Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Knight Is Blackest Before The Clash!


I've focused on The Black Knight here before in a series of posts which paid most attention to the original 1950's version of the iconic Marvel hero. Today it's Dane Whitman's turn to get the spotlight.  Whitman is the third Black Knight, and second heroic one and how he came to be a hero is a complicated process and how he came to be the focus of the might Clash between the Avengers and the Defenders is an even more circuitous journey.


It begins in Avengers #47 where we meet Dane Whitman, a young and handsome scientist for the first time. Along with his treacherous assistant he is experimenting with magnetic waves for the purpose of communications. Unwittingly his experiments provide an avenue for the arch villain Magneto and his sidekick Toad to return to planet Earth, escaping once again their captor The Stranger. 


It is in the next issue of the Avengers that we learn that Dane Whitman is the nephew of the recently deceased Nathan Garrett, the original evil Black Knight. Further Whitman has taken over the effects of his late uncle and has used his own ingenuity to recreate many of his weapons, both biological and technical. It is a modern tech-savvy warrior to takes to the skies atop his winged horse Pegasus  to attempt to alert the Avengers to the danger Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are in having been captured by Magneto. He of course is misunderstood and everyone fights in tried and true Marvel manner.


When next we meet The Black Knight he is seemingly part of the new Masters of Evil in Avengers #54, a gang brought together by the Crimson Cowl to gain revenge on the Assemblers. But Whitman was merely acting the part to gain information and soon enough is riding his new winged steed Aragorn to warn the Avengers of the new threat when he is attacked by his villainous comrades and left. They then attack the Avengers and captured them.


The Black Knight is instrumental is freeing the Assemblers and fights at their side to put down the new Masters of Evil who learn to their dismay as much as the Avengers themselves that the real enemy is a robot named Ultron-5.  The Knight acquits himself honorably.


Then in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes #17 the Black Knight story is altered a bit when we and Whitman learn that he is to some extent the mystical heir of the original Black Knight from King Arthur's court and that the connection between himself and Sir Percy of Scandia is profound and mystical. He comes into possession of his Ebony Blade for the first time, a weapon which will prove both a boon and a burden for the rest of his career.


Soon after he meets Doctor Strange for the first time in Doctor Strange #178 and is recruited by Strange to battle the menace of Tiboro.


The Knight is injured in the aftermath of that battle and it takes the skill of Doc Strange to save him and the combined might of both them and the Avengers to forestall the twin threats of Surtur the Fire Demon and Ymir the Ice Giant, both brought to Earth in a deadly spell in Avengers #61. He hangs around in the next issue but that one featured the Black Panther and the Knight has almost nothing to do.


It is in pages of Avengers #70 that we meet the Knight again when he interrupts the contest between the Grandmaster and Kang the Conqueror. He loses his blade and later in Avengers #71 through it he is able to travel to the future by mystical means and save the Avengers when his blow against the evil Kang brings him low. Kang's mistake was that he wished for and got absolute protection against the Avengers but at that moment the Black Knight was not an Avenger.


But the Assemblers rectify that situation when on the final page they make the Black Knight an Avenger at long last.


Avengers #84 is a key story in the saga of the Black Knight, though sadly he again does not rate a cover image.


In this story the Knight is seeking to get rid of the Ebony Blade which seems to be taking a firmer and darker control of him the more he uses it. The sword fashioned by Merlin from a black meteor has mystical powers galore and these potent energies are darkening the spirit of the user Dane Whitman. So he seeks a means to get shed of the sword and eventually finds the Well at the End of Time. But he is intercepted by Arkon the Magnificent and the Enchantress who brings the Knight under her spell for the first time. Eventually the Avengers get involved and the battle rages and the Knight is freed and he is for a short time rid of his burden.


But not for very long it seems. The epic hundredth issue of the Avengers is once again all about the Black Knight. He is the one who assembles the team and the call brings everyone who has ever been an Avenger even unlikely folks like the Hulk and the Swordsman.



The heroes have been battling Aries of Olympus and learn in this story that his attempts to wage war on Earth are brought on by the Enchantress and the Ebony Blade, both of which ended up on Olympus. The heroes invade Olympus and battle on Earth too, but eventually the threat is quelled. The Black Knight takes up the Ebony Blade once again, his destiny seemingly fixed.


That destiny leads him to The Defenders and in issue #4 of that series he once again finds himself the victim of the Enchantress who after her defeat at the hands of the heroes rewards her stalwart ally by giving him a kiss which transforms him into stone. His Ebony Blade and his horse Aragorn come into the care of the newly created Valkyrie. The stone body of the Dane Whitman is transported by Doctor Strange to his Sanctum and a spell is placed around the the Garrett Castle in England.


In this story the seeds are well and truly sown for the coming clash between to might super teams. The Black Knight's saga has been a tragic one with his constant search for a purpose and his desire to redeem the villainous deeds of his uncle having brought him to a low point. Things are going to change for sure, if they improve is open to question.

More tomorrow.

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2 comments:

  1. Well done! It’s cool the way you fitted all these 40 year old continuity puzzle pieces together involving the Dane Whitman/Black Knight Rip. Having only had certain issues of these back-in-the-day I never grasped the complete big picture…This sort of info really makes me appreciate the work you do here at the Dojo….Too, the whole ebony blade thing makes me think Roy was probably influenced a bit by Moorcock’s Elric (?)

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    1. I've no doubt that the Ebony blade is Stormbringer in some respects (making BK an unofficial part of the Eternal Warrior saga I guess). I learned a lot myself as I looked at the Knight's saga. Like the Hulk in the early days and later Ka-Zar, the Knight was the guest-star who had a story which unfolded, but his seems really to have a direction. And this was just the beginning, he might be the most revised hero Marvel has.

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