Tuesday, March 13, 2007

From Secret Origins #37, "All Those Light Years Ago!" Written by Craig Boldman, pencils by the great Mike Parobeck, inks by Ken Branch.

I scanned this in quite some time ago, then set the issue aside and lost it. Found it again, read my son the Legion of Substitute Heroes story, set it aside again. Much later, I found another Secret Origin of Dr. Light (which we may come back to...although it's not very good.) and thought about this one again.

The story begins with perennial punching-bag Dr. (Arthur) Light hobbling in the rain, back to his shabby apartment after yet another beating. The storm knocks out the lights, and a panicked Light scrambles to find matches, birthday candles, anything, but too late. He is visited by the ghost of Dr. Light's past, from the looks of it.

Arthur calls the ghost in his costume Jacob, and the ghost tells the story of themselves, as two young scientists. Together, they have discovered solid light, and have been able to use it for force fields and teleportation...which makes total sense, somehow...Arthur Light wants to give a report to the board, but Jacob Finlay says no, citing rumors of theft and leaks.

While Jacob is admiring the JLA, or at least Black Canary; Arthur is having financial trouble. Of course, he's responsible for the thefts in their lab, and is being blackmailed/lowballed into continuing the thefts. While he won't turn over his and Jacob's research, Arthur has no problem stealing his associates' work, which he does that night.

This time, Arthur is caught red-handed, by a new hero, Doctor Light. Frantically, Arthur tries to get away, but is caught; and just as suddenly released by the Doctor. Back at home, as Arthur ponders why he was let go, Jacob overplays his hand by calling and hinting that the thief was lucky to get away.

Now paranoid that Jacob will blackmail him, Arthur is then further shaken down by his first blackmailer, who wants Dr. Light's secrets. Later at work, Jacob is cleaning up the damage to the lab (mostly caused by himself) from the night before, when a console misfires and disentegrates him. Arthur is shaken, since he had been wishing he was strong enough to strike at Jacob only moments before; but the incident is declared an accident.

That night, Arthur is confronted by Jacob's ghost, but refuses to accept any guilt in Jacob's death. He accuses the ghost of toying with him. Fleeing, in what would be a recurring theme for the rest of his life, Arthur discovers light keeps the ghost away. He manages to get home, only to be confronted by his blackmailer's chauffeur. Desparate, Arthur goes back to the lab, sets up a forcefield to keep out security, and starts tearing it up, searching for Finlay's Dr. Light costume and gear.

As security tries to get through the force field, they cut the power, which kills the lights, which lets Finlay back at Arthur. Arthur protests that Finlay's not real, and as if to prove it, Finlay casually incinerates Arthur's blackmailer and chauffeur, via TV. OK, that's sorta impressive.

Arthur tries to explain the faulty console killed Finlay, and when he moves it, he discovers the hidden costume. Furious, he points out that the weapons in the suit could have interfered with the console, and Finlay probably caused his own death. Arthur uses the light weapons on the ghost, and declares himself Doctor Light.

Beaten, Finlay's ghost warns Light that if he doesn't get him, one of his "super-hero allies" will avenge him. Pretty chummy with a Justice League he never met, wasn't he? Arthur snaps back that he no longer has to fear ghosts, super-heroes, or "justice itself." Which is a pretty bold statement, as Light would then begin his career as whipping boy, easier to beat than a perp in shackles, as Chief Wiggum would say. There would have to be colossal satisfaction for Jacob Finlay in haunting someone so bumbling, ineffectual, and sad that they did all the work for you. Dr. Light's already living in hell, and while Jacob could make it worse, it's better to let Arthur know that he very well could, if he didn't think it was already bad enough.

Somewhere else in DCU canon, I had thought someone had previously established light kills ghosts, but I'm not sure where. Perhaps from Dr. Thirteen or one of the DC mystery/horror books.

I figured with Identity Crisis and Dr. Light's new persona of 'serial rapist,' this origin would be swept under the rug. But, a little research revealed that both of the above Doctors made appearances in Ostranders' Suicide Squad, with Arthur somehow managing to escape from hell...then sell his soul to Neron, around his appearance in JLA's "Rock of Ages" storyline. Not a man to learn from his mistakes, is the key takeaway here regarding Dr. Light.

What about the ghost Doctor, Jacob Finlay? The horror aspect of his fate seems even more grotesque all these years (and retcons) later: you invent a superhero suit, with the ultimate goal of dating Black Canary, then are killed by your best friend, who goes on to become a supervillain, who you haunt. With me so far? So Finlay haunts Dr. Light and has himself a good undead laugh over Light's jackassery as the Justice League, Teen Titans, and Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys kick six shades of snot out of him. Finlay's ghost could probably drag Light into hell at any time, or at the very least kill him; but is too busy enjoying watching him suffer here on earth.

Then the rapes start. And all of a sudden, haunting Light wouldn't be funny anymore, would it? And Finlay would be stuck, a mere ghost now, powerless to stop Light; and all of Light's crimes on Finlay's head because he toyed with him for years instead of finishing him.

But, Finlay's ghost has even less power than that, since I sincerely doubt we'll see him, or this origin, ever mentioned or referred to again. The continuity just doesn't fit, and I think Dr. Light's Underworld Unleashed look has also been quietly discarded. Maybe some things are bad enough alone. Maybe jamming this origin into the Identity Crisis version would be like cramming together jigsaw pieces that don't fit, like alien superheroes and USAF pilots with magic rings and Amazon princesses and serial rapists.

Back to the issue at hand, Arthur is called 'Arthur Smith' several times in the story, but on the door to their lab, he's listed as 'Arthur Light,' which I had thought was his real name. Also, on the letters page, there's a great writeup on the Doctor: "Well, if I had been unable to beat the Atom, I probably would have thought long and hard before going after Green Lantern, but I don't have a fin on my head either." That explains why he's been in Green Arrow, eh? (Yeah, I went there.) There's also an ad for Suicide Squad as well, featuring Dr. Light in the back row.

Hopefully, I'll be able to add more pictures for this one later tonight.

A quick question: can anyone name an Underworld Unleashed makeover that stuck?

Edit: And, they're not loading. Calling for high-speed tomorrow, I swear...

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