Bonus Book #2 – Doctor Light (May, 1988)
“Light at the End of the Tunnel”
Writer – George Broderick, Jr.
Pencils – Gordon Purcell
Inks – Timothy Dzon
Letters – Dan McKinnon
Colors – Glenn Whitmore
Edits – Barbara Randall
Consultant – Marv Wolfman
A… Doctor Light story? Really? That’s what we’re doing here today? Well, this is probably going to be weird, innit? It’s also likely to be read by less people than I can count on one hand!
This Bonus Book was shoved into the staples of Flash (vol.2) #12 (May, 1988).
We open with Doctor Light (the bad one) being transported from a high-security prison to a… less, I dunno, notorious setting? Ya see, ain’t nobody taking this fella seriously enough to keep in Max-Sec. During the trip from Rykers Island to the… uh, Parma County Correctional Work Farm… Light is pretty much left to his own devices… which just goes to show how seriously they’re taking him. Anyhoo, he triggers a light show from some little chip in his fingernail, which blinds his driver and guard. Escaping the bus, Artie finds himself at the town line of… Radiance, Pennsylvania.
Light sneaks into town, and realizing he’ll need to be better-dressed… or at least more casually-dressed to fit in, trades clothes with a local yokel… which is to say, knocks some dude out, and swaps gear. The police, hot on his trail, mistake the yokel in prison togs for Dr. Light… under the assumption that one of his powers has to do with changing his appearance with holograms or something. With the heat off, Light starts heading down the main drag.
It’s here we meet a trio of young boys… Shawn Rogers, Static Simms, and Stats Mehlville. Any of those surnames ring a bell? Of course they don’t… unless you’re a big-time Golden Age comics fan. They’re being menaces, in the Dennis sense of the word… skateboarding down the (relatively) busy street. Just being kids, ya know? Anyhoo, they’re stopped by a Police Officer, who just so happens to be one of the boys’ father, and get a weak lecture on responsibility… in the shadow of Radiance Founder Hosiah Fitz’s statue. It’s really wholesome… so wholesome, in fact, that it makes Dr. Light wanna hurl… and, change his clothes.
Meanwhile, in Parma… not-Dr. Light is steadfast in the fact that he’s, ya know, not Dr. Light. The Warden decides to call the Teen Titans to confirm… however, their conversation is cut short when someone attacks Titan’s Tower. Okay, then.
Back in Radiance, the Mayor’s office is full of local business owners, all complaining about some very recent thefts. The Mayor, by the way, is the father of another one of those boys we just met. The locals are ticked off about this “crime wave” and are holding the Mayor’s feet to the fire. Outside, Shawn, Stats, and Static… wait, we’ve got a Stats and a Static? Okay then… whatever the case, they’re outside on the Courthouse steps pondering how they might help track down the baddie.
After another brief stop in Parma, where not-Dr. Light is diagnosed as being in self-denial, we get the big Radiance Reveal. Doctor Light, in all his glory, struts into the square. Ya see, he’s the guy who stole a bunch of stuff from the local shops… in order to put together his classic costume. Gotta say, dude’s like a ninja with a sewing machine.
He threatens the town… basically saying he wants to take it over. Naturally, nobody takes this seriously in the slightest. And so, he points at the statue of Hosiah Fitz… and vaporizes the darn thing! This tells the Radiants… Radians… Radiantese… the common folk, that he means business.
He even gets into a stare-down with that local cop from earlier… ya know, whichever kid’s father that was… and, the local “blinks” first.
And so, Doctor Light has taken over the town of Radiance, PA! Like, for real… he now runs the place! Even got himself an army of delinquents to “keep the peace” for him! Thing of it is, he’s so paranoid that he’s going to be found out, that he’s basically locked himself in an office. His paranoia is so out of control (almost at Chris-levels) that he even second-guesses taking a swig of water from the cooler, fearing it’s been poisoned!
Meanwhile, dem boys are still trying to figure out a way they might help out. They head to one of their houses, where they discover an old journal. This journal reveals that all three of their fathers were… Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys! The who, now? Well, these are the Golden Agers I was talking about earlier (first appearance: Sensation Comics #1 – January, 1942)… I won’t even pretend to have ever heard of them before now (making me perhaps a true rarity in the comics-commentary community)! Along with the journal, they happen across all of the colorful costumes their Pops’ had worn back in the 40’s! You see where this is going, surely?
The kids get suited up, and endeavor to partake in some “creative problem solving”. Ya see, they doubt very highly that an idiot like Dr. Light could actually recreate his supervillain costume. They figure there’s gotta be a “gimmick”. And so, they ultimately deduce (in surveying everything that Light had stolen before his “demonstration”) that the most likely scenario was: Artie used a remote detonator using radio frequencies to make it appear as though he could destroy a statue by simply pointing at it. Ya dig?
And so, they head over to Dr. Light’s office to… ya know, screw with him a bit. After launching a smoke canister through his window, Artie runs out to see what the hub-bub’s about. When he sees the Blue Boys (II), he threatens with more vaporization. And, he… ya know points. Nothing happens. He points again… still nada. Ya see, the Blue Boys (two) have jammed the radio frequency he was using to make things go boom, rendering him… powerless. Dr. Light decides to attempt beating a hasty retreat.
The Blue Boys (dos) trip the baddie up, and before we know it, he’s loaded back on the bus headed to Parma. Not-Dr. Light is returned home… likely ready to prepare a rather large lawsuit! We also get a somewhat touching scene between father-and-son-Blue-Boys.
We close out back in Dr. Light’s cell, where he’s in the middle of writing a missive to… Amanda Waller! Hmm…
This was… cute. Wasn’t expecting this one to be quite as much fun as it turned out being… I also wasn’t expecting it to both tie into Golden Age continuity and facilitate Dr. Light joining up with the Suicide Squad! It’s crazy… this story actually mattered! I really wasn’t expecting that!
I appreciate any nods to past continuity… and as I was reading this in bed last night, I was searching for any information I could find on the Blue Boys on my phone… if you’re going to do the same, might I suggest making sure your SafeSearch is on. Ahem. I kid, I kid. Not about the search though! I had to find out if this was a legit reference to the past or not… and I was delighted to find out that it was. Absolutely love this sort of thing!
I thought Doctor Light was handled very well here. I really dug his paranoia setting in as his plan appeared to be coming together. It really shines a light (no pun intended) on what a bad supervillain he’s always been, when an actual victory is enough to really get under his skin! I mean, I really like that idea. This dude is so used to losing, his plan doesn’t even have a “Step 2”. He’s just waiting for the walls to close in. Love it!
The kids discovering their dads’ old togs? It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it works. I thought the kids were a lot of fun… and wanting to “do good” by their sleepy town is reason enough for them to don the hoods. Lotta fun.
Now to check in on our New Talents:
According to the DC Wiki… our writer, George Broderick did not go on to become a DC Comics mainstay… in fact, this story is the only thing attributed to him. That’s a shame… I’ve always got time for creators who try and weave bits and pieces of lore into their stories… without making it come across as a blatant nostalgia-wank. Looks like where Broderick excelled was in his cartooning… and you can check out some of his stuff on his website!
Our artist, Gordon Purcell, (again, according to the DC Wiki) would go on to become a penciller for DC’s Star Trek comics… which, you know I’ve never read. He’s even listed as the writer for one of those issues! He would get some work at Marvel and later go on to provide art for licensed titles at IDW and for JMS’s Joe’s Comics over at Image. Pretty good! For this story to be among his earlier work… well, you’d never know! He’s got a really good handle on just about everything… you show this one to anybody, and I doubt anyone would suggest it’s someone’s “try out”.
Overall… this was way more fun than it had any right to be. A great outing for some new creators.
(Not the) Letters Page: