How MAX BEMIS's Bipolar Disorder Helps Him Write MARVEL's MOON KNIGHT

Moon Knight
Credit: Becky Cloonan (Marvel Comics)

Credit: Becky Cloonan (Marvel Comics)

Marc Spector has had a weird year and it’s about to weirder - and that’s saying something with a character like Moon Knight. Recently, Moon Knight (along with his cerebral personalities) were absorbed into a science experiment gone horribly awry (to be fair, do they ever go right?) calling itself yhe Collective. Now Moon Knight is trapped alongside the shared mind of the Collective, as well as his own personas.

It’s getting a little cramped in there.

With Moon Knight #196 out this week, Max Bemis spoke with Newsarama about this current arc, how he sees Moon Knight in the Marvel U, and how his own bipolar disorder diagnosis gave him a better perspective on Marc Spector.

Credit: Paul Davidson (Marvel Comics)

Newsarama: Max, what is your game plan for Moon Knight?

Max Bemis: Well I don’t have one. I tend not to have a gameplan. It comes to me as spurts and a lot is improvised. There’s a certain amount of structure I have to work within as a professional writer but I think the first issue was the game plan. I was working closely with my editors Jake Thomas and Axel Alonso on it and the thing was for me to step it up on the series. I’m such a Moon Knight fan in general, especially since Warren Ellis’ run, I think it’s been peaking. So I just wanted to write the best Marvel comic I could.

Nrama: Marc has had an interesting time as of late trying to win Marlene back and then discovering his daughter, Diatrice-

Bemis: Diatrice! [laughs]. I win!

Credit: Paul Davidson (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: You kinda do! So what’s going through Marc’s heads about this right now?

Bemis: Let me think about that as I’ve sort of lost track of which issues are coming out when. I think at the start of this arc, he’s just a dad. He’s trying to live that dad life, literally, and he’s a good dad. I don’t know if he’s a better dad than me, but he’s a good dad and seems to be taking to it quite well, in my opinion. I’m very proud of the guy.

He’s a haunted individual so being a father can be daunting and I wanted to express that through Moon Knight. As somebody who deals with mental health issues and trauma in my past, I think he loves Diatrice and I should only hope that continues in the future.

What can I say? I know that superhero comics and everything is always in flux. You never know what’s going to happen to characters or their kids and that’s scary to me since Diatrice is modeled after my daughter, Lucy, and a lot of the dialog between him and Diatrice are just lifted from my life, but tweaked in a dramatic fashion.

Credit: Paul Davidson (Marvel Comics)

I think he’s stoked, though.

Nrama: What can you say about this new, extremely weird thing called the Collective because it seems like the perfect antagonist for Moon Knight.

Bemis: Thank you! Well, the Collective to me represents an idea that I once stood for when I was younger. I try to stand for it now, but I’ve gone through things and I’ve seen people use the idea of collectivism in a selfish and terrible way. But I think there’s a point where the joy and free spirit and almost hippie - I mean, growing up, I was an OG hipster. I went to Sarah Lawrence College, lived in Brooklyn when it was completely gentrified and almost made to be made into a joke instead of an organic and amazing place. I was not down and a lot of my records I put out at that time were about that feeling like the sort of punk spirit was being co-opted for a divisive reason than a collective reason.

Credit: Paul Davidson (Marvel Comics)

So for me, the Collective reflects that and you know like everything else I write is a little bit literal and has some connotations of my past.

Nrama: Which Moon Knight personality do you enjoy writing the most?

Bemis: Jake. I like Jake because he’s not very much...well, okay I can’t say that he’s not very much like me, but I will say that there’s a part of myself that is very foreign to him. He’s a valid part of the equation and I didn’t know I was going to love writing him so much until I did. It hit me very quickly that he’s the stereotype of what he is...what’s the name that Batman uses when he goes-

Nrama: You mean “Matches Malone”?

Credit: Becky Cloonan (Marvel Comics)

Bemis: Yes! Exactly! He’s sort of a take on that. That is Bruce Wayne. He’s just acting like himself, but in a different scenario. So for me, Jake may seem very opposite to the core Marc or other personalities that might be much more compassionate, but he is as just as important to Marc’s entirety as, you know, any other part. Jake can be a dark dude and in my vision of him, he’s done so much darker stuff off-panel that we may never find out about but are probably justifiable. I enjoy that there’s a part of him that likes to get down and dirty to get the job done.

Nrama: Do you feel like there is a “real” Marc Spector among his personalities?

Bemis: Yeah I think there is to some degree, I think it’s the Marc Spector in his head. He is the entirety of all his things but I think there’s a core to him that is when he appears in his own mindspace as himself, that’s as true to himself as it gets. So you know the rest of it is part of him but there is a part that is imbued by what I see as a higher consciousness and power and that’s the part in him that is himself. You know what I mean? It’s not even Khonfu, it’s him.

Credit: Becky Cloonan (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: Paul Davidson is handling the artistic duties with you on this week's issue, what do you think he brings that sets your run so far apart from past Moon Knight series?

Bemis: In his case I think it’s his sense of humor. I love British comics and I feel like there’s this element that he brings from that’s almost from 2000 AD. I’m such a Vertigo dork and I’ve always written my books as an offspring of that generation. So I feel like he kind of I don’t know Jacen Burrows also comes from that world but in a different way. He has a very identifiable, streamlined approach rather than something f**king nuts, ya know?

Nrama: Right. Where do you see Moon Knight in the great pantheon of Marvel?

Bemis: Man, you know he’s another great Marvel character. I do see him as...man, that’s a really good question. I’m trying to think of what he means. He certainly represents the tweaked out, zaniness of Marvel and not in the way that Deadpool does because Deadpool does it in a way that’s approachable to people. Whereas with Moon Knight, it’s genuinely uncomfortable [laughs] so to me,

Marvel speaks of the outcasts and the freaks and making us love them because we are them.

To me though, Moon Knight is the place where we go as Marvel fans to almost feel uncomfortable as a superhero. It’s the same in my eyes with Batman at a certain point, you’re made to feel like he’s weird and it’s good. You’re like “this guy is f**king nuts”...and I’m nuts. I’m completely bonkers so I was obviously a good fit. I love that Marvel embraces mental illness as a real thing and I think it’s come a long way in that way.

Credit: Becky Cloonan (Marvel Comics)

Even outside of Moon Knight, I remember when I would read Marvel comics and as somebody who suffers from bipolar disorder I would have these moments of  "oh, Norman Osborne isn’t necessarily evil because he’s crazy, he’s just evil." So, making that distinction as a good person but crazy is a really nice thing and I’ve always been able to relate to Moon Knight on that level and I hope I’ve been able to contribute to that in anyway.

Nrama: So what lies ahead for Moon Knight and company for this arc that you’re looking forward to the most for readers?

Bemis: In this current arc? It’s just, to me, a little bit of a break. I don’t know, it’s one of the first times I’ve been able to write a longer run on a superhero. I like when you read a long run and when you get those sort of breaks. Think about something like Scalped and think about all the little sides that Jason Aaron takes.

So for me, that’s how I see this but it’s just as important to any part of the story because you can just dig in for a couple of issues and not worry about the Sun King and what he’s up to. It’s fun and it speaks to the character and to fun comics that aren’t so heavy.

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