NOTE: The Odinson is out of the office this week. But do not fret. Here’s one from the Vault.
(Originally posted September 28th, 2018)
Greetings from the Odinson,
Stop me if you have heard this one before? A man travels to the present from the future and uses his knowledge of history to become the world’s greatest super hero. Only problem is he is not the world’s greatest super hero, not even close. In fact, he is considered by many to be nothing but a joke and C-Lister at best. So, what happened? Where did it go wrong for this champion? How did an original character with all the potential in the world fall so far? What Happened to Booster Gold?
The Odinson Discusses the Rise and Fall of Booster Gold
What Made Booster so Interesting?
Believe it not, boys and girls, between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryas* there was a time in comic book history when writers and artist would actually create original characters to introduce to the medium and not rely solely on regurgitated and derivative ideas. In the case of DC Comics, characters like Starfire, Raven, Amethyst, Blue Devil, KGBeast, Bane, and a few others are among the most interesting new characters introduced to comics since the Marvel Age. Booster Gold was created in 1986 by the great Dan Jurgens, an amazing writer/artist that would go on to have legendary runs on Superman, Thor, and Captain America. Booster was among the first generation of new heroes and villains to be introduced into a Post-Crisis DC Universe.
His origin story is actually quite interesting.
Booster was a star athlete in the 25th Century. However, his reputation and financial prospects took a terrible nose dive when he purposely threw a game to cover a bet for his manipulative, gambling father. Disgraced and out of opportunities, Booster got a job working at a museum. It was here that his plan for success was concocted. He stole artifacts from the museum, a Legion of Super-Heroes flight ring, a belt that can erect an impenetrable force field, and Rip Hunter’s time machine. Then, along with Skeets, a sentient robot with a vast encyclopedic archive of historical events, Booster traveled back in time where he used these artifacts and this knowledge to become rich, and a super hero.
So, he can be manipulated, like when his father talked him into throwing a game. He does the right things and is heroic, albeit for selfish reasons and personal gain. He is arrogant and self-important, but also self-deprecating and not too bright. Booster Gold is a complicated and rather flawed hero. And, it is these very complexities that make him an interesting character.
*NOTE: In the Conan metaphor above the “oceans” are the corporate Bigwigs that have cannibalized our beloved medium (Atlantis) with commercialism, forced agendas, and closed-door policies on new ideas, and the “sons of Aryas” are the modern day fans that will grow up to become the creators of tomorrow and hopefully usher in a new age undreamed of.
Not to get off on a rant here, so back to the topic at hand.
A Star is Born
Right off the bat, Booster’s real name – Michael Jon Carter – is one of the coolest secret identity names ever. With his chiseled features, sculpted physique, and winning smile, Booster was instantly a hit with the ladies, and the fans. Booster, alongside Blue Beetle, was a standout character during Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire’s humorous run on the Justice League. During these early years, Booster attempted to establish a rivalry and challenge Superman for the title of world’s greatest hero (see Booster Gold #7 and 23 and Action Comics #594). Booster was actually riding pretty high during this time as a prominent member of the Justice League and a highly successful business man. Though he had flaws, Booster was proving to be quite a capable member of the DCU’s super hero community, even in spite of his original intentions.
Pride Goes Before the Fall
However, Booster’s financial windfall came crashing down when the devious Manhunters launched their Millennium campaign. Booster plays a pivotal role in helping the heroes stop the Manhunters and their plot, but considering Booster’s past and his ambiguous actions, even coming to blows with his fellow Leaguers, some heroes are left wondering if Booster’s heroic turn at the end was altruistic or self-preservation? (See Booster Gold #24-25 and Millennium #6-7.)
As the 80s turned into the 90s, Booster was broke and the reputation of the Justice League being the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes was taking some serious shots. There was great dilution of the product, as the team’s roster grew to nearly unmanageable numbers (see the evolution of the roster just from Justice League America #1 to #24). Also, Booster’s self-defeating behavior started to rear its ugly head once more. Together with his partner in crime, Blue Beetle, Booster set out to get-rich-quick by building a casino on an island. This endeavor failed miserably as the heroes went bankrupt and the island (it turns out to be a sentient being) simply swam away (see Justice League America #33-35). Then, his team was dealt two major blows – being nearly destroyed by the return of Despero and being completely dismantled by the monster Doomsday.
What came next was perhaps the most erroneous use of our hero to date. DC turned Booster Gold into a 90s cliché, complete with clunky armor, a cybernetic arm, and a new angsty attitude (see Extreme Justice). By the turn of the century, a character that had all the potential to be great was all but abandoned and forgotten.
The Come Back
In the New Millennium, Booster would experience a renaissance. Unfortunately, the catalyst for this resurgence would be the murder of his best friend, Blue Beetle, at the hands of his former employer, Maxwell Lord (see Countdown to Infinite Crisis). Being from the future, Booster and his knowledge of the past would play a pivotal role in the events of Infinite Crisis. In the aftermath of the latest DC Crisis, during the next 52 Weeks of continuity, a new super hero named Supernova would emerge, a hero whose seemingly uncanny ability to always be in the right place at the right time quickly made him a celebrity, and a rising star in the super hero community. However, this new hero turned out to be Booster Gold in disguise, once again using his knowledge of the past to prop himself up in the present. No matter how bright his star shines, Booster just can’t seem to get out of his own way. His selfish flaws always seem to find a way to surface.
However, fellow time-traveler, and no nonsense man of science Rip Hunter sees great potential in Booster Gold and attempts to forge him into becoming the great hero we all know he can be. Especially since it’s revealed that Booster Bold is in fact Rip Hunter’s father. Time travel, woof!
With Dan Jurgens back in control of the character he created, from 52 Pick-Up to Past Imperfect, Booster Gold was well on his way to becoming what he always wanted to be – one of the greatest super heroes in the DCU.
But then Flashpoint happened, and Booster was once again all but forgotten.
A Fall from Grace
In this post landscape of New 52s and Rebirths, all the potential Booster Gold had of becoming one of the World’s Greatest Super Heroes is seemingly in open war with his innate ability to mess things up. His latest attempts at heroism nearly changed history and almost fundamentally changed the DCU’s two greatest super heroes.
First, in Booster Shot, Superman, seeking answers that can only be found in the past, time-travels back to the era before Krypton’s destruction, with Booster Gold following to make sure the Last Son of Krypton does not accidently alter history. However, their trek through time ultimately finds them in an alternate future where Zod’s will is law. Now, they have to fight not only to survive but to also fix the broken time stream.
Then, in The Gift, on the flip side of the coin, Booster attempts to travel back in time and alter the moment in history that changed Bruce Wayne’s life forever, the death of his parents. However, this is one of the most pivotal moments in DC and Comics History and changing it would have immeasurably damaging consequences.
This story shows the cracks in Booster’s psyche begin to materialize as his flaws have now all but taken over, pushing aside all potential he ever had of being a great hero.
“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight
The Present to the Future
Which brings us to Heroes in Crisis.
We are only one issue into this series and already the gut-punch the story has delivered is one that will stick with the DC heroes, and the readers, for years to come. The Odinson does not know where this story is going, but suffice it to say, Booster Gold, and the DCU, may never be the same again.
The Odinson has been a fan of the character since his debut in 1986. The very first comic book I ever got signed was my Booster Gold #1 signed by Dan Jurgens at a convention in 1987. Booster Gold is a flawed man, but a hero at heart. He has all the potential to become something truly great. He resonates. I truly hope DC Comics believes in him as much as I do.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell