The Secret Origin of Booster Gold
( AS TOLD BY DAN JURGENS )
The following Q&A with Booster Gold's creator Dan Jurgens took place over the course of several email exchanges in August 2010. Jurgens provides some unique insight into the creation of his signature character.
BOOSTERRIFIC: In 1988's Secret Origins #35, editor Mark Waid revealed that the original pitch to DC for Booster Gold was to involve a Superman Museum janitor who set out to become a better hero than Superman ("a real chump"). That sounds similar to the origin of the briefly-lived but long-remembered Composite Superman of the 1960s. Do you recall the primary sources that inspired your take on a Capitalistic hero motivated primarily by profit?
DAN JURGENS: Much of Booster was inspired by the '84 Olympics when I saw an athlete described as having an endorsement contract without ever having won a medal. Many of the BG ideas were already in place but that sort of galvanized it.
B: Where did the very unusual name "Booster Gold" come from?
DJ: Self-boosterism becomes Booster Gold! Gold = the interest in money, or striking it rich.
B: In the same issue, Mark Waid wrote that the back story for Booster Gold had to be altered on the fly as a response to John Byrne's re-vamping of Superman's origin. Was the time-travel aspect of the character, now Booster's primary claim to fame, an original element of the character, or was it added simply to turn the present-day Superman Museum into the future Space Museum?
DJ: Yes, there was a bit of a connection to the Superman Museum. But it was also written as though the Space Museum would work just fine. The Time Travel component of Booster was always in place and a big part of it. The story did have to be re-done to work with Byrne's re-do and the tradeoff, in effect, was the two part story that crossed over with Action. [As seen in Action Comics #594, 1987].
B: You had not done a lot of work for DC prior to Booster Gold Volume 1. How was it that as a relatively inexperienced writer/artist, you were given such an opportunity as creating a new series for the mainstream DC Universe?
DJ: Why was I allowed to do Booster? Well, I didn't make the decision but I do know this: When I first explained it to Dick Giordano and told him the basic idea of what the character could be and who he was, Dick saw him as someone who was entirely different that anyone else in the DCU. I think some of Dick's background as an editor, where he often handled somewhat offbeat characters, may have had something to do with that. But he was attracted to the book and as Managing Editor, gave me the thumbs up and approved the project. Sometimes younger, untested talent, will actually pay off with somewhat different ideas and concepts.
B: Booster Carter was a very talented and successful college quarterback, considered the hardest position in football by many. Why did you chose American football as his sport?
DJ: For Booster to succeed as a superhero, he had to have a solid degree of athleticism and training. The college football career dovetailed well with that, I thought.
B: Was Booster's number (13) or gambling scandal based on any real world person/event?
DJ: There are many tales of athletes who delved into gambling and disgraced themselves. [That] happened across all sports so there's a general sort of influence, but nothing specific.
B: You did not reveal that Booster turned to a life of crime to support his sick mother until a year after his series was canceled (in the aforementioned Secret Origins #35). Was this motivator for Booster's criminal actions a late addition to his origin story designed to soften the character for a wider Justice League audience? Or was it always an element that you had intended to tie to Booster's origin but never managed to work into the original series?
DJ: I think we generally wanted to soften him up just a bit. Yes, he made mistakes and found the wrong solution to a problem, but it made him a bit more noble. I was encouraged to do so because some at DC found him too crass.
B: Despite many opportunities over the years, you have never named either of Booster's parents. (Several sources on the internet identify Booster's father as Jonar, but I am unaware of that name appearing in any comic book to date. [Note: Erin has pointed out in the blog August 9, 2010, that Mr. Carter is named "Jon" in Booster Gold, Vol. 2, #10.]) The only named characters from Booster's "past" are Michelle, Snake Eyes, and Broderick. Why have you chosen to reveal so little about his past?
DJ: I like to keep some of Booster's background intentionally vague. Frankly, it leaves us with more story possibilities and mysteries for the reader.
B: Why did you chose to give Booster a twin sibling, fiction shorthand for either a close or alternately a sharply antagonistic (the "evil" twin) relationship, if the two characters were (and largely continue to be) so emotionally distant?
DJ: I don't see them as emotionally distant at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. Where they differ is on career choices. Booster is pursuing exactly what HE wants to pursue. Michelle is sort of going along by default.
B: Capes are largely associated with the Golden Age, where they allowed artists of modest ability to easily demonstrate motion, but they had all but disappeared from characters in the streamlined Silver Age. By putting a detachable cape on Booster Gold, were you saying something about the departure of the anti-hero Booster from the traditional heroes of the past?
DJ: Yes... capes tend to look more dramatic. Booster is all about drama, or was in the beginning anyway, and that's why the cape was more of a natural for him.
B: Did you intend that Booster's costume be glossy yellow as it was originally colored (like Iron Man's spray-painted "golden avenger" suit of yesteryear), or is the fact that Booster's costume was originally yellow and not metallic gold a limitation of the printing/coloring process of the 1980s (like the necessity to color the Incredible Hulk green instead of gray in 1962)?
DJ: The gold portions of Booster's costume have always been designed to be metallic looking. Unfortunately, none of the action figures to date have successfully nailed the right look. Maybe one day!
B: Skeets is more akin to Firestorm's Martin Stein than to Batman's Robin, and as originally presented, Skeets' primary purpose seems to be to allow you to avoid thought balloons in your panels. Why did a "me first" character like Booster Gold need a sidekick, much less two (e.g. Goldstar)?
DJ: Skeets functions on a couple of levels:
- First, as a guide. Remember that Booster was a stranger in a strange land.
- Second, as a source of strategic intelligence. He's a computer, after all!
- Third, he was something of a conscience. Think of him as Jiminey Cricket.
B: It's no accident that Skeets was originally shaped like a football, is it? Which came first: the design of Skeets, or the concept that Booster would be a football player?
DJ: Yes, Skeets' original shape was supposed to evoke that of a football. Totally intentional. His new shape suggests that Booster has moved on [since] the early days of his arrival in this century.
B: Were you aware at the time that you were creating him that Booster Gold was to be the first hero introduced into the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths universe? Did you feel any pressure to be sort of defining the nature of heroism in the DCU during such a malleable period of time?
DJ: I was aware that Booster would fit into post-Crisis DC without knowing exactly how that would work. The environment was a bit chaotic at the time, in terms of what was decided one day and changed the next. Fortunately, it all worked out.
B: You said that time travel was always a strong part of Booster's origin. Does this mean that you have always been interested in time travel stories? Were you aware at the time of Booster's creation that you were laying the groundwork for all time-travel stories in the DCU for years to come (including your own introduction of the Linear Men, Armageddon 2001, and Zero Hour stories)?
DJ: No. When I first came up with Booster I had no idea I would end up building a little time travel corner within the DCU. Things just sort of evolved that way. I think it started in Booster's first run when I had Rip Hunter show up [beginning in Booster Gold, Vol. 1, #13, 1987] and then really accelerated during my Superman work, particularly the "Time and Time Again" storyline [beginning in The Adventures of Superman #476, 1991].
B: In many ways, Booster Gold is now front and center in the DC Universe, largely thanks to your determination to revisit the character whenever possible throughout your work at DC Comics. (By my count, you have contributed to 114 different comic books including Booster Gold in the past 2 decades.)
DJ: We set that up at the end of his original run, in which it's stated that he would evolve to a higher place in the DCU [see Booster Gold, Vol. 1, #25]. We've been very consistent with that and many creators have contributed to it.
B: In hindsight, is there anything that you feel you could/should have done differently at the character's inception that may have improved the character or accelerated his acceptance?
DJ: Not really. I think I could have done a better job overall when I first launched the book because I was still learning as a writer. Nevertheless, the character has endured and is, I think, among the most unique in comics.