Marc Spector stares wide-eyed in Disney+'s Moon Knight alongside Khonshu's depiction in the Marvel comics.

Who is Khonshu, Anyway? Inside Moon Knight’s Cryptic New Character

It's time for another deity in the Marvel universe.
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Moon Knight is officially on its way to Disney+ on March 30, 2022. The TV series will introduce one of the Marvel comics’ most complicated superheroes into the MCU, along with his equally cryptic benefactor.

When mercenary Marc Spector becomes Moon Knight in the comics, he gains immense powers and strength thanks to the Egyptian god of the moon, Khonshu. The two characters’ relationship drives Moon Knight’s storyline: Spector often finds himself at odds with his divine savior, and yet he ultimately finds himself subservient to the god’s will, like it or not. Add in Spector’s relationship with dissociative identity disorder, and Disney+’s upcoming Marvel series promises a complex psychological thriller crossed with an intense superhero romp.

So, who exactly is Khonshu, how does he relate to Spector? Here’s what we know based on the original comics and, of course, Khonshu’s real-world counterpart.

Khonshu is based on a real deity

An Egyptian depiction of Khonshu stands in the moonlight. Unseen in this image, Marc Spector lays dying.

The original Marvel comics (and, by extension, the MCU) are filled with mythological callbacks. Hell, there’s a whole Wikipedia page filled with gods and goddesses and gender-ambiguous divinities populating the Marvel landscape. Most of them are based on actual gods from ancient and not-so-ancient religions, if not outright reinterpretations (Loki, anyone?). Others are inspired by fictional worlds, philosophical concepts, or involve a cobbling of real-world deities into new characters.

Either way, each of these gods get Marvelized in the process, and Khonshu is no different. Sporting an enormous crescent moon staff and a gigantic bird’s skull, Khonshu appears to Marc Spector regularly, guiding him — and getting in the way of his life.

Khonshu is based heavily on the ancient Egyptian deity Khonsu, also called Khons or, yes, Khonshu. In Egypt, Khonsu was a god of the moon and highly regarded in Thebes along with Amun and Mut in a divine triad. Khonsu played many roles in antiquity, and his relationship with the crescent moon was considered key to fertility across people and cattle alike.

Khonsu was a god of healing to many, but, like many gods of yore, carried shades of complexity: Pyramid Texts prior to the Egyptian Empire depict Khonsu as “a blood-thirsty deity” who helps dead monarchs “catch and eat the other gods.” By the time of the Egyptian Empire, Khonsu became a far more friendly presence. But Khonsu’s darker side would certainly inform his Marvel appearances.

Khonshu is a complicated Marvel character

Various aspects of Moon Knight's identity fight over each other as Khonshu watches. Image via Marvel.

Anyone familiar with Marvel’s Asgardians will immediately tell you that the MCU’s deities aren’t exactly benevolent. That’s doubly true for Khonshu. In the original Moon Knight comics, mercenary Marc Spector is left for dead in an Egyptian tomb and resurrected by Khonshu, turning him into Moon Knight.

This resurrection comes at a high price, as Khonshu is first and foremost concerned with his own power in the universe, and Moon Knight ultimately exists in servitude to the god’s whims (according to the deity, anyway). Increasingly, Marc finds himself wrestling with Khonshu’s own schemes and demands — amplified amid his own struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As for Khonshu’s background, the deity is as complex as his personality. Khonshu originally found his home among the Ennead, the gods of the Celestial Heliopolis worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. It’s unclear if Khonshu was always part of the pantheon or simply came to it (in the comics, he implies the latter). Given the Egyptian gods couldn’t quite manifest themselves on Earth, Khonshu would call upon a Moon Knight to do his bidding over millennia, up to and including Marc Spector himself.

However, Spector and Khonshu’s relationship became increasingly complex as the comics went on, thanks in no small part to the deity’s own quest for power and control amid the two characters’ differing values.

We already have our first look at the MCU’s moon god

Khonshu appears to Oscar Isaac's Steven Grant in Moon Knight.

Sometimes friend, sometimes jerk, Khonshu is always a difficult character for Spector and his other personalities in the comics. Given Khonshu’s major role in the Moon Knight comics, it’s undeniable that the god of the moon will make an appearance in the MCU’s Moon Knight series. And we do have a peek into how he’ll look. Check it out above.

For those who haven’t yet caught the January 2022 trailer: When Steven Grant (one of Spector’s alternate personalities) is standing in an elevator and looking out into a dark alleyway, he sees Khonshu’s form—staff, bird head, and all—in the distance. Khonshu approaches him, threatening to come into the elevator before an older woman replaces his presence. Understandably, this whole experience scares the crap out of Grant, who pretends he’s looking for a lost contact to hide his sheer anxiety.

We know Khonshu won’t just appear in brief glimpses, either: The moon god is expected to speak as well. On Feb. 15, Disney published a series of high-resolution images from the January Moon Knight trailer, revealing Khonshu would be voiced by F. Murray Abraham.

Abraham is a legendary actor best known for his role as Mozart’s rival Antonio Sallieri in Amadeus, as well as Omar Suárez in Scarface and Homeland’s Dar Adal. A man well regarded for his dramatic performances as both a lead and supporting cast member, this is Abraham’s first MCU appearance—and sure to be a memorable one at that.

Beyond a quick glimpse at Spector standing in front of an Egyptian tomb (theoretically one dedicated to Khonshu), we don’t know much else about how Isaac’s characters will relate to the Egyptian god, or how frequently he’ll appear in the series. But it’s obvious Khonshu will fundamentally drive Spector and Grant’s story, not unlike the comics.

(Images: Marvel)

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Ana Valens
Ana Valens (she/her) is a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship, and sex workers' rights. Her book "Tumblr Porn" details the rise and fall of Tumblr's LGBTQ-friendly 18+ world, and has been hailed by Autostraddle as "a special little love letter" to queer Tumblr's early history. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her ever-growing tarot collection.