Last night, Marvel Studios properly lifted the lid on its next Disney+ streaming series, Moon Knight, starring Oscar Isaac as the titular avatar of moonlit justice. But the character of Moon Knight is arguably perhaps one of the more esoteric of the heroes coming in the studio’s slate this year—and with a very mysterious trailer like the one we got, you might have some questions. We’re here to help.
Who Is Moon Knight?
First introduced in the pages of Werewolf by Night #32 in 1975, Marc Spector, already the Moon Knight, was a mercenary tasked with capturing the titular lupine protagonist of the book by a villainous group called the Committee. Although his first appearance was distinctly antagonistic, Marc quickly teams up with Werewolf by Night and is reframed as more of a dark, but still noble hero. He’d have several appearances as a guest star in series like Marvel Two-In-One and The Defenders for several years, but it wouldn’t be until 1980 that Moon Knight got his own solo series, from Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz, that would largely flesh out the framework for Marc’s origin as the hero.
That series established that before becoming Moon Knight, Marc was a former Marine who became a mercenary after being discharged from the military. Teaming up with the villainous mercenary Bushman, Marc is eventually betrayed and left for dead on a mission in the Sudan when he tries to stop Bushman from looting an ancient tomb and killing a team of archaeologists investigating it. Barely making his way back to civilization, locals take the near-dead Marc to a temple of the Egyptian moon god and purported protector of night travellers, Khonshu, where he succumbs to his wounds... only to miraculously be reborn, declaring that Khonshu not only saved his life, but has made him an avatar of his will as the Moon Knight.
Why Is Oscar Isaac Using... That Accent?
When Marc’s backstory was first fleshed out—in ways that only further made audiences draw parallels between the character and DC’s Batman—he adopted different identities to obfuscate anyone seeking to track down the identity of Moon Knight. There’s still Marc Spector the mercenary, but there’s also Steven Grant, a Wall Street speculator and businessman who takes Marc’s savings and turns them into millions, in order to fund his vigilantism. We see an alternate iteration of this in the Moon Knight trailer, where Steven isn’t a billionaire, but a shy, British museum gift shop employee. Not glimpsed, however, is a third identity: Jake Lockley, a down-to-earth taxi driver that Marc adopts in order to glean information from the streets. In later stories, he would add a fourth, simply known as Mr. Knight, an alternate, business-suit wearing iteration of Moon Knight who worked as a police consultant.
Originally, these were simply personae that Marc adopted interchangeably depending on what needed doing. But the miniseries Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu by Alan Zelenetz and Chris Warner in 1985 retconned these identities as alternate personalities, establishing that Marc suffered from dissociative identity disorder. The illness was brought on by the stress of both Khonshu establishing a psychic connection with him as a child, and a traumatic childhood experience uncovering that a rabbi with close ties to Marc’s own rabbi father, Elias, was actually secretly a Nazi serial killer targeting Jews. Ever since, Marc’s struggles with his mental health—as well as being unable to perceive whether or not Khonshu is actually real or just another personality in his mind—have been a foundational aspect of the character, as they appear to be in the upcoming show.
As for the accent Isaac uses in the Steven persona... have you heard British people before? They’re very silly.
What Powers Does Moon Knight Have?
Just as with the the back-and-forth of whether or not Marc believes that Khonshu is another aspect of his mental health issues or he really is the fist of an ancient Egyptian moon deity, the hero’s abilities have waxed and waned. Aside from the ability for Khonshu to resurrect Marc after suffering mortal wounds, in some iterations, Khonshu’s spirit grants Marc enhanced strength and durability based on the cycle of the moon, as well as a level of protection against psychic manipulation and occasionally prophetic visions. Khonshu has also previously given Marc blessed weapons and equipment, including an ankh that glows in the presence of mortal danger, a protective boomerang, as well as throwing darts, knives, and equipment to grapple and lasso his way around town.
In others, Marc has been powerless, using silver-coated weapons designed by himself (including the crescent darts seen in the show’s poster), and largely relies on his training as a former marine and expert boxer, an athlete at the peak of human strength and agility that also happens to be a skilled pilot and driver, as well as trained in long and close range combat in a variety of styles. It seems the show will at least draw on both Marc’s background and a supernatural element—several times we see the Marc persona emerge in a violent situation in the trailer, and there’s one shot of the Moon Knight suit itself magically wrapping itself around him, so there’s at least some element of superhuman ability at play.
Who’s Ethan Hawke Playing?
Hawke’s character—who we only know is going to be an antagonist in the series—is left unnamed for his brief appearance in the trailer, outside of an ominous warning telling Marc to “Embrace the Chaos.” But closed captioning confirms the character’s name as Arthur Harrow, a very obscure Marvel pull.
Harrow has appeared in a single comic so far—the second issue of the aforementioned Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu miniseries in 1985. A doctor specializing in pain theory, Harrow suffered from Trigeminal Neuralgia, paralyzing the left side of his face and leaving him in constant pain. When it was discovered that Harrow was secretly experimenting on human test subjects in order to try and find a cure for his illness, desensitizing them to any level of horrific pain, Moon Knight tried to stop Harrow, but the scientist escaped, never to be seen again. Just how much of this background will be used in the show however, remains to be seen—Moon Knight could simply be using Harrow’s name on an entirely different interpretation of the character, which wouldn’t be a first for the MCU.
What Does Moon Knight Actually Do?
He’s... well, as previously stated, he’s basically Marvel’s answer to Batman. A night time defender of the weak and a vengeful warrior who relies on fear and intimidation, Moon Knight has long been one of the publisher’s most famous and darkest “street-level” heroes. But both in the comics and potentially in the MCU itself, Moon Knight represents a connection between that largely-grounded area of superheroics—in so much as anything in comics can be largely-grounded—and the supernatural Marvel universe.
Moon Knight has been a member of the Defenders, an occasional Avenger, and part of smaller groups like the Marvel Knights or the Midnight Sons—and as the MCU looks to flesh out this smaller-scale sided of its universe going forward, Moon Knight as a character is a chance to link that world to the supernatural and magical elements we’ve recently been seeing played with in WandaVision or the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (which will debut just after Moon Knight begins streaming). Plus, given the horror-tinged tone being explored with Isaac’s Spector, it’s an opportunity to provided a different lens on that mystical, magical corner of the MCU... with a lot more bloody fist fights along the way.
Moon Knight begins streaming on Disney+ starting March 30.
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