Bring on the bad guys!
If a hero's worth can be measured by the quality of his or her enemies, then DC's heroes are a mixed bag indeed. For every Joker or Luthor, there's a Bug-Eyed Bandit or Ten-Eyed Man waiting in the wings. (All together now, let's have a big round of applause for latter two's mercy killings at the hands of Marv Wolfman and George Perez in their Crisis on Infinite Earths series - thanks, guys!)
Winnowing the gene pool can be a good thing sometimes.
These two strips, on the other hand, feature villains with a rich history behind them in the DC library. Eclipso was created as a take on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, with a little lycanthropy thrown in for good measure. Scientist Bruce Gordon had been exploring the African interior in order to get a decent view of a pending eclipse, inadvertently offending the chief of a native tribe with his attempts to photograph the solar eclipse. In the resulting struggle, Gordon was scratched with some kind of black diamond.
With each eclipse that occurred thereafter, Bruce Gordon found himself transforming into the evil Eclipso, only to return to normal the next day to discover what his alter ego had done the night before.
And you thought that your hangovers were bad.
Eclipso has shown up as a mid-level villain in a lot of books over the years, including a very nice set of Metal Men stories drawn by Walt Simonson. Recent writers have re-developed his back story, however, in an effort to make him a much more formidable villain. As a result, Eclipso is one of the few DC villains to headline their own series, following the grand tradition laid down by The Joker and Kobra.
A question for all of you amateur DC historians out there: why do so many DC heroes have two recognizably first names, instead of first and second names? Think about it: Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Bruce Gordon, Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Diana Prince (we had dog named Prince briefly a long time ago), etc. It just seems a little odd.
I don't know who came up with the name Mxyzptlk, but I'm pretty sure it involved smashing a large blunt object (say, perhaps, a copy boy) against a typewriter. Looking an awful lot like the Egghead character from early Warner Brothers cartoon shorts - he later evolved into who we know today as Elmer Fudd - Mxyzptlk was a magical imp from the Fifth Dimensional Land of Zrfff who got his rocks off by tormenting Superman and the other hapless residents of Cleveland, sorry, Metropolis.
He'd pull off all kinds of stunts with his magic, generally with a point towards making Superman really frustrated. No, not sexually - that was Lois Lane's job. He didn't do anything terribly malicious, mind you, just incredibly annoying. This is a characteristic shared by most Usenet trolls, incidentally. This would go on until, invariably, Superman would find a way to trick him into saying his name backwards. This would have the effect of banishing Mxyzptlk back to his home dimension for ninety days and reversing all effects of his magic.
If only the trolls were dispensed with so readily…