The Black Knight
A character with multiple identities (and allegiances), the Black Knight is one of my favorite Marvel Comics heroes. With ties to the pre-Marvel Atlas days, the Masters of Evil and the Avengers, the name of the Black Knight could mean many almost anyone, but to me it comes down to Dane Whitman.
Black Knight I (Sir Percy of Scandia)
The first version of the character came from a young Stan Lee and veteran comic artist Joe Maneely read like a young boy’s adventure serial. Following the exploits of the unlikely hero Sir Percy who, with Merlin’s aid, fights the evil Mordred the Mystic with the Ebony Blade. Marvel later reprinted these comics in the Marvel Fantasy Masterpieces series before introducing Dane Whitman.
Writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz will reunite this November for a special one-shot focusing on Sir Percy in an adventure against werewolves, vampires and zombies on a quest to find the only weapon capable of destroying Excalibur, Doombringer.
Black Knight II
Surfacing some years later as a member of the Masters of Evil, the modern version of the Black Knight was a villain atop a flying steed using gadgets instead of mystical weapons. A brilliant scientist, the Black Knight’s weapon of choice was a lance that fired explosive darts, nerve gas, force beams and even a lasso. Riding a winged horse that he bio-engineered himself, this was a powerful supervillain who gave Ant Man/Giant Man and Iron Man a run for their money on his own and proved to be a menace alongside his fellow Masters of Evil.
It was not until this evil Black Knight was on his death bed that Garrett revealed his connection to the previous Black Knight Sir Percy. It turns out that Garret had sought out the power of the Ebony Blade but was rejected by the spirit of Sir Percy. Striking out against his heritage, he decided that if he was not good enough to be a hero, he would be a deadly villain instead. Nathan Garrett sought to redeem himself by leaving his castle and all that it contained to his nephew, Dane Whitman. Whitman discovered his ties to Sir Percy and was deemed worthy of the Ebony Blade, thus beginning his superheroic career.
Black Knight III
A Gloucester-born civilian, Dane Whitman is of the ‘regular guy thrust into the world of superheroes’ mold. The Marvel Universe is full of characters who have uncanny abilities and responsibilities thrust upon them who must struggle to find a way to deal with this bizarre turn of events that has changed their lives. In Dane Whitman’s case, it leads to his discovery of a rich and noble heritage dating back to the time of King Arthur.
Serving as a member of both the Defenders and the Avengers, the Black Knight’s career has had its share of ups and downs. First turned to a stone statue left in Doctor Strange’s study (for all of you Marvel Ultimate Alliance gamers, you may recall this detail), Whitman was then cured yet whisked back in time to his ancestor where he decided to stay. When he returned to active duty as a member of the Avengers, things did not go well at all.
One of the things that has always attracted me to the Black Knight is the curse of the Ebony Blade that forbade him from drawing blood with the mystical weapon. It was during the stellar run on the Avengers in the late 80′s that Dane Whitman looked on in horror as his blade was used by Price Namor the Sub Mariner to kill his insane wife Marrina. It was this run on the series where characters went insane, were revealed to be traitors or not who they claimed to be at all that really drew me to the Avengers comic. Proving that anything was possible and that there were real dangers to the heroes attracted me as a young reader and has held my interest to this day.
Finally released from the curse, Whitman decided against using the enchanted weapon and went for something more similar to a lightsaber and a leather jacket. This was during the period where all of the Avengers wore leather jackets for some reason, even Hercules. After that fashion disaster, the Black Knight bounced around from title to title until he joined the teams of New Excalibur and later Captain Britain’s MI-13.
Dane Whitman was busy fighting off the Skrull Invasion in the UK when he became a member of MI-13. Using an enchantment that turned his heart to stone, Whitman struggled to overcome the curse of the Ebony Blade compelling him to kill. While working with MI-13, Whitman found that his weapon was yet another fake and departed for Wakanda where the Black Panther guarded the real thing.
For a regular Joe thrust into the world of mystical and superheroic adventure, Whitman has done quite well for himself. Traveling to the past, fighting conquerors from the future and even crossed swords with Dracula!
If the Black Knight sounds obscure to you, just check out this clip from an episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends called ‘Knights and Demons.’ The original intention was to have both the Sir Percy and Dane Whitman versions of the Black Knight star in this episode, but it was thought to be too convoluted, so another non-continuity related version was invented. It’s still a great episode and features lots of goofy monsters.
Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends: ‘Knights and Demons’
I have also read that the Black Knight will appear in the excellent Iron Man: Armored Adventures animated series but appears to be the Nathan Garret villainous version. However, Dane Whitman did use his predecessor’s reputation in the supervillain community to infiltrate the Masters of Evil, so this may be a ploy. We’ll just have to wait and see.