A Tribute to the of

The new season of Justice League episodes has me in hog heaven.  The writers have not only been introducing more classic characters for guest appearances, but they seem to be tightening up on the regular roster of heroes and have been more true to their natures and powers in the comics.  As an example, someone finally realized that Superman is more powerful than he'd been portrayed.  More and more characters are finding themselves animated for the first time, too.  It does my heart good, even though a few liberties continue to be taken.  I realize when you're dealing in 30-minute increments you can't develop characters very fully and while I choose to spend the majority of my time and attention in the great Silver Age, they cannot ignore the fact that the entire DC Universe has been compressed, blurring the lines between Golden and modern ages as well as points in between.  Be that as it may, I recently saw the two-part (they're all two-part) episode entitled "Eclipsed" and right off the bat the Flash was engaging a triple threat of villains from his personal rogues gallery, none of which had been in a cartoon before, as far as I know.  They were the Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang and Heat Wave, the counterpoint to Flash's oldest enduring nemesis, Captain Cold.  Well, it turned out to be a studio set for an endorsement advertisement he was doing, but I still got a kick out of seeing these classic figures.  Later on, the subject of the title showed up as a genuine menace in the form of Eclipso.  That reminded me that I've made mention before that I would be doing a future review that included Eclipso.  This seems as good a time as any to make good on my promise.  Let's take a peek at Brave and the Bold #64 from February/March of 1966 where we witness a subtle but distinct departure from the usual Batman-and-fill-in-the-blank team up on the cover (by Gil Kane) and see that we have Batman versus Eclipso. Story by Bob Haney, Art by Win Mortimer, edited by George Kashdan.

The splash page shows the Gotham Goliath laid out on a table, apparently helpless, while Eclipso, surrounded by Queen Bee (not to be mistaken for the JLA foe of the same name, she first appeared in Justice League of America #23 from November of 1963) and I'm guessing a couple of costumed drones, along with underworld thugs and a huge eyeball mounted to the wall, somewhat reminiscent of the eye wielded by the Fatal Five's Emerald Empress, gloat at their victory.  The text has this to say:  "We've matched 'em all—DC's heroes from A to Super—teaming up to battle baddies of every ilk!  But get set for the big switch—as we present two costumed caperers battling each other…the one and only Batman, tangling with the devilish, dastardly Eclipso!  Need we say more?  No, but we will…it's the most!"  Uh-oh.  I'm not sure I like how this is going already.  Let's flip the page and hope for the best.

The scene is the waterfront and a man is firing an arrow from a bow at a woman standing on a dock.  At the last moment, Batman, atop a nearby warehouse, stops the arrow's flight with a perfectly timed lasso toss.  The redhead begins to black out and Batman catches her while uttering "Marcia!  Darling!"  The reply:  "Batman!  Oh, lover!"  Huh?  Right before the inevitable passionate kiss, I find my teeth put on edge again, courtesy of the text:  "What's this?  Old cape-and-cowl saves a gorgeous chick, and they melt into an embrace!"  "There are millions of stories in the naked city—but like this one, you never heard!"  Tell me it isn't happening.  Unfortunately the dialogue isn't getting much better either:  "Marcia…I can hardly believe it's you!  But…but why was that bow buzzard trying to ventilate your beautiful torso?"  Get a grip, Batman!  So, Marcia reveals that she is in possession of the Cat Emerald, a valuable gem in the shape of a cat's head that is stolen property.   Marcia's fiancée took it and for some reason that caused the international crime syndicate called "Cyclops" to pursue him.  They managed to kill Nicky and with his dying breath he asked Marcia to return the stolen gem to the museum.  Now Marcia is asking the Gotham Goliath to replace it for her, as only he can get past the heightened security.  To further convince the Dark Knight, she lays another kiss on him.  This causes our hero to have a flashback to when he first met Marcia Monroe.

Fade to a suspension bridge where the impulsive Ms. Monroe, a wealthy playgirl, is walking along the superstructure as the police try in vain to get her to come down.  Enter the Batman, who descends from his helicopter and insists she stop endangering the lives of the police with her thrill seeking.  "Oh, skip the square lecture, Batman...no one tells Marcia Monroe what to do!"  The caped crime buster responds by (are you ready for this?) turning her over his knee and administering a spanking.  A news photographer captures the humiliating scene and it hits the papers the next day.

Later that same night, Batman is engaging some thugs when a shot rings out, destroying one criminal's weapon.  Batman turns to see none other than Ms. Monroe, showing off her skill with a pistol and professing her admiration for the Dark Knight.  In the coming weeks she continues to assist Batman in his rounds and we soon learn that they're engaged.  Shortly after that he receives the dreaded "Dear John" letter notifying him that his ladylove has fled to Europe. 

Back to the present and the World's Greatest Detective reluctantly agrees to the task requested of him. 

The next night at the municipal museum of Gotham City, a familiar figure enters through a high window and follows the method Nicky Jarvas used to commit the theft.  He leaps toward a suspended bi-plane.  Once inside the cockpit he discovers the fishing rod Jarvas left behind and uses it to lower the emerald back to its display case. 

Several hours later, while on patrol in the Batmobile, our hero is converged upon by none other than Commissioner Gordon along with several members of his police force.  They've come to arrest the Masked Manhunter and Gordon is carrying a photograph of Batman using the pole from the airplane.  Batman claims he was merely returning the treasure, but Gordon tells him it's not there.  Segue to a cell in the Gotham City jail where Batman sits despairing when he hears a prisoner entering the adjoining cell.  Listening in, he hears the conversation between Frankie Malone and Gorilla Grimes and Batman's being out of com mission is mentioned, along with references to the arrival of "Mr. E" who will be rendezvousing with the Queen Bee at the hive.  That puts the end to Part I.

Part II opens in the downtown where two gentlemen are noting the latest skyscraper in the city, which is home to Apis Enterprises.  We're then given an X-ray view of the building and told that this is the infamous hive, "…crime headquarters of the biggest, most deadly underworld setup ever conceived!"  Each floor contains weapons, a firing range, helicopters and all sorts of other fun toys for the underworld.  We also note that an eclipse is beginning. 

Shift the scene to the ruins of Solar City, where Dr. Bruce Gordon sits strapped in a chair.  Also in the room are Professor Simon Bennett and his daughter, Mona.  We met all these characters in House of Secrets #61 available here in the Sage archives.  Things are slightly different this time, though.  Rather than undergoing a transformation, Eclipso is actually beginning to emerge from Gordon's body at the bidding of the solar eclipse.  Dr. Bennett is about to throw a switch that will release a high photon light burst to send Eclipso back, but at that fateful moment a bee-like creature crashes through the ceiling of the lab and cuts the power cable.  More bee-men arrive and they spirit Eclipso away.

Meanwhile, back at the hive, a strange meeting is taking place between the mysterious Queen Bee and some underworld figures.  She informs them that she's called the meeting to give orders for Operation Sting.  She continues by telling them that with Batman incarcerated and Mr. E joining them, they'll soon take over the city.  She also warns that they are being watched by Cyclops, presumably through the eye on the wall and that if they fail they will pay the supreme penalty.

In the next panel, Mr. E, or Eclipso, arrives and they continue to lay their nefarious plans.  Soon a crime wave is overtaking Gotham with flying bee creatures making off with jewels, Eclipso using his eerie black diamond to slice armored cars in half and hooded figures taking gate receipts from sporting arenas.  Batman overhears the overwhelmed police department from his cell and decides it's time to check out.  Soon he's tailing Gorilla Grimes, who was just released and finds himself at the Apis Enterprises building.  Once inside, Grimes gets the drop on Batman, releasing a booby-trapped spring loaded desk that hurls our hero into a corridor only to be assailed by a mail slot that sprays knockout gas.  Soon the helpless figure is laid out on the table while the Queen Bee and Eclipso discuss his fate.  Eclipso decides to dump the inert figure down a chute that leads to the depths of the river as Queen Bee protests.  Batman comes to in the icy waters and manages to climb aboard a garbage barge.  He was able to hear the discussion and realizes that he's dealing with Eclipso and the other voice has shaken him up.  No time to get into that at the moment, though, as a police patrol boat spots the fugitive Batman and opens fire.  The Dark Knight slips beneath the surface of the water and the police are convinced they've killed h im.  They report as much to Commissioner Gordon, who is upset at the prospect of the death of Batman, but now realizes he couldn't have been guilty of a crime since the criminal activity is only getting worse.  Enter Dr. Bruce Gordon along with Mona and Dr. Bennett, offering his services as something of an expert on Eclipso. 

Back at the hive, Eclipso is reveling in the haul they've made, remarking that they have plenty of loot for themselves and Cyclops.  He proposes that together, there's nothing they cannot do, but Queen Bee is repulsed by the Master of Darkness and takes the elevator to the top floor control room.  Eclipso follows and at that moment a strangely garbed figure, looking for all the world like a hooded hangman, enters the room through the eye.  Wielding a pistol, the man identifies himself as an agent of Cyclops and that he is to take command.  Eclipso says he'll blast the agent and the text box reads as follows:  "Man, is this the living end?  No—only the end of Part 2!  The 3rd and concluding part, guaranteed to drive you absolutely ape, continues on next page!"  Deliver me…

Part III shows Eclipso making good on his threat as he raises the black diamond to his eye and fires off a burst of energy at the agent from Cyclops.  Bobbing and weaving, the dark figure loses his hood, revealing that it is a disguised Batman.  Eclipso trips a nearby switch and the floor beneath the World's Greatest Detective begins to move rapidly back toward Eclipso.  Before he gets in range, however, a hand reaches down from a trapdoor above and the Queen Bee pulls Batman to safety.  Batman confronts the Queen Bee and she confirms she is Marcia Monroe.  She explains why she framed her lover.  Her father became involved with Cyclops and in order to save him from certain death, she agreed to become the queen of the hive.  She thought that by putting the Dark Knight behind bars, he'd be safe from Cyclops and Eclipso.  She leads Batman to the elevator shaft access and gives him the cat emerald before bidding him farewell. 

Eclipso, in the interim, has overheard all via a transistor microphone on Queen Bee's uniform.  He is in the elevator and is about to make contact with the helpless Batman.  Quickly our hero makes an exit by shattering a glass panel.  Finding himself in free fall outside the skyscraper, the Gotham Goliath glides with his cape until he can get a fingertip grip via some suction discs he just happened to have in his utility belt.  To complicate matters, a pair of flying bee drones arrives, but a deftly thrown batarang puts them out of commission.  Now trouble comes from be low as Eclipso rides a window cleaner car up the side of the building toward Batman.  The Dark Knight slips out of the way while below, Commissioner Gordon, Bruce Gordon and Professor Bennett observe.  Bruce whispers to Bennett that he must get Eclipso back into his body without anyone noticing.  He then suggests that he ride up in the ladder of the recently arrived fire truck.  Eclipso, meanwhile, is blasting Batman with black light from his diamond, blinding our hero.  He begins to shift the gem to his uneclipsed eye for the energy blast when he sees Bruce Gordon rising up on the extension ladder to meet him.  Gordon lobs a chemically activated plastic grenade at the Master of Darkness, creating a blinding flash o f light, the natural nemesis to Eclipso.  Unfortunately in the process, Gordon loses his grip on the ladder.  The two figures tumble downward, but Eclipso re-enters Gordon's body prior to Bruce's landing in the firemen's safety net.  The scene was not witnessed except for Professor Bennett and Mona.

Now it's just time to mop things up.  Dr. Gordon tells Commissioner Gordon that Eclipso has disappeared, likely through a secret passageway in the hive.  Batman then presents the Commissioner with the cat emerald and Gordon comments that he was certainly fooled.  Bruce Gordon exhorts Mona and Professor Bennett to hurry along before any more questions arise about Eclipso and Bennett comments that his double identity remains a secret amongst them and one other.  Our editor informs us that the other person is Prince Ra-Man, another denizen of the House of Secrets magazine. 

The final panel shows Batman holding the costume of the Queen Bee and lamenting that his love is gone.

Would it surprise you to learn that this story left me pretty uninspired?  It was overrun with camp and jargon and the villains were far more caricature than menacing.  The short appearance by Eclipso in the Justice League episode I mentioned above beat this story hollow.  Batman in love?  Batman spanking a woman in public?  Batman in jail?  That highly irritating "hip cat" text from the writer?  This, my friends, is NOT what Batman is all about and it most assuredly was not "the mos t."  I hereby drop kick this one with a rating of 4.   

I shall endeavor to search out a more worthy offering for the next edition of this feature, which will hit the world wide web in approximately two weeks.  If you have questions, comments or feedback of any kind, take a few minutes and drop me a line at silveragesage@thesilverlantern.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2004 by B.D.S.

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