The Headcase Hero | Charlie Huston on Moon Knight

I think Axel got him really drunk and had his name on the dotted line before he sobered up. Having Dave come onto the book has been a huge blessing. Not only does his name lend enormous credibility, but there’s also the fact that he can draw a little. And by “a little” I mean he’s fucking amazing.

 

He wears a cape and cowl. He spends his days as a secretive millionaire and his nights striking fear into the hearts of criminals. But with an Egyptian god on his side and a severe case of mental illness, that’s the end of the similarities between a certain caped crusader and Marvel’s nighttime avenger, Moon Knight.

Moon Knight began as Marc Spector, a mercenary who stumbled upon an ancient Egyptian temple and became the avatar for the temple’s resident deity, Khonshu. Returning to the States with his partner Jean “Frenchie” DuChamp, Spector donned a silver and black costume and started his career as a crimefighter. One of the first comics ever sold exclusively to comic shops, his first adventures in the early 1980s, written by creator Doug Moench with gorgeous art by Bill Sienkiewicz, were a breath of fresh air.

“They were these dark stories, very morally conflicted, very violent, and really ahead of their time,” raves Charlie Huston, the latest writer to try his hand on the character. “Now you can’t spit without hitting a dark, gritty superhero with a twisted past, but at the time Moench’s stories were right there on the cutting edge with guys like Miller and Moore and Morrison.”

Marvel’s newest Moon Knight series, which begins this April, is Huston’s first comics work, but as an experienced crime novelist (his books Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things, and Already Dead are available from Random House/Ballantine), he is a fine fit for the character. “I was initially approached by Marvel’s Ruwan Jayatilleke about writing licensed novels for their press division,” Huston explains. “I wasn’t interested, but told him that the idea of working on an actual comic book did appeal to me. Ruwan mentioned Moon Knight as a character Marvel was interested in giving a boost. As fate would have it, this is a character I was a real fan of in my teens.”

Huston is on board to write the first year’s worth of the new series, which seeks to return the character, underutilized in recent years, to a place of prominence in the MU. “The initial arc will tell readers where he’s been and what he’s been going through, while at the same time bringing new Moon Knight readers up to speed on his back story,” says Huston. “At which point, some people are gong to make the mistake of fucking with him and he’s gonna have to get off his ass and do something about it.”

The series was initially planned as a six-issue miniseries, but became an ongoing when superstar artist David Finch came onboard. What caused Finch to leave the mega-hit New Avengers for the Fist of Khonshu? “Got me, man,” Huston jokes. “I think Axel [Alonso, editor on Moon Knight] got him really drunk and had his name on the dotted line before he sobered up. Having Dave come onto the book has been a huge blessing. Not only does his name lend enormous credibility, but there’s also the fact that he can draw a little. And by ‘a little,’ I mean he’s fucking amazing.”

Moon Knight’s strangest quirk has been his multiple personalities, spending time as Spector, millionaire Steven Grant, and cabdriver Jake Lockley, in addition to his heroic alter ego. Huston plans to bring back this sometimes-downplayed part of the character’s history. “I’ve gotten the impression that, in the past, some Moon Knight writers have seen those extra personalities as baggage they didn’t want to haul around,” he reasons, “and so they’ve just tossed them without ever acknowledging they played a part in Moon Knight’s past. I don’t think you can come to this guy and pretend he never pasted a fake moustache on his face and drove a cab around Manhattan. Marc Spector is a nutcase, plain and simple, that’s part of what makes the character interesting. I won’t be leaning heavily on the alternate personalities, but they will be given a tip of the hat.”

The appeal of the character, the way Huston sees it, is pretty basic. “[He] seeks to redeem his violent past by putting on a mask and beating the hell out of people that piss him off,” he states. “If that doesn’t appeal to you, go read Archie.”

Visit Charlie Huston's website at www.pulpnoir.com

THE COMPLETE CHARLIE HUSTON INTERVIEW 

How did the new “Moon Knight” series first come about? Did you approach Marvel with this series in mind, or did they approach you?

I was initially approached by Marvel’s Director of Development, Publishing, Ruwan Jayatilleke, about writing licensed novels for their press division. I wasn’t interested, but told him that the idea of working on an actual comic book did appeal to me. There were a series of conversations, and in one of them Ruwan mentioned Moon Knight as a character Marvel was interested in giving a boost. As fate would have it, this is a character I was a real fan of in my teens. I pitched some ideas to Executive Editor Axel Alonso and Editor in Chief Joe Quesada and they liked what I had in mind and I started writing. From first contact to first page, the process took about six months.

Were you a fan of Moon Knight before you began writing the series?

Yeah. I read the original run of Moon Knight written by his creator, Doug Moench, in the early ‘80s. They were these dark stories, very morally conflicted, very violent, and really ahead of their time. Now you can’t spit without hitting a dark gritty superhero with a twisted past, but at the time Moench’s stories were right there on the cutting edge with guys like Miller and Moore and Morrison.

Can you tell us a bit of what you have planned over your first six-issue arc?

Well, the initial idea was to do a mini-series that reintroduced Moon Knight to the Marvel Universe and set him up to be reintegrated. He’s been used so sporadically over the years, and interpreted by so many writers, that he’s become a bit of a cipher. Worse, kind of a blank page. Marvel really wanted to see him emerge from the mini with a clear identity so he could start playing a wider role.

My approach was to keep all the previous continuity, take the Moon Knight that’s been around and collected a cult following over the years, and assume there’s a reason he’s been out of sight for a while. The initial arc will tell readers where he’s been and what he’s been going through, while at the same time bringing new Moon Knight readers up to speed on his back story. At which point, some people are gong to make the mistake of fucking with him and he’s gonna have to get off his ass and do something about it.

One of the more unusual aspects of Moon Knight that has been explored in the past is his use of separate identities, such as millionaire Steven Grant and cab driver Jake Lockley, almost to the point of the character having multiple personality disorder. Does this aspect play into your plans for the series?

I’ve gotten the impression that in the past, some Moon Knight writers have seen those extra personalities as baggage they didn’t want to haul around, and so they’ve just tossed them without ever acknowledging they played a part in Moon Knight’s past. I don’t think you can come to this guy and pretend he never pasted a fake moustache on his face and drove a cab around Manhattan. Marc Spector is a nutcase, plain and simple, that’s part of what makes the character interesting. I won’t be leaning heavily on the alternate personalities, but they will be given a tip of the hat. But that doesn’t mean Spector isn’t a loon, just that his personality “confusion” will be finding new ways to manifest.

How have you found that writing for comics differs from writing for novels?

Yeah. Pictures. Don’t have ’em in novels. That’s the rub right there. Learning not to crowd the page with too many panels. Learning not to crowd the panels with too many words. Learning that this is a visual medium, goddammit! Learning to lean on that, let the pictures carry the story as much as possible and don’t get in the way. It’s an entirely different game.

What did it take to get David Finch to leave one of Marvel’s most prominent assignments, “New Avengers,” to draw “Moon Knight”?

Got me, man. I think Axel got him really drunk and had his name on the dotted line before he sobered up. Having Dave come onto the book has been a huge blessing. Not only does his name lend enormous credibility, but there’s also the fact that he can draw a little. And by “a little” I mean he’s fucking amazing. One of the absolute highpoints of the whole process is having his pencils show up in my inbox. We’re just now starting to really find a groove where ideas are moving back and forth between us and I find it incredibly exciting.

What would you say is the basic appeal of Moon Knight to readers who are unfamiliar with him, or consider him simply Marvel’s answer to Batman?

Mercenary Marc Spector fought other people’s wars and killed for money. After a transformational experience, he now believes he may be the avatar of an Egyptian god of vengeance and seeks to redeem his violent past by putting on a mask and beating the hell out of people that piss him off.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, go read Archie.

What lies in the future for you as a comics writer?

Marvel has decided to bring Moon Knight out as an ongoing series rather than a mini. So I’ll be on for at least the first 12 issues. The only other project right now is doing the annual for a little book they have called The Ultimates.

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