Those reacting to the news that Marvel Studios was developing a Moon Knight series for the Disney+ streaming service mainly fell into two camps - those with unbridled excitement and those who were left wondering, “Who is Moon Knight?”
Explaining the backstory of Moon Knight is such a complex endeavor that it requires an asterisk on the character’s real name, Marc Spector - because the white-clad vigilante also goes by a handful of other monikers, like Steven Grant and Jake Lockley. This is a result of Spector’s dissociative identity disorder - perhaps the character’s defining trait, aside from his penchant for aggressively doling out justice.
With Moon Knight on the way to Disney+, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are about to become familiar with the antihero’s origins - Khonshu and all. Still, it’s a safe bet to say that viewers will be left with more questions than answers - that’s just the way it goes when you’re talking about a protagonist with a tenuous grip on reality.
Marc Spector fits a surprising amount of violence into his pre-superhero life - serving as a Marine, working for the CIA, and eventually fighting in underground boxing matches. Just before he’s introduced to readers as Moon Knight in Werewolf by Night #32, however, Spector is a mercenary - and one with a particularly tragic backstory, to boot.
Though Spector’s career leads him directly to his role as a white-clad vigilante with significantly more bloodlust than the average superhero, his troubled upbringing plays just as important a part in his personal development - especially his struggles with a serious mental illness, perhaps Spector’s most unique trait as a character. It’s also the factor that leads him to seek out such a dangerous path in the first place.
Most superheroes have traumatic childhoods, but Marc Spector really takes the cake in that regard. As a child, Spector’s rabbi father fled to America from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia - making it all the more cruelly ironic when young Marc finds himself targeted by an escaped German POW posing as a Jewish holy man.
Rabbi Yitz Perlman turns out to be Ernst, a Nazi deserter who also happens to be a serial slayer using his false identity to take out Jews. When Marc discovers his secret, Ernst threatens him and Marc fights back - barely escaping with his life. Ernst then disappears, only to later resurface as a villain long after Spector begins his time as Moon Knight.
Young Marc Spector’s close call leaves him with significant mental trauma - and that directly precedes the first signs of a mental illness that is eventually diagnosed as dissociative identity disorder. He soon develops at least two distinct split personalities - Steven Grant and Jake Lockley - that stay with him for life.
When his father finds out about Marc’s mental health, he decides to have him placed in a psychiatric hospital. He stays there until his father’s passing, at which point Spector uses the opportunity of the funeral to escape his incarceration - still burdened by an untreated condition.
As a young adult runaway from a psychiatric hospital, Marc Spector finds few opportunities for employment - and ends up choosing a life in the military. Spector joins the Marines and serves for several years, including multiple tours overseas.
Spector’s time with the Marines grants him the sort of martial abilities that he’ll one day put to use as Moon Knight - and a chance to find an outlet for his aggressive impulses. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before his superiors notice the symptoms of his dissociative identity disorder. After his behavior becomes more erratic and his troubled past is uncovered, Spector is dishonorably discharged from the Marines. He ends up with the CIA - and it’s after washing up there that he begins to take mercenary work.