One of the most compelling heroes in the Marvel Universe is coming soon to Disney+, and its tone could be unlike anything else in the MCU. On Friday, film screenwriter and TV producer Jeremy Slater was named showrunner for Moon Knight, one of several Marvel shows coming soon to Disney’s streaming service. Jessica Gao, a prominent writer on Rick & Morty, was also named showrunner for She-Hulk, while Bisha K. Ali was announced for Ms. Marvel at the D23 convention in Anaheim, California.
Slater’s previous credits suggest Marvel has a very specific tone in mind for Moon Knight. Based on Slater’s previous TV work, which includes Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and the underrated FOX series The Exorcist, Marvel could angle Moon Knight into a psychological horror, a tone and genre the Marvel Studios machine has not yet explored. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, slated for 2020, has been teased to be Marvel Studios’ first horror movie, but Moon Knight could be the first horror show — and based on the source material, it could be way freakier.
Why is Moon Knight ideal for such a tone? Originating from Marvel’s monster series Werewolf by Night, Marc Spector/Moon Knight is a soldier of fortune left for dead in Egypt. Following his resurrection by the Moon god, Khonsu, Marc is tasked with becoming Khonsu’s avatar on Earth. Combining Khonsu’s powers with Marc’s training and wealth earned from being a mercenary, Marc becomes Moon Knight and fights crime in New York City.
Originally, Marc invented two additional identities in order to fight crime. To hit the streets, he’s Jake Lockey, a blue collar cab driver. To hit high society, he’s Steven Grant, a philanthropist millionaire. But beginning in 1988, in an issue of West Coast Avengers, Marc began “hearing” his other identity’s voices in his head, which began a new wrinkle to the Moon Knight: He was mentally ill, unofficially diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID.
This has been Moon Knight’s story ever since, with modern interpretations by Brian Michael Bendis, Warren Ellis, and Jeff Lemire emphasizing Moon Knight’s mental illness almost as much, if not more than his actual superhero life. Some takes on the character even allege that Marc Spector isn’t Moon Knight, but a patient with severe illusions of grandeur who never met an Egyptian god at all.
As Spider-Man once described Moon Knight: “Mooney. Rhymes with looney.”
Superhero stories have had, let’s say, troublesome takes on DID. A lot of stories, such as the FX series Legion and the M. Night Shyamalan film Split often make multiple personalities short for multiple superpowers. That’s not the case with Moon Knight, who is still a vigilante whether or not he’s Marc Spector, Jake Lockley, or Steven Grant. But the character’s inherently dark tone and premise that not everything is what it seems is ripe for adaptation from a creative who understands horror and superheroes in equal doses. So far, that’s Jeremy Slater.
Slater’s The Umbrella Academy, an adaptation of Gerard Way’s comic book series from Dark Horse, wasn’t a horror series. But it was a moody superhero melodrama about a boarding school of young people with powers. It also had zany ideas, such as an exploration into the afterlife, a mischief take on hallucinations/reality, and an acclaimed two-and-a-half minute dance number that’s accrued 4.3 million views on YouTube.
Produced with Steve Blackman, The Umbrella Academy showed Slater is capable of something novel within the basic superhero framework. He also wrote the 2015 Marvel film Fantastic Four, which he said the theatrical version did not use much of his material.
Slater’s other show, The Exorcist, is a different beast. A reboot/sequel of the iconic horror film, Slater’s The Exorcist was a semi-anthology about two priests, Father Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) and Father Keane (Ben Daniels) who take up a major case once per season. (Two seasons were produced.)
Despite being on a broadcast network, the series drew acclaim for its atmospheric dread, storytelling themes, and reconciliation with existing continuity. That it somehow upheld the legacy of The Exorcist on the same network that pushes Jeep ads was impressive.
The show, canceled in May 2018, stands at an 89% “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, with sites like Den of Geek, Variety, and Vox having glowing reviews. It simply couldn’t find the mass number of viewers to satisfy TV’s dinosaur metrics. Had it been on something like Netflix, we’d probably have speculative Exorcist Season 4 theories tagged in this article.
Moon Knight isn’t a popular character in the same way Captain America and Iron Man are, at least post-MCU. But he’s always appealed to hardcore Marvel readers. His supernatural and psychological edge to the otherwise tired “rich vigilante” superhero subgenre have made Moon Knight comics a must-read whenever Marvel publishes them in limited series formats. And soon, he might have a must-watch show.
Moon Knight may very well become a big deal. Unlike the Netflix shows, the new shows on Disney+ will bear strong ties to the films; Kevin Feige told The Hollywood Reporter that new characters introduced on Disney+ will be featured on the big screen, which didn’t happen for characters like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. “Some characters we’ve announced like She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Moon Knight you will meet for the first time on a Disney+ show and then they’ll go into the movies but the MCU will now go back and forth,” Feige said in an appearance on the THR podcast, Awards Chatter.
Moon Knight on the big screen? Imagine that.