'Moon Knight' Has A (Literally) Bonkers Backstory
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Based on the trailers, Marvel Studios' Moon Knight is about a superhero with the uncanny ability to talk with the least convincing British accent ever recorded in the history of mankind (or whatever Oscar Isaac was going for there). Judging by social media, a significant number of people have walked away from those trailers saying, "Okay, so it's Marvel's Batman," but no, Bruce Wayne is a paragon of mental health compared to this guy. Moon Knight is much more than a Batman palette swap. For starters ...
He Started Out As A Minor Villain (But Then He Wasn't)
Moon Knight debuted as a villain in a 1975 issue of Werewolf by Night, a comic from that weird period when Marvel was like, "superheroes are over, horror monsters is where it's at." Since the main guy there was a werewolf, writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin decided it would make sense to have a baddie who was moon-themed and wore a silver costume. If this was a comic about a vampire, Oscar Isaac would now be playing a guy made out of garlic.
Moon Knight is introduced as a mercenary called Mark Spector, who is paid $10,000 by a group of mobsters to put on a silver suit and go catch a werewolf for them. He has no special powers, and the issue makes it clear that he'd never worn a super-costume before, but for $10,000, he'll go out wearing a Borat thong if they want. After beating the comic's titular werewolf, Mark realizes his bosses are jerks and lets him go free -- and, to make it clear that he has turned over a new leaf in his life, he even changes his name to "Marc" with a "c" (which is totally not a typo Marvel has stuck with for almost 50 years).
Marvel's editors liked the character, so they brought him back as a vigilante who uses fake personas (millionaire businessman Steven Grant and cab driver Jake Lockley) to gather info on criminals. The fact that Moon Knight worked three jobs would make him more relatable today if one of those jobs wasn't "rich person."
After some team-ups with Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Defenders, Moon Knight got his own comic in 1980, where it's explained that he was never a villain. He was only working for those werewolf-hating mobsters to gather information, you see. And that's not the only major retcon this series introduced ...
He Has Multiple Personalities (But Then He Doesn't) (But Then He Does)
The first Moon Knight solo series revealed the character's origin: Marc Spector was a mercenary doing mercenary stuff in Egypt until he was betrayed and left to die in the desert. Marc dies in front of a statue of Egyptian god Khonshu but then revives with a sudden urge to wear a cape and punish evil-doers.
Marc thinks he's now spiritually connected to Khonshu, while his friends think he's nuts and imagined the whole thing. It's during this series that Marc's alter egos first go from a crime-fighting tool to a medical condition. At first, Marc's girlfriend doesn't seem terribly concerned that he has a different name and personality depending on what he's wearing ...
But then, in the second Moon Knight series from 1985, she ends up dumping Marc because he's started seeing ominous visions of Khonshu and is having trouble keeping track of who he is. From then on, Marvel writers increasingly wrote Marc as being haunted by the rich guy, the cabbie, and the superhero living in his head. He even quits Moon Knighting for a while because the stress of being four people is too much for him.
At one point, the cabbie personality takes over and makes him move to Mexico and join clandestine fights for money. In 2011, Marc finally ditched those other personalities ... only to replace them with Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Captain America. He even starts dressing up like combined versions of those guys.
Up to this point, the implication was that Marc developed multiple personalities by pretending to be other people for too long during his missions. In his 2014 series, Marc finally gets around to seeing a psychologist, who tells him that this idea is ridiculous -- what actually happened is that a god from another dimension invaded his mind and gave him brain damage (which is probably a way more common diagnosis in the Marvel Universe). So, basically, Marc isn't really insane; it's all Khonshu's fault.
This was contradicted a couple of years later when Marc remembers that he developed his Steven Grant and Jake Lockley personalities when he was a kid, way before Khonshu supposedly brought him back to life and messed with his brain. It's explained that this happened due to the trauma of finding out that a family friend was secretly a Nazi war criminal and having to keep the secret. Also, the whole reason he became a mercenary was that he was kicked out of the Marines after they found out about his mental health history. But, double plot twist: turns out this was all orchestrated by Khonshu, who is definitely real and had been grooming him as a potential host since he was little, the massive creep.
Being screwed up from childhood by a powerful deity does have some occasional perks, though ...
He Had Moon-Based Powers (But Then He Didn't)
In one of Moon Knight's early appearances, it's mentioned that some werewolf saliva apparently made it into his system while he was pretending to work for those mobsters, which gave him "extra-normal strength and instinct of a werewolf."
In the same issue, Marc says that his strength depends on the phases of the moon, and at his strongest, he can lift hundreds of pounds. This whole thing was ignored by subsequent stories, where Marc's only abilities come from his intense training, the fact that he's filthy rich, and his crime-fighting hideout full of computers and gadgets (but seriously, don't call him Marvel's Batman). But then, when he started getting visions from Khonshu, it was specifically said that Marc becomes much stronger when there's a full moon out.
Again, this didn't last long: it was later explained that Khonshu took away his powers due to "disobedience." The one power that has stuck around during all these years is ... dying. While this isn't exactly original in the world of superheroes, it still comes in handy every once in a while. First there was Marc's original death in Egypt ...
Then he was stabbed and drowned in a river ...
Then he sacrificed himself in an explosion to save his friends ...
And each time, Khonshu brings him back because he's not done with him. In a 2006 issue, Khonshu kills him with a thought and brings him back two panels later just to show him who's boss.
The latest Moon Knight series makes it explicit that Marc is immortal by the grace of Khonshu. Sure, the guy may have some issues, but this still seems like a pretty useful superpower -- certainly more useful than shooting arrows. So how come he isn't in the Avengers? Well, about that ...
He Was In The Avengers (But Then He Wasn't) (Because He Told Them To F Off)
Since his first solo stories, Moon Knight has been known for having grittier and more grounded stories than most Marvel heroes (Egyptian mumbo jumbo aside). Most of his enemies are street-level criminals, terrorists, and fellow mercenaries. But occasionally, he likes to take a detour into the wackier side of the Marvel Universe, like when he joins the West Coast Avengers and travels to the 30th century. He even starts a fling with his fellow LAvenger, Tigra. Yes, Moon Knight had a legit catgirl GF.
Khonshu was technically an Avenger during this period too, since he would secretly possess Marc and use his magical knowledge to help out on missions. Once Marc figured out that Khonshu manipulated him into joining the team because he wanted to experience the superhero life, he quit the active roster but remained a reserve member. This lasted until he used his Avengers ID card (the superhero equivalent of a driver's license) to enter a consulate and fight Doctor Doom, which the other Avengers aren't cool with since he wasn't an active member. Moon Knight, drama queen that he is, burned the ID card in front of them to make it clear he was never, ever going back to the Avengers.
He didn't say anything about joining the Secret Avengers, though (Captain America's black ops team), so he did that in 2010 but quietly left the team at some point. More recently, he was forced to work with his old teammates again when Khonshu tried to take over the world, although his definition of "working with them" involved kicking all of their asses -- including Thor's, since his hammer is made out of "moon rock."
He also borrows powers from Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, and even the Phoenix (they have a lot in common, what with all the dying). After Konshu is defeated, the Avengers are so impressed that they offer him a spot on the team, but once again, Marc tells them to screw off.
So, will we ever see Oscar Isaac humiliating Chris Hemsworth? Yes, definitely. It's the only reason he signed up for the part.
Top image: Marvel Studios