When it comes to linking comics and mental health together, I believe there’s a lot to explore. Traditionally, superheroes are depicted as people who are able to overcome any challenge. And then there are characters like Moon Knight that make you question what exactly is going on. Moon Knight has been depicted as suffering from dissociative identity disorder and a host of other mental health issues. Moon Knight’s instability is contrasted with his connection to Egyptian mythology. So, how many personalities does he have and can he be considered a superhero?
Moon Knight’s first appearance occurred in 1975 in the pages of Werewolf by Night #32. He was introduced as a villain who’d been hired by the Committee to capture the Werewolf. But, he had a change of heart and helped the Werewolf escape. This erratic behaviour came to be a recurring trait.
Since his introduction, Moon Knight’s dominant personality has been identified as Marc Spector. Born in Chicago, Spector was a US Marine who left the military to become a mercenary. He became friends with a French pilot called Jean-Paul DuChamp, and while working for an African mercenary, the two of them stumbled across an archaeological dig in Egypt. A temple to the Egyptian moon god Khonshu had been revealed and it contained ancient artefacts.
Spector’s boss murdered the person responsible for the dig, which caused Spector to challenge his employer. Left to die, Spector was visited by Khonshu, who offered him a second chance in exchange for being the god’s avatar. Spector became Moon Knight, returning to America and defeating his former employer.
On his return, Spector invested the money he’d made as a mercenary and came up with two other identities. In order to distance himself from the past, Spector took on the role of entrepreneur Steven Grant. To stay in touch with the streets, Spector also went by the identity of taxi driver Jake Lockely. Each personality created a different life for itself, which included friends, family and love interests.
Connection to Khonshu
As the avatar of Khonshu, Moon Knight’s powers are derived from the moon. During a full moon, the character is at his strongest and his attributes are all enhanced to superhuman levels. Moon Knight is a brilliant combatant, being trained in different fighting styles. He also has a high tolerance to pain and uses an array of gadgets to fight crime.
The supernatural aspect of Moon Knight’s powers has always been ambiguous due to his mental health issues. Moon Knight’s connection to the moon is a metaphor for mental illness and how the lunar cycle creates lunatics. Many scientists theorise that the moon can change human behaviour, with more violent acts occurring when the moon is full.
Moon Knight is certainly no stranger to violence, as he was created to be an avatar of vengeance. Spector developed his other personalities to alleviate his guilt over being a mercenary and killing innocent people. The personalities are designed to help him overcome his personal demons.
In a recent story, Spector was able to regain his sanity by being trapped inside an illusionary mental health hospital. At first, Spector believed Khonshu had created the illusion to break down his mind so the god could inhabit his body. Spector confronted his other personalities and realised that he needed to embrace them in order to truly feel whole. Spector destroyed an image of Khonshu’s skull, demonstrating that he’d reconciled with his illness.
Accepting mental illness is tough, but it’s also liberating because you’re able to accept yourself completely and not feel as if you have to be ruled by your thoughts.
Moon Knight’s battle with his mental health is a fight that’s waged by people all over the world. His decision to keep fighting, to keep protecting people despite his issues is admirable. That makes him worthy of being called a superhero.
If you’d like to know more about Moon Knight then be sure to read Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight: From The Dead. It’s a good jumping on point for new readers.