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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Amazing Hollywood Stories

I was recently perusing some back issues of Amazing Heroes magazine. I've previously reported on their disparaging review of Booster Gold's debut issue, but I found something else that Booster boosters might find interesting.

That something, as reported in Amazing Heroes #188, 1991, is Andy Mangels' "Backstage" column recap of an unfilmed 1990 Justice League movie script. Read on and you'll see why.

The Justice League of America

January 25, 1990 - James Cappe and David Arnott, teleplay; Jeff Freilich, James Cappe, and David Amott, story.

Planned for a two-hour telefilm, the Justice League script went thru four rewrites before the current plans were scrapped. Magnum Productions was working on the film for Lorimar, and was hampered by the use of so few characters. With Green Lantern, Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman optioned, no references or usage of these characters would be allowed.

The story begins as Lord Industries is excavating an Egyptian cavern in Tibet. Professor David Cambell (and assistant Andy Helfer) uncover a dark helmet which, unbeknownst to them, houses the spirit of the Lord of Chaos. Meanwhile, on "A world a lot like our own ... only different," we meet the Oreo-loving Martian Manhunter stopping a crime and a pushy Booster Gold at Max Lord's museum-wing opening where the aforementioned helmet is about to be stolen. Despite Booster and scientist Ted Kord's "help," the helmet is spirited away. When the newly revived Lord of Chaos kidnaps Cambell and begins creating worldwide havoc, Maxwell Lord uses his friendship with the president to put together a force of vigilantes to protect the U.S.

He recruits the Martian Manhunter and Booster Gold, the actress/models Fire and Ice, Ted Kord's new identity of the Blue Beetle, and the altruistic-to-a-fault super-escape-artist Mr. Miracle and his pal Oberon (over objections from Miracle's wife, Barda). The newly christened Justice League of America soon faces their first trial... interviewing Mrs. Cambell.

Then, at a stop to gas up Blue Beetle's bug, the JLA gets in a fight with the Chaos-maddened Chicago Cubs. Despite Booster's affirmation that they "don't need their powers. It's the Cubs. These guys haven't won in 1100 years," the JLA gets fouled out and lets the Cubs escape.

Next, the League is off to the United Nations, where a terrorist has a bomb strapped to his chest. Fire, Ice, and Mr. Miracle enter the U.N. building while Beetle coordinates from the Bug, Booster protects the crowd outside with his force field, and Manhunter enters from the roof. Once most of the terrorists have been neutralized, Manhunter uses his shapechanging abilities to get Booster Gold close enough to stop the bomb-wearing madman. Police chief Stanley Marvel (wink wink, nudge nudge) begrudgingly thanks the team for their semi-efficient rescue, but the thanks is only short-lived as the Lord of Order reveals himself and escapes.

In Beetle's bug, the JLA searches for Chaos's hideout, where he's stashed the great minds and leaders of the world. They find the hideout in Arizona, but only as all of the nuclear missiles in the world are fired, aimed at each country's enemies, and more than a few allies. As Blue Beetle works on a way to upload a missile deflection system to broadcast from the Earth's communication satellites, the rest of the team forces their way into Chaos's mountain stronghold.

While Booster and Manhunter search for Dr. Cambell, Fire and Ice engage guards and Mr. Miracle defies deadly death traps to find the Chaos helmet ... only to find it's a fake. Eventually, all our heroes face off against Chaos and defeat him, but he has the last laugh; though Beetle's deflected most of the missiles, Chaos transports the JLA into the middle of Times Square, the target for the sole surviving nuclear missile.

There in the midst of New York, the League has a desperate battle with Chaos, finally defeating him once and for all. And although the New Yorkers don't much appreciate the team, the rest of the world does. The JLA is on its way.

Maybe I'm wearying of the comic antics of my once second-favorite super-team, but the Justice League is growing tired. The film keeps the same kind of attitude toward its heroes as the comic (some dialogue seems to have been lifted directly from the comics' pages), a kind of hipper-than-thou slapstick which is less funny than overused. While viewers of the film might find it refreshing and new, readers of the comic will find it's same-old same-old.

Fire and Ice are a little less like Lucy and Ethel, while the Martian Manhunter is somewhat less dispassionate-though just as Oreo-loving. Mr. Miracle is portrayed as a naive goof who is as trusting and philanthropic as an old lady. Barda's revelation of her pregnancy halfway through the script is barely referred to again, although Oberon is as obnoxious as ever. Ditto Maxwell Lord, whose powers are hinted at late in the script.

Blue Beetle is relatively unchanged, and actually has some of the best lines ( especially one where he finds a surprise stress-test for his body armor), but his relationship with Booster Gold is ruined. You see, in this script, Booster Gold is spelled G-u-y G-a-r-d-n-e-r. Booster, a mildly obnoxious and scheming character in the current JLA, here becomes a groping, bragging, swaggering jerk whose recklessness and attitude are more a hindrance to the team than a help. Apparently, without the use of the real Guy Gardner, the scripters felt they had to have one supremely obnoxious putz in the group, and Booster was available.

Despite my criticisms, the Justice League of America script in this form would be a tremendous hit in this age of Married with Children, Roseanne, Cheers, and similar sitcoms. It's sarcastic enough, the characters are neanderthal enough, the women are pretty enough, and the script fairly screams for a laugh track. A dark JLA a la Flash, Superboy, or Batman wo╬╝ldn't work at all, so the writers have taken the correct measures to find their hit.

Late-breaking news finds a DC source relating that the show may not be as dead as previously thought. In today's Hollywood, comics are again being perceived as a hot item, and DC's characters being on the forefront of that list. Now it's up to the Blue and Gold guys to fight it out with the Justice League guys to see who gets which rights first.

If you're especially immersed in Justice League lore, you may know that the Justice League did finally in 1997 get a made-for-television movie. It was loosely based on the late-era International League, with featured roles for "B.B. DaCosta" Fire and "Tori Olafsdotter" Ice. It was incredibly bad with worse special effects, and Booster Gold thankfully played no part.

Thirty-two years later, Booster still hasn't appeared in a live-action movie. Hopefully when he does, he'll be recognizable as the Corporate Crusader we all know and love.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

30 Years of Booster Gold

Booster Gold #1 was released 30 years ago this past week!

© DC Comics

According to my records, Booster Gold #1 was released to specialty shops on October 29, 1985. It wasn't shipped to newsstands until nearly a month later on November 22. (That's how things worked at the dawn of the direct market.)

The following review of the first issue was written by R.A. Jones for the October 15, 1985, edition of Amazing Heroes magazine (issue #81):

written and illustrated by DAN JURGENS
inked by MIKE DeCARLO
edited by JANICE RACE
DC Comics
75 cents

It is not unusual to see a caped figure fighting crime in the streets of Metropolis — this has been Superman's beat for several decades. But now a new hero patrols those streets — a young man named Booster Gold.

Unlike Superman, though, who struggles to protect truth, justice, and the American Way, Booster's main goals seem to be fame, fun, and the Almighty Dollar. When we meet him, he is already established in Metropolis, seemingly known nationwide. His first mission is not to save the world, but rather to win for himself a $5 million contract to star in "Booster Gold the Motion Picture." At this he is quite successful.

The friend of moguls and mayors, Booster travels in a limousine chauffeured by his beauty of the wee — vacuous females with names like Bambi and Sunny. It seems only incidental that he also fights a supervillain who has stolen a Top Secret satellite guidance system.

Though it is not spelled out in this first story, Booster Gold is a 20-year-old who has come from the 22nd Century. He has brought with him a mechanical "companion" named Skeets, which acts as his advisor. Why he came to our century and how he came to be wearing a Legion of Super-Heroes flight ring are as yet unknown.

Booster Gold appears to be a lighthearted super-hero adventure series, somewhat in the mold of Blue Devil. There's just one thing that may prevent this from being as good a title — Booster himself is a rather unlikeable fellow.

It can be argued, and rightfully so, that the series, despite its light tone, is actually more realistic than the standard comic. After all, Booster behaves the way a real man probably would if he possessed super powers — he exploits those powers for his own personal financial gain. Toys, movies, commercial endorsements — he goes for it all, just as do modern celebrities, athletes, and even politicians.

And there's the rub. Frankly, I don't want a hero who's only good as a politician. I wouldn't mind Booster Gold's commercial endeavors if I at least felt that in other ways he was genuinely heroic; the idea of a hero using his powers to make a good living is certainly fresh and appealing. In this first episode, however, there is no evidence that Booster possesses any true heroic qualities.

Instead, he is portrayed as a rather shallow youth, one who is not above using his newfound affluence and influence to get whatever he wants. His arrogant behavior has no charm, and almost leads you to cheer for the villain. I want comic book characters who exhibit real human emotions and characterizations — but I also want to empathize with them. Without this, there's no joy in reading.

The supporting characters are equally lame. Skeets, his mechanical mentor, is just what you would expect — more intelligent than the human, and constantly chiding him for mistakes in judgment or use of modern jargon. There is Dirk Davis, Booster's agent, who fits every stereotype of the profession — a manipulative, smooth-talking, slightly unethical chauvinist. Davis lords over his secretary, Trixie Collins, who seems to be cursed with multiple personalities — behaving first like Millie Milquetoast, then like Jane Feminist, and finally like a nutso who demands that a salesman apologize to a cat!

With this cast of cliches and losers, the story could most assuredly have used a large helping of humor. While it is handled with a light hand, there is nothing here that would qualify as even mild comedy.

While Dan Jurgens has pretty well come a cropper with his scripting, he fares somewhat better with his pencilling. Jurgens is one of these midlevel artists who are so vital in the comic book industry — his work seldom excites you, but it is competent in the extreme, and one feels almost sure that he never misses a deadline. His art seems best suited for this sort of strip, more closely matching the style of the aforementioned Blue Devil than does the script.

I don't want to completely dismiss this entire series on the basis of a single story which wasn't terrible by any means, but I'm afraid there's just not enough here for me to recommend the book. If that should change within the next few issues, I'll be the first to say so.

Yee-ouch! Hey, every character has growing pains, but it takes someone special to have earned so many great fans after 30 years.

The True Story of Booster Gold

Thanks to Dan Jurgens for everything.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

JLI at the Beach by Vokes and Rankin

When I was running the rare art pieces last week, I excluded the following piece because it was not strictly commissioned by DC comics. That doesn't mean it isn't worth mentioning.

Amazing Heroes Swimsuit Special 1990

The above image of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, and Fire at the beach by Neil Vokes and Rich Rankin was published in the fanzine Amazing Heroes Swimsuit Special #1 (June 1990). This image may seem a little odd now, but remember that swimsuit specials were all the rage in the 90s. The highlight of the image is probably Beetle's swim trunks, though your mileage may vary.

Comments (1) | Add a Comment | Tags: amazing heroes blue beetle fire justice league international neil vokes rare art rich rankin swimsuit

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