Moon Knight – Next Logical Step for the Marvel Netflix Universe

With the release of the next installment of the Marvel Netflix series, Defenders, due out in August, I can’t help but ask what their next step should be? Every time I think about it the next step is clear… Moon Knight.

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The Marvel Netflix universe will reach it’s culmination with the release of the Defenders, a show they’ve been building up to since Daredevil first began streaming in 2015. Since that first season we have received a second season of Daredevil as well as individual seasons for each member of the Defenders team.  Daredevil will take the role of Tony Stark in that he will be the driving force behind the team. Luke Cage the righteous street warrior of Harlem will balance him out as the surrogate Captain America. With that being said the title Defenders does have a little bit of a different roster when you look at the Marvel Comics releases.

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The original Defenders team consisted of Dr. Strange, Namor the Sub Mariner and the Hulk. The team was originally formed to combat a interplanar threat from the Undying Ones. Due to the popularity of the series Marvel Comics continued publishing the series and added Valkyrie to the team to “provide extra texture to the group” as stated by Steve Engleheart (one of the original writers of the series). Throughout their publication history since their first inception in December of 1971, the team has gone through many different incarnations and variations. Most recently the team consisted of Valkyrie, Misty Knight, Danielle Moonstar, and Warrior Woman and adopted the moniker of Fearless Defenders (2013). To coincide with the release of the Netflix series of the Defenders, Marvel Comics revamped the team to consist of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist; this series is due to release in August around the same time as the series comes out on Netflix.

During the Secret Empire series it is unclear what has happened to the Defenders after they were last seen combating villains for what happened at Pleasant Hill, they disappeared after Nitro detonated himself.

Moon Knight

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Moon Knight has been in Marvel publication since he was first introduced in August of 1975 in Werewolf by Night as a villain hired by the Secret Empire (no relatio nto the current Marvel event) to kill the main character in a two issue story arc. Due to the popularity of the character Moon Knight was brought back again in a limited series under the Marvel Spotlight title. By 1978 he was recast as a hero who had masqueraded as a villain in order to infiltrate the Secret Empire and dismantle it from within. he briefly joined the Defenders when they were fighting the Zodiac Cartel but wasn’t given his own solo series until 1980. Since that first series he has gone on to have many different series’ and many different teams of which he is an active member.  As I said before he has been a member of the Defenders, Avengers, Marvel Knights, and even Captain America’s Secret Avengers. His most recent series is written by Jeff Lemire written under the All New, All Different Marvel title card.

Why Moon Knight?

The reason I think that Moon Knight would make a great addition to the Marvel Netflix universe is the tone and content of his comic. Whether you read his classic stories or his more modern tales (Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s run is the best in my opinion), his content always leans towards a more mature audience due to its graphic content.  The character of Moon Knight suffers from MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) he has 4 distinct personalities: Steven Grant (billionaire fat cat), Marc Spector (ex mercenary and black ops soldier), Jake Lockley (New York cabby), and Khonshu (Egyptian God of the Moon and Revenge). His real personality (as in his identity) is Marc Spector, son of a Rabbi who lied about his age to enlist in the marines. After his extensive career in the marines as well as a CIA black team operative he became a Mercenary where he met his long time ally Henri Duchamp (Frenchie). In a botched raid on  an Egyptian temple Spector had a change of heart and tried to help the prisoners, he was killed by his group’s leader, Raoul Bushman. Spector ended up saving the prisoners but suffering from multiple gunshot wounds in the process. Spector crawled to the feet of the statue of Khonshu and died in the arms of one of the prisoners, Marlene Alraune. Khonshu appeared to Spector in an after death sequence and promised him life he would be his avatar on Earth. Spector agreed and was revived by the God. He donned the mantle of the Moon’s Knight and used his fortune from his years a mercenary to set up in New York City.

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The brutality and the graphic content of his comics would fit right at home in the Marvel Netflix Universe, not to mention his cross overs with the Punisher.

Moon Knight & The Punisher

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At the end of the 2006 run which saw Moon Knight as a card carrying member of the Avengers, hunted by the Thunderbolts, fake his death after killing Carson Knowles; he ran down south and hid out in Mexico. During his exile in Mexico he moonlighted as a bare knuckle boxer to make cash and kept his head down. It wasn’t until a member of the local cartel saw him fight that he was hired by the cartel leader to get his daughter back from the police. He initially agreed until he learned what the daughter was being held for, as state’s witness against her father for his crimes. He allies with the daughter but not before incurring the wrath of the cartel and their hired thugs. He runs into the Punisher who is there to take out the Cartel and they team up for the final assault.

They literally already have a story made that can introduce him into the Netflix universe! At the end of the Punisher series (which we are getting in November of this year) have him run to Mexico to hide out and run into Spector. Have Frank ask him what he’s doing there and just have Spector reply with ” It’s a long story… we’re gonna need more tequila”  BOOM! Moon knight series kicks off with him explaining why he is hiding out in Mexico and every episode is a flashback until the final episode when he decides to head back to New York.

It might just be my own bias because of my love for the character but i cannot stress enough how perfectly Moon Knight would fit into the Marvel Netflix Universe. His dark and gritty stories, not to mention his brutality would fit perfect and it would create for some interesting dynamics amongst the other characters. Daredevil would be appalled whereas Iron Fist would agree that sometimes the only way to stop someone is to kill them.  It could potentially set up their own version of a civil war, not that I’m hoping for that, that would be a stupid idea… or would it?

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Marvel Knights – The Failed Productions

With the success of the MCU as a whole, it’s hard to forget that Marvel made some pretty left field choices when they were still a struggling company. From the selling of some of their most major characters ( X-Men to Fox, Spider-Man to Sony, Namor to Universal) they also tried some hit and miss productions, mostly miss.  Daredevil from 2003 was the beginning of the slump for Marvel which lasted until the release of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in 2011. Strangely enough this slump was also during some of their greatest success, which begs to ask… what caused the slump?

The slump was caused by an off shoot subsidiary production company of Marvel titled Marvel Knights. This production card appeared in only 2 marvel films to date Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Punisher: War Zone.  For obvious reasons (critical reception and failure) the Marvel Knights banner was scrapped and the darker heroes that they had focused on were moved to other forms of media. Punisher found success in the Netflix universe being a secondary character in season 2 of Daredevil and receiving his own show later this year, and Ghost Rider moved to Agents of SHIELD and was widely regarded as the best part of the series thus far.

For those unfamiliar with the Marvel Knights, it was actually the name given to the superhero team formed by Daredevil in order to take down and capture the Punisher. At the time of it’s printing the team consisted of: Daredevil, Black Widow, Dagger, Moon Knight (who acted as the Bank Roller for the team), Shang-Chi and Luke Cage. The run didn’t have it’s exclusive title (like Avengers or X-Force), rather each hero on the team had it’s own title with the sub imprint of Marvel Knights. That alone makes it very hard for collectors to get every issue as they never made it to graphic novel form with the exception of the Marvel Knights 2099.

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Let’s look at the two films produced under this banner to get a better idea of why it failed.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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The first Ghost Rider was produced under the main Marvel studios banner and it wasn’t until they decided to give GR another shot that it was dropped under the Knights production banner. Where to start with why this movie failed… Let’s start with the obvious answer, Nic Cage. Nicholas Cage tends to be hit and miss with his movies (mostly always a miss) and this was no exception. His overacting and butchery of the character are second to only Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (in case you haven’t noticed I really don’t like that casting). The story also falls pretty flat on itself by trying to incorporate too much into the film all at once. Rather than focusing on the redemption of GR they brought in Danny Ketch (who takes over the mantle of GR when Johnny Blaze dies) as the son of “Satan” really Mephisto, but they call him Rourke in the movie? Not only that, but they brought in the whole fallen angel aspect to the Zarathos mythos as well as Blackout being a poor two bit villain that lasted all of 20 minutes. I will say this, apart from the weird idea to have him piss as a flamethrower? the CGI for Ghost Rider was pretty spot on. They did away with the horrible CGI skull and flames from the first movie and gave him a much more burned and charred look which I think works better for the character. He is supposed to be a fiery demon from hell after all. If he can melt metal with his hands it would make sense that his clothing gets a little charred when he changes. The scene where he takes control of the massive digger in the mine and turns it into a hell machine is also just badass no matter who you are. They also really brought in the fact that Ghost Rider is pretty much indestructible. He takes a javelin rocket right on and keeps coming, he swallows an entire magazine of bullets and then spits them back out and demolishes an entire crew, and those are just a couple of the badass things he can do. Regardless of how much I love the character, I can recognize that both Ghost Rider 1 & 2 are horrible movies, but I will continue to love them none the less.

Punicher: War Zone

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For anyone who saw the 2004 Punisher film starring John Travolta and Thomas Jane this movie felt like a knife to the back. In the 4 years it took between this one and the previous movie the production was plagued with problems. From script re-writes to the star (Thomas Jane) walking off the set and tearing his contract up 3 weeks into shooting, to directorial issue the movie was doomed to fail from the start. Once Jane had walked off the set the casting team scrambled to find someone who could replace him as Frank Castle, enter Ray Stevenson. Now for the record Stevenson did a great job with what he was given to work with. When the studio got a new actor to play Castle, they treated the entire production as a soft reboot and went back to the original comic roots for his origin. While I did like the updated massacre they used in the 2004 movie, the comic roots are still the best when trying to adapt any movie. The story alone was ridiculous at best and sometimes brought in outrageous elements just for shock value (Looney Bin Jim ripping out the orderly’s kidneys and eating them while he was still alive?). Dominic West was another actor who did well with what he was given. He played the main villain mob boss Billy Russo who later after a run in with Castle gets disfigured and takes on the moniker of Jigsaw. The supporting cast was great and offered some comic relief when sought. The main problem with this film was the stagnant plot until the last 20 minutes of the movie for the final assault. I will say that the final assault conducted by Castle is still one o the best action sequences I’ve seen in any comic book movie.  In addition to the stagnant plot and the gratuitous violence comes the gore. You can still make a badass movie without throwing in ridiculous amounts of gore, the 2004 movie is a prime example. The main problem for this movie’s success was all these factors combined gave it a solid R/18A rating making it impossible for most of the population to view it.

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So following the release of the Spirit of Vengeance, Marvel Studios scrapped the Knights banner and absorbed all that property to be used at a later date (see Netflix Marvel Universe). The one character from the Knights that I’m holding out on getting his own solo series is Moon Knight. As one of my all time favourite characters, his brutality and narrative would be at home in the Netflix universe and would compliment the other characters in that medium very well. I won’t hold my breathe though, Marvel doesn’t like to take risks when it comes to not so well known characters.

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Moon Knight: Lunatic

Just recently I acquired the first volume of the new Moon Knight run aptly titled Lunatic. It was amazing run and brought everything I loved from the classic tales as well as the modern interpretations of the Fist of Khonshu.

This article will contain spoilers for Moon Knight vol. 1 – Lunatic

For those not familiar with his story, I will give you a quick bit of background on the protector of the night travelers. Marc Spector was born to a Jewish family in Chicago Illinois. He was the oldest of 2 sons to Rabbi Spector and showed an aptitude for violence at war at a very early age. Before his 18th birthday he left home and lied about his age to enlist in the marines, where he became a heavyweight boxer. after his stint in the marines he was recruited by the CIA for a blacklist team for covert missions. When he finished with the CIA he became a freelance mercenary where he met his longtime ally Jean-Paul Duchamp “Frenchie”. Together they sold their services for many years before being recruited by Raoul Bushman. During his final mission with Bushman, they raided an Egyptian temple of the buried gold, while imprisoning the people working on the dig. Spector allied with the diggers against Bushman and was gunned down because of it. He crawled into the temple and died on the altar of the Egyptian God of the Moon and Vengeance, Khonshu. Khonshu appeared to Spector and asked him to be his avatar on Earth and that if he agreed he would restore his life. Spector agreed and when he was revived he quickly grabbed the cloak that was draped around the statue of Khonshu and claimed himself as the Moon Knight. He returned to New York in order to complete his mission and protect the night travelers, he used his massive fortune acquired with being a Mercenary to establish himself as Steven Grant, a millionaire playboy. This identity helped him to intermingle with the high society but in order to get street level intel he adopted the identity of Jake Lockley, a New York City cab driver. Eventually all of these different personas caused him to have a mental breakdown and as a result he developed multiple personality disorder.

Interestingly though, in the Marvel Now! run by Ellis, Wood & Bunn, Marc’s mind will actually choose the personality that is best suited for the task at hand.  This theme was first shown in the Bendis run from 2011-2012; wherein his personalities took on the personas of Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine. It is also widely known in the Marvel universe that Moon Knight is the only person who’s fighting style Taskmaster won’t copy; stating that “… he would rather take a hit and counterattack than block”. In a one off comic Marc saves someone from a gang of attackers in an alley because that saw him standing up on top of the building. The gang members run and Marc jumps down to make sure the victim is okay. When asked why he wears white Marc states ” I wear white so they can see me coming… So that they know that vengeance is not afraid of them… and neither am I”.

Despite his questionable mental state, Marc has remained as a member of the Avengers and even the Secret Avengers hand picked by Captain America himself. In Midnight Sun from 2006 (before Secret Avengers) Marc was visited by Cap and warned not to get up to his “old ways” or Cap would put a stop to it.  (The old ways being referred to was Moon Knight killing Bushman and carving his face off) Marc says that he is a changed man and that was a one time thing, but Cap isn’t sure and delivers him the ultimatum of “… don’t go over the line and we don’t have a problem”. This run takes place right in the middle of the first Civil War arc, and is one of the best runs I’ve read. I highly recommend giving it a read if you ever get the chance.

In the newest run by Jeff Lemire, Marc wakes up in a mental hospital as a patient of Dr. Emmett, being told that his entire previous life as Moon Knight has been a figment of his imagination. As he plans out his escape he even sees Moon Knight on the news and begins to question if everything Dr. Emmett was saying is true. Kohonshu still talks to Marc and tells him that what he sees is not real and that it’s the work of am Egyptian Demon by the name of Ammit. Marc makes and early breakout attempt which leads him to the roof. He emerges onto the roof to see the city is dissolving away and there is sand overtaking the streets. At the center of the city is a massive pyramid. Marc refuses to accept that what he remembers is all a lie, a resolve firmly backed by Khonshu telling him that he is right and everything Ammit is telling him is false. Khonshu explains that Set has attempted to steal the world away into the “God realm” in order to become it’s new ruler. Marc believes his God and sets about getting out of the hospital. As he spends more time in the facility he begins seeing people from his past that are patients there like himself. His resolve wavers until his allies show up one night and deliver him his Mr. Knight outfit.

They break out and fight off mummies as well as Jackal headed cronies of Set. Anubis shows up to offer them safe passage out of the realm and back to earth but he demands a soul as payment. Crawley volunteers stating that he is old and his usefulness is wearing thin but that he can make this sacrifice to save his friends. Marc vows to find a way to get him back before they head out into the city. As they get onto the street they are set upon by more Jackal headed goons of Set and Frenchie is mortally wounded, dying not long after. Gina, Marlene and Marc take shelter in Gina’s diner and Gina makes them pancakes to help them get some energy back. Marc and Marlene continue to trek through the city towards a massive pyramid at the center while Gina stays behind at the diner to wait for her sons. As they near the pyramid Marlene’s head becomes clearer and she tells Marc that whatever that have to do is at the center of the pyramid. As they climb the pyramid they are set upon by Moon Knight, Marc and he battle which ends with the other Moon Knight getting stabbed in the stomach by Marc with a crescent. The impostor takes Marlene into the center of the pyramid with Marc in hot pursuit. As Marc enters the central chamber of the pyramid he sees the other Moon Knight standing there waiting for him. The impostor removes his hood and mask revealing that it is the Egyptian God Khonshu. Khonshu tells Marc that it was all a ruse to get him there so that Khonshu could possess Marc’s body and come to the mortal plane once more. Marc resolutely tell Khonshu he would rather die than let him become a pawn of the God and runs and jumps off the pyramid, falling to his death on the sand below.

Marc wakes up in a penthouse with Marlene in his bed calling him Steven and tells him that they need to get to the set early for make-up.

This run truly shows just how unhinged Moon Knight can be. In one of the panels he sees undead mummies coming out of subway cars at an abandoned subway station. When he asks if they (his companions) see the mummies too, some of them say yes but Gina says ” All I see are a bunch of orderlies here to take us back upstairs”. Doubt is a theme that constantly shows up in Moon Knight comics. Whether it’s people’s faith him Marc or Marc’s faith in himself; you can’t have a Moon Knight comic without doubt. This most recent run brought buckets of doubt from Marc himself. When he sees Moon Knight on the tv stopping criminals, he actively believes that he is crazy until Khonshu tells him that it’s all a lie and that he needs to believe in himself and his God.  Despite all of his shortcomings and issues, Marc is the hero that some people need. He protects people who travel by night and brings vengeance down on those who deserve it.