Day 110: Verna & Ray Johnson!

Sergeant Willie Walker, the alter ego of The Black Racer, is cared for by his sister Verna and her husband Ray Johnson, a young African American couple, and all three reside in a Metropolis ghetto apartment. We meet the couple on the final page of this issue after The Black Racer has transformed back into the paraplegic: “Moments later, the two people who have taken care of Willie Walker enter the room — his sister Verna and her husband, Ray Johnson.”

Verna: Willie! Willie! Oh, Ray — we shouldn’t have gone out and left him alone!

Ray: Willie’s okay! — I mean — as well as he could be! Besides, we arranged for the neighbors to check on him!

Verna: They were no help! They were busy with all that trouble tonight! We can’t let this happen again, Ray! We can’t leave Willie alone this way!

Ray: Well, who could foresee that they were gonna find a dead hoodlum outside this building?

Verna: Willie was here! He might have been hit by a stray bullet! And he can’t move or shout for help!

Ray: Yes, Willie must have heard the shots! But I’m sure he didn’t get involved for better reasons than our neighbors!

Verna: Well, they’re all excited now! The police are on their way!

Ray: Poor Willie! What must he be thinking?

We next see the pair very briefly in a pair of panels in the next issue, when after The Black Racer again assumes the war veteran’s identity, and smoke wafts about the air in his room. Verna enters and exclaims, “Willie! Willie! Are you all right? How did these fumes get in this room? I’ve taken all precaution against fire!” The next caption states, “Under the constant care of his sister and her husband, who would suspect that Sergeant Willie Walker is The Black Racer, messenger of death!?” A look of concern on her face, Verna thinks, “But how could this be?”

Their last appearance is in “Darkseid and Sons,” when…

In a shabbier district of the city, the gathering clouds of disaster have yet to shroud the sky! Willie Walker lies still as ever! — Unable to move — for all time!

Verna: Well! That takes care of your medication for today, Willie! It looks like big sister Verna is doing as well as any nurse!

Willie Walker is also forever silent! His eyes can move, but at this moment they are fixed on the distance –! — A distance far beyond his room –!

Verna: How do you like that! You’re paying no attention to me at all! I’ll just cut the chatter and say “good night”! I – I seem to have lost him again, Ray! He just doesn’t seem to hear or see us anymore!

Ray: Willie’s lost in the stars, Verna! I think nothing here has any meaning for him now!

Verna: We’re doing our best for him, aren’t we, Ray? Sometimes I think our marriage suffers for it!

Ray: Nonsense! Willie suffered for us in Vietnam! And we’re sticking with Willie — all the way!

Obviously we see a pattern here and I wonder where Jack would have gone to expand the formula. Verna frets about Willie’s vulnerability, Ray consoles his wife, and neither are aware that her brother is, for all practical purposes, the Grim Reaper himself. A completely paralyzed character is quite a challenge to flesh out, I should think!