House of Secrets
Eclipso first appeared in House of Secret #61 (July-August 1963) in a story written by Bob Haney (Teen Titans co-creator) and drawn by Lee Elias. Eclipso is the Mr Hyde character to Bruce Gordon’s Dr Jekyll and is given the tag line of “Hero and Villain in One Man”. When Bob Haney was interviewed by The Comics Journal he explained that he created Eclipso after editor Jack Schiff had asked him to come up with a new character for House of Secrets. However, Haney confessed quoting Shakespeare that “From the thought to the execution is such a gap” and noted that the concept “was done much better years later when they revived it”. His alter ego, Bruce Gordon, was an in-joke which referenced the names of Batman’s Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon.
Eclipso’s first two-appearances were illustrated by Lee Elias who gave the science of Solar City (Gordon’s laboratory base) a definite Carmine Infantino feel (Elias later succeeded Infantino as the artist on Adam Strange). However, there is a very noticeable departure with Eclipso’s third appearance (House of Secrets #63 (Nov-Dec 1963)) as Alex Toth took over as artist. In his Elias appearances Eclipso had just looked like an angry, more cartoony version of Bruce Gordon, but Toth gives him pointed ears and arched eyebrows which results in a far more menacing look. Under Toth’s pencils what had been an archetypal Silver Age sci-fi story become a true classic.
The early Eclipso stories retained a certain charm due to their international jet-setting. Bruce Gordon and Simon Bennett were international science consultants and were often in some far-flung clime when Eclipso decided to appear. Even when they were in the USA the stipulation that Eclipso changed whenever there was a solar eclipse meant that in every issue there was one random panel showing some obscure location with a stereotypical native watching an eclipse happen.
Toth left for other duties after too short a time (House of Secrets #63-67) and the art reins passed to Jack Sparling with House of Secrets #68 (Sept-Oct 1964). As time passed Eclipso’s stories sank into the routine of Bruce Gordon trying to separate himself from Eclipso only for the process to have some bizarre and nasty consequence. There was also a marked change in the way Eclipso acted in the stories. In his early appearances Eclipso was a boogeyman who rarely spoke, but as time went by the feature began to focus more on him rather than Bruce Gordon.
Eclipso and Bruce Gordon shared House of Secrets with Mark Merlin (“Sleuth of the Supernatural”) until issue #73 when Merlin oddly metamorphosed into Prince Ra-Man (“Mind Master”). The two features were brought together in issue #76 for a clash when Eclipso created the solar power monster Helio and then again in #79. However, even these team-ups couldn’t save the title it when on hiatus with House of Secrets #80 (Sept-Oct 1966). The title returned three years later with edgier, younger writers like Mike Friedrich and Gerry Conway, but they had new ideas and Eclipso wasn’t among them.
Eclipso and Bruce Gordon appeared sparing through the next decade or so and only reappeared to fight a random superhero or two. The 1977 Umbra story in Metal Men was the first story that sought to explain or to suggest an origin for Eclipso. Before hand Eclipso was just a schizophrenic alter ego for Bruce Gordon. There was never any real explanation in House of Secrets as to where his diamond had come from or of any indication that Eclipso was anything other than a “normal” supervillain. In the Metal Men it was suggested that Eclipso’s black diamond was created from a diamond that was a shard from a giant diamond on Umbra’s forehead,
Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths
The big change for Eclipso came with the Eclipso: The Darkness Within, DC Comics’s 1992 crossover, which propelled Eclipso from simply being Bruce Gordon’s split personality to being a fully blown immortal spirit on a standing comparable to the Spectre. Eclipso franchised and it was explained that anybody would be turned into an Eclipso if they happened to possess one of a thousand identical black diamonds. This was used as the queue for a crossover which ran through DC’s annuals and was bookended by the two-part Eclipso: The Darkness Within mini-series written Robert Loren Fleming and Keith Giffen and pencilled by Bart Sears.
The crossover was followed by an ongoing Eclipso series by the same team. What started as an attempt to do a modern horror. Giffen left after issue #7 and continued just with Fleming. Unfortunately the series slowly degenerated into a farce which saw the slaughter of a random assortment of c-list heroes. The series was finally staked through the heart with issue #18 (April 1994). Odder changes to Eclipso’s character came with two attempt to change his usual host. The first was when Geoff Johns introduced the character of Alex Montez in JSA #26 (Sept 2001). He was the cousin of one of the heroes Eclipso had killed in his own series. Montez attempted to use Eclipso’s powers to become a superhero, but he didn’t last long and committed suicide to prevent Eclipso escaping.
Eclipso was then brought back by Judd Winick and Ian Churchill as the enemy for a Superman/Captain Marvel team-up during the build up to the Infinite Crisis. At the conclusion to that story Eclipso’s Black Diamond was passed to Jean Loring (the Atom’s murderous ex-wife) who became a rather buster and kinkier Eclipso. Her job was to seduce the Spectre and lead him astray in Day of Vengeance (the springboard for the Shadowpact and one of the lead up series to Infinite Crisis).
Eventually the Montez and Loring permutations played themselves out and in Countdown to Mystery Matthew Sturges created a story that brought Eclipso and Bruce Gordon back together. This reunified Eclipso/Gordon next appeared in James Robinson’s Justice League of America (vol.2 ). He told Newsarama about his love for the character and what made him work as a great villain:
But I do love Eclipso, and yes, I do love who the characters is at the very core. I love the kind of the duality of it. It isn’t the same as the Hulk’s duality. Well, the Hulk isn’t evil for one thing, but with the Hulk it’s two sides of one person. And at the very beginning of when Eclipso was first created, there was a bit more of a sense of not quite knowing if Eclipso was the dark side of Bruce Gordon. But now it’s definitively been stated that he was the precursor to the Spectre as God’s agent of vengeance on Earth, or retribution on Earth. And as a result, he’s now this embittered, cast-out son who hated his father for no longer loving him. So he has a lot of that on his shoulders, whilst being unmitigatedly evil. I do like that about him. But I also like the fear.