Here at Balladeer’s Blog I like to listen to you readers. Many of you have enjoyed my takes on the earliest adventures of Marvel Comics characters like the Avengers, X-Men, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. The MOST popular so far was my look at the first 20 Iron Man stories in the 1960s, so here is a bonus I.M. blog post picking up where that original one left off.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #59 (November 1964)
Title: The Black Knight
Villain: The Black Knight (Nathan Garrett)
Comment: This issue of Tales of Suspense allows for a lot of side notes about the evolution of Marvel Comics’ particular iteration of the Black Knight figure AND the nature of the Marvel vs DC competition of the time.
The reason that Marvel Comics began pairing up some of its heroes in one particular comic book was because of a new agreement with their rivals at DC. Each had agreed, “arms limitation”-style, to limit the number of titles they published per month for a time. Instead of having two separate comic books for Iron Man and Captain America, Tales of Suspense featured both heroes in individual adventures.
Similarly, instead of having separate comic books for the Hulk, Giant-Man & the Wasp and the Sub-Mariner, they shared Tales to Astonish in different combinations for a time. Strange Tales was likewise shared by Dr Strange, Nick Fury and the Johnny Storm Human Torch.
All of this stayed within the title-limitation arrangement made with DC while still allowing many of Marvel’s most popular characters to remain on newsstands along with Spider-Man, Thor, the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
Synopsis: The Black Knight (Nathan Garrett), usually a supervillain opponent of Giant-Man & the Wasp, was in prison following the recent clash between the Avengers and Baron Zemo’s original Masters of Evil, of which he was a member. The Knight’s winged horse Elendil at last located its master’s cell window, allowing him to retrieve some chemicals from its saddle-bag. With those chemicals the Black Knight dissolved the bars of his cell, mounted Elendil and flew off, wanting revenge.
A few nights later, the Avengers were getting ready to make an appearance at a charity event. Iron Man stayed behind on monitor duty at Avengers Mansion for emergencies while the Wasp, Thor, Giant-Man and Captain America attended the event.
That same evening, the Black Knight struck, flying around on Elendil, wearing his armor and wielding his high-tech power lance which could shoot energy rays, create force fields, shoot micro-missiles and more. The Knight inflicted a lot of damage, hoping to attract the attention of his usual foes Giant-Man & the Wasp, but instead found himself fighting Iron Man, who spotted his rampage while on monitor duty.
In the end, after a battle royal, Iron Man won his aerial dog-fight with the Black Knight and returned him to prison.
NOTE: The history of Marvel’s “Black Knight” intellectual property was even more checkered than that of their Ka-Zar character. In the 1950s, Marvel’s Black Knight was Sir Percy, a fictional knight during the Crusades, who got into assorted Ivanhoe or Prince Valiant type of adventures. Like many of the company’s other 1950s characters (the Yellow Claw, Patsy Walker), their version of the Black Knight was eventually canceled, but revived years later.
In the early 1960s, the villainous Sir Nathan Garrett, a descendant of Sir Percy, was the latest holder of his family’s Black Knight title. Nathan used his scientific genius to become the supervillain depicted in this blog post.
On his death bed, he confided in his nephew, Dane Whitman, who would inherit the family title AND Garrett Castle, about his technological secrets and asked him to redeem the family honor. Dane became a superhero called the Black Knight, using his late uncle’s Power Lance and riding a winged horse of his own called Aragorn.
Eventually, Dane Whitman abandoned the Power Lance and began using a succession of enchanted swords. He was also advised by the spirit of his ancestor, Marvel’s Sir Percy version of the Black Knight from the Crusades. That spirit could be summoned in the mystic brazier of Garrett Castle.
In 1977, Marvel decided to have it BOTH ways, leaving Dane Whitman as a heroic Black Knight, while having the renegade Latverian scientist Bram Velsing (!) start using the villainous Black Knight’s flying horse Elendil and his other technology as the supervillain called Dreadknight.
And that brings us up to the present day, in which Kit Harington is set to play the Dane Whitman “good guy” Black Knight in Marvel’s upcoming movie The Eternals.
Assuming it ever gets released.
FOR THE HARVEY COMICS SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
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FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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