CCI: Comic Character Investigation #361 août 2013
[ENGLISH] This month: The Black Knight. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
It’s a concept we have since we are children, a villain of the Medieval world, astride his powerful steed The Black Knight is a terror among feudal lands and only great champions can hope to face him and survive. We all know the Black Knight, the icon in our mind’s eye of this archetypal villain of old. Yet like many creations, this particular villain was a re-creation by Marvel scribe Roy Thomas.
Mr. Thomas’s choice in running with a recreation of this character lay in the fact that should he prescribe to Marvel’s policy and create a work-for-hire character for them that became immensely successful, well, one figures a creator would not be too happy about that. Enter The Black Knight, a recreation coming into be after previous recreations.
Roy Thomas’s Black Knight made his first appearance in The Avengers #48 but a Black Knight had also been a focal hero in an Atlas Comics publication. This first comic appearance of the classic ancient icon took the for of Sir Percy of Scandia and came out in the 1950’s. Marvel actually did the next incarnation of the Knight who of course was a super-villain and perhaps even more appropriately fought against Iron Man. After all, in modern society who but Iron Man could be seen as a champion “good” knight, body armor included. In his second venture through comics The Black Knight became a member of Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil.
Roy Thomas brought about the third version, protecting himself from losing a creator-owned character by building on a character which Marvel already had in their vaults under dungeon lock and key. In this way he could do the work for hire and not worry about losing a sensation that he could not control the way he might want, an issue for all creators doping work-for –hire assignments.
In that Avengers issue The Black Knight’s identity was Dane Whitman. Thomas built on the extant Marvel Black Knight by making Whitman the nephew of Nathan Garrett, the one who set out against Iron Man in earlier days. Garrett dies and in a twist far different that our childhood visions, Whitman seeks redemption for the evil deeds of his uncle and decides to become The Black Knight and be a hero!
In an interesting, if predictable, plot twist, The Black Knight was less than successful in shaking hands and forming alliances with The Avengers as he wished. Perhaps he should have clued them into his decision for upon seeing him they attacked him immediately, certain it was Garrett The Black Knight of evil they knew and always fought.
It did take awhile but in time, upon learning who he really was, they gre to accept them within their ranks as a fighter for justice.
Bringing things full circle had to include the original Black Knight Sir Percy meeting up with Dane. This occurred in Marvel Super Heroes #17. One of the purposes for this fateful meeting was so that Whitman could gain the ebony sword the original wielded in combat. Its quality? An invincible blade. Not only that but it could cut through anything as well.
This made the new Black Knight much more powerful than he was but in true Marvel style, a dark side came with the gift…it would try to use him if it ever tasted blood and find its own way of being used.
The stories with Dane also had him using special science notes left by his uncle which enabled him to build a winged horse called Aragorn.
Science notes, a winged horse from them and The Lord of the Rings character name were all somewhat fantastic stretches for these stories but that’s okay, because however he is created or re-created, he is always with us anyway in our mind’s eye. All we can do is offer pieces to the story but in the end we know who The Black Knight is and who he has always been, a medieval figure in our imagination.
And because he is so much a part of our imagination, what better place was there for him to fly his winged steed towards each new adventure than the comics, an adventurous battleground themselves where indeed all champions are welcome.
James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.