THE CRUSADER

Real Name: El Alemain (adopted name; his original surname is O'Dare; his first name is unrevealed)

Identity/Class: Human (12th Century), possible magic sword-user;
    Frankish citizen @ 12th Century

Occupation: Knight and Crusader;
    formerly Saracen prince and leader of a bandit gang

Group Membership: Crusaders;
    formerly his own bandit gang

Affiliations: King Richard Plantagenet (Richard Coeur de Lion, Richard the Lion-Hearted);
    formerly Saladin
;
    possibly Prester John

Enemies: Baron Hinden, De Montfort, Duke De Montfort, Fortuno, Jacquet, Tenga Khan, Saladin

Known Relatives: Lady O'Dare (mother, deceased), Sir John O'Dare (brother, deceased)

Aliases: El Alemain; Sir Crusader, True Knight of the Realm; the Hawk.

Base of Operations: Mobile through Holy Land in the 12th Century.

First Appearance: (Atlas Comics): Black Knight Comics#1 (May, 1955)

Powers/Abilities: The Crusader was an excellent warrior using the available resources in the 12th century: He was skilled in the use of sword, spear, and shield, and he was also an experienced equestrian, capable of fighting on horseback, and a leading military tactician. 

    He could fight with bare hands or with improvised weapons, such as shackles. 

    He was also a good swimmer, skilled in the art of disguise and camouflage, and able to recognize the hardness of wood by touch. 

    He knew in detail the rules of European chivalry and the Muslim customs, the territory controlled by Saladin in the 12th century and the language spoken by them.

    The Crusader wore a scimitar, obtained in the lists of El Bakara the Saracen, which supposedly made its bearer invincible, provided he was worthy of it; the Crusader said that the sword was invincible only in the hands of a man with a clean soul. The sword was valuable, and several of his enemies tried to snatch it from him. 

    The Crusader always wore a golden amulet around his neck, given to him by his mother on her deathbed, and a red earring in each ear.

History: (Black Knight Comics#1/2 / Black Knight Comics#2/3 (fb)) - Decades before 1192 AD, Lady O'Dare, a Frankish noblewoman, was cast upon Eastern Shores with one of her sons, then captured and eventually died; news of this came to King Richard the Lionheart's ears. On her deathbed, Lady O'Dare gave a golden amulet to her son, which he never took off. The boy grew up under the influence of the Muslims and, using the name El Alemain, became a Saracen prince active in the Holy Land and leader of a band of warriors, Mongol and otherwise, who rode ponies into battle and engaged in dishonorable tactics, despite El Alemain's attempts to maintain a honorable behavior. 

    In the lists of El Bakara the Saracen, El Alemain won a sword that supposedly made its bearer invincible. El Alemain's second-in-command, the Mongol Tenga Khan, coveted the sword and was willing to resort to treachery to obtain it.

(Black Knight Comics#1/2) - El Alemain's group found castaway crusaders, wounded, and stunned, and intended to attack them. Although El Alemain refused them permission because of the immorality of their tactic, Tenga Khan and other warriors only pretended to obey him and then attacked by surprise. El Alemain was forced to back them up, and then one of his men, a follower of Tenga, attempted to assassinate him from behind following Tenga's secret plan. Alemain was only saved because another of his men warned him. 

    The castaways then revealed that they were infected with Plague, and the Mongols retreated in panic. Tenga, sceptical, insisted on attacking the Crusaders with arrows, but El Alemain objected, appreciating the warning their enemies had given them. El Alemain, suspecting that Tenga was behind his assassination attempt, challenged Tenga to a duel; but another of Tenga's supporters prepared a bolt to rig the combat. First on horseback and then on the ground, El Alemain held the advantage, and the treacherous arrow mistakenly wounded Tenga. 

    The superstitious Mongols retreated in the face of bad omens (The Plague and Tenga's death), whereupon El Alemain met with one of the castaways, who revealed himself to be his brother John O'Dare. John had recognized El Alemain's amulet, and requested, on his deathbed, that El Alemain join King Richard's Crusade. El Alemain agreed, noticing that his way of life up to that time had failed to satisfy him.

(Black Knight Comics#2/3 (fb)) Saladin, Islam's foremost warrior, learned of El Alamein's decision. Knowing El Alemain's reputation as a skilled and honorable soldier, Saladin respected that El Alemain followed the call of his aristocratic Frankish blood. Similarly, El Alemain knew Saladin at least by reputation and admired him, even though they were now on opposite sides.

(Black Knight Comics#2/3) - Around 1192 AD, El Alemain, wearing Frankish armor, reached King Richard's camp in Egypt. Cutting through enemy ranks, he joined Richard to help stop a Saracen attack, and impressed the King with his combat prowess. Richard gave the stranger a chance to explain himself, but one of his Knights, De Montfort, recognizing El Alemain as a Saracen prince, accused him, and attacked him. King Richard, however, was satisfied with El Alemain's explanation and accepted him into his crusade. Then Saladin arrived, demanding to fight one-on-one against the enemy leader; the crusaders suspected treason, but El Alemain vouched for Saladin's honor. De Montfort then proposed that El Alemain face Saladin. Saladin agreed to fight, but not to the death because he recognized and respected his rival. El Alemain's sword knocked Saladin off his horse, and El Alemain spared Saladin's life, allowing him to flee; this offended De Montfort but impressed the King, who knighted El Alemain as Sir Crusader, True Knight of the Realm.

(Black Knight Comics#3/3) The Crusader discovered that a high-ranking Crusader, Duke De Montfort, planned to assassinate Richard to lead the Crusade and keep the prestige and spoil for himself. The Crusader found and stopped De Montfort's archer before he could kill the King. A henchman of De Montfort's, Jacquet, convinced De Montfort to capture the Crusader and deliver him to a nearby Saracen slave galley. The Crusader broke into De Montfort's tent to hear his explanations before speaking with Richard; De Montfort accused the Crusader of espionage to distract him while a hitman treacherously knocked the Crusader out. De Montfort kept the Crusader's sword and sent him to the galleon, where he was forced to row in chains, with no equipment other than minimal clothing and his amulet. The Crusader noticed that the oar's wood was rotten and barely managed to break free, then swam ashore still in his shackles. Knowing that De Montfort's people were on watch that night, he sneaked in the camp, but his chains rattled and alerted the guards, as well as another knight, Sir Quincy. The Crusader, trusting that Sir Quincy was not in the loop, explained that De Montfort's people were not to be trusted, and Sir Quincy agreed to put his men on guard. The Crusader entered De Montfort's tent, recovered his sword with his chains, and succeeded in defeating him in personal combat. The Crusader warned De Montfort not to make another attempt on the king, but decided not to report the treason.

(Black Knight Comics#4/3) Sir Quincy, in possession of a secret campaign map, was captured by Saladin's men, but he hid the importance of the document. The Crusader, using his knowledge of Muslim customs and territories, disguised himself as an old crazy beggar to get close to the Muslim camp in Kaladah and rescue Quincy. De Montfort betrayed the Crusader by sending a minion, Fortuno, to warn Saladin of this plan (but not of Quincy's map). In an oasis, the disguised Crusader met Saladin's forces and released Quincy, heeding him to take a horse and return with the King; meanwhile, the Crusader kept Saladin's forces at bay. Overwhelmed by superior numbers, the Crusader was captured. Saladin, however, remembering the Crusader's mercy on him, decided to let the Crusader and Sir Quincy go, instead keeping Fortuno as a prisoner, for Saladin hated traitors.

(Black Knight Comics#5/3) Defeated by the Crusader and King Richard, Saracen soldiers retreated to small town El Kahib, waiting for Saladin to lead them. Meanwhile, De Montfort and Baron Hinden allied to kidnap King Richard and frame the Saracens. De Montfort immediately took command of the Crusade, and sent the Crusader to El Kahib to look for Richard; De Montfort expected the Saracens to identify the Crusader as a deserter and execute him. Instead, Saladin agreed to meet the Crusader, and denied the accusations of kidnapping the King. Saladin provided the Crusader with a tracking dog, Ahab, to find the King; Ahab guided the Crusader to a cave where five crusaders, dressed as Muslims, kept the king prisoner, and intended to kill him. The Crusader and the dog defeated the traitors, who escaped. Still, King Richard believed he had been captured by outlaw Saracens, because he trusted De Montfort; and the Crusader decided to not go after the Duke without irrefutable evidences.

Comments: Created by Joe Maneely (pencil and ink) and an unrevealed writer for Atlas Comics.

    The Crusader has yet to appear in any actual Marvel Comics stories. As far as I know, all the stories in Atlas Comics are now property of Marvel Comics, and all the characters are now property of Marvel. The Crusader has not interacted with any character in the Marvel Universe, except for historical people (Richard the Lionheart and Saladin); however, as pointed out by Loki, the Prester John profile in the All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z #8 (2006) states: "John became one of the grateful Richard’s court favorites, and it may be that he sometimes fought alongside El Alemain, another noted Crusader of the era."

    The Knight who antagonizes El Alamein in Black Knight Comics#2/3 is called De Montfort. The Crusader's antagonist in Black Knight Comics#3 to #5 is identified as the Duke de Montfort. These De Montforts are apparently two different characters: Duke De Montfort has long black hair with white streaks and a trimmed beard; while De Montfort is clearly blond, with a bushy moustache. Both were designed and drawn by Joe Maneely. The physical differences suggest that there were two knights with the same surname in the King's camp (which is not inconceivable). There has been several noble houses De Montfort in real life, none of them a Duchy during the Third Crusade as far as I have found.

This profile was completed 04/26/2021, but its publication was delayed as it was intended for the Appendix 20th anniversary 's celebratory event.

Profile by Skippy Farlstendoiro

Clarifications: The Crusader should not be confused with


images:
Black Knights Comics#4, p22 panel 6
Black Knights Comics#1, p15 panel 3 (in Saracen attire, with sword and amulet)
Black Knights Comics#2, p19 panel 6 (in Franklish armor, meeting King Richard)
Black Knights Comics#3, p20 panel 3 (amulet visible)



Black Knight Comics#2/3 (July, 1955) - Joe Maneely (artist), Stan Goldberg (colors), Stan Lee (editor)
Black Knight Comics#3/3 (September, 1955) - Joe Maneely (artist), Stan Goldberg (colors)
Black Knight Comics#4/3 (November, 1955) - John Romita Sr. (artist), Stan Lee (editor)
Black Knight Comics#5/3 (April, 1956) - Syd Shores (artist), Stan Lee (editor)
All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z #8 (2006) - Jeff Christiansen (head writer/coordinator), Sean McQuaid, Stuart Vandal, Ronald Byrd, Michael Hoskin, Mark O'English, Chris Biggs, Eric J. Moreels, Mike Fichera, Al Sjoerdsma, Barry Reese, Chad Anderson, Madison Carter, Anthony Flamini, & Richard Green (writers), Michael Short (assistant editor), Jeff Youngquist & Jennifer Grunwald (editors)


First posted: 09/02/2021
Last updated: 08/29/2021

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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