Moon Knight

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Moon Knight

(pop culture)

Ever since the creation of Batman in 1939, that character has been a constant source of inspiration both for DC Comics and its competitors. Marvel Comics’ most transparent Batman clone was Moon Knight, who built up a sizeable cult following of his own, despite his obvious debt to the Caped Crusader. Moon Knight’s first appearances came in two issues of Werewolf by Knight (#32 and #33) in late 1975, by writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin. Within a year, reader reaction was so strong that the character fought the Werewolf once more and starred in his own solo strip in Marvel Spotlight #28 and #29.

In his civilian life, Moon Knight was three people—or, more accurately, three separate personalities/personas of one rather schizophrenic man. Initially, there was just one man, Marc Spector, an academic’s son who rejected his father’s restrictive way of life and followed his own, more reckless path, first with the CIA and then as a mercenary under the vicious, tattooed Ronald Bushman. During one mission, Spector stumbles upon Bushman looting an archaeological dig in Sudan and about to kill the daughter of his recent victim, the dig’s leader, Dr. Alraune. Spector saves the daughter, Marlene, but seemingly at the cost of his own life. However, local followers of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu drag his lifeless body to a nearby temple, and there he is miraculously resurrected. Back in the United States, with new love Marlene and old mercenary pal John Paul Duchamp (“Frenchie”) in tow, Spector vows to turn his back on his past misdeeds and begin his life anew as a force for good.

Spurred on by either schizophrenia or brilliance, Spector adopted two new personalities to aid him in his new calling: Steven Grant (millionaire philanthropist) and Jake Lockley (a rough-edged cab driver, always on the lookout for tips from his underworld informer, Crawley). As Moon Knight, Spector/Grant/Lockley donned a white, caped, hooded costume (almost an inverse of Batman’s black getup) and scoured the night sky from his moon-copter, piloted by Frenchie. The many similarities to Batman are unmistakable: the same creature-of-the-night ploy, millionaire playboy alter ego, loyal servant, helicopter, mansion, and driven personality. In addition, longtime artist Bill Sienkiewicz was an obvious follower of legendary Batman artist Neal Adams. However, Sienkiewicz (who came aboard for Moon Knight’s first, extended solo series as a backup in Hulk magazine from 1978 to 1980) was also the strip’s saving grace, as he pushed and transformed his initially derivative—if attractive—artistry into one of the medium’s most incendiary talents.

After the Hulk series and a solo outing in Marvel Premiere, Moon Knight was finally awarded his own title in late 1980 (aptly called Moon Knight), which Moench and Sienkiewicz gradually built into a fan favorite. Within a couple of years, Sienkiewicz had taken elements from a wide range of sources, including illustrators Bob Peake and Bernie Fuchs and cartoonist Ralph Steadman, to make his work on the comic the most daring and innovative on the stands. The comic featured regular villains such as the Werewolf, Bushman, and the Midnight Man, but it was the literate tone and experimental art that readers loved. However, while the title was a critical success, it was never an enormous hit with the wider readership, and with issue #15 in 1981, it was one of the first comics to be distributed solely to specialty shops; a bold move that would later be adopted across the comics industry.

Sienkiewicz left the comic with issue #30 and it was canceled eight issues later, but over the following two decades the title was revived four times by a variety of creators. The longest-lasting of these—Marc Spector, Moon Knight— ran for sixty issues and featured guest appearances from Marvel’s edgier heroes, such as the Punisher and Ghost Rider, whose hard-hitting strips the new comic was trying to emulate (right down to a bullet-proof Kevlar costume). Moon Knight was also an occasional member of the Defenders and of both East and West Coast branches of the Avengers, but he has always made more sense on his own.

After a 1999 miniseries, Moon Knight returned in 2006, in a new monthly comics series that was initially written by crime novelist Charlie Huston and drawn by David Finch. Moon Knight has recently joined the Secret Avengers, and in 2011, Marvel started a new Moon Knight series written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Alex Maleev. —DAR

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