It was the second month of 1971 and a much (much!) younger Byron Brewer was feelin’ the blues. After a zillion years (or so it seemed at the time), the co-creator of the Marvel Universe, my playground, was leaving his creation to go romp with the Big Boys. Jack “King” Kirby had left the Fantastic Four and Thor to be lost in a DC quagmire, I thought.
Then came the day of my birthday, which just so happened to coincide with the release of DC’s New Gods #1. For the first time in a few years, I was buying a DC title other than Justice League. And boy, was I glad I did.
Herein was all of Kirby’s grandeur from FF and especially Thor, only kinda sideways. This was DC’s “Fourth World,” my new playground.
And my favorite playmate? The New God Lightray, who still reminds me for some reason of Thor’s Balder the Brave. Go figure.
For the less King-oriented, Lightray is the shining star of New Genesis. Unlike his grim friend Orion, Lightray is cheerful and optimistic and prefers to solve problems through compromise rather than combat. He uses the speed of light to his advantage in eluding foes.
Lightray has served one stint as a member of the Justice League and joined the international branch along with Orion on the same night as a membership drive failed to find other new recruits. The difference between the two was illustrated in battle. While Lightray desires a minimum of fuss in battle by dispatching his foe, Crowbar, with a simple expenditure of energy to the man’s face, Orion prefers to destroy the pavement around Blackrock — and then was angered when his opponent surrendered instead of fighting to the death!
In this same issue, Lightray demonstrates his knowledge of chess. Lightray’s long hair causes him to be mistaken for a female by the old-fashioned General Glory. They stay with the team until just after the battle with General Glory’s old foe, the Evil Eye.
He returns to Earth briefly in JLA #27 (March 1999) as part of an emergency expansion of the Justice League. The team battles the android Amazo in the Florida Everglades. Most of them are subdued and their powers copied, Lightray included. Amazo loses his powers when Superman, as chairman, officially disbands the League, thus ending Lightray’s membership.
Lightray would appear again to aid the League alongside Orion and Big Barda (who didn’t love that name?) when the planet Qward attacked Earth with a giant ship.
In Countdown #48, Lightray falls to Earth after an off-panel fight with the New Gods Killer (later revealed to be Infinity-Man). He dies holding Jimmy Olsen’s hand, repeating the word “infinite” and glowing brighter. (No rosebud?)
In Final Crisis #7, Lightray is depicted standing alongside Barda and Mister Miracle (another fine book, great costume) following the reincarnation of New Genesis upon the ruins of Apokolips.
Orion has popped up in Wonder Woman with the advent of the New 52. Now comes word (from my exclusive interview with writer Keith Giffen) that some New Gods are on their way to “The Hunted” in Threshold. We might even see Lightray!
Maybe the days of fun, cosmic comics are here again. Thank DC with your wallet by buying Threshold (and StormWatch once Jim Starlin comes to town in #19). Cool!