Tagged: Phantom Lady

Joe Corallo: The Ray of Light


Freedom_Fighters_0001It’s been brought to my attention that CW Seed (the CW’s digital content hub) will be airing a new animated DC Entertainment series, Freedom Fighters: The Ray, in 2017. What makes the announcement of this new series extra newsworthy is that The Ray himself gay and would be the first gay superhero to be the lead in his own TV series. Pretty neat, right?

Before I discuss the impact the first gay superhero to lead his own TV series has on me, I’d like to talk a little about who The Ray is, since there is a good chance you are unfamiliar with this character. Hell, I was only vaguely aware of this character myself.

The Ray was original conceived by Golden Age artist Lou Fine and premiered in issue #14 of Smash Comics, part of Quality Comics’ lineup. Lou Fine worked on other characters at Quality Comics including The Black Condor, Doll Man, and Uncle Sam. Ironically, one of his most well-known contributions to comics is likely his work on The Spirit comic strips, which at the time he went uncredited as he was a ghost-artist for Will Eisner.

Eventually DC Comics acquired Quality Comics and took all of the previously mentioned characters as well as others including Phantom Lady and put them all in their own superhero team, the Freedom Fighters. Since then, a few different other people have been a hero under the banner of The Ray. Most of which have a nearly identical skill set including light absorption and manipulation as well as flight.

The version of The Ray being used in this animated series is Ray Terrill. In the comics this was the identity of the second person to call themselves The Ray, and also the son of the original The Ray, Lanford Terrill. However, that version of The Ray was never revealed to be gay.

This version is based on The Ray from Grant Morrison’s Multiversity. In it, one of the alternate world’s depicted had the Freedom Fighters, but they were slightly altered to make them a more diverse group. In doing so, Grant decided to make this Ray gay.

I’ve talked before about how making characters like Iceman or Green Lantern gay is difficult as they are such thoroughly established characters that people have already made their minds up on that it could easily be dismissed, even by the next creative team tackling the characters. Similar to what George Takei was calling for in Star Trek: Beyond, I want to see new characters being created that better reflect diversity rather than retconning previously established characters.

Smash14In a situation like this one I think this actually a pretty good way to meet halfway. DC Entertainment is able to use a character that doesn’t get much use to begin with and help make its comics and now TV shows more diverse. No offense to the late great Lou Fine, but the kids these days found out about The Ray just last week when CW Seed got their announcement of this new series out there. This is the kind of recycling I think we can all agree on. Okay, maybe not all of us.

Keep an eye out for Freedom Fighters: The Ray as we enter into 2017 on CW Seed. Make no mistake that this is a big deal to many queer kids and young adults eager for more content that better reflects their own lives. Hell, it’s important to some of the old timers too. And if this animated series goes over well, you’ll be seeing The Ray in live action form too.

Let’s not forget that the Freedom Fighters will also be in this show. I don’t know about all of you, but I could really go for some Phantom Lady action on the small screen. Her Golden Age adventures have been reprinted in the Roy Thomas Presents Classics. They might be out of print by now, but you can still find them in some comic shops and online at suggested retail. I think they’re a lot of fun to read.

The Ray, on the other hand, is quite difficult to find in reprinted collections. As a result, I really have very little idea of what to expect from this animated series. Though I am curious to read some old stories with The Ray, it may work out better for me and general audiences coming into this animated series with no preconceived notions and watching the development of the first openly gay superhero leading a TV series from the ground floor. If enough people feel the same way, we might see this kind of representation move forward faster than a ray of light.

Mike Gold: The All-Star Secretary

Wonder Woman for PresidentHere’s what gets me about Wonder Woman.

She is, rightfully, symbolic of strong women who can take care of themselves, stand up for themselves, and help others – men and women alike – do the same. These are very good things. She started out before America entered World War II, so you can’t really attribute “Rosie the Riveter” juju to her origins: she was created at a time when most strong women were to be found in movies, and by then almost always in front of the camera and not behind it.

To be sure, there were plenty of other women super-heroes in comics.  Some were spin-offs or sidekicks to male superheroes – Mary Marvel, Bulletgirl and the original Hawkgirl come to mind – but others were stand-alone creations: the original Black Widow (1940), Phantom Lady (1941), the original Black Cat (1942), Liberty Belle (1943), and my personal favorite, Miss Fury (1941), the only one of the bunch that was created, written and drawn by an actual woman. Wonder Woman thrived and was the principle reason DC Comics bought All-American Publications for the simplest and best of reasons: she was the most fully realized of them all.

But in lesser hands than those of her creators, she encountered her own glass ceiling.

Wonder Woman got her start in All-Star Comics #8, December 1941, as a nine-page feature backing up the usual Justice Society of America story. It was a bonus for the readers, as pages were added to the issue for the story. No mention was made of any of this on the cover. One month later, her series debuted in Sensation Comics #1 and she was so popular she was awarded her own title several months later.

She would return to All-Star Comics in 1942 when the Justice Society guys voted her in as their first female member, something long denied to Hawkgirl or Liberty Belle or even Merry, Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks (don’t ask). This was only a few months after the publication of Wonder Woman #1, and only 10 months after her debut appearance in All-Star.

Talk about the fast track. But, sadly, it was the fast track to that glass ceiling.

Wonder Woman joined the Justice Society not as a full-fledged member, but… wait for it… as the Society’s secretary.

No shit. While the readers’ moms were working at the defense plant, the phenomenally popular super-heroine was relegated to taking notes about the adventures enjoyed by the men. In fact, just like Rosie the Riveter her position was only guaranteed “for the duration of the war.”

Whereas she occasionally played an enhanced role in the story, Wonder Woman did not become a fully active member of the team until All-Star Comics #38, December 1947, six years after her debut in the same title. Coincidently, that story also offered a guest-shot from Black Canary, who was asked to deliver a message (“everybody else in the JSA is dead”) to Wonder Woman. In turn, WW picked up the bodies of her fellow JSA members – her fellow JSA fellows – and brought them back to life using the Amazon’s Purple Ray, a staple in the Wonder Woman series.

Amusingly, it was Black Canary who saved the JSA members at the end of the story. As a reward… no, she wasn’t made the new secretary… she was given the team’s thanks and a nice pat on the back and was made an honorary member. Three issues later, Black Canary finally was given full membership.

When the Justice League of America debuted in 1960, Wonder Woman was there as a fully involved member of the team. I’d say this represented progress, and I guess it did but those initial stories only had five fighting members of the team, Superman and Batman being “too busy” to join in the fun. That only left four other DC superheroes plus Wonder Woman. But there was no relegation to second-class status for the iconic heroine… and that does represent progress.

It would be a while until women were regularly involved in creating Wonder Woman’s stories, not to mention those of the other DC superheroes which were expanding like amoebas. But, hey, Eisenhower was president. The New Frontier didn’t start until the following year.