Ray is a medium-sized, slender Mexican American with short dark hair. As a teenager, he hangs out with punks but often wears rather geeky-looking clothes (short-sleeved shirts with button necks, pants hiked well up, etc). As a young and middle-aged man, however, Ray favors a retro-50's style with jacket and tie. Later, Ray grows an awful gigolo mustache that makes him look even older and geekier than he really is.
Ray grows up in the lower-middle class Hoppers 13 neighborhood, which is not the toughest of Huerta's Mexican areas. As a small boy, Ray's life revolves around Christmas presents, TV, and comic books, and he later looks back on this time in his life with happy nostalgia. In these years, Ray also meets another small boy, Doyle Blackburn, who will remain his lifelong best friend.
Ray's life becomes more complicated in middle school and high school. He is very attracted to some of the girls in school and especially to Beatriz Garcia, a stunning girl from Texas, but he lacks courage with them. Ray often hangs out with Benny and Benny's older friend, Litos, and he joins them in some very minor juvenile delinquency. Here too Ray lacks courage, and he soon abandons such behavior. Ray is certainly not one of the coolest kids in Hoppers High, but he likes punk and has a good knowledge of music and he gets along well with much cooler people like Doyle and Litos.
Ray discovers art in high school and he is good enough to win a scholarship to an East Coast art school. Ray spends little time studying art, however, and he soon drops out of art school to have affairs with women, including an attractive but snobbish bisexual woman named Maya.
Ray paints rather purposelessly for several years and returns to Hoppers in the 80's. There he discovers that Litos and many other young men in the neighborhood are still locked in a destructive pattern of gang life. Ray also meets up with Maggie Chascarillo. Ray and Maggie knew each other slightly in high school and each was somewhat attracted to the other, but neither ever did anything about it. Now, as Litos, Speedy Ortiz, and Maggie's sister Esther become involved in a gang war, Ray and Maggie begin to turn towards each other for emotional support.
Ray begins to fall for Maggie, but Maggie is still missing her absent girlfriend Hopey Glass and sees Ray only as a friend. Maggie's feelings change later, after Speedy Ortiz kills himself and Hopey fails to return to Hoppers. She and Ray are boyfriend and girlfriend for about two years. They are apparently very happy with each other, but Maggie still misses Hopey. Penny Century (the former Beatriz Garcia) locates Hopey on the East Coast, and engineers a reunion between Hopey and Maggie. Ray, curiously enough, does not object when Maggie chooses to remain with Hopey, and he returns meekly to Hoppers. There, he soon becomes involved with Maggie's stripper friend Danita Lincoln. This relationship seems solid too, but Ray refuses to marry Danita. Danita finally joins Maggie in Texas and marries Diablo Blanco, a Mexican wrestler.
Ray is not alone for long. Penny Century has been coming on to him for some time, and for much of the 90' s she and Ray conduct a bizarre, on-again off-again affair. As soon as things threaten to become more serious, Penny abruptly vanishes from Ray's life with no explanation. A despondent Ray then moves to Los Angeles, where he holds a series of clerk and management jobs. Ray now enters the most difficult period in his life. He finds LA confusing and alienating. He loses whatever sexual confidence he had and becomes a classic middle-aged lonely guy, dreaming of Dolly Parton and Wonder Woman and browsing through porn magazines. Ray is stil obsessed with pop culture and watches old movies on TV, but he realizes that his musical taste is out of date and he has done nothing with his art talent in many years. He still pines hopelessly for Maggie, the great love of his life.
In the 2000's Ray's life becomes more complex and dangerous when he gets obsessed with a stripper and would-be actress named Vivian Solis, also known as Velvet or the Frogmouth. Vivian is a curvaceous, talkative bimbo with a gift for causing trouble and for dragging others into it. She has also had a brief affair with Maggie Chascarillo. Doyle Blackburn also reappears in Ray's life. Doyle is now involved in the fringes of the LA underworld with Sid Doan, Vivian's boyfriend. Doyle also makes sexual advances to Ray. This makes Ray acutely uncomfortable, but the friendship between the two is strong enough to survive the incident. Ray encounters Maggie again, but much to his frustration Maggie seems determined to keep her distance.
Rather to his surprise, Ray finally has sex with Vivian, but their relationship is difficult. Ray takes Vivian for granted, disparages her to others, and refuses to take risks for her. He also fails to conceal his continued attraction to Maggie from Vivian. Only gradually does Ray begin to see that Vivian is a real person and not just a sexual fantasy come to life. Vivian accepts Ray as her steady boyfriend, but in typical fashion she breaks up and reunites with him on a regular basis.
Most recently, Ray has begun to make art again for the first time in many years. However, his ego suffers a major blow when Maggie asks him to serve as a sperm donor for Hopey, who now wants to have a baby. Ray tells Maggie that he feels as if she is trying to use him, and this ends all hope Ray has of ever reuniting with Maggie.
Ray is one of the most self-revealing and self-aware characters in LOCAS. He often speaks directly to the reader in a Chandleresque monologue. Ray's self-awareness brings him no happiness, however. Ray is bright, decent, amiable, and easy-going, but at times he is almost a caricature of a nice guy. Ray envies the cooler people he knows because he is instinctively cautious and fearful, reluctant to take chances even for the people and things he cares about. He refuses even to fight for Maggie's love and loyalty when Hopey comes back into the picture. He is talented and perceptive, but he lacks the determination and strength of character to get the most out of his talent and act on his perceptions. In middle age, he is constantly doing things and putting himself in situations that he is really too intelligent for. Ray is much more than a surrogate but he sometimes serves as a mouthpiece for the author, Jaime Hernandez, and Hernandez says that Ray is what he might be if he lacked ambition.