Eclipso was a wonderful idea for a series, but ahead of it’s time. The fact that the main character had to be defeated in every story really put a damper on the series, and it’s not a surprise that it got cancelled before the end of the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look. It does feel safe to say that, before the end, Bob Haney did about everything that could be done. It was during this period that Eclipso split off from Bruce Gordon for the first time, rather than possessing him. Eclipso gained some new powers briefly, and wound up working with his old enemy against other threats to Earth. Eclipso even got to fight Batman, and both joined forces with, and fought against, Prince Ra-Man.
Eclipso remains a villain, but there is different menace in House of Secrets 66, a glowing worm type thing that arrives on Earth when a meteor crashes. Bruce Gordon and Professor Bennett had been working on an ultra-violet ray gun, in hopes that it might neutralize Eclipso. Bruce gets all distracted by the worm thing, and winds up getting possessed by Eclipso when another solar eclipse happens. Solar eclipses are so much more common in this series than in reality. Mona grabs the ultra-violet ray gun and zaps Eclipso with it. The ray does not get rid of Eclipso, but it does make him switch sides, and he helps the Bennetts fight against the worm. In this story, the black diamond is shown to have a different power when Eclipso holds it to his non-eclipsed eye, sending out lightning type blasts. But it turns out that Eclipso was only faking being good. The ultra-violet ray had no effect at all. Eclipso could sense that the meteor itself was giving him a new power, a magnetic-like repulsion, and pretended to be good so that the Bennetts would help him approach it. Professor Bennett uses some lead shielding to block the meteor and cut off this new power, while Mona tosses a light bomb and turns Eclipso back into Bruce.
A major development does take place in the Eclipso story in House of Secrets 67. Shame that the tale involves the digging robot, which just looks like a trash compactor. Bruce continues to tinker with the ultra-violet ray gun, and when Eclipso takes him over, Mona and Professor Bennett use the gun, but once again with apparently no effect. Bruce Gordon decides that perhaps he will get some inspiration for how to destroy Eclipso back on Diablo Island, so the three of them head there. An artificial eclipse hits Bruce, and this time, for the first real time, Eclipso splits from his body, and they become two separate people. There is a really complicated explanation for this, involving the first blast from the ultra-violet ray gun.
In a big way, though, it's really a sort of correction for the series, as it allows Eclipso and Bruce to actually battle each other. Eclipso strands the trio on the island and heads back to civilization, where he impersonates Bruce Gordon. He uses the digging robot to cause all kinds of problems, which he frames Bruce for. Bruce finally catches up to Eclipso and manages to clear his name before using a light bomb to return Eclipso to his body.
Jack Sparling does the art on the storyin House of Secrets 68 and gives Eclipso even more of an altered face, which works well. After the events of the previous issue, in which Eclipso split off into his own body, Bruce Gordon is certain that he and Professor Bennett can find a way to split him off and get rid of Eclipso for good. At first it seems like their plans have succeeded. Eclipso leaves Bruce's body after an artificial eclipse, and they seal him in a chamber and shunt the villain into a different dimension. But they quickly discover that all they have done is increase his power. In that dimension, Eclipso is able to mentally create duplicates of himself, and sends them to Earth. They take Mona Bennett hostage, and force Bruce and the professor to build a new machine to bring him back to Earth. Bruce decides to get sent to the dimension himself, and also gains the power to create duplicates to battle Eclipso. But in the end Bruce has to resort to another light blast, putting Eclipso back into his body.
In House of Secrets 69 an international detective is on the trail of Eclipso and comes to Bruce Gordon, not because he suspects Gordon is Eclipso, but simply because he thinks Gordon knows more about the villain than anyone else. Bruce, Mona and Professor Bennett find it hard to shake the man, and he even winds up on a plane with them when an eclipse causes Bruce to change. He quickly grabs a parachute and jumps out of the plane to keep his secret. In this story there is a criminal organization, the Octopus Gang, who are working for Eclipso. When exactly Eclipso had time to put that all together is far from clear. Everyone arrives in small country celebrating a festival, and there is a giant Eclipso head float in the parade. Eclipso splits from Bruce Gordon and joins up with his Octopus Gang, who are plotting to kidnap and replace the head of the country. Bruce disguises himself as the foreign leader, so that plan doesn't work. He and Eclipso have a big fight inside the giant head. Eclipso tries to use his black diamond light to blow up the float and kill Bruce, but Gordon sets off fireworks, which send Eclipso back into his body. The detective is, presumably, mollified by rounding up the Octopus Gang because we never see him again.
Bruce Gordon is south of the border once again in House of Secrets 70. Might have been nice to have made this a sequel tale to the last one, but it’s not. Instead, this is a completely different country down south, where Bruce Gordon is helping them build a nuclear power plant. There are a group of rebels, called the Matanzas, who are trying to stop this. When not working on the plant Bruce goes canoeing, gets into an accident, and loses his memory. He wanders in the jungle until caught in an eclipse. Eclipso emerges from his body, and winds up saving his life. Eclipso needs to maintain Bruce Gordon's body, but takes full advantage of the fact that Bruce does not recall who either of them are. Eclipso has both of them join forces with the Matanzas, who are plotting to blow up a railroad bridge. Mona and Professor Bennett have come looking for Bruce, as he has been missing for days. Everyone winds up at the big climactic scene on the bridge. A bullet wings Bruce, and restores his memory. The bridge battle between Bruce and Eclipso is one of the highlights of the entire series, in my eyes, dynamically illustrated by Sparling.
The Eclipso tale in issue 71 is absolutely crazy, but an awful lot of fun. Unlike most tales, when the Haney and Sparling story begins Eclipso has already been split off from Bruce Gordon, and been on the loose for a few days. The police manage to capture Eclipso, and he gets taken to jail and arraigned for trial. Eclipso sends a message to Bruce, Mona and Professor Bennett, insisting that unless they free him, he will reveal his connection to Gordon. Unable to see a way out of this, Bruce goes to the courtroom and sets off a light bomb. Eclipso returns to Bruce's body while everyone is blinded. But shortly afterwards an artificial eclipse causes Eclipso to manifest in Bruce's body. Eclipso gets arrested once again, this time with no Bruce Gordon to get him free. Lucky for him he has a gang waiting to break him out, and they have a duplicator machine they can use to make themselves look like anyone else. Like, for example, the prison warden. Eclipso gets free, and intends to keep exposing himself to artificial eclipses to keep Bruce at bay. But then a blast of light strikes him. Bruce winds up using the duplicator machine to make himself look like Eclipso so the gang will not figure things out, but then takes them all down. When the police arrive, Professor Bennett is able to openly state that this Eclipso is really Bruce Gordon, but that just helps make it look like the real Eclipso is someone else. It's a bit over the top, but plays the conventions of the series really well. There is only so much you can do with Eclipso when Bruce has to defeat him every story.
Eclipso gains a new power in House of Secrets 72. Bruce Gordon, Mona Bennett and her father head to Lost Man's Island in search of the Moonstone, a legendary rock that they believe will be of use in banishing Eclipso. They also think the island is deserted. They are wrong on both counts. Bruce splits off Eclipso, but before Professor Bennett can use a light bomb to get rid of the villain he gets knocked out. Eclipso gains a force field power. The guy on the island, the descendant of the man who first discovered the Moonstone, has made a weapon using a chunk of the object, and wants to use it to kill Eclipso. Bruce has to forestall that, without explaining why. Eventually he uses another light blast, which of course a force field is no protection from, to pull Eclipso back into his body.
Eclipso winds up fighting a goofy looking sea monster in House of Secrets 73. It's not even just a plain old sea monster, it's a Nazi sea monster, a failed experiment trapped in a sunken u-boat since the end of World War 2 and accidentally found and released by Bruce Gordon. While Bruce, Mona and Professor Bennett try to deal with the monster an eclipse releases Eclipso, who still has a vestige of his Moonstone powers. He actually helps out the good guys willingly in this case, using his repulsion powers to hold off the sea beast. Eclipso knows that if Bruce gets killed he will have no body, so he fights and defeats the sea monster. Bruce then uses a light bomb to put him back in his body. So much for a thank you.
The Eclipso story in House of Secrets 74 is a bit of an awkward one, opening a can of worms that later stories will largely ignore. At the start of the tale Eclipso splits off from Bruce Gordon. Bruce, Mona and Professor Bennett chase the villain to his own secret lab, and when they set off the light bomb that returns Eclipso to Bruce's body, Eclipso is standing behind a special glass screen. This has the result of leaving behind a "negative Eclipso," who has all the powers of the normal one, but is immune to the light bombs. Desperate to find some way to fight him, Bruce actively undergoes an artificial eclipse to transform him. Professor Bennett immediately shoots Bruce with a perfected ultra-violet ray gun, and this allows Bruce to maintain his awareness and control while in an Eclipso body. So then it's Eclipso vs Eclipso for the remainder of the tale. Of course the two are evenly matched, but Bruce manages to keep the villain at bay until Bennett creates a spectrum gun. Shooting the negative Eclipso with all colours of the spectrum at once returns him to Bruce's body. The problem? Now they know exactly how to make Bruce into a good Eclipso. Realistically, that should happen in every single story now.
The Eclipso series really feels like it has lost its way in House of Secrets 75. As the story opens we see Eclipso facing off with, and getting beaten by, a man in a really goofy looking suit, which both shields the wearer from Eclipso's powers, and emits deadly blasts. Eclipso gets defeated, but it turns out to just be a robot. Organized crime is upset with Eclipso, who they feel is a rival, and decide to got the high tech assassin route to kill him. A split off Eclipso does not fare well in his first encounter with the would-be assassin, and survives only by merging back with Bruce Gordon. Knowing he needs to protect Eclipso or possibly get killed himself, Bruce uses an artificial eclipse to become the villain, but has Professor Bennett and Mona use the ultra-violet ray on him to make him still Bruce. So it's Bruce Gordon's mind in Eclipso's body that faces off against the assassin, and realizes that the man has been tricked, that his suit is rigged to kill the killer as well. Bruce defeats the guy, gets the suit, and uses it to scare the gangsters into submission. Whatever happened to Eclipso being a series about a villain?
Bob Haney brings Eclipso and Prince Ra-Man together in House of Secrets 76, with Sparling and Baily each contributing to the art on the book length story. The story opens on Eclipso, as he splits from Bruce Gordon and heads off to another of his secret labs. Eclipso creates a being made of solar energy, who he calls Helio. He even makes a costume for Helio. What a nice guy. Kind of strange that Eclipso would build himself a partner made of the light that can send him back into Bruce Gordon's body, but whatever. Together, Eclipso and Helio head into space to steal a new space platform thing. A blast of light makes Eclipso return to Bruce Gordon's body, even though Bruce is on Earth, and Eclipso is in space. The merge really takes a lot out of Bruce. Normally there isn't that kind of effect, but the two are usually much closer to each other. Helio continues his reign of terror, which draws the attention of Prince Ra-Man. The latter half of the tale gives the focus to Prince Ra-Man, so I will detail it under his entry. But even moreso than this story, Ra-Man is very much secondary to Eclipso.
The exciting and dynamic cover for Brave and the Bold 64 bills the tale as Batman vs Eclipso, but the battle between the two characters is really the secondary plot line. Far more important is Batman's relationship with a wealthy girl, Marcia Monroe. Their relationship became hot after Batman publicly spanked her, and they have been on each others minds ever since. But Marcia left town, and has returned as the Queen Bee, an operative of the international villain cartel Cyclops. Bruce Gordon, the man who is possessed by Eclipso, is working with his fiancee Mona Bennett and her scientist father to figure out a way to remove and trap Eclipso when Queen Bee sends her Cyclops agents to retrieve him. Eclipso plays second fiddle to Queen Bee and Cyclops, a position he would not have been in in his own series in House of Secrets.
Thanks to Cyclops, Marcia now knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, and even though they are on opposing sides, she is clearly still in love with him, risking her life in order to save him when he tries to infiltrate Cyclops. There is a brief battle on the outside of a building, along the lines of the cover, but Batman and Eclipso spend very little time together in this story. Batman is dealing with Queen Bee, while Bruce Gordon and his allies are chasing Eclipso. Bruce manages to merge with Eclipso using a blast of light to weaken the villain, and temporarily blind everyone, so they do not see Eclipso enter him. Marcia never appears again, ceding the Queen Bee name to Zazzala, who always wore the title better than her.
House of Secrets 77 finds a new angle for the Eclipso. Eclipso has two Moon creatures at his command in this issue, having created them during a previous time split off from Bruce Gordon's body. He has the Moon creatures capture Gordon, and then impersonates him. He leads Professor Bennett and Mona into a trap, but Mona came prepared. While disguised as Bruce, Eclipso kissed Mona, and she could tell from the coldness of it that it was not really Bruce. Sad that it's all about a kiss, but great that Mona actually gets something to do for once. Bruce then leads the Moon creatures into a trap, setting up Eclipso to unwittingly kill them. Then it's just a matter of another light bomb to get Eclipso back into him.
The Eclipso story in House of Secrets 78 takes the characters to Stonehenge. One eclipse separates Eclipso from Bruce Gordon, and the villain heads over to England, intending to expose himself to a second eclipse which he believes will allow him to exist forever outside of Bruce's body. Bruce, Mona and Professor Bennett figure out Eclipso's plan, and head over to England to stop him. The second eclipse does not function as Eclipso planned, it winds up turning him into a monster. While Bruce, Mona and the professor strive to try to stop the beast, it's actually Eclipso who does himself in. Learning that there is a buried treasure at Stonehenge the monster Eclipso heads there, but when he finds the treasure it is actually a glowing meteorite, and the light from it is strong enough to dissipate his monster form and send him back into Bruce's body.
Eclipso and Prince Ra-Man face off for a second time in House of Secrets 79. In disguise, Eclipso goes to visit Whitney Hargrave, bringing a legendary ring, intending Hargrave to reveal the location of the Circlet of Circe, which he promptly does. Together, the two objects give Eclipso the ability to see into the future, and pull things from the past into the present. Jambo tries to stop the villain, but fails, and the two once again have to run to Prince Ra-Man for help. Ra-Man is so understanding that he even brings Hargrave and Jambo along with him on his flying disc while he hunts for Eclipso. But with the circlet, Eclipso is too powerful for Ra-Man to defeat. That's hardly a surprise. Eclipso brings pterodactyls into the present to attack the city, but Prince Ra-Man is at least able to deal with those. Since the creatures from the past failed, Eclipso brings a super robot from the future for his next attack. Ra-Man is not able to do anything about it, but the robot also proves outside of Eclipso's control. Eclipso calls down a meteor to destroy the robot, but it explodes in a burst of light, which sends him back into Bruce's body. Prince Ra-Man returns the circlet to Hargrave, but the man no longer wants it, feeling it is too dangerous for him. So at least Hargrave has learned something.
The final Eclipso tale sends the characters south of the border once again. Eclipso splits off from Bruce Gordon at the start of the tale and takes off. Bruce creates a giant Eclipso robot, which he can use to track the real Eclipso. So off he goes, with Mona and Professor Bennett in tow. They find the real Eclipso, but then the villain takes control of the giant, nicknamed Big Boy. Together they release some mutant giants, but those turn against the robot. Probably jealous or something. Bruce uses a light bomb to get rid of the real Eclipso, while the giants all battle and fall off a cliff, plunging into the ocean, never to be seen again. It's really not a great final story.
Eclipso, and Bruce Gordon, are next seen in the pages of Justice League of America eight years down the road. Two years after that Mona Bennett gets to return, in the pages of Metal Men, and it's yet another two years before we see Professor Bennett again, in the Eclipso story in Adventure Comics.
As for House of Secrets, its cancellation does not last very long. Three years down the road the series gets revived as a horror comic, hosted by Abel.
Eclipso: House of Secrets 66 – 80 (May 1964 – Sept/Oct 1966)
Brave and the Bold 64 (Feb/March 1966)
Next up – the Elongated Man!