If you’ve been reading JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD, and particularly if you’ve gotten to the end of this week’s issue #5, you’ve discovered that the real villain of the Rebirth’s first event isn’t the Suicide Squad or even Maxwell Lord, but a shadowy villain with the ability to corrupt just about anyone on the planet. Yes, we’re talking about Eclipso, a character that longtime readers are probably greatly familiar with. However, if you’re relatively new to the world of DC Comics (and if you are, welcome!), Eclipso may not be all that familiar to you.
If that’s you, then you’re in the right place. Now that Justice League vs. Suicide Squad’s real threat has been revealed, the time is right to introduce any of you newer fans out there to one of the most deadly and devastating souls to occupy the DC Universe. It’s time for you to get to know Eclipso.
But first, you’re a safe distance from any all black diamond shards in the area, right? Good.
Who is Eclipso?
The name “Eclipso” may not be as immediately recognizable as some of the other villains in the DC Universe, like the Joker or Darkseid. But don’t let that fool you. The fact that you don’t know his name off the top of your head might just be part of his plan.
Manipulative to the very core and with the patience of a creature completely untouched by time, Eclipso is willing to lay in wait, hide in plain sight and scheme his way into the perfect opportunity to strike. Also, as the primordial manifestation of wrath and hatred, he can’t actually be destroyed, only contained. You know, just in case he wasn’t scary enough.
But this wasn’t always the case. Eclipso’s origins and subsequent development are a labyrinth of half-truths (he’s a great liar, after all), topsy-turvy histories (cosmic entities so rarely like to play by our rules) and maniacal puppeteering.
He’s complicated, sure, but like any villain, the key to defeating him comes from first understanding him.
Eclipso’s first appearance happened in HOUSE OF SECRETS #61 in 1963, where his origin was boiled down to some pretty basic concepts. A scientist named Bruce Gordon was attempting to study a solar eclipse from deep within a jungle when he encountered a sorcerer named Morphir who attacked him. Gordon was able to gain the upper hand in the fight and eventually Morphir fell to his death over the side of a cliff…but not before he managed to scratch Gordon with a mysterious black diamond.
The diamond, infused with Morphir’s power, infected Gordon with a curse: During any eclipse (or, more broadly, any direct obstruction of a light source), Bruce would be overtaken by a villainous alter-ego called Eclipso, denoted by a blue circle appearing on the upper two thirds of his face.
These early adventures featured Bruce and Eclipso working as a sort of modified werewolf; a Jekyll-and-Hyde flavored character with Bruce acting as the good, humanistic side and Eclipso acting as the evil. His powers were pretty standard—enhanced strength and speed, the ability to summon energy via the same black diamond that had infected Gordon...you get the idea. There certainly wasn’t much in the way of focusing on Eclipso’s origins or motivations. Instead, the drama largely spun out of hijinks—whatever chaos and inconvenience Eclipso’s nature could bring about in mild mannered Bruce Gordon’s life.
These vaguely defined sci-fi and fantasy-tinged stories were endemic of the early ’60s, or the “Silver Age” of comics, when self-policing bodies like the Comics Code Authority were strictly monitoring the content of the stories. While more focus was given to things like origin story and a broad sense of continuity than there’d been in the ’30s and ’40s, or the Golden Age, the DC Universe itself was still decades away from events like CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and ZERO HOUR, which would help pave the way toward cementing all sorts of characters—Eclipso among them—into newer, more fleshed out forms.
Welcome to the Heart of Darkness
It was just six years after Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1992 when Eclipso was given his official makeover via a massive crossover event called ECLIPSO: THE DARKNESS WITHIN.
Across 20 tie-in issues (mostly contained in various annuals of mainstream titles like DETECTIVE COMICS and GREEN LANTERN), bookended by two event-specific issues and one “aftermath” special, Eclipso was transformed from the simple “dark side” of Bruce Gordon’s personality to an ancient manifestation of wrath and vengeance that had been imprisoned within a black diamond known as the “Heart of Darkness.” The Heart was discovered by a treasure hunter and cut into shards—one of which was the black diamond Morphir used to scratch (and possess) Gordon in Eclipso’s classic origin story.
The event went on to establish that all of the hijink-filled early adventures of Gordon and Eclipso were, in fact, still very much part of his history. Rather than making any sort of big, dramatic gestures upon finding his new host, Eclipso made the conscious decision to lay low, to play the part of the wacky B-lister for years to avoid detection by any of Earth’s more powerful heroes, until he was given an opportunity to strike.
More refinements came through the The Darkness Within. Eclipso’s abilities feed off of hate and he’s able to possess anyone feeling hatred that has a shard of the Heart of Darkness on them. When he’s possessed a central host, he’s able to take control of others just by looking at them, spreading out like an infectious disease, brainwashing and subjugating more and more pawns. The same blue circle on their faces marks those he possesses, just like Bruce back in the ’60s.
Over time, this new status quo allowed for even more exploration of Eclipso’s relationship with the other cosmic entities in the DCU. A backstory was woven that involved the Spectre, which elaborated on the true nature of Eclipso’s power and status. You see, the Spectre, long understood to be the “spirit of vengeance” in the most cosmic sense was actually not the first creature to hold that title. In ancient times, Eclipso was the spirit of vengeance, bringing about events like the biblical flood of the world, but he was removed from the position as his idea of “vengeance” began to blur with “revenge.”
The Spectre took over after Eclipso’s “demotion,” sparking a near-eternal grudge match between the two beings. At least inasmuch as a creature like the Spectre can hold a grudge.
Diamonds are Forever
Bruce Gordon is, of course, far from the only person to ever succumb to the power of the Heart of Darkness. Over the years, Eclipso has been able to possess and manipulate heroes and civilians alike, from the ex-wife of the Atom, Jean Loring, to now the entire Justice League itself.
Anyone with even an inkling of fear or hatred in their heart is leaving the door cracked for the corruption of a black diamond shard to seep its way in. And if that doesn’t work? Well, Eclipso is more than happy to try and back his targets into a corner by possessing the people closest to them.
There have even been those who have searched out Eclipso under the misguided belief that they can somehow control him and bend his power to their will. Famously, in the early 2000s, a man named Alex Montez attempted to harness and control Eclipso by allowing himself to become possessed and covering his skin in magical binding glyphs that would, ideally, allow him to stay in control of himself while under Eclipso’s influence.
It worked. Kind of. At least, until his skin was cut in a battle and a binding glyph was disrupted. Then it went downhill as quickly as you might expect.
Now we stand on the precipice of yet another awakening of Eclipso’s ancient evil, this time in the post-Rebirth DC Universe where Maxwell Lord has set out to succeed where Montez failed. Unfortunately, as we discovered in the most recent chapter of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, Lord didn’t fare much better, and with the entire Justice League and seemingly a good part of our nation’s capital under Eclipso’s control, things might just become apocalyptic.
Honestly, it’s hardly surprising. If we’ve learned anything from Eclipso’s history, it’s that messing with the Heart of Darkness is never a good idea. After all, Lord may be a pretty skilled manipulator himself, but Eclipso has, quite literally, been doing this since the dawn of time.