First Feature: The Batman Controversy
05-15-11 by: CptFishStick
Ever since Moon Knight got his own comic in 1980, he has been plagued with criticism that he was nothing more than a Batman rip-off. Despite numerous creator's attempts to change this perception over the years, nothing seems to have changed. Even while browsing ebay today, titles like "marvel's batman" litter the results. Why is this? Well, as with anything worth knowing, it is a complicated issue that is the result of several different aspects.
Conceptually, it is hard to deny that there are similarities between Moon Knight and Batman. One of these similarities lies in their secret identities. Moon Knight has multiple alter egos, one of which is a rich wasp named Stephen Grant who lives in a grand mansion. His wealth was based on Antique dealings and various ventures by his company (Spectorcorp). This is more than a little similar to Bruce Wayne, Wayne Manour, and Wayne Enterprises. But before we get caught up on these similarities, lets be aware that this is just one of Moon Knights many identities. Batman has only one other identity: Bruce Wayne. Moon Knight has many identities, but 4 major ones: Steven Grant millionaire, Jake Lockley Streetwise Cabby, Marc Spector Soldier of Fortune, and Moon Knight costumed vigilante. It should also be noted that the Steven Grant aspect of the Moon Knight story had very little "screen time". That character never had a significant role in the plots of the comics untill the the 90's.
Both Batman and Moon Knight have mystery qualities to their stories. Batman is an outwright detective, who works in conjunction with police officers to solve crimes. Moon Knight also attempts to solve these mysteries, but his approach is far less deductive, more brutal, and tends to rely heavily on Macabre elements. At no point would Moon Knight be considered a detective oriented comic.
Another strong similarity comes in to the vehicular aides these characters both use. Batman has his iconic Batwing, Batmobile, Batboat, and Shark Repelent Bat Spray. Moon Knight also has a flying vehicle for transportation around the city. Unfortunately it is called the Moon Copter (which is thankfully refered to as simply "the chopper"), and it has a visual aesthetic meant to mimic the insignia of the character. This has undeniable similarities to the Batwing. To be fair, the creators might have been better off creating an alternate method for Moon Knight. However, This isn't that big a deal. Lets be honest... even spider-man had the (ugh) Spider-Mobile.
Another strong similarity between these characters is the visual impact of the costumes. Although a well designed superhero costume has impact, both Moon Knight and Batman stand out when placed near most of them. Batmans costume, his approach, and everything about him is intended to PreEmptivly instill fear in his villains. It is a Show, it works well, and he has the fighting skills to back it up. His most prominant features are his Horns/Ears, his Cape, and the spikes on his gloves. His costume looks deadly, and is based on sharp points and angles. Moon Knight's costume is not designed for fear like batmans. Instead, it has a more ominous and mysterious look. It is reminiscent of the comi representation of the Egyptian diety Khonshu. It is often represented has having a low glow in the moon light. Unlike Batman, his costume is comprised of rounded edges, and curvy structures. It was originally laced in silver, this was a defence/offence mechanism against his first super-powered adversary, Werewolf by night. There is some fear associated with Moon Knight, but it is not based on his costume, but rather his brutality. Moon Knight tends to go farther than most heroes when it comes to punishing the wicked, he is a former mercenary after all. In a recent event, he carved the faces off of his arch nemesis, and cut crescents into his victims.
Batman, who has always been a major player in DC is often associated with teams. He is an authority figure, and is often a leader. Although it could be argued that he does his best work on his own, he is synonymous with teams. Moon Knight never did well on teams. He always joined as a more auxillary member, and never assumed a leadership role. His stints tend to be short lived, which Is likley due to his innability to work well with other superheroes. Since Moon Knight has a complex personallity, it is obviously difficult to write him into an ensemble cast. Batman is more balanced, and works well alone, and as a strong leader. People resepect him. Moon Knight is confusing to most characters (and people). Other heroes don't know much about him, or how to interact with him.
Many of the factors that contributed to the comparison between Batman and Moon Knight were due to the very creators that worked on the characters. One funny thing about Moon Knight is that many of his creators (both the important, and not-so-important ones) have at one point done work on the Batman character as well. Prollific writer Doug Moench, one of the men responsible for creating Moon Knight had his fair share of time working on Batman. In fact, he helped craft the famous Nightfall storyline. The most controversial of the similarities was in the fantastic art of Bill Sienkiewicz. Though he would do art for batman later in his career, it was his art style on the first Moon Knight series that lead to the issues. No one would deny that his work was gorgeous, and a testament to his craft. However, it was possible to see an influence from another high profile artist: Neal Adams work. Adam's who was fresh off of a big stint on Batman was a fan favorite at the time. This similarity was seen by many fans as being more prolific than it every should have been. It lead to a unfair treatment of Sienkiewicz's work. It wasn't long before Sienkiewicz himself left Moon Knight in persuit of a more individualistic project. However, it should be noted that his style advanced rapidly over the course of a few years. By the end of the first volume of Moon Knight Sienkiewicz had acheived an artistic style unseen in comics. Looking at Sienkiewicz art now proves how unique his true abilities were, and that relating him to Adams was in fact a disservice to both artists.
Far beyond the limitations of the characters and the universes they inhabit, the fans themselves offer major similarities and differences. If one were to list the things fans love about each of these characters, they would both be long and thurough. However, all of the elements that are similar would largely include such broad spectrum concepts such as stories, supporting characters, enemys, or the dynamic nature of the costumes. There would be few specific similarities on this list, because they have no weight on the obsessions. Moon Knight fans would not consider the largely inconsequential similarities such as wealth or vehicles as important to their fandom. This is to suggest that the differences are where the obsession lies.
Although both Moon Knight and Batman command some feircly loyal fans, Batman's fanbase is much much larger. Batman has had 70 years to garner mass fanfare through comics, television shows, and blockbuster films. Batman is a recognizable figure around the world. This means that the range of fans is far greater than most comic book heroes could ever attain. More than just the hardest of hardcore, Batman has fans of just the movies or shows; people who like him, but have never read a comic in their life.
In contrast, Moon Knight has a much smaller fan base. Ever since his revival in 2006, that fanbase has grown, but it is still small by comparison. Although many comic readers like Moon Knight as a character, his devoted fans are a much smaller group still. All Moon Knight fans are essentially comic book fans. Anyone who is a comic fan knows that they are the feircest debaters, and the most devoted to their passions. Nobody has a problem if a non comic reader says to another non comic reader "I like Batman more than Spider-man." Its no different then liking Treasure Island over 20,000 Leagues Under the sea.
Hardcore fans of Batman and Moon Knight are willing to pick up almost any comic if their character is in it and they are willing to argue as to the superiority of that character over any other. But due to Batmans widespread fame, the fans have prestigue on their side. Its hard to argue with a character that is itself a multibillion dollar franchise. Moon Knight, which has faltered regularly in sales for its entire existance does not have this prestigue. Because of this fact, the debate is uneven, and arguments in favor of Moon Knight are often unheard, or ignored.
Let it be said, with the utmost respect, that BOTH of these characters are great, and they both stand as a testiment to the work and artistic skill of all of the creators that have contributed to them over the years. I hope both of these characters continue to thrive in creative worlds. If they are ever to meet in a company crossover, let it be done with humor, respect, and with fans in mind.