With Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight, Marvel Studios produced another another remarkable Disney+ series to start off the MCU’s efforts in 2022. The six-episode adventure included not just the franchise’s first verified Jewish character, Marc Spector, but also another formidable female hero, Layla El-Faouly, played by May Calamawy.
Layla’s family background played a crucial part in the storyline, especially when her father was revealed to be an archeologist named Abdallah El-Faouly, with Moon Knight taking a deep dive into ancient Egyptian mythology from start to end. This moniker was inspired by a figure in the comics known as the Scarlet Scarab, who had strong links to Captain America; however, in the end, it was Layla who dressed up as a hero in the finale rather than her male fictional counterpart.
This was a pivotal moment for Moon Knight in its last episode, as it introduced the franchise’s first superhero of Arab ancestry, as well as another gender-bent character from the MCU. Following the series’ run on Disney+, an episode of Marvel Studios: Assembled delves more into how that moment for Calamawy and her new heroine came to be.
Scarlet Scarab, Moon Knight’s Scarlet Scarab, was produced by the MCU.
In the most recent episode of Marvel Studios: Assembled, the cast and crew of Moon Knight discussed May Calamawy’s Layla morphing into the Marvel Comics superhero, Scarlet Scarab – a role normally held by Abdul Faoul or his son Mehemet Faoul.
Marvel Studios director Grant Curtis said how the “traditionally… masculine” hero found their way into the storyline naturally, providing the crew everything they needed for the scenario at hand: “We settled on the Scarlet Scarab, an Egyptian superhero in the Marvel world.” Traditionally, a male figure travels about reclaiming Egyptian antiquities from those who have stolen or obtained them illegally and restores them to their proper owners. And we thought, ‘Man, the way our story is shaping out, that’s precisely what we needed for our program.'” Director Mohamed Diab said that the hero wasn’t always a part of the program; rather, Calamawy’s performance “as an Egyptian character” inspired him and the crew to “turn her into a superhero:”
“The show didn’t start with the Scarlet Scarab, but as May developed as an Egyptian character, the notion came up.” Let’s transform her into a superhero.” Diab also mentioned the representation that came through with this moment, describing it as something “that binds people together” in an ever-changing world:
“Right now, for many people, Marvel is the world. Children and teenagers. Being a part of that world implies you exist. Really, representation… This term has now being hurled right and left. But seeing someone like him on film, defending the right thing, is the type of tale that pulls people together.” Speaking with fellow filmmaker Justin Benson, who questioned Diab whether it “fulfills a childhood ambition” for him, Diab said unequivocally that it “certainly” does.
Calamawy expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to express herself freely, believing that Layla’s time as a superhero may inspire other people to be themselves in real life:
“I feel like, and I’m going to talk from my experience, seeing Arabs in films has given me so much permission and trust that I too have a space and a place to accomplish that.” And I want the women there to want to express themselves via art, tell their stories, and go out there more… And if I can share it or make even one person feel that way, I’ll consider my work done.”
Scarlet Scarab’s Influence on Marvel Comics Fans
Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One in Doctor Strange and Annette Benning’s Mar-Vell in Captain Marvel are two examples of gender-bending characters in the MCU. This time, though, seeing a girl like Layla blossom into such a tremendous hero in her own right at the conclusion of the series had an even greater effect on viewers.
Given that the Scarlet Scarab was originally a Captain America villain, Marvel Studios took some liberties when introducing the character as a female hero for Moon Knight. Calamawy has a wonderful chance to contribute to the MCU’s increased commitment on bringing more representation into Phase 4 and beyond with her own fresh rendition of this legendary comic character.