For the majority of his history, Marvel Comics' vigilante superhero Moon Knight has been known for being crazy. But with his latest ongoing series launching this March, the man known as Marc Spector will find his life getting pretty weird.
Announced last month as part of Marvel's latest wave of All-New Marvel NOW! relaunches, the new "Moon Knight" from writer Warren Ellis, artist Declan Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire takes the multiple personality trappings of the Moon Knight DNA and adds a focus on the character's strange horror roots. Created in 1975 by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, the character rose to prominence with his own series by Moench and acclaimed artist Bill Sienkiewicz in 1980. In that series, the mercenary turned superhero by an Egyptian moon god faced down everything from werewolves to psychic weirdos, and the new ongoing looks to build on that idea -- with a modern twist.
"The book is filled with oddities. It starts with a man in a white suit and mask with big moon on his forehead, remember," Shalvey told CBR News. "I will say this; Moon Knight investigates the strange and dark corners of the Marvel Universe, and boy, there are weird things there."
"The series starts full throttle with Moon Knight thrown right into a New York mystery. It's not a slow start," editor Steve Wacker explained of Ellis' opening story. "Each issue so far bring to light a new mystery for MK to resolve with his armory of personalities. It's a very easy place to jump into the character if you've read Moon Knight before and fits VERY comfortably among books like 'Daredevil,' 'Hawkeye' and 'Superior Spider-Man.'"
For Wacker, the book is not only a chance to work with Ellis again -- he noted that he pitches the writer on projects annually and joked of the "yes" he recieved to this series, saying, "I assume it was only to get me to leave him alone" -- but it was also a chance to build up a new take on Moon Knight that turned from past projects. "I worked on the second half of the [Bran Michael] Bendis / [Alex] Maleev run, but I pretty much just inherited that because [Tom] Brevoort was busy. Brian and Alex were well into their story by that point, so the heavy lifting had all been done," the editor noted. "This time, coming in at the ground floor, I've been able to see the project come together and it has so far fit into a classic mold for the character, but Warren is twisting things in a very logical way that is true to the character's roots. I read the original 'Moon Knight' series back in the early '80s and have always thought there was some real genius at work in what Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz did, so it's a thrill to be playing in that sandbox."
The titular hero sports a new look for his new series
For the look of the series, "Declan and Jordie were the first and only art team that Warren and I discussed. They've both done work in my office over the past couple years and I had my eyes open for any project that could elevate their profile a bit," Wacker said. "Unfortunately as we started on 'Moon Knight,' they were safely ensconced (and recently announced) on 'Deadpool,' but ['Deadpool' editor] Jordan White and his team were very understanding and graciously help us work out a pln for them to come over to launch this book."
"Launching a new Moon Knight series with Warren and Jordie is an absolute dream gig. Every word in that sentence is a deciding factor," Shalvey said. "To make your mark on an underused character and do something new with them; to do something different from the ground up with collaborators who do quality work, well that's what I've always wanted to do. To finally have that opportunity is really exciting.
"When offered the project, first I was excited, then very intimidated," the artist added. "I thought about how long I've been reading Warren Ellis comics and I realized I'd been reading them for most of my life. I've grown with his stories and he've had an impact on me. I read his 'Excalibur' and 'Wolverine' runs when I was a teen. After art college, it was his work on 'The Authority' and 'Planetary' that got me back into comics. I think 'Nextwave' is some of the best comics made in the past ten years. I also realized how little comics he's done in the past few years. All this started to really intimidate me. In the end though, I just tried to put all that out of my head and just read thescript with an open mind, and I loved it."
In terms of his work on the series, Shalvey explained that the visual identity for "Moon Knight" will be all about contrast. "Warren had initially teased me with random lines of dialogue from the script which I have to say got me quite excited about his approach and gave me the time to build an idea of the book in my head before I read the script. Now with the first issue finished, I can say that the book definitely ticked all the boxes I hoped it would," he said. "With 'Moon Knight,' I'm trying to do something visual that can only really be done on a Moon Knight book. Everyone goes crazy with black when they for on Batman for example, as it works for that character. I want to do the same thing with Moon Knight, but use white. I thing a lot of creators are afraid of white; they may be insecure and thing it will read as if they didn't do anything on the page. The fact that I'm incorporating washes into the work means I feel I can have the freedom to play with white and negative space in this book."
That feeling is probably most prominent in the hero's new costume -- a more modern, streamlined twist on the classic crescent-shaped cape of Moon Knight's past. "Warren wanted to use the suit-and-tie look he established with Michael Lark in his 'Secret Avengers' run, so I just took that and ran with it," Shalvey noted. "I added little details; like crescent shapes in the buttons and crescent cuff-links. There's more design work that will feature later in the series and you'll see the crescent motif continued thoughout (the interior of his limo, for example) . As regards his physicality, I imagined him as a Joseph-Gordon Levitt or Ryan Gosling type; muscular, but lean in form-fitting attire. Stylish but powerful. He looks good, but can deliver a swift blow with ease. He walks crime riddled streets in a white suit, so I wanted him to look confident. I want him to have a swagger, as if he's constantly on a catwalk."
Shalvey is the latest in a long line of top-shelf artists to tackle Moon Knight, a history that can be a bit intimidating
Of course, the artist isn't only getting into the head of the character as he draws the slightly unbalanced hero. He's also tapping into the work of scores of stylists who have come before him on the franchise. "Unfortunately for me, Moon Knight has had a lot of amazing artists!" Shalvey explained. "Arguably some of the most experimental and dynamic artists have made their mark on that book. That is pretty bloody intimidating. To see Sienkiewicz evolve on his run is amazing, Maleev did some of his most interesting work in years on the book in my opinion. I even tracked down Tommy Lee Edward's miniseries from the 90s and there's this wonderful Mignola vibe to it. There is an amazing pedigree of artists that have worked on Moon Knight, and it's both exciting and terrifying to be in that stable. I feel that fear will stop me from being complacent and push myself to do interesting work on the series."
For this project, Shalvey re-teams with Bellaire, who has earned a reputation as one of comics' premier colorists. "Jordie and I got to collaborate on a longer-form story on 'Deadpool,' and it was clear her work enhanced mine greatly," he said. "For 'Moon Knight,' I felt I had to add something different to give her something new to work on. I'm trying to add an extra illustrative quality to my own work, and also keep Jordie interested. Jordie delivers her best work when she enjoys the pages she works on, so I'm trying to raise the bar for myself, but I think Jordie will raise the bar even higher."
Wacker explained that the visual chops associated with the character will also bleed into Ellis' work. "The thing that has always impressed with Warren as a writer is that he thinks like an artist. The script pages are thick with visual panache and storytelling ideas that make complicated moments look clear and easy."
And much like the writer's work in the recent past, "Moon Knight" will focus on solo tales first rather than trade-ready arcs. "Overall, these are standalone stories that lead to a bigger whole -- the kind of thing Warren excels at. I can safely say that one thing Warren has found in the book so far is a real sense of humor. It's not a humor book by any means, but there is lightness of touch within the dark happenings that I think will appeal to a lot of readers."
"There's a spotlight on me that I feel hasn't been before, so that is scary, but also exciting," Shalvey concluded. "This series is the chance to produce a signature piece of work. It's the cumulation of several years 'in the trenches' for me at Marvel and to work with incredible talents like Jordie and Warren is an amazing opportunity to do what I hope will be new and innovative work that I hope a lot of people read and get excited by."