August 1980: Moon Knight 1 – Or Apparently Marvel needed a Batman

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Moon Knight 1 was written by Doug Moench with art by Bill Sienkiewicz and opens in the desert with the mercenaries of the Bushman attacking rebels in Egypt. Bushman talks with his 2nd in command, Marc Spector, who is having misgivings about his job as a soldier of fortune. Marc’s friend Frenchie lands the helicopter and confirms that they are on the wrong side. That night, Bushman’s army attacks an archaeological site, killing the workers and kidnapping the lead archaeologist, Bushmaster himself killing him for any information regarding treasure. Spector prevents the archaeologist from fighting back, so runs to find anyone else to spare them this fate, finds the archaeologist’s daughter (that’s saying archaeologist a lot) and tells her to escape as quick as possible. Guilty over his part, he takes full blame for her father’s death and gets her to flee. Bushman finds out what Spector has done and has the rest of the camp civilians killed. Spector tries to kill Bushman, but is beaten and left in the middle of the desert, his friend Frenchie unable to help.

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Hours pass and a near dead Spector is taken to a nearby ancient temple by some locals at the request of Marlene, the lady that Spector spared earlier and he is laid to rest in front of a stone statue of the Egyptian god Khonshu. He is thought dead, but under the moon light and in the shadow of the statue of Khonshu, Mark Spector wakes.

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Declaring Khonshu to be the god of the moon, the taker of vengeance, he stands and finds a nearby white sheet and fashions it into a cowled cape and goes off into the desert, declaring himself to be the moon’s knight of  vengeance. He attacks Bushman’s camp, killing each and every member of Bushman’s army, save the Bushman himself, who escapes as Frenchie (the other survivor) catches up with Marlene. With Bushman gone and Frenchie and Marlene safe, Marc Spector leaves the desert to begin the next phase of his life, as Moon Knight.

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We get a brief intro to his new life, he wears four identities, Marc Spector, Stephen Grant a millionaire, Jake Lockley a New York cabbie and Moon Knight. As Moon Knight he is battling against drug dealers and organised crime when one night, he finds a dealer with a familiar medallion, identifying him as one of Bushman’s men. As Lockley, he sees his informant Crawley who directs him to Harlem, where in the back room of a burlesque club. Taking out the guards, Moon Knight finally faces Bushman. Marlene is also there, seeking vengeance for her father.

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To protect Marlene, Moon Knight viciously beats him, but after Marlene stops him, he falls short of killing him, to remember that he is a man, and should not abuse the power of this new life.

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Notes: This is a good comic, halfway between a Batman-esque story and a decent TV pilot. The art is good, the story flows nicely, with the exception of the jarring mid issue time/place change. Marc Spector is not a hero, but someone who when faced with a real moral challenge, did the right thing.

I did some Dr Internet research and found that Khonshu was indeed an Egyptian god, often seen with a falcon head. In the story it’s never made explicit whether or not Khonshu has resurrected Marc, or if Marc just attributes it to him. It is looked into later, but for this issue, it’s not really relevant. All that matters is that mercenary Marc Spector starts to live a new life. For some reason, he needs an extra two identities (well personalities, because each one acts differently and he refers to them as seperate people) and he begins to wage a war on street crime in New York because ….. reasons. Jake Lockley is a very interesting street level persona, used to meet with informants and then there’s Stephen Grant, who is apparently rich, but we’re given no details of how Marc acquires this wealth. We get some very Bat-Man esque stuff now, boomerang blades, themed vehicles, billionaire playboy stuff and someone important to him, whom he treats like staff, sort of an Alfred with an Inspector Closeau accent. Marlene is an interesting addition, a love interest, but it’s never made clear how involved they are. There’s a lot thrown in here, chucked in to see what, if anything works.

But the thing is, it does work, the image of Moon Knight’s white hood and cowl make a great image against the night sky in Egypt and New York. Marc using fear and surprise as a weapon makes a great amount of sense. This isn’t a super-hero, this is a man at war, he sees no problem with maiming and no real compunction against killing and this shows the gritty and grimy side of the Marvel Universe. The only reason he stops short of killing Bushman is to hold himself to his own standard, he knows it would be wrong, so he doesn’t do it.

Moon Knight had a spotty history after this, his ongoing title did fairly well, but suffered falling sales and  several failed relaunch attempts, but there is a good character there. Is he powered by an Egyptian god? Or is he delusional? Does he have multiple personalities? Or does he just compartmentalise really well?

This could be considered just another Bat-Man clone, much like the two versions of Nighthawk (Defenders and Supreme Power versions) but even they grew away from it. Moon Knight is his own creature and I am very glad of the excuse to revisit this often overlooked character.

Next Time: We Assemble once more


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