Welcome to Best Event Ever, an annual team-up of podcasts and blogs. Last year, we looked at Bloodlines, this year we’re tackling the 25th anniversary of Eclipso: The Darkness Within.
Eclipso: The Darkness Within was the 2nd attempt by DC Comics to turn this little known character into a major villain like The Joker, Lex Luthor, and Darkseid. Believe it or not, DC’s first attempt to make him famous occurred all the way back in the Bat-tastic Year 1966.
There is so much cool Eclipso ’66 stuff, that it has taken three separate posts to cover it. This is my 3rd and final post. My first post looked at some wonderful Whitman puzzles from 1966.
In February of 1966, Batman faced off against Eclipso ’66 and The Queen Bee in The Brave and Bold #64.
This issue was written by Bob Haney and penciled and inked by Win Mortimer. Bob Haney has a reputation for writing absolutely crazy stories. His fans lovingly refer to him as Zany Haney. This story is a classic example of how Bob Haney earned that nickname.
It is night time in Gotham City. A red headed woman is walking alone on a pier, when someone fires an arrow at her. Batman appears on a nearby roof and uses his Bat-rope to lasso the arrow. The woman faints, but thankfully the Dark Knight Detective catches her before she falls into the water. While all of this is going on, the archer escapes.
Batman realizes that the red headed woman is none other than his long lost love Marcia Monroe. That’s not a typo; Marcia and the Caped Crusader are an item, not Marcia and Bruce Wayne. If you think that is odd, just wait.
The couple kisses and we get dialogue that only Bob Haney could write:
BATMAN: Marcia…I can hardly believe it’s you. But…but why was that bow buzzard trying to ventilate your beautiful torso?
Ms. Monroe explains that the archer was trying to get the Cat Emerald. The Dark Knight instantly recognizes the emerald, which looks like a cat’s head, because it was stolen. When asked if she stole it, Marcia explains that it was stolen by someone she loved.
Here we get the first of many flashbacks in this story. Marcia and the Caped Crusader have broken up and Marcia is now in love with Nicky Jarvas. Even though they were engaged, Nicky didn’t feel like he could compete with Marcia’s love for Batman, and he didn’t want to live off of Marcia’s wealth, so he decided to take care of both problems by stealing one of the world’s most prized gems. He succeeded, but somehow the international criminal organization CYCLOPS found out that Nicky committed the theft.
The year 1966 wasn’t just the year of The Bat, it was also the heart of Bond and Man from U.N.C.L.E. mania. You’ll see that reflected in this story multiple times. Some of CYCLOPS killers caught up with Nicky and he died in Marcia’s arms. His death wish was that the emerald would be returned, so that no one would know that he died a criminal.
After that flashback, another whole series of flashbacks shows Marcia and Batman’s love affair. Marcia was a rich girl who was bored and liked to live recklessly. The Dark Knight rescued her when she was walking on a bridge’s support system while singing, “London Bridge Is Falling Down.” Batman was the first man Marcia ever met that she looked up to, so she fell in love with him. One night, Marcia, who was a crack shot with a pistol, saved the Caped Crusaders life. They became partners in crime fighting and fell in love. Batman proposed to Marcia and told her that she would learn his secret identity when she took his name by becoming his wife. A few days later, a policeman gave Batman a ‘Dear John letter’ from Marcia. She broke off her engagement, moved to Europe, and resumed her playgirl life.
Back to the present. Marcia is in danger as long as she has the emerald, and she wants to fulfill Nicky’s dying wish. She asks the Caped Crusader if he will break in to the museum and return the jewel. Reluctantly, Batman agrees.
Batman breaks into the museum and returns the gem. The next day, Commissioner Gordon arrests him. Gordon has camera footage of the break in and the emerald is missing. Even though they’ve been friends for years and Batman has saved Gotham countless times, Commissioner Gordon automatically assumes that the Dark Knight is now a criminal.
Batman realizes that Marcia set him up. He has plenty of time to think about it, because he is sent to jail. He is still wearing his cape and cowl in jail, but at least they took his utility belt.
While in jail, he hears two criminals talking about The Queen Bee. Batman and the Justice League faced a villain named The Queen Bee in 1963, but this is not that character. This is an all new character who, to the best of my knowledge, only appeared twice – once in this comic book and the other time in the card game I talked about in my previous post.
Elsewhere, a solar eclipse has begun and it is releasing Eclipso from Bruce Gordon. Dr. Gordon’s team isn’t worried because they have Bruce strapped to a chair and are going to “hit him with a high protein light blast” which will take care of Eclipso, but two of the Queen Bee’s drones fly in, cut the power cord, and carry off Eclipso.
The Queen Bee has gathered local criminals for a meeting. The meeting is being watched over by the giant green eye of CYCLOPS. Eclipso arrives and the criminals began a crime spree. The police can’t stop them and Batman is in jail. When one of the criminals who was talking about The Queen Bee is released from jail, the Caped Crusader breaks out of jail and tails him. Batman sneaks into the headquarters, a high rise building, but he is knocked unconscious by gas. Eclipso “kills” the Dark Knight by dropping him down a chute which leads to the river. Why a high rise building in downtown Gotham City has a chute that leads to the river is beyond me.
When Batman lands in the river, the cold water revives him. He hitches a ride on a garbage barge. A police patrol boat sees Batman and opens fire. He dives in the water, and the police think they’ve killed him. I love that this river which is downtown is so large that it has barges and ferries and is patrolled by police boats.
Bruce Gordon shows up at police headquarters and offers to help Commissioner Jim Gordon (I’m pretty sure the two are related) defeat Eclipso.
Back at the hive, i.e. the criminals headquarters, a man dressed in black climbs through the giant green eye. Queen Bee assumes it is The Agent from CYCLOPS. The agent pulls a gun on Queen Bee and Eclipso. Eclipso blasts the agent with his black diamond. The agent’s cowl is blasted off, but underneath it is another cowl, this one belonging to Batman. I don’t know which is worse, Batman wearing two cowls on top of each other, or that Batman pulled a gun on Eclipso and The Queen Bee!
The Queen Bee helps Batman escape from Eclipso because she is none other than Marcia Monroe. This is not a surprising reveal because I never for once thought the Queen Bee was anyone else. Marcia explains that she had Batman jailed so he wouldn’t be part of all the trouble going on. Why is Marcia the Queen Bee? Because her father had gotten involved with CYCLOPS and they were going to kill him. She agreed to become their Queen of Crime to save her father’s life and to clear his name. The Dark Knight and The Queen Bee kiss; she gives him the Cat Emerald, and he escapes.
Eclipso has been listening to everything via a hidden microphone on the Queen Bee’s costume. Batman, Eclipso, and two of the Queen Bee’s drones have a fight on the outside of the high rise. Doctor Gordon arrives on the scene. He climbs up on a fire truck’s ladder and hurls light grenades at Eclipso. In the blinding light, no one sees Eclipso return to Doctor Gordon’s body.
The Caped Crusader returns the emerald to Commissioner Gordon, thus proving that he was framed. Batman looks for Marcia but all he finds is her costume.
The story concludes with Batman saying: “Queen Bee’s costume…Marcia’s gone! Some day, she’ll have to pay for her crimes – and when that day comes, she’ll need all my help! Until then – farewell, honey!”
To the best of my knowledge, that day never came because Monica never appeared again.
I hope you enjoyed my coverage of Eclipso ’66. In 1966, he and the Caped Crusader faced off in toys, games, and comics. Unfortunately, the one place they never faced off was in the television show!
Want to read or listen to more about Eclipso ’66? Check out the other amazing Best Event Ever members:
Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill
Chris is on Infinite Earths
Coffee & Comics Podcast
For the Non-Discerning Reader
I’m The Gun
The Pop Culture Palace
Relatively Geeky Network
Rolled Spine Podcasts