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Art by Howard Chaykin
|First appearance||The Tomb of Dracula #25 (Oct. 1974)|
|Created by||Gene Colan (Artist)
Marv Wolfman (Writer)
|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
Hannibal King is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. He first appeared as a supporting character in the 1970s comic book The Tomb of Dracula. The character is usually depicted as a supernatural detective.
Fictional character biography
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Hannibal King was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A private detective making 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 subsisted on blood purchased (or stolen) from blood banks and consuming only corpses or animals. King also prefers 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 continues to operate as a private detective, but only traveling freely by night.[volume & issue needed]
As a vampire, he first battles Dracula, the Lord of Earth's vampires. While searching for Deacon Frost, King eventually meets Blade, the vampire hunter, whose mother had been killed by the same Deacon Frost. Initially distrustful of each other, they nevertheless team up to destroy Frost. In the process, King battles a Blade doppelganger created by Deacon Frost. King and Blade then destroy Deacon Frost himself, and part 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 contacts Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme. Through Strange, King discovers that the Darkhold contains the spell not only for creating vampires but destroying them. Through King, in turn, Strange learns of the apparent return of Dracula. King, with vampire hunters Blade and Frank Drake, join Strange in their visit to Castle Mordo where they retrieve the Darkhold. They battle Dracula and the Darkholders, and then use the book to cast the Montesi formula. This spell destroys Dracula and all current vampires then 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 founds a detective agency initially known simply as King, Drake, and Blade; the private investigations firm is later known as Borderline Investigations. With Doctor Strange, they fight the Darkholders again. King also assists the Defenders on one of their missions. Alongside the Beast, Gargoyle, Daimon Hellstrom, Hellcat, Cutlass and Typhoon, and Rufus T. Hackstabber, he helps foil the plans of Minvera Bannister.
Apparently, discord amongst the three friends causes Drake to leave the firm, after which Blade suffers a breakdown after a fight with a once again resurrected Dracula. Dracula's return was a sign of the weakening of the Montesi formula. King is unable to continue operating the agency on his own, as he knows his vampirism is returning. After an examination, Doctor Strange concludes that King, because of his recent reversion, had become a "neo-vampire", a special type of vampire with all the abilities and weaknesses of the vampire, yet merely craving blood despite not needing it to survive.[volume & issue needed]
Strange manipulates the three men into reuniting under the name Nightstalkers to combat the supernatural enemies that were emerging. In their first mission, the Nightstalkers are hired by the demonic Lilith to kill the Daniel Ketch Ghost Rider and John Blaze, and battle the Meatmarket. Alongside Ghost Rider, Blaze, Morbius, Doctor Strange, and the Darkhold Redeemers, the Nightstalkers battle Lilith and her Lilin. Among the enemies the Nightstalkers fight around this time are 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 however later shows up in New Orleans, to help Blade fight a resurrected Deacon Frost. King also accepts an assignment from Donna Garth to locate her father, Simon Garth who is also known as the Living Zombie. King tracks Garth to New York where he is assisted by Spider-Man in rescuing Garth from Lilith.[volume & issue needed]
King later sets up a small shop in San Francisco where a CIA agent enlists his help in stopping a vampire plot to blackmail the Earth with biochemical weapons. During this fight, CIA agent Tatjana Stiles is injured by vampire terrorist leader Navarro; although they defeat Navarro, Stiles's injuries were too painful for her to live with. Knowing the pain would eventually kill her, she begs King to make her like him "if she loves him". King, who had grown attracted to Stiles, reluctantly complies and breaks his years-long vow. Weeks later, King reads 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 has no doubt who was responsible. This revelation leads to King becoming dispirited, losing interest in his work and sparking a retreat into depression.[volume & issue needed]
He comes to assist Blade in London where the latter confronted Draconis, a vampire impervious to all forms of exorcism.
Blade's biological father then offers a way to restore the souls of all vampires, which he admits would have the additional effect of removing all of their weaknesses. The rite is dependent on Blade however, who scoffs at a plan to provide practical invulnerability to the enemy he'd sworn to destroy. Blade attempts to enlist King against his father, but King refuses, and attacks his former partner for denying him one of his greatest desires: to see the sunrise again. Blade ends up staking King, who then appears to die, leaving behind only a smoking stain on the cobblestones.
He returns (as had every other vampire that Blade had killed) soon after, and Blade gives him a potion that stops 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 King's own physical age (which was arrested due to vampirism) and was 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 any time 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 (Aug. 1992) 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 #18 (April 1994) 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
Hannibal King is played by Ryan Reynolds in the 2004 movie Blade: Trinity. In the movie, King is a member of a vampire hunting group known as the Nightstalkers, led by Abigail Whistler, a character created for the movie and based on a recurring character from the film franchise. The movie includes the premise that King is a former vampire, having been turned by Danica Talos, and cured by the retrovirus serum that was 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