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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

31 Years of Booster Gold

Monday, Kieran Shiach of recapped Booster Gold's first appearance. His article is very good and mostly accurate. His only mistake is saying that Booster Gold #1 was first released on November 2, 1986. It wasn't.

For the record, Booster Gold #1 was released to comics specialty shops (the emerging "direct market") on October 29, 1985. We know it's true because Dan Jurgens says so.

But that one little nitpick aside, it's great to see Comics Alliance celebrating our hero. Just one more things to give thanks for this week.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

30 Years of Power

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the first appearance of Booster Gold, I've spent the year asking Dan Jurgens questions about Booster Gold's earliest adventures. Today I conclude this year-long column with two final questions about Booster's powers.

In the pages of Secret Origins #35 (1989), Mark Waid pointed out that all of Booster's original powers and abilities were based on equipment found in Superman's pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths adventures, including Superboy's Legion flight-ring, Brainiac's force-field, and Lex Luthor's power suit. Most of those original powers are still part of Booster's ability set today, except for the Mass Dispersal Force, originally based on Jor-El's Phantom Zone Projector.

© DC Comics

Being able to dematerialize and rematerialize matter at will is a pretty significant power. I asked Jurgens why it faded into the land of forgotten powers so quickly.

People seemed to have a hard time grasping what it was.

On top of that, I'd had a conversation with a couple of people at DC who thought it seems a bit too "magical". So, with that in mind, we dropped it.

On the other hand, one of the most enduring components of Booster's power set didn't have any clear antecedent: his Booster Shots ray blasts.

© DC Comics

What could have inspired Jurgens to give Booster ranged gauntlet attacks? And perhaps more importantly, which came first, the power or the "pun"-ny name?

Good question!

The name really did come first in that case. I had been scrawling ideas in a note bad -- just sort of an idea matrix, if you will -- and wrote down "Booster Shots".

Once I did that, I simply had to find a way to use it!

There you have it. (And yes, I did save that one for last because Jurgens said it was a good question. Hooray, me.)

The True Story of Booster Gold

Thank you, Dan Jurgens. I've really enjoyed quizzing you on thirty-year-old trivia.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

30 Years of Arch-Enemies

These days, the DC Universe seems to be chock full of secret organizations of dubious morality. There's nothing new about that. In fact, Booster Gold's 1985 nemeses, the 1000, was a rebirth of the 100, which originally debuted in 1970.

Of course, the 1000 did have something none of the other clandestine organizations have had: a Director of Death!

© DC Comics

The Director was a typical power-mad dictator wanna-be who had a mad-on against Booster Gold. By making Booster's first archenemy a corrupt politician desperate for more power, was Dan Jurgens drawing an intentional contrast against Booster's origins as a corrupted athlete desperate for attention?

I put the question to Jurgens himself.

Somewhat, but not entirely.

If I'd gotten too close to Booster, it might have seemed too "one note".

So the actual difference worked well. The Director craved power whereas Booster simply wanted fame and money. I think one of the attractive things about Booster is that a simple desire for recognition and wealth is really easy to relate to.

The Director could have been the head of any number of evil organizations. As a follow-up question, I asked Jurgens whether it was determined the Director and the 100 would be Booster's first foes before or after it was decided that one of the organization's oldest foes, Thorn, would be Booster Gold's first guest star?

That was actually decided before the firm idea of adding Thorn.

I always thought the idea of Thorn fighting the new 100 and having the numbers to go with each one she took down was cool. Though I always wondered why they didn't just add more guys to replace the fallen.

There you have it. It takes a Director to have a direction.

The True Story of Booster Gold

Thanks again to Dan Jurgens, whose Booster Gold #1 hit newsstands 30 years ago today.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Creator Conversations

Russ Burlingame finally got around to releasing his 30th anniversary interview with Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens on last week. It was totally worth the wait.

Burlingame: Is there anything you would have done differently in that first series?

Jurgens: It's funny. The biggest discussion at the time perhaps was, when we started off with issue #1, does the world know who Booster is, or are we getting him at Day One? In other words, is he already partway into being the character he's going to be, so we can play up those differences? We actually had a lot of discussions about that and my feeling at the time was to get him halfway into it. If we start from Day One, and we get those first struggles, that we can't immediately show that which makes him different.

I'm not sure that was the right way to go, I'm not sure it was the wrong way to go, but I think there would have been ways to do it better, and if I had it to do all over again, I think that humor would have still been part of the book but I would have gotten more drama into it with heavier-duty villains, stuff like that. And some of the later stuff we saw, where Broderick came from the future looking for him and stuff like that, I think we should have had him in #1. Let's introduce his own personal adversary from Day One, get him in issue #1 or #2 so he's there and we can already start to set up that kind of confrontation.

Burlingame: When [Giffen/DeMatteis] left Justice League and then you came on, you were there for like six months before Doomsday trashed Booster's costume that began this long odyssey of getting him back to a status quo. Was there a master plan when you did that, or what was the thinking?

Jurgens: That actually came out of a conversation between Mike Carlin and me, where he said "Let's give Booster a little bit of a different look," just to dust it up a little bit. I said sure, that sounds like a great idea. So we started to pursue that at the time. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine he would end up in that awful, robotic sort of mechanical, big shoulder pad armor. It's like "Oh, my God," but that's kind of where that originally came from.

That's just a sampling. I encourage all Booster Gold fans to visit for the full interview.

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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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