The Left Fist of Khonshu. Protector of "those who travel at night". Marc Spector. Steven Grant. Jake Lockley. Mr. Knight. Moon Knight. He is all of these people. Or maybe he's none of them. He can never be sure.
Regardless, with Marvel's Moon Knight series arriving this week on Disney+ it's time for a deep dive into the most horrifically macabre of superheroes, focusing on what sets Moon Knight apart. Before Oscar Isaac graces your screens with the talent of one thousand celestial bodies, let's get a quick primer under our belt. Who is Moon Knight and what's so special about him?
Well, let me tell you, random pedestrian . . .
As told in Moon Knight #1 (2016), Marc Spector was a mercenary alongside his friend, Frenchie, when a job to raid an archaeological dig in Egypt leads to the death of an archaeologist at the hands of their fellow mercenary, Bushman. Marc attempts to stop Bushman before he kills Marlene, another archaeologist, and succeeds, but is mortally wounded himself. A slowly dying Marc is taken by locals to the temple of Khonshu (a moon god) and lain at the altar. When he wakes up fully healed, he claims he was chosen to be the Fist of Khonshu, and thus Moon Knight is born. At the time, no one was sure if Marc was hallucinating or if Khonshu was real (though they seemingly ignore Marc's full recovery).
This moment is revisited in the amazing run by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood, giving it a weight that capitalizes on the somewhat silliness of its ancestor. Lemire & Smallwood ground Moon Knight's origin while affirming prior continuity: by assimilating rather than tossing away previous continuity, Moon Knight becomes saturated with history, becoming a more dynamically depicted character. The complicated, and often absurd, history of Moon Knight is one of my favorite parts of the character.
It's commonly accepted that Moon Knight doesn't have consistent superpowers, instead relying on gadgets he affords with the money from his former mercenary life. Though, Khonshu has been known to imbue his servant with enhanced strength. Marc's history with the CIA and Marines make him highly tolerable to pain as well.
Since his initial appearance in Marvel's Werewolf by Night #32 (1975) Moon Knight's (AKA Marc Spector, et al.) journey through comics history has been marked by reinvention and renewal. From fighting werewolves as a supernatural bounty hunter to defeating Thor with his own hammer, Moon Knight is more inconsistent than the majority of our other favorite superheroes. We can count on Spider-Man to web up the bad guys. We can count on Captain America throwing his shield at bad guys (trust me, he could do it all day). We could count on Moon Knight to apprehend the bad guys, but he might slice their face off. Yes, he did, in Moon Knight Vol 5 #2.
Simply put, Moon Knight feels different. A vigilante with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) —or multiple personalities— fighting crime with sheer brutality and the aid of an Egyptian God seems odd when you know Squirrel Girl is out there somewhere.
Marc's connection to Khonshu's mind fragments his psyche, manifesting as DID. In the beginning of Moon Knight's history, Marc and Marlene (the archaeologist from Egypt and now Marc's lover) returned to New York City where Marc adopted various identities over time to supplement his crimefighting. He was Steven Grant (billionaire extraordinaire) when money was needed, or when the money needed a face to go along with it. Jake Lockley (taxi driver) put his ear to the streets for information from those willing to talk. Marc was the pin holding it all together, and Moon Knight was the mask he wore.
These identities would become their own individuals, fracturing their shared mind over time. This creates a search for identity and purpose inherent to the character. Trying to make sense of these constant fragments results in Moon Knight's methods being inconsistent. The addition of Mr. Knight in the Secret Avengers title speaks to this, as Marc creates more alternate identities to cope. He may champion compassion or peace depending on his relationship with Khonshu at the time, but at a base level Marc wants a purpose. His character is always trying to make himself and things around him better, an often melancholy commentary on many peoples' experience with mental illness.
There's so much I've had to leave out lest I starve to death at this keyboard. I couldn't get to his friends, his enemies, or his family, but hopefully I've given you with enough to go into the new Moon Knight tv series with confidence. For those more daring readers, I've attempted to compile a few "essential" Moon Knight readings. Many I would normally recommend are out of print, so I guess the hunt is on. Check these titles out at YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP, or through the links provided below!
By Doug Moench & Bill Sienkiewicz
By Charlie Huston & David Finch
by Jeff Lemire & Greg Smallwood
By Jason Aaron & Gerardo Zaffino
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.