Moon Knight's Layla Has Unique Roots In Marvel Comics

One of the most exciting aspects of "Moon Knight" might be the freedom it has had to reinterpret the source material of a lesser known character. So much has changed from page to screen that many comic fans have had to put aside their expectations for Marc Spector and just enjoy the ride. Notably absent from the Disney+ series thus far is Marc's supporting cast from the comics. We see Frenchie's name pop up as a missed call in the premiere and the credits confirm that the living statue Steven (Oscar Isaac) confides in is indeed Crawley, but that's pretty much it. These small nods do work well in context and honestly, Moon Knight fights alone in the comics quite often anyway. But one element that some fans have found particularly perplexing is the addition of Layla El-Faouly, who, at first glance, appears to be a character created just for the show.

Portrayed by May Calamawy, Layla is introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the very first episode of "Moon Knight," though we don't find out much about her. We see Layla's name appear as many missed calls on the phone Steven discovers hidden in his apartment. Once Steven has her on the line, we learn she not only knows him as Marc, but is also very confused by his accent.

There is a famous Layla in Marvel Comics, but waiting for the studio to introduce Layla Miller in a "Moon Knight" series is tantamount to hoping Mephisto would appear in "WandaVision." It's easy to think at first that Layla is a completely new character. After all, her name doesn't appear anywhere in Marvel Comics canon. However, as more has been revealed, striking similarities have emerged between her and a certain comics figure central to Marc's life. She might even have ties to another lesser known character as well. So, let's take a look at Layla's roots in Marvel Comics. 

Beware, spoilers for the first four episodes of "Moon Knight" follow below.

Who is Marlene Alraune?

Many Moon Knight fans were surprised by the lack of Marlene Alraune's name in any casting announcements. The character's history has been tangled up with Marc's since the very beginning, with her literally being a part of his origin story. She came from the minds of Moon Knight creators Doug Moench and Don Perlin, and like most of the hero's supporting cast, made her first appearance in "Marvel Spotlight" Vol. 1 #28 in 1976. She is a major figure not only in Marc's life, but also in Steven's (and Jake's), and has been the character's primary love interest since her inception, though their romance has been off and on. They even had a child together.

Initially, Layla does indeed seem to have been created specifically for the Disney+ show, but as more of her backstory comes to light, it's clear that she is the MCU's Marlene Alraune. "The Friendly Type" drops the first major clue, that not only was her father an archeologist, but he was also murdered. "Summon the Suit" had previously revealed that Marc was responsible for the death of an archeologist during his time as a mercenary. Comic fans and savvy viewers could put together the fact that those archeologists are one and the same. In episode 3, Ethan Hawke's Arthur Harrow implies Marc was somehow involved in the murder of Layla's father, though it's not confirmed until episode 4, when Harrow lays out the connection for Layla.

In the comics, Marc turned against his villainous partner Bushman after he murdered Marlene's father, believing it to be a step too far. He saved Marlene's life, but nearly lost his own. In fact, were it not for Khonshu, Marc would've died in the desert that day. It turns out, Moon Knight's MCU origin is pretty much exactly the same.

Why the change?

It's unclear exactly why the writers chose to cast Calamawy as Layla rather than Marlene. Perhaps since the character is a blonde white woman in the comics, the filmmakers simply chose to go in a completely different direction. Mohamed Diab, one of the directors and executive producer on the series, has previously spoken about the importance of proper Egyptian representation in "Moon Knight," so casting Egyptian-Palestinian actress Calamawy in the role certainly makes sense. The Moon Knight comics are steeped in Egyptian mythology, and it's a culture that Hollywood hasn't exactly done a great job of accurately depicting.

I'll admit that I was initially confused that Marc is married to Layla while Marlene is nowhere to be found. However, Calamawy's stellar performance has made me a staunch Layla supporter. Marlene had her moments in the comics, but more often than not, she was relegated to being a damsel in distress and was not given much agency in the majority of her appearances. There are few descriptors for her beyond being "Marc's love interest." Meanwhile, Layla not only has a distinct personality, but she also clearly has a life outside of Marc, and she obviously does not need to be rescued.

Marlene is hardly the only character to be reinvented for the series. Arthur Harrow is a pretty deep cut from the comics, only appearing in a single issue, and that character is nothing like the one played by Hawke in the series. But there's also a chance that Layla might be an amalgamation of a couple different characters from Marvel Comics.

What's in a name?

When Layla gets a fake passport in "The Friendly Type," her full name is revealed to be Layla Abdallah El-Faouly. This is clearly a hint at her father's name, which we learn in "The Tomb" is Abdallah El-Faouly. This bears a strong resemblance to Abdul Faoul, who is also known in the comics as Scarlet Scarab. This character is another that is not very well known, debuting in "Invaders" #23 in 1977 and only making a couple appearances, but he could certainly be repurposed. He is also one of very few Egyptian characters in Marvel Comics. 

Abdul was indeed an archeologist, who gained tremendous power from an artifact known as the Ruby Scarab. He used his abilities to protect the people of Egypt, though his methods initially forced him into battle with the Invaders. After the scarab disappeared, he spent the rest of this life searching, but never found it. When Abdul died, he passed his knowledge onto his son, Mehemet Faoul. He also spent years in pursuit of the artifact. Mehemet wound up at odds with Thor over it at first, but he did eventually take up the mantle of Scarlet Scarab as well. The Eye of Horus is involved both in that story and in episode 4 of "Moon Knight."

We know a certain scarab has played a prominent role in "Moon Knight" thus far and that Abdallah called Layla his "little scarab." Perhaps the scarab has a function beyond being a way to find Ammit's tomb? There is a possibility that Layla has been so-named to connect her to this character. While the name could easily be nothing more than a nod to the comics, it would be very cool if Layla wound up becoming a version of Scarlet Scarab in the MCU.