Moon Knight is Complicated. How Moon Knight Could Be a Great Character but Marvel Comics is Missing the Mark
This is an updated and re-edited article from the WhenItWasCool.com archives. Updated August 2018.
I am a Moon Knight fan. Let me get that straight right as we begin. I do not think of Moon Knight as "Marvel's low rent Batman" because he isn't. I also don't see Moon Knight as some exploration of mental illness character because he shouldn't be. I have been a fan of Moon Knight since the 1970's and I still buy his comics today so if there is anyone that Marvel Comics should be listening to when it comes to Moon Knight it is me. I am invested in the character and I care about the character.
Werewolf By Night issue 32 - The First Apperance of Moon Knight.
I also firmly believe that Marvel Comics is getting Moon Knight wrong and has been for a long time.
That's not to say that everything Marvel is doing with the character is wrong. I absolutely love the modern "Mr. Knight" look. I think it is a fabulous upgrade but let's step back in time and look at the character historically as well.
Moon Knight doesn't belong in the world of Marvel Superheroes fighting alongside Spider-Man or the Avengers, nor does he belong stuck in the vigilante-verse with The Punisher. He belongs in a corner that has long been forgotten and ignored by Marvel- he belongs with the monsters.
When Moon Knight debuted his first appearance wasn't in Spider-Man nor Fantastic Four nor The Hulk. His debut took place in the long defunct Werewolf by Night comic book. Moon Knight was a werewolf fighter. His costume, though often depicted as white, was actually original envisioned as silver- as in silver to fight off werewolves.
Moon Knight got his first solo series in the early 1980's and the fantastic Bill Sienkiewicz art was eerily dark and brooding and perfectly wonderfully suited for Moon Knight. I suppose that also helped draw the comparisons to DC Comic's Batman. There are similarities I admit: rich white guy (but that hardly puts them in a class by themselves), uses gadgets to fight crime, street level hero, and no super powers (or at least vaguely defined super powers.)
Moon Knight was brought back in 1985 with a re-emphasis on his Egyptian origins. Moon Knight was, in his in-story origin, brought back to life by the Egyptian god of the night- Khonsu. Though he was decked out with new Egyptian themed gadgets, his series abruptly ended after six issues. He should have at least got to fight The Mummy during that time.
He was then brought back a few years later in his longest running series to date: Marc Spector: Moon Knight. This time, however, he was firmly poised as a super hero often fighting along side Spider-Man and the Punisher and other mainstream Marvel heroes. He did, on occasion, bump into some scary monster-ish villains but that was hardly the main theme.
By the end of his series he had fallen into everything that made 1990's comic books largely horrible- techno armor, ridiculously melodramatic stories, and seriously over wrought artwork.
There is a lot going on in this picture.
It seems that once every few years a new Moon Knight series pops up. The 2000's have mostly been spent exploring Moon Knight's "mental illness" which he shouldn't even have to begin with. Moon Knight used multiple identities during his career to battle crime such as the millionaire persona of Steven Grant or the taxi driver Jake Lockley. Somewhere along the way, some creator decided that using these multiple identities to battle crime equated to multiple personalities and most of the post-2000 series- including the current one- have been spent delving into that.
These explorations have been met mainly with indifference. Although, I suppose we did get the super cool Mr. Knight outfit out of these largely forgettable series.
I say to Marvel Comics, it's time to return Moon Knight to his roots. The Marvel Universe is sorely lacking in monsters, a long time staple of the industry. We need a corner of the Marvel Universe where vampires, mummies, werewolves, and mad scientists roam. Where the dead don't always remain dead. It would be a cool place to explore the largely untouched zombie craze of recent years. It would be a great place for staples of the genre like Dracula and the Werewolf and Morbius and the other creatures of the night can strike fear into the nighttime traveler only to be protected by Mr. Knight. Imagine this as Penny Dreadful in the Marvel Universe.
Put the silver back on Mr. Knight and go punch a vampire in the face. That's the Moon Knight I want. That's the Moon Knight we need. Not another "is he crazy or is he not" story. You can play with the full moon as a story device. In the 1970's Moon Knight's strength ebbed and flowed with the phases of the moon. That was a cool twist. It was implied that he gained this power due to being bitten while fighting a werewolf. That's a story I can get behind. But it went away, replaced instead with rip off Batman gadgets and voices in his head.
I humbly implore you Marvel, give Moon Knight one more chance but this time let him go monster hunting.