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Robert Greenberger

by Robert Greenberger

Conventional wisdom has it that a hero’s opponents are thematic opposites or logical enemies. A bat is menaced by a cat, a spider is eaten by a scorpion, the fastest man alive fights the slowest criminal around. It was therefore entirely logical for Doug Moench to devise a moon-themed opponent for Jack Russell, star of Werewolf by Night. Moench used the evil committee to hire a mercenary named Moon Knight to apprehend the beast. In his stark white cape and full-face cowl, he was mysterious and just downright cool.

Werewolf By night #32

Readers responded positively, none more than Editor-in-Chief Marv Wolfman, who suggested Moon Knight be given a showcase. He therefore resurfaced in 1976’s marvel spotlight #28–29, written by Moench with art by Werewolf’s Don Perlin. other editors and writers grew to like this mercenary character who began to become more hero than villain and he made appearances in in Spectacular Spider-Man #22-23, written by bill Mantlo with art by Mike Zeck and Jim Mooney; a team-up with the thing in marvel Two-in-One #52, by Steven grant and Jim Craig; and then a brief run with The Defenders #47–51.

Moon Knight epic Collection: bad Moon Rising

Another fan was Ralph Macchio who suggested Moon Knight might work well with longer stories in the back of Hulk! Magazine. Moench totally ignored the appearances he didn’t write and got to work turning Moon Knight into a strong player. The Egyptian-themed hero has been around ever since and is currently enjoying a strong creative revival courtesy of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. marvel seems to agree and is capitalizing on the renewed interest by releasing the 504-page Moon Knight epic Collection: bad Moon Rising.

This collection includes Werewolf by night #32-33, marvel spotlight #28-29, The Defenders #47-50 (skipping #51), Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #22, marvel Two-in-One #52, Moon Knight #1-4 and his magazine appearances in Hulk! #11-15, 17-18, and 20; and marvel preview #21. As a result, you not only get the original incarnation but other interpretations from the likes of David Anthony Kraft, Keith Giffen, Mike Royer, Dan Green, Joe Rubinstein, Klaus Janson, Bob McLeod, gene Colan, Keith Pollard, and Tony DeZuniga.

Moon Knight was Marc Spector, a rabbi’s son, who left the military for life as a mercenary. It was subsequently revealed he met Jean-Paul DuChamp on one assignment, hired by Raoul Bushman, and they became inseparable friends. The mission took them to an Egyptian archaeological dig where Spector encountered a state of Khonshu. As Bushman killed Dr. Peter Alraune before looting the temple, Spector objected and Bushman nearly beat him to death. The spirit of Khonshu appeared before the bleeding man, offering him his life if he agreed to become the god’s avatar. Taking the statue’s silver shroud, he resurfaced and defeated Bushman. With “Frenchie” at his side, they returned to America with Alraune’s daughter Marlene and the statue. (A retcon explained how Frenchie set up the committee to outfit Spector as Moon Knight to go after Jack Russell, when he already was the crimefighter.)

Once established in Chicago, Spector used his earnings and invested wisely, getting fabulously rich so created the Steven grant persona to spend it well and distance himself from its origins. However, to effectively honor Khonshu, he needed to be near the criminal element so developed the Jake Lockley, cab driver, identity where he befriended diner waitress Gena and her two sons Ray and Rickey. A diner regular, Bertrand Crawley, soon became part of this social network.

Once he received his own series in the magazine, Moench began to experiment and after getting oriented, he was partnered with newcomer bill Sienkiewicz and the alchemical reaction made for memorable tales. Although Sienkiewicz debuted in issue #13, it was the violent two parter in Hulk! #17-18 that caught readers’ attention. Moench told, “I remember the story feeling like one step beyond, a cut above, if you will. It was a little more intense. I think that came from someone casually mentioning that Moon Knight seeming more realistic than Spidey. That sort of stuck with me. I think I was reading a lot of thriller novels and that is where the idea came from.”

While readers loved the stories, some, including influential fanzines of the day, were somewhat put off by Sienkiewicz’s work resembling a poor man’s Neal Adams. Looking back, Sienkiewicz told Sequential Tart, “It wasn’t until I started doing Moon Knight and finally met Neal Adams, that the backlash started. I grew up with people not being aware of Neal’s artwork, they just knew that I was doing comic books, so they didn’t see the similarities to his work. but when I started doing comicsprofessionally, the criticism of me being a clone came immediately. Neal was, and has always been very wonderful and supportive, but The Comics Journal and other professionals was saying that it was as if I learned to draw from Neal Adams and Neal Adams only. The criticism invalidated what I struggled for my whole childhood after I decided to be an artist. I never thought in terms of being an imitator, it was just something I wanted to do, and needed to do in order to survive. I wanted to be able to draw as well and move people in the way that Neal’s work had moved me, so when the criticism came back I felt invisible. everything I had worked for up until that point became invalid and destroyed, and I felt like I had no identity because I had thrown my identity into Neal’s work.”

It didn’t help that he was paired with inkers such as McLeod, Rubinstein, and Janson who all studied under Dick Giordano, Adams’ best collaborator. Stung by the criticism he studied other artists and styles, slowly developing the signature look that has made him one of the strongest illustrators in the field today.

Marvel preview #21

After his run in Hulk! ended with #20, Moon Knight was given a solo spot in marvel preview #21, a 40-pager which was an international thriller. From there, he was awarded his own monthly series in 1980 with Moench and Sienkiewicz kicking things off with a four-parter that delved into and modified his origins. It also introduced his greatest nemesis, Bushman, inspired by the Maori face tattoos.

It was also during this introductory run than Moon Knight revealed his identity to Gena, her sons, and Crawley. This was Moench once more going for something both realistic and different from other superhero titles. and it worked as the book sold well and even after it was moved to direct-only, continued on for years.

Moon Knight #1

You don’t often get the chance to watch a character grow and evolve, especially under the sure hand of a writer with a singular vision, and this collection offers an opportunity to relive some of Marvel’s best Bronze Age storytelling.


Moon Knight epic Collection: bad Moon Rising

Classic comic covers from the Grand Comics Database.

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