Moon Knight, a Disney+ MCU TV series based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, is just a few days from release.
Join The Illuminerdi as we dive into his comic roots in anticipation of the show.
Moon Knight is one of the most fascinating anti-heroes within the Marvel pantheon. His stories explore the duality of light and dark, the fine line between sanity and madness, and the incredible lore of the Egyptian Gods. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about the character’s past, present, and future, here are 13 essential Moon Knight comic books you should be reading.
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT 32-33, (DEBUT)
This is the Moon Knight story that started it all, making it the obvious place to start. Before Moon Knight was a beloved hero/anti-hero, he worked as a mercenary for “The Committee”. His first Marvel appearance was as an antagonist to Jack Russell, AKA Werewolf By Night. Rumors suggest that Werewolf By Night may appear in the MCU Disney+ show, Moon Knight, making this an even timelier read.
After his debut in “Werewolf By Night #32-33”, Marc Spector made guest appearances in Marvel Spotlight, Defenders, and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man before he was given a consistent string of solo stories. These can be found as backups in the 1978 comic, Hulk!. Moon Knight’s backstory and relationship with Marlene Aurlene (Marc’s longtime, on-again off-again love interest) was expanded on in these wonderful, short stories from Moon Knight co-creator Doug Moench. Issues 11-18 introduced Marc’s murderous, hatchet-wielding brother, Randall Spector.
MOON KNIGHT 1980, (FIRST SOLO)
The first Moon Knight solo series was first penned by Doug Moench, and illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz. Moon Knight Vol. 1 set Marc Spector’s origin as Moon Knight in stone, and spent more time exploring Marc Spector’s relationship with Khonshu, as well as his alternate personalities. Marc was a mercenary who died under the statue of the god Khonshu. He was seemingly resurrected as Khonshu’s avatar, though this series would introduced the idea that Khonshu and Marc’s mission may not be wholly based in reality. Is it possible that this “origin story” was actually Marc Spector filling in the blanks of his damaged mind?
FIST OF KHONSHU
After the cancellation of Moon Knight Vol. 1, which ran for 38 issues, Marvel Comics tried to reinvent the character a bit. The 6-issue series, Moon Knight: Fist Of Khonshu, written by Alan Zelenetz, illustrated by Chris Warner and published in 1986, reset the status quo. Now something of an international hero, the character is flying around the globe to deal with mysterious phenomena at the behest of Khonshu and the “eyes of eternity”, three blind elders who helped guide him towards the Lunar God’s will.
More importantly, they bestowed Marc with several golden, Egyptian artifacts, including a boomerang, scarab, hatchet, and more. The MCU version of the costume features notably more gold than most of the comics versions, except for this one, indicating that Fist Of Khonshu may have inspired the creative team more than a little.
WEST COAST AVENGERS #21-24
Following the conclusion of Fist Of Khonshu, you’ll want to head on over to West Coast Avengers, specifically issues 21-24. These set up Moon Knight as a member of the team, they increased Khonshu’s cosmic power and relevance to the Avengers, and they featured some gorgeous moon-based artwork. His golden weaponry from the last run is retained, and his friendship with Tigra is born – a relationship continued in the current ongoing series.
MARC SPECTOR: MOON KNIGHT
Moon Knight continued to appear in West Coast Avengers until issue 41, his last with that team for some time. Marc Spector/Jake Lockley/Steven Grant went on to star in Marc Spector, a 60-issue series which failed to impress.
It had some decent arcs, including one revolving around Midnight (Jeff Wilde), but it’s a rather flat run that ends forgetfully, swamped with over-the-top 90’s artwork. That it tended to shy away from the character’s alternate personalities didn’t help. The most important element of this run is the death of Moon Knight – which of course, didn’t last long.
RESURRECTION WARS & HIGH STRANGERS
Because you can’t keep a good thing down, and because he’s not Uncle Ben, our hero’s time in the grave was short-lived. The 4-issue miniseries Resurrection Wars brought the character back from the dead through less than clear means, only for him to fight against three of his most prominent villains: specifically Stained Glass Scarlet, Black Spectre and Bushman, the ruthless mercenary warlord who took Marc Spector’s life the first time.
Doug Moench once again wrote Ressurection Wars, as well as a sequel miniseries High Strangers… or maybe it’s High Strangeness? The covers all read Strangers, and the first page of each issue reads Strangeness. Regardless of shoddy editing, this miniseries is an absolute trip that brings the definition of reality into question, something that’s become tradition within the comics lore of the character. What makes it even more fascinating is that the questioning of reality has nothing to do with Khonshu this time.
In fact, the God of the Moon is seldom mentioned, further setting apart High Strangers from other, more traditional Moonie books.
MOON KNIGHT 2006
Our hero fell off the radar for a while after the conclusion of High Strangers, appearing as a supporting character for years before returning to center stage. His big comeback arrived in the form of Charlie Huston and David Finch’s 2006 run, Moon Knight. This book is dark, gritty, and uber-violent, almost gratuitously so. Want to see a protagonist branding baddies with crescents? Dying to see the hero of the moon cut off his archenemy’s face, or rip the ears of his enemies? Then this is the run for you.
My favorite part of this controversial run is how explicitly manipulative Khonshu is acting. Some earlier stories portrayed him as a relatively benevolent and altruistic god, but this changed all of that for the better.
VENGEANCE OF THE MOON KNIGHT
After the cancellation of the bloody and brooding 2006 run, Marc Spector’s heroic alter returned for 2009’s Vengeance Of The Moon Knight. This run was written by Gregg Hurwitz, and it sought to establish the character as a more mainstream hero. His violent impulses were toned down, as he turned more heavily towards tech as a superior means of crime fighting. The worst part about this beautifully illustrated run is how abruptly it ends, due to its untimely cancellation.
With the mysterious character poised to become more mainstream than ever before, with his MCU debut just around the corner, there has never been a better time to read Vengeance Of The Moon Knight.
MOON KNIGHT 2011
The legendary (or infamous, depending on who you ask) Brian Michael Bendis took a stab at this infamous comic character in 2011, resetting the board for the character yet again. This time, Marc Spector is hanging out in Hollywood, trying to get an adaptation of his life story made. To make matters even crazier, Marc has three new alternates, specifically Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America.
He embarks on a journey with Echo, (both romantic and heroic) to fight the deadly Count Nefaria, who positioned himself as the Kingpin of L.A. This run digs deep into Marc’s relationship with The Avengers, and it could serve as inspiration for a future MCU relationship between Maya Lopez’ Echo and Oscar Isaac’s Marc Spector.
MOON KNIGHT 2014 (MR. KNIGHT DEBUT)
Warren Ellis took the creative reins to Moon Knight in 2014, introducing some fascinating new wrinkles to the character. In terms of the MCU, this run is particularly important for introducing the Mr. Knight identity. Though the purpose of the suit in the MCU is currently unknown, in this comic it is created so that the local Police Department can justify working with the detective “Mr. Knight”, because he isn’t the brutal and violent vigilante called “Moon Knight”.
This astonishing loophole logic created one of the most interesting and incredibly designed alternate personalities within Marc Spector, and Mr. Knight has remained an integral part of the legend ever since.
MOON KNIGHT 2016
The 2016 Moon Knight run, written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Greg Smallwood, is the first run that made me fall in love with the mythos of Moon Knight. The story opens with Marc in a mental institution, being told that while there is a “Moon Knight” vigilante who exists in the real world, he is not Marc Spector.
As Marc, and we the reader by extension, are told that his memories are corrupted illusions, dark fantasies at best, and existence begins to fold in on itself, everything is thrown into question. Is Marc a hero, or is he just a poor, misguided soul whose mind has gone through the blender one too many times? Judging by the chaotic, intense, mind-boggling footage shown in the trailers and promotional marketing for the Disney+ Moon Knight series, this run was probably referenced heavily during the production of the show.
MOON KNIGHT 2021
Finally, we arrive at the present day for our beloved Lunar legend. Moon Knight has been fighting the good fight in writer Jed Mackay’s and illustrator Alessandro Cappucio’s Moon Knight ongoing for 9 issues now, since this new run started up last July. There’s no limit to the praise I could sing for this series. The artwork is crisp, clean, and visually dynamic, arguably the best Moon Knight has ever looked. Mackay tells largely independent, issue to issue stories that work marvelously as standalone epics while building the larger picture simultaneously.
The creative team understands and respects the decades of Moon Knight history that predate this run, and they work that passion into the comic seamlessly. I can only pray that the creatives behind Moon Knight in the MCU are as talented as these comic creators are. And it’s no secret that Marvel likes to cross-pollinate stories between comics and the MCU, so don’t be surprised if elements of Moon Knight 2021 appear in Moon Knight on Disney+.
Well there you have it folks, The Illuminerdi’s comprehensive guide to Moon Knight’s legendary comic book history. This recommended reading list obviously doesn’t include every Moonie story ever told, but it features his most relevant story arcs in chronological order.
If you are excited for Moon Knight’s debut in the MCU, there’s no better way to increase your anticipation even further than by cracking into one of his amazing comic books.
Which Moon Knight comic books are you reading right now? What do you think of the current Moon Knight ongoing? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media!