At first glance, Marc Spector, the hero of Marvel Comics’ “Moon Knight” series might seem a little crazy. As Moon Knight, the non-powered former mercenary dresses in an all-white costume and battles crime armed only with a small arsenal of weapons and high tech gadgets. If you probe deeper, Spector’s mental health seems even more questionable because for years he has carried on conversations with a being only he could see and that was either the Egyptian God of Vengeance or a hallucination.
These days Spector has relocated from New York to Los Angeles where he still fights crime as Moon Knight. The move has worked wonders for Spector’s mood, but his mental health is still questionable. In writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev’s current “Moon Knight” series the title character is interacting with new hallucinations and has declared war on LA’s crime kingpin, Count Nefaria, a villain who can take on the Avengers by himself. CBR News spoke with Bendis about his upcoming plans for the book.
When Moon Knight began fighting crime in Los Angeles in the recent “Moon Knight” #1 he was one of the few heroes operating in the City of Angels, so it was fortunate Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine were around and able to offer him advice. However, as the series unfolded though it became clear the three heroes were not in LA and Moon Knight was actually speaking with hallucinatory representations of them created by his subconscious mind. He even occasionally lets them take him over completely and goes out to battle crime clad in their costumes and armed with weapons that simulate their powers.
“Marc is having hallucinations of Spider-Man, Cap, and Wolverine because from his perspective they each represent a certain kind of hero in the Marvel Universe. Captain America obviously is a stalwart patriot who is very gung ho about fighting battles. Spider-Man is almost the voice of conscience from him channeling Spidey’s neurosis and humor. It’s almost like Spider-Man is the angel on his shoulder. While Wolverine urges him to commit violence, ‘Kill ’em! Stab ’em!’ He’s that voice,” Bendis told CBR News. “We all have those voices in our head, but for him they take the form of these heroes that he probably worships. If you study people with this specific personality disorder they’re basically talking to themselves, but they’ve have to create an entire persona to deal with certain ways that they want to interact with the world or to cover things that they can’t live with doing.”
Moon Knight’s three heroic personalities are proving useful to him, but he knows he needs real allies if he’s going to be an effective force against crime in LA. His first recruit came from the “Legends of Khonshu” television program he created and serves as producer on. The recruit’s name is Buck Lime, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who thought he would only be consulting on Spector’s TV program.
“He’s a new character. When S.H.I.E.L.D. broke up I became interested in what happened to all the agents. What do they do for a living if they’re not in S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore? In pop culture you’ll always see stories about an ex-C.I.A. agent becoming a body guard or an intelligence analyst for a corporation,” Bendis said. “And in my small travails in Hollywood I’ve met people who used to have very cool jobs and now are selling their expertise to productions. On the FX adaptation of ‘Powers’ we have an ex-police officer named John Folino. He’s a really great guy and is there to answer any questions we might have.
“You’ve got to think that in the Marvel Universe some ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are going to end up in Hollywood,” Bendis continued. “So here’s Buck Lime who’s thinking he’s applying just to work on some TV show and ends up becoming part of Moon Knight’s world. Now he’s pretty much Moon Knight’s Alfred.”
Moon Knight’s other ally, Maya Lopez AKA Echo, is a reluctant one he became acquainted with when he began his assault on the Kingpin of LA’s business operations. Fans of Bendis’ ‘New Avengers’ work will recall that Echo was once a member of the team and the writer has been dying to get back to the character ever since she left the book.
“Every time there’s a team shake up on the Avengers some characters are going to come and some are going to go. It just comes with the territory. Some that go I have a strong affinity for, which invites others to develop an affinity for [them] as well. When characters like Echo are no longer on the team people get annoyed at me for abandoning her,” Bendis explained. “I wasn’t abandoning her though. It was always my plan to bring her back in this type of scenario. Originally she was going to show up to be a foil for ‘Spider-Woman’ if we continued with that series. We didn’t though, and then she became the perfect ‘Moonlighting’-style romantic foil for Marc Spector. She’s got a history of hooking up with guys very similar to him.
“She shares that Marvel B-List mentality with him. The only time she’s B-List of course is when she thinks and believes that she is, and she occasionally has those moments,” Bendis continued. “I personally think she’s amazing. She’s a great new character co-created by my good friends Joe Quesada and David Mack. I really like her and we’ve got some big goings on with her in the next few issues.”
Echo may not remain Moon Knight’s ally for long, though. On the final page of “Moon Knight” #7 she witnessed the hero communicating with some of his other personalities. In upcoming issues Bendis will explore what Lopez does faced with startling evidence that Marc Spector is not in his right mind.
“She’s very close to him so she’s gotten to see what’s going on, and she’s deaf. Her eyes are a little more wide open than others, so she’s witnessing his behavior in a different way,” the writer explained. “Also, she’s very smart and an astute student of human behavior and body language. So she’s on to him, and in the next couple of issues you’re going to get a sense of how she’s going to find out what’s wrong with him and if she can live with it.”
If Echo can’t live with Moon Knight’s multiple personality disorder Marc Spector is in for a world of hurt. In #7 Moon Knight had his first direct confrontation with Count Nefaria, the Kingpin of Los Angeles. Nefaria has super powers that make him a physical match for powerhouse characters such as Thor and the only way Moon Knight was able to survive the confrontation was through surprise and trickery. Those tactics might not be able to save him in their next confrontation because Nefaria is an equally cunning foe who’s now very angry at Moon Knight for interfering with his work in Los Angles.
Long time fans of Bendis’ work know Nefaria has been setting himself up as the Kingpin of Los Angeles for some time. The first hints of the villain’s plans popped up in last year’s “New Avengers Finale” by Bendis and artist Bryan Hitch, which brought the first volume of the series to a close.
“If you read that you see that he’s up to shenanigans that we hint at and Madame Masque interrupts. He’s got people there and there’s stuff going on. At that time I had already decided to set Count Nefaria up as the Kingpin of Los Angeles, but I didn’t know where I was going to continue with that. I didn’t know if it was going to be an Avengers thing or handled somewhere else,” Bendis explained. “Then when ‘Moon Knight’ came at me very quickly I decided that’s where I’m doing it. I was going to have Moon Knight take on a Kingpin; one that’s way out of league in terms of powers, which is my favorite kind of story. I’m very happy with how things turned out and if you go back and look at the ‘New Avengers Finale’ it’s right there.”
It was a genuine fondness for the character that led Bendis to set Nefaria up as the Kingpin of Los Angeles. “He’s a super powered, big Avengers villain. He might not have the great backstory of someone like Doctor Doom, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have one. So there’s a lot to build with there. Don’t get me wrong, the character does have a lot of backstory, but there isn’t a big mythology to him. Some of his history has been crisscrossed. If you go through and read back issues with Count Nefaria you’ll find that some writers were trampling on other writers with his back story, but he’s got a great villain name. He’s got a monocle. He dresses like Dracula,” Bendis said with a laugh. “There’s a lot to like.”
Bendis feels crime lord of Los Angeles is a good role for Nefaria because, like many power hungry individuals, the character feels it’s his destiny to rise up and conquer people, places and institutions. “A lot of these immensely powerful characters believe ruling over people is their birthright. They’re allowed to be conquerors like Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. Their struggle to do so is their life story,” the writer explained. “So that’s who Nefaria is and he’s found a location in the United States that isn’t wall to wall with super heroes. Then here comes Moon Knight, which is someone you’d think would be the least of his worries but because of Moon Knight’s specific madness he’s a huge worry.”
Nefaria has finally stepped out of the shadows to confront Moon Knight directly, but readers of the series have seen that L.A.’s kingpin has an army of super villains at his command as well. Many of them are fan-favorite and relatively unknown characters such as the Night Shift and Nefaria’s top lieutenant, Snapdragon.
“These are all characters I really like. I really loved Snapdragon from the Black Widow issues of ‘Marvel Fanfare’ from the 1980s. I forgot that my editor on ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ for many years, Ralph Macchio, actually wrote those and was the co-creator of Snapdragon. He e-mailed me out of the blue and said, ‘Thank you for bringing Snapdragon back!’ I went, ‘Right! She was one of yours!’ I wasn’t trying to do it to be a pal, but he was very, very happy to see her back,” Bendis stated. “The character has popped up a couple times since the ‘Marvel Fanfare’ issues so she has sort of a complicated back story. It’s been quite some time since her last appearance though. When that happens a character is considered up for grabs and open for reinvention.”
In “Moon Knight” #7 Spector captured Snapdragon and in #9, on sale January 18th, Count Nefaria retaliates for the indignity by engaging in the biggest and boldest battle with Moon Knight yet. “It’s basically a giant fight with Nefaria, who has the power level of Thor or Hulk, battling two people who are in pretty good shape with some good toys,” Bendis said. “It’s a mismatched fight, so basically it becomes a battle between wits and brawn and there’s a lot to lose.”
Moon Knight and his allies against Count Nefaria is very much a David and Goliath-style conflict. The chance to chronicle these types of engagements where wits and tenacity are pitted against raw power is one of the reasons Bendis loves writing Moon Knight and characters of his ilk.
“Like Daredevil, he’s one of those classic types of characters who is pretty much out matched the minute he puts on his costume. When you put on a costume you’re putting yourself in a higher arena of fight and you can’t back down from it,” Bendis said. “I know other people and myself hate comparisons between Moon Knight and Batman because they are very different characters. There’s only really surface similarities, but what they do have in common is that they’re ordinary men who put themselves in extraordinary circumstances.
“One of my favorite Batman bits of all time was in the ‘Batman vs. the Hulk’ crossover. It’s a great story with great art work by Jose [Luis] Garcia-Lopez. In the story Batman throws all these gas pellets and the Hulk can hold his breath forever. Then Batman with all his might kicks the Hulk in the solar plexus to get him to breath the gas, which knocks him out,” Bendis continued. “It was Batman defeating a foe that you couldn’t possibly ever imagine on paper that he would be able to defeat. So those David and Goliath-style tales are some of my favorites.”
It’s currently unclear exactly how the battle with Nefaria will go in “Moon Knight” #9, but one thing is for certain. The fallout of the battle will have a definite impact on the series going forward. “A lot goes on in issue #9 and something really shocking is going to happen in the next couple issues of ‘Moon Knight’ — shocking as in I had to get permission for it,” Bendis said “That will alter his personality disorder causing his current personalities to go away and another personality will arise. So we’re really going to examine just how far down he’ll go.”
The changes Moon Knight undergoes will draw the attention of several important figures in both Los Angeles and the greater Marvel Universe. “I’ve stayed away from the Runaways because I know there are plans for them and I didn’t want to get in the way of those,” Bendis explained. “So I didn’t, but there are elements from the Marvel Universe coming into the next couple of issues. A couple of issues ago Captain America approved what Moon Knight is doing in Los Angeles. In upcoming issues he’s going to do some stuff that will make Cap want to turn around and come back.”
Bendis knows he could throw any sort of element in to his “Moon Knight” scripts, be it larger than life super heroics or gritty street level action, and the book’s artistic team of Alex Maleev and Matt Hollingsworth will tackle those elements with panache and style. It’s something they proved they could do time and time again during their earlier collaboration with Bendis on “Daredevil.” “Obviously, Alex Maleev is doing a wonderful job. I’m his biggest fan in the world, but also our dear friend Matt Hollingsworth has joined the book,” Bendis said. “Matt was Alex’s colorist on ‘Daredevil’ during the heights of the book, so it’s the first full reunion in years of the art team from my ‘Daredevil’ run.”
In the months ahead Bendis, Maleev and Hollingsworth will escalate Moon Knight’s war with Count Nefaria. The conflict then come to an epic conclusion this spring with “Moon Knight” #12.
“This big Count Nefaria tale is a 12-issue story that’s pretty sturdily plotted and filled with stuff that I’ve never written before and I’m pretty excited about it,” Bendis remarked. “Then we’ll see how we feel and how Marvel feels at the end of that. Every time I mention this I sound like a braggy asshole, but I’m always being offered projects that anybody in the world would go, ‘YES! PLEASE!’ I can’t do all of them, though. So we’re for sure going to do a year of ‘Moon Knight’ and then we’ll see how we feel when we get there. I haven’t written issue #12 yet so I don’t know where we’ll be at after that. So we’ll see.
“I will say that I wish ‘Moon Knight’ was doing better. I know it’s a tough market, but literally every day someone tweets me or e-mails me about our ‘Daredevil’ run and how much they liked it. I whole heartedly encourage anyone who like our ‘Daredevil’ run to pick up ‘Moon Knight.’ I think ‘Moon Knight’ is better just because we’re better craftsmen a few years later. So it would definitely appeal to fans of ‘Daredevil’ or ‘Powers,'” Bendis continued. “If you like street level super hero stuff like that then ‘Moon Knight’ might be right up your alley. The first collection is due out really soon. If you haven’t looked at the book yet, definitely check that out. This is exactly the kind of book no matter who’s writing or drawing it that needs a lot of support from people.”
“Moon Knight” #9 is on sale January 18, 2012.