- Booster Gold
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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 13, 2020
Are you old enough to remember what it was like to have Booster Gold regularly appearing in his own comic book series? If so, you probably remember reading Booster Gold #28.
In that issue, the reader is treated to scenes that take place in
- 1990, the unfortunate events leading to the creation of Cyborg Superman;
- 1993, the year Coast City was destroyed;
- 2010, the "present" day; and
- 2083, the future of experimental time travel Project Slipshift.
Not pictured is 2020, where we are now, exactly one decade since the release of that issue.
I didn't include it on my list of great Booster Gold comics, but in many ways, this is an ideal issue for any new fans interested in Booster's adventures and who are not yet indoctrinated into his (and DC's) history.
Everything is in here: Skeets, Rip Hunter, Michelle, Superman, the Justice League, time travel shenanigans, and of course, the Royal Flush Gang.
Booster will be back in the saddle again sooner or later. He could do much worse than the likes of Booster Gold #28.
Monday, November 11, 2019
Happy Veterans Day!
If you were a veteran, Booster, they should say thanks for your service.
Veteran comic readers may recognize that panel as coming from Booster Gold, Volume 2, #26. That's the same issue that saw Blue Beetle Ted Kord rise from the dead as part of the Blackest Night crossover.
That book was released ten years ago today. That's more than twice the time between this issue and Ted Kord's death in 2005's Countdown to Infinite Crisis. My how time flies.
Friday, October 18, 2019
The DC Comics reading world of 1986 was not ready for the debut of Booster Gold. Who could blame them? Gambler-turned-thief-turned-celebrity sounds more like a traditional DC villain than a hero. Anti-heroes wouldn't become all the rage for a few more years yet. Creator Dan Jurgens was ahead of his time.
The letter columns of early Booster Gold books were filled with complaints that the hero was inherently unlikable. A typical letter, from Booster Gold #5 called him "egotistical, self-absorbed, conceited, self-hyping, and immodest," which even Booster boosters have to admit was a pretty accurate assessment. This situation was only made worse once Booster's origin was revealed in issue #6. No less a moral authority than Superman thought Booster was "nothing more than a 25th-century crook!"
Souring fan reaction to the character was a major factor in the cancellation of the original Booster Gold series. Jurgens resisted polishing Booster's rougher edges, and the Powers That Were decided to move Booster in a new direction with Justice League International where Booster's less palatable character traits were often exploited for comic effect. This worked out in Booster's favor. It was with the JLI that Booster really became a star.
As such things go, public demand for the Justice League led to the JLI team being featured in three consecutive issues of Secret Origins, giving Jurgens another opportunity to sell Booster's origin to the comics reading public. This time he did what he had previously been unwilling to do: he made Booster Gold sympathetic.
In Secret Origins #35, released on this day in 1988, it is revealed that Michael "Booster" Carter only started gambling on his own football games in order to afford an expensive operation for his sick mother. No longer was he a selfish lout. Now Booster was a good son!
"Child with a heart of gold breaking the law to help his family" may not be the most original origin, but it did the job burnishing Booster's tarnished reputation with readers. Booster's worst mistakes could now be chalked up to good intentions. I'm sure Superman would agree that even 25th-century crooks deserve a second chance.
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