Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Black Knight #2


The second issue of Black Knight dated July, 1955 features a ferocious scene of battle by Joe Maneely.


It shows clearly his adeptness at handling all sorts of cover images and puts me oddly in mind of the vintage ads which would appear some years later for plastic toy soldiers and knights.


The first story begins with invading Vikings who storm into the relatively calm Camelot environs searching for plunder and most specifically a wife for their leader Leif the Lucky. As chance would have it he spies King Arthur's ward Rosamund as she is out on a hawking excursion. Sir Percy of Scandia is along playing at his role of court fop and fool. When Leif and his warriors attack Percy appears to flee, but of course merely changes into Black Knight armor and returns to counterattack the Vikings who are heading to their ships to make their escape. In a seemingly futile effort he charges atop his horse Thunder at the ship still in the shallows and manages to pierce the boat beneath the waterline at the same time plucking Rosamund from the ship and heading back to the safety of land. Leif appreciate the show of bravery and salutes the Knight as the Vikings sail away.


The tale picks up with a joust and Modred is dominating the proceedings. He plots though with his henchman Hawkes to lure Arthur into a bout and to use poison to slay his monarch. Merlin becomes aware of this through is crystal ball and alerts Percy who becomes the Black Knight and faces off against Modred. He saves his King but then Modred looks for the man who will demonstrate by his absence from court to reveal the Black Knight's identity. At first they find Percy missing, but he turns up underneath a table and Modred dismisses him as a possible candidate.

"The Round Table" is a two-page text story which explains how King Arthur married Queen Guinevere and how the famous Round Table was actually a dowry present from her father King Leodegrance.


The Crusader now on the side of the Europeans meets up with Richard the Lion-Heart and despite the misgivings of Richard's loyal aides proves himself a worthy comrade. Ultimately Saladin himself appears to challenge Richard to a one-to-one duel and the Crusader is tapped to prove himself against such a mighty opponent. Using his mighty Saracen blade he defeats Saladin though he does not choose to slay him. Richard is impressed with his nobility and officially knights him.


While King Arthur is away from Camelot, the Black Knight stays behind to guard the castle as well as Rosamund. It's well that he does as Modred has conspired with the Norman De Quincy to attack the castle. If not for the Black Knight leading the castle's defenses it would fall. The Knight though is struck down outside the walls and hides in the moat using stealth and his mighty strength to survive until he can again enter the castle and defeat Modred. Arthur's army returns and De Quincy retreats rather than be caught between two enemies. Without proof of Modred's treachery, Percy decides to keep quiet.

This is rock solid comic, full of derring-do and proper adventure. The stories are short but filled with events and simple but clear characterization. Maneely's fabulous sense of design makes for a page which dead easy to read and a joy to look at.

This fine comic was reprinted story by story in several issues of Marvel Super-Heroes and the Crusader story was reprinted in an issue of Savage Tales

First Black Knight story reprinted.
Second Black Knight story reprinted.
Crusader story reprinted in black and white.
Third Black Knight story reprinted.

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6 comments:

  1. In the'70s there was a British TV show called "Arthur Of The Britons" which tried to paint a more realistic image of how people would have lived then so Arthur and his people lived in mud huts with thatched roofs - the Arthur legend was set around the 5th or 6th Century but all that castles, knights and chivalry stuff is medieval. Stone castles were unknown in western Europe until the First Crusade from 1099 onwards.

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    1. Don't get that harsh light of reality on my Eggo please. I like it smothered with sweet sweet Romanticism.

      Cheers!

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  2. Loving these Black Knight reviews with Maneely's art, Rip!

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  3. Stan Lee (if I recall correctly) once speculated that if Joe Maneely hadn't died tragically young, he would probably have been the main artist on the Marvel superheroes line. (Undoubtedly they would've looked different without Jack's input.) However, much as I like and enjoy Joe's art, I've noticed that he doesn't seem to go in much for foreshortening of figures in the way that Kirby did. Maneely's figures are all drawn almost full on (stiff and upright) from whatever angle they're at and whatever they happen to be doing. Even if, by some quirk of fate, the Marvel heroes had looked much as Jack had drawn them, design-wise, it's interesting to ponder if they would have been anywhere near as successful with Joe as the primary artist. What does anyone else think?

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    1. Yeah. I've read those speculations and it suggests to me just how little Stan really understands really the magic brew he stirred up for a time in the bullpen. Kirby and Ditko tapped fresh veins. Maneely for all his obvious charms is of a different type entirely. I'd have loved to have seen him still developing (Romita and Buscema and Heck come to mind) with the nudge of Kirby dynamics, but it's all idle speculation.

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