DC Histories: The Ray

Welcome back to another DC History. In the wake of the New 52, we’re looking at the history of some of the people and groups being reintroduced to the DC Universe. Only by looking back at what came before can we understand where we’re going.

This week, we’re looking at the Ray, the solar powered member of the DCU who’s not Doctor Light. The Ray was also, as far as I can tell, the first comic book character to get a cosplay-based advertising campaign.

The Ray (Vol. 2) In-House Ad (1994)

Ray Terrill grew up without much in the way of friends. It’s hard to have much of a social life when one is kept in doors and only was awake at night. Ray was told that he was allergic to the sun and that going outside in the daylight would kill him. Charitable nuns came by at night to be his tutors and the girl who lived next door would occasionally come over, but it was a very solitary life for Ray. Solitary, that is, until his cousin convinced him to venture out into the real world on his 18th birthday. There, Ray discovered that the sun didn’t damage him at all. It powered him. It turned out that Ray was actually the son of Happy Terrill, the Golden Age hero named the Ray. Happy appeared to think it was a good idea to name his son as on-the-nose and confusingly as he possibly could.

From The Ray (Vol. 1) #1 (1992)

After some experimentation, Ray learned what he could truly do. After being out in the sun for just a few minutes, he could turn himself into pure light if he wished. Ray could fly, he could throw concussive light bolts, and he could create solid objects out of pure light, though this was an ability he seldom used.

What followed would be a lot of Ray learning about his past and his powers as he went along. Heaps of Terrill family drama followed Ray powering up for the first time. It turned out that the man who raised Ray in that darkened house was actually Ray’s uncle, Happy’s brother. Happy was still alive, having been kept young by his own light powers. When Ray began exploring his new abilities, Happy was quickly there to keep him in check. Since they were on the same ‘vibrational frequency,’ Happy could also read Ray’s thoughts.

From The Ray (Vol. 1) #3 (1992)

Happy had kept Ray away from sunlight for years, worried about what having these powers as a child could do to a person. He didn’t want Ray to know about his abilities for fear that Ray would do something foolish and short-sighted. Happy was a constant bug in Ray’s ear, more than willing to point out a flaw in Ray’s plans or to tell him he was doing something wrong. The two didn’t get along so well.

From The Ray (Vol. 2) #3 (1994)

But Ray had other mentors early on in his career. Around the time that he was starting out as a hero, Superman died. Doomsday, the creature who killed Superman, took out the majority of the Justice League during a massive battle. The League needed new blood and they needed it quickly. So, Guy Gardner flew out to the outskirts of Philadelphia, Ray’s hometown, and recruited him into the Justice League America. Ray quickly agreed.

From Justice League America #71 (1993)

His stint with this version of the League wouldn’t be incredibly long. A short while later, the various Leagues would go through a change up in personnel. It was another of those end-of-the-world adventures that the League goes on from time to time. When the dust settled, Ray was no longer in the JLA. However, J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, put together his own Justice League dubbed the Justice League Task Force. Ray joined up with this crew. He, Gypsy, Triumph, and Despero also gained new team uniforms.

Justice League Task Force In-House Ad (1994) & From Justice League Task Force #21 (1995)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Never trust a Martian’s fashion sense. It was all very ’90s ‘Extreme,’ full of leather jackets and shoulder pads. When he wasn’t explicitly with the Task Force in any given adventure, Ray stuck with his original look. Good call on his part.

All this mix-up in Ray’s superhero life didn’t affect his day-to-day adventures. Over in his solo book, Ray was still dealing with his family life. It was revealed that his mother hadn’t died during childbirth as he originally thought. She was still living comfortably with Happy in a suburban neighborhood, far away from Philadelphia. Ray also finally found out why Happy was so scared of the idea of Ray having his powers as a child. He had a half-brother named Joshua. Though Joshua was born decades before Ray was, his light powers had slowed his aging just as they had done for his father. Joshua was still physically and developmentally an elementary school aged child.

Also of grave concern to Ray was a villain named Death Masque. Originally a computer program developed by Ray on his laptop to help him learn how to fight, Death Masque went rogue and gained sentience. Ray, it turns out, was one heck of a computer nerd. Death Masque’s storyline lasted for nearly two years as Ray kept being defeated by his own computer generated creation. Also, Death Masque gained control of a Middle Eastern country. It was all very strange.

The panels below show both Death Masque and Joshua. After Ray’s solo series ended, neither were ever seen again.

From The Ray (Vol. 2) #19 (1995)

When The Ray (Vol. 2) was canceled and Justice League Task Force came to an end to make way for JLA, Ray didn’t show up much. He did show up as a pawn of Triumph, his old JLTF colleague, during the JLA‘s ‘Crisis Times Five’ storyline. I maintain that the only reason Batman was able to take Ray out so quickly was because Ray was under mind control at the time. In any other circumstances, Batman would have been laid out.

From JLA #31 (1999)

A few years later, it seemed like Ray needed another team to join. The Justice League was filled to bursting with heroes of its own. It didn’t need Ray. But another group did. Young Justice asked him to join up with them after seeing Ray in action. Even though he’d been a member of two different Leagues and he stretched the concept of ‘young’ by a few years, Ray accepted Superboy’s offer.

From Young Justice (Vol. 1) #41 (2002)

When this team broke up, Ray was once again absent from the super hero scene for several years. During this time away, a new Ray appeared. Stan Silver arrived on the scene as an agent of S.H.A.D.E. He had no connection to the Terrill family but he did have similar light powers.

From Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (Vol. 1) #1 (2006)

Stan was a narcissist who felt he was above things like morality. He joined Uncle Sam’s Freedom Fighters as a spy, sharing the Fighters’ every move with his corrupt government bosses. When Ray Terrill found out that someone was using his family’s name, and that this person had betrayed the Freedom Fighters, he was incensed. Just taking the name was bad enough but he’d also betrayed the group to which Happy Terrill had been a member in the 1940s. Ray quickly let Stan know how he was feeling.

From Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (Vol. 1) #7 (2007)

Ray took Stan’s place in the Freedom Fighters after Stan was defeated. He stuck with the Fighters for the rest of the old DCU continuity.

So, after growing up with no peers in a dark, moonlit house, it seems that Ray needed to constantly be around his fellow super heroes after he got out in the world. Being around these four groups of heroes helped Ray make up for his solitary childhood.

Where is Ray Terrill in the New 52? That’s a good question. He’s no where to be found. In fact, he may not even exist in this new continuity. Lucien Gates appears to be the only Ray nowadays. He seems to have heard rumors about Happy Terrill but he hasn’t mentioned Happy’s sons. It’s been established that there was no JSA in the New 52, but were the Freedom Fighters ever a group? Will Ray Terrill ever make an appearance? I guess we’ll find out together.

From The Ray (Vol. 3) #1 (2012)


Jeff Reid really likes Ray Terrill’s design, especially when he had right angles around his light powers. It looked like no one else. Get more great insights like that on Twitter.


  1. Oh man, I wish they still did ad campaigns like that.

  2. Man. I had forgotten about that ad at the top. Man that looked cool. That ad was probably the main reason i bought the first issue of The Ray

  3. That is a cool ad. Great article! Never knew anything about the Ray. His past sounds somewhat like Jack Knight’s in as much as he’s a legacy hero who didn’t get along with his father and had family problems. But, for Jack that changed eventually. Ray sounds like a cool character. One again, great article. Very enLIGHTening.

  4. I really will miss Ray Terrill if he is not the Ray! He was one of DC’s best characters and was never used right since his beginings. So why drum up this new kid when the old one was just fine, just getting sick of it.


  5. I really liked the Ray Terrill series of The Ray back then. It jumped the shark with the Death Masque thing, which went on WAY too long. And his costume is ludicrous in retrospect! But he was a likeable, sympathetic character I’d like to see again.

  6. So much I didn’t knew.
    I think I’ll buy the first issue

  7. Ok there’s a lot about these pictures that people aren’t explaining. Why is Ray talking to himself on that bus? Is he crazy and his dad is a figment of his imagination? Why is Guy Gardner using a yellow power ring? Did he steal a Sinestro ring (which didn’t yet exist?) since the GLC was MIA thanks to Hallalax?

    • Happy Terrill was on the same ‘vibrational frequency’ as Ray. When he wanted to talk to Ray without causing a ruckus to pedestrians, he could make himself visible only to his son.

      Guy’s yellow power ring is explained in a previous DC History, which I linked to just above that panel.

  8. I really miss that era in comic history when everyone wore bad ass leather jackets over their spandex uni-tards. That is a solid look.

  9. This makes me miss Christopher Priest. He tells such great buddy stories (even when one of the buddies is invisible).

  10. I loved The Ray. One of the most underrated comics at DC in the 1990’s. Unfortunately, DC was doing a lot comics exploring the same themes with Green Lantern, Flash, Nightwing, Robin, Superboy, and Green Arrow.

  11. More than any other character, I’d love to see Ray Terrill get a fresh chance at shelf space. I loved the mini-series, but everything after it was not good at all to me (although I faithfully bought all of it). Still, he was my favorite DC character in the 90s and I’d love to see him get a book in the new 52.