Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the sometimes-supervillain sometimes-Spirit of Vengeance, Eclipso.
Eclipso first debuted in the pages of House of Secrets, one of DC’s horror anthology titles which launched in the 1950s. Created by Bob Haney and Lee Elias, Eclipso was a play on the Jekyll and Hyde archetype. In House of Secrets #61, Bruce Gordon was introduced. He was the world’s leading solar power scientist whose life’s work was creating someplace called Solar City. During a trip to Diablo Island, a small island in which an eclipse was scheduled to take place, Bruce came upon a man who named Mophir. During a scuffle, Mophir scratched Bruce’s arm with a black diamond that he claimed possessed great power. Just then, the eclipse hit the island, making Mophir become confused. He accidentally stepped off a cliff, where he fell to his death.
Things seemed normal enough for Bruce afterwards. However, during the very next eclipse, Bruce found himself changing. He discovered that he had been infected with a being called Eclipso. Whenever Bruce was in the vicinity of an eclipse, a being called Eclipso took control of his body. This transformation involved a physical change as well. Whenever Eclipso was in charge, Bruce’s face was covered by a half moon, his face turned ugly, and his ears grew pointed.
Bruce’s girlfriend, Mona, and her father Dr. Bennet learned that Eclipso was susceptible to solar energy, particularly natural light. When Eclipso was bathed in solar powered lights, he vanished and Bruce Gordon returned to his normal self.
Eclipso did seem to have invulnerability but his main abilities were his keen cunning and his ability to project beams of darkness through the black diamond that Bruce had been scratched with. Assuming that the diamond may give him clues on how to keep Eclipso from ever being released, Bruce had kept the precious stone. Whenever he gained control of Bruce, the black diamond became Eclipso greatest tool in his crimes.
Now, you may be thinking that Eclipso probably wasn’t that big of a threat to the people in the DCU. After all, eclipses are relatively rare events and since that was the only way to free Eclipso, he wasn’t hard to contain. You would be wrong. In every issue of House of Secrets, another eclipse happened and Eclipso began another crime spree. In the 1960s, in the DCU, eclipses were a bi-monthly event. Eventually, it was shown that the partial covering of any light source around Bruce could bring out Eclipso, but eclipses still happened with alarming regularity.
As Eclipso’s stories progressed and things needed to be shaken up a bit, Eclipso started being pulled out of Bruce’s body at the moment of his creation. Now, Bruce was a direct opponent of Eclipso’s schemes and not just the body which housed the villain. It wouldn’t last long as Eclipso continued to be tied to Bruce in the future.
After his regular feature in House of Secrets wrapped up, Eclipso kept a fairly low profile in the DCU. He occasionally showed up in other people’s books as an opponent, but it wasn’t a regular thing. He was just another in a series of villains who would occasionally pop up to vex the world’s greatest heroes.
For instance, during the Phantom Stranger’s miniseries in the 1980s, Eclipso was the enemy that he went up against. In this series, drawn by a pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola, Eclipso delved into the world of magic. Though he appeared to die at the end of this story, it would later be shown that it was impossible to completely destroy the purple loving madman.
Things changed for both Bruce Gordon and Eclipso in the 1992 big DC crossover event Eclipso: The Darkness Within. The event kicked off with a special which showed Bruce still struggling to contain Eclipso after all of these years. During his research, he stumbled across a woman living alone in an apartment. Armed with only his solar powered flashlight, Bruce entered and found that this woman looked and acted like his alter ego. Only after using the solar energy of his flashlight to drive Eclipso from the woman’s body did Bruce see that she too had a black diamond.
Bruce was shocked. As far as he knew, his was the only black diamond in existence. After further research, Bruce finally found out the truth. Eclipso wasn’t a single entity tired directly to Bruce. According to legend, Eclipso was originally God’s Angel of Wrath. He was so ancient that he had actually caused the flood that Noah had built his ark to survive. His anger destroyed much of the world. When Eclipso personally killed the dove that Noah had sent out from his ark to test the waters, God encased Eclipso into giant diamond and hid him in an African cave. There Eclipso had been kept, bound into a corporal form until the 1890s when a British exhibition found the giant diamond, dubbed the Heart of Darkness.
The Heart of Darkness was brought back to London where it was cut into thousands of smaller diamonds. If anyone touched one of these diamonds while being angry, Eclipso would take over the body of that person and make her his slave.
The reason that Eclipso was so focused on Bruce Gordon and Bruce Gordon alone for so many years was because he wanted to keep Bruce unaware of his true origins and motives. By constantly tormenting the world’s greatest solar energy scientists, Eclipso had also held back scientific research in the one field that could injure him.
Now that Bruce had discovered Eclipso’s true origins, he sought out the Justice League and other heroes to take the fight to Eclipso directly. Discovering that Eclipso’s main body was located in the deepest crater on the moon, Bruce contacted every hero he could. That summer, each hero’s annual issues dealt with them trying to overcome Eclipso’s influence. Some succeeded. A small army failed. These Eclipso-possessed heroes led the rest of Earth’s heroes to a battle on the moon. Among those possessed were Hal Jordan, Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Wally West, and the Creeper.
Eventually, Earth’s non-possessed heroes did make it to the moon where they discovered Eclipso’s true threat. He had a power level similar to the Spectre, the being who had replaced him after he was sealed away in the Heart of Darkness, and he was at least twice as angry.
Thanks to the sacrifice of the Will Payton version of Starman and Lar Gand, also known as Mon-El and Valor, Eclipso was brought down to size and seemingly destroyed.
That should have been the end of it. Eclipso was shown to be a world shattering powerhouse and he was defeated by a powerful coalition of heroes. However, this crossover event proved to be so popular that Eclipso was granted his own ongoing monthly series shortly after the summer wrapped up. In the pages of Eclipso, readers were presented with a single black diamond which had made its way to the small fictional South American country of Parador. There, Eclipso made short work of infecting the hundreds of thousands of people living in Parador’s main city.
This was an unsettling, bloody series. No where was the title labeled as being “for mature readers,” though it really should have been. In its pages were things like Eclipso cooking a small dog for dinner, Eclipso cutting off all ten of Mona’s father’s fingers, and a plot line dealing with Eclipso trying to make a strain of cocaine that would kill whomever used it. The effects of that cocaine were shown in panel.
However, this series also tried to explain why Eclipso didn’t simply kill Bruce Gordon and his fiancee Mona. They had, after all, been a thorn in his side for years and they now knew Eclipso’s true nature. There was no reason to let them live. Well, Eclipso’s reasons were very simple: It was Bruce and Mona’s time traveling son who freed the Heart of Darkness from Africa and set Eclipso free upon the world a hundred years earlier. Killing Bruce and Mona may start a paradox which sucked Eclipso back into the uncut diamond.
This weird explanation was never mentioned again outside of this ongoing title. It was a needlessly complicated tale that stretched credulity past the breaking point. And I’m saying that about a comic whose main character was the ex-Spirit of Vengeance.
Bruce Gordon was able to bring together a ragtag group of C-list heroes to enter Parador and attempt to drive Eclipso from its borders. Comprising of people like Commander Steel, Major Victory, the Beth Chapel version of Dr. Midnight, the Yolanda Montez version of Wildcat, the Mark Shaw version of Manhunter, and the Creeper, everyone on the team was summarily murdered by Eclipso.
Of all these heroes, the death of Manhunter hit me the hardest when I first read this series. He was a favorite of mine as he had been a temporary member of the Suicide Squad. Now, it strikes me as strange that the Creeper, a Steve Ditko creation, was allowed to be killed off so cavalierly. He would later just start showing up in other titles again without any explanation as to how he lived through this while everyone else died. That was probably the right choice.
When word got out about these heroes’ deaths, people took notice. Finally, the Spectre and the Phantom Stranger stepped up and helped contain the Eclipso menace again, this time for nearly a decade. They were helped by the fact that Eclipso’s solo title was cancelled.
Things changed for Eclipso when Alexander Montez arrived on the scene. Cousin of Yolanda Montez, the Wildcat who Eclipso killed, Alexander had a personal vendetta against the spirit. Alexander pursued Eclipso’s black diamonds for years. As he found them, he liquefied and injected these diamonds into his body. He covered his body in tattoos that were designed to bind Eclipso to him. They also allowed Alexander to use Eclipso’s powers yet remain in control of his own actions. He kept a single black diamond in its pure form and used it offensively.
Alexander became a force to be reckoned with. He made good on his promise of revenge against Eclipso by trapping the spirit in his own body. However, during one of Alexander’s very first battles, he got cut along his right shoulder. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem. It was a minor cut, really. However, the cut broke the tattoo on Alexander’s skin. Eclipso became unbound from his cage. In order to keep Eclipso at bay, the only thing Alexander could do was to kill himself before he was completely taken over.
Down to only a single black diamond, Eclipso started to carefully seek out the next body he could target. At first, he went after Superman but found that an eclipsed Kryptonian didn’t allow him to keep a very low profile. Then, he stumbled upon Jean Loring. Jean was the ex-wife of Ray Palmer, the second Atom. She had recently accidentally killed Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. For her crimes, she had been locked up in Arkham Asylum. That is where Eclipso found and possessed her.
Jean became the face of Eclipso for the next few years. Though she had never been a supervillain prior to this story, the Eclipso / Jean mashup became a force to be reckoned with in the DCU. One of the first things Eclipso did after possessing Jean was to seduce the Spectre. God’s latest Spirit of Vengeance had recently lost his ties to the human world and was confused. Eclipso convinced him to destroy all of the magic in the world in order to create the chaos that Eclipso loved so much.
Eventually, the Spectre was convinced to kill the magician Shazam. Not even Blue Devil and his group the Shadowpack could stop the Spectre from following Eclipso’s advice. This was one of Eclipso’s few decisive victories.
A few years later, Eclipso found herself on Apokolips. There, Darkseid sat her down and told her that while she was indeed a spirit from Earth, the Heart of Darkness which had existed in Africa for all of those centuries had actually been forged by Darkseid for reasons of his own. He claimed that he could actually kill Eclipso anytime he wanted to.
This was another strange origin story twist. Darkseid and Eclipso had actually had a few conversations years earlier during Eclipso’s solo series. The pair had been portrayed as equals. This revelation flew in the face of that. Granted, something interesting could have resulting from this plot point, but no one else ever picked up this ball and ran with it. The Countdown to Mystery miniseries is the only place this relationship between Darkseid and Eclipso is mentioned.
Soon after her visit to Apolokips, Eclipso left Jean’s body when Bruce Gordon again worked to contain his old foe. Meaning to trap Eclipso in his body as Alexander had done earlier, Bruce drew Eclipso into himself. His plan worked and Bruce found that he too could use Eclipso’s powers without losing his mind. He quickly began to use these powers not to fight evil but to do innovative science that others simply couldn’t do. iFanboy’s own Ryan Haupt found this idea particularly intriguing. Unfortunately, just like Alexander, Bruce found that he couldn’t contain Eclipso for long. Once again, Eclipso escaped mental confinement. Once again, a fight with the recently restored Spectre ended in Eclipso’s defeat.
Eclipso next popped up with a little plan to kill God. His reasoning was that God’s universal presence is channeled through the Earth. Still angered at God’s rejection all those years ago, Eclipso reasoned that if he could change humanity enough, God’s connection to our reality would vanish and His influence in our realm would be erased. To fulfill his goal, Eclipso actually split the moon in half right after he cut the Spectre in twain.
In order to protect himself during this plan, Eclipso turned several heroes and villains onto his side. Only after the Justice League managed to free both the Shade and Jade from Eclipso’s powers was he weak enough for their combined might to take him down.
Everything ended with both Eclipso and the Spectre dead and the moon restored to its natural state. Then, the New 52 wiped everything away.
Eclipso has yet to appear in the New 52. However, it seems like some familiar black diamonds are finding their ways into several titles. Future solicits seem to indicate that this is just the start of Eclipso’s debut in the new continuity. Surely, Bruce Gordon and Mona can’t be far behind. I’m eagerly looking forward to their return.
Jeff Reid was really messed up by Eclipso’s solo series when he was a kid. There was some freaky stuff in there. Jeff describes even more childhood traumas on Twitter.