Marc Spector has a long history of being written as a Jewish man, but will the Disney+ series embrace or erase this essential aspect of his identity?
Marc Spector/Moon Knight, one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic Jewish characters, is finally making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in the Disney+ series Moon Knight. Long-time fans of the character were undoubtedly excited to see the character getting the live-action treatment, but the question of how the franchise will represent Jewish Marc’s identity is still unanswered. The casting of Oscar Isaac in the lead role raised concerns that Marc’s Jewishness would be erased in his transition from page to screen. Those same concerns have only increased with Moon Knight comic writer Alan Zelenetz’s recent interview with Forward, where he claimed that it’s “perfectly OK” if Marc isn’t Jewish in the series. However, taking away Marc’s Jewishness would be like writing out his Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) since his Jewish upbringing shaped the kind of hero and man he became.
Even more distressing is that the MCU’s track record of representing Jewish characters is troubling at best, even if it is pushing for greater representation of race and ethnicity in Phase 4. Avengers: Age of Ultron erased any connection of Wanda and Pietro Maxmioff’s Romani and Jewish heritage and even made them willing participants in Nazi organization Hydra’s experiments. Criticism surrounding non-Romani, non-Jewish actress Elizabeth Olsen’s casting as Wanda/Scarlet Witch has been ongoing since 2013. The MCU’s past erasure of Jewish characters is further complicated by the fact that as of publication, Disney and Marvel Studios have not confirmed whether Marc’s Jewish identity will be represented in the upcoming series. With the MCU’s poor history of representing Jewish characters, fans have every right to be concerned, and even upset, about the possible erasure of Marc’s core identity in Moon Knight.
Marc Spector’s Jewish Origins
According to Moon Knight’s original creator Doug Moench, Marc’s Jewish heritage was entirely accidental. When Moench was writing for Marvel, he named characters after people he knew in real life – and one of those was Jewish comic shop employee Marc Spector. Moon Knight began life as a villain for Werewolf by Night #32 in 1975, but eventually received his own solo run Moon Knight Vol. 1 in 1980. It was at the tail-end of Vol. 1 when Marc’s Jewish upbringing, his rabbi father, and his first-hand experience with antisemitism growing up in Chicago was confirmed – by Alan Zelenetz. In Moon Knight #37 and #38, Marc rescues a Torah from a burning synagogue, beats up the neo-Nazis who enacted the hate crime, and finally confronts his estranged, dying father. Readers learn that Marc internalized his father’s passivity in the face of antisemitism as weakness, which compelled him to take up boxing and eventually enlist in the Marines. Knowing that Zelenetz wrote such a foundational story for Marc’s Jewishness only for him to say that it can be written out for “artistic reasons” stings.
But the fact of the matter remains: even if Moench never sought out to create a Jewish superhero or represent Jewish people in comic books, the legacy of their choices and Zelenetz’s decision to make his issues of Moon Knight explicitly about Marc’s Jewish heritage has stuck for almost forty years. Every run since Vol. 1 embraces Marc’s tenuous relationship with his Jewish upbringing and calls back to Zelenetz’s ground-breaking issues, either making it a focus like Vol. 8 and 9, or mentioning it in an off-hand way like Vol. 5. In the 2018 “Crazy Runs in the Family” run, Marc witnesses an antisemitic hate crime by a Nazi living as a Jew – who is a friend of his father, no less – which was a catalyst for developing DID. As recently as 2021, Moon Knight #5 had Marc discussing his Jewish childhood, rabbi father, and how these parts of his childhood pushed him towards a life of violence and taking up Khonshu’s patronage despite knowing the gods of Egypt enslaved his people.
Why Keeping His Jewishness Matters
Marc’s Jewishness has become the core of his character whether Zelenetz likes it or not. In large and small ways, consistent references to Zelenetz’s issues have connected the other sides of Marc’s identity: his DID, his life as a mercenary, his worship of Khonshu. With such a history of depicting Marc as Jewish, for the Disney+ series to erase it would be a gross misunderstanding of his entire character. Other fans have made the comparison to Matt Murdock/Daredevil and his Catholic faith; taking away Matt’s Catholic identity would take away his motivation for vigilantism and making Hell’s Kitchen a safer place. To do the same with Marc’s Jewish identity makes him an entirely different character.
One of the main reasons why fans think that Moon Knight will erase Marc’s Jewishness is tied in large part to the casting decision, something the MCU did with Wanda Maximoff’s character. Leading man Oscar Isaac claims some Jewish heritage on his father’s side according to one interview with the Hollywood Foreign Press Associationwhere he said: “Isaac is Jewish from my father [sic] side. I am definitely a big mix of many things.” However, he says in an interview with GQ that this same father raised him as an evangelical Christian. Isaac has not given any interview where he embraces his Jewish heritage or says he considers himself Jewish, sparking concerns that the casting was not authentic or representative of Jewish folks.
This casting sparked major controversy for fans back in March 2020 when Isaac was confirmed, especially considering that Marvel Studios allegedly auditioned Jewish actors, Nick Kroll and Daveed Diggs. Isaac’s casting set off alarms that Marc Spector’s Jewishness would be wholly erased in the series, but the series might still explore his upbringing anyways. Regardless, the studio is in a bit of a Catch-22: either they have cast an actor who does not consider himself Jewish to play a Jewish character, or they have erased a Jewish character completely. Even if the series does continue the characterization of Marc and his alters as Jewish – and they should – it will be too late.
Whether Marc’s Jewishness will be in Moon Knight remains unconfirmed. The fans hope that his Jewish upbringing, rabbi father, and DID development will be carried over to the screen, like every other comic depiction of him. Although Isaac will be the first major Latine hero in the MCU after Salma Hayek’s Ajak in Eternals, Hispanic and Latine representation should not be coming at the expense of a Jewish character’s identity. If Disney and Marvel Studios do in fact ignore Marc’s Jewishness in Moon Knight, they might respond to the controversy in a cowardly, too-little-too-late move by writing it in at a later datemuch like they did with Clint Barton/Hawkeye’s hard-of-hearing status in Hawkeye. For the MCU to do right by Marc Spector, stay even remotely accurate to his characterization, and represent characters and actors across race, ethnicity, and religion authentically, then they won’t erase what makes him so unique: his Jewish identity.
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