Warren Ellis to pit Moon Knight against ‘weird crime’ in Marvel series

Nov. 22, 2013 | 6:00 a.m.
moonknight1cover Warren Ellis to pit Moon Knight against weird crime in Marvel series

Hero Complex readers get an exclusive early look at "Moon Knight" No. 1, due in March. The new series is written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Declan Shalvey with colors by Jordie Bellaire. (Marvel)

moon knight 1 Warren Ellis to pit Moon Knight against weird crime in Marvel series

This and the next two pages are looks at Declan Shalvey's interior art for "Moon Knight" No. 1. Jordie Bellaire will provide colors that "add another layer to the narrative," Ellis says. (Marvel)

moon knight 2 Warren Ellis to pit Moon Knight against weird crime in Marvel series

Warren Ellis praises Declan Shalvey's page-wide panel work for how it progresses the story and says: "He’s terrific at atmosphere, which for me was the main thing." (Marvel)

moon knight 3 Warren Ellis to pit Moon Knight against weird crime in Marvel series

Warren Ellis says he and the art team are "after things that are fairly stark." (Marvel)

warrenellis Warren Ellis to pit Moon Knight against weird crime in Marvel series

Warren Ellis had a New York Times bestseller with his novel "Gun Machine" this year and is working on a nonfiction book about the past and future of cities for Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Ellen Rogers / Mulholland Books/Little, Brown)

Moon Knight may not yet be a marquee Marvel character, but he’s acclaimed writer Warren Ellis’ kind of weird.

A mercenary brought back to life by an ancient Egyptian god, the moneyed, gadget-equipped vigilante alter ego of Marc Spector fights crime at night dressed in white. Moon Knight has been criticized as a less compelling Batman, but Ellis, the British writer who will pen an upcoming comic book series featuring the character, mischievously twists the comparison.

“The man is demented in more interesting ways than I think Batman ever was,” he said by phone from his home in Southend-on-Sea, England, in a conversation punctuated with laughs and coughs. “[His] cape is actually a crescent moon and he goes out only at night and dresses in reflective white so you can see him coming. Now that’s nuts…. I like that.”

First introduced in 1975 fighting a werewolf, Moon Knight has a varied, stop-and-start history: The complicated hero created by writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin has been depicted as taking on multiple personalities — mercenary, millionaire, cab driver — for missions, then suffering from dissociative identity disorder, and being, to varying degrees, the lunar-powered avatar of the deity Khonshu.

In what may be the character’s best chance at stardom, Ellis, with in-demand Irish artists Declan Shalvey  and Jordie Bellaire, will debut a version of Moon Knight that the writer says “unifies all the previous takes, making the character whole and taking him forward into a new kind of crime fiction.”

What sort of crime fiction will that be?

Warren Ellis. (Ellen Rogers / Mulholland Books/Little, Brown)

Warren Ellis also wrote the recent Marvel original graphic novel “Avengers: Endless Wartime.” (Ellen Rogers / Mulholland Books/Little, Brown)

“The best Moon Knight stories for me were always ground-level but weird crime,” he said. “‘Weird crime’ has kind of been the touchstone for me for this revival.”

Ellis, the New York Times bestselling novelist of this year’s bizarre thriller “Gun Machine” and award-winning creator of the dystopian gonzo journalist comics series “Transmetropolitan” and the adapted-to-film thriller “Red,” has an extensive, successful history reworking Marvel superheroes: Elements from his “Iron Man: Extremis” story line, for example, have been used in the blockbuster film franchise starring Robert Downey Jr.

And Moon Knight — though Ellis cops to having used him as a punch line in “Secret Avengers” — made an early impression on the writer.

The 45-year-old Ellis says that as a teenager in the early 1980s, he was reading only two superhero titles — Frank Miller’s renowned “Daredevil” run and Moench and artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s “Moon Knight” collaboration — the character’s first solo book. He calls the book “oddly out of its time —  it was using the tools of the late ’70s to try and create something new for the late ’80s, but they were stuck right in the middle. It was a book that was kind of ignored but it was really trying to do a lot of new stuff.”

Those issues that drew in the younger Ellis now will serve as the template for the new “Moon Knight” series, which will “remix” some old elements, including a ghost and a master sniper. One cue he’s taking from Moench and Sienkiewicz’s work is using the character as a way into stories, “almost as a cipher,” and telling tales around, but not necessarily about, him.

Several volumes of “Moon Knight” have come and gone, none becoming major lasting hits. That’s part of the appeal of writing the new series, Ellis said: “You can have a play with something knowing that there’s not an audience of hundreds of thousands waiting with their knives out to cut things off just for getting it wrong.”

The last “Moon Knight” series, a 12-issue run from the accomplished “Daredevil” team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev, saw Marc Spector as a TV producer in L.A. and struggling in crimefighting both with foes and with mental issues that had him plotting with a not-really-there Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man. It ended with him swearing off Hollywood.

Warren Ellis says he and the art team are "after things that are fairly stark." (Marvel)

A look at Declan Shalvey’s interior art for “Moon Knight” No. 1. Warren Ellis says he and the art team are “after things that are fairly stark.” (Marvel)

Ellis says the new series, part of the All-New Marvel Now slate, takes the hero back to his old Big Apple stamping grounds because “there’s just a wonderful strangeness to seeing that particular figure against a New York landscape…. [of all the] urban caped superhero characters, I think he’s almost the most incongruous.” And, he jokes, that in the wide open spaces of L.A., a city where “people put sunglasses on their dogs,” no one would blink twice at Moon Knight walking down Ventura Boulevard.

A stark aesthetic and page-wide panels will mark the book’s look. Shalvey (“Deadpool”), who will draw the issues, and Bellaire (“Captain Marvel”), who will handle colors, provide the “palpable atmosphere” the series needs, the writer said.

Spector has gotten medical help for his mental health problems and has a clearer understanding of who he is, he added. Scraping away the character’s dissociative identity disorder was important to Ellis.

“I’ve known people with D.I.D.,” he said, “and I, they and any doctor can tell you [that] you can’t catch D.I.D. just from pretending to be other people. If that was true, every actor in L.A. would be hospitalized.”

And then there’s Moon Knight’s bizarre back-and-forth history with Khonshu.

“I’ve tried to clean that up and bring more logic to it — as much logic as you can bring to a Marvel book involving someone brought back from the dead by an Egyptian god,” Ellis said with a laugh.

– Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon | @LATHeroComplex


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17 Responses to Warren Ellis to pit Moon Knight against ‘weird crime’ in Marvel series

  1. Zagreus says:

    Looking forward to this. Love Ellis' work. If anyone can make a Moon Knight series work it's Ellis.

  2. Sue says:

    Moon Knight is my favorite character – so glad they're trying again. And if Ellis works in supernatural material, even better.

    Excellent interview and the best news I've heard all week.

  3. Banon says:

    This is such exciting news! Moon Knight is one of my all time favorites, so I’m thrilled to see him get a new series, with an excellent creative team, too. March can’t get here soon enough.

  4. Maurice Kane says:

    Moon Knight has been one of my favorite characters since he was introduced as an adversary of Jack Russell, Werewolf By Night (not just "a werewolf") and through his team-ups, group memberships and solo adventures. I am glad the DID aspect is being eliminated and it would be interested if the foes go beyond Bushmaster.

    • blakehennon says:

      Hey, Maurice! Thanks for reading! No slight intended to Jack Russell as a character or "Werewolf By Night" as a series. When it comes to writing stories like this, there's a question of how much information we can pack in without getting bogged down. Moon Knight has quite the complex history, so the detail was meant to suggest the fun strangeness of it. I'm sorry if it comes off as dismissive of that classic Marvel horror character. Are you reading “Daredevil”? Jack and the Legion of Monsters figure into the current story there.

  5. Kilian Spector says:

    Hi, great news for me too. Curiously Moon Knight is my favourite Marvel character together with Daredevil.

    One thing keeps me worried tough. Moon Knights usual outfit. Will he keep using it? I mean, this preview with moon knight wearing a tie, cowboy boots and a mask is worrying me.

    • blakehennon says:

      Hi, Kilian! That is a question that we may have to wait a few months to see the answer to. In the interview, Ellis did mention the crescent moon cape and the visual effect of Moon Knight in all white against the New York night. These early preview pages don't yet have Jordie Bellaire's colors, so we don't know what color that suit he's wearing above will end up being. Time will tell.

  6. Trent aka apartofhim says:

    The Bendis-Maleev run is one of the most underrated Marvel (not just Moon Knight) books I've ever read. It was what made me appreciate the Moon Knight character. The identity disorder was key in that series and made for some very interesting story telling. I really hope that "cleaning up" the character but still making him "nuts" doesn't leave us with another Deadpool, drawn by the same artist, but in white.

    I'm interested to see where this goes, and as a LCS owner, it has been great to hear the buzz from customers about the book.

  7. Spiritoftherain says:

    This news caused me such a moment of serendipity. I'd JUST been thinking about Moon Knight a few days ago and how much I miss reading him. I loved the Charlie Huston/Mike Benson run and own the volumes, and I've read the early stuff before Marc Spector: Moon Knight. And Warren Ellis is my favourite comic book writer of all time – love everything from Transmetropolitan to Desolation Jones. Been meaning to catch up on his Secret Avengers run.

    It thrills me that he's read the early Doug Moench stuff, and that he has such an appreciation for the character like I do. I only hope he does something with his Jewish background. Moon Knight, for all his insanity and his faults, was the first bona fide Jewish superhero in comics (as opposed to in spirit, like Superman) and though he's not a practitioner, I'd love to see some work done that brings him back to remembering his Rabbi father, or working a weird crimes case that impacts a semitic community. Maybe I'll even send him a letter…

  8. George says:

    It is a thrill, just to see Moon Knight rise once again as a big league player in the Marvel Universe. Most assuredly one of the lesser known or used characters. At one point there was even talk of a Moon Knight animated series, although the panels made the character seem almost too silly in the artist conceptions.

    This character has a rich, yet untapped amount of stories, tie-ins and cameos in other books and is long overdue to have such a prolific writer place this often overlooked hero into the ranks of more notable icons of Marvel. In the Ultimate series the character was not as well written as the previous incarnations. I actually enjoyed the Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu series. I am looking forward to this re-telling of the series.

  9. mARCO sPECTRO says:

    90 weeks ago I went on moon knight nerd sites praying to noshowshu that Warren Ellis would be the perfect writer for this character. i always have high hopes for Marc Spector/Moon Knight. Spoiler alert.

    Bentis basically triggered a cancelled Taskmaster series with a lead character who had a tony stark goatee and a shitty entourage tv show.

    no one asked me but i believe an angle would be take it back to the werewolf bite. marc spector was wearing silver armour – it provides him supernatural abilities without a direct lycanthrope mutation. The Lycanthrope virus and PTSD triggered depersonalization and hallucinations (Khonshu is a mental fabrication / justification for returning from the dead? A resurrection fever. Marc Spector is very intelligent. Have him grounded in a urban supernatural setting taking on werewolf street gangs, lesbian draculas, BATMAN had a dog! bring the WHITE SUMMER mr. ELLIS!

  10. Oliver Gogarty says:

    Great article. And thanks for writing "stamping" instead of "stomping."

  11. Brandon says:

    I am glad that someone is finally doing something with Moon Knight. they need to do a little changing though. They should give him the title “New Moon” or something like that. They should also get rid of his cape so he is less like Batman. Maybe they could give him a gravity belt. they should also have him using nunchucks as a primary weapon because I don’t see many characters using nunchucks. More gadgets too. I have this image in my mind of what he could be like but I cant really explain it. Finally, I want to say that I don’t like it how he was brought back to life by an Egyptian god. I say they focus on when he was in the weapon X program. Have characters like Deadpool their.

  12. Kevin says:

    I liked the original series from the 80's. I also think that Marc Spector as a millionaire worked too. The weapons of old such as crescent shaped shurikens should be part of his arsenal. Although the past few series had not taken hold, I am hopeful for this incarnation. Moon Knight is a cool character with potential and should gain some much needed notoriety this time around.

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