The DCEU has a new Dark Knight and pretty soon the MCU will have a Black Knight.
He's not only one of Marvel Comics' longest-tenured superheroes having debuted in the late '60s, Dane Whitman, AKA the Black Knight. is also one of the longest-tenured Avengers (even serving as its chairman for a time), is the heir of an in-story legacy dating back to the time of King Arthur, and owns a comic book legacy that actually predates Marvel Comics itself.
Not bad for a guy most people probably never heard of before Kit Harington made his debut as Whitman in Marvel's Eternals, now streaming on Disney Plus.
As most fans know by now, while appearing as a regular dude and love interest of Sersi (which has deep comic book roots) for the entire film, Harington's Whitman made his first strides toward his superheroic Black Knight identity in one of the film's two post-credits teasers, joined by the off-camera voice of Mahershala Ali as another new addition to the MCU, Blade.
While we don't know where Whitman will make his next live-action appearance and/or where the Black Knight will make his first, now's as good a time as any to bone up on one of Marvel's most unsung mythological legacies and explore how he fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe - including his surprising connections to the X-Men that could play into their MCU introduction as well.
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Who is the Black Knight, Dane Whitman
Dane Whitman first debuted in 1967's Avengers #47 (opens in new tab) as a human super-scientist. Not yet the Black Knight, Whitman is first seen working on a series of experiments he hopes will give him the power to atone for the misdeeds of his uncle Nathan Garrett, the previous bearer of the Black Knight mantle.
As the Black Knight, Garrett was a supervillain and a member of the original Masters of Evil. After Garrett died in a fight with Iron Man, Whitman inherited the legacy of the Black Knight, which had been passed down through his family since the era of King Arthur's Camelot when it originated with Whitman's ancestor Sir Percy of Scandia.
Interestingly, Sir Percy of Scandia, the original Black Knight, actually predates Marvel Comics, having debuted in the publisher's Atlas Comics days as a fantasy hero before being incorporated into the lore of the Marvel Universe.
Whitman vowed to return the mantle to its heroic origins, eventually discovering the true legacy of the Black Knight, the so-called Ebony Blade, a sword that was created by Merlin in the era of Camelot.(opens in new tab)
Enchanted with tremendous but corrupting power, the Ebony Blade was, for generations, purported to be able to be used only by the pure of heart (this turned out not to be true - we'll explain the real enchantment of the Ebony Blade soon).
As the Black Knight, Whitman wields the Ebony Blade, which is enchanted to cut through any substance, to protect its wielder from death, and to deflect and defend the wielder from magic. Whitman also rides a winged horse named Aragorn, the product of his genetic experiments (Aragorn has also been ridden by Brunnhilde, the original Valkyrie).
Though Whitman chooses to be a hero in the spirit of Sir Percy rather than a villain like his uncle, he still joins the Masters of Evil in his uncle's place with the intent of infiltrating them and bringing them to justice with the Avengers.
But the heroes are skeptical of Whitman's motivations, believing he may be planning to double-cross them, until he helps them defeat Kang the Conqueror, earning a place on the team for years to come.
The Black Knight in the Marvel Universe
Dane Whitman first encounters the Avengers when he botches one of his crucial experiments, opening a portal to another reality where none other than Magneto and his henchman Toad are being held captive.
Magneto and Toad attempt to reassemble the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants by calling on Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the former Brotherhood members turned heroic Avengers. The subsequent fight between the Brotherhood and Earth's Mightiest Heroes sets Whitman on the path to discover the Ebony Blade and to become a member of the team himself.
Over the decades, Whitman has come and gone from the Avengers a few times, though he's been part of several of the best Avengers rosters ever, even leading the team for a while in their '90s 'leather jacket' era.
Around this time, Whitman abandons the Ebony Blade, deciding its curse, which draws out more bloodlust and rage from its wielder the more powerful they become, is getting too strong to resist (it sorta goes on its own side quest through a few years of Marvel history in this period) and taking up a lightsaber-esque 'Photon Blade,' a sword made of pure energy.
It's also in this era that Whitman becomes connected to the Eternals, starting a romantic relationship with Sersi (played by Gemma Chan in the Eternals film). However, Whitman also became involved with Crystal of the Inhumans, who was also serving as an Avenger at the time, eventually drawing the ire of Crystal's ex-husband Quicksilver.(opens in new tab)
With the whole situation weighing on them, Black Knight and Sersi travel to another reality (the alternate comic book continuity known as the Ultraverse, which is a whole kettle of comic book history fish all its own), leading their own team there for a short time before returning home.
Since then, Whitman has made a habit of traveling between teams, and even universes. Along with sojourns through time to the age of Camelot, a journey alongside X-Men adjacent team Excalibur into Otherworld, and a stint in the bizarre fantasy realm known as Weirdworld, Whitman has been a member of the Defenders, the Heroes for Hire, and the special forces team of Captain Britain and MI-13 (opens in new tab).
Most recently, the legacy of the Black Knight has been complicated again thanks to the return of the Ebony Blade to Whitman's hands. In the recent limited series Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade (opens in new tab), Whitman discovers that the true power of the Ebony Blade is not to be wielded by someone pure of heart, but by someone who is easily corrupted by its dark power.
Alongside this crisis of conscience, Whitman also learns he has a long-lost daughter named Jackie Chopra from a relationship in his youth, which leads them to reconnect - and to vow to share the Ebony Blade and their family's legacy as the Black Knight.
Black Knight's next Marvel Comics appearance will be in May as a cast member of the relaunched Savage Avengers ongoing series that also stars Conan the Barbarian, (yes, that Conan the Barbarian... no, really), Cloak and Dagger, Anti-Venom (who is Spider-Man supporting character Flash Thompson with Venom-like powers), Elektra (who is now sharing the Daredevil identity with Matt Murdock), and a Hulk-Wolverine hybrid called Weapon H.
How's that for a line-up?
The Black Knight in the MCU
Dane Whitman has made his MCU debut in Eternals, played by Kit Harington. Though he doesn't become the Black Knight in the film, a post-credits scene does set up his future hero turn by putting the Ebony Blade in his hands (with a bit of a twist from another unexpected Marvel character, the aforementioned Blade).
And considering the vast web of connections Whitman has to other prominent Marvel heroes - including some that haven't debuted yet, but are planned to - there's good reason to believe he could become a key member of the next incarnation of the Avengers. After all, he's one of only a handful of classic '60s era members of the comic book team who haven't made it to film yet (pretty much just him and Hercules).(opens in new tab)
Whitman's first appearance is tied to the X-Men, thanks to the involvement of Magneto and Toad, and he's also got a history with Excalibur - particularly Brian Braddock, the former Captain Britain/current Captain Avalon. And that of course brings up the concept of Otherworld, a realm of Arthurian magic with connections to the current X-Men run (especially the story 'X of Swords (opens in new tab)').
Most recently, the Ebony Blade was connected to Knull, the former god of symbiotes who was defeated by Venom, also connecting the sword to another Marvel Comics weapon, All-Black the Necrosword. All-Black is wielded by Gorr the God-Butcher, villain of the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder.
The legacy of the Black Knight runs through the history of the Marvel Universe, all the way back to the time of Camelot and King Arthur. With the Eternals also tied into Marvel's mystical, mythical secret past (including King Arthur who is mentioned in Eternals by name and Excalibur, which is actually seen), it's entirely possible that when Dane Whitman takes up the Ebony Blade to become the Black Knight, he'll open up a whole different wing of the MCU for exploration.
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