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With his vast wealth, high-tech gadgets, and a vigilante alter ego that is most effective when the sun dips below the horizon, the character of Moon Knight has often been described as Marvel's answer to Batman. The parallels between the two comic book characters are rather uncanny, but don't expect to see an off-brand version of the Dark Knight when the Moon Knight TV series arrives on Disney+ next month.
"It was never a comparison I was interested in making," the show's head writer/executive producer Jeremy Slater told Empire for the magazine's April 2022 issue (now on sale). "Batman has an 80-year head start on us: you're not going to beat Batman at his own game. We've seen that side of Moon Knight [in some comics] as a playboy philanthropist, throwing moon-shaped boomerangs, flying around in a moon-shaped plane, but I don't think that's the coolest possible version of the character."
Slater eschewed the campiness of the older issues for a more recent comic book run from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Greg Smallwood, in which Marc Spector starts to question the very nature of his reality. That terrifying existentialism is what drives the plot of the Disney+ show, which stars Oscar Isaac as a man juggling two distinct personalities. When the story picks up, Isaac is Steven Grant, a jumpy museum gift shop employee haunted by visions of an Egyptian moon god named Khonsu. Is this a byproduct of Steven's fatigued mind and the ancient artifacts he works around all day or is he actually a superhero gifted with supernatural abilities?
"There's all this amazing stuff from Egyptology in the comics," Slater added. "Raiders of the Lost Ark was actually my big reference when I first pitched. How can we tell this dark, complex story, but also inject some big, fun, supernatural, Amblin-style magic at the same time?"
In the comics, Marc Spector is a mercenary-for-hire who gets betrayed and left for dead in the middle of the desert. He gets a second shot at life when he agrees to become a proxy for Khonsu on Earth. To really nail that part of his origin story, Slater brought in a real-world archaeologist as a consultant. "He told us these crazy details," said the head writer. "Like inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, there's a chamber that's inaccessible, but large enough to contain the Statue of Liberty. And no one knows what's in it. Those kinds of wild, real-life facts informed everything we wrote."
The production also tapped Egyptian-born filmmaker, Mohamed Diab, to oversee a number of episodes. Despite there being a comic book character with deep roots in his home country, Diab wasn't aware of Moon Knight's existence until later in life. "In our part of the world, we only got the main guys — Superman, Spider-Man, Batman — so I never knew about Moon Knight," he explained to Empire. "But when I got the chance to pitch for this and read [Slater's] script, I connected immediately. I saw it as a dark, gritty character study."
Beyond Isaac, who is an executive producer as well, the cast also includes Ethan Hawke as villain Arthur Harrow (a religious zealot and cult-like leader with shady motives) and May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly (a character from Marc's pre-Steven past). The duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are also directing.
Moon Knight arrives on Disney+ Wednesday, March 30.