Marc Spector has issues.
A former mercenary and wayward son of a Holocaust-fleeing Rabbi, Spector had a pretty tough life. And matters only got worse when he died.
While serving as an amoral gun for hire in Egypt along with the dangerously unhinged Raoul Bushman, the duo happened upon an archeological dig led by Dr. Peter Alraune and his daughter, Spector’s love interest in waiting, Marlene.
The dig uncovered an ancient temple devoted to the Egyptian Moon God Khonshu. Seizing his chance to loot the temple, Bushman murdered Alraune and mortally wounded Spector, leaving him for dead.
As Spector breathed his last, the Moon God Khonshu struck him a one-time-only deal… To return to the mortal plane as Khonshu’s avatar on Earth, protecting travelers in the night and bringing brutal retribution to all criminals.
Spector wrapped himself in the silvery white shroud that covered the statue and this, the cowled Moon Knight was born.
And it all went downhill from there.
Upon returning to America, Spector used his considerable blood money to establish numerous cover identities; Steven Grant (a Bruce Wayne / Lamont Cranston billionaire socialite type), and Jake Lawley (an unassuming cab driver). But as Spector’s sanity eroded, these cover identities became
But as Spector’s already sparse sanity eroded, these cover identities became independent dissociative identities. In time he developed other personalities who monitored and dictated his behaviour, including (at one point) Wolverine, Captain America and Spider-Man.
Spector is human toxic waste, and his erratic and self-destructive behaviours have, over time, alienated pretty much all of his friends and allies.
Moon Knight is essentially Marvel’s answer to the question “What if Batman was even more of an asshole?”. Or even “What if Rorschach had money and training?”. He shares many personality traits with The Dark Knight and Alan Moore’s beloved right wing nutjob from “Watchmen”… But without the moral infrastructure which always keeps Bruce Wayne just on the right side of sanity. Like DC’s masked vigilantes he uses an arsenal of hi-tech, non-lethal weapons in his war against crime including crescent-shaped throwing darts which are essentially
Like DC’s masked vigilantes he uses an arsenal of hi-tech, non-lethal weapons in his war against crime including crescent-shaped throwing darts which are essentially batarangs. He has detective and combat skills to rival Batman, or pretty much any superhero in publication. Unlike Bats, however, he is bedecked in white and telegraphs his presence rather than skulking in the shadows.
Because what’s scarier to a criminal than a vigilante who wants you to see them coming?
Moon Knight was created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin in the mid 1970s, it’s telling that the character was originally conceived as a villain. Throughout his (admittedly erratic) 42-year publication history, the character has attracted a phenomenal range of comics talent.
Such writing and illustrative talents as Warren Ellis, Charlie Houston, David Finch, Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis, Warren Ellis, Bill Sienkiewicz and a whole host of other comics rockstars.
Spector’s deep seated psychological issues have made for some intelligent and deftly handled character exploration, including Jeff Lemire’s run which locates Spector to a mental institution and posits that his entire career as Moon Knight was a fabrication (essentially Marc Flew over the Cuckoos Nest).
It’s not all introspection, though! His combat skill and unassailable confidence make for some incredible action sequences, including an issue in Warren Ellis’ run which sees Moon Knight completely dismantle an apartment building full of armed thugs to rescue a kidnapped little girl, The Raid (2011) style!.
His rogue tactics and laissez-faire attitude to the taking of human life have seen him expelled from the Avengers and often falling on the wrong side of more wholesome Marvel superheroes like Cap, Iron Man and Spidey.
A good hero needs a great supporting cast and Moon Knight’s supporting characters are some of the most compelling and well-rounded in the Marvel Universe.
Former comrade-in-arms Jean Paul Duchamp (aka ‘Frenchie’) represents everything Spector could have been, adjusting slowly but surely to civilian life despite the loss of his legs. His relationship with his husband Rob (a wholesome and optimistic physiotherapist) is heartwarming, and the strain placed on their love when Spector returns to Frenchie’s life leads to some really compelling drama.
Rob works with Marc as his physiotherapist following a terrible knee injury and as the two become friends Frenchie reacts with anger because he has seen the toxic effect that being friends with Marc Spector can have.
Marvel have always been good at crafting dynamic and positive LGBTQ characters and Frenchie and Rob are among the standouts for me. Incidentally, the moment where Frenchie comes out to Marc is one of the most touching but distressing I’ve ever read in comics.
Speaking of Spector being toxic, did I mention that his former teen-sidekick grew up to be a violent, sociopathic cyborg? Yeah, there’s a long list of people who want to see Moon Knight’s head on a pike, and he’s faced off against some of the baddest of the bad in the Marvel Universe.
With word of a Netflix series in development for this multifaceted and undeniably badass character it’ll be interesting which of the characters varied interpretations they’ll lead with.
But do yourself a favour, get yourself down to your local comic book store and check some of them out!