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by Tim Leong
“Moon Knight” has been through a lot since writer Doug Moench created him in 1975. Other writers have tried their hand at scripting the titular character and Moench has disapproved of all of them – except one, crime novelist Charlie Huston, who is helming Marvel’s relaunch this month. Comic Foundry sat in on a rare phone call between Moench and Huston as they talked “Moon Knight.”
The Mythos of Moon Knight
Why do you guys think there’s such a cult following around “Moon Knight”?
MOENCH: You know what? I got a phone call yesterday from a guy who was saying he was just in a comic shop and he saw one of those giant black-and-white phone books, “The Essential Moon Knight.” Do you guys know about that?
HUSTON: I’ve got it right here, man.
MOENCH: You’re kidding.
MOENCH: When did that come out?
HUSTON: January or February.
MOENCH: They didn’t send me a copy!
HUSTON: They didn’t send me a copy either. I had to go down and pay for it myself as well. They don’t send shit, man.
MOENCH: Oh, the sent me copies of “the Essential Ghost Rider,” for christ’s sake. C’mon.
HUSTON: They’ve got the “Werewolf by Nights” …
HUSTON: … “The Marvel Spotlight,” a “Team-Up,” a “Two-In-One”, and they’ve got the stuff from the backup Hulk! Magazine and the first 10 issues of your run.
MOENCH: That’s all? Just 10, huh?
HUSTON: Yeah. It says Vol. 1, though, Doug. It goes from “Werewolf by Night,” to a couple of issues of “Marvel Spotlight” to “Peter Parker Spectacular” …
MOENCH: Eck. I didn’t do that.
HUSTON: Oh, that’s right (Bill) Mantlo.
(they both laugh)
MOENCH: I hated seeing Moon Knight swinging around by Spider-Man. I just hated that. And I love Spider-Man, don’t get me wrong.
HUSTON: It’s an odd combination.
MOENCH: The whole point of “Moon Knight” was to do someone that was totally different from that stuff.
HUSTON: Did you have to fight against having other heroes pop up?
MOENCH: Yeah. Not resistance to Moon Knight, because don’t forget, he was just a villain in “Werewolf by Night.”
MOENCH: Well that was cool. I don’t know if they got mail or if it was just their own enthusiasm for him to do a one-shot, now do another one-shot. I know a couple of the editors, Marv Wolfman, Ralph Macchio, I forget who else, really seemed to like Moon Knight personally and they were always pushing to get him in some other way or venue. I don’t know why it took them so long to finally say, “Well hell, let’s give him his own title.” But I had not been pushing for it or asking for it. I don’t know why. I guess I was busy with other stuff.
HUSTON: How hard was that to do, to push for your own title?
MOENCH: I never did it so I can’t tell you. Even with “Weird World,” I never asked for it. It was always the editors coming to me and saying, “Hey, why don’t you do a one-shot with this thing?” Yeah, sure. I was the opposite of pushy back then and I still am, pretty much. I’m blunt, but I’m not pushy.
HUSTON: You know what I’m curious about is I read it was one of the first direct sales titles.
MOENCH: It was. I don’t know if was the first or the second, but I do know that it and Ka-Zar were the first two and they came out the same month. Now if one came out the week before or what, I don’t know. Those were the two first direct only. And it blew them away when “Moon Knight” did 100,000 in comic shops only. And you have to remember that this was when there weren’t any comic shops, or very few of them. This was 100 percent sales, no returns, and they were making way more on “Moon Knight” than they were on maybe” Spider-Man,” even though “Spider-Man” sold maybe 200,000 or 300,000. As they kept saying, “We have to print 10 to sell three.” If you can print 10 and sell all 10, that makes a huge difference.
HUSTON: So what was that, was it an exciting thing to be one of the first direct sales or was it like they’re putting us in the ghetto?
MOENCH: No, no, no. I thought it was cool on several levels, one of which was there were no ads or nothing but house ads, so the stories were longer. While everyone else was doing 17-page stories, I got to do 25, or something like that. And that made a huge difference with what you could do with an issue. That doesn’t sound like much, but it really is.
MOENCH: And another thing was on the pecuniary level was that because it was direct sales only, instead of having to sell 100,000 before you get a penny in royalties, you only had to sell 40,000. So it was like, “Wow! I get royalties on 60,000 copies!”
MOENCH: And there were very few others who were doing that.
HUSTON: And you also got a little more slack, I would assume, with the kind of stories you could tell.
MOENCH: Yeah, that was the other thing. It wasn’t official but you could tell there was the sense that you could be a little more adult and there was no Comics Code on these things and not that the Comics Code was being very restrictive at that point. Once they allowed ghouls – once you eat corpses, what’s left? You still couldn’t do profanity, not that I had a hankering to do it. But the themes could be more open. They thought for some reason that if you went out of your way to go to a comic shop instead of a Mom and Pop store on the corner, then you were probably a little older and you cared a little more. You were probably more into it.
MOENCH: So, I think all of that contributed to this “No market research, but conventional wisdom says …” kind of feeling.
The Batman Comparisson
Does it really steam you guys that Moon Knight gets the label as the Marvel version of Batman?
MOENCH: You know, it’s a really odd thing for me because Batman has always been my favorite DC character. But on the other hand, you have to remember that the evolution of Moon Knight is odd. He started out as a villain in “Werewolf by Night.” Right there that dictates several things. If he’s going to be going up against a werewolf he’s gotta be a night character because if they’re going to fight it has to be at night. Right there, night character. Batman’s also a night character, but he was the furthest thing from my mind. What else do you connect to a werewolf? The moon. That spelled out the colors of the costume. Jet and silver. Black and white. All these other things that were focused only on werewolves and has nothing to do with Batman. Some people think of one other thing that Steven Grant is a millionaire and Bruce Wayne is a millionaire. Well don’t forget, Batman doesn’t have three separate identities like Moon Knight does and only one of them is a millionaire. Each one was selected for reasons other than thinking about Batman. The cab driver – I needed someone on the street who could pick up tips, find out what the underworld was up to. The mercenary – that gave him his background and his ability to do globetrotting adventure stories that I wanted to do time to time. And then who pays for all of this? A millionaire with a base to put his helicopter and all that other stuff. But I think the real connection was made when Bill Sienkiewicz took over the art. And Bill, don’t forget, was drawing exactly like Neal Adams who was associated with Batman. And you had actual swipes of Batman poses done by Neal Adams that Bill would throw into Moon Knight and on a subliminal level, it’s like well, this looks like Batman. But it was not meant to be Marvel’s answer to Batman.
HUSTON: Well, it never really occurred to me as a reader. And it never would’ve occurred to me anyway because “Moon Knight” was one of the first comics I’d ever read. I wasn’t a comic book reader as a young, young kid. I didn’t start reading superhero comics until I was 14 or 15.
MOENCH: How old is Charlie?
HUSTON: I’m 38.
MOENCH: I can’t figure that out. How old were you when you started reading “Moon Knight”?
HUSTON: I read my first “Moon Knight” in … it would’ve been … somewhere around issue 20 was the first one I read.
HUSTON: I literally just got turned on to comic books. I was reading “Donald Duck” when I was a little kid. I had a handful of superhero comics that I’d just pull off the rack when I was a little kid and just tear them up and wear them out. Part of the reason I wasn’t into them because I didn’t like the goody-two-shoes, namby-pamby stuff. It didn’t appeal to me.
HUSTON: So I kinda rejected them pretty early. Then a friend of mine was showing me (Frank) Miller’s “Daredevil” and (Chris) Claremont’s “X-Men” and I was like, “Well, what else you got?” And he said, “You gotta check this Moon Knight guy out.” So I think the first one I read, I think was in the 20s, and fortunately my friend had the complete run up to that. So I was able to read all of them and that’s when I started collecting them. But I didn’t collect for very long. I stopped. I think I picked up one “Fist of Khonshu.” When you’re that old your first association is with the character, so you’re thinking about how much you love the character. That’s one of the first times I remember realizing that it was the writer that really made the difference and that it didn’t matter how cool the character was if there wasn’t somebody who knew what they were doing with the character – it was going to fall to crap.
MOENCH: I never read “Fist of Khnoshu,” so I can’t disparage it.
HUSTON: All I can say is …
MOENCH: I hated the basic idea of it.
HUSTON: Yeah, and it was. And I don’t want to be mean to people who are doing their jobs and disregard their effort.
HUSTON: All I mean is that it wasn’t the same and it wasn’t the character that I’d fall for really quickly. And because of that it never occurred to me that it was Marvel’s Batman because for me, Batman was the guy on TV.
I’ve been asked the Batman question about Moon Knight and my standing question is A) Who gives a shit? Really. What does it matter how a character has evolved or if you used a little bit of this or a little bit of that? No matter what you’re writing, there’s always going to be a little bit of borrowing and swapping.
MOENCH: It’s even gotten to the level that people say, “Well, he’s got these throwing stars …”
HUSTON: The batarangs.
MOENCH: Yeah, and you go back again and this is a guy who was hired to hunt down a werewolf! What is the one thing that hurts a werewolf? Silver. You drive a silver knife into him or you shoot him with a silver bullet. Well, we couldn’t use guns for any of the heroes in Marvel books at the time. So silver bullets were out. Blades? You can slice people up, that’s fine.
HUSTON: Yeah, no problem.
MOENCH: You know, the Comics Code was weird. It was a natural thing and again you follow the moon theme. The crescent moon. It had nothing to do with imitating the shape of a curved batarang. It had everything to do with the moon.
The First Jewish Superhero
MOENCH: Getting back to how much was accidental and incremental, the other thing is, I had a habit of naming characters in stories after friends, and it started spreading. And soon I had people coming to me saying, “When are you going to name a character after me?” So I used to go to Ed Summer’s comic shop, I think it was called Comic Snipe? Something Snipe. It was the best comic shop in Manhattan at the time. And one of the guys that worked there was Marc Spector.
HUSTON: Great name.
MOENCH: And he was saying, “When are you going to name a character after me?” So then I was trying to figure out this villain for “Werewolf by Night.” What am I going to call him? I’ll name him after Marc Spector. Then it turned out Marc Spector was Jewish. Ah, I guess this is a Jewish name. Well, I guess I just made up the first Jewish costumed hero. So maybe I should research some Judaism and stuff about the Mideast and Mossad and all this other stuff, and that’s where all that stuff came from.
HUSTON: Oh, wow.
MOENCH: It was all an accident. I didn’t say, “I’m going to sit down and create a Jewish character.”
HUSTON: But that’s the way I find it in general. I do the same thing in novels, by the way, with naming characters after friends.
MOENCH: Yeah, and it turns out you were actually a bartender, eh?
HUSTON: Oh yeah.
MOENCH: When I was reading it I wondered if he had a friend who was a bartender. It didn’t occur to me that you actually were one yourself.
HUSTON: For many years. It’s been two years since I’ve had to bartend, but I still have a tendency when people ask me what I do, the first thing that wants to come out of my mouth is “bartender” before I say “writer.” Which is weird.
MOENCH: We should interject that Charlie is a crime novelist who wrote a novel. What’s the title?
HUSTON: “Caught Stealing.”
MOENCH: Yeah! It features a protagonist who’s a bartender, and he was kind enough to send me a copy.
HUSTON: So yeah, I do the same thing with naming characters. In caught stealing the two bank robber brothers, Ed and Paris – I’ve got two friends named Ed and Paris.
MOENCH: There you go.
HUSTON: That combiniation of two names together and brothers works. And the physical descriptions are very close to how the are. They’re two guys that always tend to intimidate when they walk into a room, even though they’re lovers and not fighters – they’re great guys.
Bill Sienkiewicz and Neal Adams
HUSTON: You know what I’m curious about, you mentioned Bill Sienkiewicz and when he started his artwork was very close to Neal Adams.
MOENCH: And he made no bones about it. He revered Neal at that stage of his style evolution, shall we say.
HUSTON: What I’m curious about is, because while working on “Moon Knight” his style ended up being on the other end of the universe from Neal Adams. What was your reaction as this was happening?
MOENCH: Oh, I loved it. First of all, this was a fait accompli. I got a call from Ralph Macchio or Rick Marshall, one of those two. And he said, “we got an artist for you! This kid just walked in off the street and showed us samples and it’s gorgeous. It’s just like Neal Adams.” And I said, well, Neal Adams is pretty good. That sounds alright to me. “Okay, we want to put him on “Moon Knight” in the back of the Hulk! Magazine.” I said okay and then the first inkling that I had was when I got the first batch of pages. And I saw it and I said oh, yeah, this is like Neal Adams. In fact I see some Batman swipes in here. It still didn’t occur to me that Moon Knight was Marvel’s answer for Batman. I saw the Batman swipes and it still didn’t.
But getting back to your point, as the series went along and as Bill progressed, he came out here to spend the weekend at my house. You gotta remember that I was the old man at 30 at the time, or whatever it was, and he was just a kid – even though I acted more like a kid than he did. I guess he sorta looked to me as someone with more experience and asked guidance and so on. And I told him again and again that you’re doing beautiful stuff but you don’t have to be Neal Adams. In fact, you will never truly be what you can and should be until you start breaking out of this Neal Adams thing. I think you’ve taken it as far as it can. He’d say, “You’re right, you’re right. It’s just so hard for me to make the break.” I said, “no, it isn’t. Just do it.” He started doing it and the more he changed away from Neal Adams and into something else, the more happy I was not just for the “Moon Knight” artwork, but for him – a guy who is finding himself.
What people don’t know is that before he made that break in published pages, he would show me private drawings where he had all kinds of styles. He had a great cartoony style where it was a total imitation of Mad Magazine’s Mort Drucker.
MOENCH: And he had that nailed down. And eventually he evolved that cartoony style into something else also. Right about when we ended “Moon Knight” or a little past that is what I think the peak of Bill Sienkiewicz for my personal taste. I know some people prefer his super-far out, bizarre style. And I do too, but I happen to think it would’ve been totally inappropriate for something like Moon Knight. But he had changed and pushed to a perfect point, I think, for Moon Knight, if not for himself as an artist.
HUSTON: Well I was reading then and it was so different than anything. And again, this is somebody coming into comic books really raw. But everything looked so similar and there wasn’t a variety of styles.
HUSTON: There were people that could do a couple variations on the style and assorted levels of expertise.
MOENCH: It happened later again with the Image explosion.
HUSTON: And the reaction I had looking at the stuff was going back and reading the stuff from the beginning and catching up. And the borders of what I could really read as a teenager were getting pushed and I remember some of the stuff I’d look at it and it was too much for me. It was too weird.
HUSTON: Well by then it was definitely one of those things that had an influence on my taste – not just in comic art. It was one of the first times in my life, similar to the revelation that the writer was more important than the character, where my aesthetics got pushed and I went with it and it ended up changing the way I looked at art and thought about art. And by the time he left the book, I was really loving it and looking forward to turning the page and not just to see where the story was going but to see the art. The first big letdown I had before you left the book was when Bill left the book.
MOENCH: Kevin Nowlan wasn’t bad.
HUSTON: No. It had nothing to do with the talent of the artist after that. Bill had gotten to a point with the art that it was so different going on out there.
MOENCH: And it was integral to the look of the character at the time.
HUSTON: It really had become something that I was having an emotional response to the art for the first time in a comic book, which I’d never had before. I’d had emotional responses to the story, but that was one of the first times I remember being one of those guys that could just stare at a page.
MOENCH: I actually geared stories, from time to time, with the goal of pushing Bill. Morpheus …?
MOENCH: … he forced him to do hallucinatory-type dreams. Ah, that’ll make him develop his style to a weirder edge. Things like “Hit It,” the child-abuse story.
HUSTON: Which is such an amazing piece of work.
MOENCH: Yeah, well that was really a strange thing. That was supposed to be a seven-page backup story. So I did a plot that would fit in seven pages, and Bill went nuts. He went berserk. He blew up all these giant panels and extended the thing. I said, “Well, jeez, I don’t know. This is an oddball, child abuse story. Not the usual type of plot. It’s this one-note type of thing. Jazz improvisation, whatever you want to call it. “But if the editors don’t care that you turned this seven-page story into 25, that’s OK with me.” Luckily they were screwing up on deadlines and they had no choice but to accept what he turned in.
HUSTON: What was the reaction? Because that was another one of those stories where I had a real visceral response and was really challenging and dark as hell. What was the reaction from editorial to the story itself?
MOENCH: Eh … let me tell you how that thing got written. Bill had blown it up. The editors had screwed up on the deadlines. We can name names – Mr. Dennis O’Neil – had screwed up so badly he’d forgotten to send a whole issue out to the other penciler who was going to do a fill-in issue or something. He discovered that my plot was buried on his desk. Meanwhile, Bill was going nuts on “Hit It.” And Bill brought it in and it went from a potential reaction of “Oh my god! What do you think you’re doing taking this seven-page backup and blowing it up to a full issue” to “Thank god there’s a full issue here.”
HUSTON: So at that point they didn’t care about content. It was something they could run.
MOENCH: That’s right. And so he called me up and said, “I’m going to ask the biggest favor I’ve ever asked any freelancer in my life. Can you get on a bus and come to New York right now to script here so we can get it out by 7 tonight by special courier.
HUSTON: Oh my god.
MOENCH: I said you gotta be kidding me. I’m in Pennsylvania. “Oh, please, please, please. My job’s on the line …” So I wound up scripting that whole thing in this tin closet. It was the only room they had open at Marvel. They had me crammed into this tiny little room with a typewriter. I did it on the fly right there, right out of the typewriter. Thankfully it was a stream of consciousness style. I’d never written anything faster. And they were literally ripping pages out of the typewriter and taking them over to the bullpen to have it lettered right on the spot. You asked me what the reaction was, and I don’t think there was any reaction other than, “Get this out by special delivery.”
HUSTON: They had no time to react. Now once it was out was there a reaction?
MOENCH: Oh, it got phenomenal mail. I was doing the Letters page myself, I think. Either that or they were sending me the letters. But the response was just unbeilievable. And I believe it was my first inkling, which was repeated by the Catholic Church, of how many people out there have been abused. Are there really this many screwed up people? Jeez. I had no idea. And I can say this because Bill said it in a different interview — he made it public. The reason he told me he went so crazy on the book. He said to me, “I, first of all, drove a dagger in his heart and then exorcised his demons by writing that story”
MOENCH: Because he had been abused as a child.
MOENCH: And that’s why he went nuts and turned a seven-page thing and blew it up. It was his way of working out these demons. He said he felt so much better by the time he was done and he was more proud of that than anything else in his career.
HUSTON: I do remember reading something, and I don’t remember if this was back then or with my research for the new book, but I remember reading something where he talked about doing a few more issues after that and part of what was involved there was with that specific issue he really peaked and he didn’t know how much more he had to do or say with that character.
MOENCH: He put it a little more soothingly to me, but what he said is that it had hurt him and helped him so much and the process of doing it was so cathartic and traumatic all at the same time that he was done and that he’d never, ever be able to top that. And that there wasn’t any point in going on. What can I do after that?
Leaving Moon Knight
HUSTON: Hey, I was curious about something and I don’t know if this was going to be a sore spot or not, but what was involved with you leaving Moon Knight? I have no idea what happened there – if it was a personal choice or they took you off.
MOENCH: Well, I explained the whole thing in a couple of interviews.
HUSTON: Well if you don’t want to talk about it …
MOENCH: No, it wasn’t leaving “Moon Knight,” it was leaving everything. It was forced by Jim Shooter, who was easily the most tyrannical, evil guy on planet Earth, next to Dick Cheney and George Bush.
HUSTON: He held the crown for a long time, apparently.
MOENCH: He sure did. He was making life miserable for everybody on Marvel, including Chris Claremont, who bit his tongue and held his peace for the sake of his beloved X-Men. You after to remember: Roy Thomas had already quit, Marv Wolfman had quit, Len Wein had quit, Jerry Conway had quit — I mean, the list went on and on and on and we haven’t even gotten to the artists.
MOENCH: I think at that point, the two guys from that period who were left were me and Chris Claremont, and Chris came after me. This guy was so evil that he had all the assistant editors totally whipped. They were calling me and saying, “Doug, you gotta do something to stop this guy.” I said, “What am I going to do? I’m a freelancer. You’re the editors. Get together and go up to Stan (Lee) and say ‘Stan, you wouldn’t believe what this guy is trying to do.’” And what he was trying to do was what he called the Jim Shooter Theory of the Big Bang of the Marvel Universe. Now, what this was, he was going to kill off every major Marvel character, I swear this is true, but without killing them off.
MOENCH: In other words, he was going to call off Steve Rogers, but not Captain America. And then a new guy, quote, like an investment banker, close quote, would be the new Captain America. He was going to kill off Peter Parker and someone else woud be Spider-Man. I said, “This is lunacy. Stan Lee would never let this happen. This is insane.” But he was doing it! He got on the phone with me and said, “Look, this is happening and it’s starting with you.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Next issue of ‘Master of Kung Fu,’ I want Shang-Chi dead, and when I mean dead, I want to see his blood. I want no way that Shang-Chi would ever be able to come back.” I said, “Now why would you do that? If you don’t like ‘Master of Kung Fu,’ kill the book, don’t kill the character, because these things have a way of changing over time and in five years you might want to revive the character of the book, etc.” “No, I don’t want to kill the book, I want to kill the character. Kill Shang-Chi and make a new master of kung-fu, like a ninja.” I said, “Mr. Shooter, perhaps you’re not aware. Ninjas are Japanese, kung-fu is Chinese.”
MOENCH: “If you want a Master of Ninja title, put out a new book called Master of Ninja! You don’t have to kill Shang-Chi.” “I want Shang-Chi killed, I want Fu Manchu killed.” I said here’s another newsflash for you: We didn’t create Fu Manchu! We’re paying a license to use Fu Manchu. Even if I wanted to kill Fu Manchu, I couldn’t do it. He’s not our character to kill. Sax Rohmer, a guy from the ’20s and ’30s …
HUSTON: I’ve got a few of his books on my shelf, man.
MOENCH: He had no idea! He had no clue. But anyway, he said, “If you don’t do, I’ll get someone that will. And ‘Moon Knight’ is next.” And I was writing ‘Thor” at the time. And then Don Blake goes and a new guy finds the hammer.” And after that phone call, I thought, well, it’s time to call Dick Giordano and have that lunch you keep wanting to take me to. Let’s have a burger. So I did. I called Dick Giordano. I don’t want to lose my babies – “Moon Knight” and “Weird World,” “Master of Kung Fu” – I was even enjoying “King Conan,” you know? But this guy is insane and I can’t stop him. All I can do is refuse. “Come on in, I’ll take you out for lunch.” So I went in and he said, “What do you want? What’s your favorite character?” Batman. “You got it! Want anything else?” And as much as I hated leaving Marvel after 10 years, I had no choice, and that’s the only reason I did it.
MOENCH: And then, after this happened, The Comics Journal’s Gary Groth – a great muckraker always trying to get the freelancers to trash the editors and so on. Let’s do the big interview where you trash Jim Shooter. And I said, “No, I’m not going to do that. It’s been done 15 times in your last 15 issues. One by one, as everybody’s quitting, they all do the “I hate Jim Shooter interview.” All I’m going to do is report as news why I’m leaving Marvel. And I did. I said Jim Shooter’s Theory of the Big Bang of the Marvel Universe is going to kill off all the characters. I don’t know if Stan Lee is aware of this but I cannot participate in this and am forced to leave.” And then when this became a big thing in the fan zines – Marvel was having these weekly press conferences where the fanzines come in to get the scoop, and they said Doug Moench says this, and is this true… and Shooter denies the whole thing! And his editors sitting next to him did not say wait a minute, Doug Moench was telling the truth and Jim Shooter is lying through his teeth right now. They all sat there and let him get away with lying about this and Stan Lee had a fit when my statement came out. Stan Lee jumped on Shooter and said, “What is this all about?”
And then the denial set in. It was pathetic.
The Steve Gerber Paradigm
I think we’re all familiar with Steve Gerber’s feeling on …
MOENCH: Great guy! One of my favorite guys and one of the most neurotic people on Earth. Great guy.
Well, he wasn’t too happy with Jonathan Lethem reviving “Omega the Unknown” with Marvel. Was there a similar situation here?
MOENCH: Oh yeah, I hate Charlie Huston.
HUSTON: I’m the fourth most evil person after Jim Shooter, Cheney and George Bush.
MOENCH: Charlie should tell you about the email I sent him where I stated that in the past, things like Fists of Khonshu and that asshole Chuck Dixon talking about how he was going to bring back Moon Knight and show how the character was really going to be handled. These kind of things, even thought I never read Chuck Dixon’s “Moon Knight,” just drove me nuts. There is no reason you have to say asshole things like that. And, the world’s No. 1 Moon Knight fan started e-mailing me stuff and makes statues and stuff …
HUSTON: Kevin Moyer.
MOENCH: Yes! This guy eats and breathes Moon Knight. And he started telling me about this new Moon Knight series and I just rolled my eyes. What asshole is going to do it this time? And then he started telling me no, this guy’s got a good idea and he sounds like he’s very respectful and genuinely loves the character. And then he sent me some links to statements made by this Charlie Huston, and I only looked at one – he sent like five or six – and they were quotes from Charlie Huston and he did indeed sound like he loved this character as a reader and was being very nice about being the antithesis of assholes like Chuck Dixon and others from the past. So I sent Charlie Huston an email saying it hurts that they didn’t ask me to do it, but if anyone is going to do it, a guy with this much respect and knowledge of the character – that was the thing that impressed me the most – not just knowing his secret identity names, but knowing his perception and what I was up to, what I was doing with the character, that’s what impressed me. This guy’s got it. And even if he sucks as a writer, and which I now know he doesn’t.
MOENCH: He’s not going to do the character wrong. He may do it badly, but it’ll be right. So I sent him an email and said it seems like it’s in good hands if it has to be in any hands other than mine. I share Steve’s annoyance. It’s not so much an annoyance that someone else is doing it, it’s an annoyance that what? You don’t have my phone number? This is the epitome of this thinking. When they were going to bring back Moon Knight again, I guess it was the time when it eventually went to Chuck Dixon. The editor, I forget who it was, called me up and said, “We’re bring back Moon Knight.” I said, “Great! I can’t wait!” He said, “Well … we want to invite you to participate in the bake-off.” The bake-off? “Yeah, we’re going to have five writers to submit ideas and we decided you should be one of them because you did the character in the past.” No, no, no. I created the character and did all of the good stuff. He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you’re going to be one of five and you submit a proposal and then we’re going to pick the best one. But I’m warning you – we want it done exactly like it was in the beginning.” And I said well why …
HUSTON: Why do you need a bake-off?
MOENCH: I did it the beginning! That’s exactly how I’ll do it! “No, we have to have this bake-off.” Well fuck your bake-off – and I hung up the phone.
MOENCH: And then they got Chuck Dixon to do it exactly like it was in the beginning and show Doug Moench how it was supposed to be done and it failed miserably.
HUSTON: I had that period where I was reading comic books when I was a kid. And then I was completely out of comics for a long, long, long time. And just a couple years ago I started going to the shop and poking and nosing around and I’m actually a fan of Jonathan Lethem’s novels and I caught wind he was going to be doing something and read about some of the debate. And Gerber was one of the other writers I loved when I was a kid.
MOENCH: He did some good stuff.
HUSTON: Oh, hell yeah. I loved “Howard the Duck” and those Man-Things.
MOENCH: I fed him some of those big “Man-Thing” plots, by the way.
HUSTON: I loved that stuff. With the epic, twisty plots.
MOENCH: Remember the one about the fat kid? The fat kid in gym class? I gave him that one.
HUSTON: Fat kid … I don’t remember that one.
MOENCH: I gave him that one.
HUSTON: I’d have to look. So anyway, I remember back then when he was having his first problems with Marvel. I come from a union family and my dad was a teamster. These were things that spoke to me, creator and worker rights.
MOENCH: So you know Dick Cheney and George Bush and Jim Shooter are evil.
HUSTON: Yeah, so I really had strong feelings about the justice of his cause. So years passed and I read about the Lethem thing and I read some of the stuff that Gerber had been quoted as saying – I didn’t read any direct quotes – about his concern. And so when this opportunity came around, it gave me some time to pause and I thought about the ethics and morality involved about taking on someone else’s creation and part of my process of thinking about it was that at some point, these things boil down to a question of business. Different business have different natures. I really respect Steve for the strength of his convictions and his passion, but I …
MOENCH: You know another thing that it is? And you didn’t do anything wrong as far as I’m concened. However, I’m pretty sure part of where Steve is coming from – it goes beyond the loyalty Steve and I and a bunch of other people gave to Marvel until it was slapped in our faces.
MOENCH: We all – Steve, I, Don McGregor – those are the only three I can think of for sure. But we all did the same thing whenever we were offered an assignment. If it was Warlock, for example, that was created by Jim Starlin …
HUSTON:You’d go and talk to Jim Starlin.
MOENCH: Well, I’d say, “Did Jim turn it down? Has it been offered to Jim first?”
MOENCH: And if it hadn’t, then I’d turn it down.
MOENCH: And Steve did the same thing. If it was a Stan Lee character – and we all know Stan Lee ain’t in comics anymore, he doesn’t want to do them. He wants to hire us to do them – that’s fine. And any other character created by any other creator – if they’re done –
HUSTON: And that’s the way you guys did business at the time. And that makes sense – it’s very consistent with his position as I understand it.
MOENCH: And I’m sure he feels like that courtesy should have been extended. I need work. I need money. He’s my character. You didn’t ask me first, what is this all about? It gets emotional for him. He’s very emotional.
HUSTON: Rightfully so. It’s his stuff. So anyway, it was something I was a little anxious about and obviously got over, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the job. But I have to admit that when I checked my email one day and I had an email from you, my initial reaction was, “Oh, god, I hope he’s not pissed at me.” I opened it with more than a little bit of anxiety. It was a really cool email to get. It was really cool to hear from him in the first place and it was cool for him to say that he was happy to hear some of the stuff I’ve been saying in public. It’s one of those things where who knows what’s going to happen? I’m trying to be true to the character that I read when I was 13 or 14.
MOENCH: And let me interrupt. I wouldn’t even be opposed if the character evolved and changed – as long as it evolved from who the character was.
HUSTON: Well, he’s an investment banker now.
MOENCH: Named Jim Shooter!
For more information on Charlie Huston, visit www.pulpnoir.com.