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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Gold Beetle Family Tree

The Gold Beetle returns — as a prisoner of the Linear Men! — in this week's The Flash #7:

© DC Comics
written by Simon Spurrier, art by Ramon Perez

Seven issues into this latest Flash volume, it's still a big mystery what's actually going on (thanks, decompression!), so I can't explain it to you. What I can say for sure is that the mysterious Linear Man codenamed "Inspector Pilgrim" talking to Max Mercury and Impulse claims he and the detained Gold Beetle are "kinda family."

While I'm inclined to believe that "Inspector Pilgrim" is yet another future version of Jai West (who smooched with Gold Beetle during the One Minute War), I suppose it's a possibility that Pilgrim has some relationship with Booster Gold or Blue Beetle.

Maybe one day we'll find out.

Comments (0) | Add a Comment | Tags: flash gold beetle impulse inspector pilgrim linear men max mercury ramon perez simon spurrier

Monday, January 29, 2024

This Day in History: Meet the Linear Man

I've updated the pictures and links, but the text in the following post originally ran ten years ago today, on January 29, 2014. So it's a double throwback! (Will I run it again in 2034? Stick around, and we'll find out together.)

Do you remember January, 1991? The New York Giants won Super Bowl XXV. Operation Desert Storm began. Vanilla Ice won Favorite New Hip Hop Artist at the American Music Awards. Ah, those were good times. Unless you were Booster Gold.

© DC Comics

On this date in 1991, Booster Gold was hunted by the Linear Man, the first of what would come to be recognized as the policemen of history in the DC Universe. Desperate to make Booster pay for his crime of stealing a time machine and returning to the past, the original Linear Man kidnapped and tortured Skeets. Bad cop!

Fortunately for Booster, this attack took place in The Adventures of Superman #476 — that's not a typo, kids: back in the day books kept consecutive numbering for years instead of resetting every few months — so of course Superman got involved and was displaced in time instead of our hero.

© DC Comics

The story played out in the "Time and Time Again" storyline over the following month, but Booster Gold had already been rescued by Superman and was too busy leading the Conglomerate and watching Tonya Harding win the U.S. Figure Skating Championships to return the favor. Oh, Booster!

Comments (0) | Add a Comment | Tags: history linear men skeets superman

Friday, January 29, 2021

Lateral Men

It's been three weeks since Generations: Shattered was released, so you should have your copy by now, yes? Good. Because we're going to talk about it today. Specifically, we're going to talk about this panel:

© DC Comics
art by John Romita, Jr., Danny Miki, Hi-Fi

If you've been reading DC Comics for a long of time, you may recognize most of those people, but Booster boosters in particular should probably have a pretty good idea who the Linear Men are. This is an unusual line-up of that team. It's no coincidence that many of them directly pair up with a Multiversal heroic counterpart, a contrivance that is explained in the story as the nearly omnipotent Dominus bends reality to his will.

But even accepting that, one of those Linear Men stands out. Can you spot which one?

© DC Comics
Hint: It's this guy.

Whoever that guy is, I doubt anyone calls him "Rayak the Ravager."

Quick history lesson: The Linear Men concept was created in Adventures of Superman #476 (by Dan Jurgens) in 1991 with the introduction of The (singular) Linear Man.[1] That Linear Man died, sacrificing himself in the 30th-century to "correct" the history he'd unintentionally broken while trying to bring justice to Booster Gold. (You'll find more information on the interactions between the Linear Man and Booster Gold here.)

art by Dan Jurgens, Art Thiebert, Glenn Whitmore, Todd Klein

Shortly thereafter, in Superman #59 (by Dan Jurgens), we learn that the Linear Man was a rogue member of the mysterious Linear Men of Vanishing Point who are "dedicated to guarding the linear sanctity of the time stream." By the time of Superman #73 (by Dan Jurgens), it is well established that there are three remaining Linear Men: Matthew Ryder, Liri Lee, and Hunter.[2] (The impetuous Waverider is often an ally of the group but isn't really a member.[3])

In our group shot at the top of the post, both Liri Lee[4] and Matthew Ryder are clearly identified by name in our Generations: Shattered confrontation. Naturally, the third Linear Man should be Hunter, especially since he appears earlier in the issue beside both Liri and Ryder.

© DC Comics
art by Fernando Pasarin, Oclair Albert, Hi-Fi

So why in the big team shot is Hunter misidentified as "Rayak the Ravager"?

If I had to take a guess, I'd say that whoever wrote the label was trying to recall the name "Ryak the Rogue" from memory. Ryak is the newest Linear Man — the first not created by Dan Jurgens. Ryak makes his first appearance in The All-New Atom #7 (by Gail Simone) in 2007, and he looks nothing like Hunter. For one thing, he's green.

© DC Comics
art by Mike Norton, Andy Owens, Alex Bleyaert, Pat Brosseau

As his moniker might suggest, Ryak was a solo actor in Atom, but he made a cameo appearance beside the other Linear Men on Vanishing Point in Dark Nights: Death Metal: Rise of the New God in 2020. Look closely at that panel, and alongside Ryak you'll spot Ryder, Liri, Rip Hunter, and Waverider, but Hunter is missing, replaced by none other than the original Linear Man himself![5]

© DC Comics
art by Jesus Merino, Vincente Cifuentes, Ulises Arreola

As you can see, keeping the Linear Men straight takes as much work as the convoluted continuity they are sworn to protect. The DC Multiverse is a big place. Every once in a while, we should probably expect the writers, artists, or editors to confused a name and a face.

On the other hand, the events of both Dark Knights: Death Metal and Generations: Shattered involve realities and timelines altered by gods themselves. In which case, if Dominus wants to call Hunter "Rayak," who are we, mere mortal readers of comic books, to correct him?

1 As for the original Linear Man's real identity: it is commonly assumed to be Travis O'Connell. That name comes from the "Linear Men" entry in the Who's Who in the DC Universe Update 1993 #2 (by Roger Stern) which identifies four Linear Men by name and states that "[Travis] O'Connell eventually sacrificed his own life in the late 30th Century." Unless there were multiple Linear Mans chasing Booster Gold in the 30th century, I think we've solved that mystery. (DK apparently agrees; they identify O'Connell by name in their entry for the Linear Man in their officially-licensed The DC Comics Encyclopedia.)

2 Hunter is, as you might have guessed, Rip Hunter. But he's not the one we know. According to the story "Falling in Line" in Legends of the DC Universe 80-Page Giant #1 (by Dan Jurgens), Hunter is the evolution of the young, mischievous Rip Hunter from an alternate history that appears to closely mirror the original Rip Hunter, Time Master, whose pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Earth-1 adventures were chronicled in a book of the same title.

3 Technically, Waverider, like Rip Hunter, is two Linear Men. See, Waverider and Matthew Ryder are the same person, separated into two timelines by the accidental death of his/their parents. In violation of the Linear Men's prime directive, Waverider himself changed the history that forced the divergence that allowed his alternate self to grow into his role as the Linear Men's Ryder. (For details, see Superman #61 by Dan Jurgens.) And while we're on the subject, I might as well mention that Matthew Ryder and Waverider first appeared in Armaggeddon 2001 #1 by Archie Goodwin... and Dan Jurgens.

4 Liri Lee is the only female member of the Linear Men. I probably don't need to tell you, but she was created by Dan Jurgens for Superman #59. She takes the name Linear Woman in Time Masters: Vanishing Point #6 (by... oh, you know). That may take place in a different reality or at a different point in Liri Lee's future chronology than the events of Generations: Shattered. The biggest problem with hanging out at Vanishing Point is that time and space don't have meaning anymore.

5 This isn't the first time O'Connell has been seen since his "death" in Adventures of Superman #478 (by Dan Jurgens), and there are many well-intentioned websites that appear to confuse O'Connell and Hunter, which is understandable. (Heck, I did it myself when I first listed my annotations for the issue, and I obviously know better.) Both O'Connell and Hunter share a 1990s affinity for shoulder pads, pointless belts, and cybernetic parts. And, of course, they are both Dan Jurgens creations. Rule of thumb: if he has black hair and a holster, it's O'Connell; white hair, Hunter.

Comments (2) | Add a Comment | Tags: characters dan jurgens fernando passin gail simone generations hunter jesus merino john romita jr linear man linear men liri lee mike norman rayak the ravager rip hunter ryak the scout waverider

Friday, July 24, 2015

30 Years of Time Crimes

The one thing all great heroes have in common is a robust Rogues' Gallery. Unfortunately for Booster Gold, he's too efficient. He rarely fights anyone more than once.

© DC Comics

Among the few heroes to make a repeat appearance in the pages of Booster Gold is Broderick, the 25th-century cop who pursued wanted felon Michael "Booster" Carter back in time. Broderick had Booster Gold cornered in Booster Gold #18 before being distracted by a chance encounter with a liquor store robbery.

© DC Comics

That was the last we saw of Broderick, but more than one fan has assumed that writer Dan Jurgens had intended for the character to play a bigger role in the series. Is there any truth to that conjecture? I decided to ask Jurgens directly.

Oh, Broderick was absolutely going to resurface. Had a very particular way it was going to work where, in true time traveler fashion, he'd pop up out of nowhere in the most unlikely of places.

In a way, he was the precursor to the first Linear Man story I did in Adventures of Superman.

The Linear Man first appeared in Adventures of Superman #476 as a time agent trying to bring Booster Gold to justice. Hmm, yeah, I guess I can see the similiarity there. Fascinating.

The True Story of Booster Gold

A hearty thanks to Dan Jurgens for his cooperation in exploring the rich history of his creation, Booster Gold.

Comments (1) | Add a Comment | Tags: adventures of superman broderick dan jurgens linear men origins true story

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Black Beetle Is the Time Master

This is the third part of our investigation of Black Beetle's secret identity. Follow these links to Part 1 and Part 2.


He's come from the future in his own Time Sphere (Booster Gold #6). He knows a thing or two about the history of the Blue Beetles (Booster Gold #5). He "says wild stuff to throw you off your game" (Booster Gold #26). Sound like anyone we know?

Is Booster Gold the Black Beetle?

Nope. Not him.

While it's possible that Booster Gold is the Black Beetle, it wouldn't be very satisfying. Let's face it, Booster isn't the most heroic of heroes, so an "evil" version of our favorite morally-grey time-traveler wouldn't be much different than Peter Platinum from Booster Gold #1,000,000 or the bartender in JLA Classified #8. It is certainly hard to imagine a Booster Gold who would destroy the universe for a scarab instead of just manipulating time to make a profit on the stock market.

No, the clues scattered through the second volume of Booster Gold and Time Masters: Vanishing Point indemnify someone else. Someone who shares Booster Gold's bloodline. Someone whose real identity remains a mystery to our Corporate Crusader.

Let's go through our Black Beetle clues again: he knows the future (Booster Gold #0). He knows his way around Vanishing Point (Booster Gold #21). The Linear Men have no record of his existence (Time Masters: Vanishing Point #5). He's "the most devious guy ever" (Booster Gold #26). He assembled a team he named in reference to the Time Masters and his goal is "complete mastery over time" (Time Masters: Vanishing Point #2). He employs subordinates to do his job so that he can remain a shadowy puppet-master (Booster Gold #22). Can you see where this is going?

The Black Beetle is a Rip Hunter

In Booster Gold #26, Skeets refuses to share the scans of the Black Beetle with Rip Hunter, doubting that Hunter will follow up on the information the scans contain. Why would Skeets question its programmer, Rip Hunter, unless there was evidence that might throw doubt on Rip's integrity or benevolence? Skeets has never had any qualms about turning over information on Booster if it was the right thing to do. (Remember that Skeets sided with Superman against Booster in Booster Gold volume 1 #7.) So what would make Skeets reluctant to cooperate unless there was evidence that Black Beetle and Rip Hunter were the same person?

Most of the clues that point away from Rip Hunter can be ascribed to the Black Beetle's self-professed affinity for misdirection, as stated in Booster Gold #21. However, in that same issue, there is a confrontation between Rip Hunter and Black Beetle that makes it fairly clear that neither knows the other's identity. How can we account for this failure for each to recognize the other as himself? And why would Rip Hunter program Skeets with the autonomy to defy him if he was really up to no good?

Given that we're talking about comic books, it's possible that Rip is suffering from some condition transforming him into an amnesiac Jekyll and Hyde. It's also possible, as Russ Burlingame suggested in the [now-defunct] Boosterrific Forum in 2011, that Rip Hunter has an evil brother he doesn't know about. (Twins do run in the Carter family, after all!) I think a far more likely explanation lies not in the Carter family genetics but in the in Carter family business: time travel. Black Beetle is Rip Hunter, but not the Rip Hunter from the timeline we know.

Think this solution is far fetched? Consider the Linear Men who appear in Time Masters: Vanishing Point. They are DC Comic's original post-Crisis on Infinite Earths time police, and they, too, have their own version of Rip Hunter who is different than the man we know as Booster Gold's son. The Rip Hunter seen in Legends of the DC Universe 80-Page Giant #1 cannot be the Rip Hunter we know. Just as Matthew Ryder and Waverider are the same man from different timelines, the Linear Men's Hunter and ours must be alternate history versions of the same person. (Keep in mind that the Linear Men, Matthew Ryder, and Waverider were all created by the same man who wrote the aforementioned Legends of the DC Universe: Dan Jurgens!)

Black Beetle tells us that the willingness of the Linear Men to tolerate survivors of alternate histories is what led to their falling out with Rip Hunter in Time Masters: Vanishing Point #3. We can't take Black Beetle's word for anything, but his story is corroborated by the Linear Men themselves in the very next issue. Is Black Beetle giving us a hint to his own origin?

While both Black Beetle and Rip Hunter might be "Joshua Carter" (note the repetition of the "Jo-" prefix in the name of both Booster and his father, Michael Jon and Jon "Jonar" Carter), by the very nature of alternate timelines, the history that created Black Beetle will differ from whatever events led to the birth of our Rip Hunter. Our Rip Hunter knows who his family is and took up the family business. Black Beetle may not even be aware that Booster Gold is his father despite inheriting his father's talent for time travel and affinity for all things Beetle! This would explain why Black Beetle would be willing to kill his own ancestor, Daniel Carter, in Time Masters: Vanishing Point #6. It wouldn't be the first time a comic-book orphan turned to evil owing to a lack of parenting!

The Black Beetle is Rip Hunter

Time Travel is dangerous business. Change the smallest bit of history, and heroes become villains. Will we ever know the "true" identity of the Black Beetle? Only time will tell.

Comments (6) | Add a Comment | Tags: black beetle linear men rip hunter

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