ARTICLE #2 – 22ND SEPTEMBER, 2021
Hello Fellow Loonies,
This is Leyna again, with my first issue-specific review of Moon Knight’s representation of DID. For this
one, I’ll be going through issue # 9 of the Lemire and Smallwood run, “Incarnations: Part Four.” This
issue tells the story of how Marc merged his other identities into himself, so that he could be one whole
person. This one really hit me hard, because it reminded me of some very difficult times in my/our life.
But I think it’s important that I explain why this process of trying to merge alters doesn’t always work as
smoothly as it did in this issue, because this is something that a lot of people misunderstand about DID.
The first page of the issue starts with “Space Knight Marc” explaining how he was so excited to sign up
for the space program, but then when a virus started turning people into werewolves, he had to
evacuate as many people as possible to the experimental base on the moon. He talks about how hard it
was to see people he cares about being turned into monsters. He concludes by saying, very angrily, “And
now you have the nerve to stand here and look me in the eyes and tell me that none of that ever
happened? That NONE OF IT WAS REAL?!”
Okay, I think I need to pause here and explain something. I know that we are all taught that anything
that is “all in our head” is not real, but this kind of thinking is somewhat counter-productive when you
are dealing with a DID system. You see, to us, the things that happen in our “internal world,” the world
inside our mind, are very real. The internal world may not be real in the same way as the external world.
It may not be made of atoms and molecules, it may not follow all the same laws of physics as the
external world, but it is a mental construct in our mind that is home to all of us who aren’t “out” in our
physical body at any given time. Things that happen in the internal world can, and do, influence our life
in the external world, and vice versa. However, it is problematic when alters get so wrapped up in the
reality of the internal world that they can’t tell the difference between internal reality and external
reality. When that happens, though, it’s not really productive to tell them that their internal reality is
not real, because that just makes them feel like you’re trying to invalidate their experience. Rather, it’s
important that they understand that the internal and external worlds are both real, but there are some
differences between them, and it’s important for them to recognize and accept those differences.
On the following two page spread, Marc Spector answers Space Knight Marc’s question by saying, “I’m
sorry, but NONE OF YOU are real. I wasn’t sure I was either, not for a while. But now I know I am.” Ouch.
That really hit home for me, because it reminded me of what I went through for years, when we were
misdiagnosed by therapists who didn’t understand DID. I wanted to address this answer separately from
the question, because Space Knight Marc’s question was more about his feeling that Marc was
invalidating his internal world, and Marc’s answer was more about invalidating the alters themselves,
which is a separate issue, and perhaps even more important to understand.
It’s a common misunderstanding that there is one “real” or “original” identity in a DID system, which is
usually thought of as the one who bears the appearance and legal name of the physical body, and that
all of the others are less real, because they split off from the “original”. In fact, years ago, that used to
be the commonly accepted clinical understanding of DID. But in more recent years, among clinicians
who study dissociation and trauma, it has come to be understood that that’s not really how DID works.
The alters in a DID system are identities who have diverged from each other to help compartmentalize
the difficult thoughts and feelings that are caused by traumatic events, but that doesn’t make any of
them less real. It just means that the different parts of the self of a person with DID are organized
differently, divided into separate identities rather than integrated into one whole identity. One useful
metaphor I’ve found to help explain this concept is that a DID system is sort of like a pizza. If you take a
whole pizza and slice it into six or eight or however many slices, would you point to one of those slices
and say “This slice is the original pizza, the real pizza, and all of the other slices are fake pizza”? Of
course not, they are all still real and still parts of the original pizza, they are just divided instead of one
whole pizza. This also means that all of us, including the one who bears the name and appearance of the
physical body (i.e., “Marc Spector”, or in the case of our system, “Doug Vincent”), are alters. We are not
parts OF Doug, we are parts WITH Doug, parts of what would have been one identity if we had not been
traumatized in childhood.
On the next page, Marc exhibits this misunderstanding of DID by saying, “But all of you are just a part of
me. And if I’m ever going to be WHOLE AGAIN, you need to go.” Moon Knight responds with what I think
most alters would say when confronted with this logic, which is “Go? Go where?” I can definitely
empathize with his confusion. What Marc is trying to say is that they need to be merged with him,
integrated back into one whole identity. However, as I stated in my previous article for this podcast,
merging isn’t necessarily the only path to healing for someone with DID, and it doesn’t work for
everyone. It certainly didn’t work for us.
Before we met our current therapist, who specializes in trauma and dissociation, we spent nine years
with five different therapists, including a psychologist and a psychiatrist, who all misdiagnosed us. They
refused to admit that we had DID, despite the fact that we had multiple conversations with them as four
different identities, Doug, Leyna, Lilith and Heidi. They claimed that Lilith, Heidi and myself were
“delusions” that Doug created due to stressful events. (Let me tell you, it really sucks to have someone
call you a delusion to your face.) They told us that we had to merge with Doug, so that HE could live a
“normal” life as one whole person again. Over the course of those nine years, we tried every method
our therapists could think of, and some that I thought of on my own, to try to merge us, and nothing
worked. Sometimes it would appear to work, but eventually we would realize that we were still
separate, and it was back to the old drawing board. It was like trying to combine two different colors of
Play-Dough. You can squish the yellow and red Play-Dough together into one ball, but no matter how
hard you press on it, it won’t become one ball of orange Play-Dough. That’s how it was for us. Doug
would appear to be one merged self, but as soon as he started to notice the differences between the
parts of himself that were always Doug and the parts that “used to be” Leyna, Lilith or Heidi, he would
realize that those parts are still separate, and we would be back to being our separate selves.
I’m certainly not trying to say, however, that merging never works, or can’t work. There are lots of DID
systems who claim that some or all of their alters have merged, and I don’t want to invalidate their
experiences. I’m only trying to say that it didn’t ever work for us. When we finally met our current
therapist, who diagnosed us as DID and told us that we could learn to live together without merging, it
was a huge relief. We then started to find out that there were a lot more than just four of us, but it
didn’t matter, because this new therapist was teaching us the tools we needed to live together in
harmony, and those tools still work no matter how many of us there are.
But anyway, enough about us (for now), back to Moon Knight… Over the course of the next several
pages, Marc tries to merge the others in various ways. First, Space Knight Marc, being the newest and
least fully formed, simply fades away. I’ve met other systems who have alters who are “fragments”, who
don’t seem like fully formed identities. Since we don’t have any of those, I’m not sure if those types of
alters would be easier to merge or not. However, I do know that when we have encountered alters in
our system who were newly formed, in some cases just days before, they still seemed just as separate as
any of the others, and would therefore not be any easier to try to merge (if we were still trying to do
The next to go is Moon Knight, which interestingly, Marc refers to as “Jake Lockley, A.K.A. Moon Knight.”
Most of the other writers have portrayed Moon Knight and Jake as two separate alters, but here Lemire
seems to be saying that they are the same. I’m not sure if that means that they were two alters that
have merged, or that Moon Knight was always just Jake’s superhero alias. But either way, Marc sees
Jake/Moon Knight as the most violent of all of them. He tries to reason with Jake, but he just responds
with anger and violence, so Marc reluctantly returns the violence, “killing” Jake with a crescent dart. This
is probably the worst possible way to try to merge alters. It’s not possible to kill alters while the physical
body is still alive, so it’s likely that trying to merge with another alter by violent means will only make
them more angry and/or more untrusting and afraid. Even if it seems to work, it will probably lead to
guilty feelings, and resentment if that alter ever separates again (which, like I said, happened to us
eventually after every time we thought we were merged). But in this story, it seems to have worked,
with the “dead” Moon Knight fading away to nothingness like Space Knight Marc before him. Marc then
turns to Steven Grant, only to find that Steven has run away. Can you blame him?
The final merging of Marc and Steven is by far the most tender and emotional scene of this story. Steven
asks Marc, if he is not real, how can he remember specific details of his childhood? Marc responds that
Steven has been with him since childhood, and that those memories are real. I feel for Steven in this
scene, because Marc’s explanations are filled with misunderstandings about the nature of DID, the same
misunderstandings that hurt me back when we were misdiagnosed. This scene reminded me SO MUCH
of some of the conversations that Doug and I had back when we were trying to find a way to merge the
two of us together. The last lines of dialogue between Marc and Steven felt like Lemire had a tape
recorder in our head all those years ago…
Leyna: Just – Just promise me you’ll find a way to be happy.
Doug: I will. I’ll do everything I can. And you’ll always be with me. Goodbye, Leyna.
Leyna: Goodbye, Doug.
I’m pretty sure Doug didn’t go to a mental hospital to try to kill Khonshu after that, but I know that he
did, like Marc, feel very alone.
Well, that brings us to the end of the issue, so it’s time for ratings. I’m going to give each single issue
that I write about two ratings: one for my opinion of the issue as a comic book story, purely based on
the quality of the art and writing, and one for my opinion based on the portrayal of DID and/or mental
health issues in general. Then I will average the two for my overall rating.
As a comic book story, I thought this issue was very good. The art, both in the line work and the colors,
was very dynamic. The dialogue was very interesting and emotional, and really got to the core of the
characters. For the first rating, I’ll give it a waxing gibbous, a big fat one, at 9 of 10.
As a depiction of DID, I liked it a little bit less, but I didn’t hate it by any means. As I talked about in this
article, there were several things that didn’t ring true to me…BUT, as I also said, these are common
misconceptions, and ones that we ourselves believed back when we were misdiagnosed. It wasn’t nearly
as negative and stigmatizing as a lot of other fictional stories about DID. In fact, it very much seemed like
Lemire was trying very hard to get it right, and to show an empathetic portrayal of someone with DID.
And like I said, that last scene between Marc and Steven was so spot-on to our own experiences of
trying to merge that it hurt to read it. So, it loses a few points for not being totally factually accurate, or
up to date with the current understanding of DID, but it gains a lot of points for being sensitive and
emotionally accurate. I’ll give it a three-quarter moon, 7.5 out of 10, for the DID portrayal side of it. This
gives us an overall average of a waxing gibbous, but a little bit thinner one, at 8.25 out of 10.
That wraps it up for this issue. The next one I’ll be writing about will be the very next issue in this run, issue 10, “Birth and Death: Part One”.
May Khonshu watch over the denizens of the night,