Cover of the first issue. Artist: Joe Maneely.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1955
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and Joe Maneely (artist)
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The Black Knight was one of dozens of minor characters, in dozens of genres, put out by dozens of comic book publishers in the 1950s, probably in an attempt to find out …

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… what the next big craze (in a field that had already been through superheroes, crime, romance and horror) would be. The next big craze doesn't seem to have been Arthurian adventure, because he sank after five issues. The only thing keeping him from oblivion is that he was published by Marvel Comics (under its Atlas imprint), and at Marvel, oblivion isn't easy for a character to achieve.

The first issue of The Black Knight was dated May, 1955. It was written by Stan Lee, who just a few years later co-created X-Men, Thor and practically everything else forming the basis of the Marvel Universe, and drawn by Joe Maneely, who probably would also have had a significant impact if he hadn't been killed in a subway accident in 1958. As it was, Maneely made his presence felt in The Yellow Claw. Ringo Kid, Melvin the Monster (no relation), Speed Carter and practically everything else in the Marvel/Atlas line.

Like so many Marvel heroes, The Black Knight had a secret identity. When he wasn't fighting alongside King Arthur for the protection of Camelot, he'd lounge around the castle as the pusillanimous Sir Percy of Scandia, who was handsome enough, but preferred poetry to battlefield glory. The fair Lady Rosamund, ward of the king, longed for The Black Knight's embrace, but had nothing but scorn for Percy. He wished he could tell her the truth, but you know how it is with secret identities.

The Black Knight had a magic weapon, The Ebony Sword, which had been forged by Merlin from a meteorite. His armor, too, was enchanted. This made him invincible in battle, and also came in handy when, more than a decade after the April, 1956 end of his series, his modern-day descendant, Dane Whitman, assumed "The Black Knight" as a secret identity, and started hanging around with The Avengers.

Sir Percy apparently had a castle of his own where his ghost could hang out, and where The Ebony Sword could lie around in the basement and wait for a worthy successor to come along and draw it. Dane's uncle, who also went by the "Black Knight" monicker but used it for evil, had tried and, being unworthy, failed. But Dane drew it easily; and thus the medieval Black Knight, whose only recent appearances had been a few unobtrusive reprints, got permanently tied up with him.

Since then, this Black Knight has been an occasional ghostly presence in the adventures of the present-day one. The two of them even did a time-traveling mini-series together in 1990, that ran almost as long as the original series. It's been like that for the past few decades, and the way Marvel characters linger, could easily continue like that for decades to come.


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Text ©2004-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.