Looks like comic fans need to make room for more than one "dark knight."
This fall, Marvel is launching a new Black Knight ongoing series featuring the longtime swordsman Dane Whitman in a drastic different world with a dark shadow looming over him. Set in a post-Secret Wars Weirdworld, this "All-New All-Different Marvel" title is written by Frank Tieri and illustrated by Luca Pizzari.
Tieri, who has written the Black Knight on several occasions in the past, describes this new Black Knight series as a long time coming and a cross between the dark, addictive tones of Breaking Bad and the modern medieval landscape of Game of Thrones.
Newsarama talked to Tieri about his early work on Dane Whitman in 2006's New Excalibur, the dark journey he began with Original Sins, and how the Black Knight ends up cursed with a doomed blade, ruling in Weirdworld, and facing down with his one-time allies in the Avengers.
Newsarama: Frank, what do you have planned in the new Black Knight series? And how long has this new series been in the works?
Frank Tieri: Really, we’re trying to do a book that’s unlike any that’s out there. And definitely not something you’d really expect from a Black Knight series. Sure there’ll be sword and sorcery and all that stuff but it’s really more than that. At it’s heart, Black Knight will be about one man’s struggle with what I call a “necessary addiction”. I guess the best description is something that’s sort of like a cross between Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad.
Call it Breaking Blade, if you will.
As for how long this has been in the works? Let me put it to you this way… remember back when I was doing all that Black Knight stuff in New Excalibur? We were talking about me doing a series with him even then. So this was a long time coming. But I strongly believe it’s a book that’ll be worth the wait… for both me and Dane’s fans.
Nrama: As you said, you’ve been writing Dane for a while now – in New Excalibur and a story in last year’s Original Sins anthology. How much of what you’ve previously set up will you be using?
In New Excalibur we delved further into the Black Knight legacy and revealed that who we thought to be the first Black Knight, Sir Percy of Scandia… well, wasn’t. That there were actually eight men who tried to wield the Ebony Blade before him and were driven mad by it.
In the Original Sins story, we expanded on that even more and we discover that, like those original eight, just about all the Black Knights who ever possessed the Blade eventually were affected by it and met bad ends. And we saw in that story that that was starting to happen to Dane, that he had become addicted to the sword and was losing control. Even so far that he was starting to become dangerous.
Well, it’s not like that didn’t happen. We deal with what went on in that story and what Dane is starting to become. And it’s really not necessarily the nice, bright knight in shining armor we’ve been accustomed to all these years. We find him not in a good place… and I’m not just talking Weirdworld.
Nrama: About that… yes, this new series features Dane in a post-Secret Wars Weirdworld. Up til now, I thought "All-New All-Different Marvel" meant the end of Secret Wars and everything Battleworld. What can you say about Weirdworld here?
Tieri: Well, what I can say is that let Secret Wars play out and then we’ll see what ends up where. What I can say from my standpoint for my series is Weirdworld will absolutely be our setting… and what a great setting it is. It’s really become as much a character as Dane or anybody else in the book.
There’s all these crazy different parts to it, which is incredibly fun to write. The part where Dane finds himself is kind of like the Middle Ages on acid. Fire breathing trolls, Lightning dragons, warring barbarians, mysterious serpent men… a lot of crazy shit with Dane plopped down in the middle of it all.
Dane came into Weirdworld? That’s one of the big mysteries we’ll be unveiling as we go along—the how and the why Dane wound up in Weirdworld. What I will say is this… it involves the Avengers.
Nrama: The Avengers?
Tieri: Yeah, again want to keep a few surprises for our book, but I will say the Avengers play a very large role in our first arc. Steve Rogers and the Uncanny Avengers to be precise. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
Nrama: So what's this little hamlet inside Weirdworld that Dane is now in control of?
Tieri: We pick up with Dane months since we last saw him in Original Sins and as you say, in that time period he’s carved a little chunk of Weirdworld out for himself that he calls New Avalon. So yeah, Dane’s got some peeps now – which means he’s got something he’s never really had before. And that’s having responsibility for something other than being the keeper of the Ebony Blade.
How long will he have that responsibility though? It’s not exactly like there’s elections here in Weirdworld. There’s a question of how Dane came about being head honcho of New Avalon—and an even bigger question as to if he will he remain so. Because trust me, that won’t be easy to do. Dane will find himself fending off constant threats from the outside and from within. So sure, he begins our series as the ruler of New Avalon… but he might not end up that way.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Luca Pizzari. I know you tend to make the most out of the artists you work with and tailor your scripts. So when looking at Luca's art, what do you see that you can take advantage of and play into?
Tieri: I was first introduced to Luca’s work on Red Skull and I instantly knew he’d be perfect for us. As I’ve indicated, this is a darker Dane than we’re used to, a Dane that’s a tad more dangerous—and Luca’s got a nice gritty style that really fits that. He’s really an ideal artist for what we want to do with this book.
Nrama: You talk about the Ebony Blade. One of the "killer" parts of Black Knight has obviously been the Ebony Blade and the influence it has on whomever holds it. For those who don't have the back issues or aren't up on their google researching skills, can you tell us why the Ebony Blade is more than just a sword?
Tieri: For those not in the know, the Ebony Blade was carved from a meteorite centuries ago by Merlin—yeah, that Merlin—and is arguably one of the most important artifacts in the Marvel U, right up there with objects like Thor’s hammer and Dr Strange’s Eye of Agamotto. The only thing is, those things don’t make you obsessed or addicted to them. Those things don’t drive you batshit crazy over a period of time.
But the Blade sure does. Big time.
Nrama: And how much will it play into the Black Knight series as a whole?
Tieri: Really… it’s everything. Dane’s struggle to overcome the Blade’s influence—if he overcomes it, I should say (and that’s a huge if)-- is really the biggest part of our story.
See… the thing is, you can’t just destroy the Blade. Someone needs to take possession of it. Someone needs to take on that responsibility and Dane has always believed it’s him. Now look…Dane at his core has always been a good guy caught in a bad situation, thinking he's doing the right thing… although we can see at times that maybe it’s for all the wrong reasons. Dane knows he himself sometimes loses control and does things he wouldn't normally do because of the Blade but he honestly believes he is the only man capable of wielding it. That ultimately it is his destiny, his fate. That it’s his job to take on this “necessary addiction” I spoke about earlier.
The question no one’s really bothered to ask that we’ll be addressing though is this… is he right? What if he isn’t?
Nrama: Big picture, you've been given the keys to a ongoing Black Knight series. What are your goals, big picture with the character and his place in the Marvel line?
Tieri: I think Dane is an underappreciated character and has been for a long time and hopefully this series fixes that. I mean, think about it… with Merlin, Camelot, the sword and sorcery angle that’s so popular now…
We’ve got a lot of cool shit and twists and turns planned here and our goal is to open some eyes and tell a kick ass story in the process. Braveheart style battles, strange creatures we’ve never seen before, centuries old mysteries, betrayals, the Avengers, who and what the serpent men really are (really cool reveal there)… and then there’s questions to answer like:
What if the Ebony Blade was not the only object of its kind? What if there were other artifacts that came from that meteor that Merlin carved the Blade from? And for that matter…where the hell did that damned meteor come from in the first place?
All stuff we aim to address with this series. It’ll be a wild ride, kids, I can promise you that—and not one I’d want to miss out on, that’s for sure.