Eternals: Dane Whitman and the Complicated Black Knight Legacy

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This article contains Eternals spoilers and potential spoilers for the future of the MCU.

You know nothing…about the Black Knight.

Get it? Because the Black Knight is played by Kit Harington? You know, the dude that played Jon Snow on Game of Thrones? So like, “you know nothing…” Ah, forget it.

Ahem.

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If the Eternals post-credits scene featuring Kit Harrington as Marvel’s Dane Whitman is any indication, then the Black Knight is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe (possibly with an assist from Mahershala Ali’s Blade) pretty soon. It’s a little surprising considering that the classic Marvel Comics Black Knight really had very little to do with the world of the Eternals, other than his time spent as a member of the Avengers with Sersi. 

But Dane Whitman is a great character with a rich and surprising history that stretches back to the early days of Marvel. He even makes a reference to that when he tells Sersi in the film that “my family history is…complicated.” 

Dane Whitman’s “Complicated” Family History

We’re here to help you unravel Dane’s complicated family history, and how it all puts him on the path to becoming the Black Knight.

The Original Marvel Black Knight

Dane Whitman wasn’t the first hero to hold the title of Black Knight. The first Black Knight was Sir Percy of Scandia, a knight of Camelot. This early Marvel legend first appeared in Black Knight #1 (May 1955) and was created by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely. There were very few costumed heroes associated with the Arthurian era, so Black Knight remains a little explored gem of a comic.

Sir Percy was a Knight of the Round Table who proudly served King Arthur and fought threats like Mordred and Morgan Le Fey, two villains who would appear years later in the Marvel Universe. The Black Knight wielded the Ebony Blade, a magic sword carved from a meteor by Merlin himself (and later it was revealed that Sersi had a hand in helping Merlin craft it). 

Percy was ultimately killed by Mordred and the mantle of the Black Knight began to be passed down to the fallen knight’s descendants. Interestingly, during the big museum fight in Spider-Man: Far From Home, you can glimpse the Black Knight’s armor in the background. We can safely assume that this was Sir Percy’s armor.

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But in the comics, at least one other person was the Black Knight before Dane…

The Villainous Black Knight

The Black Knight who would go on to join the Masters of Evil first appeared in Tales to Astonish #52 (1964) and was created by Stan Lee and Dick Ayers. One of Sir Percy’s descendants, Nathan Garrett, a brilliant research scientist, led a spy ring until he was defeated by Giant Man (that’s Hank Pym, folks). 

Disgraced, Garrett ran to Europe where he found the tomb of Sir Percy. Garrett was rejected by the Ebony Blade because of his dickheel tendencies. Embittered, he became a new Black Knight, but profaned Percy’s good name by becoming a villainous facsimile of Camelot’s champion.

Instead of wielding the magic of Camelot, Garrett built weapons like a blaster lance and other hi-tech medieval nonsense. He also created a genetically engineered flying horse named Aragorn because I guess even villains like Tolkien? But yeah, dude, don’t sell your method of making flying horses to make cheese, rob banks! The second Black Knight was a dick. 

Anyway, Garrett was again defeated by Giant Man, the Avengers, and Iron Man. In his final battle with Tony Stark, Garrett fell from Aragorn and was mortally wounded. Dying, Garrett summoned his nephew Dane Whitman which brings us to our man of the hour… 

The Black Knight in the Avengers

Whitman is the nephew of Nathaniel Garrett. One other fun detail to keep in mind here is that Sir Percy was likely a cousin of King Arthur’s, and with Garrett as Percy’s descendant, and Dane as Garrett’s nephew, that means some of King Arthur’s blood flows in Dane’s veins.

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When the evil Black Knight lay dying after his battle with Iron Man, he summoned Whitman to his side. There, Garrett made a face turn and begged Dane to take the mantle of the Black Knight to restore honor to Sir Percy’s legacy. Whitman created his own costume, adapted some of Garrett’s weapons, saddled up Aragorn and became the new, modern Black Knight. 

This all happens in Avengers #47 (1967) by writer Roy Thomas and artists John Verpoorten and George Tuska. In his first adventure, the Avengers mistake Whitman for Garrett and a superhero smackdown ensues. To prove his worth, Whitman infiltrates the Masters of Evil and helps the Avengers. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes offer Whitman membership and the heroic legacy of the Black Knight begins again.

Over the years, Black Knight has appeared in a handful of memorable stories. He was the catalyst of The Avengers/Defenders War when each team raced to find a cure after Whitman turns to stone thanks to a kiss by the Enchantress. Black Knight focused stories were few and far between even though the character was seemingly ever present in Avengers and early issues of Defenders. The first major change to Whitman came in Doctor Strange #68–69 (1984) by Roger Stern and Paul Smith where Whitman finally finds the Ebony Blade, the Merlin-forged sword of Sir Percy.

What is the Ebony Blade?

The Ebony Blade is more of a curse since if the sword draws even a drop of blood, Whitman will be horribly cursed (you can see now why Ali’s Blade asks Dane “are you sure you’re ready for that, Mr. Whitman?” as he examines the legendary sword at the conclusion of Eternals). With this tragic twist, Whitman rejoins the Avengers and becomes a member in good standing until Namor uses the sword to draw blood. Whitman is cursed and begins to transform into the same metal used to forge the Ebony Blade. What’s with Black Knight petrifying? It’s a whole thing.

The sword also gives Dane a kind of functional immortality in that if he dies while holding it, he’ll be resurrected in relatively short order. But of course there’s a drawback there, too, since the Ebony Blade feeds on and amplifies the darker emotions of its wielder, kind of like a reverse-Mjolnir in terms of worthiness.

What is the Black Knight Connection to the Eternals?

At one point in the comics, Black Knight became the leader of the Avengers. At the time, the roster experienced a major shakeup with a number of new members that included Crystal of the Inhumans and Sersi of the Eternals. As members of the Avengers, Black Knight and Sersi became lovers as the Eternal sorceress took a liking to the scion of Camelot. Sadly, a love triangle begins when Whitman develops feelings for Crystal and a whole mess follows. 

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A villain named Proctor complicated matters further. This convoluted baddie was an alternate universe version of Whitman possessed by the Ebony Blade. To battle Proctor, Sersi and Whitman undergo an Eternal process called gann josin which bonds Sersi and the Knight together.

So, for a short time, Whitman did indeed gain Eternal power and really, the whole thing is an overwritten mess because that’s ’90s comics for ya. But, this whole gann josin stuff creates a bond between Black Knight and Eternals lore. In the comics, Sersi had a profound impact on Whitman. After they bonded, Sersi turned Black Knight’s heart to “stone” (again with the petrifying!) so he could remain emotionally removed from humanity and better serve the world as a champion. 

As if this wasn’t wild enough, Black Knight eventually joined a team known as MI: 13, a British agency that battles the supernatural. There, Whitman believes he once again bonds with the Ebony Blade, but it turns out the sword is a fake forged by Dracula (there goes that Blade connection again) with the purpose of corrupting Whitman. The Black Knight is too strong for the blade and uses the vampiric sword to battle Dracula’s forces. Come to think of it, this would make for a pretty fun Blade/Black Knight team-up movie, wouldn’t it?

So what’s next for Dane Whitman? At the moment it doesn’t look like we’re going to spend any significant screen time with him in any of the MCU movies or TV shows scheduled for 2022, but that could change. It also doesn’t seem like that Blade movie will arrive before 2023, so we may have quite some time to wait before we get answers about the Ebony Blade and the Black Knight. And some recent comments from folks at Marvel Studios make it sound like Dane’s path to becoming the Black Knight might not be all that easy after all.

But if Dane Whitman’s family history is anything to go by, he’s got more than enough time.

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