Published on April 25th, 2014 | by Brad0
Booster Gold – The Greatest Hero You’ve Never Heard Of… Until Now!
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! The gold standard in superheroics is here! You’ve been saved by the rest, now be saved by the best! Protecting his past to preserve your future! It’s Booster Gold!
DC comics this week released their September solicits a couple of months early, in order to avoid repeating the ordering problems experienced on the 3D covers for last year’s September event, Villains Month. This year, September’s event sees every book jump five years into the future, tying into the weekly Futures End book launching imminently on Free Comic Book Day. An intriguing selection of teasers, in the main, but with one exciting announcement sneaking in under the radar – a new Booster Gold comic was amongst the titles announced. At the time of writing, no creative team has been announced – nor indeed if this is a one-off or the start of an ongoing – but I am there either way.
Making his debut in 1986, the creation of Dan Jurgens (Death and Return of Superman), Booster Gold was the first new superhero to debut in the DC Universe post-Crisis on Infinite Earths. Nearly three decades later, after two volumes of his solo series, multiple incarnations of Justice League International and sporadic TV appearances, I want to take a look at the cult appeal of The Greatest Hero You’ve Never Heard Of, and recommend some stuff you really ought to Consume.
Showcase Presents: Booster Gold
Our story begins in the summer of 1984. In the build-up to the Los Angeles Olympics, writer-artist Dan Jurgens was struck by a news story about an athlete signing a major endorsement deal before he had even won a medal. Inspired by this crass story of greed and commercialism, Jurgens envisioned the notion of a superhero who was out for fame, fortune and endorsement deals. Booster Gold would still save the day first, but if after doing so he turned to the news cameras and plugged his sponsor’s product and pocketed some cash, where was the harm?
His origin’s a cracker; in the year 2462, Gotham University’s star quarterback Michael Jon “Booster” Carter is caught betting on his own matches. Banned from the sport and in disgrace, Michael leaves Gotham and takes the only job he can get, as night watchman at Metropolis’ Space Museum. Inspired by the Hall of Heroes exhibit, showcasing the age of superheroes (i.e. the present day DCU), Michael steals some weapons, security robot Skeets, and the first time machine ever built, and comes to our time to seek fame and fortune as a superhero.
Booster’s debut, in the aftermath of the legendary Crisis on Infinite Earths, is very much a product of its time. In moral standing, he is Gordon Gecko to Superman’s Tom Joad. Beneath that avarice-driven exterior, though, beats the heart of a hero, and as the series progresses he truly takes on that mantle. Jurgens is a fantastic writer and artist, and this is some of his best work. Stocked with a colourful selection of rogues and allies, Booster Gold’s debut series leaves an indelible impression, and paved the way for the fantastic books that were to come.
The Showcase Presents line of books is an interesting curio. The paper stock they’re printed on isn’t the best, and they’re in black and white rather than colour, but the trade-off is you get a collection of about 30-odd comics for about £15. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for someone extensively collected in colour, a la Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or Flash, but if you’re looking to collect something a little more on the obscure side, in the mould of a Booster Gold, I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Justice League International
In the wake of the 1986 crossover Legends, a new Justice League was formed. Where traditionally the Justice League has been a collection of the World’s Finest Heroes, this incarnation was more of a ragtag bunch. Under the leadership of Batman and Martian Manhunter, the JLI included the likes of Blue Beetle, Black Canary, Mister Miracle, Dr Fate, Dr Light and, from issue 4, Booster Gold. Under the writing team of Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis, as well as the fabulous artwork by Kevin Maguire, greater emphasis was placed on the humour and the character interactions than the superheroics, though they too were great, and at the heart of that was the greatest bromance in all of comics, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle.
Booster’s friendship with Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, is one of the great double-acts in superhero comics. Ted is the creation of the great Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Dr Strange), and was one of the Charlton comics line of heroes incorporated into the DCU after DC’s purchase of Charlton in 1985. He provides the basis for Nite Owl in Alan Moore’s seminal Watchmen. The funniest moments in JLI tend to feature Booster and Ted and their get-rich-quick schemes, culminating in the infamous Kooey Kooey Kooey island incident (I’ll say no more. Suffice to say it’s HILARIOUS). Their partnership would come to define both characters over the years, and they’re neither of them ever better than when they’re together.
52 is the greatest crossover event ever written. A weekly series published in the aftermath of 2005’s Infinite Crisis event, as the rest of the DCU leapt forward to One Year Later, 52 was to fill in the missing year. The premise, however, was to tell this missing year from the perspective of a selection of more obscure characters, the likes of Booster Gold, Dr Will Magnus, Elongated Man, Renee Montoya, and a whole bunch of other characters you won’t have heard of if you’re not into comics. I intend to go into a lot more detail about how great 52 is in a later article, so for now I’ll just say this – 52 is essential. The combination of Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Greg Rucka is a spectacular one, and they more than deliver the goods.
From a Booster perspective, 52 is the series that first pairs him up with Professor Rip Hunter, inventor of time travel, and self-appointed protector of the time stream. This partnership would provide the basis for Booster’s second solo series.
Booster Gold: 52 Pick-Up and Blue & Gold
After the monster financial success of 52, DC were eager to spin as many titles as they could out of it. The best of these was unquestionably the second volume of Booster Gold. Initially co-written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, with art by Jurgens and Norm Rapmund, the series follows Booster’s training under Rip Hunter to become a Time Master, and protect the time-stream, left vulnerable by events in Infinite Crisis and 52. Johns and Katz left after the Blue & Gold arc, with Jurgens taking over writing duties for the bulk of the remainder of the series, with a year of Giffen and DeMatteis in the middle.
This series coincides with the time I was getting into superhero comics, to the point where Booster Gold #27 (a tie-in to the Blackest Night crossover that was going on at the time) was the first single issue of a superhero comic I ever bought. As such, this really holds a special place in my heart. The year of Johns and Katz is sensational, creating the ingenious new status quo for Booster, and Jurgens, Giffen and DeMatteis write him as excellently as ever. Between 52 and his solo series, Booster Gold in the latter part of the 2000s is as good as superhero comics get, for me, and I really can’t recommend these books highly enough.
Justice League: Generation Lost
You’ll notice a trend when talking about DC comics history, particularly in the last 30 years since Crisis on Infinite Earths (expect an anniversary event next April), that a bulk of their comics have to be prefaced with “Tying into [Event X]” or “Spinning out of [Event Y]”. It can make the things seem impenetrable, and is anathema to attracting new readers. That said, bear with me here.
Tying into the bi-weekly Brightest Day event, itself a spin-off from Blackest Night, Justice League: Generation Lost follows Booster as he is forced to reconstitute the JLI to pursue a former ally turned enemy, recently returned from the dead. It’s a deeply personal quest for all involved, as this enemy killed one of their own before his own death, and it’s a superb showcase for what a great hero Booster has become, as even the great Batman follows his lead on this adventure. Judd Winnick, though oft-criticised, is capable of pulling off some stunning superhero work, and this is one of his best. It’s difficult to maintain momentum over a 26-issue storyline, but this never lets up the pace for a moment. One of the last things that was coming out before Flashpoint and The New 52, and it’s a great last hurrah for the pre-New 52 JLI.
Assorted TV appearances
Thus far, The New 52 has yet to see a great Booster Gold story. With Ted Kord set to make his debut in the new continuity as Forever Evil (another event!) draws to a close, and Booster set to return after a protracted absence, hopefully that will change this year. However, Booster has, on a few occasions, been represented on the TV. I’d like to take a quick look at the two most noteworthy of these;
Justice League Unlimited: The Greatest Story Never Told
Firstly, if you haven’t seen Justice League or Justice League Unlimited, why not? They’re second only to their own predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series, as the greatest superhero cartoon ever. The first two series of Justice League dealt with a smaller team, but the three series of JLU expanded the roster to cover just about every hero in the DCU at large. Booster Gold’s showcase came in the seventh episode of series one. Having been relegated to crowd control by Batman, while the League face off against the evil wizard Mordru in the background, Booster becomes involved in a much more serious situation. The episode is almost the quintessential Booster Gold story, covering his origin, glory-hunting, humour and heroism in a fantastic half-hour. The punchline, that Booster prevented the greater threat but has to be unnoticed and unacknowledged, in spite of his lust for fame and glory, provides the template for his second solo series adventures. Great cartoon.
Over ten years, Smallville told the tale of the young Clark Kent, and his rise to the destiny we all know lies in store for him. As the show approached its endgame, Geoff Johns contributed the script for an episode named Booster. Booster Gold and his love of the limelight is used to counterpoint Clark’s need to be anonymous as Clark Kent, so that he can become a public face as Superman. Frankly, was there ever a better fit for that role? To portray the Man of Gold opposite the future Man of Steel, the producers turned to American soap star Eric Martsolf. Martsolf absolutely owns the role, his charisma and Booster Gold’s larger-than-life persona completely blowing Tom Welling and the rest of the cast off the screen. The episode is a solid enough affair, but for Booster Gold fans, it’s a must, just for Martsolf’s performance, and the joy of seeing Booster portrayed in live action.
Booster Gold has been through a lot since his debut back in 1986 as a greedy former athlete and criminal. One thing that has remained constant though is that he is one of the most compelling, uniquely entertaining characters on DC’s rich superhero roster. Booster Gold will return in September. I hope you’ll be reading. I know I certainly will.