Robert Roach, the creator of the Menthu character and comic book is also well-versed in Egyptian mythology. He points out where ‘Moon Knight’ misses out in their presentation of the pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses and why that matters.
You really gotta get your gods right, guys.
As a black comic creator working in the industry since the mid-nineties, I’ve seen trends come and go, and while I appreciate Marvel delving into lesser-known stories, there are some problems. I am well versed in Egyptian mythology, lore, and history, given that my comic “Menthu” deals with this subject and universe. So I was curious to see how “Moon Knight” would use this diverse mythology.
There are a number of rabbit holes down which such critiques can crawl. A few of these rabbit holes are commendable vis-á-vis “Moon Knight’s” production. A handful are detracting.
I am happy to cite the principals’ performances as having been quite good. Portraying insanity or schizophrenia in a way that doesn’t derail the narrative & screams, “Hey! Come look at the crazy man!” is very challenging. Overall, the latter didn’t happen & the performance was both strong & nuanced.
Great lighting, camera work, editing & production design must also be cited. In being evenhanded, I want to go on record with these observations; because I did have problems with “Moon Knight.”
Moon Knight’s writers miss the mark on Egyptian mythology
The writing was not authentic—especially in regards to the lore and legend upon which the project was built. Marvel has said they’re committed to diversity, so why the whitewashing here? I’m not referring to the casting, which is an issue that’s already been addressed.
Perhaps folks are thinking, “It’s okay to ignore such gaffes because it ain’t like the average person is well versed in Egyptian mythology. Plus, the original comic likely had such slip-ups. No need to sweat the ‘accuracy’ too much.” If so, my counter to that thought is, “Why settle for a half-ass story? Why not use ALL of the available elements to create an accurate kick-ass story?”
I’ll grab the Red Skull in “Captain America, the First Avenger” to flesh out this thought. The Red Skull was a really good bad guy, larger than life, and placed within a pseudo-realistic setting. Without the setting, the Red Skull’s authenticity within the film is severely undercut.
For example, if there had been no SS mentioned. Or its name had been changed. Or Germany hadn’t been the main country for “Captain America’s” version of WW2. Or if any of a number of historical items that were woven into the fiction had been omitted—or renamed, this would have detracted from the Red Skull’s characterization.
Would the people who overlooked such gaffes in “Moon Knight” — usually with the attitude that such slip-ups weren’t all that important within the production — have the same perspective about such fundamental mistakes when crafting Captain America’s WW2, Europe’s geography, and so forth?
As a creator who SERIOUSLY studied Egypt’s mythology & history in order to properly tell his story, this is the area of “Moon Knight” on which I am concentrating. It is the area in which I feel that the production failed.
What you need to know about the Egyptian gods
Egyptian immortals tend to have a high degree of duality in their characters. Even the “worst” of them has counter-balancing “good”—and vice versa. Many benign immortals have been characterized by moments of destruction & bloodlust. With this as an established fact within that mythology, Ammit (Ammut) could be chosen as a destructive, crocodile-headed goddess for the script’s purposes.
However, this immortal entity was a secondary goddess. Ammut assisted the major immortals — the main among these was Anpu (NOT “Anubis”). So why choose her as the Earth-devouring “big baddie”? There are SO MANY other immortals within that pantheon with wicked attitudes and world-breaking abilities.
And WHY—WHY—WHY continue to use the Greek names for immortals, locations, etc. in a story that is purported to “authentically” tell an Egyptian mythology-based story? Publicity for “Moon Knight” pounded this misstatement into the media & community like a pneumatic pile driver.
It was like saying that one is going to authentically tell Tecumseh’s life story & then doing so with allegories drawn from ancient Ireland. (No disrespect to either the exceptional Native leader or to the ancient Irish.)
On top of that, these immortals who, within the mythology, would wipe the mat with Khonsu, Ammit, or any other god/goddess featured in “Moon Knight,” were essentially powerless with the flimsy excuse of “no interference.” Yet we have Thor and The Eternals.
There are plenty of reasons why errors were ignored in the past
I’m not casting aspersions at the comic book character’s initial creators. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I am well aware that comic book characters at that time were made up for all kinds of haphazard reasons. These reasons didn’t need to be logical—just catchy. Nor was the plethora of info readily available to such creators, who were often on tight deadlines.
However, such constraints no longer exist. There is NO EXCUSE for blatantly getting details about Egyptian mythology SO WRONG. The budget & the quality of “Moon Knight’s” above-the-line principals can’t be blamed either.
I had hopes that “Moon Knight” might be more than eye candy. In certain places, the production did achieve these hopes. But in its attempt to found itself in Egyptian mythology and to use that lore’s interesting immortals to tell a modern story, “Moon Knight” failed.
– Robert Roach
Editor’s Note: Robert was kind enough to provide a bio for those Imagination Connoisseurs who might be interested in knowing a bit more about him and his work. – M.
A bit more about Robert Roach
I’ve worked as a comics creator (artist, writer, and publisher), concept illustrator, and storyboard artist for numerous live-action and animated projects. I participated in Warner Brothers’ management trainee program and as an instructor at Otis College of Art. I have also worked in the entertainment industry in a number of non-artistic jobs, such as on the daily TV show “National Enquirer Uncovered” and as a Japanese-English translator at New York Film Academy.
In terms of my comics work, my creative content continues to be as diverse as my audience. It spans from ancient Egypt’s lore to Chicago’s prohibition era. An example of this is my comic “The Roach,” which won the inaugural Glyph “Rising Star” award for excellence in independent publishing. It’s a throwback to old noir-style stories like “The Spirit,” and it pushes boundaries.
He is a vigilante-style anti-hero during Chicago’s prohibition period. “There are racial overtones in this story arc. The white vs. black culture is shown for all its pluses and minuses, and not just for shock value,” said critic Mike Hamersky.
To further bring home this idea and to feel like the era in which it is set, “The Roach” is strictly presented in black and white, with many textures & effects included. Despite—or maybe because—of this, many fellow creators say that the black and white art still feels as if it is full color.
Another of my acclaimed comics, “Menthu,” is set in present-day Los Angeles and based on Egyptian mythology with a Black hero discovering his god-like roots.
In addition, I wrote and illustrated an action serial on Operative-dot-net, about “Ithuriel.” This young Black man is a “Conan-type” warrior, and his journey traverses the African diaspora and across Asia. There are numerous references to the breadth of African and Asian ancient cultures and mythologies — especially Japan’s — since I spent numerous years there and am fluent in the language.
Like global society, the entertainment industry is constantly changing. (As are the demands on artists and creators.) Various barriers are being broken among many audiences. We as creators must constantly hone our skills to reach these audiences, challenges, and opportunities.
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