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What the heck is happening in ‘Moon Knight’? These comic book origin stories explain

a man holding a flip phone
Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant in “Moon Knight.”
(Gabor Kotschy/Marvel Studios)

This story contains spoilers for “Moon Knight” Episode 1.

The first episode of “Moon Knight” is here, so it’s finally time to embrace the chaos.

Launching Wednesday on Disney+, the latest series from Marvel Studios introduces audiences to Oscar Isaac’s Steven Grant, a meek museum gift shop employee with an affinity for Egyptology.

Of course, things quickly get much more complicated.

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“I’ve always wanted to share my intimate stories on a bigger scale,” said executive producer Mohamed Diab, the Egyptian filmmaker who directed the first episode. “At its core, [‘Moon Knight’] is a story about someone who has to learn to live with himself. All of us have personas, or masks that we wear that we show everyone, and [our] real desires and who we really are is inside. We learn through our journey in life to really make those two entities coexist.”

But for Steven, things are not as simple. As becomes apparent during the first episode, Steven has dissociative identity disorder, which leaves him disoriented when he wakes up in places he has no recollection of.

Both Diab and Isaac explained how important it was that the series handled the mental health elements with care.

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“I did a deep dive into ... what it’s like to discover that you’re afflicted with dissociative identity disorder,” said Isaac. “What the journey through that is, with psychiatric help, and the journey of integration. That kind of language and that kind of focus became the thing that oriented the whole show for me.”

“I learned a lot [about dissociative identity disorder] through the journey of making ‘Moon Knight,’” said Diab, explaining he and the show’s creatives consulted with experts on scripts. He emphasized that the show’s depiction is “not an accurate depiction, because our world in the story is not real, but we [treated] it with utmost respect.”

The character Moon Knight was originally introduced in a 1975 issue of “Werewolf by Night,” by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, as a costumed mercenary hired to capture the Werewolf. It was not until years later that Egyptian mythology and mental illness became a part of Moon Knight’s backstory.

a man in a white cape and costume standing above fallen bodies
Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight.
(Marvel Studios)

Who is Steven Grant?

In the comics, Steven Grant is most often portrayed as an investment-savvy billionaire who helps fund Moon Knight’s crimefighting — quite a departure from the Steven audiences meet in the TV series.

Isaac describes the show’s version of Steven as “a northeast Londoner [who’s] quite introverted but desperate to connect.”

He’s “someone that’s actually quite sincere and very funny, but he doesn’t know he’s being funny,” said Isaac. “Once I got a handle on him, then it became easier to figure out what the counterpoint of that is with Marc.”

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Who is this Marc that voices keep talking to Steven about?

Over the course of the first episode, more than one mysterious voice mentions a “Marc” to Steven. Those familiar with the “Moon Knight” comics understand they are referring to Marc Spector.

Like many comic book characters, Marc’s origin story has been rewritten and reinterpreted over the years. In general, his story is that he is killed while on a job as a mercenary and revived by Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon. Marc becomes Khonshu’s avatar, avenging the innocent and fighting evil as the costumed vigilante Moon Knight.

In the comics, Marc is traditionally the “core” identity, and Steven one of his alternate identities. Episode 1 of “Moon Knight” takes a different approach, unfolding from Steven’s perspective. In addition to playing Steven, Isaac voices Marc.

The show’s version of Marc is “from Chicago — that’s very much in the comics,” said Isaac, who explained that part of the process of finding Marc’s voice was leaning into “those cliches of the dark, tortured vigilante guy” because Steven, his counterpart, is “this little funny English guy.”

“That’s what makes it really fun and creates the tension between the two,” said Isaac. “The fact that Steven is desperately trying to connect and Marc is desperately trying to push away people. Then you start to slowly find out that there’s a real fear and vulnerability underneath Marc and the things that he’s doing are because of a really deep trauma that occurred when he was very, very young.”

Diab said that he “love[s] that they are a flip coin of each other”: “Everything that Marc lacks, Steven has and everything that Steven lacks, Marc has.... They need each other.”

Although they were not always depicted as distinct identities, Marc in the comics also usually shares his body with Jake Lockley, a taxi driver, and Mr. Knight, a police consultant.

a man holding a cane
Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow in “Moon Knight.”
(Marvel Studios)

Who is the creepy guy with the cane?

The first episode also introduces Arthur Harrow, played by Ethan Hawke, as Moon Knight’s main villain. Harrow in the comics is more of a mad scientist, but for the series he has been reimagined as a sort of cult leader.

“Ethan very wisely picked up very quickly that often, especially in these kinds of [stories], the villain is the madman,” said Isaac. But “in this case, the person that’s the unreliable narrator, doesn’t know reality, or is ‘the crazy one’ is the hero. So it was important for the villain to be the foil to that, which is someone that’s very calm, that’s clear, that knows exactly what he wants, knows exactly what reality he’s in.”

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