Ray (DC Comics)

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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 Ray
The original Ray on the cover of Smash Comics #25 (Aug 1941), art by Gill Fox.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearance("Happy")
Smash Comics #14
(September 1940)
The Ray #1
(February 1992)
DCU Brave New World
(July 2006)
The Ray #1
(December 2011)
Created by("Happy")
Lou Fine
Justin Gray
Jimmy Palmiotti
Daniel Acuña
Justin Gray
Jimmy Palmiotti
Jamal Igle
In-story information
Alter egoLangford "Happy" Terrill
Ray Terrill
Stan Silver
Lucien Gates
Team affiliations(All)
Freedom Fighters
Justice League
All-Star Squadron
  • Light manipulation
  • Magnetism and electricity manipulation
  • Generation of light and solid light constructs
  • Conversion to energy form
  • Invisibility and illusion casting
  • Telepathic communication
  • Flight

The first Ray was Langford "Happy" Terrill, a Quality Comics character.[1] When DC Comics later purchased Quality Comics, Happy Terrill was retconned as a member of the Freedom Fighters on Earth-X.[2] 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).[3]

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.[4] 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.

Fictional character biographyEdit

Langford "Happy" TerrillEdit

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.[5] He is able to emit energy from his body and use it to fly through the air.[6]

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".[7]

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".

Ray TerrillEdit

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.

Stan SilverEdit

Stan Silver as the Ray, art by Daniel Acuña.

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".[8] 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.

Lucien GatesEdit

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.[9] 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.

Powers and abilitiesEdit

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.

Other versionsEdit

  • In the final issue of 52, a new Multiverse is revealed, originally consisting of 52 identical realities. Among the parallel realities shown is one designated "Earth-10". As a result of Mister Mind "eating" aspects of this reality, it takes on visual aspects similar to the Pre-Crisis Earth-X, including the Quality characters. The names of the characters and the team are not mentioned in the panel in which they appear, but a character visually similar to the "Happy" Terrill version of the Ray appears.[10] Based on comments by Grant Morrison, this alternate universe is not the Pre-Crisis Earth-X.[11]
  • The 2007 series Countdown: Arena introduces several alternate versions of the Ray. On Earth-6, the former Atom (Ray Palmer) has become his world's Ray, a Nazi Ray exists on "Earth-10" and his closest Earth-50 parallel is prominent Wildstorm Universe character Apollo, a Superman pastiche who debuted in the early 1990s. Ray's Freedom Fighters are supposed to be the opposition of the fascist JL-Axis (the fascist Ray's costume matches Ray Terril's new uniform), and Apollo is more commonly viewed as a parallel version of Superman (he is placed with the Rays apparently due to his light-based powers).
  • A version of the Ray appears in the book Kingdom Come as one of the heroes loyal to Superman. He is also mentioned in being instrumental in stripping the radiation out of the Kansas soil both for the construction of the Gulag and Superman's reclamation of the land at the end of the story. It is not specified which incarnation of the Ray this is, although in promo art he is referred to as Ray II. In the final issue of 52, the setting of Kingdom Come was designated Earth-22 in the new Multiverse.
  • New Super-Man, set in China of the mainstream DC Universe, features a character called the Sunbeam (a Chinese counterpart of the Ray).


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".[12]

In other mediaEdit


  • The Ray makes several background appearances in the Justice League Unlimited animated series, although he is not given any lines. The Justice League Unlimited tie-in comic book established in issue #17 that this was Ray Terrill and included Happy as a member of the Freedom Fighters.
  • The Langford Terrill version of the Ray appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Cry Freedom Fighters!" voiced by Tom Kenny. He appears as a member of the Freedom Fighters and accompanies them, Batman, and Plastic Man into freeing Qward from the government oppression caused by the Supreme Chairman of Qward.
  • Ray Terrill starred in the CW DC TV crossover event titled "Crisis on Earth-X", in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow segments, portrayed by Russell Tovey. Terrill also made an uncredited appearance in the Supergirl episode "Crisis on Infinite Earths Part One" when he watched Earth-X get annihilated by the antimatter.

Web seriesEdit


The Ray appears in the tie-in comic book Justice League Unlimited #17.


  1. ^ Koolman, Mike; Amash, Jim (2011). The Quality Companion. TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 174–178. ISBN 978-1605490373.
  2. ^ Greenberger, Robert (2008). "Freedom Fighters". In Dougall, Alastair (ed.). The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1. OCLC 213309017.
  3. ^ Thomas, Roy (2006). The All-Star Companion: Vol 2. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 978-1893905375.
  4. ^ Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Korte, Steve; Manning, Matt; Wiacek, Win; Wilson, Sven (2016). The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe. DK Publishing. p. 245. ISBN 978-1-4654-5357-0.
  5. ^ Benton, Mike (1992). Superhero Comics of the Golden Age: The Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company. p. 182. ISBN 0-87833-808-X. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  6. ^ Markstein, Don. "The Ray". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  7. ^ Nevins, Jess (2013). Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes. High Rock Press. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-61318-023-5.
  8. ^ "Meeting The Freedom Fighters With Gray & Pamiotti". Newsarama. 2006-05-11. Archived from the original on 2007-05-07. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
  9. ^ Cavna, Michael (16 September 2011). "FIRST LOOK: DC Comics announces the new 'RAY'". Comic Riffs| The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  10. ^ 52 52: 12/1 (May 2, 2007), DC Comics
  11. ^ Brady, Matt (2007-05-08). "The 52 Exit Interviews: Grant Morrison". Newsarama. Archived from the original on 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
  12. ^ Mitchell, Kurt; Thomas, Roy (2019). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1940-1944. TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 36–37. ISBN 978-1605490892.
  13. ^ "DC Comics' "The Ray" Lands on CW Seed, Will Feature Gay Lead". 11 August 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2022.

External linksEdit