Things Only Comics Fans Know About Eternals' Dane Whitman, Aka The Black Knight

Those who've seen director Chloé Zhao's "Eternals" have been introduced to Dr. Dane Whitman ⁠— played by Kit Harington, aka Jon Snow in HBO's "Game of Thrones" ⁠— as a professor at the Natural History Museum in London, where he's been dating his colleague, fellow classroom instructor and scholar Sersi (Gemma Chan).

Subsequent events see Sersi explain her backstory as an Eternal to Dane, but it's ultimately Dane who stands poised to tell Sersi about his recently discovered and "complicated" family history, as he considers whether to wield what appears to be an ancient family heirloom.

In Marvel Comics, Dane Whitman was co-created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema, debuting as the heroic Black Knight in "The Avengers" #47-48 in 1967. But even in his earliest appearances, Dane was already saddled with a complicated backstory, since his uncle, Nathan Garrett, first popped up as the villainous Black Knight in 1963's "Tales to Astonish" #52, barely four years before his nephew.

In the years since, Dane Whitman has made recurring appearances in "Avengers" comics, scored solo appearances in U.S. and U.K. anthology titles, and headlined his own miniseries, one-shots, and ongoing series, all while working his way through a succession of super-weapons, flying "steeds," superhero teams, love interests, and even native universes, as Marvel has continually sought to answer the question you're all asking now: Who is the Black Knight?

His family history is indeed complicated

Before Nathan Garrett, Marvel Comics' very first Black Knight was Sir Percival of Scandia, co-created by writer Stan Lee and artist Joe Maneely in "Black Knight" #1 in 1955, published by Marvel back when it was still called Atlas Comics.

Lee applied the superhero secret identity trope to Arthurian legends by having Sir Percy adopt the persona of a cowardly fop, so no one would suspect he was the fearsome Black Knight, defender of Camelot, armed with the "Ebony Blade" that Merlin had forged from a meteorite.

Percival held his own as the Black Knight well enough to repel an attempted Viking invasion of Camelot, personally led by Thor of Asgard, but Arthur's nephew Mordred ultimately defeated Percy by stabbing him with the "Ebony Dagger," forged from the same meteorite as his blade.

Time travel temporarily sent Percival forward to the early 20th century, where he was deemed insane and sent to the Ravencroft mental asylum, before he briefly switched bodies with the present-day Dane Whitman and met the "Excalibur" team of British superheroes and X-Men.

Percival's spirit selected Dane Whitman as his successor after rejecting his direct descendant, scientist and inventor Nathan Garrett, even though Nathan unearthed both Percy's tomb and the Ebony Blade. Nathan decided to spite his ancestor by making "the Black Knight" synonymous with supervillainy, committing crimes with medieval weapons that employed modern technology and riding a genetically engineered winged horse.

Two generations of Black Knights swapped allies and adversaries

Although both Black Knights served stints on the "Masters of Evil," Dane Whitman only did so to infiltrate the supervillain team, and to make amends for his uncle Nathan's misdeeds.

After Nathan Garrett faced off against Hank Pym twice, the villainous Black Knight was admitted into the Masters of Evil, following an audition pitting him against Spider-Man in New York City. Nathan's subsequent outing with the Masters of Evil saw them all defeated by the Avengers, preserving the villainous Black Knight's perfect record of zero victories, and culminating in humiliation as Thor rode Nathan's flying horse, Elendil. Because Nathan could never let go of his grudge against the Avengers — and Iron Man in particular — he wound up mortally wounded from falling off Elendil.

With his dying breaths, Nathan contacted his nephew, fellow scientist Dane Whitman, and confessed to his villainous misdeeds, while urging Dane to eschew his example and do good instead. Although the Avengers initially mistook Dane for Nathan, Dane was granted provisional membership in the Avengers after he managed to deceive the Masters of Evil. 

Dane Whitman would finally attain full official Avengers membership in 1969's "Avengers" #71 after he single-handedly defeated Kang the Conqueror in a contest staged by the Grandmaster.

His stint on the 'Jacket Avengers' got him into the Eternals film

The early 1990s were the apex of Dane's tenure as an Avenger, when almost all the team's members wore uniform brown leather bomber jackets over their costumes. While this era of "Jacket Avengers" has drawn no shortage of criticisms from comics fans, it also earned Dane his guest-starring shot in the "Eternals" film.

"Eternals" producer Nate Moore told ComicBook that the film included the relationship between Dane and Sersi "for comic readers who loved the Avengers in the '90s," when Dane played a major role on the team.

The 1992 "Operation: Galactic Storm" crossover saw Dane side with Iron Man and the faction of Avengers who wanted to kill the Kree's Supreme Intelligence for perpetrating the genocide of its own people. Not only did Dane strike the killing blow against the Supreme Intelligence, but he also became the de facto field leader of the Avengers after Captain America quit the team in disgust over their actions.

Dane and Sersi's emerging romance was complicated by Sersi's mental illness, caused by the Eternals' "Mahd W'yry" disease (pronounced "Mad Weary," as exhibited by Angelina Jolie's Thena in the film), which led Sersi to kill villains and get framed for two police officers' murders.

Fellow Eternal Ikaris bonded Dane and Sersi as "Gann Josin" soulmates in a bid to slow her mental decline, but by then, Dane had decided he was more in love with Crystal of the Inhumans, because ...

He can't keep his 'cursed blade' in his pants

Even by the soap opera standards of Marvel Comics superheroes, Dane Whitman is an HR nightmare of toxic dealings with his coworkers (and any other woman who enters his orbit).

During the 1986-87 "Under Siege" story arc that ran through "Avengers" #270-277, Dane admitted to being thrown off his game by his desire to impress team leader Janet Van Dyne, aka the Wasp, who was freshly split from Hank Pym. Dane's persistent distraction during combat, including his low-key jealousy over Jan's dalliance with the mercenary Paladin, contributed to the success of Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil in attacking the Avengers Mansion.

When Dane's wandering eye lingered on Crystal, not only was he still dating Sersi, but Crystal was still married to once-and-future Avenger Quicksilver, with whom she had a daughter, Luna.

In 2021, the "Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade" comic revealed that, as a young man, Dane had intended to propose to Ashima Chopra, but lost his nerve after she was diagnosed with cancer. Ashima died without receiving a hospital visit from Dane, and without letting him know that she'd given birth to their daughter, Jackie.

Dane's least problematic relationship was with Lady Victoria Bentley, whose English estate neighbored the castle he'd inherited from his uncle, Nathan Garrett. Both Victoria and Dane had gone on adventures with Doctor Strange by the time Dane revealed his secret identity as the Black Knight to Victoria, but even this ended badly.

His foes are even darker reflections of the Black Knight

Victoria Bentley was killed, by accident, by Dane Whitman's former squire, a young Irishman named Sean Dolan, in "Avengers" #366 in 1993, while Sean was fighting Deadpool.

After being introduced in "Black Knight" #2 in 1990, Sean was possessed by the Ebony Blade and became "Bloodwraith" in "Avengers Annual" #22, only four months prior to Victoria's death. The tragedy was that Sean, who was so thoughtlessly cast aside as Dane's squire, was also angered by Dane's abandonment of Victoria, because Dane Whitman has all the familial instincts of a Galápagos tortoise.

Bloodwraith rode Valinor, Dane's second winged steed as the Black Knight, because it was the early '90s, so Marvel Comics wanted each hero to have their own "dark duplicate" adversary in hopes of spawning the next Venom. Rarely was this more obvious than when the Avengers were attacked by the Gatherers, a team of alternate universe versions of themselves led by Proctor, who was revealed to be the cause of Sersi's Mahd W'yry and a multiversal variant of Dane Whitman himself.

Because Proctor had embraced the "blood curse" (more on that below) of his Ebony Blade, rather than resisting it as "our" Dane had done, his Gann Josin link with Sersi drove her so insane that she destroyed the Earth, forcing him to kill her. Ever since, Proctor had made it his mission to murder Sersi in every reality.

He's racked up frequent flier miles in the multiverse

After "our" Sersi killed Proctor, she was offered an opportunity to recover from her Mahd W'yry, by retreating to yet another universe. Dane felt guilty enough to join her.

Here's where the real world intervenes, because in 1994, Marvel purchased Malibu Comics, which had its own shared superhero universe, branded the "Ultraverse." Not only did Sersi and Dane find themselves on the Earth of the Ultraverse, but Dane joined its resident superhero team, Ultraforce, eventually becoming its leader, while Sersi was temporarily possessed by a seventh Infinity Stone, the Ego Gem, that's never appeared before or since.

In the meantime, a contest between Loki and the Grandmaster pitted Ultraforce against the Avengers, with the Black Knight as a wild card, but then, the combined power of the Infinity Stones coalesced into an entity known as Nemesis, who began blending the Ultraverse and the Marvel Comics Universe. The two teams joined forces, and the Black Knight defeated Nemesis by scattering the Infinity Stones with a blow from a Nazi version of the Ebony Blade.

Even after 1995's reality-warping "Black September" event, Dane Whitman remained so much himself that there was inevitably sexual tension between him and one of his Ultraforce teammates, Ultraverse warrior queen Topaz (who loosely inspired Rachel House's character in "Thor: Ragnarok").

He's been turned to stone (more than once)

Dane and Sersi's trip home from the Ultraverse detoured through the 12th century, where Dane's spirit inhabited the body of another ancestor, Crusader Sir Eobar Garrington. But it wasn't Dane's first "Quantum Leap" back into the history of his own bloodline, nor was the "Avengers/Ultraforce" crossover his first time caught between the Avengers and another superhero team.

In "Defenders" #4 in 1973, the Black Knight didn't so much join the team as become part of its décor, after the Enchantress misled him into believing she loved him as part of her evil schemes, then turned him to stone with a kiss.

While Valkyrie (who made her debut in this issue) adopted Aragorn, Dane's first flying horse, Dane's spirit astrally projected into the past to take possession of Sir Eobar for the first time. When Loki and Dormammu deceived Defenders member Doctor Strange into believing he needed the Evil Eye of Avalon to restore Dane to life in the present day, it led to the 1973 "Avengers/Defenders War" crossover between the two titles.

Before he returned from inhabiting Eobar's body, Dane recovered Captain Britain from the Arthurian era. But it wasn't until Namor the Sub-Mariner used the Ebony Blade to slay his wife Marrina, who'd become the monstrous Leviathan, that the sword's previously purged "blood curse" became resurgent, first turning Dane's body into the same mystic metal as the blade, then reverting him to a stone statue.

He's gone through a few swords (and shields)

Victoria Bentley not only tended to Dane's statue, but also attempted to revive him through magic, which instead summoned the spirit of Sir Percival to possess Dane's restored body. It was Sir Percy who recruited Sean Dolan as his squire, whom Dane kept on for a while. By bonding his soul to the Ebony Blade, the original Black Knight also resurrected Dane Whitman.

In "Doctor Strange" #68 in 1984, Dane learned from the Sorcerer Supreme that the Ebony Blade is cursed to drive its bearer closer to madness every time it draws blood. By "Avengers" #295 in 1988, this curse drew blood from anyone who so much as touched the Black Knight — even Thor was wounded, simply from laying hands on Dane's armored exoskeleton — so after Dane became a statue for a second time, he decided he was done with the Ebony Blade and built himself a "Photon Sword" (also spelled "Lightsaber") instead, which made its debut in "Avengers" #343 in 1992.

Dane used this Photon Sword to kill the Kree's Supreme Intelligence in "Operation: Galactic Storm" and to fight Sean Dolan when he wielded the Ebony Blade and became Bloodwraith. But the Photon Sword didn't join Dane in returning from the Ultraverse, so the same Lady of the Lake who'd gifted Excalibur to Arthur gave Dane the Shield of Night, which absorbs energy, and the Sword of Light, which emits that energy, in "Heroes for Hire" #2 in 1997.

He's cycled through a few flying steeds, too (one 'atomic')

Dane Whitman personally wielded Excalibur in the U.K. anthology "Hulk Comic" #42-63 from 1979-80, but his first weapon as the Black Knight was the multi-projectile "Power Lance" invented by his uncle, Nathan Garrett. However, instead of also inheriting Nathan's genetically engineered steed, Elendil, it was further mutated and fell into the possession of mad scientist Bram Velsing, who hoped the "Hellhorse" would help him wrest control of Castle Frankenstein from Frankenstein's monster.

Dane used Nathan's genetic engineering techniques to turn another horse, Aragorn, into his first flying steed, which was later adopted by Valkyrie and died in battle alongside her during the 2019 "War of the Realms" crossover. When Dane returned from the 12th century, he brought along his second winged steed, Valinor, but this horse was also abandoned by him and adopted by another, this time Sean Dolan as Bloodwraith.

The only steed Dane managed to retain was Strider, the magical winged horse gifted to him by the Lady of the Lake, even though it's been some time since readers have seen Dane using the Lady's Sword of Light or Shield of Night. (And yes, both Dane and Nathan were huge nerds for J.R.R. Tolkien.)

Dane's most memorable flying "horse," though, was his "Atomic Steed," a saddle-shaped sky-bike used by the High Evolutionary's Knights of Wundagore, one of which the Avengers simply swiped and chucked into storage until Dane discovered it half a dozen years later.

He fought Dracula with British intelligence (but he's not British)

The Black Knight's legacy began in medieval England, and Nathan Garrett was born in London, but Dane Whitman was born in New England to a rich family in Gloucester, Massachusetts. And yet, Dane still served a brief stint on MI-13, the fictional British intelligence agency established to handle paranormal occurrences.

In "New Excalibur" #10-11 in 2006, Dane learned that eight men held the Ebony Blade before Sir Percival, but that Sir Percy was deemed the only one noble enough to resist its corruption while wielding it. During the 15-issue run of "Captain Britain and MI-13" from 2008-09, Dane discovered not only that the Ebony Blade he'd concluded was real was instead a fake created by Dracula, but also that Sersi had given him a literal heart of stone to keep him "above it all" emotionally.

Dane joined MI-13 and battled Skrulls in London as part of the 2008-09 "Secret Invasion" crossover. Along the way, he bonded with fellow MI-13 agent Dr. Faiza Hussain, a Muslim medic and the modern wielder of Excalibur. Dane made Faiza his squire, and after he recovered the real Ebony Blade from Wakanda, he helped MI-13 repel a Dracula-led vampire invasion of the British Isles. Ultimately, Faiza destroyed Dracula with Excalibur and attained knighthood, Dane's stone heart was restored, and because Dane is Dane, he and Faiza hooked up.

The Black Knight has a dark heart

In recent years, Dane Whitman has suffered hard knocks ranging from bouts of insanity to losing his fourth winged steed, Galadriel, who only appeared in three comic book issues between 2020-21. But of all the retconned reveals, 2020-21's "King in Black" and 2021's "Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade" forced Dane to confront the harshest truths yet about himself.

While Dane envisioned himself as a noble crusader, able to wield the Ebony Blade because of his innate goodness, he learned that he and his ancestors were chosen by the Ebony Blade because they were impure of heart. Not only were Dane's forebears not the paragons of virtue he'd imagined, since each inevitably succumbed to their own inner darkness, but Dane realized he only acted as a hero out of performative narcissism, which made him a "worthy" wielder of the Ebony Blade because he did the right deeds for the wrong reasons.

And because Dane had deserted the love of his life as she was dying of cancer, he did not know she'd borne his daughter until he met Jackie "Jacks" Chopra as an adult. Ironically, Dane had tapped Jackie as an Arthurian history buff to better understand his own family.

Dane came to terms with his faults, but still expected Jacks to reject him as her father. While she was initially furious, she ultimately offered to lessen the burden of the Ebony Blade's curse by sharing the role of the Black Knight with him.