The Ebony Blade first appearance was in Black Knight Comics #1 (1955). Though many have assumed the mantle throughout history, the first Black Knight, wielder of the Ebony Blade, was a 6th Century warrior who served the court of King Arthur.
The Ebony Blade is a sword forged by Merlin from the Starstone meteorite. Merlin lured Sir Percy of Scandia into the depths beyond his underground lair to the Starstone and the Pool of Blood, the mystical river that contains the life's blood of all who have ever lived and died. Merlin told Percy that the Starstone radiated magicks that would give invincibility to any weapon made from it and ordered Percy to begin forging artifacts from slivers Merlin cut from the stone.
Merlin then cast a spell to make the crimson blood rise from the pool and cover the artifacts. Only that sacred blood could cool the objects Percy forged. Merlin and Percy created four magical items from the Meteorite - a chalice, a shield, a staff, and a sword - each black as the night with blood-red accents.
Merlin gave Whitman's ancestor, Sir Percy of Scandia, the choice of the four. Only one of the artifacts could save Camelot. Sir Percy reasoned that a shield protects, a staff smites, a chalice gives cool solace, but he was a knight and a knight needs a blade. He chose the sword. Merlin then cast a spell to destroy the artifacts left unchosen for they too possessed the magical essence of the Starstone. But before the spell could take effect, a hand opened a portal and stole the staff. The staff would then be reforged into the Obsidian Dagger. It was revealed that it was Mordred the Evil, working in conjunction with his witch-wife Morgan Le Fey, who stole the Ebony Staff and reforged it into the Ebony, or Obsidian, Dagger.
With the Dagger, Mordred and his forces laid waste to Camelot and mortally wounded King Arthur. The only Knight left to avenge/defend Camelot was the Black Knight. Percy single-handedly bested all the insurgent warriors save for Mordred, who hid behind a tapestry to prepare to assassinate Percy from behind. Percy sensed Mordred and purposely turned his back to lure the traitor from his hiding place. Sir Percy planned to strike Mordred in the heart the moment he attempted to stab him in the back. Merlin, however, conjured two visions for Percy to consider in the moments before Mordred makes his attack.
The first vision shows Percy murdered by Mordred but the mantle of the Black Knight remains untainted and the future safe. The second vision shows Percy defeating Mordred, but the mantle of the Black Knight is corrupted because Mordred's soul becomes trapped in the blade and takes over the Black Knight. This second future shows the world in despair because evil knights, lead by a corrupted Black Knight, have taken over the past. Percy chooses to let Mordred kill him, thus ensuring that his legacy remains clean and the future safe. Following Sir Percy's death, the Blade is passed down to his heirs/relatives.
The sword passed down through the generations until it finally came to Dane Whitman, Sir Percy's descendant. Dane used the blade for many years. It passed briefly to Valkyrie when Dane's body was turned to stone ( Defenders #4), and his soul sent back in time to the 13th century, but was soon returned to him (Defenders #11). Due to the curse, Dane eventually gave the Blade up. He drove it deep into the Starstone Meteor, now residing in his castle. Only another deemed worthy would be able to withdraw it.
Sean Dolan, Dane's ex- squire, was able to draw the blade during an attack on Whitman's castle. This transformed Dolan into Bloodwraith. Dolan fought with the curse, and was able to give up the sword for a brief time. During this time, it was trapped in the Negative Zone barrier outside of Attilan, the home of the Inhumans. In the meantime, a second Ebony Blade had been brought into this dimension by Proctor, an alternate reality version of Dane Whitman. ( Avengers #375) When Proctor was killed, his blade was taken into Avengers custody.
Dolan was drawn to this second Blade, and once again became Bloodwraith (Avengers Unplugged #6). Crystal, of the Inhumans, retrieved the original Blade from the barrier outside of Attilan, and The Vision threatened to destroy it if Bloodwraith didn't surrender. Bloodwraith tossed the alternate Blade aside and reclaimed his own. Crystal picked up the second Blade and said it would be important to the future of the Inhumans. Bloodwraith was last known to have the Blade in his possession in Slorenia, where he was trapped by the Scarlet Witch (Avengers III #37).
Fake Ebony Blade
It was revealed in New Excalibur that after abandoning the blade and having it possess Sean Dolan (Bloodwraith), Dane reclaimed the Blade. But when Dane and the members of New Excalibur time-traveled to 6th Century Camelot, Dane met Sir Percy and felt the then newly forged Ebony Blade. When he returned to the present, he discovered that the blade he recovered after the Bloodwraith battles, was not the Ebony Blade, but a clever forgery. This forgery was created by Dracula in order to control Dane Whitman.
The real Blade ended up in Iraq and was secured by the Vatican after it was found by Opus Dei in a purging of a vampire nest. The Vatican sent an unidentified Black Knight assassin to kill Black Panther, who took it from the Knight for his own uses. Black Panther used the blade in several battles, including the Skrull invasion.
Writer Paul Cornell finally revealed a full explanation within the Captain Britain series, having Dracula replace Dane Whitman's blade with a fake version at some point between Avengers vol. 3 #37 and New Excalibur #10. This fake blade has a Vampire fang within it, which has shown some signs of sentience as people have talked to the blade directly. This mystical sentience has acted in the same fashion as the original's curse; convincingly enough to fool Whitman. Even after Whitman first realized it was fake in New Excalibur, it managed to once again convince him it was in fact the real one by the time of Captain Britain and MI-13.
Upon learning the blade was fake for a second time in Captain Britain and MI-13 #7, Whitman finally retrieved the real blade from Black Panther's Wakandian nation where he was presented it by Queen Ororo T'Challa
Powers & Abilities
The Ebony Blade, forged from a meteorite by Merlin, possesses a number of unusual properties, some innate to the metal, and others due to magical enchantments. Merlin enchanted the sword making it virtually indestructible and able to cut through any substance. It can deflect, disrupt, absorb or penetrate energy fields and energy beams, including mystical energies. It is also immune to most magical enchantments.
It grants its users immunity from death except from weapons carved from the same Starstone material. Nearly indestructible, it was once shattered by the Iron Ogre, but reforged by the smith, Weyland. It forms a mystical bond with the rightful wielder allowing him/her to transport himself through arcane ritual across space and time to its location if separated from the Ebony Blade. The spirits of people slain by the Blade are sometimes trapped within an astral realm linked to the sword (perhaps trapped within the sword itself).
Despite its many powers and benefits, it also carries a curse which would slowly corrupt its user and have other unpredictable side effects if the Blade sheds blood. The Blade can have negative mental or physical effects on its wielder because of the curse. If the Blade is used to shed blood or kill, the blade usually compels its user to seek more bloodshed. Merlin made the sword for the first Black Knight. However it corrupted him.
The Blade passed down Percy's line to men resistant, though not immune, to the curse. Each man of Sir Percy's line became a Black Knight. Over the centuries Sir Raston, Eobar Garrington, Sir William and Sir Henry are known to have held it, before it came into Dane Whitman's possession in recent years. Dane repeatedly struggled with the curse and briefly abandoned the Blade in favor of other weapons, during which time it possessed Dane's friend Sean Dolan, transforming him into the murderous Bloodwraith.
Notable Wielders of the Ebony Blade
More Marvel Discrepancies
It had always been thought that Sir Percy was the first Black Knight and the first wielder of the Ebony Blade. However, in New Excalibur #12 (2006), Percy told Dane Whitman that there were eight men before him who were also known as the Black Knight. All of whom were consumed by the sword, the Ebony Blade, and had to be "put down."
This revelation directly contradicts the story of Mystic Arcana: Black Knight (2007) and all other stories regarding Sir Percy prior to New Excalibur. Whether or not Sir Percy is was the first Black Knight is still debatable.
The Sir Percy of New Excalibur explained that eight honorable knights succumbed to this curse, including King Arthur's cousin Sir Reginald, before Sir Percy of Scandia proved immune (or at least highly resistant) to the curse. It came down to that either Merlin, King Arthur, or Sir Percy would wield the blade. Since it would be to dangerous for Merlin or King Arthur, they gave it to Sir Percy. Percy wielded the blade for several years before being slain by Mordred the Evil.