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