- Booster Gold
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Friday, May 15, 2020
Let me go ahead and say this up front: While Justice League #4 is my personal favorite comic book of all time, Justice League Quarterly #1 is a very close second. That makes it an obvious choice to be in my list of the twelve best Booster Gold comics.
What makes Justice League Quarterly #1 so great? I'll let Claire Montgomery explain.
In hindsight, a corporate-sponsored super team seems like such an obvious idea. In the late 1980s, corporate America was ascendant. When the Justice League went international with the backing of the United Nations, it was inevitable that private industry would want to strike back with super heroes they could control. Who better to lead such an endeavor than Booster Gold, the DCU's original Corporate Crusader?
In a Justice League issue, it would be easy to treat the Conglomerate as either a bunch of bumbling boobs (like the Injustice League) or as a souless gang of misguided thugs (like the Rocket Red Brigade). Instead, writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis present the new team — including a couple of faces and names that will be familiar to "Justice League Detroit" fans — as a group worthy of respect, trying to do good inside the structure of an imperfect system.
The villains in this story aren't the corporate super team but their big-money bosses. With names like Mr. Whiteman and Mrs. Karpedeim, it's perfectly clear what we're supposed to think about a Capitalistic culture that values heroism as useful only so long as it sells another gallon of gas.
What happens when a group of well-intentioned heroes are confronted with the very difficult reality that saving money is more important that saving lives? Read on to find out.
If you think a story of super hero ethics isn't interesting enough to hold your interest for 70 pages, this issue has a few surprises for you. In addition to a very cynical look at American business culture, there are several character-driven subplots playing out around around that core, most importantly including the relationship between Booster Gold and his former BFF, Blue Beetle.
I love this book. I love the art by Chris Sprouse and Bruce Patterson. I love the Conglomerate's team uniform is a leather jacket covered with corporate patches. I love that team manager Claire Montgomery is Max Lord's ex-wife. I love that Booster Gold is forced to appear in a publicity photo with former business rival Lex Luthor. I love that Green Lantern foe Hector Hammond thinks he's not evil enough for corporate America.
And most importantly, I love that Booster and Beetle are making an effort to work through their differences.
In other words, I love Justice League Quarterly #1, and that's all the reason I need to include it among the The Best Booster Gold Stories Ever.
(Just so you know, this issue has very recently been reprinted — for the first time! — in the Justice League: Corporate Maneuvers collection. Next time you visit your Local Comic Shop, consider picking up a copy. I love mine!)
Friday, April 24, 2020
It didn't take long after Booster Gold joined the Justice League before he and Blue Beetle were inseparable. (Some might say insufferable!) The pair quickly became the Abbot and Costello of superheroics, their pranks and self-interested business ventures providing a comedic release from the stress of facing down would-be world conquerors six days a week.
None of their hijinks is bigger, more famous, or more disastrous than the time they established a casino on the tropical island of KooeyKooeyKooey, as seen in the story "Club JLI" published in Justice League America #34 (1989), an issue that easily ranks among the twelve best Booster Gold comics.
Writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis had been sowing the seeds for what would become "Club JLI" for months. After the JLI fought aliens in the South Pacific (Justice League International #23), the island nation of KooeyKooeyKooey decided to allow the JLI to host an embassy on its territory (Justice League International Annual #3). Their own tropical paradise on the far side of the world was the perfect opportunity for Booster and Beetle to establish the one business venture guaranteed to make money: a casino. The house always wins, right?
What out heroes didn't plan for was that their venture would attract the attention of another would-be world conqueror — the DCU is practically infested with them — the aptly named Major Disaster. Disaster also wanted to get rich, and he had an ace-in-the-hole, his card-counting companion, Big Sir. Together, the pair set out to break the bank.
Unfortunately for everyone, the bank had been established with money embezzled from the JLI's United Nations-funded bank accounts. Our heroes had assumed that they would be making so much money so fast, they would be able to replace the money before it was noticed missing. Oops.
As if things couldn't get any worse, Aquaman arrives to inform the newly-bankrupt heroes that their island paradise KooeyKooeyKooey isn't a normal island. It's alive. And it's not very interested in having a resort on its back.
By the end of the issue, Beetle and Booster find themselves far worse off than they were before, which is par for the course for our two favorite hard-luck heroes. Better luck next time, guys.
As you can see in the panels above, this Giffen/DeMatteis masterpiece is a perfect mix of comedy and action. Almost every panel has either a punchline or plot consequence. Most of the humor comes from the personalities of the characters involved, and the events will provide material enough to propel plots for months' worth of issues. (The fallout of the Club JLI misadventure will lead directly to Booster's quitting the League for a leadership position in the Conglomerate.)
And while I'm heaping praise on the writers, I'd be remiss to omit the contributions made by Adam Hughes, who was drawing only his fourth DC Comic! Even considering the limitations of four-color printing on newsprint, Hughes' character are so full of life that they nearly spring from the page. It must have been a hard job to follow the original JLI artist, master of expressions Kevin Maguire, but Hughes proves a formidable talent in his own right. (How many copies did DC sell based on Hughes' brilliant cover alone?)
Sometimes everything works, elevating what might otherwise be a light adventure story into a truly great comics. Justice League America #34 is one such case, and that's why it is rightly included among The Best Booster Gold Stories Ever.
Monday, March 23, 2020
The contrast between justice, vengeance, and redemption. Fate versus free will. Heroic self-sacrifice. All of those themes are factors in why I consider Booster Gold #18 among the twelve best Booster Gold comics.
The story, "Showdown," written and illustrated by Dan Jurgens, opens with a montage of Booster Gold in training. Though this is just a prologue to the main story, it sets the stage for what's coming. It lets us, the readers, see that Booster Gold is willing to put in some effort to be the best super hero that he can be. In other words, he's working at being good. If you've never read a Booster Gold story before, you now know where our hero stands.
Booster Gold is the hero in this story, but not the protagonist. That role belongs to Broderick, a federal agent who always gets his man. While Booster walks the path of the hero, Broderick's road has become considerably darker ever since he let his self-righteous hatred be his guide.
Broderick's obsession with Booster Gold is born from familiar circumstances. He had once been among Michael "Booster" Carter's biggest fans when the youngster was playing quarterback for Gotham University. As is so often the case, when Booster was caught cheating in a gambling scandal, Broderick took the news of his hero's transgression as a personal slight.
After "Booster" Carter stole a time machine, Broderick swore he would bring him to justice, no matter how far he had to go to do it. The former object of Broderick's affection became an object of disgust and hatred.
He chases Booster to the past, where he is driven to break the law to survive. He soon confirms that Booster has become a hero to the masses, a revelation that only stokes his hatred. How backwards this 20th century where thieves are the heroes and policemen are driven to steal!
Broderick's determination finally pays off when he ambushes Booster Gold outside of his own mansion. Booster is accompanied by a date, but Broderick doesn't care. It's a sign of how far he's let his obession drive him from the path of the righteous that his prey cares more about the lives of bystanders than the dutiful "officer of the law" does.
Booster leads Broderick on an excting chase through the back alleys of downtown Metropolis before the confrontation plays out exactly as the brilliant cover promised.
The law man has Booster dead to rights and is about to pull the trigger — becoming judge, jury, and executioner in one — when something unexpected happens. A second tragedy is unfolding nearby. Someone is robbing a liquor store. Booster uses the opportunity to remind Broderick just how far he's fallen.
The pair put aside their differences long enough to stop the robbery and save innocent lives, allowing Booster to demonstrate by action that he's not the the villain of Broderick's warped imagination.
Afterwards, Broderick is faced with a harsh choice: punish "Booster" Carter for crimes he admits he has committed and take a hero off the streets, or allow a guilty man to walk away from justice for the sake of the greater good.
His world shattered, Broderick fades into the shadows. Did he ever find a way out? I sure hope so.
This issue touches on a lot of great questions about what a hero is. Can someone steal for the right reasons? What is the boundaries between vengeance and justice? It's the asking of those questions that makes this, without a doubt, one of The Best Booster Gold Stories Ever.
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.
Monday, January 27, 2020
Earlier this month, I laid out what I consider to be the twelve best Booster Gold comics in the character's 35-year history. I start with my personal favorite. If you only read one comic book featuring Booster Gold in your entire life, make it Justice League #4 (1987).
The story, aptly titled "Winning Hand," begins with Batman considering the merits of allowing businessman Maxwell Lord IV to foister new members on the newly-formed league. It's a great twist on established canon. Membership in the Justice League to this point had been limited to those nominated by card-holding members. Just being nominated usually meant a big boost in popularity. Naturally, a glory hound like Booster Gold was itching to be involved, even if it meant being backed by someone so obviously unethical as Mr. Lord.
However, Booster isn't entirely without scruples (or pride). Following the example set by Dr. Light, he walks away from the complicated situation rather than let himself be used. What Booster doesn't realize is that Lord has planned for that, too. While Booster is giving his inevitable post-meeting press interview, lives are threatened. Despite the fact that he has just been emotionally crushed by Lord's con job, Booster selflessly jumps into action to save threatened innocents.
Inside the Justice Cave, Batman takes advantage of the chaotic situation. He orders his colleagues to observe Booster in action so that they judge what the newest hero on the scene is really made of. Thus, Booster Gold finds himself in solo conflict with longtime league foes the Royal Flush Gang.
Booster Gold is more than up to the challenge. Using a full array of his impressive technology-based powers and more than a little of his innate intelligence and verve, Booster defeats the four human members of the gang in as many pages.
The victory earns Booster a round of applause from observing leaguers. He even gets a smile from an approving Batman. Many people would have been irritated by Batman's refusal to aid them, but not Booster. The former quarterback is actually pleased to have an audience. He does love the limelight.
The afterparty is short-lived. The fifth and final member of the gang, the Amazo-like android Ace, crashes the scene to make quick work of the league's most powerful members. This leaves Booster Gold to save the day. Well, Booster Gold and his soon-to-be best friend, Blue Beetle. Having known one another for only a few minutes, the pair teams up to destroy the rampaging robot once and for all.
What began as a job interview leads results in Booster's dream coming true (and a dawning new friendship). Batman offers Booster full membership in the league in a show of appreciation and respect, giving the young hero the credibility he so desired (and earned).
How can you not love that?
The issue's script by Keith Giffen is as perfectly paced as the best action movies, and the dialogue by J.M. DeMatteis positively crackles with authenticity, wit, and enthusiasm. Booster Gold comes off as the hero the league needs, and the league itself is clearly a family in the making. Add in Kevin Maguire's unparalleled ability to express both action and emotion (not to mention his brilliantly "cheeky" cover), and you have a guaranteed recipe for success.
Did I say this is my favorite Booster Gold comic? Make it my favorite comic, period.
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