Crash Course: Get To Know The Ray Before His Animated Series
It was announced this week that The CW was growing its ever-expanding line of superhero content with a new animated show set to debut on CW Seed, starring DC Comics superhero The Ray. The show is being touted as featuring the first gay lead superhero on television, but who is The Ray? We've put together a Crash Course to get to know him better.
The Ray featured in the animated show has been confirmed to be Ray Terrill, but the original Ray in the comics was his father, Lanford "Happy" Terrill, who was actually not a DC Comics property, but a character from Quality Comics during the Golden Age. He was a reporter tricked into a science experiment involving a theoretical being made of sentient light which granted him his powers.
The concept of The Ray, like other Quality Comics characters, was folded into the DC Universe as part of Crisis on Infinite Earths and the idea was re-imagined by Jack C. Harris and Joe Quesada in the early nineties, casting the new Ray as a legacy character and the son of Happy Terrill.
Part of the experiment was to produce a child that would be a unification of humanity and light entity which would be able to liaise with the being, but after Happy discovered the truth he mostly retired from superheroics and sheltered his son, whom he named Ray, telling the boy that he was extremely sensitive to light. Ray eventually discovered his true origins and became a successor to his father as The Ray of the 1990s.
Ray was briefly a member of the Justice League and later starred in his own ongoing series by Christopher Priest and Joe Quesada. He was affiliated with Young Justice and was instrumental in stopping Darkseid during Final Crisis, using his powers to cast Metron's emblem of protection over the Earth, disrupting the Anti-Life broadcast.
The Ray is also frequently involved with the superteam known as The Freedom Fighters, led by Uncle Sam. The full title of the animated show is in fact Freedom Fighters: The Ray, which does suggest there may be more Freedom Fighters characters appearing and possibly getting their own shows. The Freedom Fighters themselves were created retroactively after DC acquired the Quality Comics licenses and grouped all the characters into one team in what was known at the time as Earth X.
The reports that have come out surrounding the animated adaptation suggest that the Ray Terrill featured in the series will be influenced by Grant Morrison's take on the character in The Multiversity, where The Ray was also a gay man. It's never mentioned explicitly on the page, but in an interview with Crave in 2013, Morrison explained his interpretation for The Freedom Fighters in The Multiversity: Mastermen.
"Into this come the Freedom Fighter characters, led by Uncle Sam, who is the last remnant of an America that was conquered in 1956, and he's now gathered all the people that Hitler killed - give me your huddled masses, basically. The Freedom Fighters characters, we recast them all as Hitler's enemies. Doll Man's a Jehovah's Witness, The Ray is gay, Black Condor's a black man, Phantom Lady's a gypsy - basically, all the people who Hitler persecuted and they suddenly come back. This is the return of the repressed."
The Terrills aren't the only heroes to call themselves The Ray either. In the mid-2000s, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Daniel Acuña introduced Stan Silver as the newest incarnation of the character who turned out to be a traitor within the Freedom Fighters working for SHADE. Palmiotti, Gray and Jamal Igle later introduced a fourth incarnation during the early days of The New 52; a Korean-America named Lucien Gates but he never appeared outside of the two other Freedom Fighters solo miniseries by writing duo.
While not perfect, the CW's line-up of superhero shows is far-and-away the best place to see LGBT representation in shared universe superhero fiction, and The Ray looks to be an excellent addition to their roster of heroes. With word that the network is casting a voice actor with an eye towards them appearing in live action, it wouldn't be surprising to see The Ray standing shoulder to shoulder with The Flash or Supergirl in the near future.