- Booster Gold
Friday, February 28, 2020
I may have put Justice League #4 at the top of my list of the twelve best Booster Gold comics, but the second book on my list is considerably more important to the development of the character we all know and love.
The first six issues of Booster's original self-titled series dropped a lot of hints that its protagonist wasn't your father's hero. He was uncommonly brash, obsessed with fame and money, and completely clueless about the world around him. But who was he, really? Readers didn't even know his real name or the source of his powers.
That would change in Booster Gold #6 (1986), as knows anyone who's ever seen the cover (one of my favorites)!
Fittingly for an issue revealing the origin of a time traveler, the story's title, "To Cross the Rubicon," is a reference to Julius Caesar's marching his army across the Rubicon River north of Rome, an act that precipitated a previously unimaginable change to the world. Colloquially, the phrase has come to mean committing an act from which there can be no return. As you'll see, both of those meaning apply to this story and the characters within.
In addition to the title, "Creator-Writer-Artist" Dan Jurgens does something else clever on the first page, introducing a new character, the child Jason Redfern, who has witnessed the arrival of a genuine UFO in Metropolis' Centennial Park. Redfern was an outsider to the life of celebrity superhero Booster Gold, and thus the perfect vehicle to deliver readers to the unrevealed inner workings of the mysterious new hero.
Unlike other heroes of his era, the Corporate Crusader&trad; lives in a world of contracts, business managers, and press secretaries. Occasionally, that machinery can be leveraged to more than just profits or loses. In its way, this is another super power, demonstrated when Booster uses it to bring Jason's discovery to the attention of Metropolis' original hero:
This is the first appearance of DC's oldest hero, the Man of Steel, in the DC Universe established in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Conversely, Booster Gold is the first new character created in that universe. Therefore, this is the first meeting between the "old" DC and the "new" A Rubicon has been crossed, and Booster Gold is as keenly aware of the significance of the meeting as longtime DC readers would have been.
To appease Superman, Booster's sidekick Skeets finally reveals their origin story in a series of flashbacks. This is another groundbreaking moment, as Skeets makes no attempt to sand the rough edges of Michael Jon "Booster" Carter's criminal past or selfish motivations as a disgraced former athlete looking for a second chance.
As we now know, Booster is a thief, having stolen a time machine to make a one-way trip to the past. Another Rubicon crossed! (Ironically, you'd think that a time machine would be the perfect vessel for un-crossing Rubicons, but that's not how time travel worked in the early days of the post-Crisis DC Universe.)
Superman reacts as most readers must have, with revulsion that someone who didn't share his own strict moral code would dare to call himself a hero. He has a point. Booster had more in common with the traditional DC Universe villain than any Justice League member. But this was the 1980s, a time for new heroes with feet of clay.
Who is right? The old timer or the up and comer? Unfortunately for the heroes, their philosophical argument ends abruptly with the arrival of another threat, and the issue ends on a cliffhanger.
I guess you'll find out next issue, Skeets!
Readers of the next issue will also discover that Jason's tiny alien crossed a Rubicon of his own. That title just keeps going, which is just one small part of why I consider this to be among The Best Booster Gold Stories Ever.
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