Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Legacy of Evil: The Return of the Black Knight!

My first exposure to Nathan Garrett, the villainous Black Knight, was in the pages of The Avengers, where he was a member of the original Masters of Evil. For some reason, I'd thought he was one and the same with Sir Percy, the Golden Age Black Knight who was getting new exposure in the (partial) reprint mag I was picking up at the time, Marvel Super-Heroes. I couldn't understand why the two characters were written so differently--but it didn't take long for me to lose interest in Sir Percy in favor of his more contemporary and dangerous counterpart:

The situation was muddied even more for me when the third Black Knight, Dane Whitman, would hold brazier-lit conversations with Sir Percy, whom I'd first assumed was the Black Knight who was part of Zemo's group. Why, I wondered, was this Black Knight helping Whitman, who fought on the side of the law? But once I'd read a later Avengers story that showed Garrett, on his death bed, admitting to Whitman that his life as a criminal had been a mistake, I was able to make a distinction between Garrett and the more noble shade of Sir Percy, who was revealed to be Whitman's ancestor in the new Black Knight's showcase story in Marvel Super-Heroes.

It took me some time to work my way backwards and find true perspective on Garrett, who, like the Melter and the Radioactive Man, made his initial appearance in one of the titles where an Avenger first got their feet wet before moving on--in this case, Tales To Astonish, which was at the time headlining Giant-Man:

So just how did Nathan Garrett start his life of crime--and where the heck did he get a winged horse?

It turns out Giant-Man was on the trail of Garrett even before he would become known as the Black Knight. A noted research scientist by day, Garrett was nabbed by Giant-Man while in the process of committing treason:

Yet Garrett's time behind bars is short-lived, as he jumps bail and flees to Europe. Given his lineage, Garrett could have returned to "Garrett Castle," the residence in England where Dane Whitman bases himself and which Whitman inherited from his uncle; instead, perhaps fearing extradition, he instead chooses to lie low at a Balkan castle near the Alps. As for that winged horse, Garrett spends his time at the castle making some rather shocking discoveries in genetics:

(A panel which practically screams for an editor's note: KIDS, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.)

We never know how or when Garrett comes into possession of what would come to be known as Garrett Castle--the residence formerly owned by Sir Percy and where both Percy and King Arthur met their deaths. We know that Garrett effectively begins his life as the Black Knight by spending months at the Balkan castle (while also racking up what we can assume was a staggering rental bill); we also know that his final battle with Iron Man took place in and around a castle near Washington--presumably the same castle which later became "Garrett Castle," a castle transplanted to the U.S. which Whitman took up residence in to conduct magnetic experiments (leading to the return of Magneto). Writer Roy Thomas would establish that castle as being the same Garrett Castle which Whitman inherited from his uncle; but in the MSH story showcasing Whitman as the new Black Knight, Thomas rejects his own precedent and shifts both the Knight and Garrett Castle to England, likely to accommodate Whitman's ancestry with Sir Percy as well as Percy's and Arthur's final reckoning with Modred. (Good grief--for a castle that dates back to 1066, it transplants back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean pretty well, doesn't it?) We can only assume that at some point, wherever the castle was located, Garrett felt drawn to it and (somehow) purchased it.

Returning to the States, the Knight embarks on his new career, relying on weaponry augmented by a number of technological enhancements:

The Knight's activities soon attract the attention of Giant-Man--though a giant-sized person battling a foe in mid-air only makes for a bigger target for the Knight:

By this point, we shouldn't be surprised at the array of weaponry which the Knight has at his disposal. But in all honesty, I never expected that he would think that he might have a need for something like... like...


Fortunately, Giant-Man's no slouch at resourcefulness, either--and while plummeting, he's decided that, rather than use his free hand to scratch himself like mad, he should be using it to free himself of his bonds and seize the initiative:

Fearing for the Wasp's safety, Giant-Man abandons his plan, allowing the Knight to regain control. But the Wasp has her own idea for unseating him:

To his credit, Garrett fares much better in his role as the Black Knight than he did selling secrets to the Chinese. And the circumstances of the battle see the advantage shift back and forth between himself and Giant-Man, before finally ending in a draw:

Garrett would then segue to the Masters of Evil, before eventually perishing in his later battle with Iron Man. It seems that Garrett never made contact with Sir Percy's shade--though if he did, he never followed through to retrieve the "black blade" from its resting place, the blade that Percy would instead impart to his younger ancestor.  To his detriment, Garrett decided to forge his own path, as well as a legacy of evil rejected by the one who would continue in his place.  But as we'll see in a future post, the day would come when Dane Whitman would also face the evil that lay waiting for the one who assumed the mantle and the sword of the Black Knight.

(This post covers events transplanted from
Tales To Astonish #52, Avengers #6, Avengers #48, Marvel Super-Heroes #17, and Tales of Suspense #73.)


Anonymous said...

Sorry to nitpick but if Garrett Castle dates back to 1066 then King Arthur couldn't have died there as he supposedly lived around the 6th Century. Anyway, stone castles were unknown in Europe until the Crusades of the 12th and 13th Centuries - European noblemen saw the stone castles of Byzantium and copied them. In British history there's a figure called Edward, Prince Of Wales who died in 1376 and is known as "The Black Prince" 'cause he wore black armour - I've wondered if the Black Knight might be loosely based on him ?

david_b said...

Still, from a fashion sense.., Giantman's outfit's gotta be one of the lamest Marvel outfits ever done.

Sooo glad when he came back as Goliath, even Antman was better.

Comicsfan said...

Gosh, Colin, where were you when Roy Thomas needed you?? :)

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