- Booster Gold
Notes on Time Travel and Booster Gold
"Time travel stories always give me a headache!"
—Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens circa 1995 (according to Andrew Goletz's "The Life of Reilly")
The DC Universe has a rich history of documented events, extending in some cases to the dawn of mankind and even beyond. Alternately, certain future events are also known to be inevitabilities for certain well-documented characters. The existence of these past and present continuities creates pitfalls and paradoxes for those characters that visit both the future and the past. Few characters exemplify the troubling nature of time-travel as well as Booster Gold.
In the year 2462, Michael Jon "Booster" Carter fled the future with technology and knowledge to become the superhero known as Booster Gold in the year 1986. Did Booster's return to the present change his past? Do Booster's actions in the 21st Century affect the lives of citizens in his native 25th Century? As a man of action, Booster has rarely stopped to contemplate the ramifications of such a remarkable existence. Perhaps his friends and fans should.
SPOILER WARNING: The following summary of Booster Gold's career includes information that may be considered to contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
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It Happens Because It Has to Happen
In Booster Gold #6, 1986, Booster's robotic friend Skeets explains to Superman that historical documentation exists proving that Booster was fated to travel to the twentieth century. In other words, because they had already appeared in the past, they had no choice but to travel back in time to get there. This is the Circular Causation Theory of time travel, also called a Predestination Paradox, Time Loop, or simply Fate. If all of history is already predetermined, anyone in the DC Universe could travel back in time to any point prior to their own present and not worry about changes that could be made to the historical record because the historical record cannot be changed.
By the time of the Millennium related events in Booster Gold #25, 1988, Martian Manhunter has been told by Harbinger that Booster's presence in the twentieth century is to protect him from events in the future. The exact specifics of these future events remains unrevealed, but the essence of Harbinger's information would seem to confirm that Booster's trip to the past is/was predestined by some higher power. On a single, inflexible timeline, deviation from the only possible course is impossible. Therefore, Harbinger's information supports the theory of a Fatalistic passage of time in the DC Universe.
Booster's former employee Rip Hunter's early investigations into the time stream again (as seen in Time Masters #1, 1990) supports the theory of a single, predetermined timeline in the DC Universe. As he soon discovers, each trip he takes into the past appears to accomplish less, no matter how hard Hunter attempts to alter events. This would appear to confirm that events in the history of the DC Universe are predetermined and unmalleable. Years later, long after obtaining the status as the Time Master of the DC Universe, Hunter names this universal law of inflexible events "solidified time" in Booster Gold, Vol. 2, #5, 2008.
It Happens Because I Made It Happen
A different theory of time and the effects of time-travel in the DC Universe starts to reveal itself with the appearance of the Linear Men during the "Time And Time Again" storyline beginning in The Adventures of Superman #476, 1991. The first Linear Man, charged with holding Booster Gold accountable for his crimes against time, will explain to Superman that he is responsible for seeing that no changes are made to the sequence of events that led to his own creation. This would be unnecessary in a Fatalistic Universe. By introducing the possibility that changes could be made to preexisting history, the Linear Man introduces us to the Relative Theory of time travel.
Under the Relative Theory, any single time traveler within the DC Universe could threaten their own existence by altering the events of their own, relative past to sever the sequence of events that leads to their future "present." While this theory allows for a more dynamic (and inherently unstable) universe, it would appear to contradict Skeets' previous assertions about fate. It would seem impossible that the universe can be simultaneously both Fatalistic and Relative. So which one is it? Who is wrong, Skeets or The Linear Man?
During the events of Armageddon 2001 #1, 1991, another time traveler appears in the DC Universe. The man calling himself Waverider has returned from the future to the present specifically to ensure that the events leading to his creation will never take place. Over the course of his investigations, Waverider assumes that his mere interaction with present events is altering the future. On its surface, this would appear to support the claims of the Linear Man. However, there is evidence that Waverider's activities were not changing actually timelines, especially because he inadvertently creates the very events he was trying to prevent. Waverider's true ability — not to alter history but to observe possible future outcomes of real time decisions — is an element of his downfall during his final confrontation with Skeets in 52 Week 27.
Before attempting to change history, it should be considered that Relative time travel may be an illusion of the observer in an otherwise Fatalistic universe. This is a lesson that Booster Gold will learn in Booster Gold, Vol. 2, #10, 2008
It Happens Because It All Happens
As Booster Gold watches at the conclusion of the Armageddon 2001 #2, 1991 storyline, Waverider appears to save himself as a young man from a pile of rubble. This paradoxical situation would appear to be another example of a fixed time loop, or a case of Fatalistic time travel that only happens because it has to. Yet Waverider believes he has changed his personal past and created an entirely new, alternate timeline than the one that created him. This Quantum Theory of time travel, that all events are possible and simultaneously occurring, encompases an infinite number of realities, each slightly different from the rest. In other words, Waverider didn't save himself, he saved an alternate reality version of himself.
This theory of Infinite Earths is exactly the principle of time/space that was demonstrated as the reality of the DC Universe prior to the intervention of the Anti-Monitor during the appropriately named Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985). It was long believed that the chronicled DC Universe was the only one to survive this Crisis, resulting in a single continuity. Waverider's belief that he has created a better future while he himself still existed would indicate that the infinite quantum mechanics of the previously existing "multiverse" still apply to the surviving DCU. The Crisis may have removed many universes from existence, but subtract any number from an infinity and you are still left with an infinity.
Did Michael "Booster" Carter travel back in time because he had to? Yes. Did the appearance of Booster Gold damage a timeline? Yes. All things are possible in an infinite multiverse.
The Multiplicity Theory of quantum existence has gained widespread awareness and acceptance by the inhabitants of the DC Universe thanks to Rip Hunter's discovery of Hypertime (as seen in The Kingdom #1, 2000 and Booster Gold's travels through the newly reformed DC multiverse in the pages of 52 #52, 2007).
It All Happens But We Don't Remember It
All the previous presumptions about individuality in spacetime are thrown out the window in Justice League Quarterly #9, 1992. When Booster Gold finds a young Geralyn "GiGi" Tierney living on the streets of New York City, he decides to alter her present in the hopes of saving her from a terrible future. He succeeds, and in doing so changes history. But when history changes, Booster changes with it.
In this theory of time travel, which we will call the Objective Theory, history can be changed, but the inhabitants of a changed timeline become unaware of these changes to their past. In the cast of Geralyn, the changes to her timeline are instantly assimilated into Booster's history, preventing him from recognizing the changes he has wrought despite that fact that he was the instrument of change.
This Objective Theory of time travel would suggest that time is a single continuum that cannot be broken. Like a river, all travelers are enveloped in the single timeline and are unaware of its ebbs and flows. Its course can be altered, but those who alter it will lose recognition of those alterations as soon as they re-enter the changed time stream. Like a wound that heals, as Booster's past changes, so to does his knowledge of his past.
This theory of the dynamics of time travel is amply demonstrated in the post-Flashpoint "New 52" universe (where few heroes recognize that their lives have been dramatically changed by outside interference) and explains why Skeets would believe in Fatalism. After having traveled to the past, Skeets would only be capable of recognizing that he had to travel to the past. Similarly, Rip Hunter and Waverider could have successfully altered their pasts only to assume failure when they could no longer recall what history was before they changed it. Reality becomes perception.
Booster Gold and Rip Hunter often take advantage of an objective timeline when they act as policemen in the newly malleable timestream of the post-52 multiverse of Booster Gold, Vol. 2, #1, 2007.
It Only Happens Because the Story Requires It to Happen
What all of the previous theories of time-travel presume is that the laws of Booster Gold's physical universe are fixed and inviolable. Yet Booster has repeatedly encountered beings with a power and presence well beyond his comprehension. The powers manipulated by beings such as the Spectre, the Lords of Order and Chaos, the Endless, or Animal Man's Writer are without definition. Should any of these beings choose to manipulate time, there is little if anything that Booster Gold or his fellow Justice Leaguers could do to prevent it.
Take, for example, the events of Justice League Task Force #37, 1996. While attending a Christmas party with the majority of the active Justice League, Booster Gold is unaware that certain events of recent years have been changed by the devil Neron to fit the desires of a disgruntled colleague. To Booster, nothing has changed, despite the fact that mere moments earlier, the people nearby and the situation around him was unfolding in an entirely different manner.
Once this cosmic impotence is recognized, any potential time-traveler has to admit that their influence on any point in the timeline will only have the effect that those powers-that-be allow them to have. This realization must be maddening to super heroes, who exist purely to exert their will and power to change the world for the better. In the end, each hero is little more than a player in a greater, unfolding story.
Perhaps Booster Gold has it right; it's probably for the best not to dwell too much on the "how"s and "why"s of his trips through time. Instead, do what you can when you have the opportunities present themselves, and don't worry too much about what repercussions might follow. If in the process of fixing one problem another is created, trust that eventually another hero will get around to fixing that new problem too. If nothing else, having plenty of history-related problems to fix creates excellent opportunities for the career-minded, time-traveling super hero.
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