Smash Comics #14
The Ray #1
DCU Brave New World
The Ray #1
|Alter ego||Langford "Happy" Terrill|
The Ray is the name of four superheroes in the DC Comics Universe. All versions of the character have the superpower of manipulating visible light in some manner.
The first Ray was Langford "Happy" Terrill, a Quality Comics character. When DC Comics later purchased Quality Comics, Happy Terrill was retconned as a member of the Freedom Fighters on Earth-X. The character, created by artist Lou Fine, first appeared in Smash Comics #14 (Sept 1940) and continued in the book until issue #40 (Feb 1943).
Following DC altering much of its continuity and history in the storyline Crisis on Infinite Earths, Happy Terrill was now an inhabitant of the mainstream DC Comics universe and his son Ray Terrill became the second Ray. Later, the character Stan Silver briefly operated as the third hero called the Ray.
In 2011's New 52 relaunch of DC Comics, where fictional history was again restructured, a new character called Lucien Gates was introduced as the Ray. Although historically he is the fourth superhero character to use this name, in The Ray #1 (2012), set in a rebooted continuity, he refers to the origin of Happy Terrill as a story he had heard as a child.
Prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, Langford "Happy" Terrill is originally described as having been exposed to lightning and sunlight at the same time while ballooning and gains energy-based superpowers. He is able to emit energy from his body and use it to fly through the air.
According to Jess Nevins' Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, "The Ray fights the Hindu mystic Bela Jat, Cadava the Crumbler, the Mongol warrior Khan, and the pied piper of crime, Stradivarius".
His Post-Crisis origin is more involved. Before World War II, the government established a secret group known as RONOL (Research on the Nature of Light). One RONOL member, Dr. Dayzl, theorized that the light that originated millennia ago where Earth now orbits would eventually circumnavigate the universe and return as a dangerous, conscious entity.
The only way to stop the "Light Entity", Dayzl believed, was to talk to it. Tricking a reporter named "Happy" Terrill into joining them, Dayzl and his assistants staged an upper atmosphere ballooning "accident", making certain Terrill was exposed to a genetic "light bomb". Dayzl calculated that Terrill's offspring would be a unification of human and light energy, a potential liaison to the Light Entity. Unaware of the truth, Terrill used his resulting powers to become the superhero the Ray. Simultaneously, RONOL lost government backing due to Dayzl's unorthodox beliefs. Dayzl's fate remains unknown.
In 1950, after learning the truth, Terrill vowed to quit his Ray identity. He and his first wife had a child named Joshua. For a time, Joshua accompanied the Ray on missions as his sidekick "Spitfire". However, Joshua was prone to violent outbursts; he was placed in suspended animation in the 1950s, only to wake up again in the future, still only 10 years old. After a brief association with his old team the Freedom Fighters in the 1970s, he had married and settled down. Everything seemed normal until Terrill saw his newborn son glowing with crackling energy in the hospital nursery. Terrill was convinced Dayzl's theories were correct. He now knew his son would one day have the power to confront the Light Entity. Not wanting to put his wife through torment, Terrill told her that the baby had died and then set up his son with a foster father (his brother Thomas).
In the 2008 Freedom Fighters series, Terrill is asked by Uncle Sam to ask Neon the Unknown for help. When Neon, completely detached from humanity, refuses, Terrill drinks from the waters of his oasis, becoming a new Neon the Unknown, known simply as "Neon".
Main article: Ray (Ray Terrill)
Ray Terrill was told he was hypersensitive to light and exposure to sunlight would kill him. Privately tutored in his window-darkened home, Ray's most earnest wish was for normalcy. The media called him Night Boy. His only friend during his formative years was his neighbor, Jennifer Jurden. When he was 18, at his supposed father's deathbed, Ray learned his life was a lie. He was not allergic to light, nor did he have to live in darkness. Most disturbing of all, he discovered his true father was the 1940s war-time super-hero, the Golden Age Ray.
The reformed Freedom Fighters have a member called the Ray who has similar powers to the Terrills. The new Ray is Stan Silver, and he was described by Justin Gray as being "capable of turning his body into a living laser light" and "the playboy of the group". Stan likes to show off in front of the media.
Working as a foreign correspondent for the Washington Sun, Silver was exposed to upper atmosphere radiation while covering a story, thus gaining power over various forms of light. Recruited by S.H.A.D.E., Silver begins using his powers in the service of his government. He is, however, something of a womanizing egomaniac in his civilian persona. Silver later defects from S.H.A.D.E. to join Uncle Sam's new group of Freedom Fighters.
In Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #6, Silver reveals that he is a double agent still loyal to S.H.A.D.E. He turns on his teammates and kills the Invisible Hood. Immediately after, the colors of his "costume" were inverted, becoming blue instead of yellow.
In Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #7, he battles his former teammates and is defeated by Ray Terrill, and is sent back to Father Time. He is later seen outside the White House with S.H.A.D.E.'s other super-soldiers, who join Father Time in the timestream after the battle ends.
In The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity launched in 2011, a character named Lucien Gates was introduced as the Ray in a miniseries titled The Ray, written by Palmiotti and Gray with art duties by Jamal Igle. It did not feature any of the previous incarnations of the Ray, but instead centered around a new character by the name of Lucien Gates. Remarks made by Lucien referencing Langford's origin and his use of the Ray title in his debut issue indicate that he is not the first hero to be called the Ray as far as the newly rebooted DC universe is concerned. The miniseries debuted in December that year.
Lucien Gates is a Korean-American San Diego County lifeguard who, while on duty, was caught in the path of a particle beam. The beam, accidentally fired from a solar energy cannon commissioned by an unnamed government agency, mutated a number of living organisms before striking Gates. The resulting energy transforms him into an energy manipulator, able to fly at superhuman speed, fire various energy beams, and create illusions. Gates is also a Korean-American adoptee.
Distinctively, Gates cannot direct his flight as is common for airborne superheroes, instead traveling in a straight line as a literal ray of light. To change direction, he must strike a reflective surface, though it does not appear he is bound by the normal mechanics of specular reflection and can "reflect" at any angle (perhaps more akin to a swimmer kicking off from the edge of a pool than true reflection). When necessary, he can reduce his speed and even hover.
All versions of the Ray can absorb, store, and process pure light and use the energy to fly and create dazzlingly strong and powerful bursts of light. In his Golden Age appearances, Happy Terrill was able to manipulate other forms of energy such as electricity and magnetism.
The Terrills were also capable of manipulating and controlling light externally to create illusions and even solid light constructs, as well as render themselves invisible.
Later in Happy's career (while mentoring/antagonizing his son), he was shown to have a greater mastery of his abilities. For example, by using "solid light vibrations", essentially resonating the target's inner ear, he was able to approximate telepathic communication.
Ray Terrill is capable of converting his body completely into light energy. No physical harm can come to him in this form.
Stan Silver's full abilities and powers are largely undocumented. As noted above, he is apparently "capable of turning his body into a living laser light".
Lucien Gates can not become immaterial; rather the light forms a protective armor. In order to fly, Gates bounces off of reflective surfaces. His thought processes calculate hundreds of options, allowing him to redirect his path at light speed.
In American Comic Book Chronicles: 1940-1944, comics historian Kurt Mitchell writes that the Golden Age strip "showcased Fine's growing mastery of lighting effects, as well as the wild fight scenes and memorably ugly villains that had by now become trademarks of his style".
The Ray appears in the tie-in comic book Justice League Unlimited #17.