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Mr. Knight: Moon Knight’s best alter ego reveals a comics-MCU disconnect

Things are quite different in Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight.

Fittingly for a show about a protagonist with Dissociative Identity Disorder, this week’s second episode of Moon Knight introduces the show’s second Moon Knight… kind of. Less than a decade after his comic book debut, Mr. Knight gets his live-action introduction… but for fans familiar with the character from his comic book appearances, things aren’t exactly what you might expect.

Who is Mr. Knight?

In comics, Mr. Knight is a separate persona from the traditional cloak-and-skintight-costume incarnation of Moon Knight. Created by writer Warren Ellis and artist Declan Shalvey, Mr. Knight debuted in the first issue of 2014’s revival of the Moon Knight comic as a recreation of the traditional Marc Spector identity – at times, he even uses the name “Mr. Spector” to emphasize this fact.

Mr. Knight in the comics.Marvel

As Mr. Knight, Moon Knight rejects the traditional superhero tropes he’d used in previous appearances. His costume is an entirely white suit with a matching white mask, and while he’s certainly skilled in hand-to-hand combat, his greatest weapon is arguably his mind. He talks through mysteries, a la Sherlock Holmes, and also maintains a tenuous connection with authorities that allows him access to crime scenes, just like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective.

Simply put, Mr. Knight is a hyper-confident, hyper-intelligent version of Moon Knight. He is the very best version of Marc Spector possible… with Spector already having been the most capable version of any of Moon Knight’s personas. The guy in the suit, in other words, is the most Moon Knight of all Moon Knights.

Things are quite different in Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight.

Mr. Knight’s transformation

Mr. Knight on Disney+.Marvel

The MCU version of Mr. Knight is, if anything, the very opposite of his comic book incarnation, being what happens when Steven Grant — the inept, anxious gift shop worker from a London museum confusingly called the National Art Gallery, according to signage — assumes the power and abilities gifted by Khonshu instead of Marc Spector. In the show, Mr. Knight is the less effective version of Moon Knight, and one that Marc Spector doesn’t seem too convinced by.

If you think about it, this probably makes more sense than the original division of labor between Moon Knight’s costumed identities. After all, surely it would take the advanced experience and badassery of Marc Spector to deal with the cape and cowl that Moon Knight wears when not in his Mr. Knight guise, just as someone who isn’t entirely comfortable being a seemingly superpowered killer would wear a regular suit instead of the more over-the-top, attention-grabbing traditional superhero outfit of the Moon Knight persona. In rethinking how Mr. Knight as a visual fits into the character overall — especially in his current on-screen incarnation — the show’s creative team might have helped things make a little more sense.

In a decision that says something about the Moon Knight series and Marvel Studios as a whole, it’s really just the visual of Mr. Knight that survives the translation between media. (Designer and co-creator Shalvey was even invited to the premiere of the show, in a rare but welcome moment of Marvel Studios recognizing the contribution of comic creators.)

It should come as no surprise that Warren Ellis’ contributions are being minimized by Marvel, given what has happened in the last few years, but there’s more going on than simply trying to brush an inconvenient truth out of sight. (As it happens, much of what Ellis established for the character had already been dropped in the comics, years before he was outed as an abuser.)

Mr. Knight: A larger Marvel trend

It should come as no surprise that Warren Ellis’ contributions are being minimized by Marvel.Marvel

Moon Knight the show follows what has become the Marvel Studios model of being a synthesis of intellectual property created for comics, rather than a direct translation. In promoting the series, producer Grant Curtis talked about the way in which filmmakers looked at “years and decades of storytelling” in comics, rather than the work of any one creative team or run on the character.

It’s an approach that shows in the series itself, which tells a story featuring elements of different comic book stories without actually following any individual comic run in itself – just like, say, Captain America: Civil War draws on multiple comics in addition to the original 2006 Civil War comic, or Avengers: Infinity War is so much more than (and so different from) any adaptation of the 1990s Infinity Gauntlet comic it draws inspiration from.

In doing so, it underscores the flexibility of the core material (as well as, potentially, the company’s disinterest in maintaining authorial voice over brand consistency, but let’s overlook that for now). With more than 40 years of comic book continuity and reboots to juggle, it only makes sense for the show to pick and choose what it’s going to bring to the screen… and, honestly, when it comes to memorable elements of Moon Knight, the Mr. Knight look has been, hands down, the best thing the character’s done in decades.

Moon Knight is streaming now on Disney+.