Moon Knight was on a roll, both as a comic series and a protagonist. But changes were coming to Marvel. In 1981, Stan Lee relocated to Los Angeles to manage the television shows and films in production, leaving Marvel’s publishing in the hands of Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. Shooter had his own vision for the industry, resulting in clashes with artists and writers. In time, these conflicts enveloped the production team for Moon Knight.

Our final installment again draws from the second and third volumes of Essential Moon Knight. Potential spoilers may follow.

Black Spectre

One of the most intriguing stories followed soon after the death of Dr. Peter Alraune Jr., whose demise weakened Marlene’s resolve.

Enter Carson Knowles, a Vietnam veteran and war hero who receives no fanfare upon coming home. He returns to an empty house, his wife already initiating the divorce. He discovers that his job has replaced him, and no gainful opportunities are forthcoming. Accepting a dead end job as a delivery man, the years rob him of his son, who perishes in a gang brawl. Then in ’82, Knowles snaps after his car is trashed, and he nearly kills an attempted mugger.

The brutal act puts the fury back in the veteran. Tired of hearing “sorry,” Knowles is inspired to take an alternate identity akin to Moon Knight. He then hires thugs to rob the home of crooked political boss Cranston, before pounding and threatening the fat cat into supporting a different candidate for mayor. During the raid, Moon Knight appears and manages to unveil the black knight before being knocked out. Saved by the arrival of the police, Spector laments his defeat before recognizing the knight’s face… in a news report announcing the candidacy of Carson Knowles for Mayor of New York.

As Jake Lockley, MK chases after the Black Spectre, always a step behind as the villain acts as his own enforcer. Then Marlene gives the distracted Spector an ultimatum, blindsiding him. Understandably exhausted with his vigilante lifestyle, she threatens to leave him. Spector convinces Marlene to infiltrate Knowles’ campaign… a decision he soon comes to regret.

“Untouchable villains from on high” marks interesting limits for where masked vigilantes can go.

Moon Knight’s testimony amounts to nothing. The candidate’s charisma, his hero status and his dead father’s political legacy power through Moonie’s accusations. The underworld has the Black Spectre’s back too, as Frenchie’s own investigation lands him in the hospital. Marlene becomes Knowles’ personal assistant, truly believing in the mayor-to-be’s vision. Riled up, White Eyes even holds a press conference, but his accusations go nowhere.

Like any good Machiavellian, Knowles feigns forgiveness before underhandedly passing sentence. A swift call to Chief Mullaney turns the police against the Crescent Crusader. Escaping them offers no solace, as Spector returns home to find Marlene departing, embarrassed by his public actions. Spector crumbles from fatigue. Meanwhile, with the polls pointing at him like north on a compass, Knowles is a guaranteed win.

At a rally, Marlene starts to suspect something about Knowles’ behavior, and then stumbles upon papers proving his intent to embezzle from the city. As she makes her discovery, the candidate spots Moon Knight across the roof, and assaults him as Black Spectre. Despite an major wound and the black knight’s thugs, Moon Knight takes him down and reveals him for all to see. The cops are not convinced, preparing to arrest our protagonist for assaulting the candidate. Fortunately, Marlene shows up with the rest of the evidence.

The Black Spectre’s rise to power would be an awesome arc to cover. The idea of “untouchable villains from on high” marks interesting limits for where masked vigilantes can go. However, similarities could be made to the public campaign of Wilson Fisk during the first season of DaredevilSome effort would have to be made to have ensure the Black Spectre’s campaign stands out on its own.

Jack Russell and Schuyler Belial

Jack Russell escapes from Los Angeles with a nefarious cult hot on his heels. This group, the Followers of the Left-Hand Path, are fracturing under the leadership of the “Morning Star” Schuyler Belial. Yet they track their prey to New York, where Russell asks for help from his former nemesis, Moon Knight.

Protecting the young man, Spector discovers Belial’s disturbing plan to imbue himself and his followers with the werewolf’s blood. He would then unleash a howling army… and one gander at Russell’s abilities speaks of just how unstoppable they would be.

After several issues intersecting crime and politics, “Morning Star” and “The Moonwraith, Three Sixes, and a Beast” hinted at the underground mysticism that had been missing from Moon Knight. Indeed, most Marvel heroes tended to have their niches. Captain America often deals with his country’s most direct foes. Iron Man’s attentions are drawn towards corporate espionage and unexpected threats, while Thor primarily focuses on enemies of the Asgardians. But Moon Knight’s catalog was never easy to specify. His opponents range from the foreign, domestic, political, criminal and occasionally the supernatural. While this gave White Eyes’ writers a wealth of ideas to draw from, it may add to the difficulty in resonating with audiences.

Unfortunately, this issue marked the last time Bill Sienkiewicz would act as lead artist for this run of Moon Knight. The pen was passed to the talented Kevin Nowlan, and then Bo Hampton. Meanwhile the inking was primarily shared between Terry Austin and Carl Potts. Sienkiewicz would continue to produce a few more covers (his last being #34) before the series’ cancellation.

The Savage Studs & Druid Walsh

The next three issues began cut from the same cloth, but took different paths… and unfortunately marked the end of an era.

Perhaps inspired by Walter Hill’s 1979 movie The Warriors, issues #31 and #32 return to the streets with a gang called the Savage Studs. These punks terrorize “dough row,” a stretch of small mom and pop operations, for protection money to fund their upcoming concert. Mohawk-sporting Shank puts his new Warchief Lenny to the test against the stubborn pawnbroker, Lewis. Moon Knight intervenes, sending the Studs packing. Yet sentimentality ensnares the struggle when Lewis doesn’t believe “good boy” Lenny would stoop to being a thug.

It turns out Lewis was right. Lenny didn’t have it in him, but he didn’t like being hungry either. When MK lets him go, Lenny tries to walk a peaceful path by selling his mother’s music box to Lewis. The pawnbroker knows the value of it and tries to talk the young man out of his decision, beautifully explaining that he deals in “broken dreams.” But the Warchief’s situation won’t let him take no for an answer, and Lewis reluctantly accepts the transaction.

The guilt accumulates for Lenny, and the next day he tries to reverse the deal before being stopped by Shank. Impatient, the Warlord orders his men to make an example of the pawnbroker’s shop. Lenny tackles him, accidentally slaying Lewis during the scuffle. Having witnessed how far Shank has gone, the rest of the Savage Studs want out. Yet MK when shows up to put them down, the Studs are spared a beating thanks to Lenny, who takes the blame.

Moon Knight #33 would be the last issue with Moench as writer for years…

Druid Walsh from

While the Savage Studs covered society’s problems from the street view, “Exploding Myths” looked at it from a higher perch. Meet Druid Walsh. Plagued by a reading disability, he joined the military during Vietnam, and returned to become professional wrestler. After being banned for his fang piercings, he too became a thug, using protection racketeering as a means to get by. And possessing the strength to lift a grand piano over his head, or rip street lights out of the sidewalk, he didn’t need a gang either.

Curiously, MK and Druid might not have met if it wasn’t for one Joy Mercado of the Daily Times. Mercado’s questionable methods of gaining interviews begins with inviting Druid Walsh on a dinner date, after which we she publishes a hit piece. Then, intent on getting a one-on-one with Moon Knight, she cries wolf by proclaiming it “a matter of life or death.”

Unfortunately for Ms. Mercado, her “desperate plea” proves very correct. Furious at the humiliation, Druid shows up at the Daily Times, decks Moonie, and forces Joy on a “second date.” Determined to make a stronger impression, he scares off the restaurant’s guests with a shotgun… and plans an evening with a suicidal round of explosives. Moon Knight saves Mercado, but fails to save Druid from his own scheme. Turning his anger on Mercado, MK points out that she was not blameless in the man’s death.

Both stories reflect Doug Moench’s view that society’s inherent problems often lay outside jabbing range. And perhaps these themes were the source of conflict between his editors. Moon Knight #33 would be the last issue with Moench as writer for years, as he quit Marvel for DC.

Zohar

Sienkiewicz had stepped out. With Doug Moench gone too, Tony Isabella briefly tried to carry the torch before passing it to Alan Zelenetz. Still, something wasn’t right. Publication times became erratic. Two months between releases became the new norm, while Issue #35 took an entire quarter. Changes were on the horizon. But before the new era would begin, Zelenetz had one last contribution to make to the first volume of Moon Knight.

Our tale begins with tragedy. The chemotherapy is simply not working for Rabbi Elias Spector, who calls for his son from the hospital bed. Seated beside the dying man, his student Reuben Davis tries to talk the doctor out of contacting Marc, but hospital protocol won’t allow that to happen. Meanwhile, Marc is busy going through his old files, dearly wishing he could sever his past as a mercenary. When Marlene informs him of his father’s situation, he tries to elude his responsibilities by patrolling for crime.

She coaxes him into speaking of his childhood, and Marc reluctantly explains his father’s obsession with faith, unwilling to raise a hand against the neighborhood bullies. Unimpressed, the young Marc began to spend time in the gym and even became a promising boxer. Then Elias found out about his son’s activities, and confronted him in the ring. Embarrassed as the crowd laughed at his situation, Marc slugged his father right there in the ring. And after a humiliated Elias cast him out of the house for it, Marc joined the Marines.

Zohar from
Zohar from

In comics, most religious aspects are borrowed from ancient mythologies and paganism rather than the Abrahamic religions.

Soon after, Spector has a change of heart, and arrives in Chicago in time for his father’s funeral. But before leaving, he discovers the body has been stolen. The culprit is none other than Rabbi Davis, who calls himself Zohar. Using the body of his mentor, the demented man gains access to the mystic powers of the Kabbalah. Determined to consolidate his newfound power, Zohar raids the university with beams of mystic energy, trying to erase his methods by destroying the archives. When injured, he flees home to heal, where he confronts an infuriated Moon Knight.

As our hero takes the twisted magician down, Zohar raises Spector’s father to choke the life of him. Marlene shows up at the last minute, using what she learned to reverse “emet” to “met,” as with the golem. Thankfully, Davis’ powers come from the body of Elias Spector, and once entombed, Zohar loses his powers.

Zelenetz did an excellent job conveying just how effective Spector is at bottling his past, even noting how he blocked the memory of his brother Randall. There may have been a slight overuse of the swastika however for shock value, although the writer did employ it more as an investigative red herring.

But the most intriguing idea of all was in giving Moon Knight a Jewish heritage. In comics, most religious aspects are borrowed from ancient mythologies and paganism rather than the Abrahamic religions. Zelenetz’s decision stood out, giving us a two-for-one Jewish superhero and super villain. Yet it would be the last contribution made for sometime. With Moon Knight #38, Editor Denny O’Neil temporarily pulled the plug on the Crescent Crusader, officially cancelling the first volume.

The Fist of Khonshu & Moon Knight’s Legacy

Almost a year after the first series’ cancellation, Alan Zelenetz and Denny O’Neil (who sadly passed away on June 11th, 2020) delivered on their promise. Moon Knight was reborn with the release of The Fist of Khonshu.

Marc Spector rises again under the gaze of Khonshu. But this time, his faith in the Egyptian god is far less subtle. Telepathically summoned to the cult, Moon Knight accepts weapons etched with hieroglyphics, and a suit with an ankh symbol. When evil is about, three priests push him to pursue and confront it. The situation is too much for Marlene, who abandons him.

The Fist of Khonshu proved a rather short-lived run however. Despite a monthly release schedule, the series was cancelled after the sixth issue, and Khonshu’s Chosen briefly worked with the Avengers West Coast. Since then, Moon Knight occasionally appears in new spotlights or even volumes. These often saw the return of Morpheus, Raul Bushman and even Marc’s brother Randall Spector as the Shadow Knight.

In conclusion, there are many ways and directions the forthcoming Moon Knight television series can take. The political, the criminal, or the allure of the occult. Writers have a great deal of depth and intrigue to set our lunar protagonist apart from his Batman comparison. But with great choices comes great peril. Time will tell if Disney makes the right call.

Moon Knight from

Thanks for reading! If you missed them, be sure to check out parts one and two of our Moon Knight Compendium!

Art by Bill Sienkiewicz, Kevin Nowlan and Bo Hampton. Original story by Doug Moench, Tony Isabella and Alan Zelenetz. Moon Knight Vol 1, Marvel Comics is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. All Marvel Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2020 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

About James Fadeley

James is a short story author and novelist who spends way too much time playing video games. His first novel, The Gift of Hadrborg is based on The Banner Saga universe. If you think yourself insane, he can be followed on Twitter @JamesFadeley.