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Who is Dane Whitman/the Black Knight? Kit Harington's Eternals character's comic book history explained

cover of King in Black: Black Knight #1
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Marvel's Eternals film is now in theaters, and along with the eponymous cosmic beings, the movie introduces Dane Whitman - the future MCU Black Knight. And though Eternals doesn't elevate Whitman to his superhero identity just yet, it does set the stage for his eventual heroic ascension.

image of Kit Harington at Eternals premiere

KIt Harington at the Eternals premiere (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dane Whitman, Marvel's best known character to take on the identity of the Black Knight, may not be a household name just yet. But he's one of the longest running comic book Avengers - having even led the team at one point - and he's the bearer of a mantle that goes back hundreds of years into the past of the Marvel Universe.

With Dane Whitman now in the MCU and on the road to becoming the Black Knight, it's the perfect time to become familiar with one of Marvel's most unsung mythological legacies, and how Black Knight's story could come to the MCU - including his surprising connections to the X-Men.

Who is Dane Whitman, the Black Knight?

Black Knight (Dane Whitman) image

Black Knight (Dane Whitman) image (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Dane Whitman first debuted in 1967's Avengers #47 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.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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.

Dane Whitman in the Marvel Universe

Black Knight (Dane Whitman) image

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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 Sersei (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.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

With the whole situation weighing on them, Black Knight and Sersei 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.

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, Whitman discovers that the true power of the Ebony Blade is not to be wielded by someone who is 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.

Dane Whitman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - spoilers ahead

Kit Harington as Dane Whitman (Black Knight) in Eternals

Kit Harington as Dane Whitman (Black Knight) in Eternals (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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 Black Blade in his hands (with a bit of a twist from another unexpected Marvel character).

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).

Avengers #373 cover (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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').

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.

Black Knight has a history with the Avengers that goes back decades. Here are the best Avengers stories ever.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)