FINAL CRISIS FLASHBACK: Doctor Light

Tue, September 16th, 2008 at 2:18pm PDT | Updated: September 16th, 2008 at 2:22pm

Comic Books
Brian K. Eason, Guest Contributor
23

Doctor Light first appeared in "Justice League of America" #12 in 1962, and began his association with Jacob Finlay in 1989's "Secret Origins" #37

Doctor Light.

Depending on where you fall in the age department, that name evokes in you a different reaction. If you are a fan of the Silver Age, Arthur Light was just one of any number of average, unremarkable villains that appeared in the pages of DC Comics' "Justice League of America." If you are a student of the Bronze Age, you likely remember Doctor Light as the somewhat bumbling and, frankly, laughable enemy of the "New Teen Titans." If you are a modern fan, you know who Doctor Light is: a predatory animal, a monster. In "Final Crisis: Revelations" #1 (August 2008), Light met his well-deserved end. It is likely that no one will eulogize him; this is the best he will get.

Dr. Arthur Light made his first appearance in June, 1962, in the pages of "Justice League of America" #12. Light was a physicist that had turned to crime. In "Secret Origins" #37 (February 1989), it was revealed that Arthur was the second Doctor Light, the previous being Arthur's lab partner when the pair worked for S.T.A.R. Labs. Arthur's partner was a physicist named Jacob Finlay, who developed a suit to control light and used it to become a superhero. Just as Finlay's career was beginning, Arthur killed him in a lab accident and then absconded with the both the suit and the Doctor Light identity. Light was haunted by the ghost of Finlay for years, but was always able to drive the spirit away using the light-producing powers of the stolen suit. Even in his origin, Light was an opportunistic loser.

Doctor Light has a history of going to Hell and back

Light was a very minor threat for many years, even a joke in some circles. He unsuccessfully battled the Justice League and after that enduring failure, moved on to the Teen Titans. When Light's plans to defeat the Titans failed, he recruited his own team, the Fearsome Five, but was eventually kicked out of the group he founded. Respect was something that Doctor Light could never seem to get. Each subsequent defeat was more humiliating than the last, the most embarrassing being at the hands of Little Boy Blue and his Blue Boys, a group of children who had no superpowers at all. It was then that Taskforce-X came to call.

Stuck in a downward spiral, haunted by the ghost of Finlay and paralyzed with doubts, Light volunteered to join Taskforce-X, the Suicide Squad. The Squad was composed of supervillains who sought to gain their freedom by undertaking dangerous missions for the US government. Light found no respect within his new team and was universally disliked, though he seemed desperate to be taken seriously and to be accepted by his fellow teammates. Loneliness, borderline insanity and a lack of self-worth finally drove Doctor Light to the edge. On a mission with the Squad, Arthur came face-to-face with a superpowered child named Sparkler (a member of the jingoistic Force of July). Sparkler's presence reminded Light of his many defeats at the hands of the Teen Titans and, in a fit of rage, Light struck out at the child and killed Sparkler with a beam of light through the chest.

Doctor Light's ceaseless failures as a villain were explained in "Identity Crisis," in which it was revealed Light was a serial rapist

Wracked with guilt over murdering a child, Light was easily persuaded by the ghost of Finlay to attempt to use his time with the Squad to do good, to become heroic, and to make up for his misdeeds. Like everything Arthur tried, this too was doomed to failure. Arthur's attempt at heroism was short-lived, literally. On Finlay's advice, Light travelled with other members of the Suicide Squad to the planet Apokolips. Battling the minions of Darkseid would truly have been a heroic feat; sadly for Arthur, he was killed by Parademons in short order, and then he went to Hell.

Sentenced to Hell for his misdeeds, Arthur found the old saying to be true: Hell really is other people. In this case, Arthur Light was reunited with Jacob Finlay, and the pair found themselves under the watchful eyes of a lesser demon and an abrasive, infernal assistant. Both Finlay and Light were finally released from Hell and returned to the land of the living, but Hell has a sense of humor, and the two men returned to life -- in their graves. Finlay clawed his way to the surface only to be killed by religious zealots. Arthur just smothered to death in his coffin.

By this point, death had become a revolving door for Arthur Light, and he returned to life once more. On the bright side, Light was finally free of Finlay, but on the other hand, Arthur was a cipher. He was irrelevant. Light attempted to possess the new heroic Doctor Light, Kimiyo Hoshi, and failed. He was turned into light and trapped inside a Green Lantern power battery. He later joined Lex Luthor's Injustice Gang. But he still never really mattered.

And then came "Identity Crisis."

Zatanna used her magic to render Doctor Light mostly harmless and incompetent

Doctor Light figured heavily in the controversial 2004 story by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales & Michael Bair, and it was revealed that he had, in the past, raped Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. The bumbling Arthur Light was, in fact, a serial rapist. A vote was taken among the Justice League members and it was decided that Zatanna, using magic, would render Doctor Light harmless, effectively lobotomizing the villain. And with that, the reasons for Light's constant failures and unending incompetence were explained. When Light recovered his memories of the event (as well as his stunted intelligence), the revitalized villain set out to take revenge on the Justice League.

However, when Light next appeared in the DC Universe it was not to take on the Justice League, but rather to exact revenge on his old enemies the Teen Titans. Using Green Arrow as bait, Light drew in the Titans and attacked them mercilessly. Unfortunately for Arthur, everyone who had ever laid claim to the title of Teen Titan decided to show up to the fight. Even restored to his truly monstrous nature, Light still couldn't catch a break. After yet another defeat, Light was rescued by Deathstroke and Ravager, who made Light an offer he couldn't refuse: a place in Lex Luthor's Secret Society of Super Villains. The villain, ever longing for respect and acceptance, took them up on the offer.

Within the Secret Society, Arthur Light became a passably effective member, aiding in attacks against Green Arrow and defeating and draining the power of the female Doctor Light (an act Arthur himself referred to as "rape"). In his boldest scheme, Light endeavored to murder Green Arrow's protoges, Speedy and Connor Hawke. During the attack, a shocking number of students were killed at Speedy's school. Once again, Light became a child-killer.

In "Final Crisis: Revelations" #1, Doctor Light met an ironic end at the hands of The Spectre

During the events of "Countdown to Final Crisis" and "Salvation Run," Light, along with most of the supervillains in the world, were banished by the US government to a prison colony planet. Not surprisingly, Light and the other villains who survived the otherworldly ordeal returned to Earth, and in the pages of "DC Universe Zero,"(June 2008), Arthur Light once again joined the Secret Society of Super Villains, this time under the leadership of the mysterious Libra. As a member of the Society, Light was teamed with Mirror Master, contributing to the murder of the Martian Manhunter, recovering the Mobius chair of the New God Metron, and battling and defeating the young heroes Mas Y Menos, Sparx and Empress.

In the pages of "Final Crisis: Revelations" #1 (August 2008), Arthur Light faced his final judgment. Doctor Light, in the process of staging a rape of several women dressed as the Teen Titans, is visited by the Spectre. The judgment is final, and the Spectre transformed Light into a giant candle and lit him afire. Arthur burned to death in a brutal mockery of the light that he used as a weapon.

The character of Doctor Light was, in many ways, a bit-player on the stage of the DC Universe. When he was a failure and a bumbler, he actually received some love and respect from fans. In the pages of "Suicide Squad" he was, indeed, a fan-favorite, but after "Identity Crisis," Light became a monster. His acts were beyond redemption, and while he may have become a genuine threat to the heroes of the DC Universe, he would never again be the villain you loved to hate -- there would just be hate. There will be no eulogies for Arthur Light, just judgment and a fade to black.

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TAGS:  final crisis, identity crisis, doctor light, dc comics, final crisis flashback

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