Scarlet Scarab – the obscure Marvel Comics history of the new Moon Knight superhero

Disney Plus’ Moon Knight just introduced a brand new superhero the Scarlet Scarab to its storyline, and by extension, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, a quick Google search will tell you that the new superhero, though they do share the Scarlet Scarab name, is almost nothing like the Scarlet Scarab that appears in Marvel Comics. 

To understand the Scarlet Scarab’s comic book origin, and just how different it is from the new version we just met on Moon Knight, you’ll have to head back through years of comic book history, to a character that is admittedly pretty obscure.

But first…

Spoilers ahead for Moon Knight episode 6

By the end of the Moon Knight season 1 finale, Marc Spector’s romantic partner Layla El-Faouly has her own superhero identity. Donning wings and Egyptian armor, Layla becomes the Scarlet Scarab. But fans that have taken an immediate liking to the character and what she means to the MCU might be disappointed to learn the Scarlet Scarab of the comics is almost entirely different from her live-action counterpart. 

Although technically an adaptation, she’s effectively the MCU’s first original superhero. But more on that in a moment…

Layla as the Scarlet Scarab in Moon Knight

Layla as the Scarlet Scarab in Moon Knight (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Who is the Scarlet Scarab in Marvel comics

Scarlet Scarab

Scarlet Scarab in Invaders #23 (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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The Scarlet Scarab of Marvel Comics first appeared in 1977’s Invaders #23, a story that is set at the height of World War II. Created by Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins, Scarlet Scarab is an Egyptian warrior by the name of Abdul Faoul. While the name bears some resemblance to that of Layla’s father Doctor Abdallah El-Faouly, Abdul Faoul is far from the archaeologist he is in the series. In the comic books, he’s a kind of Egyptian Captain America, one nation’s symbolic protector.

When we first encounter the Scarlet Scarab of the comics, he has unfortunately allied himself with the evil Axis Powers. Abdul hates the power that England wields over Egypt, and believes that an alliance with their enemies is good for his nation. However, after an encounter with Marvel’s WWII-era heroes The Invaders, Abdul sees the Nazis for the evil they are and eventually turns on them. However, he retains his mistrust of the Allied powers, turning down membership of the Invaders when it is offered to him.

What are the Scarlet Scarab’s powers?

Abdul leads a band of warriors known as the Sons of the Scarab, who claim to be descendants of the ancient pharaohs and, more importantly, are guardians of an ancient artifact known as the Ruby Scarab. Like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, the Ruby Scarab grants its wielder superhuman power, and it’s this magic weapon that turns regular human Abdul Faoul into the force called the Scarlet Scarab.

The Ruby Scarab gives Abdul superhuman strength on the level of Spider-Man. It also meshes his body with a mystic energy, one that he can use as both an offensive weapon in the form of bolts that shoot out of his hands or as a defensive weapon in the form of a powerful forcefield. Scarlet Scarab can drain an enemy’s power just by making physical contact and, finally, the Ruby Scarab grants the power of flight, which makes sense considering the artifact is based on a winged insect.

Where else does the Scarlet Scarab show up in Marvel Comics

Scarlet Scarab

The second Scarlet Scarab in Thor #326 (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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It’s not until 1982 that Abdul returns, this time in the pages of Thor #326. We catch up with Abdul on his deathbed (yep, not much history for old Abdul) as he passes the secret of the Ruby Scarab on to his son, Mehemet, created by Doug Moench and Alan Kupperberg. Gaining the powers his father once wielded, Mehemet becomes the second Scarlet Scarab and attacks a museum, where looted Egyptian artifacts are being held.

Mehemet’s attack is met by the God of Thunder, Thor, and the two powerful mythology-centric heroes duke it out before coming to a strained agreement. Thor will stop waging war on the second Scarlet Scarab, and Mehemet will take the Eye of Horus, another mystical ancient artifact, back to his home country. The two part ways and we never see Mehemet again.

Appearances of the Scarlet Scarab after that are scarce. In fact, the character only really comes back once, again antagonizing the Invaders in the 2014 comic All-New Invaders #4 by James Robinson and Steve Pugh. This is partially a flashback story, so the Scarlet Scarab is once again Abdul Faoul and aligned with the Nazis ‘Super-Axis’ team. Abdul and his Ruby Scarab haven’t appeared since.

The Scarlet Scarab in the MCU

As mentioned, the new MCU version of Scarlet Scarab bears very little connection to her obscure comic book inspiration (much like Moon Knight’s main villain Arthur Harrow was almost completely changed from comics for the series). In the MCU, Marc Spector’s estranged wife Layla El-Faouly takes up the mantle of the Scarlet Scarab after agreeing to become the “temporary” Avatar of the goddess Taweret.

Layla gains a costume adorned with bladed ‘Isis Wings’ that also seems to grant her great strength and offer protection from Harrow’s magical attacks.

Aside from helping Marc/Steven/Moon Knight defeat Harrow and seemingly escape Khonshu’s servitude, Scarlet Scarab doesn’t get much of an epilogue in Moon Knight episode 6, so it’s unclear how “temporary” her arrangement with Taweret will actually be.

That said, we’re fairly confident that Layla El-Faouly will return if there is a second season of Moon Knight (her superhero identity is already a fan favorite). And Taweret’s comments that Layla’s father, who resides in the Egyptian afterlife, would be proud of her could indicate an unexpected legacy connection between Layla and her newfound superhero identity, as in comics.

And given the events of the final Moon Knight scene, a showdown between Layla and her husband … or should we say one of her husband’s other personalities, might be in the cards.

Scarlet Scarab is just one of a bevy of interesting comic characters introduced to the MCU via Moon Knight. Check out Newsarama’s explainers on Arthur Harrow, Khonshu, and the mysterious Jake Lockley to learn more. 

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