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The History Of Marvel's Black Knight Explained

Dane Whitman, aka Marvel's Black Knight, isn't the most famous or powerful Avenger, but he has one of the more interesting journeys in the source material. When fans first met Whitman way back in 1967's The Avengers #47, the scientist was looking for a way to redeem the actions of a villainous uncle. The Black Knight has seen a lot since those early days. He's spent time in the distant past, spent time as a statue, and led heroes in alternate universes. He's been cursed, he's ruled other worlds, and when necessary, he's made war on his fellow Avengers. 

In spite of a look and a name that calls back to the legendary times of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the Black Knight is perhaps even more at home around cosmic heroes and high-tech madness than he is with swords and sorcery, including close — and sometimes volatile — romantic ties to both the Eternals and the Inhumans. If you feel the urge get a better idea of his mark on the Marvel Universe, keep reading for the history of the Black Knight explained.

Sir Percy, the original Black Knight

Nine times out of ten, if you're talking about Marvel's Black Knight, you're talking about Dane Whitman. But decades before Dane Whitman's introduction — when what would become Marvel Comics was instead called Atlas Comics — there was Sir Percival of Scandia, a hero set in a time that was more in tune with knights, wizards, and desperate sword battles.

Sir Percy first shows up in 1955's Black Knight #1. The knight is recruited by the legendary wizard Merlin to counter the villainy of Mordred and Morgan le Fay. For this purpose, Merlin gives Sir Percy the powerful Ebony Blade and an indestructible suit of armor. While his adventures are set in the distant past, Sir Percy has a lot in common with more modern superheroes. Like many of the Marvel heroes of today, Sir Percy keeps his identity as the Black Knight a secret. When dealing with knights and other nobility, Sir Percy plays the part of a lackadaisical coward, seeming to let others win glory in battle while he lazily enjoys the comfort and privilege of his nobility. For example when he first meets his future wife, Lady Rosamund, he tells her, as he absently plays a lute, that he has no taste for battle.

It's later established that Dane Whitman is one of Sir Percy's descendants, and in 1968's Marvel Super-Heroes #17, we learn he's eventually murdered by his enemy, Mordred. Percy pops up from time to time as a spiritual guide to Dane another mystical heroes like Doctor Strange.

Nathan Garrett, the evil Black Knight

When Dane Whitman eventually takes up the mantle of the Black Knight, he isn't the first of Sir Percy's ancestors to do so. Actually, the first character the Avengers meet who calls himself the Black Knight is a villain. It's genius scientist Nathan Garrett who shows up to battle Giant Man and the Wasp in the pages of Tales to Astonish. Unworthy of the ancient Ebony Blade in spite of his relation to Sir Percy, Garrett instead builds himself an arsenal of high-tech weaponry, such as a lance that's capable of firing energy beams. 

The Black Knight would become one of the earlier members of the Masters of Evil, a team that's endured over the years with multiple line-ups, usually made up of the Avengers' deadliest enemies. However, Garrett's criminal career is short compared to those of his Masters of Evil colleagues. In addition to the Avengers, he later locks horns with the Fantastic Four in 1965's Fantastic Four Annual #3, and his final battle is with Iron Man. He battles the Golden Avenger in 1966's Tales of Suspense #73, and he's mortally wounded after falling from the sky. 

While you should never say never when it comes to death and resurrection in superhero comics, with the exception of a reappearance or two as an undead character, Garrett has the rare distinction of actually staying dead for the most part.

Dane Whitman, the Avenger

After mortally wounding himself in his battle with Iron Man, Nathan Garrett finds his nephew, Dane Whitman. In his final breaths, Garrett expresses regret for his criminal acts and makes Whitman promise to redeem him. A scientist like his uncle, Whitman uses his skills and his family's ancient castle to realize his promise to his uncle. In his second appearance in 1968's Avengers #48, Whitman approaches the Avengers as the Black Knight to warn them that the mutant villain Magneto has Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch hostage, but it takes him longer than he expects to let them know because the heroes — used to only a villain calling himself the Black Knight — attack him right away.

It takes a while for Whitman to gain the Avengers' trust. Like his uncle, he joins the Masters of Evil but does it to infiltrate the group and spoil their plans. It isn't until Dane helps the Avengers defeat the time-traveling warlord Kang in 1969's Avengers #71 that Earth's mightiest heroes finally call him a friend. The Black Knight then adventures with the team on and off for years.

After the 1992 event Operation: Galactic Storm, the Black Knight becomes a much more prominent member of the team. Captain America leaves the Avengers after the team kills the Supreme Intelligence — the ruler of the alien Kree Empire — and the Black Knight leads the team in Cap's absence. 

The Ebony Blade

Of all the Marvel characters who've been known as the Black Knight, most come to wield the powerful Ebony Blade. The sword was forged by Merlin, and Sir Percy's spirit presided over the weapon for safekeeping until Dane Whitman claimed it.

There are certain mystical substances the Ebony Blade can't pierce — for example, it could likely not cut through Thor's uru hammer Mjolnir — and there's a bit of debate about whether or not it can slice through adamantium. But for the most part, it can cut through anything, and we've seen its wielders prove it. The weapon is also an effective defense against ranged mystical attacks as it can absorb eldritch energy. In an impressive example in 1987's Avengers #285, the Black Knight is one of the only heroes left standing in a battle against an enraged Zeus. When the king of the Olympic gods hurls a bolt of lightning at Whitman, he's able to absorb the lightning and hurl it back. Some wielders also share a powerful connection to the blade, allowing them to do things like transport themselves to its location. 

In the 2020 event Empyre, Marvel revealed the sword has a power no one knew about. In Empyre: Avengers #3, it's discovered the Ebony Blade can not only kill, but it can steal the souls of its victims. 

The Black Knight and the blood curse

The Ebony Blade is hardly the only unique artifact in Marvel's mythology. Thor has his hammer, Captain America has his shield, etc. But unlike many of those other weapons, using the Ebony Blade can come at a terrible cost. When Sir Percy wields the weapon in the 6th century, he spills so much blood that the blade develops a powerful curse. While the sword can cut through almost anything, using it to spill live blood activates a blood curse that Dane Whitman and others have suffered.

The blood curse manifests in different ways. In early portrayals, the curse mainly caused physical changes. For example, the victim can slowly lose their mobility until they're completely paralyzed. We see this in the 1988-89 "War of Gods" storyline — chronicled in Thor #395 through #400 — when Whitman joins his fellow Avenger, Thor, and other heroes in a journey across worlds to stop the Egyptian death god Set. Because Namor had used Dane's sword to kill his lover, Marrina, in 1988's Avengers #293, the curse slowly takes its toll on Black Knight to the point where he can only move by wearing an exoskeleton. By the heroes' final battle against Set and his forces, Dane is completely immobilized. 

In later comics, it's shown the curse can also chip away at the wielder's sanity, making them that much more prone to use the blade to spill blood.

Black Knight's many allies

For the most part, if you think of Dane Whitman, you think of the Avengers. It makes sense. He first appeared in The Avengers, and without a regular solo title of his own, most of the narrative landmarks in the character's life take place in that comic. But the truth is that the group known as Earth's mightiest heroes hasn't been the Knight's only home. 

Black Knight spent some time with the Defenders in their early days as a team (or "non-team," as they were advertised). In fact, the explosive 1973 Avengers/Defenders War event revolved, in part, around the Defenders' attempts to free the Black Knight, who'd been turned into a stone statue. In the '90s, he spent some time with Luke Cage and Iron Fist in Heroes for Hire, and in the mid-aughts, he was one of the non-mutant members of a newly formed Excalibur. Later, he joined Captain Britain in MI-13. 

In the 2017 event Secret Empire, Dane led another team outside America. In the comic, after Hydra hatches its plan to conquer the globe — with the Hydra-controlled Steve Rogers at the helm — Black Knight leads a team of European heroes called Euroforce against the evil organization.

How his former squire became Bloodwraith

Being sidekick to a superhero isn't quite as safe a career choice as it used to be, and there's no better proof of that than Sean Dolan. Black Knight first befriends Dolan in his 1990 miniseries, but the young hero is fated to be twisted into the villain Bloodwraith.

After Dane and Sean first meet in 1990's Black Knight #2, they become friends, and Dane trains the younger hero in combat. Sadly, it would be Sean's heroism that would unintentionally lead to his undoing. Sean wields the Ebony Blade against men assaulting Whitman Manor in 1993's Avengers Annual #22, and the sword's blood curse transforms Sean into Bloodwraith. 

Bloodwraith eventually becomes one of the Avengers' most difficult enemies to handle. After Ultron murders the entire population of the fictional nation of Slorenia in 1999's Avengers #19, Bloodwraith uses the Ebony Blade to absorb all the souls of the dead and increase his power. The former sidekick actually becomes too powerful for the Avengers to defeat, so instead, the Scarlet Witch uses her abilities to trap Bloodwraith inside the decimated nation of Slorenia.

Black Knight, lover of Sersi

The Eternal known as Sersi has always been one of the flirtiest members of her super-powered family, and she's no different while she's a member of the Avengers. After the Black Knight assumes the leadership of the team in the aftermath of Operation: Galactic Storm, things between Dane and Sersi become complicated. A romantic relationship ensues that's fated to have some violent consequences. 

After becoming Sersi's lover, Dane becomes more aware of Sersi's mental health issues. Sersi's fellow Eternal, Ikaris, tries to help her by performing the Gann Josin on Sersi and Dane, which forms a powerful soul bond between the pair. Ikaris' intent is to use the Gann Josin to stabilize Sersi, but it doesn't work. Things aren't helped by the Avengers' clash with the otherworldly villain Proctor, who's hunting Sersi, or the fact that at the same time he's involved with Sersi, Dane is growing interested in the Inhuman hero Crystal.

Dane eventually chooses Sersi over Crystal, though it's clear the choice isn't purely out of love. Dane feels responsible for his Eternal lover, as well as feeling guilty over the idea of pursuing Crystal, who at the time is married to Quicksilver.

Proctor, a Dane Whitman from another world

In spite of Dane Whitman already having the evil uncle Nathan Garret and the former sidekick-turned-villain Bloodwraith, Marvel Comics decided there weren't enough evil versions of the Black Knight, and so in 1992's Avengers #344, readers met Proctor. 

In an alternate universe, Dane Whitman falls in love with Sersi. Like in Marvel's prime reality, the alternate Dane and Sersi become lovers, but eventually, that universe's Sersi leaves Dane. Being rejected by Sersi drives the alternate Dane Whitman insane, and he becomes Proctor. Arguably, no supervillain in all of superhero comics is more in need of learning to let go than Proctor. He's so traumatized by Sersi's rejection that he takes it upon himself to murder every version of Sersi in every timeline of the vast multiverse. With a long list of powers including superhuman strength, telepathy, and teleportation — along with his band of followers, the Gatherers — he almost succeeds, but ultimately, it's Sersi who kills Proctor.

While Dane and Sersi both survive the event, Sersi leaves Marvel's prime reality in hopes it will cure her madness. With the help of the dying Ute — a Watcher from another universe — she travels to a new universe, and Dane follows her.

Let's go to the Ultraverse

In the late '80s and early '90s, a sales boom inspired lots of new smaller companies to try their hand at comics. One of those companies was Malibu Comics, whose company and properties were acquired by Marvel in 1994. The acquisition opened the door for narrative interaction between Malibu's heroes and those of Marvel. The Shazam-esque hero Prime, for example, would enjoy crossovers with both Hulk and Captain America. It also allowed for the Ultraverse to become the Black Knight's new home.

After the death of the villain Proctor, Sersi travels to the Ultraverse, and Black Knight goes with her. Shortly after their arrival, Sersi and Dane become part of UltraForce, joining up with heroes like Prime, Ghoul, and Topaz. Just as he did with the Avengers after Operation: Galactic Storm, Black Knight eventually assumes leadership of the team. Sadly, Malibu Comics and UltraForce were victims of the mid-'90s crash that followed the boom. Marvel eventually cancelled its entire line of Malibu titles and the Black Knight and Sersi returned to Earth-616, the prime Marvel timeline. 

The Black Knight who invaded Wakanda

In a 2005 Black Panther storyline, yet another version of the Black Knight emerges, and while this one seems to believe he's literally working on the side of angels, he chooses strange bedfellows

The mystical Ebony Blade falls into the Vatican's hands, and they choose their own Black Knight. Hailing from Great Britain, Augustine du Lac becomes the sword's new wielder. At the behest of corrupt forces within the Vatican, this new Black Knight becomes part of an invasion of the fictional nation of Wakanda. His allies in the assault include Black Panther's old enemy Ulysses Klaw, the international mercenary Batroc the Leaper, and the powerhouse the Rhino. Thankfully, Wakanda is the last nation on Earth you want to invade, and both du Lac and his comrades are defeated. Black Panther personally defeats Du Lac and takes possession of the Ebony Blade.

Once Dane Whitman learns of what's happened, he travels to Wakanda and convinces Queen Ororo — aka Storm of the X-Men — to return the Ebony Blade to his care. 

The ruler of Weirdworld

The 2015 event Secret Wars re-established Weirdworld — a strange, dangerous place that first appeared way back in 1976's Marvel Super Action #1 and then returned in Marvel Premiere #38. The Secret Wars event included the Weirdworld miniseries, and a short-lived ongoing series followed. Weirdworld offered, among other things, a new home for the Black Knight. 

In 2015's Black Knight #2, we learn the Ebony Blade had once again been affecting Dane Whitman, this time corrupting his mind. In a flashback, we see that during a return to the Avengers, Black Knight fought and killed the supervillain Carnivore. Rather than face the consequences, Dane flees to Weirdworld and kills King Zaltin Tar, assuming leadership of many of the world's bizarre warring forces under the name New Avalon.

The Avengers Unity Squad travel to Weirdworld to bring Black Knight to justice, and among other things, the fact that the Avengers opened their membership to the mercenary Deadpool hurts the chances that Dane will agree to handle things peacefully. The Black Knight makes a fight of it, though he's eventually overpowered. The Avengers initially want to take the Ebony Blade back to Earth, but when holding the blade causes Steve Rogers to go nuts and attack his friends, the Avengers realize Dane is the only man who can safely wield the blade, and they leave him to his rule.

Black Knight and the Kill Krew

One of the most recent and strangest team-ups the Black Knight has been a part of unfolds in the 2019-20 miniseries Punisher Kill Krew.

During the company-wide War of the Realms event, monsters and mystical creatures from all over the Ten Realms invade Earth. In one of the connecting minis — War of the Realms: Punisher — the vigilante Punisher is there when a Frost Giant cripples a man and kills his family. In Punisher Kill Krew, Frank Castle goes on a quest across the realms to get vengeance on the offending giant, as well as other creatures who murdered innocents during the invasion. Along the way, Punisher recruits the unlikely team of Juggernaut, the lawyer Foggy Nelson, and Thor's flying goat Toothgnasher. When the Kill Krew travels to Svartalfheim — home of the Dark Elves — they find Black Knight already there, tearing through every Dark Elf soldier he can find. 

Once he learns of Punisher's goals, Dane joins the team on their journey. He travels with them to Knowhere and to Nidavellir where they find and defeat Kasyckla, the Frost Giant that Punisher's been gunning for. It's Dane's Ebony Blade — wielded by Punisher — that kills the murderous giant.