The newest Marvel Cinematic Universe series on Disney+, Moon Knight, boasts unparalleled talent. With award-winning actors Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke in leading roles, and directing split between Egyptian director Moahamed Diab and indie-horror filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead (Synchronic is on Netflix—check it out when you get a chance), the series has talent both in front of and behind the camera.
But the character on which the show is based has far less name recognition. Moon Knight is, at best, a C-level Marvel superhero. Although he’s had many solo series since 1980, none of them have lasted more than 40 issues. Moon Knight serves only a supporting role in company-wide crossovers and his short tenure in the Avengers was with the West Coast team.
And yet, Moon Knight is one of the most interesting Marvel superheroes, and one with a rabid cult following, thanks to his strange origin. Created by writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin, Moon Knight is the soldier of fortune Marc Spector. And also millionaire playboy Steven Grant. And also hard-luck cabbie Jake Lockley.
Spector has Dissociative Identity Disorder (sometimes incorrectly referred to as “schizophrenia” in early stories), but that doesn’t prevent him from becoming an agent of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu. As the Fist of Khonshu, Moon Knight defends those who travel under the moon, aided by his high-tech weaponry and mystical powers.
The Moon Knight series certainly gives us an interesting take on the hero, but there’s no way that six episodes can fully capture the variety and complexity of the character (which is why we’re also hopeful that his journey will continue in the MCU for years to come). To get all the multiple approaches to the hero with multiple personalities, check out these comics.
1. “The Stalker Called Moon Knight” (Werewolf by Night #32-33)
Moon Knight made his debut in 1975’s Werewolf by Night #32. It was written by Doug Moench, drawn by Don Perlin, inked by Howie Perlin, colored by Phil Rachelson, and lettered by Ray Holloway, and Moon Knight made his debut. This is part of a two-part story that continues in Werewolf by Night #3. Moon Knight is hired by an unknown group called the “Committee,” and they want him to capture the book’s lycanthrope protagonist, Jack Russell. In this story, Moon Knight is more of an anti-hero than a hero. He is a cynical, greedy rogue who fights for the almighty dollar.
Over the next five years, Moon Knight will appear in comics all over the Marvel Universe, often with well-known heroes like Daredevil and Spider-Man. Even when other writers take over, Moench is still the main person behind Moon Knight. He uses guest appearances and solo back-up stories to make the character more interesting. To start with, we meet Spector’s other personalities, Steven Grant and Jake Lockley, and some of the people who work with him: Frenchie, Samuels, Samuel, and Marlene Arlaune. Lockley’s waitress friend Gena Landers also makes an appearance.
2. “The Macabre Moon Knight!” (Moon Knight vol. 1 #1-5)
It took Moon Knight years to get his own show, but in 1980, he finally had his own show. Written by Moench and drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz (with inks by Frank Springer and colors by Bob Sharen), the first issue of the series starts with a soft reboot, fixing up mistakes from the past.
There was a soldier of fortune named Marc Spector who died because his boss, Bushmaster, killed him. Khonshu, the Egyptian god who brought Spector back to life, makes him the Moon Knight and he kills Bushmaster in retaliation. This is what happens in the issues that follow. Spector’s alternate Grant and Lockley identities show up as he fights both street-level bad guys and mythical monsters. It’s in Moon Knight #3 that Moench and Sienkiewicz introduce Anton Mogart, also known as Midnight Man. He’s a master thief and a frequent Moon Knight foe. He’ll play a big part in the new Disney+ show.
3. “When Ghosts Can Die, Even Gods Must Fear!” West Coast Avengers #41
Moon Knight is more of a lone wolf than a team player, but he does sometimes work with other people. One of his first appearances was with a group of weirdos called The Defenders. Later, he joins Captain America’s Secret Avengers. After Hawkeye is sent back in time and meets Khonshu, Moon Knight is sent by his god to join the West Coast Avengers in the present.
Moon Knight was on the team for 20 issues, but he didn’t really fit in with the other superheroes, even though he tried. People thought he was religious because of his habit of talking to Khonshu. When the main Avengers set a “no-killing” rule, he even joins a group of people who don’t follow the main group’s rules. As long as Al Milgrom drew Moon Knight’s adventures with the West Coast Avengers, a lot of different people worked on the book, which led to some weird characterizations of the hero. In his last appearance with the team, it is revealed that Khonshu used Moon Knight to get a better look at the Avengers. Then Khonshu frees Spector and Moon Knight leaves the team for good.
4. “Hero for Hire” (Marvel Knights #11-14)
There were two very important moon knight teams that worked together a few years later, as part of the Marvel Knights comic book series. New characters like Daredevil and the Punisher were relaunched by an imprint called Marvel Comics. They were made to be more hard-edged street-level characters than the rest of the Marvel Universe. They were put together in the Marvel Knights comic book series, with Black Widow, Shang-Chi, and the Cloak and Dagger team. Moon Knight is a last-minute addition to the team. He comes in to help the team and give them a place to stay, then hires Luke Cage as a new member.
In many ways, the series, written by Chuck Dixon, drawn by Ed Barreto, inked by Nelson DeCastro, colored by Dave Kemp, and lettered by Richard Starkings and Jason Levine, doesn’t seem to fit with other Moon Knight stories that have been out there in the past. Action-packed superheroes are more appealing to Barreto and DeCastro than the moody drama of the Moench and Sienkiewicz years. Marc Spector is simply Marc Spector, with his Steven Grant persona being only hinted at in the movie. There are some good things about this show, though. For example, the moon-copter and the way other Marvel heroes think of Moon Knight as a nuisance are shown.
5. Werewolf by Night #32 (1975) Doug Moench and Don Perlin
Everything started with this one. Moon Knight, a mysterious white-clad mercenary, made his first appearance in this story. He was hired by the mysterious Committee to capture the mysteriously popular werewolf Jack Russell and bring him in with all of his flashy, high-tech nonsense and silver weapons.
The Werewolf by Night storyline has been going on for a while now, and you might not be sure what’s going on with Jack Russell at this point. This book quickly explains the main points of the story, and it’s easy to read as a one-time dip into Marvel’s appealing supernatural world.
6. Moon Knight #1-20 (1980-82) Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
Doug Moench, the man who came up with Moon Knight, and legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz wrote this classic series. You can read all about Moon Knight’s crazy start in this book. Marc Spector, a mercenary who works for Raoul Bushman, isn’t happy with how Bushman is treating him. When they find an archaeological dig in progress, Bushman leaves Spector to die in the desert. In the end, Marc crawls to safety, but it’s too late for the young knight. His body is left under a statue of the moon god Khonshu, who revives him in exchange for becoming his avatar on Earth.
When Marc first tried to make up Moon Knight, he didn’t know yet that he had Dissociative Identity Disorder, but he did make up the identities of Steven and Jake to help him on his mission of lunar revenge. This set the stage for Moon Knight’s later reimagining. You’ll also see Spector’s first encounter with the thief Anton Mogart, who is known as the Midnight Man in the Disney+ show.
7. Moon Knight #1-6 (2006) Charlie Huston and David Finch
Moon Knight by Huston and Finch might be a good choice if you like your comic book stories to be dark. At the start of this series, he seems to have been left behind by Khonshu. During this time, Marc goes into a deep depression and abuses drugs. He wants to feel that psychic connection to his god again. There are two people hired by the Committee who will make sure he never comes out of the hole he’s been in.
There are lots of twists and turns, as well as violence at its peak. This series set a tone that other books have tried to avoid when they tried to avoid Batman comparisons. Some of the images on these pages are truly memorable. This is a rougher time for Moon Knight.