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The Purple Ray is a fictional Lazarus-like healing device featured in Wonder Woman comics that was meant to bring a person back from the dead. Created by William Moulton Marston, it is still unclear what this creation was meant to allegorize and what the significance of assigning the color purple was.
Prior to the comic book storyline Crisis on Infinite Earths, Diana invented the Purple Ray in order to heal Steve Trevor from injuries he sustained when his plane was shot down and he was left adrift in the sea for days.[volume & issue needed]
The Purple Ray was an all-around healing device. Variations on the concept survived into Earth-1, post-Crisis, post-Zero Hour and post Infinite Crisis  continuities.[volume & issue needed] Once it was used to revive the JSA members, who had been killed by an insane wax museum guard who had disguised himself as historical villains.
The Purple Ray is noteworthy for restoring Steve Trevor to health, as well as being modified to transfer power from many of the Paradise Island Amazons to Donna Troy, so that she would have powers of her own similar to those of her sisters. Much later, the ray started having technical problems, which caused moments of weakness for Troy, forcing her to explain her past to the Teen Titans. However, the Amazons later contacted her to explain the problem and the fact that they solved it. On another occasion it was used to revive Changeling of the New Titans, somehow increasing his powers in the process.
The Purple Ray was shown to have destructive power if allowed to overload. In Wonder Woman (vol. I) #322, an insane love-god Eros went on a rampage and set out to kill Steve Trevor. In the ensuing battle, the Purple Ray was damaged and overloaded, bursting into a destructive heat beam that caused a fire on Paradise Island. It was then repaired temporarily to heal Trevor of injuries he sustained at Eros's hands; when the mad god attempted to intervene, its healing powers cured Eros of his insanity by removing his memories of his time as Steve Trevor — and transplanted them into Trevor. Later, in issue #328, the Purple Ray was intentionally engineered to fire its life-giving energies into a gigantic Shadow Monster sent by the Anti-Monitor to destroy the Amazon nation, resulting in the destruction of the Shadow Monster.
After the storyline Crisis on Infinite Earths, the origin of the Purple Ray underwent another change. While the Baroness Paula von Gunther was used as the creator of the Purple Ray, the origin story also involved the use of the villain Dark Angel as a reason for its creation. Once the Baroness was freed from the dark spirit's influence, she agreed to live on Themyscira (also known as Paradise Island) with the Amazons.[volume & issue needed] During her time there she has worked side-by-side with the Amazons perfecting the Purple Ray to help benefit the island's people.[volume & issue needed]
In this Modern Age timeline, the Purple Ray is able to completely heal a vast array of injuries, except the most severe, because repeated exposure to the Purple Ray can overtax natural healing abilities. In cases of severe injury it's possible to expose the wounded to smaller doses of the Ray during a longer period. The Purple Ray is also unable to cure wounds inflicted by gods, or their agents, like the Gorgon. It is revealed in Supergirl that the ray is also useless to cure cancer.[volume & issue needed]
A "Purple Death Ray" was later introduced. After a rogue U.S. government agency attacked the island, the Amazons altered the Purple Ray to emit from a massive cannon. The Purple Ray was altered to destroy matter as opposed to heal it. On two separate occasions the U.S. government has tried to coerce the Amazons into handing over the plans on how to create their own Purple Ray technology, the latter of which included the illegal prison detainment and physical torture of Wonder Woman.
In the Secret Six comic an Amazon was introduced who oversaw the maintenance of the Purple Ray. She began wounding herself to see how thorough the Purple Ray could heal, each time wounding herself more seriously. Eventually she was able to grow whole limbs back once severed. After many years she discovered she no longer needed to use the Purple Ray as her wounds began to heal themselves due to prolonged exposure to the ray.
The Amazons are shown to reside on the planet Venus in the 853rd century. There they use the Purple Ray to revive their warriors from temporary death brought about by brutal gladiatoral battles the Amazons engage in among one another.
In other media
- In the DC Animated movie, Justice League: Doom, Wonder Woman offered Batman a session with her "healing ray" after he gets injured in their battle with the Royal Flush Gang.
- Superman Beyond #1
- Teen Titans #22 (July-August 1969)
- New Teen Titans #11 (September 1981)
- Infinite Crisis #3 (December 2005)
- Wonder Woman (vol. 3) #7 (June 2007)
- Secret Six #14 (October 2009)
- Wonder Woman One Million Special (November 1998)