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CSBG Archive

Gimmick or Good? – Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1

Eclipso_coverIn this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the plastic diamond cover of Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1…

Eclipso The Darkness Within #1 (published July 1992) – co-plot and breakdowns by Keith Giffen; co-plot and script by Robert Loren Fleming; pencils by Bart Sears; inks by Randy Elliott and Mark Pennington

More than 20 years before DC launched “Forever Evil,” there was the company-wide crossover “Eclipso The Darkness Within,” which followed the demonic villain Eclipso in his quest to possess the superheroes of the DC universe using the evil power of an ancient black diamond. The storyline spanned more than 20 issues of various DC titles – mostly annual issues – and kicked off in Eclipso’s very own two-part miniseries, which sported a plastic diamond on the cover as a gimmick.

But what about inside the comic?

Actually, I need to talk about this plastic diamond for a second. As someone who is neck-deep in 90s gimmick comic books, you might be surprised to read that I think Eclipso’s plastic diamond ranks as the most insipid of the lot. Not because it’s an unattractive cover (though it doesn’t look great), but because the plastic diamond is a very poorly conceived way to market a potentially “collectible” comic. As is the norm, I usually bag and board the comics I plan on keeping and collecting. I then store these comics in a long or short box. The problem with the Eclipso book is that any other comic you store in front of it in your box gets a small diamond-shaped indentation on its backside from that stupid “diamond.” So unless you plan on keeping Eclipso #1 at the very front of your box, it ends up damaging all of its neighboring comics. Why couldn’t DC just give me a hologram diamond like a normal 90s comic book?

Despite my diamond-angst (and yes, the irony is not lost on me that, in this story, Eclipso’s black diamond takes hold of his victims by making them irrationally angry), I actually found this comic to be a fun, harmless read, and an overall solid setup for the company-wide storyline. Granted, the tone of this book is all over the place, as we jump from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness-era Africa to the Moon, to the modern-day DC Universe, but the issue manages to briskly work in a lot of plot without ever grinding to a halt and feeling too bogged down with exposition.

Eclipso_01

I’ll readily admit that my familiarity with Eclipso and his origin is minimal outside of reading this issue, but Keith Giffen and Robert Fleming’s plot keeps me in the loop, especially as it relates to Eclipso and his original host, solar physicist Bruce Gordon (supposedly named after Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon as an inside-joke by Eclipso’s original creators Bob Haney and Lee Elias).

As is standard practice for a large, far-reaching crossover that incorporates nearly every iconic superhero in DC’s repertoire, the creators are clearly trying to elevate Eclipso from career B-lister into a major threat. In this issue alone, Eclipso goes after Creeper, Lar Grand and the biggest fish of them all, Superman. And he’s pretty successful in his attempts, using his diamonds to posses first two and standing his ground against Superman before Gordon is able to expose the demon’s weakness to direct sunlight.

Eclipso_04

I’m sure ardent fans of the DC Universe were probably flabbergasted in 1992 when they witnessed a guy as low on the totem pole as Eclipso suddenly being presented as a major threat to the likes of Superman (and later Batman), but to Giffen/Fleming’s credit, they were at least consistent in their characterization of the villain within this one issue. Plus, if DC was going to stretch this storyline into 20-parts, they needed to do everything they could to sell Eclipso as a major bad-ass. So in this instance, having Eclipso basically say that he’s been holding back all these years, but now he’s ready to show the world the full range of his powers, is good enough for me.

Eclipso_02

There are your standard (irritating) 90s moments that find their way into this issue. Such as an appearance from a random muscle-bound, machine-gun toting sociopath (possessed by Eclipso of course), who shoots up a public venue while searching for Creeper. Honestly, nearly a year after first launching “Gimmick or Good?” these scenes have become the comic book equivalent of white noise to me. We get it. Readers in the 90s had a propensity to buy comics with big guns and bloodshed.

Regarding the comic’s layout, I appreciated how, in a few instances, the creative team inserted small illustrations of Eclipso at the end of a sequence of panels to function as a visual transition from one scene to the next. Considering how Eclipso’s powers are centered on his ability to possess another person, having these little illustrations serve as a reminder that the character is always looming and omnipresent throughout this story.

Eclipso_03

“Darkness Within” is definitely not a memorable or influential storyline by any stretch, but I also can’t say I found anything abjectly wrong with it. In fact, as someone who came into this issue totally blind, the creative team did enough to get me interested in picking up the rest of the tie-ins if I ever happen to stumble across them in a dollar box somewhere. Just as long as they aren’t damaged by any diamond indentations.

Verdict: Good

31 Comments

Believe me, I understand about the plastic diamond on the cover. But just put a loose backing board in front of this comic to shield the next one in front if it. Problem solved.

@Brad of course the two backing boards are probably worth more than the comic itself… still doesn’t change what a silly cover gimmick it is.

Luckily there’s no reason to keep the comic, so no more worries about that damn diamond.

Yeah, that plastic diamond was really annoying. Later on, I discovered either a reprint or a newsstand edition without the diamond and immediately replaced it.

The Darkness Within was pretty enjoyable across all the titles; certainly better than the majority of events at the time.

Never expected that one.

Yeah, I quite liked this comic, actually. Funny that I don’t remember the plastic diamond–I don’t think my copy had that, somehow.

I think all I ever read of the Eclipso event was the Justice League Europe annual. Power Girl (in her 80’s fitness wear look and normal sized boobs) got taken thanks to her weird biology of getting drunk on diet soda.

Good thing I found the non-variant version in a quarter bin….

[…] the DC Universe, in my most recent “Gimmick or Good?” entry at Comics Should Be Good, I look at 1993′s Eclipso The Darkness Within #1. This comic was notorious for featuring a plastic “diamond” on the cover. In terms of […]

Wow. You must pack your long boxes super tight to be having a ‘diamond indent’ problem.

Diamond on the cover??? Having one intact in say, about 100 years, could be collectible. Sweet.

The highlight of this series was the final issue where Eclipso controlled Lar Grand had a good slugfest with Superman (since this was Post-Crisis and Grand was now more powerful than Superman).

I had no problem with the plastic diamond, but Eclipso becoming the god of evil that was odd though- also I find Bart Sears artwork incredibly ugly.

I loved this series primarily because it later featured the Creeper, Peacemaker, and one of my all time favorites, Steel the Indestructible Man in later issues.
While I admit Bart Sears is an acquired taste, I really enjoy his art – at least it’s not generic and trying to rip off Jim Lee.
And yes, you can find most of these comics in 50c back issue bins – not an indicator of quality at all IMO, but an indicator of how many comic “fans” have sheep mentality and can’t be interested in anything that’s not popular or mainstream (regardless of quality.)

I’ve always liked this event. It was better than what came before (Armageddon 2001) and after (Bloodlines).

I loved the writing of the Eclipso comic, but if you want a textbook example of a comic where the art get worse and worse as it goes along, this is it. By the time it ended, the art looked like something a kid doodled on the back of his notebook during class.

In the issue where Eclipso takes over Lois Lane is memorable because it amplifies the resentment Lois feels towards Clark/Superman. It is both wholly understandable and sympathetic, yet violent and ugly at the same time. That was, ultimately, the true fun of the comic tie-ins: you read it because it revealed something new about the supporting cast that could be exploited later.

– l.k.

I ran across this one in a dime box about ten years ago. Agree that it’s a solid issue all around, even with the XTREMEness creeping in around the edges. I solved the bulging diamond issue by plucking ot off of the cover. I suppose that means my copy is now worth only a nickel instead of a dime, but I think I’ll be able to live with that.

In the regular series, there’s a 2 issue tale where Eclipso encounters Sherlock Holmes.

And it’s drawn by Ted McKeever. With someone else inking him on at least the second part.

Yes, it is as friggin’ amazing as it sounds.

I think it’s issues 7 and 8, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, this crossover was ok, what I’ve read of it. The diamond on the cover is annoying, since I have to make sure it’s not in the middle of a pile, but it’s a very neat, actually story based gimmick, so it’s not as awful as it sounds at first. Practically, however, it sucks, but the series is fairly good, and features a lot of semi-obscure DC characters.

I think the best thing about Eclipso the Darkness Within was that it ultimately let to Eclipso’s end in the Spectre series which was one of the most badass showdowns in comics history.

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Damn! They sold to me a diamond-less issue :(

Say, isn’t that the bad guy from the second Thor movie? Pointy ears, shadow across face?

Carparts, yes. The whole Ostrander/Spectre run was awesome.

In the years since this, I’ve come to this conclusion: If you like predictable but fun stories about “light battling back the darkness while heroes get corrupted” (so all you Blackest Night lovers out there), then you’ll probably like this for what it is.

On that note, from strictly a story structure standpoint of themes and tropes, it actually has more in common with Blackest Night than what people would want to admit, though I think that’s coincidental.

The Wonder Woman annual w/ Eclipso was great. Then again, it was written by Bill Loebs, so of course it was.

I wasn’t impressed with this book back in ’92 but I don’t have my copy anymore to re-read it. Think I’ll stick with the Lee Elias and Alex Toth Eclipso issues of House of Secrets anyway.

Still light years better than Blackest Night or any bloodbath that DC is producing these days. In fact, the 90s look incredibly tame compared to what Johns is doing now. And I miss Bob Fleming and Giffen together. I mean, they did both Hell on Earth, Ambush Bug (before DC butchered the last mini) and Eclipso with Ted McKeever!

I loved this cross-over as well as the Eclipso monthly that spawned from it. I say this openly and without shame. Besides, this is the event that killed off that dreadful version of Starman, so it deserves reverence for that in and of itself.

I kinda liked the gem. It was different, at least. And really, what filing order do you have where an Eclipso comic is anywhere near something valuable? Going from Dark Knight Returns to Eclipso?

akkadiannumen

March 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I don’t remember this issue specifically but the event was passably entertaining stuff with a few good moments. Iirc, one of the things that bothered me was the quality of the creative teams was significantly different from annual to annual but managed to remain decent in general. DC always did a pretty good job managing their annual events back then. Far better than Marvel at the time. Heh, those Marvel annuals made me thank Odin for DC’s. I always looked forward to the next and was sad when they stopped doing them.

“The problem with the Eclipso book is that any other comic you store in front of it in your box gets a small diamond-shaped indentation on its backside from that stupid “diamond.” So unless you plan on keeping Eclipso #1 at the very front of your box, it ends up damaging all of its neighboring comics. Why couldn’t DC just give me a hologram diamond like a normal 90s comic book?”

Seriously? I don’t have the plastic diamond issue but it took me literally 2 seconds (spent mostly in disbelief) after reading about your “big problem” to come up with the same solution as Brad:

“But just put a loose backing board in front of this comic to shield the next one in front if it. Problem solved.”

Jeez… If that was a problem for you then you should do a whole column about your problems with filing your comics. I’m sure you have enough material for a long series. :D

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