Moon Knight: New Type of Comic Book Adaptation, Starring Jason Isaac in Multiple Roles

Moon Knight: More Controversial Than Most Comic Book Adaptations

The Oscar Isaac Disney+ series dives into comic book history and tackles mental illness.


Moon Knight reinvents mythology of the antihero.

While key elements of the character created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin are retained, the series approach feels similar to another recent Marvel adaptation, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which departs from the comics and delivers an end result that is stronger for it. We’re at a significant moment in terms of the value we place on comic book accuracy, especially when it comes to the portrayal of racial, social and psychological issues.

Moon Knight is in an odd position where both comic book accuracy and medical accuracy will be placed upon scales of just portrayal for a general audience outside of geekdom, psychologists and patients — an audience that isn’t familiar enough with either to comment definitively, but surely will regardless.

Moon Knight’s Alter Egos: Marc Spector & Steven Grant

Oscar Isaac did a deep dive into DID to prepare: “I realized that the language that’s used to talk about DID is quite fantastical. It’s such a complex psychological thing. You use that kind of Jungian talk. It’s dream logic and dream talk.” In the debut episode, “The Goldfish Problem,” written by Slater and directed by Mohamed Diab, Steven Grant is our entry point into Moon Knight. What’s interesting in this approach is that Grant is one of Marc Spector’s alters, but we meet him well before Spector, giving him credibility as a real person we connect to, rather than a symptom. The visual language of Spector’s DID is achieved by gaps in Grant’s memory, missing time that causes him to wake up in strange places, having committed actions he didn’t consciously perform. As viewers, we’re made to feel somewhat off-balance, left to wonder what exactly has happened, which works as a means to align us with Grant’s perspective and further contribute to the dreaminess of the series’ approach.

Although some will surely misconstrue Grant’s odd tics and behaviors as generalized craziness, that’s not what Slater or Diab are doing. Rather, what we’re seeing is the loneliness of Steven Grant’s existence, his longing to connect with someone and feel that connection in return. The initial episode stresses that Grant is not a part that Spector is playing, but a fully realized individual with his own desires, which I think is key to understanding what separates the show’s depiction of DID from the kind of archetypical Clark Kent/Superman depiction of alter egos that Christopher Reeve presented so memorably.

The mental wellness of the character became prevalent in 21st century Moon Knight stories, though Moon Knight’s history of mental illness to that point has been a saga that has varied from creator to creator. Originally, Marc Spector’s alternate identities, the wealthy trader Steven Grant, the street-savvy cab driver Jake Lockley, and the vigilante Moon Knight, were simply disguises used in service of the very real Egyptian god, Khonshou. Marc Spector sought to escape his past as a mercenary by taking on the identity of Steven Grant, using the wealth acquired as a hired killer to fashion the resources and a life of comfort needed and desired for his war on crime. And Lockley was a means to get the scoop on NYC’s crime beat, and tail potential suspects. It was only later in Moench and artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s run that mental illness became a highlighted aspect of the character. The challenging nature of managing these egos and insistence that his butler and friends only refer to him by his chosen names when in disguise led to his girlfriend, Marlene Alraune, calling him schizophrenic in a rather, let’s just say, non-supportive way.

The diagnosis of schizophrenia stuck, despite not being an accurate description of his behavior. But later writers would drop it and go back to the idea that these identities were just costumes.

Writer Charlie Houston’s tenure saw Spector haunted by a frightening depiction of Khonshou who took the form of the nemesis he’d murdered, calling into question whether Khonshou had simply been another alter all this time. Warren Ellis definitively wrote that Spector did not have DID, and that it wasn’t something that could be caught by consciously taking on multiple personas. Instead, Spector had brain damage that allowed an extraterrestrial force, believed to be a god, to possess his mind. Later, during Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s run, this idea was retconned and Marc Spector’s DID was really tackled in a meaningful way that explained the mental illness resulted from childhood trauma, with his alters — Grant, Lockley and Khonshou — developed as a means to protect himself from that trauma.

While Moon Knight the TV series may not be what people expect, or accurate, the show goes for something more meaningful.

Moon Knight is a fascinating character study that should lead to discussions about issues of adaptation and representation of mental illness.