As great as books may be, they are a passive experience. If you don’t like what a character does, too bad, you can’t change it. But that isn’t true for gamebooks, which combine elements of role-playing games and those Chose Your Own Adventure novels for a more interactive experience. Which is exactly what you get in Jonathan Green’s Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis (paperback, Kindle), the latest in Aconyte Books’ Multiverse Missions series of gamebooks. In the following email interview, Green talks about what inspired and influenced this superhero story.
I’d like to start with some background: For people who are unfamiliar with the character, the comics, and the Disney+ show, who is Moon Knight, and what are his powers?
Moon Knight is the alter ego of Marc Spector, a former soldier and mercenary. When he was left for dead in the desert, he was revived by the Moon god Khonshu. Appointed as Khonshu’s fist and high priest, Moon Knight is a vigilante who protects those who travel at night.
Due to his pact with Khonshu, Spector is effectively immortal, and the powers of the moon boost his physical strength. He is also an expert at hand-to-hand combat techniques and various martial arts, an Olympic-level athlete, a skilled acrobat and gymnast, and he excels as a combat strategist.
But Spector also has dissociative identity disorder; two of his alters are the millionaire Steven Grant and the New York cab driver Jake Lockley.
And then what is Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis about?
Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis is first and foremost a gamebook. This means that the reader becomes the hero, choosing what happens next and directing the course of the narrative by turning to different pages. On top of that, there is a simple set of role-playing game mechanics which bring an element of chance into the game. Battles and skill tests are simulated by dice rolls, and the reader can collect certain qualities along the way which will either help or hinder them in their adventure, and sometimes both.
In Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis, the reader takes on the role of an Egyptologist, working at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York City. A new display of Ancient Egyptian artifacts, which has been arranged by the museum curator, is about to open. The night before the official opening, the reader is making one final check on the exhibits when a mummy breaks out of a sarcophagus. It is actually N’Kantu, the Living Mummy, who has been smuggled into the exhibition to reclaim an artifact for his master Anubis. However, Moon Knight arrives and saves the reader, while N’Kantu flees the museum, taking the artifact with him. Moon Knight and the reader team up to track down N’Kantu, recover the artifact, and find out what Anubis is up to. But, of course, it’s not that simple, and the pair face all sorts of threats along the way, from supervillains to supernatural entities, before eventually making their way to Egypt to confront the mastermind of the nefarious plot.
How does Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis connect or relate to what’s going on in the comics?
Aconyte’s Multiverse Missions gamebooks exist within their own bubble universe, so the stories do not tie in to either the TV show’s continuity or that of the comics. This means that literally any super hero or villain could appear within an adventure. For example, a character who is currently dead in the comics makes a cameo appearance in Anubis.
Where did you get the idea for Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis?
When Aconyte Books invited me to submit a pitch for a Multiverse Missions gamebook, I was told that Marvel would be keen to see an adventure featuring a super hero such as Moon Knight or Doctor Strange, so I pitched one of each, and it was the Moon Knight idea they liked the best.
I loved the Disney+ Moon Knight show and read Jeff Lemire’s run on the character. However, I also have a long and abiding fascination with Ancient Egyptian mythology — I wrote my university dissertation on myth and symbol in Ancient Egyptian art — and loved the idea of exploring that through the character of Moon Knight and within the Marvel universe.
Without giving too much away, once I knew who I wanted to be the villain of the piece, the zombie plague just seemed to follow naturally, and then I went all in on the Halloween-horror vibe. I’m delighted to say that the characters I wanted to include were approved and so away I went.
So how is a gamebook different from those classic Choose Your Own Adventure books?
The Choose Your Own Adventure books were branching narratives, which endlessly diverge, and were sold on the fact that they could have multiple unique endings. Gamebooks are different in that they are effectively one big puzzle that the reader has to solve. While they are also branching narratives, those narrative paths will often overlap or link back together at various points in the story, depending on the choices the reader makes.
As well as the RPG rules mentioned above, there is an optimum ending that the reader is aiming for. There are still multiple endings but many of these will bring the adventure to an abrupt end, such as if the character of the Egyptologist is killed, meaning that the reader must go back to the beginning and start over if they want to make another attempt at completing the adventure.
There is more than one successful ending to the adventure, and these can be reached via various alternative paths through the book, but they are ranked with a star score. There is only one 5 star ending. Can you find it?
As you said, the Multiverse Missions gamebooks “exist within their own bubble universe.” Does that mean there are connections between Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis and the other Multiverse Missions novels?
Tim Dedopulos wrote the first two Multiverse Missions gamebooks: You Are (Not) Deadpool and She-Hulk Goes To Murderworld. Each of these includes a hidden section that takes you from the book you are reading and into the other adventure. However, Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis was written as a stand-alone adventure, and so doesn’t have any direct game links to other books. We will have to wait and see whether any other Multiverse Missions gamebooks link up in the future.
Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis is not your first novel. Heck, it’s not even your first gamebook, as we’ll get to in a moment. Are there any writers, or stories, that had a big influence on Anubis but not on anything else you’ve written?
It was the writers of the Moon Knight comic, most noticeably Warren Ellis, Brian Wood, Cullen Bunn, and Jeff Lemire, and particularly Lemire’s 2016 run on the character. There might be a little of the Warhammer Tomb Kings army in there too.
What about non-literary influences; was Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
A book is always going to be influenced by all sorts of things, whether the author consciously makes a connection or not.
That said, the zombies episode of What If…? definitely had an influence, as did the Werewolf By Night TV special. Then there are Brendan Fraser’s Mummy movies.
I have also been fortunate to visit New York in the past and used my knowledge of the city’s geography when planning the first Act of the adventure. I’ve also visited Egypt more than once and used those experiences to help with Act 3. There are probably a hundred other things in there too that I’m not aware of.
What about the Disney+ Moon Knight show?
While the continuity in the gamebook, such as it is, follows that of the comics, ultimately, Disney+ Moon Knight helped me establish the correct tone for the character and his alters.
As I mentioned, Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis is not the first gamebook you’ve written. You’ve written eight in the Fighting Fantasy series (including Howl Of The Werewolf and Night Of The Necromancer), two based on Sonic The Hedgehog (Theme Park Panic, Stormin’ Sonic), as well as ones about Dracula (Dracula: Curse Of The Vampire) and Beowulf (Beowulf Beastslayer). Are there any that you think may have directly influenced Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis?
Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis isn’t the first adventure I’ve written with an Egyptian theme; that was the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Curse Of The Mummy, so I suppose that probably had some unconscious influence on the events that occur in the story.
And then, to flip things around, do you think Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis could work as a movie in the MCU, a second season of the Moon Knight show, or a game?
Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis could certainly work very well as a video game. If you picked out the main storyline and cut some of the periphery scenes, I think it would also make a good What If…? episode.
And while we’re on the subject, what about a comic? Do you think Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis could work as a comic book?
A gamebook comic would be cool — a gamecomic? — but, for the same reason I think it would work as a TV show, Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis could also work as a comic in its own right. There’s plenty of action in there, battles with cool characters, and moments of jeopardy where Moon Knight’s fate hangs in the balance. Those sound like the perfect ingredients for a Marvel comic.
So, do you think there’s anything else people need to know about Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis?
You don’t need to have any prior knowledge of the character to enjoy the adventure. But if you are a fan, there are plenty of Easter Eggs for you to spot. And Moon Knight is not the only popular Marvel character to appear in the book — not by a long shot.
Finally, if someone enjoys Moon Knight: Age Of Anubis, which of your other gamebooks would you suggest they read next?
Just because of the Egyptian connection, they might enjoy the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Curse Of The Mummy. However, to pick one of my more recent ACE Gamebook offerings, RONIN 47 — a future-set, mechs-vs-kaiju adventure inspired by the Legend of the Forty-Seven Ronin from Japan — is a lot of fun, too.