Moon Knight and Other Egyptian Characters in Marvel Comics
Super heroes and mythology go together like the moon and the sun. And Marvel comic books are certainly no strangers to incorporating a variety of pantheons, from Norse heroes to Greek mythology to Indigenous Alaskan deities. But when it comes to being well-connected and all-powerful, nobody does it quite like the Egyptian Marvel characters.
With the upcoming Disney+ release of Moon Knight, as well as current events in the X-Men’s nation of Krakoa, the Egyptian figures of Marvel comics are making a huge impact right now. Let’s get to know a few of the most prominent players on the scene.
Khonshu / Moon Knight
So, here’s the thing. Marc Spector (or Steven Grant or Jake Lockley or … whoever) is not from Egypt. In fact, he was merely on a mercenary mission in the Egyptian desert when he first encountered Khonshu. Having been betrayed and left for dead, Marc was approached by Khonshu, a deity of the moon. Long ago, Khonshu, or Chons, had been worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. In exchange for saving Marc’s life, all Khonshu asked for was an instrument of vengeance. Small price to pay, right?
Marc’s relationship with Khonshu is troubled, to say the least. It’s a partnership that causes Marc and all of his personalities to pull away from others. Of course, the supernatural abilities, suit, and crescent darts make the deal a little sweeter. As one of the gods of Celestial Heliopolis, Khonshu is related to other mythological Egyptian figures, such as Osiris, Horus, and Seth. He is also connected to Bast, the deity who granted T’Challa’s lineage the power of the Black Panther.
Long before teams of mutants roamed the planet, there was Apocalypse. Back then, he was known as En Sabah Nur (“The Morning Light”). As his mutant name implies, Apocalypse often aims to bring about the end of the world and recreate it under his own rules. He has fought against the X-Men countless times. Many mutants, such as Archangel and Polaris, have fallen under his sway to become deadlier versions of themselves. Apocalypse’s main creed is survival of the fittest, which leads him to despise humans and place value in mutants with powers he deems worthy.
His own powers are nearly limitless, the combined result of genetic mutation, Celestial technology, and a knack for immortal evolution. Apocalypse is around five thousand years old and he fashions himself as the first mutant. Originally, his mutation was control of his body’s molecular structure. With time, he amassed a wide range of other powers, including energy manipulation, psionic capabilities, and cyberpathy.
In the recent Krakoan era, Apocalypse’s past was further explored. At one time, he ruled over Okkara (the counterpart island to Krakoa) with his wife Genesis. Their children became the original Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. One of them, Death, is a visual allusion to Anubis (the Egyptian god of the dead) and a potential romantic interest for Storm.
Amahl Farouk / Shadow King
Few telepaths can hold their own against the powerful mind of Charles Xavier, but in that small group exists the Shadow King, sometimes known as Amahl Farouk. Xavier and Farouk first encountered each other in Cairo, when Farouk was a host for the Shadow King, an interdimensional, multiversal being born of human nightmares. If that sounds scary, you’d be correct because the Shadow King is a master of manipulation.
Over the decades, the Shadow King has been a menace to multiple X-Men heroes. As a child, Storm was near his influence in the streets of Cairo and would later cross him as an adult. Karma, a founding member of the New Mutants, also fell victim to the Shadow King’s psychic possession. Eventually, when caught in battle with Psylocke, the psionic warrior was able to bar him from entering the astral plane, a psychic dimension where his powers are at their peak.
Most recently, the Shadow King has been whispering in the ears of the youngest New Mutants recruits on Krakoa. His influence is even extending to Laura Kinney’s younger sister Gabby, and only time will tell when he will step out from the shadows and reveal his true intentions.
Villains love to stick to a theme — just ask the Serpent Society. Asp, a mutant born in Tanta, Egypt, was a founding member of this serpentine squad, along with Sidewinder, Black Mamba, and Diamondback. Though her background is shrouded in mystery, her name is believed to be Cleopatra Nefertiti, and she has the ability to fire blasts of energy. They’re known as venom bolts since these blasts can paralyze and even kill a target.
Later, Asp formed her own group with Diamondback and Black Mamba, called B.A.D. Girls, Inc. The slithering villains are often portrayed as enemies of Captain America, though the B.A.D. Girls have been known to dabble in heroics as well. Asp and her squad have also worked with Cable and Deadpool in a scheme to recover advanced computer tech.
With a surname so dubiously connected to ancient Egyptian culture, it’s hard to not include the Egyptologist Dr. Alexi Skarab. Actually, Skarab is supposedly a descendant of Nephrus, a scheming priest of the pharaoh Aram-Set. On a research expedition, Dr. Skarab and his students mistakenly unearthed the Living Mummy.
This immortal creature was formerly a warrior named N’Kantu. He was a leader of the Swarili people who had been enslaved by Aram-Set but led a revolution against the pharaoh. Nephrus stopped N’Kantu by injecting him with a mummification serum which transformed him into the Living Mummy, damning N’Kantu to an eternity of life under wraps. So when Dr. Skarab released the Living Mummy from his tomb, the immortal creature believed him to be Nephrus. Eventually they joined forces to protect Cairo. The Living Mummy is also associated with the Legion of Monsters, a team that includes Morbius, Jack Russell (Werewolf), and Man-Thing.
As mentioned earlier, Seth is an Ennead, one of the gods from Celestial Heliopolis — just like Khonshu. Seth is a god of death who constantly schemes to overthrow Osiris for supreme rulership. At one point in his quest for power, he teams up with Mephisto, Hela, Pluto, and other deities of the Underworld to expand their realm of the dead. After many battles, he was even able to imprison his brother Osiris along with Isis and Horus.
Later, these three gods were freed by Odin the All-Father. Against Odin in battle, Seth would lose his right hand — though his infinite strength, serpentine transformation, and necromantic magic still left him a formidable opponent. Seth is a frequent enemy of Thor as well as a sometimes ally, sometimes enemy of Loki. In addition to the Norse heroes, Seth is an eternal foe of Khonshu, which puts him against Moon Knight over and over.
The Egyptian pantheon is full of death, mystery, and the mystical side of mythology. Some of the most compelling Marvel characters are connected to Egyptian culture and their influences on the most powerful stories are far-reaching.
Who is your favorite Egyptian Marvel character? Did we miss somebody? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!