Moon Knight may be one of the lesser-known characters in Marvel Comics’ huge roster (then again, so were Iron Man, Thor, and the Guardians of the Galaxy), but he has one of the biggest cult followings amongst the comics crowd. Moon Knight is intensely dark and supernatural – and while such a combination might have seemed ill-suited to the usually lighthearted and scientifically-grounded Marvel Cinematic Universe before this year, 2016 has seen the company blow its narrative doors wide open to include all sorts of new storytelling possibilities.
Take, for instance, all the new faces that have been added to the cinematic pantheon: Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), the Punisher (Jon Bernthal), Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) - a number of whom represent a side of Marvel's comic book mythology that has almost been entirely overlooked up until this point: magic. Black Panther’s superpowers originate from his mystical connection to one African deity or another (though this has yet to be addressed on-screen); Ghost Rider has made a pact with Hell, resulting in his terrifying, demonic alter-ego; and Doctor Strange, of course, is the renowned Sorcerer Supreme, a vastly powerful practitioner of magic.
Even the street-level heroes in Netflix’s corner of the MCU - which has earned critical praise for offering a more mature take on the superhero genre - increasingly find themselves in an ever-more supernatural world. The Punisher, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), and Luke Cage share the same space as Daredevil (Charlie Cox), who is taking his place in an ancient war against the Hand, a clan of ninja warriors who can resurrect themselves, cheating death indefinitely.
There have been repeated rumors of Moon Knight landing his very own Netflix series, but the Iron Fist trailer unveiled at New York Comic-Con makes it plain that the streaming service's take on the Marvel universe is ready to add this character to its line-up.
For those who aren't familiar with the comic books, Moon Knight's original identity was Marc Spector - a descendant of Holocaust survivors, the son of a rabbi, a heavyweight boxer, a Marine, a CIA agent, and a freelance mercenary. While on assignment in Egypt, Spector is fatally wounded and left for dead in the desert. He is brought back to life and wakes up in a newly uncovered temple of worship for the ancient god of the moon, Khonshu. Spector believes that it was the Egyptian deity himself that resurrected him, so that he could become Khonshu's living embodiment on Earth.
Although it’s an open question if this is, indeed, the case (the ex-merc has a tenuous hold on sanity, at best), Spector takes up Khonshu’s white cloak and ultimately becomes the vigilante known as Moon Knight, using his wealth to accrue allies, weapons, and vehicles to assist him in his nightly crusade against crime.
Paired with this rather traditional origin story are two more unconventional elements: his apparent magical abilities (Moon Knight's levels of strength, agility, and endurance are linked to the phases of the moon) and the countless different personalities he’s cultivated over the years, which include everything from a wealthy businessman to a lowly cab driver to an NYPD consultant. It’s the latter point that really helps to set Moon Knight out from the superpowered pack – although all these different personas were initially created to help him access the various strata of society or different levels of information, they quickly threaten to overwhelm his fragile mind and cause him to suffer from multiple personality disorder. Indeed, more recently in the comics, it’s been hinted at that Marc Spector’s entire career as Moon Knight is one giant hallucination dreamed up while he’s actually imprisoned in a mental institution.
Moon Knight is definitely a strange character, but Marvel's Defenders universe is ready for him. Daredevil has been easing its way into a mystical narrative over the course of its two seasons, and Iron Fist seems set to be chock full of the fantastical right from the word go; in the comics, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) finds his way into K’un-L’un, a million-year-old city that is part extraterrestrial and part magical, where he is trained to be a living weapon, ultimately defeating a dragon named Shou-Lao the Undying in order to attain the mantle (and abilities) of Iron Fist. And his set of powers is arguably even more out-there than Moon Knight's, allowing him to do everything from channeling his chi into his hand, making it super powerful and impervious, to “fusing” his consciousness with another individual’s, to opening rifts between different dimensions.
On paper, there is no conceivable way that such a character could ever inhabit the same world as the comparatively more realistic Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, but the first trailer for Iron Fist manages to stick the landing, keeping its tone, feel, and energy the same as its three predecessors’. And while it's possible that the dragon battle may have been cut from Danny's origin story in the show, his super-powerful glowing hand was shown in the trailer – what better way to lay the groundwork for the wacky, creepy, and violent adventures of Marc Spector than with the successful execution of a TV series about a man with a mystical super-punch?
The proposition only gets more exciting when later elements of the comics are taken into consideration, since Moon Knight has fought alongside the Defenders on several occasions (see the image above). Much like with the other residents of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, their character development and story arcs only become the more engrossing when they cross with one another, and given the fireworks that have already resulted from seeing the Punisher on Daredevil or, even, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) on Luke Cage (and, soon, Iron Fist), pairing the crazy avatar of an ancient Egyptian god with Jessica Jones can only result in good things.
Daredevil season 1 & 2, Jessica Jones season 1, and Luke Cage season 1 are now available on Netflix. Iron Fist season 1 arrives on March 17th, 2017. The Defenders and The Punisher arrive in 2017. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2 and Daredevil season 3 have not yet been announced.