||This article does not follow Wikipedia's guidelines on the use of different tenses. (March 2015)|
Art by Howard Chaykin
|First appearance||The Tomb of Dracula #25 (Oct. 1974)|
|Created by||Gene Colan
|Alter ego||Unknown (probably Hannibal King)|
|Notable aliases||Henry Kagle|
|Abilities||Regenerative healing factor
Superhuman strength and speed
Ability to turn into mist
Ability to transform into a werewolf
Skilled detective and marksman
Fictional character biography
Hannibal King was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A private detective who made a modest living, King was bitten and killed by the vampire Deacon Frost while on a case in London, England. Waking up to find himself one of the undead, King was horrified at what he had become and vowed never to consummate the curse by passing it to another. Thus, King would subsist on blood that he purchased (or stole) from blood banks and fed only on corpses or animals. King also preferred not to use his vampiric powers, believing that he gave up a part of himself every time he did so. In spite of his vampirism, King continued to operate as a private detective, but could only travel freely at night.[volume & issue needed]
As a vampire, he first battled Dracula, the Lord of Earth's vampires. While searching for Deacon Frost, King eventually met Blade, the vampire hunter. It was also Deacon Frost who killed Blade's mother. Initially distrustful of each other, they nevertheless teamed up to destroy Frost. King battled a Blade doppelganger created by Deacon Frost. King and Blade then destroyed Deacon Frost himself. King and Blade parted as eternal friends.[volume & issue needed]
At the time of these stories it was revealed that King had been a vampire for about five years. While investigating the murder of a friend at the hands of the Darkholders, King contacted Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme. Through Strange, King discovered that the Darkhold contained the spell not only for creating vampires but destroying them. And it was through King that Strange learned of the apparent return of Dracula. King, with vampire hunters Blade and Frank Drake, joined Strange in their visit to Castle Mordo where they retrieved the Darkhold. They battled Dracula and the Darkholders, and then used the book to cast the Montesi formula. This spell destroyed Dracula and all current vampires on Earth and prevented any more from being able to exist on Earth. King was not destroyed by the Montesi formula because he had never taken blood from a living human being, but still required Doctor Strange to perform a complete blood transfusion for King to survive, which restored him to human form.
The trio subsequently founded a detective agency initially simply known as King, Drake, and Blade; the private investigations firm was later known as Borderline Investigations. With Doctor Strange, they fought the Darkholders again. King also assisted the Defenders on one of their missions. Alongside the Beast, Gargoyle, Daimon Hellstrom, Hellcat, Cutlass and Typhoon, and Rufus T. Hackstabber, he helped foil the plans of Minvera Bannister.
Apparently, discord amongst the three friends caused Drake to leave the firm and Blade suffered a breakdown after a fight with a once again resurrected Dracula. Dracula's return indicated the weakening of the Montesi formula. King was unable to operate the firm on his own knowing his vampirism was returning. After an examination, Doctor Strange concluded that King, because of his recent reversion, had become a "neo-vampire", a special type of vampire with the abilities and weaknesses of the vampire, who craved blood but did not need it to survive.[volume & issue needed]
Strange manipulated the three men into reuniting under the name Nightstalkers to combat supernatural enemies that were emerging. In their first mission, the Nightstalkers were hired by Lilith to kill the Daniel Ketch Ghost Rider and John Blaze, and battled the Meatmarket. Alongside Ghost Rider, Blaze, Morbius, Doctor Strange, and the Darkhold Redeemers, the Nightstalkers battled Lilith and her Lilin. Among the enemies the Nightstalkers fought were The Fallen, HYDRA's DOA, and Varnae. King and Drake were originally thought by Blade to have been killed in the explosion that destroyed Varnae. King would however show up in New Orleans, later to help Blade fight a resurrected Deacon Frost. King also accepted an assignment from Donna Garth to locate her father, Simon Garth who is also known as the Living Zombie. King tracked Garth to New York where he was assisted by Spider-Man in rescuing Garth from Lilith, the daughter of Dracula.[volume & issue needed]
King would later set up a small shop in San Francisco where a CIA agent enlisted his help in stopping a vampire plot to blackmail the Earth with biochemical weapons. During this fight, CIA agent Tatjana Stiles was injured by vampire terrorist leader Navarro; although they defeated Navarro, Stiles's injuries were too painful for her to live with. Knowing the pain would eventually kill her, she begged King to make her like him "if she loves him". King, who had grown attracted to Stiles, reluctantly complied and broke his years-long vow. Weeks later, King read a newspaper article about the mysterious death of two Iraqi guards in an overseas search for terrorist weapons. From the description of the deaths, King had no doubt who was responsible. King became dispirited, losing interest in his work and retreating into depression.[volume & issue needed]
He assisted Blade in London where the latter confronted Draconis, a vampire impervious to all forms of exorcism.
Blade's biological father offered a way to restore the souls of all vampires, which he admitted would have the additional effect of removing all of their weaknesses. The rite was dependent on Blade, who scoffed at providing practical invulnerability to the enemy he'd sworn to destroy. Blade attempted to enlist King against Blade's father, but King refused, and attacked his former partner for denying him one of his greatest desires: to see the sunrise again. Blade staked King, who appeared to die, leaving behind only a smoking stain on the cobblestones.
He returned (as did every other vampire that Blade had killed) soon after, and Blade gave him a potion that would stop him needing to feast on blood.
Powers and abilities
Hannibal King is a vampire, and even when King was cured of his vampirism he has retained many of his vampiric abilities without actually being a vampire. He has superhuman strength and speed and sharper senses than an average human. King is virtually immortal, possessing agelessness, immunity to diseases and poisons, and the ability to survive and heal great amounts of physical damage. He also has the ability to instantly hypnotize human victims, and can fly via directed motion hovering by taking on a mist-like form. He can also control rats and used them to gather information for him during the day. He has also been known to transform into a wolf. However, King also has the weaknesses of a vampire: the need for blood in order to sustain his existence, the inability to endure direct sunlight, and the standard vampiric vulnerabilities to garlic, silver, and the presence of religious symbols. Beheading, burning, and a wooden stake through the heart will kill him.
King is an excellent detective, a good marksman with a pistol, and possesses an extraordinary sense of will. He often arms himself with conventional firearms, but sometimes uses special ones against supernatural foes.
In the first appearance of Hannibal King (The Tomb of Dracula #25) and during the events of Doctor Strange (volume 2) #59-62, King had stated that he had been a vampire for about five years. During the events Journey into Mystery #520-521, King revealed that he had been a vampire for about five decades, indicating that he had been a vampire since around the late 1940s. He has openly stated the first figure to others. The latter figure of five decades was stated by King only in narration. This also contradicts Nightstalkers #16 when King meets a man he knew in high school. This man was not elderly, but appeared to be Kings own physical age (which was arrested due to vampirism). He was also not a vampire (which would arrest his age) as this story predates the return of vampires.
In The Tomb of Dracula #25, the reader is not told immediately that King was a vampire. This is not revealed until the final panel. In a writing fashion similar to O Henry, there are visual and dialogue cues that are cleverly placed throughout the story. Many of these instances were pointed out by observant fans in the letter column of a later issue. Marv Wolfman, in his responses to reader letters, confirmed most of them as well as added several that they missed:
- King mentions in narration that on a previous case he was in a building investigating industrial espionage. A vampire killed everyone that was in said building. (As he doesn't say when the vampire arrived, read a certain way, this could be intended to include himself).
- In a crowded bar scene, King does not have a reflection in the mirror behind the bar.
- While on the current case, King seems to have covered a distance in ten minutes that London natives know takes about an hour on foot. He was not seen to drive a car at anytime during the story. Also, it is very late at night so there is no public transport.
- King enters a building that he seems to know is a trap. He reads a sign on the door that says "Open, please come in". According to vampire lore, a vampire can only enter a private residence when he is explicitly invited.
- King appears in a frame having entered said building, but already upstairs. However, no staircase is seen going down to the previous floor. The frame suggests that he could have flown up and entered via the window.
- King mentions in narration that a room that he is searching is pitch black, although he seems to have no problem seeing.
- Dracula says to King that "...soon you will acknowledge me as your master." In the comic, Dracula is Lord of the Vampires and does not and cannot extend his lordship beyond vampires.
It was stated in Nightstalkers #1 that King's neo-vampire status (craving blood but not needing it to survive as well as his limited ability to tolerate sunlight) was due to his never directly taking blood from a living human, also the reason he survived the Montesi Formula, the Darkhold spell that had previously destroyed all vampires. This neo-vampire condition was never alluded to again after his seeming death in Nightstalkers #20 and he was shown thereafter to be a regular vampire with all of the traditional strengths and weaknesses, identical to his status before the Montesi spell was cast.
In other media
- The character of Hannibal King appears in the 2004 movie Blade: Trinity, played by Ryan Reynolds. In the movie, King serves as a member of a vampire hunting group known as the Nightstalkers. In the film, the Nightstalkers are led by Abigail Whistler, a character created for the movie and based on a recurring character from the film franchise. Blade sees the group as young and inexperienced compared to him. The movie includes the "former vampire" nature of King, although Reynolds does not portray the character as very serious and reserved. Although King is already an ex-vampire and ally when they meet, the humorless Blade never takes a liking to King; many of King's joke moments were all but lost on Blade and only serve to reinforce Blade's gruff attitude towards King in the movie. In the movie, it was Danica Talos who turned King into a vampire, and King was cured by the retrovirus developed serum that was seen developed in the first Blade film.
- The Tomb of Dracula #25
- The Tomb of Dracula Vol. 1 #51
- The Tomb of Dracula #53
- Doctor Strange vol. 2, #56-62
- Doctor Strange vol. 2, #67
- The Defenders #148
- Nightstalkers #1
- Ghost Rider vol. 3, #31
- Blade #8
- Blade #11
- Blade #12
- Hannibal King at Marvel.com