Published on October 19th, 2015 | by Jonathan Dolce
A Case for Moon Knight
They touted it as an all-new, all-different Marvel, and indeed, it is wonderful to see IGN’s #149 top superhero of all time, Moon Knight, once more, well, rise. Simultaneously, we see Moon Knight emerge in Marvel’s Contest of Champions mobile game. The question of why now, the timing and frankly the social reasons spring to mind. Marvel simply would not hold up a character like Moon Knight now without understanding the social climate we are in. And this could not be better reflected than in the front cover of Moon Knight #1.
Moon Knight is a superhero from the Marvel pantheon who first appeared in August of 1975 in Werewolf by Night #32 as an enemy to the title character. Following his popularity, and five years of cameos, Moon Knight got his own title. Moon Knight is known by day as Marc Spector, the son of a Jewish rabbi, however, Spector, despite having a Jewish name, is a follower of the ancient Egyptian Khonshu, god of the moon, who, as a loyal servant, grants him supernatural powers.
Moon Knight #1 plays on the recent popularity of asylums in the DC universe, a keeping up with the Jones’s, or the Wayne’s as the case may be, but what is most striking is the iconography and timing. The frontispiece of Moon Knight #1 looks uncannily like a snapshot from within Guantanamo Bay’s prison. We see Moon Knight sitting in a padded cell, swathed in white robes, a straightjacket and bandages. His forehead, though bandaged is bleeding through, making a bloodstain in the shape of a crescent moon, his patron god’s symbol. The reference to Islam, and possibly torture, or at least injury, though is unmistakable and unavoidable. His eyes peer out at the reader much as Jihadi John’s did just months ago, outlined in black. It is understood we are not looking at a terrorist, but the image in our current social climate echoes what we have been seeing in the news media.
And while some of these references may seem distant in terms of popular media, it is only days since Hajj – and all of its tragedy – where images of pilgrims in white robes stained with their own blood. Indeed, one of the released images from Moon Knight #1 shows the interior of the asylum our hero finds himself in, and the architectural references to a sacred building are unambiguous. Many Christian churches, such as Hagia Sophia, were captured during antiquity and converted to mosques. At the same time, performance artist Laurie Anderson has partnered with former Gitmo detainee in a show entitled Habeus Corpus. Habeus Corpus itself refers to the restraint of a person’s liberty. The image of Moon Knight restrained could be considered a visual metaphor of his own literal captivity.
Comics are as much a social reflection as any visual art form, and as profound in terms of showing where we are and who we are as any written treatise – and Moon Knight is no exception.