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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 188

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at the Ray Annual #1 by Christopher Priest and Oscar Jimenez…

Enjoy!

Okay, I’ve already featured the Robin Annual from this year and now the Ray Annual. The 1995 annuals for DC were all “Year One” annuals (it was a great idea). They either had “Year One”s for DC characters or, for those books starring new characters, they just featured major events in their lives (I believe Superboy discovered who he was a clone of, for instance, in his Annual).

Christopher Priest decided to make the Annual a major event in the life of the Ray.

First, let’s do a quick set-up of the book. Ray Terrill grew up thinking he had a disease that would not allow him to be exposed to light. When he was a teenager, he discovered that that was BS. His father was Happy Terrill, the original Ray, and his father had tricked him because he did not want Ray to know that he had inherited his father’s powers.

Okay, so Ray now has light powers. He becomes a superhero known as the Ray. His father, though, keeps coming back to teach him “lessons” (and since his father can use his powers to take on different guises, that can be quite a pain). Meanwhile, Ray had created a holographic video game simulation to help him train to be a superhero. Through a freak accident, the video game character, Death Masque, has come alive and now thinks that the “game” is still going on. Finally, Ray has a girlfriend of sorts called Jenny. She was his only friend when everyone thought he was “night boy.”

So in the Annual, Death Masque attacks a plane (a plane Jenny told Ray that she was on).

The Annual opens with Ray reflecting on the attack…

Then we cut to the actual event, and Priest and Jimenez do an utterly beautiful job of capturing the scope of what Ray is trying to do here…

rayann5

(Click on the above spread to enlarge)

Garth Ennis recently did a bit in the Boys about just how hard it would be for a superhero, even someone like Superman, to rescue a large jet plane, mostly because of the whole “even if he could lift it, the plane would not hold together” deal. This issue really brings that to heart as we see just how insanely difficult what Ray is trying to accomplish is here.

After a sequence showing how Ray manages to save the plane from completely crashing, we see what happens when he helps the plane come in for an emergency landing – and as we have seen time after time in air disasters, even if you miraculously get on to the ground in one piece, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of trouble…but even beyond that, Priest really develops this sequence well, showing Ray’s unique outlook on what is happening, as he says a prayer…

Ray later visits the funerals of all the people he did not save, and the bottle of alchohol that has been hanging over the issue like a Sword of Damocles is finally broken open…

After some various machinations by Death Masque and/or Ray’s father, plus Ray dealing with losing Jenny (she is not among the survivors of the flight), we finally get the meeting between Superman and Ray (the way they meet is hilarious – Ray thinks it is his father pretending to be Superman, and, well, it is worth seeking out the issue just for that two-page spread)…

Wonderful stuff, no?

Jimenez does a good job on the pencils (although he was still fairly raw as an artist – he would get a lot better over the years – just compare this art to his work on JLA in 1997).

Go find this annual! It can’t be too expensive on the back issue market, right?

12 Comments

It’s funny to me how most of the best Superman moments I’ve seen in the last twenty years have all come from cameo’s. I don’t think I’ve seen any great scenes from Superman’s own series from the 90s or 2000s.

There are actually plenty of moments like this in Superman’s own books. The difference is, in the cameos, Superman gets to leave after the cool moment. In his own books, he just goes on to the next thing week after week, so a lot of the impact is lost.

The panels are claustrophobic. But worse, the spotting of blacks seems quite arbitrary, like the inker did it with his eyes closed. Look at the shapes of the blacks on Superman’s face! Yikes!

Hey, that’s rather recognizably Philadelphia, or the city as it was in the 90s, with City Hall and the PSFS building just visible there. The artist didn’t just go for a shot of Independence Hall or Liberty Place and leave it at that. You don’t see that too often in comics. Of course, you don’t see Philadelphia too often in comics, period, so I guess I shouldn’t be picky, but that’s a nice representation.

LOVED this comic! Priest was weaving quite a tale with each issue. This annual is great on its own, but really powerful if you had been reading the whole time. The book went downhill when the artist changed from Howard Porter. Also, i felt that Priest was letting the subplots dangle for too long to keep the momentum going.

i just re-read this annual in preparing to sell off a large part of my collection & remembered how great it is!
Thanks Brian!
DFTBA

This issue should be ineligible to be a cool comic solely on the basis of the Super-Mullet. The sad thing about the Super-Mullet is future generations will read 90s Superman comics and believe that such a style was popular among the general public during that era, when in fact it was widely reviled even in its day. Same for Nightwing’s 90s mullets and ponytails.

There are a lot of cool Superman moments in his own books – why, All-Star Superman is brimming with them!

That having been said, I think it would be worth a shot if they went maybe a year or two where Superman was just an incidental character in his own book. He’s still there, and he solves everything, but the focus is elsewhere (no, not like the last year when he was just mainly gone). You know, like Sandman, or Swamp Thing.

I only read the first issue of the ongoing series of The Ray. When I saw it in the shop I was really excited that my favourite novelist had started writing comics.

Then I read the issue and hated it. IIRC I found out on the last page that it wasn’t written by Christopher Priest at all. It was written by James Owsley who’s work I’d always hated and had decided to change his name to that of an existing writer. It all made sense.

Owsley became Priest and claims that he was unaware that it is the name of an existing writer.
DFTBA

It amazing how we can get the essence of Superman captured in these lil vignettes time and time again… this was a great coming of age comic…

Owsley became Priest and claims that he was unaware that it is the name of an existing writer.

I know and I do believe him. It was just very annoying at the time.

I realize a teenage version of the Ray seemed “hip” and “cool”, but during the 1990s, the folks at DC Comics tried to remake the Ray, the Black Condor, and the Phantom Lady, and they only made the point that “remake” characters are usually lame and bogus . The versions that appeared in the “Freedom Fighters” during the 1970s blew the new versions away !

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