, Moon Knight got it’s own first title.
Who is the Moon Knight?
Moon Knight is really one of the weirdest comic book heroes. Really, I mean it.
Marc Spector, Moon Knight’s alter ego, is a former boxer and US Marine who later becomes a mercenary. While in an operation in Egypt, one of his former teammates, Raoul Bushman, bettles Spector, defeats him and leaves him to die. The Egyptians take Marc Spector to the temple of Khonshu, a deity they worship, where he dies. Khoshnu himself appear to Marc Spector as a vision, offering to resurrect him to become his avatar on Earth and serve the cause of vengeance. Wrapped in the silver / white statue´s cloack, Spector defeated Bushman and went back to the States to become the Moon Knight.
Then comes the most strange aspect of the Moon Knight as a character: Spector develops multiple personalities disorder, creating the identity of millionaire entrepreneur Steven Grant, plus the identity of taxicab Jake Lockley to mix in the criminal element at street level (Matches Malone rings a bell, anyone?). Usually Spector runs the show as Moon Knight, while he also hears the voice of Khoshnu himself. Quite the nutjob, but that’s what makes the character more interesting…
Moon Knight had some superhumans powers during some runs, like augmented strength, reflexes and endurance that seem to depend on the phases of the moon. However, those powers seem to have disappeared as punishment for his disobedience to Khoshnu.
He has a set of Moon based gadgets, like bolas, and throwing moons and darts, very similar to Batman-s gadgets. He-s also an expert in many fighting styles, as boxing, karate, kung/fu, ninjutsu, muay-thai and savate, as an excellent swordsman. However, as Taskmaster once pointed out, he prefers to take a punch rather than block it.
The hooks to the character
1. The personality disorder
Of course, Marc Spector,s personality disorder IS one of the main hooks to the character. How many times you find the hero talking to imaginary characters while following an enemy, or giving answers as different people while being questioned by a madman? Well… Moon Knight does.
2. The visuals
The visuals of the Moon Knight, with his face full covered, the hood and the really huge cape, all in white for a night based vigilante (as opposed to Batman), makes for the impact of the character.
3. The cast of villains
The villains cast for Moon Knight is quite interesting, with an important own rogue gallery if you consider that this is a character without such a long consecutive run in comics. Characters as Bushman, The Midnite Son, The Hatchet Man, are colorful and in many cases terryfing enough to make perfect antagonists to the hero.
Best Moon Knight Comics runs
1. The Moench / Sienkiewicz run (late 70’s – early 80’s)
This is the original one and you cannot miss it. The Hatchet Man’s story I told you about in the beginning is included here, and when you go through these pages you really believe it’s a really different material. At least for that comics era…
Sienkiewicz is a real star, and here he shows why. His art here was dark and gritty, generating real feelings of tension and even terror in the readers. He begins here developing a style that reminds artists such as Klimt and Ralph Steadman.
Moench’s stories were moody and dark, and the complement of story and art worked to perfection. The time has passed, but the stories remain solid and fun to read.
2. The Houston / Finch run (2006-2009)
The story is set during the Civil War & Superhero Registration Act days, and starts with Moon Knight brutally injured and rejected by Khosnu himself. The story’s brutality is a perfect match for David Finch’s artwork, who depicts it as vivid as life itself, and works constantly on the Moon Knight violent tendencies.
3. The Brian Bendis & Alex Maleev run (2011 – 2012)
In this series, which only runs for 12 issues, Spector moves to Los Angeles to produce a TV show based on his superheroics’ career: “Legends of the Khoshnu”. He has also developed three new personalities, based on Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America, which is also an interesting development.
This run is despised by many long-time Moon Knight readers, but if you take out your “conservative” shirt, Bandis and Maleev always give us interesting and different stories.
4. The Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey run
A short run, but one that introduces another new concept: Spector returns to New York, but now has not one, but two customed superheroes identities. First one is the traditional, technically equipped Moon Knight persona; the second one is Mr. Knight, wearing an all-white suit with white gloves and mask, who acts as a consultant for the New York police department and deals low level thugs and kidnappers.
This run has a second volume written by Brian Wood, which is also quite interesting.
5. The Jeff Lemire & Greg Smallwood run
This is also one of the most interesting Moon Knight comics runs, that starts with Mark Spector waking up in a mental institution, leaving him (and us as readers) confused on how he got there or why. The institution staff seem to have supernatural powers, and fight Marc as he attempts to remember and recover his past.
The story pulls us back and forth, making us doubt really who Spector is, and if the story of the character has been terribly twisted for real.
Seriously, one of the most interesting takes on the character you really don’t want to miss.
6. The Benson & Deodato One Shot
After the Huston run, there came a great single issue by Benson & Mike Deodato Jr., which brought the character to its roots, the part where its story was interlaced with the Werewolf by Knight.
A very interesting single issue to get if you want to really know the character, and Deodato’s style fits the character really well.
7. Additional apparitions
Occasionally, the Moon Knight participated in different teams. You might get some of these appearances in West Coast Avengers 21-41 and Annuals 1-3) and Secret Avengers, together with Steve Rogers, War Machine, Beast, Valkyrie, Nova and Ant-Man and written by none other than Ed Brubaker, who usually gives us good stories.
This is it, people.
If you want to know who the Moon Knight really is, go and make yourself a present, get the Moench & Sienkiewicz run, sit and enjoy. If the character really digs on you, then you way get any of the other series and many of them will also make you happy.
And as we always say… keep reading good comics!