Most of DC's characters are getting a fresh start this fall, and the next one on the list is the Ray, who's getting his revamp from two writers that know him well.
In December, the writing team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti will launch The Ray, a four-issue mini-series with artist Jamal Igle. Now that DC is relaunching its entire universe with 52 new #1's, a few mini-series have dotted its publishing landscape over the next few months, including revamps of characters like Huntress and Shade.
Palmiotti and Gray are already writing All-Star Western, which takes place in Gotham City in the 1880s. With The Ray, the writing duo enters the present-day superhero DCnU with a character they've worked with before.
In 2006's Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, Gray and Palmiotti introduced the most recent version of The Ray, Stan Silver. His predecessor in the DC Universe was Ray Terrill, who starred in an ongoing The Ray series in the '90s.
Igle, who comes to The Ray after a recent run on Supergirl, was originally bemoaned as one of the "missing names" from DC's relaunch, until Newsarama confirmed with the writer that he would be working on an upcoming mini-series.
Newsarama talked with Palmiotti and Gray about The Ray, how this will differ from their previous version of the character, and what readers can expect from the series.
Newsarama: Jimmy, Justin, we've seen your take on The Ray before, but how is this one different?
Justin Gray: Truthfully what you saw was our interpretation of a Ray that Grant Morrison detailed in his reimagining of the Freedom Fighters. From here we took the idea of "The Ray" as a character who can manipulate light and built our own hero.
Jimmy Palmiotti: The challenge was to keep all the elements of the character that people love, and go in and go crazy with our concepts and ideas and apply it in a way that is both entertaining and visually stunning. Jamal Igle has done an amazing job defining the new look and the first issue is some of the best work he has ever done. The overall difference with this book is that it's a fresh start
Nrama: What's the new angle you're taking on the premise for his story?
Gray: I know it will sound corny, but we have been looking at the phrases a ray of light and seeing the light. This interpretation of those powers is manifested in a 20-something young man who has a kind of youthful enthusiasm for his role as a superhero. He's very easy going and so when this power comes to him he reacts in some ways that hopefully make him stand out from other heroes.
Palmiotti: We really are looking at his powers and what makes the character interesting and building on these concepts. For me, the fun of the book is in all the relationships and the idea that his power is changing his life in so many different ways he never could have imagined.
Nrama: Will readers see his origin? Or how will you introduce him?
Gray: We wanted to mess with the origin story formula because so many superhero movies are centered squarely on that moment. How many times can you watch someone test out his or her powers and make goofy mistakes? How many times have we seen someone design a costume or screw up his or her first night on patrol? With The Ray we tried to take a different look at the origin story. We want The Ray to be fun and strange and very human mixed with incredible action sequences provided by the incredibly talented Jamal Igle.
Palmiotti: You just pick up the first issue and it has everything a superhero comic should have...the who , what and why of the character as well as the two things we always ask ourselves- what do they want and what do they fear. We answer all of these and then Jamal took what we wrote and made it even better.
Nrama: Who's the supporting cast and villains we'll be seeing?
Gray: Obviously everything is new here so the cast is rather intimate, including The Ray's eccentric parents and his girlfriend who is a Hollywood agent.
Palmiotti: My favorite dynamic is the parents and their daughter...some of what goes on is something we all can relate to. We are having a lot of fun on this one.
Nrama: What was the appeal of taking another shot at this character for you two?
Gray: The challenge of taking a character with a following and convincing, or TRYING to convince people that this is a fresh take on a light powered superhero rather than a replacement for another. It is a tall order, but one I hope we're successful with.
Palmiotti: For me, the challenge is taking a character that people love and introducing a newer version. Right away people will be complaining its not " their" ray...but at the end of the day, we wrote what we think is a very cool book that, if the diehards give it a shot, they might be pleasantly surprised. People that never cared for the ray are going to buy this concept right away...it’s that fun!
Nrama: What kind of readers will enjoy this story? What's the tone and the overall approach you're taking? Is the feel different from Freedom Fighters? Or similar?
Gray: I think the closest comparison from the standpoint of what we've done in the past is the Terra mini. We faced the same kind of challenge in reimagining Terra. This is not an angst ridden or depressing superhero, this is a guy who can make you smile and hopefully root for him as a person more than a uniform.
Palmiotti: Yeah, its not like the freedom fighters series at all...Terra and even Power Girl is a better example of the attitude and feel of the book. There is a ton of action and such...but we are looking at a character that deals with light...so we are keeping the book away from the really dark and angry and going more towards the fun and fast paced.
Nrama: Will the Freedom Fighters be referred to in this story at all? Does the Ray work with any of them?
Gray: This stands apart from the Freedom Fighters. The Ray is its own entity.
Nrama: There's no doubt it's always a struggle to introduce a new character to major superhero universes, as I'm sure you're both aware. Is the current environment at DC different, making it easier somehow?
Gray: To be honest I hope the climate at DC, the enthusiasm we've seen regarding the new 52...I hope that powerful momentum encourages people to approach The Ray with an open mind. We love that struggle, we don't always succeed but we always give everything we have.
Palmiotti: This is the best time because as September has showed us all, people are ready for new ideas.
Nrama: What's the art like on the series?
Gray: Jamal is doing incredible work on bringing The Ray to life in and out of uniform. He understands the challenge of a new incarnation and in essence a new character and he's elevated his game. Every page is gorgeous.
Palmiotti: This was written for Jamal...we knew he was going to be the artist out of the gate and we wrote it for him and it shows. I am not kidding, this is the best work he has ever done.
Nrama: What else are the two of you working on?
Gray: Secret stuff.
Palmiotti: Yeah...we think one of the bigger projects we have been doing will finally be announced in NYCC, so wait and see.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about The Ray?
Gray: It won't hurt to try the first issue because you'll know by the end if you like him or not.
Palmiotti: I would give this book to just about anyone to read. Comic fan or not, I think the theses are universal and the book is a blast.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
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