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Marvel gave Moon Knight’s god pal Khonshu roots in real Egyptian myth

F. Murray Abraham voices the moon god

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Konshu strides down a dark hallway in Moon Knight. He is a figure in mummy wrappings and a robe, carrying a huge staff with a crescent moon at the end of it. His head is the skull of a huge bird, floating above his shoulders. Image: Marvel Studios
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Moon Knight on Disney Plus has plenty of characters making their first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and not just because the superhero has multiple personalities. The audience is also getting to know a Marvel Comics favorite, the bird-headed Khonshu.

Moon Knight may have a chic look with his all-white costume, but that fashion sense comes straight from his patron, the god of the moon.

Surrounded by stark darkness, a man in a stark white suit (Moon Knight) kneels in front of the god Khonshu, a sketchily drawn man in a white suit whose head is a huge floating bird skull. “You alone must be a light against the infinite dark,” says Khonshu, in Moon Knight #3 (2016). Image: Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood/Marvel Comics

Introduced in Moon Knight #1, Khonshu has been a part of Marc Spector’s story since the moment he was given a proper origin. In Marvel Comics, Khonshu and the rest of his pantheon live in an extra-dimensional realm where they cannot affect Earth directly. So, for millions of years, he has chosen mortal avatars — Moon Knights — to enact his will.

His godly portfolio includes the moon, as you might have guessed, and he has also, in different periods of Egyptian history, had purview over fertility, healing, and time. But in Marvel Comics, after the moon, his godly mission is vengeance, and being a guardian of “travelers in the night,” a very convenient mandate to give to a vigilante who is usually seen patrolling the dark streets of New York City.

Also, as you’ve probably noticed, Khonshu has a bird head. What kind of bird? Well, in ancient Egyptian iconography, the deity Khonshu was sometimes depicted with the head of a falcon. But the Khonshu of modern Marvel comics often has a particularly huge raven-like beak (just like the one in Moon Knight on Disney Plus), probably because it looks cool and creepy. Sometimes the Khonshu of Marvel Comics appears in robes and wrappings, and sometimes just in a nice modern suit — but he always has the bird skull head, floating free above his shoulders.

Mohamed Diab, director of Moon Knight’s first episode, told Polygon that bringing Khonshu’s comic book design to the screen was a collaborative process. “We had an Egyptologist [...] who was overseeing how everything is authentic as possible, [but] we still had a lot of creative license. [...] The way he looked kept developing and developing and developing. It was very important to connect the way he looks to the suits of Marc and Steven. Their suits are actually from their imaginations, and inspired by Khonshu, too. [...] It’s the mix of the of the two of them together.”

Moon Knight on a poster wearing a suit version of his superhero garb with ghosts of Steven/Marc and the traditional Moon Knight look flanking him Image: Marvel Studios
A Moon Knight poster of Moon Knight in his traditional look Image: Marvel Studios

Keeping the character’s spooky floating skull head was a no-brainer to the folks behind Moon Knight, though a character with no facial expressions presented its own challenges. Luckily, Diab told Polygon, “We had a performer, Karim El Hakim, an actor on board doing every movement, and then we were blessed with F. Murray Abraham to do the voice — and oh my god, he brought a lot.”

Khonshu’s appearances in the first episode of Moon Knight may have been more spooky than substantive, but fans can expect to see more of him throughout the six-episode series.

“Khonshu is such an interesting character,” Diab told Polygon, “a flawed guy. You don’t know if he’s a villain, or if he’s a good guy. I thought if we played our cards well, people were going to fall in love with him.”

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