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Were My Chemical Romance's most iconic outfits inspired by the DC superhero the Ray? We think so (and hope so)

Did a 1994 DC ad in Wizard Magazine inspire one of the most iconic looks in rock n’ roll history?

My Chemical Romance / The Ray
Image credit: Various

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The year is 1994 and you’ve just cracked open a new issue of Wizard Magazine. The Image Comics boom is still in full swing and the pages are filled with coverage of comics outside the Big Two, Marvel and DC. Jim Shooter is going to write Youngblood! A computer program can help you keep track of your comic book collection! Spawn is teaming up with Batman! The dream of the 90s is alive in Wizard Magazine.

The Ray ad
Image credit: DC

But there is one advertisement that is different from the rest. It’s a photo of a male model with a quintessential floppy haircut. His brow is furrowed and he’s pouting ever so slightly. The photo is black and white, calling attention to the stark contrasting marching band-esque lines of his jacket, except for his hand which glows with yellow energy. The ad proclaims “Coming in March. The Ray. Monthly by Priest. Porter. Jones.”Nothing out of the ordinary here except that getting a real person to pose for a comic book ad might seem a little strange. But if you were a teenager in 1994 named Gerard Way who was a voracious comic book reader who worked in a comic book store in New Jersey and would eventually go on to start one of the biggest rock bands in history, is it possible that the look burrowed it’s way into your subconscious only to make its way to the surface for your career-defining third album?

Before we get to all that, though...

Who is The Ray?

The first Ray was created in 1940 for Quality Comics by Lou Fine. He would be introduced to the DC Universe via the Crisis on Infinite Earths event as one of the Freedom Fighters of Earth-X. But the Ray referenced above was created in 1992 by Jack C. Harris and Joe Quesada. Ray Terrill inherited his powers from his father. They allow him to fly, generate light and create light-based constructs. The suit he wears in the comics is pretty well-rendered in the advertisement - it’s a marching band-style jacket but the details are yellow. He also wears a helmet in the comics. When he is utilizing his powers, the costume tends to be rendered like Sunspot is in X-Men comics - all black save for those yellow details. So how are Ray Terrill and Gerard Way even connected? Let me explain.

The DC/My Chemical Romance connection

The Black Parade is a concept album revolving around the journey of a man named 'The Patient,' as he grapples with cancer. Through the album, we witness his perceived demise, ventures into the afterlife, and contemplation of his life's journey.

For the first music video, 'Welcome to the Black Parade,' costume designer Colleen Atwood was tapped to bring Gerard Way’s concept sketches to life. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because Atwood has been nominated for 12 Oscars for costume design, winning four for Chicago (2002), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Alice in Wonderland (2010), and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016). She would also link up with My Chemical Romance again in 2010 for their album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, designing the signature looks of the four protagonists based on Gerard Way’s sketches.

"I got involved because I did a video called 'The Black Parade' with Gerard, and we became friends, and stayed in touch. When he started this, he sent me his stuff, and asked if I was available to help him out. I said, 'Of course,’” Atwood told MTV in 2010.

So what’s the Ray got to do with this? Well, Atwood has costumed for a number of movies and TV shows including the three pillars of CW’s Arrowverse - Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl. Specifically, she designed each title character’s costume which in turn provided a foundation for many of the other superhero looks in the show. The Arrowverse would eventually embark on the Crisis crossover of their own that included a smorgasbord of characters from across the multiverse. And while Atwood is not the credited costume designer for the 2017 Flash episode 'Crisis on Earth-X: Part Three,' Russell Tovey does appear as The Ray. He doesn’t wear a marching band outfit but there are echoes of that 90s design and Atwood’s design sensibilities in costume designer Kate Main’s work.

So did a 90s comic book ad inspire the visual language of The Black Parade? It didn’t. Gerard Way has gone on the record as saying that he took inspiration from Adam Ant and the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s era. Even though he was an intern at DC right around the time that Priest’s Ray was in stores, we’ll have to file this one under “An Interesting Coincidence” for now. But we’ll be sure to ask Gerard the next time we see him.