Moon Knight may not be the biggest superhero name from Marvel Comics, but he’s gained a devoted cult following over the years (and I’m not just talking about the neighbors who have joined his recently founded Midnight Mission). The character embodies the Fist of Khonshu, but it turns out that being the appendage of a deity can come with some pretty serious mental health side-effects (like having your brain structure re-arranged by being in the presence of a higher power, for example).
With the first episode of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe series Moon Knight starring Oscar Isaac arriving on Disney+ on Wednesday, March 30th, 2022, now is the perfect time to catch up on Earth-616’s Marc Spector before we’re formally introduced to the Marc Spector of the MCU!
Werewolf by Night: 1975
Moon Knight first appeared in Werewolf by Night #32 (1975) by Doug Moench, Don Perlin, Howie Perlin, Ray Holloway, and Phil Rache. In that issue, the eponymous hero, a 19-year old named Jack Russell who is afflicted with lycanthropy, goes toe-to-toe with Moon Knight… which is particularly challenging for Werewolf by Night considering Moon Knight is dressed head-to-toe in silver.
Moon Knight’s connection to Werewolf by Night could prove important: this Halloween will see the release of a Werewolf by Night special on Disney+, after all, and maybe we’ll get a Moon Knight cameo. Plus, Werewolf by Night gained his superpowers after reading from the Darkhold, the grimoire that was foregrounded in the climax of WandaVision (and which is confirmed to be returning in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness by the just-released The Art of WandaVision).
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Over the course of this issue and Werewolf by Night #33 (1975) by Moench, Perlin, Perlin, Debra James, and George Roussos, Spector tracks down Russell using an array of tools, including the still-familiar Moon-shaped throwing stars (“crescent darts”) and Moon-Chopper (flown by his associate Jean-Paul DuChamp, A.K.A. “Frenchie”). While Spector succeeds in capturing Werewolf by Night, he is eventually convinced of Russell’s humanity and ends up turning on those he worked for in order to free the comparatively innocent lycanthrope.
Later, antagonist Belaric Marcosa summons an ersatz and demonic version of Moon Knight in Werewolf by Night #37 by Moench, Perlin, James, and Diane Buscema, but Russell is able to defeat it.
A Heroic Knight: The 1970s
The character was well-received, and soon editors Marv Wolfman and Len Wein deigned to examine Moon Knight from a more heroic angle. In Marvel Spotlight #28 by Moench, Perlin, I. Watanabe, and I. Vartanoff. In this issue, it is revealed that Moon Knight has abandoned the mercenary life and is now fighting crime for free. Furthermore, the concept of Moon Knight’s multiple identities is introduced in this story, including Steven Grant the millionaire and Jake Lockley the cab driver, and we also meet an important member of his supporting cast, love interest Marlene.
In Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #22 – #23 (1978) by Bill Mantlo, Mike Zeck, Bruce D. Patterson, Jim Mooney, Mike Esposito, Joe Rosen, Roussos, and Phil Rache, we see Moon Knight team-up with none other than Spider-Man! This also includes more of Lockley, and gives Spidey a chance to see what Moon Knight’s Headquarters inside Grant’s mansion is like.
Moon Knight’s journey to heroism continues with Marvel Two-in-One #52 (1979) by Steven Grant (that’s right), Jim Craig, P. Marcos, Rick Parker, and Ben Sean. In that issue, Ben Grimm must avenge an innocent who came to him for protection… and he won’t let “Johnny Come Lately” Moon Knight know where he’s heading! Fortunately, Moon Knight is able to use the guise of Lockley in order to follow the Thing to his quarry. It turns out that brainwasher William Cross is masterminding the operation, with whom Marc Spector became acquainted when he was “freelancing for the CIA.” Thanks to the connection, Moon Knight can resist the brainwashing being utilized by Cross, allowing the Thing the chance to destroy Cross’s machines.
Another important Moon Knight storyline took place in the backup comics for The Hulk! Magazine. The magazine began as The Rampaging Hulk, a black-and-white bi-monthly published by imprint Curtis Magazines that was intended to provide more “mature” storytelling. But with issue #10, the magazine reformatted to a full-color format entitled The Hulk!, which was intended to capitalize on The Incredible Hulk television series. In issue #11, Moon Knight started starring in backup comics, and in issue #13, Bill Sienkiewicz did some of his earliest work on the series.
From Moon Knight to Nite Owl: The 1980s
Moon Knight’s popularity lead to a solo series, which provided an expanded origin story for the character in Moon Knight #1 (1980) by Moench and Sienkiewicz. In this origin, Marc Spector died but was subsequently resurrected by Khonshu (although this is sometimes postulated to be a delusion).
The series continued having Moon Knight display four identities, and while he was still paired with Marlene and Frenchie, the Moon-Chopper got an update that may have directly inspired Nite Owl’s ride in Watchmen (and then later gets another update – Grant apparently matches Tony Stark in his ability to bankroll futuristic technology).
This series also saw Moon Knight experiencing strange hallucinations, as in issues 7 and 8, in which a chemical poured into the city’s water supply causes him to experience a reality in which he’s fights aliens called “Moon Kings.” This was conveyed by placing a panel depicting “reality” side-by-side with a panel depicting Moon Knight’s hallucination, a narrative technique that would resurface in later stories about the character.
In Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu #1 (1985) by Alan Zelenetz, Chris Warner, Eufrenio Cruz, Christie Scheele, and Rosen, Moon Knight is given something of a reboot. After attempting to sell the statue of Khonshu and abandon the Moon Knight persona, he’s instead pulled back in and given new, Egyptian-themed equipment and additional abilities: for example, as the Fist of Khonshu, his strength will increase with the phases of the moon. This run introduced the character of Arthur Harrow, who is reportedly the antagonist for the Disney+ series (played by Ethan Hawke), a mad scientist who was continuing experiments that began at Auschwitz.
In 1987, Moon Knight began to walk a path that would lead him to become a member of the West Coast Avengers team. But in West Coast Avengers #41 (1989) by Tom DeFalco, Ralph Macchio, Tom Morgan, Ken Lopez, and Gregory Wright, it was revealed that Khonshu had taken over Spector’s body in order to experience being a superhero who was part of an Avengers team. When Daimon Helstrom releases the spirit of Khonshu from Spector’s “corporeal shell” to battle another spirit, Khonshu states that he has satisfied his need to play hero and retires to another realm to fight Seth while Spector returns to being the flesh-and-blood Fist of Khonshu. Moon Knight subsequently leaves the WCA roster, since being an Avenger was always Khonshu’s desire, not his own.
In 1989, a new solo series was launched: Marc Spector: Moon Knight. This series ran for sixty issues before concluding in 1994 with an arc by a creative team that included Terry Kavanagh and Stephen Platt and saw the apparent death of Spector during a battle with Seth. Spector is subsequently buried. While many of the previous issues discussed in this article are available to read with a subscription to Marvel Unlimited (aside from The Hulk! Magazine), only four issues of this title appear in the app’s library.
Back in the 90s: The 1990s
In 1998, Moon Knight’s third volume, a four-part series called “Resurrection Wars” from a creative team that included Moench, Tommy Edwards, and Robert Campanella, his issue saw Spector being resurrected by Khonshu. This arc sees Marlene accepting that Khonshu is a real entity and not a delusion, but also suggests that perhaps Spector wasn’t really dead, but rather in a coma state due to his injuries.
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In 1999, a creative team that included Moench and Mark Texeira released Moon Knight volume four, subtitled “High Strangeness”. Unfortunately, neither of these 90s era volumes are currently available to read on Marvel Unlimited.
From Nite Owl to Moon Knight: The 2000s
In 2004, a fifth volume of Moon Knight was launched with a creative team that included Charlie Huston and David Finch. This series saw Spector cast out of Khonshu’s favor and motivated by a need to return to his role as the Fist of Khonshu. It also retconned Spector’s origin story so that he had been a soldier in the Gulf War. Over the course of this run, we see Spector experience visions that include a faceless Crypt Keeper-like apparition who appears behind characters interacted with; this series features plenty of gore. Furthermore, the repeated appearance of the image of a clock’s face, paired with certain panels that veer in outright recreation of the Watchmen panels, suggest the creators were watching the way Moon Knight inspired the Watchmen.
This run also saw Moon Knight register with S.H.I.E.L.D. on during the Civil War crossover event and saw many other Marvel characters play supporting roles, including Taskmaster and Norman Osborn, who eventually turned public opinion against Moon Knight and forced him fake his death and flee the country, where he retreated into his Lockley identity.
In 2008, Moon Knight: Silent Knight by Peter Milligan, Laurence Campbell, Lee Loughridge, and Rus Wooton gave the character a chance to appear in a holiday-themed story.
In 2009, Vengeance of the Moon Knight launched with a team that included Gregg Hurwitz, Jerome Opena, and Dan Brown, and Moon Knight returned to New York City in order to bring vengeance to the Green Goblin. In this run, Deadpool guest starred in several issues and Moon Knight has a machine with lots of robotic arms that helps him put on his costume.
Secret Avengers & Secret Origins: The 2010s
In 2011, in Secret Avengers #1 by Ed Brubaker, Mike Deodato, Rain Beredd, Marko Djurdjevic, and Dave Lanphear, Captain America recruits Moon Knight to be a part of the eponymous team, which focuses on black ops superhero missions. And the costume situation got less complicated (at least sometimes) in Secret Avengers #19, which introduced the idea that Moon Knight sometimes wore a costume that was comprised of a white suit combined with a version of his mask. This run also saw Moon Knight leaving his flying craft behind in favor of traveling by gliding using his cape.
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In 2012, a 12-issue run by a team that included Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev saw Moon Knight once again experiencing alternate personalities… but this time, the alternate personalities were Captain America, Wolverine, and Spider-Man.
In 2014, the Marvel NOW! initiative included volume seven of Moon Knight. Over the course of this volume, rotating creative teams that included Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Brian Wood, Greg Smallwood, Cullen Bunn and Ron Ackins. During this run, Moon Knight continues to wear his all-white suit-tie-and-mask outfit, which is associated with an identity called “Mr. Knight” who works as a police consultant. This run also confirmed that Spector had indeed been resurrected by “an extraterrestrial entity,” a process that affected the structure of his brain and caused him to associate with four “aspects,” which he naturally associates with identities like Jake Lockley or Spider-Man (depending on the run). This helps mold Spector into the ideal candidate to be the Fist of Khonshu, who is tasked with bringing vengeance to “those who would harm travelers by night.”
The 2016 run included an arc by a team that included Lemire, Smallwood, Francesco Francavilla, James Stokoe, and Wilfredo Torres which saw Spector’s entire reality called into question. This run also saw Spector skipping from one perception of reality to the next, including one that heavily recalls the “Moon Kings” incident from his early appearances. In Moon Knight #10, flashbacks to Spector’s childhood reveal that personalities like Grant predate his first encounter with Khonshu… but also, that said first encounter with Khonshu actually occurred during Spector’s childhood rather than when he was resurrected in Egypt as an adult.
The book got a new creative team in 2017 that included Max Bemis, Jacen Burrows, and Mat Lopes, opening with an arc called “Crazy Runs in the Family” which pitted Moon Knight against Amon-Ra, the Sun King, capable of igniting those he touched.
Khonshu Vs. Earth & the Midnight Mission: The 2020s
In 2020, an Avengers storyline by a creative team that included Jason Aaron, Javier Garrón, and Jason Keith, “The Age of Khonshu,” Khonshu enlisted Moon Knight’s help in taking control of the Earth… which naturally saw Moon Knight clashing with the Avengers! Ultimately, Khonshu is defeated and imprisoned by the Asgardians.
In 2021’s Moon Knight #1 by Jed MacKay, Alessandro Cappuccio, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Cory Petit, Mr. Knight’s new status quo is introduced. He’s opened the Midnight Mission, through which he defends those who travel by night. In this run, Moon Knight gains new allies like Reese, who plays the role of “vampire in the chair.” Plus, in scenes in which he attends sessions with his Avengers-mandated therapist, Spector explores his mental health and how his Jewish heritage affects the fact that he has a relationship with an Egyptian… not to mention the fact that, thanks to Khonshu’s propensity to resurrect him, Spector doesn’t actually know whether or not he’s immortal.
This ongoing run also includes a foil for Spector, Dr. Badr, the other Fist of Khonshu, an intriguing character who plays both antagonistic and supporting roles for the eponymous hero. This run is an interesting combination of street-level supernatural action with the psychological and religious themes that have characterized some of the most interesting stories about Spector.
Moon Knight on Disney+: 2022
The first episode of the MCU Moon Knight adaptation will arrive for streaming on Disney+ on Wednesday, March 30th, and you can bet that Marvel Comics has some plans for the character to celebrate his arrival on your screen! In addition to the tenth issue of the ongoing Moon Knight title, April will see the release of Moon Knight: Black, White & Blood #1 (of 4), an anthology series that will give a plethora of new and returning creators the chance to tell short Moon Knight stories that are depicted in the limited color palette of black, white, and red.
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