Moon Knight is one of the comic book characters I’ve spent years wanting to see on the screen without ever once thinking it would actually happen, if not the number one. Even after the Disney Plus series was officially announced, I had my doubts. Now that it’s here, the feeling is so surreal.
This character has certainly earned his time in the spotlight, but has never really gotten it, not even on the page. Moon Knight (AKA Marc Spector AKA Steven Grant AKA Jake Lockley AKA Mr. Knight…) is one of Marvel’s most fascinating characters, and also one of its most wildly inconsistent, both in terms of continuity and in terms of maintaining an ongoing title. For a long time, he was simply known as being Marvel’s Batman, a hard-edged hero with an array of cool gadgets. Over time, his Dissociative Identity Disorder became the character’s most well-known trait. But in the early runs, Moon Knight’s DID is barely even hinted at, or flat out nonexistent. In some comic book runs, he could be simply using the names Jake Lockley and Steven Grant as aliases. In others, they’re totally individual personalities. The central concept behind Moon Knight as a hero is that he is the chosen avatar of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu. But in some comics, Khonshu is hinted as being simply another manifestation of Marc’s mental illness, whereas in others, he’s an explicitly real entity.
These inconsistencies are honestly a part of what make Moon Knight such a great comic, character, and concept. The world is malleable, the character is open to all kinds of interpretations, and with so many varied takes, it’s exciting to read through that history and see the things that do remain consistent throughout each version. There are also some general things about Moon Knight that make him stand out from the sea of other Marvel heroes. One, as the son of a rabbi, he’s one of Marvel’s most prominent Jewish characters. Also, despite his costume and cape, he falls pretty firmly into the supernatural side of Marvel. Moon Knight made his first appearance in the pages of Werewolf by Night and the two characters have made regular appearances in each other’s books ever since. These are also the things that make the character so ripe for adaptation. There are so many fresh directions to take him in and, based solely on the pilot, Jeremy Slater and the rest of the team behind the new series seem to understand and take full advantage of that.
But while I’ve said that I never expected Moon Knight to ever make it to the screen, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been attempts over the years. There have, and they date back surprisingly far. In 1978, Japan’s Toei Company released their now infamous live-action Spider-Man series, which has now achieved cult status for the astonishing liberties it took as an adaptation. In that show, Spider-Man was a motocross racer with his powers gifted to him by an alien, and would call upon his trusty giant mecha-robot to save the world from monsters. Spider-Man was not the only hero Toei licensed from Marvel, though. They also had plans for the Silver Surfer, 3D-Man and, as you’ve probably guessed since you’re reading this article, Moon Knight. There had previously been a Western-influenced Japanese hero named Moonlight Mask, and apparently the folks at Toei thought the Marvel hero would be a clever way to reference their own past. And, in a way, this did wind up happening. Even though Toei’s Moon Knight was tragically never realized on screen, they did produce a manga series published in Televi-Kun magazine from 1979 to 1980.
The second attempt at bringing Moon Knight to television came through the now largely forgotten Blade: The Series. This series was the first live-action Marvel property to name-drop Marc Spector, right in the pilot, in a bit where Blade describes him as a “werewolf expert.” This is a clever nod to the character’s history, as Moon Knight made his debut appearance in an issue of Werewolf by Night. That reference was not totally off-hand, though. There were plans to introduce Moon Knight in Blade’s second season, had the show continued. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Blade was actually a success for Spike TV at the time, the network made the decision to move away from scripted content. In a 2006 Comic Con panel, showrunner David Goyer mentioned that they had a “really interesting take” on Moon Knight, with one major conceit, as he also noted that he wasn’t sure the character could wear his costume on screen. That makes the “what could have been” aspect of Moon Knight’s appearance on Blade a lot less exciting, though it’s not remotely surprising for the time.
Later that same year, in 2006, Marvel Studios partnered with No Equal Entertainment, a Vancouver-based company, to develop a Moon Knight TV series. Given the separate production company and team and the fact that it was announced after Blade had ended, it almost certainly would have had nothing to do with Blade’s take on the character. Hopefully that means it also would have included the character’s costume. There’s a better chance, as the studio at the time at least made it sound like the show would have embraced genre conventions. Marvel Entertainment’s David Maisel noted that No Equal Entertainment had “a real passion for the project and an amazing vision of how to bring the character and storyline to life that will appeal to action and sci-fi enthusiasts.”
No Equal’s J.B. Sugar would have served as executive producer, and also noted at the time that, “We are delighted to be in business with Marvel Entertainment and believe that Moon Knight will make a compelling and long-lasting television series.” As a director and producer Sugar worked on everything from the TV series The Collector to Painkiller Jane, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, Bitten and Dark Matter.
In 2008, after nearly two years of silence following the initial announcement, an update was made that Jon Cooksey—known for everything from Rugrats to Primeval—was hired to develop the series, had written the series bible, and that six scripts had been developed for the first season. That almost sounds like a done deal, but of course it was not the case. Unfortunately, no details have ever really gotten out there about what this series would have entailed. As mentioned, there are so many wildly varied ways to do Moon Knight that one can’t help but wonder how similar or incredibly different it could have been to what we’re now getting. Even though I’m thrilled that this hero has finally made it to the screen, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply curious to read those six scripts, or even know what happened in them, if they were ever actually written.
Since then, there have been one or two other close calls, with just as few details given. At one point, James Gunn admitted that he had pitched a Moon Knight movie to Marvel Studios, and that it had gone nowhere. Throughout the entire run of the Netflix shows, there were constant rumors popping up as to the possibility of a Moon Knight appearance, though it’s unknown and probably unlikely that anything was ever actually planned. Moon Knight also made a few animated TV appearances over the past few years in Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble and the 2017 Spider-Man series.
Now, after years of less and less likely attempts, Moon Knight is here. It’s happening. He’s made it. As a fan, I loved the pilot and don’t mind the deviations from the source material, because there’s no real concrete canon to latch onto. I love that Steven Grant, a secondary personality of Marc Spector’s in the comics (and apparently in the series as well) is the protagonist. I love that Arthur Harrow, a character who has appeared in a small handful of comics at best, is the villain. I have no idea what to expect from this show from one moment to the next, and I get the feeling that neither does its main character and that, to me, is the essence of Moon Knight. And as someone who foolishly got my hopes up reading about the TV show’s announcement in 2006, I am so, so happy that it finally exists.