Dozens and dozens of our favorite comic book characters are created as homages of, tributes to, or blatant rip-offs of previously existing characters.  It is, by this point, the nature of the beast, and leads us to more than a few interesting stories.  There are many ways to acknowledge your literary influences, but sometimes it’s best to just own up to it…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Eclipse Monthly #8 awaits!

EclipseMonthly8CoverECLIPSE MONTHLY #8
Writer: Christy Marx/Don McGregor/B. C. Boyer
Penciler: Peter Ledger/Billy Graham/B. C. Boyer
Inker: Peter Ledger/Gerald Forton/B. C. Boyer
Colorist: Peter Ledger/Phil DeWalt/Dennis McFarling
Letterer: Stan Sakai/Pete Iro/Lois Buhalis
Editor: cat yronwode/Dean Mullaney
Publisher: Eclipse Comics
Cover Price: $1.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $2.00

Previously in Eclipse Monthly:  Founded in the late 70s, Eclipse Comics is a mostly-forsaken giant of the industry, having published the first graphic novel specifically targeting the then-brand-new comic direct market.  A pioneer of the black-and-white boom of the 1980s, they were the home to such fondly remembered books as ‘DNAgents;, ‘Groo The Wanderer’ and Scott McCloud’s ‘Zot!’  Early in 1982, writer/artist B.C. Boyer created The Masked Man, the story of private investigator Dick Carstairs, who put on a mask in the hopes of helping and inspiring the people of his city.  Dick’s adventures intentionally bore a striking resemblance to the classic 40s adventures of Will Eisner’s ‘The Spirit’, and many readers were aware that the book was a loving homage to Denny Colt’s adventures in Central City, and those who didn’t would find out when this issue hit the stands in 1984.

As an anthology book, Eclipse Monthly featured several recurring characters, including The Californio, Carlos MacLllyr….


The Californio’s adventures were written by a young Christy Marx, the creator of the cartoon adventures of Jem and the comic adventures of the Sisterhood Of Steel, and featured some really impressive art by the late Peter Ledger, but MacLlyr’s adventures did not, to my knowledge, outlast the short run of Eclipse Monthly.  Speaking of impressive art, our second story features the work of Billy Graham (not the evangelist, but the artist known for his work on early issues of Luke Cage and his work for Warren Publishing) on a script by 70s workhorse Don McGregor…


It’s a lovely, albeit slightly puzzling, story about racism, consumerism and the bull$#!+ associated with both, and features some inventive layouts by Graham.  Still, it’s the last story that sticks with me.  From the very first appearances of The Masked Man a couple of years earlier, it was clear that the book owed a great deal in tone and approach to Will Eisner’s Spirit.  B.C. Boyer’s love of the character and the unique take on the human condition (that accidentally featured a guy in a mask) was evident in every page of the book, but with this story, Boyer turns wholeheartedly into the metaphorical skid.  We begin in the offices of The Daily Horn, as ace reporter Barney McAllister is summoned by his editor, the irascible (ahem) J. Judah Johnson…


The semi-parodic nature of the Masked Man’s strips allowed for Judah (a clear analogue of Jonah Jameson) as a running gag in earlier stories, but as the feature aged, things became somewhat more emotionally grounded, with less focus on the inside gags of comics and more on the examination of humans and their foolishness.  Judah was being slowly eclipsed in the feature, but he still serves as the catalyst for this issue’s Eisner tribute, assigning Barney to write a feature on “a washed-up old superhero”, one Lenny Winchester, once known as The Phantom Man, a hero that Barney’ remembers fondly from his youth…


Winchester (both of whose names are clear references to Denny Colt, The Spirit) wants to monetize his memoirs in the hopes that his two rotten kids won’t put him in a retirement home for which he is not yet ready.  Barney quickly finds it hard to follow Judah’s order to write a hatchet job, mocking Phantom Man’s past, and even harder to stomach the Winchester children…


Barney enjoys the stories, but he is clearly awed by the presence of the legendary hero, especially when Lenny produces the mask he wore all those years ago in the mean streets of Middle City…


This page is a better Spirit movie than the actual Spirit movie, and the heart-breaking final panel serves as one of the sweetest tributes ever.  Lenny’s reminiscences are interrupted by his… shall we say, somewhat less-than-grateful children, who verbally abuse their dad for not having a good enough story to make them rich.  Given his own interactions with the very Spirit Phantom Man-like Masked Man, Barney’s tolerance for their shenanigans reaches its breaking point…


After ten adventures featuring oblique references and tributes to The Spirit, Boyer throws all caution to the wind, as Architectural Terrorists (it’s kind of a long story) attack the newspaper offices.  With no time to waste waiting for the authorities, Lenny Winchester throws caution to the wind and once again becomes the hero, to save his terrible family and his new friends.


I gotta say, I love a good gearing-up sequence, and this one is excellently rendered by Boyer.   As The Phantom Man takes the fight to the villains for the first time in years, Barney, Judah and company watch in growing horror.  The old man is overwhelmed by the terrorists, with the press arriving to record the beating, seemingly fulfilling Judah’s hope of humiliating Phantom Man, when The Masked Man finally arrives in his own book, leaping into the battle to assist…


But, instead of a humiliating defeat, The Phantom Man gets a moment of triumph, stopping the Architectural Terrorists and carrying the disabled Masked Man out of the tear gas cloud to safety, all recorded by the waiting media.  It’s a really impressive moment, and one that’s a bit surprising to me as a reader, as the main character is usually the one who gets the “Hell, Yeah!” hero moments.  Lenny is heralded as a hero, and the assembled journalists clamor to interview him on his big comeback, a lovely turnaround that should allow him the autonomy and income he wants.  But first, Phantom Man has something to say to Barney…


I kinda got something in my eye, here, hang on…

I love all the stories of the Masked Man, whom I encountered in a quarter bin a decade after his debut, but this one is probably my very favorite, showing as it does B.C. Boyer’s understanding of the debt he owes to that which has come before, while strengthening our POV character, Barney, who is really the heart of these stories anyway.  Eclipse Magazine #8 is a monster to try to find, but well worth the time spent in back issues and bookstores for me, with two good stories and one really touching, possibly great one, earning a very impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.



A beautiful opening tale and a thought-provoking middle, all anchored by B.C. Boyer's loving tribute to the work of Will Eisner make for a great issue...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

1 Comment

  1. Back in the day, I picked up a number of Eclipse comics, including a lot or Chuck Dixon and Tim Truman stories. If you can find them, they are well worth it.

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