Dr Light is a second rate villain, and a first class heroine. Funnily enough, I prefer the latter version.
Kimiyo Hoshi, AKA Dr Light, a Japanese astronomer, scientist, medical doctor and mother, was introduced in the original 1985-6 Crisis storyline. Struck by an immense wave of power sent to Earth by the Anti-Monitor, she received the powers of “photonics” and could bend and manipulate light with her mind.
She became an occasional member of the Justice League in the late 80’s, dropping in for occasional missions, but joined them full time after Justice League Europe moved to London, eventually taking on greater responsibilities with the UN as Justice League International. She also changed her costume from all white to all yellow, which might seem like a trivial detail, but marks the point at which she became a fully fledged character.
Kimiyo can use her photonics powers to create hard light illusions and to fly, but for the most part uses them to blast shit up. She also serves as the token ‘scientist’ on the team, which means of course that she has a passing knowledge/full blown expertise in anything remotely technical that is required for the plot, including teleport systems, computers, biology, electronics, medicine/surgery and, well, you get the general idea.
Originally written as a hard-edged, uncompromising career astronomer, Kimiyo went through a personal journey (originally inspired by the death of Supergirl, though the erasure of that character meant that her motives were vaguer in later stories) in which she tried to be a nicer and less selfish person. This was certainly the case when she was re-introduced into the Justice League, as her personality was far gentler and prone to hesitation. It didn’t help that she was portrayed at times through the Justice League Europe days as hanging back, or playing with her hair. This was actually pointed out to her on more than one occasion in the narrative.
At one point during Justice League International Kimi suggested to Power Girl (whose aggressive persona was suddenly being acknowledged in the narrative as something to be worried about) that her own previously “bitchy” persona may have been caused by food additives and suggested that Kara too consider laying off the artificial sweeteners. YES THIS IS A CONVERSATION THAT HAPPENED IN COMICS.
Most of all what I remember of Kimiyo in her Justice League days is the role she played as friend and teammate. She developed a sweet friendship with Wally West’s Flash (he gave her the nickname ‘Keychain’ after she told him her nickname in Japanese would be Ki-chan) as well as with the women of the group, and was particularly maternal with Maya, the thirteen-year-old Indian superheroine who fled her family to find sanctuary with the Justice League.
Speaking of maternity, Kimiyo was a mother of two children whom she had left in the care of her own mother back in Japan, and featured/were referenced in Justice League stories far less often than the kids of Rocket Red or Animal Man. I only remember one actual appearance of the kids, in a Justice League Quarterly one-shot about a budding romance between Kimiyo and the Global Guardian Rising Sun.
But Kimiyo wasn’t just the nurturing tech support of the team. She began to take on more and more of a leadership role, as the JLI’s technical and admin support drifted away from the comic with the absence of Catherine Cobert and then Sue Dibny. They had gone through a couple of ‘headline act’ leaders in the team in this era, notably Aquaman and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), but both suffered from the old problem of mixed loyalties, and when Hal’s responsibilities and dramas in his own title (incluidng Becoming Evil) took him away from the team one last time, Doctor Light stepped up to do his job.
As the new Justice League International, the team took on serious roles as ambassadors of peace and general goodwill, and there was a substantial storyline about them travelling a great deal, split up across various embassies, representing the UN. At the same time, Kimiyo developed an odd friendship with a disembodied spirit she called Erewhon, who could only speak to her by possessing various bodies. He made it clear that he was in love with her, but she never said anything about whether or not she reciprocated – she did, however, use her work in hard light to create something of a body for him, so that he could communicate if not enjoy any actual human senses.
All of these storylines – Maya’s development, Kimiyo’s work on Erewhon, Power Girl’s mood swings and unexpected mystical pregnancy (yes, really), as well as a whole lot of intergalactic soap opera, came to a crashing halt when the JLI was swept between two major DC crossover events which had little to do with the development of their characters.
In Judgement Day, all of the Justice League teams joined forces to fight the Overmaster, and a leadership rift between the aggressive Captain Atom, and the ‘let’s talk strategy instead of rushing off with guns like an idiot’ Wonder Woman, Kimiyo didn’t even consider putting in her own claim to leadership. Instead she sided with Captain Atom first, as part of her character arc of trying to be more active instead of passive, though she told him to his face she thought Wonder Woman was the more intelligent leader.
After the dust cleared, and the teams mourned the death of their sweet friend Ice as well as many other emotional dramas, Captain Atom and Wonder Woman started politicking to form their own teams. While several JLI members such as Crimson Fox and Metamorpho picked a side, others like the Flash went off on their own.
Issue 67 of Justice League International (August 1994) was not the final issue of the run, but it was the last from their creative team at the time, including writer Gerard Jones, and felt very much like a hasty finale for the series, as Issue 68 was mostly an introduction to the next big DC Event, Zero Hour.
Kimiyo, Maya and Kara were reluctant to lose each other, but all had family reasons to leave the League. Maya’s family had returned to make amends for how they had failed her in the past and while Kimiyo was angry about at first she eventually listened to Maya and supported the teenager’s choice to give them another chance. This, combined with Kara’s fears of her pregnancy, also made Kimiyo suddenly remember her own children, abandoned for so long. Her friendship with Maya showed her that she could be a mother as well as have a career, and that if she was going to sacrifice an element of her life, maybe this time it could be the superheroing. (she wasn’t going home just to be with her children, but also referred to getting a research job)
There was also a throwaway line about her planning to fix Erewhon, who had been damaged and rendered inert in recent events. His plot line was never resolved beyond this.
A final showdown with the representatives of the UN, including their friends Maxwell Lord and Catherine Cobert, was emotionally painful but it was very clear that the financial support was gone and any Justice League that remained would be independent. Kimiyo, Kara and Maya chose to leave, and even a final battle at Wonder Woman’s side and the revelation that they were deeply (finally) appreciated by the ordinary people on the street, was not enough to make them stay.
Which would actually have been a pretty awesome note to end on. But of course, this is comics, and no one gets a forever happy ending.
Over the last decade or more, Doctor Light has turned up every now and then for group events, and even briefly ran a version of the Justice League herself. Her powers (and memory) were completely drained at one point in the Infinite Crisis storyline by Arthur Light (remember I said there was also a Doctor Light who was a second rate villain? That guy. Don’t even talk to me about that guy) though she later reappeared as if this had never happened.
She has been seen working for S.T.A.R. Labs in Metropolis, and working as a business executive in Star City, as well as briefly flirting with inclusion in the Birds of Prey. Ah, Kimiyo and your elastic credentials, you will never be out of work. She also occasionally has remembered her children and retired from superheroing more than once to go back to them, whenever a writer wants her out of the way.
I often wondered how those kids of hers turned out. Unfortunately, this is comics, so kids don’t get to grow up. Otherwise we would have known by now which of them ended up a super villain, and which one inherited her mother’s skills at ALL THE SCIENCE.
But what about the New 52? Kimiyo was not included in the more recent version of Justice League International (for which fans of the character should be supremely grateful), and as far as I can gather, she doesn’t seem to have appeared in the new continuity. Someone tell me if I’m wrong! She did appear in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, and apparently is also appearing in Young Justice.
Considering that DC have been making at least grudging attempts to support diversity in their comics, and that Kimiyo Hoshi is indeed the most readily employable character you can imagine, it’s a shame that such a useful character hasn’t been given a place in the new DCU, in print anyway. Maybe Birds of Prey could use her, now they don’t have Oracle’s techy smarts to call upon? HAS ALL THE SCIENCE, WILL TRAVEL.
Where the Wonder Women Are:
1: Black Canary
4: Black Widow
5: Wonder Girl
6: Captain Marvel
8: Abigail Brand
15. Jean Grey
17. Emma Frost
19. Lady Sif
21. The Wasp
23. Misty Knight (and Colleen Wing)
25. Kitty Pryde
26. Crimson Fox
27. The Invisible Woman