Friday, March 27, 2015


The MARVEL SPOTLIGHT stories were published in 1976. The HULK! magazine stories, which we’ll begin to cover next time, came out in 1978. But from 1977 – 1979, Moon Knight had a handful of appearances in other series, chronicled by writers other than his creator, Doug Moench. In a nutshell, these are those tales:

DEFENDERS #47 - 50
Writer: David Kraft | Penciler: Keith Giffen | Editor: Archie Goodwin

Co-Plot: Roger Slifer (#47) | Script: John Warner (#47)
Inks: Klaus Janson (#47 & 51), Dan Green (#48), Mike Royer (#49),
Keith Giffen w/Mike Royer, John Tartaglione, & Dave Cockrum (#50)
Letters: John Costanza (#47 & 50), Annette Kawecki (#48),
Irving Watanabe & Mike Royer (#49), Bruce Patterson (#51)
Colors: David Kraft (#48-49), Don Warfield (#50), Phil Rache (#51)

The Plot: Moon Knight becomes involved with the Defenders as they attempt to rescue their friend, Jack Norriss, from the clutches of the villainous Scorpio.

My Thoughts: I haven't read much by David Kraft, but I have at least read his run on the original SAVAGE SHE-HULK series. These issues read nothing like SHE-HULK, so I'm guessing that perhaps Kraft is emulating the style of previous DEFENDERS writers here (I've never read any of DEFENDERS outside of these five issues). The story is dark, the script is ponderous and the dialogue is occasionally unnatural. The characters, good and bad alike, all seem very disenfranchised with the world and even depressed and generally unhappy. This isn't typical Marvel "soap opera"-style angst -- it's the adventures of a bunch of mopey sad sacks. These are not fun comics, and I doubt I'll ever read them again.

(Also, what's with all the weird references to beer strewn throughout these issues?)

Artistically, Keith Giffen performs an acceptable Jack Kirby impression, but his work looks best when inked by Klaus Janson in a more traditional style. Also, Giffen seems to have misinterpreted Moon Knight’s ability to glide on his cape as the power of flight, showing him zooming around an enclosed room alongside Nighthawk several times.

Writer: Bill Mantlo | Pencilers: Mike Zeck (#22) & Jim Mooney (#23)
Inkers: Bruce Patterson (#22) & Mike Esposito (#23)
Colorists: George Roussos (#22) & Phil Rache (#23)
Letterers: Bruce Patterson (#22) & Joe Rosen (#23)
Editor: Bob Hall | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Maggia learns of Moon Knight’s identity as cab driver Jake Lockley, so Moon Knight teams up with Spider-Man to challenge the Maggia and battle their top hitman, Cyclone.

My Thoughts: Well, it's Bill Mantlo on Spider-Man. But this is Mantlo’s first run with the web-slinger, rather than the return engagement I savaged numerous times during my Roger Stern Spider-Man reviews -- and it’s not bad at all. I don't know what happened to Mantlo over the years, but somehow he went from producing lighthearted, enjoyable Spider-Man adventures like this to the overwrought dreck he churned out years later. Mantlo has a fine handle on Moon Knight -- much better than David Kraft -- and even hits on the major points such as the Lockley and Steven Grant identities, and features appearances from Frenchie, Marlene, Gena, and Crawley. He also provides appreciated continuity references to both the Conquer-Lord two-parter and the DEFENDERS guest-spot.

Additionally, Mantlo introduces the idea that Moon Knight has declared war on the Maggia (not to mention the fact that they know one of his secret identities), which unfortunately goes nowhere. I like this concept; Moon Knight is a great character for this kind of "street level" action -- but within a couple years of this story, Daredevil would become Marvel’s premiere organized crime-smasher, leaving this thread completely unresolved.

Otherwise, as typical installments of a Spider-Man comic, these issues features several sub-plot scenes and footnotes to previous issues. The artwork is lovely in both chapters, with Mike Zeck providing what, to me, is a better effort than his collaborations with Roger Stern on this same title years later. And veteran Spider-Man artist Jim Mooney acquits himself well as always. However, does anyone else find it odd that the two issues have completely different creative credits for every position aside from writer? Marvel in the seventies was really something of a mess.

Writer: Steven Grant | Artists: Jim Craig & Pablo Marcos
Letterer: Rick Parker | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The devious Crossfire kidnaps the Thing, intending to brainwash him to start a superhero war. But Moon Knight joins forces with the Thing to defeat the villain.

My Thoughts: Another guest appearance brings with it another excellent handling of Moon Knight by a writer other than Doug Moench. This time it's Steven Grant (and according to Moench, it's a complete coincidence that one of Moon Knight’s secret identities shares a name with a fellow comic book writer). Grant introduces Crossfire, an ex-CIA brainwasher under whom Marc Spector once served -- a relationship which enables Moon Knight to shake off Crossfire’s brainwashing attempt to save both himself and the Thing.

The first appearance of Crossfire makes this a minor Marvel milestone of note. Though he initially menaced Moon Knight and the Thing -- and was revealed to have prior ties to Moon Knight -- Crossfire would go on to become an occasionally recurring antagonist for the Avengers’ Hawkeye for decades to come. Somehow he has never fought Moon Knight again, which seems like a waste, but at least he found his niche elsewhere, unlike many throw-away villains who came out of these seventies team-up books.

The artwork from Jim Craig is mostly very good, though he doesn't draw the Thing very well -- which seems odd considering that this is the Thing’s spotlight series. Letters come from Rick Parker, and are roundly awful. Parker will, in subsequent years, become a very good letterer with a distinctive style, it at this point he's still an unpolished novice.

That's it for Moon Knight’s seventies guest spots. Next week Doug Moench returns to his creation for the first in a new series of solo adventures.


  1. My reading of DEFENDERS is perhaps a smidge more expansive than yours, though not by much (I've not read the story you have, but I've read some other stuff), but it's always read weird to me as well. I know it has its, well, defenders, but I've never been terribly impressed by what I've read. Then again, maybe I just need to read more of it to get a better sense of/appreciation for the aesthetic of the series.

    I always wonder, when a character like Moon Knight at this stage in his career pops up in other titles handled by writers other than the creator, how that appearance came about. Like, this isn't a "goose the sales of the title character" appearance, nor a "set the stage for the upcoming series debut of the guest star" appearance. Did Kraft, Mantlo and Grant just all read the MARVEL SPOTLIGHT appearances and like the characters? Were some or all of them friends of Moench's who spotlighted his creation as a favor? Did a Marvel editor direct them to use the character for whatever reason? I find myself endlessly fascinated by stuff like that.

    However, does anyone else find it odd that the two issues have completely different creative credits for every position aside from writer? Marvel in the seventies was really something of a mess.

    No kidding. Even the DEFENDERS issues have a bit of rotating creator cast on them.

    1. I'm not sure what prompted the Moon Knight appearances in these stories, now that you mention it. I guess in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, it was probably just a case of "Hey, it's a new superhero! Let's put him in our team-up book." As for the others, I'm not sure. Mantlo seemed to like to play around with new characters now and then, but I know very little about Kraft so I'm unsure if using Moon Knight in DEFENDERS would've been his idea or not.