Who is Moon Knight?
Recently Disney + released the teaser for the latest streaming installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Knight. With the previous Marvel shows audiences had familiarity with the characters involved thanks to the blockbuster films. But in this show there is no Loki or Captain America or Hawkeye or Scarlett Witch instead there is an eerie white clad vigilante who has never even been mentioned on the big screen. Even in comic circles Moon Knight has always been more of a strange cult favorite than a character who lights up the Diamond sales chart every month. This justifiably leaves many to wonder “who is Moon Knight?”
Created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin in the classic horror series Werewolf by Night, he was introduced as Marc Spector, a mercenary hired to take down the titular werewolf Jack Russell. To go along with the werewolfery themes, this vigilante utilized silver weaponry as well as donning a white moon-theme guise. Moon Knight proved surprisingly popular and would appear make appearances in different anthology and team-up books for Marvel until 1980, when co-creator Doug Moench and legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz would give the hero his own series. In the debut story arc “The Macabre Moon Knight” readers would finally learn of his strange origin. Marc Spector was hired on a mercenary mission at the behest of client, now arch nemesis, Bushman in the Sudan along with his associate Frenchie. Left near death is the desert, Spector sought refuge in the tomb of the moon god Knoshu. It was at this moment he was reborn as the ancient moon god appointed the mercenary to by the “Fist of Knoshu” his warrior on earth. Donning his incredibly bad ass costume and taking on the mantle of Moon Knight, Spector would fulfill his destiny.
It would be in later years that the character would gain one of his hallmark traits as writer Alan Zelenetz and artist Chris Warner would give Moon Knight a case of dissociative identity disorder. In addition to being Marc Spector, the vigilante was also billionaire playboy Steven Grant and cab driver Jake Lockley. This would kick-off the character’s struggle with mental illness as he is often classified as schizophrenic. The move to add this to his mythos is largely seen as to why Moon Knight is so polarizing to fandom. While a good chunk of readers find the Fist of Knoshu ridiculously cool and read every title he is featured in, there are just as many who find him too strange and troubled. After two solo runs, Moon Knight’s next prominent comic book stint would be when he joined the West Coast Avengers during John Byrne’s fan favorite run on the series. His timing came during a particularly dark moment in the team’s history which saw him leave shortly thereafter along with fellow hero Tigra. For many, this reinforced the idea the Moon Knight did not exactly fit in with his caped and costumed colleagues, he was the strange and often violent outsider.
In the late 90’s the hero’s co-creator Doug Moench returned to Moon Knight and reinvigorated the white-clad vigilante and skewed him back to his horror and paranormal roots. The standout of this run was the four issue arc “High Strangers” he tackled along with artist Mark Teixeira which saw Knight unravelling an extraterrestrial conspiracy. Despite being a critical hit, this mini-series has strangely never been published in a collected trade format.
Once again Moon Knight faded away from comic stands only to return with a vengeance. It would seem the small but devoted fans the character once held had grown up to be some of the greatest creators in the industry. Since the fifth volume of Moon Knight in 2006 he has had no shortage of superstar writers and artists tackling the hero. Starting with crime novelist Charlie Huston and bestselling artist David Finch. Together they took a dark and gritty approach to the character delving deeper into his broken mind while Frenchie and long time girlfriend Marlene try to comfort him. Following this relaunch the Mature Readers series Vengeance of the Moon Knight reestablished the vigilante and his place within the greater Marvel Universe. This 10-part series takes place during the events of Dark Reign when Norman Osborn had taken over SHIELD and sent the superhero community into hiding. As a one-two-punch to this, Moon Knight also joined the ranks of the Secret Avengers. During this era he also adopted his current secondary costume of a slick white suit and mask that he can wear when not in full dramatic regalia but still identifies his allegiance to Knoshu.
Currently Moon Knight is the star of a new quirky and acclaimed series courtesy of writer Jed McKay and stunning artwork from Alessandro Cappuccio. Marc Spector has now taken a more charitable approach to being the Fist of Knoshu. He runs a religious compound, the Midnight Mission, which accepts all in need of refuge, even a vampire he left without a support network after he slew her murderous compatriots. Now he struggles with where his life should go and regularly sees a therapist to help him navigate his mental health problems. In addition to his personal problems a new worshipper of Knoshu has emerged and sees the calmer and gentler Moon Knight as a disgrace and has taken on the identity of Hunter Moon to oppose him.
While he has never been placed on the same A-list level of Captain America, The Hulk or Spider-Man; Moon Knight has held a devoted cult following since his creation. A sleek and insanely cool costume is often seen as the selling point, but newcomers soon learn he is unlike any other comic book character on the stands. Since the mid-1980’s his mental state has been one of the key plot points in his adventures leading to him often being dubbed “crazy Batman”. The Batman comparisons are not entirely uncalled for as they are both armed with a slew of weapons and fight crime by night. But Moon Knight is definitely his own character. Now that Marvel’s film arm is need in need of new superheroes for the big and small screen, the rabid cult fandom of Moon Knight has finally been rewarded as he is now set to star in his own TV series on Disney +. Given the darker, scarier and grittier elements of the character many wonder if the House of Mouse can do Moon Knight justice, but other shows like The Mandalorian and Falcon & Winter Soldier show they are willing of tackling more mature content.