By thinking up a character crazy enough to hunt a werewolf, Doug Moench created one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe. From the characters unique costume to his schizophrenia, Moon Knight would be around for the long haul.
We spoke with writer, Doug Moench, about Moon Knight.
The Big Bad Wolf: After his initial appearance in Werewolf by Night, Moon Knight appeared in Marvel Spotlight. How did that happen? Did you suggest it or did Marvel approach you about the character?
Doug Moench: Moon Knight was created as nothing intended beyond a villain for WBN. For some reason the character struck Marv Wolfman and he really like the character. He suggested we do a one shot for Marvel Spotlight.
The Big Bad Wolf: After those two Marvel Spotlight appearances, Moon Knight started to grow and appear in other titles that weren't written by you, such as Spectacular Spider-Man and Marvel Two In One. What was it like to watch the character you created grow?
Doug Moench: To this day I have never read any of that stuff. I just act like they never happened. The good thing about that is when they do team up issues, they are not allowed to do anything to alter the character.
The Big Bad Wolf: How did Moon Knight land in the pages of HULK Magazine?
Doug Moench: That was Ralph Macchio's idea. He was struck by the character and liked him in the Marvel Spotlight issues. I was writing the main feature in the HULK Magazine and there were pages to fill, so Moon Knight it was.
Big Bad Wolf: HULK Magazine 17-18 featured Moon Knight against the Hatchet Man. What do you remember most about writing that bloodbath?
Doug Moench: I remember the story feeling like one step beyond, a cut above, if you will. It was a little more intense. I think that came from someone casually mentioning that Moon Knight seeming more realistic than Spidey. That sort of stuck with me. I think I was reading a lot of thriller novels and that is where the idea came from.
The Big Bad Wolf: Did you ever consider keeping Randall around?
Doug Moench: I hate killing off characters if they are going to be brought back.
The Big Bad Wolf: Shortly thereafter, Moon Knight had his own series. Did you get the job as Moon Knight writer by default, since you created the character?
Doug Moench: Yeah. I don’t think there was a thought of anyone else doing it. Back then it was just understood. Howard the Duck was Steve Gerber’s, Warlock was Jim Starlin’s and Moon Knight was mine.
The Big Bad Wolf: In that first issue, you introduced Bushman. How did you come up with this character?
Doug Moench: I was going for realism. I thought of Maori face tattoos, the New Zeland indigenous people. I thought that was a pretty interesting visual.
The Big Bad Wolf: What made you come up with the multiple identities of Steven Grant, Marc Spector and Jake Lockley?
Doug Moench: It grew organically. Moon Knight originally just had the mercenary identity of Marc Spector. Moon Knight was originally hired to kill a werewolf. Now, if he is going to be a good guy, how would I do that?
I thought he could be a mercenary that develops a conscience. He would then realize that he was doing was the wrong thing and then could atone for all of this.
So now Marc Spector had mercenary money but he needed a front. This is where Steven Grant comes in. As Grant, he could now use that money to set up a base that he can operate from. So now that made Moon Knight both a bad guy and a good guy. I thought that was kind of schizophrenic.
Then, I thought that being a rich guy was valuable to set up a base but doesn't really help fighting crime. There needed to be someone close to the street that can get the scuttlebutt of what was going down. I thought a cab driver made perfect sense. If you are schizophrenic why not go another step with it?
Big Bad Wolf: Moon Knight had one of the most interesting sub cast of characters in his book. Frenchie, Marlene, Crawley, Gena and her two sons, Ray and Ricky. Were there any people that you knew or came across in your life that inspired you to create these characters?
Doug Moench: Gena was sort of like a girl I worked with in Chicago. I never knew anyone like Crawley, although I rode the subways with them. (laughs) The whole thing about what is useful came in to play. Cab drivers hang out in coffee shops and maybe they have contacts in those shops. I originally thought of a bookie instead of a homeless man but I decided against it. I really thought we should go with a guy like Crawley who lived on the streets.
At the diner, Gena overhears things from thugs and shady characters while serving cups of coffee to them. So the whole network thing sort of worked out.
The Big Bad Wolf: In Moon Knight #2, Moonie revealed to all his sub cast (minus Frenchie and Marlene, who had already known) his identity and alter ego. Did you or anyone at Marvel have any reservations about the reveal to so many people, including two teenagers?
Not at all. It was another one of those things where I tried to be more realistic and break convention. I was always trying to do things that wouldn't be done in other books.
The Big Bad Wolf: Moon Knight #4 featured the return of The Committee, last seen in Werewolf by Night 32-33. Although their return only lasted one issue, did you plan to keep them in the mix as a thorn in Moon Knight's side?
Doug Moench: I did but they were so bland and had no real visual. I had an idea that they hired other guys to go after Moon Knight now. They would be the reason for more colorful antagonists. Eventually I just decided against it.
The Big Bad Wolf: Moon Knight #5 was one of the most interesting stories of the series, which was titled Ghost Story. How did you come up with the concept for this story?
Doug Moench: I decided to do a complete in one issue story because there was a multi-part story coming up. I always remembered comics as a kid when you could just pick up an issue once in a while and have the whole story. Back then, you didn't have to buy every single issue to know what was going on. That is why getting these things into TPB’s is a great idea.
With this particular story, I just felt like writing a scary story in the pages of Moon Knight.
The Big Bad Wolf: Moon Knight #9-10 featured the return of Midnight and Bushman. In those issues, Midnight breaks into Grant Mansions and steals the Konshu statue. Moon Knight tracks Midnight to a sewer where the statue is broken and Moon Knight loses all confidence, since the Konshu statue is what helped Moon Knight be reborn. Bushman is later to be behind the plot. Moon Knight escapes the villains and is deeply depressed in a way we haven't seen him before. Moon Knight goes missing and is found and brought back to Grant Mansion, where he is now a shell of the man he was. Marlene revealed that she had the Konshu statue hidden all along, and Midnight had stolen a fake. Moon Knight regains his confidence and gets back to action. This was the first glimpse that we had that showed Moon Knight had some serious issues. Why did you choose to show the flaws of this hero?
Doug Moench: I wanted to show vulnerability. I never thought of Moon Knight as crazy but I did think of him as mentally complex. The thing with the multiple identities is one indication of that. Also, the investiture of belief in the Konshu statue.
He has had his confidence shaken by realizing he devoted so much of his life being a bad guy. Then he saw the light and that shook him. He found ways to cope with it by atoning and putting a lot of faith in Konshu.
The Big Bad Wolf: Moon Knight #13 featured a big crossover for Moon Knight, this time it was with DareDevil. How did this come about? Did you ask for the crossover?
Doug Moench: I think that was Archie Goodwin's idea. I respect Archie immensely!
About DareDevil appearing in the book, I wasn't really into crossovers. They thought it would increase readership. I believe at that time Moon Knight was out selling Daredevil. Moon Knight was a direct sales only book and it was doing well. That meant profitability was way up on this title. I didn't really want to do the crossover but did it anyway.
The Big Bad Wolf: Moon Knight 17-20 featured the Third World Slayers led by Nimrod Strange. These issues were probably the most action packed in the Moon Knight series. What do you remember about writing those 4 issues?
Doug Moench: I believe I got a letter that said Moon Knight didn't have as much action as the other titles. So I just wanted to showcase what I could do as far as writing action goes.
The Big Bad Wolf: Did you model Nimrod Strange after any terrorist or world leader?
Doug Moench: Not specifically. I was reading non fiction stuff about terrorists and what not. It was a general amalgam of that kind of stuff.
The Big Bad Wolf: The end of issue #20 was particularly stunning for two reasons. 1. Moon Knight spits on Arsenal (Nimrod Strange) and 2. Nimrod Strange kills himself by blowing up a ship. Can you comment on both of those things?
Doug Moench: It was just me trying to be more intense and realistic than the other books. Having created the type of character where that is not out of bounds, it was ok to do it.
The Big Bad Wolf: Moon Knight 22-23 featured the return of one of Moon Knight's deadliest villains, Morpheus. These issues led to the death of Marlene's brother, Peter. What was your thoughts on the Morpheus character?
Doug Moench: I believe the character Morpheus came out of me reading about CIA MK-Ultra mind control experiment. I treated that in "The Big Book of Conspiracy’s" much later. Also, Ursula K. Le Guin wrote something about that as well. I just tried to put my spin on these things.
The Big Bad Wolf: One of your most famous comic writings had to be Moon Knight #26 and a story titled "Hit It!" The story tells the tale of a man, Joe, who learns his estranged abusive father had just passed away. Joe snaps and runs toward the funeral home, hitting and beating everyone in his path. Joe enters the funeral home and pummels the priest then started punching and breaking his fathers casket. Moon Knight arrives in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Joe hits Moon Knight and eventually Moon Knight has to resort to violence to end the situation. How did you come up with the idea for that story?
Doug Moench: Dennis O'Neil was the editor at that time of Moon Knight. He was having deadline problems with the art. The reason being that the direct only sales were longer books than newsstand books. This could make for problems with deadlines.
I originally did "Hit It!" as a 5-6 page story. Bill Sienkiewicz went crazy on the story. He turned it into a longer story, he kept expanding the panels on the story.
Denny called me and said I needed to come into the office because Bill turned a 5 page story into a 20 something pager. (laughs)
The next say I went in and sat in a little tiny room that housed the Coke machines. I scripted the story in less than two hours. I changed my original idea around a bit since the story was now longer. Denny couldn't believe I managed to do it so fast. The story turned out to be a great tale.
We received a lot of mail on that issue. It was pretty scary. I tackled a very serious subject. I had readers tell me all these personal things about their dad beating them, etc. I thought it was pretty rare, but apparently not.
The Big Bad Wolf: Moon Knight 29-30 featured a crossover with Werewolf by Night.
Did your writing of Werewolf by Night change a bit because not he was a more feral creature, a werewolf, as opposed to a wolf-man?
Doug Moench: The way Bill Sienkiewicz drew the character had a big effect on me. I had to write him more vicious. I was reading a lot of these true crime books about satanic cults, etc. Putting him in that context made him darker.
The Big Bad Wolf: The leader of Satan's New Army was Schuyler Belial, a man who called himself Morning Star. Did you model him or this group after anyone in particular?
Doug Moench: Probably not anyone in particular. The character was just based off of what I had been reading.
The Big Bad Wolf: Do you read Moon Knight today? If so, what are your thoughts on the series?
Doug Moench: No I don't. I did develop a friendship with Charlie Houston. We were corresponding via email a few months back. He sent me a letter telling me how much he loves the character.
The Big Bad Wolf: There were rumors that Moon Knight was made as a television show in Japan, is that true?
Doug Moench: I was told that. I remember going into John Verpoortens office and Stan Lee was there with two Japanese TV network guys. Stan introduced me to them and told me that they wanted Moon Knight for a show.
I thought Moon Knight may have reminded them of a reverse ninja or something, a white outfit instead of black.
About a year later, Marv Wolfman mentioned that he heard there was a Moon Knight TV show in Japan. I have never had it positively confirmed. This had to be way back in the late 70’s.
The Big Bad Wolf: In late 2006, Marvel Studios and Vancouver based production company, No Equal Entertainment, entered into an agreement to develop a live-action television series based on Marvel's cult favorite Moon Knight. Did Marvel contact you about that? Do you recall anything when you heard the news?
Doug Moench: I spoke with Marvel about it. A few weeks later I received a contract agreement from Marvel that states if the show is made, I will receive some payment.
The Big Bad Wolf: You wrote both Moon Knight and Batman. Lets settle a little argument that many comic fans have. In your opinion, if Moon Knight and Batman had to battle to the death, which character would walk away as the victor?
Doug Moench: I don't really know. The way I wrote Batman, he would never, ever kill anyone. I really don't have a clue.
The Big Bad Wolf: Finally looking back on this character, what is the thing that fascinates you the most about him?
Doug Moench: Probably the accidental nature of the character. I was trying to come up with a villain for two issues in Werewolf by Night. As soon as I started thinking about the character I thought he could became a great villain. That was the extent of it initially. Then looking back on what it turned into was great. It was all a very logical progression, Moon Knight's journey from being a villain to a star in his own book.
The Big Bad Wolf: Thank you for your time,
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