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Eclipso Pt. 3: House of Secrets #63-65


Title: House of Secrets

Issue #: 63

Cover Date: Nov./Dec. 1963

On Sale Date: Sept. 19, 1963

Writer: Bob Haney

Artist: Alex Toth

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

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Eclipso's Amazing Ally

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At the very moment that a physical war rages between two small nations and a verbal war rages at the United Nations, Bruce Gordon prepares to step on stage at an event:

An “artificial eclipse” transforming you into Eclipso? Is it possible?

Apparently. And from now on, Bruce will have to be on guard… he’s worse off than he thought.

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Called upon to help resolve the dispute over ore deposits that opened the story, Bruce wants to accept because Eclipso isn’t due to possess him until the next eclipse, which is weeks away.

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The next day, Bruce and Prof. Bennett examine the atomic structure of the ore causing the disagreement between countries, when…

Meanwhile, Mona has taken a job to prove to Bruce she can fit into his scientific life. As coincidence would have it, Eclipso bursts into Dr. Rutherford’s office and breaks into his safe.

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Mona has suspected that Bruce and Eclipso are one in the same; however, when the villain abducts her and they run into the hero, she says:

Thank Heaven I now know you’re not Eclipso! You couldn’t exist simultaneously!

She also noticed something else about Eclipso… he’s a robot! The "live" Eclipso put the robot in a secret chamber for a scheme to make it appear Bruce split into two identities.

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Bruce and Dr. Bennet prepare to greet and destroy the robot when.

The Eclipso-bot locks them in a chamber and starts turning up the heat. They determine if they force the real Eclipso to appear, it might actually save their lives.

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Sure enough, Eclipso exits the chamber and fights the robot, but…

Never fear, their plan works and Bruce eventually re-emerges..,

But one day the real Eclipso will return to plague us! We can be sure of that!

Title: House of Secrets

Issue #: 64

Cover Date: Jan./Feb. 1964

On Sale Date: Nov. 14, 1963

Writer: Bob Haney

Artist: Alex Toth

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

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Hideout on Fear Island

Bruce and Mona are going on a real vacation together… with her father, Dr. Bennett. She’s looking forward to dancing; he’s looking forward to doing research for getting rid of Eclipso.

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Mid-flight, the plane is hijacked; however, it’s all a plan to take our three heroes to the small country of…

Dr. Bennett says there’s been a mistake. He stopped his botanical experiments years ago when Karl Kluge, the Nazi war criminal scientist stole his data. He further promises to develop an antidote.

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A few days later…

The antidote works, the jungle rapidly grows, and the robot is stopped. However, it’s revealed that Zanor was controlling the robot from the airplane, and he is actually Kluge!

They go on the hunt for Kluge. They forgot, though, that where they are, an eclipse is going to happen. Bruce transforms, but the police recognize him as the criminal and shoot, leaving Dr. Bennett to try and save him.

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On the run, a giant bird swoops down and carries Eclipso to Kluge’s lair. There, a high-intensity light burst changes Eclipso back to Bruce Gordon, but he keeps playing the part to signal for help. There’s a happy ending as Kluge is shot and his lair destroyed.

Title: House of Secrets

Issue #: 65

Cover Date: March/April 1964

On Sale Date: Jan. 16, 1964

Writer: Bob Haney

Artist: Alex Toth

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

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The Man Who Destroyed Eclipso

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Bruce and Mona finally have a little fun at an amusement park… until they enter the “Eclipso’s House of Evil” attraction. Bruce is concerned that even an artificial eclipse could transform him.

Flashes of light from a braking roller coaster car transform Eclipso back to Bruce and Mona says…

Someone else does know Bruce’s secret, though. An old classmate that is now “brilliant, rich, and erratic” sends a note hinting that he can cure him. Even though this could be a trap set by Eclipso, Bruce says:

It’s my life! I’m the one who’s afflicted… and if Judson Randall has the cure – or even just the hint of a solution – I’m going to risk it!

Bruce travels to a remote country estate styled after an Egyptian pyramid…

Judson Randall achieves success, but not to help Bruce; instead, to extract Eclipso from Bruce and turn Eclipso into his slave. He also gives Eclipso a new power: levitation.

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Later, the nation is stunned as a rocket armed with an atomic warhead is stolen by Eclipso. Left behind during the action, Bruce is able to work behind the scenes to plot an end to the blackmail plot and to Judson Randall.

Notes

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These three issues mark the end of the House of Secrets editorial responsibilities for Murray Boltinoff. Beginning with issue #66, Jack Schiff will become editor for the remaining Eclipso stories (through issue #80.)

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Eclipso is barely afforded any real estate on the covers of these issues. On the cover of #63, he gets a small box in the bottom left-hand corner. On #64, he gets nothing. On #65, he gets a banner on the top.

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This may seem unusual because, on the letters page (Mark Merlin’s Mailbox) of #63, the “Editor” proclaims:

It seems that we have a smash hit in Eclipso, judging by the number of letters we’ve received. The readers write such things as:
Mark Merlin is capable of adequate stories, but that’s it. But with Eclipso, you have a superior comic, and the art is just a joy! You’ve got a feature that makes up for all your former faults, and then some! This modern Jekyll-Hyde is the most original super-hero of them all! I think Eclipso is great. I hope you never stop publishing his stories.

The sentiment continues with similar delivery from the "Editor" in both #64 and #65.

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So far, all the Eclipso stories in House of Secrets have been dense. It’s taken me several paragraphs to recap them. Even though the situations sometimes feel familiar or borrowed from stories in other comics, e.g. Superman and Lois Lane (until #65, that is), they’re entertaining and more substantial than some of those other comics. Each story is also like two stories in one.

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A character like this with a “gimmick” can grow old fast. It hasn’t yet, but one way to keep things fresh is to use a new artist. With #63, the great Alex Toth begins a run (through #67) with the art and it is spectacular! Just look at this splash page:

In #65, Andy Zerbe from Montgomery, AL, asks about the previous artist's (Lee Elias) departure. An explanation is given:

While Lee Eilas orginated the character, he was suddenly swung over to other assignments: Showcase's Tommy Tomorrow, later Inside Earth, which currently occupies him. In casting about for a top-ranking artist to replace him, we fortunately found Alex Toth would be available. We thought it was a wise choice, especially when a flow of favorable reaction swept into the office following the appearance of his first story.

Something odd in these stories is that when he emerges, Eclipso always makes a point of mentioning his costume and that he hid it the last time he emerged. I suppose that's a nice detail for those searching for plot holes; however, there's no such mention in #65, so maybe writer Bob Haney is finally going to let it go.

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On the other hand, a repetitive plot point I really like is that Dr. Bennett is always worried about what's going to happen to Bruce if Eclipso is harmed or killed. At the same time, Bruce is more concerned about being held responsible for Eclipso's crimes.

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I'm loving all of this!

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