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The Many Faces of Moon Knight, Explained

What to expect and who we might meet in Oscar Isaac’s first foray into the MCU and beyond

Moon Knight Explained
Illustration by Ben Kaye
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    There’s more than meets the eye with Marc Spector, as we’re soon about to learn from the latest Marvel television series, Moon Knight. The highly anticipated series debuts Wednesday (March 30th) on Disney+, and it’s set to be a wild character study unlike anything seen in the MCU.

    Beyond his nightly habit of donning a silver cape and cowl as the crime-fighting titular Marvel Comics antihero, Marc has the unique distinction of battling for justice while facing his own dissociative identity disorder (DID), which splits his psyche into entirely separate entities. Star Oscar Isaac proudly proclaimed in the first featurette that they are “putting a lens on” the character’s fundamental psychological health aspects. With only a few hints of dueling personalities in the preceding trailers, however, it’s unclear how fleshed out each of Marc’s alters will be when they arrive in the show.

    The deliberate integration of Marc’s alters is not only likely but completely understandable; after all, it took decades after his 1975 introduction in Doug Moench and Don Perlin’s Werewolf by Night No. 32 for him to progress from a four-fold persona that’s played as a gimmick — glibly labeled as schizophrenia in early issues — to a nuanced, fully realized character study.

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    Though the identities teased so far are either shrouded in secrecy or noticeably far removed from their comic book counterparts, the similar, slow-building evolution of every facet of Moon Knight’s being within the show stands to serve a huge role in the MCU. Not only will it mark an unflinching push toward more mature themes, brutal action, and a horror-supernatural tone, but it stands to elevate the complexity of superhero storytelling via the complexities of its protagonist.

    Below we’ll examine the comic roots of each of the ever-shifting faces of Moon Knight and how the character’s entrance into the MCU could signal where we’re headed next.


    Marc Spector — The Real Me

    Moon Knight 2017 Issue 14 Jeff Lemire Greg Smallwood Marvel Comics

    Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

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    Raised in Chicago as the son of a rabbi, Marc Spector begins to present symptoms of dissociative identity disorder as a child following a traumatic encounter with a Nazi serial killer (a detail only recently revealed in a 2018 comic run written by Say Anything’s Max Bemis).

    Spector’s debut comic appearance as an adult is only a few panels long before he disappears behind the Moon Knight garments, but it’s not the most charitable of first impressions. While seeking employ from The Committee crime syndicate, his extensive rap sheet includes being a former CIA agent and Marine (now ret-conned as a dishonorably discharged Iraq War veteran), and an active globe-trotting mercenary with unparalleled martial arts and weaponry expertise.

    His career leads him under the wing of the steel-toothed warlord Raoul Bushman, who causes Spector to have a crisis of conscience after attacking a group of archaeologists near the Egypt-Sudan border. Wounded and left for dead in the desert by Bushman, Marc succumbs to his injuries and is subsequently brought to the tomb of Pharaoh Seti II by survivors of Bushman’s attack, who coincidentally place him at an altar for the Egyptian god of the moon and vengeance, Khonshu.

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    Despite being pronounced dead on arrival, Marc inexplicably awakens, seemingly resurrected by the Moon God with an immediate sense of purpose to enact vengeance as Khonshu’s avatar. Marc decamps to New York under the assumed alias Steven Grant, with only his faithful associate Frenchie and rescued beau Marlene knowing his true identity and the accompanying alter ego Moon Knight.

    Despite offering the most utility to the caped crimefighter’s endeavors with his trained marksman and combat abilities, Spector is often withdrawn and left by the wayside as a means to cope with his ruthless past as a soldier-of-fortune. As the dominant personality, he has taken on the role of art gallery purveyor and television show producer, but mainly Spector divides his time between using his skills to the fullest as Moon Knight and wresting control back from his other personas.

    Based on trailers so far, the latter appears to be Marc’s only preoccupation in the Moon Knight series, who only becomes aware of his existence as Steven’s psyche unravels.

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    Moon Knight — I Am Vengeance

    Moon Knight 2006 Issue 1 Page 5 Charlie Huston David Finch Marvel Comics

    Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

    Moon Knight becomes Marc Spector’s crime-busting vigilante arm, one which doles out his own brutal justice as the Fist of Khonshu. His defining silver and jet-black suit was created almost superficially, from his silver gauntlets to fur-piercing crescent darts, as the perfect foil for the lycanthropic — and rumored protagonist for the mysterious Gael García Bernal-starring Halloween special — Werewolf by Night.

    Moony’s original creative team of Moench and Don Perlin then developed a full backstory in Marvel Spotlight No. 28 (1976), replacing the werewolf-hunting-specific armaments provided to Spector by The Committee with an elaborate tale of mystical powers endowed by Khonshu and a deep arsenal funded by his alters’ bottomless fortune (more on that below). At one point, he was granted superhuman strength that waxed and waned with the phases of the moon, though Khonshu later stripped these powers due to disobedience.

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    To recap: He’s a seemingly normal human, made superior by advanced equipment and an immense wealth that skulks in the night with a cape and cowl in order to become a symbol of vengeance and fear… sound familiar? Moon Knight has long faced comparisons to DC’s Batman, but the two have always diverged on two very important points: Moon Knight wears stark white so perps will see him coming, and he does not share the Dark Knight’s aversion to lethal force.

    Steven Grant — Genius, Millionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist

    Moon Knight 2018 Issue 189 Max Bemis Jacen Burrows Marvel Comics

    Image via Marvel Comics

    The wildly successful and debonair Steven Grant acts as the financier responsible for Moon Knight’s seemingly endless supply of new high-tech gadgets, helicopter upgrades, and roving home operations that has included a Long Island mansion, the philanthropic Midnight Mission in Manhattan, and a summer house in Maine.

    Revealed to be Marc’s first alter as a childhood imaginary friend in Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s 2016 run, Steven returns fully in Marc’s adulthood and amasses a fortune by flipping the mercenary’s loot into millions through strategic financial bets. It was clear from the show’s first teaser that Steven’s original backstory had been completely retooled, if not from the looks of his unglamorous gift-shop job than certainly from the bizarre British accent that Isaac is sporting.

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    Whether the latter is supposed to be a subconscious mirroring technique used by Steven to hide his true identity within the London setting or an attribute given to his alter as a Chicagoan’s facsimile of a high-class affectation, Isaac hinted there’s certainly more at play in an interview with Empire. “That voice is about where Steven’s from, where he’s living now, and some of his believed heritage,” Isaac said. “It’s not an idea of what Brits actually sound like.” Either way, it’s still possible that Grant will show us the money in due time.

    Jake Lockley — Need A Ride?

    Moon Knight 2016 Issue 8 Cover Jeff Lemire Greg Smallwood Marvel Comic

    Image via Marvel Comics

    There’s been no sight of the savvy, scoop-grabbing New York cabbie Jake Lockley in the press leading up to Moon Knight, but he plays a crucial role in the comics as Spector’s man-of-all-hours and direct ear to the streets. As the loquacious and mustachioed everyman, Jake gathers intel on the city’s crime beat by chatting up clients, chowing on steak and eggs with the early morning patrons at Gena’s Diner, and checking in with his vagrant informant Bertrand Crawley.

    While there are some trace glimpses of Isaac’s character behind the wheel in the preview clips, it’s probably too soon to expect him to add the facial hair and flat cap just yet.

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    Mr. Knight — Dressed to Kill

    Moon Knight Mr. Knight 2016 Issue 14 Jeff Lemire Greg Smallwood

    Image via Marvel Comics

    The more approachable alter ego of Marc Spector’s masked vigilante was first introduced during Moony’s tenure on Captain America’s covert Secret Avengers team, then later fully embraced in Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s iconic 2014 re-defining run.

    Mr. Knight, clad in an all-white bespoke suit, white gloves, and a white cloth mask emblazoned with a crescent moon, steps out as an unofficial consultant for the NYPD in order to stay off the grid while doing some much-needed image rehabilitation. He quickly shows that he’s unafraid of getting his pristine threads dirty though, proving Moon Knight can look the part without necessarily changing his act.

    A promo poster featuring Mr. Knight sent fans into a frenzy but brought into question how the series will juggle the arrival of not one but two costumed alter egos at once, considering the comic origins of the newer, stylish renegade are directly tied to the long, reckless existence of the original.

    The Cowled Avenger — Team Player

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    Doctor Strange Damnation 2018 Issue 2 Donny Cates Nick Spencer Rod Reis Szymon Kudranski Marvel Comics

    Image via Marvel Comics

    The Crescent Crusader doesn’t usually lend himself to team dynamics, and that seems just fine according to Moon Knight executive producer Grant Curtis, who confirmed in a press statement that the series would be an isolated MCU story. However, with the ever-looming global presence of the Avengers, it’s important to explore the future collaborations and the circumstances for when Spector has been compelled to take part in group projects, whether on his own volition or not.

    At one point or another, Moon Knight has found himself on the Hawkeye-led West Coast Avengers, the supernatural-centered Midnight Sons (which Isaac name-dropped along with members like Daredevil and Blade in an interview with Strip Marvel), the notably recent Disney+ addition Defenders, and the ad-hoc Marvel Knights team, which Spector personally financed for a short time after trading truncheon blows with Daredevil.

    Most team-ups are the result of chance scenarios that leave Moon Knight with no choice than to work together, but in the West Coast Avengers instance (watch this space), he learns he was actually manipulated to join by Khonshu because the Moon god just wanted to know what it was like to be on the team.

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    Another potential avenue worth mentioning is Marc’s temporary incorporation of other superhero’s identities into his psyche, namely Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America. In Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s 2011 run, Moon Knight believes he is working a case with the trio, all currently elevated to Avengers’ status, before it’s revealed that he has been doing his own web-slinging, claw-slashing, and stars-and-stripes-shield-wielding all alone.

    While it’s an unlikely route to take, a stray appearance from Tom Holland or Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers could be just the thing to visualize how deeply Marc’s condition can distort his reality.

    Tune in on March 30th to see who shows their face when Moon Knight premieres on Disney+.

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