Bendis Chronicles the Phases of the "Moon Knight"

You don't have to be crazy to fight crime in the Marvel Universe but it sure does help, especially if you're doing it without the aid of any super powers like Marc Spector. For years, Spector AKA Moon Knight has been one of the Marvel Universe's most mentally unstable heroes. Early on in his career, Spector was looking for a way to distance himself from his past as a mercenary and created two separate identities to go along with his costumed alter ego. This caused him to develop a form of dissociative identity disorder. He also saw and spoke to a being that may have been the physical embodiment of the Egyptian God Khonshu, or a figment of his imagination.

On May 4th the Eisner Award-winning team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev usher in a new era of insanity for Marc Spector with the launch of an all new ongoing "Moon Knight" series. CBR News spoke with Bendis about his plans for the book, which include relocating his protagonist to the City of Angels, and turning his instability into his ultimate weapon against crime.

In addition to "Moon Knight," Bendis and Maleev are also collaborating on a gritty, creator-owned series called "Scarlet" from Marvel's Icon imprint, which followed their most famous collaboration, a five year run on "Daredevil" from 2001-2006. On top of that, Bendis also writes "Ultimate Spider-Man" since the series began eleven years ago. The writer has a knack for telling street level stories, but he initially had a tough time coming up with a take on "Moon Knight" that he felt worked.

"When I wrote Moon Knight in 'Ultimate Spider-Man' I really dug in. I gave him an insane amount of screen time once he showed up in the book. So it wasn't that I hate the character -- I love Moon Knight! You just focus on the project in front of you," Bendis told CBR News. "What happened here literally was Joe [Quesada] came up to me and said, 'You and Alex. Moon Knight!' He then walked away from me. I had trouble coming up with an idea immediately after he said that, but once the switch in my mind was flipped it was a done deal."

The switch that was flipped led Bendis to the character's multiple personality disorder. Previously it hampered his ability to fight crime, but in Bendis' "Moon Knight" series it will be a boon. That's because Marc Spector won't just be taking to the streets as Moon Knight. He'll also be developing new personalities based on his fellow Avengers teammates including Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America.

"I like the idea of a character being so off kilter that it makes him impossible to defeat as far as the villains are concerned because they have no idea where he's coming from," Bendis stated. "When you have a character like this, it would take criminals a while to figure out that they're being attacked by the same guy. The same guy has beaten them up three times with different tools and different voices? That's maddening. That's also a ton of fun to write and well in my wheelhouse.

"So you will see Moon Knight in his costume and other costumes as well. In every issue of the first arc we'll reveal new ways of him using his vast fortune to accomplish things," Bendis continued. "We're also going to unveil a new supporting cast which will include Echo AKA Maya Lopez and some other familiar characters, as well as some readers will meet for the first time. So it's going to be a lot of fun, and yes, Spidey, Cap, and Wolverine will show up to say, 'Hey! What the hell are you doing?'"

Marc Spector was at war with his old personalities, but when "Moon Knight" #1 begins he's at peace with the new personas that have taken up residence in his twisted psyche. "These different characters may not agree on methods, but boy is Marc Spector having a good time. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if he was really enjoying this instead of being tortured by it?'" Bendis remarked. "We've seen those scenes of him sitting in his room taking pills and being tortured, so wouldn't it be interesting if he was just a lunatic who was enjoying the shit out of it? I have some friends who are truly insane and they're having a blast. Look at Charlie Sheen he's having so much fun (Charlie, please don't die before this interview comes out).

"There's other places this kind of material has been done and now I'd like to explore this material myself. I think Moon Knight is a perfect character for this," Bendis continued. "Moon Knight fans will agree with me that's he's one of the most misunderstood characters in all of comics. Is he a version of Batman? No, he's not! And I'm going to show you why. I'm going to focus on why he's not. I'm out to show you why he's cooler than Batman, Daredevil or any other similar street-level heroes."

Bendis knows that some fans have reservations about his "one man Avengers team" take on Moon Knight, but the writer felt the character needed to move in a fresh direction. "I've heard from some Moon Knight fans that are going to give us a shot and some that just do not like what they've heard. If you do give it a shot you'll see a lot of love on the page for Marc Spector. We are huge fans of the character, but we just took a long look at what people truly liked about the Moon Knight concept and what was holding it back," Bendis said. "There were certain parts of Moon Knight you have just seen over and over again. Howard Stern talks about this with the Superman movies. Whenever the topic comes up he says, 'I'm a Superman fan and I've now seen the Superman versus Lex Luthor movie five times. I've not seen Brainiac or any other of his other villains. There are so many cool Super Man stories, but it's just the same thing over and over again.' That's because with Superman they say, 'Let's start with Lex Luthor and build.' Then they never get past Lex Luthor. So I sort of feel the same way about Moon Knight."

While Bendis is taking the character in a new direction, he's doing so with great reverence for what has come before. "Some Moon Knight stories have been really fantastic and some have not been fantastic. The really fantastic stuff includes Charlie Huston's stories and going all the way back to Doug Moench's stuff. If you look at the stuff Doug did that was truly above the call, it wasn't Khonshu and some of the trappings that surround the character over and over again like his supporting cast of Frenchie and Marlene Alraune," Bendis said. The Frenchie, Marlene, and Khonshu stuff has been done over and over again and it will still be there for you to read any time you want. We just thought if Moon Knight were to truly find its footing in the 21st century it's time to take another look at it and try something new. I'm not saying that I have all the answers, but I like the answer we have and would like to see a book like this."

The Khonshu dynamic won't be part of Bendis' run on "Moon Knight," but the Egyptian God will be part of the story. "Marc Spector has a TV show that he's producing called 'Legends of the Khonshu,' which is him pretty much mining his own Moon Knight stories for a 'Xena' like television show. You will see that TV show; much like how in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' you saw clips of the 'Seinfeld' reunion, but you didn't get to see the whole show. The clips from the Khonshu show say a lot about his origin for those who don't know it," Bendis explained. "It will also tell you a lot about Marc Spector; what he thinks of himself, and what Khonshu means in his life. That relationship won't be shown the way it's been seen in the past, though. Everything about that has all been said. We don't need to add any of it."

Los Angeles itself will be an important part of the story Bendis is telling in "Moon Knight." The writer intends to make the most of the setting and hopes to establish it as a prominent Marvel Universe locale.

"I do think the culture of super heroes in Los Angeles would be seen and referred to differently than it would in New York, and that's partly why I wanted to write about it. Plus, there are lots of parts of LA, besides Hollywood. We want to explore all of it," Bendis remarked. "Our showrunner on the 'Powers' TV adaptation, Chick Eglee, talks about how on 'The Shield' they never referenced Beverly Hills or Hollywood because those parts of the city had nothing to do with the characters. There are a lot of parts of LA where you can smell a little bit of show biz in it, but that's really not what this series is about."

New York City is seen as the heart of the Marvel Universe, so at first glance it might seem like Bendis is isolating Moon Knight by having him relocate to the City of Angels. In fact, the writer is hoping the opposite will happen. "Hopefully this series will cement Moon Knight's presence and status in the larger Marvel U. When I was on 'Daredevil' it felt like the character needed to be sequestered into his own universe. I'm specifically going the other way with this, where if anything, it ramps up his role in the Avengers and his importance in the Marvel Universe because he represents something on the West Coast that is needed," Bendis said. "Maybe Steve Rogers and the others will come to really count on him. And if all goes well, we just might see the return of the West Coast Avengers."

Since Moon Knight will continue to be part of the larger Marvel U while he operates in Los Angeles, many fans are wondering if Marc Spector will cross paths with the LA-based teen heroes know as the Runaways. "I've been asked about the Runaways many times, but I'm not touching them for now," Bendis stated. "I want them to live in their own world and Marvel has some plans for them. Down the road if I can fit in the Runaways or the Pride or anything like that in I certainly will."

Bendis' immediate plans for "Moon Knight" involve pitting his protagonist against the new head of Los Angeles' criminal underworld. "In the opening arc you'll get a reintroduction to Marc Spector. You'll find out why he's in LA and how he got there. You'll see how his new status quo is represented visually and how it affects his life. You'll see how he's going to go about making a name for himself. We'll be introduced to the new cast and everywhere he goes he's going to get closer and closer to discovering who the Kingpin of LA is. Hint: it's an established character. The big question, though, is what is their master plan and why do they need an Ultron?"

Moon Knight's initial encounter with LA's new kingpin will kick off a long form story that Bendis intends to roll out slowly, much like he and Maleev did while working on "Daredevil." "I do have a big plan for 'Moon Knight.' Even though I've been successful in launching long form stories, I've learned to not tell people ahead of time and just kind of let it happen," Bendis explained. "You eventually realize that the market decides whether or not you get to tell your long form story. So if people support 'Moon Knight' I'll reward you with a story at the same level as Daredevil."

Alex Maleev is also working hard to make sure that "Moon Knight" is just as rewarding an experience as "Daredevil," if not more so. "Alex is a genius and he's decided to alter his art style for this book so it looks more like a European graphic novel than anything he's ever done before," Bendis said. "He's also probably one of the most insanely competitive artists on Earth. All I had to do was show him Bill Sienkiewicz's work and off he went. He worships Bill, but now he feels he must beat Bill at his own game or something. I say this because it's all friendly competition and all good news for the reader.

"Our colorist is Matt Wilson, who colored 'Fortune and Glory' and 'Ultimate Doom.' He also did an amazing job on 'Phonogram,'" Bendis continued. "He's a new colorist for Alex and he's a colorist who can do anything, so we're really excited about that."

While Bendis and Maleev are excited to be working together on another Marvel book, they haven't lost sight of their creator owned collaboration "Scarlet." That series is just as important to them as "Moon Knight." "One of the most frequent questions I get is what does this mean for 'Scarlet'? It means nothing," Bendis explained. ""Scarlet will continue to be produced on a bi-monthly schedule. On 'Scarlet' Alex is doing full color, and on 'Moon Knight' he's doing black and white. 'Scarlet is an extremely important book for us, and at the same time we're very honored to be doing 'Moon Knight.' The reason we get to do 'Scarlet' is because of 'Moon Knight.' So the two titles will co-exist and fans of [my] and Alex's work can enjoy both."

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