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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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