Palmiotti & Gray Shed Light On "The Ray"

DC Comics is shining a light on one of their oldest and strangest superheroes this December with "The Ray," a four-issue miniseries from artist Jamal Igle and writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.

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.

The newest Ray makes his New 52 debut in December

Jimmy Palmiotti: It was just another show of faith in us at DC, [believing] that we can create something new and exciting out of a character that's been around for a while. With the crew we have on the book, we are extremely happy with the results and hope the fans will be as well.

Gray: The new take is one we looked at as an opportunity to develop a different and hopefully likable new incarnation of The Ray.

How is Lucien Gates as the Ray different than Stan, the version of the Ray you last wrote in "Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters?"

Gray: Lucien is vastly different in every way except the similarity of light-based powers; he's a lifeguard from San Diego, carefree, easy going, adopted by new age pseudo hippie parents and in love with a girl who works for a talent agency.

Palmiotti: We set out to create a character that the audience can simply relate to in a lot of different ways, someone likable that, when given these abilities, chooses a course of action I think a lot of us would.

Along those lines, who is Lucien Gates? What can you tell us about the character?

Gray: We started thinking about Lucien as represented by light, and with that came the need to do something optimistic and bright, the kind of superhero who is modern and yet still retains some of the old school action hero comics. There's no soul-crushing drive behind his actions, which is why we made him a lifeguard -- to show he had heroic tendencies before gaining superpowers. Much of the series is grounded in Lucien's life outside the costume and how it often serves as an escape. Its like bungee jumping; people do that for the rush and the excitement. Sometimes, they do it to escape their personal lives.

When it comes to the world and supporting characters, how much are you taking from past incarnations of the Ray? Are you dealing at all with things like the Light Entity or S.H.A.D.E., or is this your chance to wipe the slate clean and create a totally new character for the New 52?

Gray: Everything is new and free from past continuity. We weren't looking for an excuse to wipe the slate clean. If we were asked to develop a new direction for Ray Terrill, we would have done that with the same enthusiasm. As it turns out, we're starting from scratch, and with that freedom comes a way to present new ideas and perspectives.

Palmiotti: This way, a new reader will not feel left out in the cold, and established readers will have an interest to how we spin this character and what we have planned for him.

From know so far, it seems that the Ray's girlfriend, Chanti, and her parents are as big a part of the series as the villains. In "The Ray," are you two exploring the more human, personal side of what happens to a guy who gets superpowers?

Gray: Absolutely. For a miniseries like this, you only have so much room to work with, and we wanted to have a little fun with the mass media conventions of superheroes. All of the things we've seen before in origin stories are compressed and tilted. The idea is, facing down monsters and supervillains is exciting and thrilling, but facing down your girlfriend's conservative parents can be terrifying. That kind of personal pressure can be made worse by trying to hard to gain acceptance. Now, I know that probably doesn't send a charge through superhero fans, and that's why we also have gun-wielding isopods from outer space looking to take our women.

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.

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Tags: dc comics, jimmy palmiotti, jamal igle, justin gray, the ray

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