Why You Shouldn't Compare Marvel's Moon Knight To Batman

When trying to explain Moon Knight to the uninitiated, there are many who would describe the hero as Marvel's Batman. It's a comparison that isn't completely unfounded, particularly when considering some of the character's early comic appearances. However, Marc Spector has evolved considerably over the years and he deserves better than being in the Dark Knight's shadow. Hopefully, the new "Moon Knight" series, which is soon headed to Disney+, will help differentiate between these two heroes.

When looking at DC and Marvel, it's easy to find characters who are rather similar. Consider Aquaman and Namor, Atom and Ant-Man, and Green Arrow and Hawkeye, just to name a few. While some of DC's characters came first, as it was around longer than Marvel, many of these heroes were introduced almost simultaneously. Doom Patrol and X-Men, Red Tornado and Vision, and Swamp Thing and Man Thing all came out the same year as each other: 1963, 1968, and 1971, respectively. Those are hardly the only examples of similar Marvel and DC characters debuting around the same time. Perhaps the strangest case was in 2005 when two long-dead sidekicks were revealed to be alive within months of each other: Former Robin Jason Todd returned as the Red Hood and Bucky Barnes was resurrected as the Winter Soldier.

While the similarities between some of these characters appear striking at first, all you need to do to find the differences is dig a little deeper. Deadpool began as so much of a carbon copy of Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke, that his creators leaned into it and named him Wade Wilson. While the two antiheroes have quite a bit in common, their personalities couldn't be more distinct.

Sure, Batman and Moon Knight both fight crime with their wealth and a wide array of gadgetry. Their civilian identities are also largely considered to be the mask, with both feeling most comfortable under a cape and cowl. Plus, let's be honest, they're both impossibly cool. The two may share some key ingredients, but to call Moon Knight Marvel's Batman is something of a disservice to him. So, let's dig into this a bit and look at just how different these heroes really are.

Always starting over

Batman has been a constant in DC Comics since his inception in 1939. He's gone through plenty of changes, but as his popularity has risen, more and more titles featuring the Caped Crusader have hit the shelves. No matter how big a Batman fan you are, you'd be hard-pressed to keep up with all the Dark Knight's adventures. By comparison, the number of comics you can track down starring Moon Knight is pretty small.

Created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, Moon Knight made his first appearance in "Werewolf by Night" #32 in 1975 as an antagonist of the titular character. From there, he popped up in other books like "The Defenders" and "Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man" for a few years before headlining his own title in 1980. Still considered by many to be the defining run of the character, the book was written by Moench and drawn by my favorite artist of all time, the incomparable Bill Sienkiewicz.

"Moon Knight" has restarted nine times, not including when the comic went by other titles, such as "Marc Spector: Moon Knight," which was the character's longest-running book at 60 issues. Alongside Sienkiewicz, Moon Knight has had some of the most consistently great art out of any Marvel hero, with artists such as David Finch, Alex Maleev, Declan Shalvey, Greg Smallwood, and more, all doing incredible work on various volumes. There are several excellent starting points, but if you want to pick up something recent, the current run by Jed MacKay, Alessandro Capuccio, and Rachelle Rosenberg is fantastic.

Very different origin stories

Both Bruce Wayne and Marc Spector are driven by vengeance, though for each, it comes from a very different place. Everyone knows Batman's origin story, so let's jump into Moon Knight's. Marc went from being a marine who was dishonorably discharged due to his mental health struggles — more on that later — to a mercenary. His partner-turned-enemy Raul Bushman took things a step too far when he murdered an innocent archeologist in an effort to find a pharaoh's tomb he hoped would make him rich. Marc turned against Raul to save the man's daughter (and his future love interest) Marlene Alraune. However, he lost the fight and after being fatally wounded, was left in the desert to die.

Laid at the feet of an idol of the Moon God Khonshu, the deity offered to restore Marc if he agreed to be its avatar. Marc acquiesced and has served Khonshu ever since. So, while Bruce is fueled by his parents' death, Marc fights on behalf of his god.

A tentative grasp on sanity

Although stories like "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth" have dissected Batman's personality and questioned whether he's any more sane than the criminals he puts away, Bruce Wayne is generally not portrayed as having severe mental health issues. He was obviously traumatized by the way he lost his parents and that experience has understandably shaped him for the rest of his life.

Where there is a certain duality to Batman, Moon Knight is often portrayed as being permanently fractured. Aside from being Marc Spector, he has several other distinct personalities: wealthy playboy Steven Grant, street-smart cab driver Jake Lockley, and of course, the vigilante known as Moon Knight. More recently, Mr. Knight has also been added to the mix as well. He's something of a superhero consultant.

Because "Moon Knight" has been relaunched so many times over the years, his characterization has been somewhat inconsistent. While some earlier comics toyed with the idea that Marc was struggling with his mental health, his identities were often treated as a means of helping him fight crime. Steven funded the operation, while Jake kept his ear to the ground for information, and of course, Moon Knight doled out the punishment. As for Marc, well, he sometimes tended to get a bit lost in those early years. Several writers chose to stick closely to the idea that Marc created these personas and that he had control over them, though those closest to him, like Marlene, sometimes struggled to reconcile his actions with his true personality.

Later comics chose to fully explore the fact that Marc has dissociative identity disorder, though some might know it better by its former name, multiple personality disorder. Depending on what you read, Marc either has struggled with DID from a young age, or even has brain damage as a result of his deal with Khonshu. After all, the deity has four aspects: Pathfinder, Embracer, Defender, and the Watcher of Overnight Travelers. There is one other aspect as well, a vengeful secret aspect, The One Who Lives on Hearts, which appears when Spector is at his most violent. So, has Khonshu irreparably damaged Marc's brain while manifesting its aspects or was DID brought on by Marc's childhood trauma? Honestly, it depends who's writing the book.

Some writers have alluded to the thought that Moon Knight's deal with Khonshu isn't even real, but just another daydream of his fractured psyche. He's even thought he was conversing with Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Captain America, when he was really just hashing things out by himself. The 2016 run from Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood is probably the one that deals head on with Marc's mental health struggles in the most satisfying way.

Moon Knight wants to be seen

We all know how Batman operates. The Dark Knight prefers to emerge seemingly from nowhere, blending into the cover of darkness so seamlessly that villains don't know he's there until it's too late. However, Moon Knight doesn't even dress in dark clothes. He's wearing all white from head to toe, so that criminals can see him coming! As he says at the beginning of the first Moon Knight comic I ever read ("Moon Knight" Vol. 5 #1 from Charlie Huston and David Finch):

"I don't wear white to hide myself. I wear it so they'll see me coming. So they'll know who it is. 'Cause when they see the white, it doesn't matter how good a target I am. Their hands shake so badly they couldn't hit the moon."

In that same issue, Marc also explains that he wears all white because, "a priest doesn't change the color of his investments to suit himself." So, everything he does, from his signature white outfit to his crescent-shaped 'copter, are in service of his god. Raised in the Jewish faith, but acting as Khonshu's high priest — even when the two are estranged — Marc Spector is a man of contradictions.

Generally speaking, Moon Knight doesn't have superpowers and is forced to rely solely on his considerable fighting prowess. However, some writers have given him powers tied to the cycle of the moon, such as enhanced strength. Perhaps the most impressive "gift" from Khonshu is immortality. As the deity's avatar, Marc Spector cannot die. The Moon God has resurrected him more than once. Not that anyone ever really stays dead in comics, but not being able to die certainly comes in handy in battle.

Also, while Marc is undoubtedly very intelligent, he doesn't have Batman's genius-level intellect, though he has sported some impressive sleuthing skills on his own. He has belonged to a few teams over the years, but always seems to do better by himself — though he often has his closest confident Jean-Paul DuChamp, AKA Frenchie, at his side.

Batman's number one rule isn't Moon Knight's

Batman can indeed be brutal, but generally speaking, the Dark Knight doesn't display the same savagery as the Fist of Khonshu. In one startling display of barbarity, Moon Knight once carved Bushman's face off in a battle that nearly ended the hero. Aside from that, Marc doesn't have a rule against killing like Bruce does. His actions are committed in service of a god who is thirsting for vengeance, so Moon Knight rarely struggles with a crisis of conscience. Moon Knight is also far more unpredictable than the Caped Crusader. When Batman faces off against any of his rogues, we know they're going to end up in Arkham, but the same can't be said for the Marvel hero. Not even Marc knows what's going on in the darkest recesses of his mind in a given moment, so he is a constant variable. This is one of many reasons other heroes tend to view him as a liability.

Moon Knight has long been an underappreciated Marvel hero, despite the fact that so many of his comics are undeniably terrific. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Batman fan too, but Moon Knight is so much more than Marvel's version of him. I would take this opportunity to remind everyone that it's okay to love DC and Marvel equally, and that both the Dark Knight and the Fist of Khonshu are pretty awesome!

"Moon Knight" premieres on Disney+ on March 30, 2022.