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Lemire Takes an Unbalanced Approach to “Moon Knight,” Marvel’s Craziest Hero

by  in Comic News Comment
Lemire Takes an Unbalanced Approach to “Moon Knight,” Marvel’s Craziest Hero

Moon Knight is one of the most terrifying and inspiring heroes in the Marvel Universe. The justice he enacts at night against those who prey on innocent travelers is often swift and brutal, but that impulse to protect and seek retribution comes from turning his own inner demons into something positive. He’s also mentally ill.

Marc Spector, the man beneath Moon Knight’s mask, believes he does the bidding of the ancient Egyptian deity known as Khonshu. When the sun sets Spector takes to New York City’s streets armed with a high-tech arsenal and combat skills learned from his past as a mercenary to wage war against nocturnal criminals.

RELATED: Slott & Allred’s “Silver Surfer” to Return, Lemire & Smallwood Join “Moon Knight”

Things are about to get even tougher for Moon Knight when his All-New, All-Different ongoing series by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Greg Smallwood begins on April 13. Marc Spector will find himself stripped of both his weapons and his freedom, locked away in a brutal and repressive mental institution. CBR News spoke at length with Lemire, who cited some of his favorite takes on Moon Knight, the themes and characters that will play a major role in his run and where he hopes to take Marvel’s most unhinged hero during their time together.

CBR News: Thanks to some of the mental problems he’s dealt with, Moon Knight has been many different things and many different people, both figuratively and literally. Before we get into the specifics of your run, what are some your favorite takes on the character?

Jeff Lemire: My favorite Moon Knight is definitely the original run by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz. They captured the gritty atmosphere of New York City in the ’70s and ’80s in a really great way, and were quite inventive and experimental for their time. It’s incredible to look at Sienkiewicz’s progression and evolution as an artist and storyteller. Over the course of the run, you really see him come into his own and start experimenting as the series goes on.

And of course, Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s run of a couple years back is also incredible. Those six issues are a perfect run of comics in my opinion. Six issues that boil the character down to his essential ingredients and manage to reinvent him without losing what made him great.

So I took my cues mostly from these two runs. I draw a lot from the original series, but also try and take what Ellis did and push it the next level as well.

Numerous aspects of Marc Spector’s mental state, supernatural connections, and super human abilities have sometimes been directly stated, while at other times they’ve been left up to the reader’s interpretation. What can you tell us about that with regard to the story you’re telling? Will you be offering a definitive take or leaving plenty for the reader to decide?

My run will be based on a few key mysteries, so I want to be very careful about what I state in interviews. I’m sure you can understand that I’d rather let those mysteries play out in the comic itself. I will say that there is a definite plan. Many things will be open to interpretation as the series begins, but as it progresses I will be answering these questions and making definite statements about Marc’s mental state, etc.

So it won’t just be weirdness and mystery for the sake of it. There is a plan and there will be definite answers.

I understand when “Moon Knight” begins Marc Spector is in a mental facility. What can you tell us about the institution he’s in and the events that led him there?

I can’t say anything about the events that led him there; that will play out in the story. But I can speak a bit to the mental health facility itself because some imagery has already been released online. The hospital Marc finds himself in is a bit of a throwback to another era where mental health was much more taboo and these hospitals and facilities were much harsher and more like prisons than hospitals. I wanted this place to represent a lot of the stigma and negativity surrounding mental health. It is not a nice place.

While I think we are making progress and are becoming much more open about talking about and addressing mental health in our society today, there is still a lot of negativity surrounding it. And this place is like the most exaggerated, horrible version of that. That’s where Marc needed to be at the beginning of the series for the story I wanted to tell.

The story starting in a mental institution suggests that the story you’re telling is a mystery, and one that may have a surreal and perhaps psychedelic tone. Is that a fair description? Other than how Marc ended up there, is there anything you can share about the story or its tone?

I think what Greg [Smallwood] and [colorist] Jordie [Bellaire] and I are trying to do with “Moon Knight” is pretty ambitious. It will have some very surreal and psychedelic aspects, but also some very grounded elements that are charged with a lot of emotion and character work. And mixed in with all of that there are some really big, fun pulpy comic book elements as well.

I don’t want to give any plot details away, but the tone will be a dark and often surreal one that combines big fun comic book adventure as well.

On top of being a fun, strange, mysterious super hero story, your “Moon Knight” sounds like it will also have some metaphorical points to make about larger issues of mental health as well, correct?

Yes, I really want to explore mental illness through this character. It’s really what makes Moon Knight so unique and it’s what got me so excited about the book in the first place. But I don’t want the series to become preachy or pedantic. So this exploration of mental health will be a very metaphorical one at times and will be executed in a way that is hopefully still very entertaining and even fun. But, yes, I definitely have a point of view and something to say about the way we view mental illness as a society, and I’m not shying away from it.

What does the story’s setting mean for the supporting characters and antagonists in this arc? Will there be any supporting faces long-time Moon Knight fans might recognize or will you be developing new characters?

I draw very heavily from the Moench/Sienkiewicz run in terms of supporting cast and villains. So there is a very large supporting cast including old favorites like Crawley, Frenchie, Marlene and Gena. But they will all be presented in a new and mysterious light. And we will see some old school Moon Knight villains too.

And of course, Warren Ellis’ take on Khonshu is also key to my plans.

You already touched on Greg Smallwood’s work, but let’s talk a little more. Greg is no stranger to Moon Knight or the character’s related mythology having drawn Brian Wood’s run on the character. So he already has a great grasp on the Marc’s physicality and facial expressions.

You’re right, but I have to say, Greg has totally reinvented himself for this run. He was always an excellent artist, but to be frank, I was shocked when he started to send artwork for this series. He has jumped and evolved by leaps and bounds here. I can’t even express how amazed I am by the work so far. This is some of the best comic book art I’ve ever seen. People will be talking about Greg’s work on this book for years. And then you throw Jordie Bellaire on top of that. It’s stunning stuff and I am extremely grateful to be a part of this team that [editor] Nick Lowe put together.

Having written 10 issues already and seen Greg’s work for three issues, I can honestly say that “Moon Knight” might be some of if not the best work-for-hire stuff I’ve ever been a part of. For me, it’s up there with my “Animal Man” and “Green Arrow” runs.

LOOK: Lemire & Smallwood’s “Moon Knight” #1 is Seriously Insane

I know you’re extremely busy these days, but you mentioned having already written ten issues. Do you have even longer term plan for “Moon Knight?”

I have a longer term plan that what we saw on “Moon Knight” in recent years, where Ellis, Wood and Cullen Bunn each did six-issue arcs. As I said, I’ve already scripted the first 10 issues of this series, and I have the first 12 plotted out. And I hope the series is successful enough that I can keep going and exploring new things with Marc Spector and Moon Knight after that as well.

“Moon Knight” #1 is on sale April 13 from Marvel Comics. To read more with Lemire right now, check out a special installment of X-POSITION in which he talks all things “Extraordinary X-Men” and “Old Man Logan.”

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