On the surface, it may not seem like it, but religion plays a big part in superhero comics. There are certainly plenty of characters based on mythology, like Thor and the Norse gods, Wonder Woman’s connection to the Greek and Roman gods, Billy Batson shouting SHAZAM to get his powers from the gods, and Snowbird of Alpha Flight being connected to the ancient Eskimo gods. There are also plenty of examples of comics creating new pantheons like DC’s New Gods of Apocalypse and New Genesis, and Marvel’s god-like Elders of the Universe.
Even modern religions are the foundation of some characters like DC’s Zauriel who is a fallen angel and Deadman whose spirit is cursed to wander by the Hindu god Rama Kushna; Marvel’s Daimon Hellstrom who is literally the son of Satan; Image’s Spawn who sold his eternal soul to return to earth.
Other characters simply have their religion as one aspect of their personality, the same as real people. A handful of examples include The Thing and Batwoman (Kathy Kane) and their Jewish background. Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) and Green Lantern (Simon Baz) are Muslim. Daredevil and Firebird lean heavily on their Christian upbringing. Heck, Ghost Riders even had Jesus as a supporting character for a while. Seriously.
Moon Knight falls into that last category. Not the Jesus thing, the part about his heritage being one part of who he is. Moon Knight is Jewish but it isn’t the core of his personality. Well, any of his personalities. Part of what makes Moon Knight interesting is that he has suffered from dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as split personalities. Not only is he the former Marine and master mercenary Marc Spector, but he is also New York cab driver Jake Lockley and rich playboy Steven Grant. In his head at times, he even hears the voice of Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god that brought him back to life and set him on a mission of vengeance.
In his earlier appearances, Moon Knight simply used Lockley and Grant as disguises to help get information and allow him to infiltrate criminal organizations. It wasn’t until his second solo series, which began with Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu #1 (June 1985), that we discover each man is a distinct personality that takes over at different times.
It was explained at the time that it was the stress of his life as a superhero that caused the disorder to take effect, but as we just found out in Moon Knight # 194 (June 2018), it was actually an event in his childhood where the split began.
When Marc was a teenager in Chicago, his father Elias was studying to be a rabbi. His teacher was Rabbi Yitz Perlman, a longtime friend of his late grandfather, and a Holocaust survivor. Marc saw Yitz as an uncle and enjoyed spending time with him more than his own father. It is a time in his life where everything was normal, and he remembers it fondly.
No spoilers here, but Marc suffered a reality-shattering trauma that had to do with Yitz. That is where his disorder began.
This is an extremely well-written issue, and it seems obvious that it comes from a very personal place from writer Max Bemis.
Moon Knight’s faith does not define him, but it is an important part of who he is, and it nice that Bemis has chosen not to ignore it.
by Rob Otto