First created for Quality Comics by artist Lou Fine in 1940, the Ray began life as an ordinary man named Lanford “Happy” Terrill who became a superhero with light-based powers after a bizarre hot air ballooning accident. Eventually sold to DC Comics after Quality collapsed, writer Jack C. Harris and a young artists named artist Joe Quesada brought back the Ray in the early ’90s as Ray Terrill, son of the original Golden Age hero and inheritor of his powers. Starring in his own solo comic for years, in 2006 DC introduced yet another Ray, reporter Stan Silver who took on the Ray name and fought crime as part of the “Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters” ongoing series before being revealed as a traitor and replaced by a resurgent Terrill.
While Palmiotti and Gray wrote this last version of the Ray during their run on “Freedom Fighters,” December’s miniseries marks the creation of a fourth character to take up the Ray name: California lifeguard Lucien Gates. Introducing new villains and a new supporting cast, Gray and Palmiotti spoke with CBR about the miniseries, the differences between Silver and Gates and the thinking behind creating a new Ray for the New 52.
CBR News: Let’s start of with the most basic question: how did you two get involved in writing “The Ray” miniseries?
Justin Gray: We were asked to develop a new take on the character from the ground up keeping with the basic idea of having power over light. It was a strange process, because we’d been working in some form or another on both Ray Terrill and Stan Silver over the last several years with varying degrees of success. It felt like an opportunity to approach everything from a completely different perspective. That’s what drew our interest.
Palmiotti: If you don’t care for the man, why would you care for the superhero version? We take a lot of time getting to know our main character and what his hopes and fears are. With such a great supporting cast, it’s easy to not only relate to him, but also cheer him on.
What, then, is the tone you’re going for in the series? Is it going to be on the darker side of things, like your “All-Star Western,” or is it a more upbeat, lighter comic — no pun intended.
Gray: Much lighter, but not goofy. There’s humor specific to the situations and changes in Lucien’s life. He’s a happy guy, and excited by his powers. He’s also logical and compassionate in ways that we don’t see very often. He’s also very stupid at times, flawed and human, but not in a brooding and self-indulgent way.
Palmiotti: It’s all about fun here and the celebration of a new superhero.
When did you two first come to know the Ray as a character? Was it when you began writing “Freedom Fighters,” or did you know him previously from his Golden Age or Post-Crisis incarnations?
Gray: I was familiar with the Ray on a limited basis, but when we started working on the “Freedom Fighters” I made a point to dig much deeper into the mythology.
Palmiotti: I inked a Ray cover or two over Joe Quesada way back when, and enjoyed the series.
Turning to the art, what does artist Jamal Igle bring to the miniseries in terms of depicting the Ray and his powers?
Gray: Just about everything you could ask for and more. His superhero scenes are wildly dynamic and his interpersonal scenes are vivid, emotional or humorous when they need to be. Personally speaking, [I feel] this is some of the best work of his career, and that’s saying something.
Palmiotti: Hands down, it’s his best, and with Rich Perrota on inks and Guy Major on color, we have put together a powerhouse team of storytellers. Everything about the book is new, so this challenge gave these creators something to build from the ground up, and what they have done in these books is amazing.
Finally, as I said before, this is the second time you’ve been given a chance to take a crack at the Ray. What is it about the character or his powers that appeal to you?
Gray: From the hot air balloon to the idea that daddy burdened me with superpowers, it seems like there’s always been a very human approach to the fantastical [when it comes to the Ray], which is what we hope comes across in the form of Lucien Gates.
Palmiotti: I love the idea and possibilities of the speed of light and how it can be manipulated. As well, the cast is something that I’ve grown very attached to. For the fans, there is a lot to love about the new book.
“The Ray” issue #1 shines its light on stores December 14.