Sunday, October 22, 2006

Actually Essential Storylines: Booster Gold

This week’s issue of 52 feature the origin of the late, great Booster Gold, whose origin we really don’t need to know anymore, seeing as how he’s dead, and has been dead for week’s. That is, of course, unless he’s not really dead.

Aside from the poor timing of the origin feature, an issue writer Mark Waid apparently sought to address by adding a disclaimer saying that this story is “an exceprt from the Justice League Archives.” Really? Then where are all the other origin stories from, I wonder?

Waid nails Booster Gold’s original origin story, and again DC has found the perfect penciller to draw it, tapping Booster’s creator Dan Jurgens to do the honors. Oddly though, little of import is really covered. There are only seven panels, six of which deal with Booster’s time in the 25th Century, and the seventh deals with where he was at the start of 52, with no mention of his years on the Jutstice League or the role he played in Infinite Crisis.

As always, there was a list of “Essential Storylines,” which similarly ignored most Booster Gold’s time as a player in the DCU.

Here’s what DC suggested:

Booster Gold #1: Can one issue really be considered a “storyline?” I don’t know, but you should be able to find the first issue of Booster’s solo book, where he made his first appearance, as well as the rest of the run in a good quarter bin. None of it has ever been collected into trade.

Formerly Known As the Justice League: After the classic JLI team of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire tested the waters in a JLA 80-Page Giant (see below), they initiated a full-blown, reunion special type story in this miniseries that gathered up many of their old JLI characters and re-christened them “The Superbuddies.” It’s interesting that this series is listed as “Essential,” since it’s very first page totally contradicts a major element that follows (whether Max Lord is a cyborg or a normal human being with a breakable bone neck).

Countdown to Infinite Crisis: This special, over-sized one-shot was a Blue Beetle story first and foremost, but Booster Gold played a major role in it, at one point seeming to sacrifice his life because his knowledge of the future told him that the Brother I satellite was about to send a death beam toward Beetle’s home computer. Booster survived, and they never mentioned why Booster took his seat when he did again. It’s worth mentioning that Booster and Beetle, and maybe Barbara Gordon, are about the only characters in this story that seem even remotely in character.

The OMAC Project: This miniseries followed up the Countdown one-shot (which it would ultimately be collected with), and featured the Trinity trying to follow-up on the Max Lord/Checkmate conspiracy that killed Beetle. Booster has words with Batman and Wonder Woman, before ultimately gathering his own teammates—Guy Gardner, Fire, Rocket Red, Mary Marvel—to try and avenge Beetle. This is where Rocket Red buys it. At the end of the series, Booster says he’s going back to the future, a line which complicates everything involving Booster that follows, since we don’t know which Booster it is that shows up in Infinite Crisis and 52. Skeets’ presence in the latter is particularly confounding, seeing as how it’s said he was dismantled in Countdown.

52: Well, obviously.

Here’s what they missed…

JLA/JLI/Extreme Justice: Booster Gold joined the recently re-formed Justice League of America after he made his superhero debut, being recruited by Max Lord and foisted onto the team (this is one of the few League stories from the Giffen/DeMatteis era that’s actually been collected into a trade, Justice League of America: A New Beginning).

He quickly became accepted however, and became one of the team’s mainstays, being regularly featured in the re-named title Justice League International (later re-re-named Justice League America), and it’s sundry spin-offs and specials, including annuals, a quarterly, Justice League Europe, Mister Miracle and so on.

After “Breakdowns” closed out the Giffen/DeMatteis era, the stories got much, much worse (despite some valiant efforts by the likes of Dan Jurgens to fill some un-fillable shoes). Booster served on the Superman-led JLA, along side Beetle, Guy, Fire, Ice, Maxima and, um, Bloodwynd. He was around to get his ass kicked (along with the rest of the League) by Doomsday, on his way to beating Superman into a death-like coma. His super-suit trashed and Beetle in a coma of his own, Booster would go into one of his many stretches of semi-retirement in the aftermath of the Death of Superman.

Booster Gold would play a fairly major role in Justice League crossover story in six-part story “Judgement Day,” which ran in all three Justice League titles in 1994. Tricked-out in a bulky, ‘90s-looking armor that resembled a football uniform, Booster lead the League’s response against the apocalyptic threat of the Overmaster. In a story that 52 would loudly echo, Booster was relying on his knowledge of the present as his past (being from the future and all) and, according to his records, he was supposed to be the big hero of the day. Instead, he loses his arm and almost dies. It turns out his knowledge of the present gained from the future isn't as accurate as he thought it was. Sound familiar?

Around about this time, Booster followed Maxima and Beetle into Captain Atom’s faction of the Justice League, and thus starred in the most unfortunately-named Justice League comic of all time (including Superfriends and Total Justice), mid-‘90s embarrassment Extreme Justice, which was drawn in a awful Rob Liefeld clone style (shudder!). The title would actually get much, much better as time wore on, and the team added Amazing Man II and Firestorm to its roster, and it eventually even brought the Wonder Twins and the Legion of Doom (sweet swamp base and all!) into the DCU proper.

That was the last League-related team Booster served on until he re-joined Blue Beetle and the others in the Superbuddies. That team also appeared in an arc of JLA: Classified, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League.”

Crossovers, cameos and crowd scenes: Once Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and John Dell relaunched the JLA, Booster would have less and less to do with the team, generally only appearing in stories that called in the entire reserves, like the Mark Millar-written Amazo story, the Devin Grayson/Phil Jimenez JLA/Titans miniseries and Morrison and Porter’s Viking funeral for their run, “World War III.”

In the big, line-wide crossovers, Booster played a fairly large role during the years he was on the League, particularly in Millenium and Armageddon 2001. He would usually earn at least a cameo in major intercompany crossovers even after he was no longer on the League, as in Our Worlds at War and Identity Crisis.

In The Kingdom, the Mark Waid-masterminded, in-continuity follow-up to Kingdom Come, Booster was given a new (and short-lived) status quo as a business man. In one of his few get-rich plans that didn’t horribly backfire on him, he opened a superhero theme restaurant called Planet Krypton, as detailed in the Waid/Barry Kitson collaboration, The Kingdom: Planet Krypton #1. When his restaurant becomes “haunted” by strange phantoms, Booster calls in the World’s Greatest Detective to solve the crime, and Batman finds himself face to face with visual memories of the Earths that were seemingly destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Blue and Gold, revisited: Hardcore fans of either Blue Beetle or Booster Gold sometimes argue that their association with one another, and their quick evolution into something of a comedy duo, hurt both of the characters as individuals. There may be an argument to be made there, but I have a hard time seeing it. Honestly, both heroes are at their very best when in one another’s company.

DC’s writers seem to agree, as the late ‘90s and early aughts saw several revisitations of the Blue and Gold team. Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire told a story starring the pair set during the early part of their run—when Guy Gardner had konked his head and become a sissy—in JLA 80 Page Giant #1. In the pages of Martian Manthunter #24, writer John Ostrander pulled off a great Giffen/DeMatteis impression with a story of one of Blue and Gold’s practical jokes going awry. To mess with J’onn J’onnz, they removed every single pack of “Chocos” cookies from JLA HQ (and the surrounding area), and the results were not pretty, as it is revealed that his Martian physiology caused him to become physically addicted to the chocalate sandwich cookies formerly known as “Oreos.” J’onn turned into a Hulk-like monster (Doug Mahnke draws, while Tom Mandrake draws a wonderful cover).

Booster and Beetle were the stars of the JLI’s issue of the still criminally uncollected JLA: Incarnations, in which Ostrander (again!) and Val Smeiks send the pair undercover to infiltrate a supervillain resort, and Batman and J’onn are needed to bail them out. And while whether it counts as in-continuity or not can be questioned (there’s nothing in it that contradicts DCU continuity), Booster and Beetle were featured in an issue of the brilliant but cancelled Adventures in the DCU.

Other universes: Booster doesn’t show up in many of DC’s Elseworlds or other out-of-continuity stories. In the 1997 prestige format one-shot Justice Riders, he forms part of an Old West JLA alongside Diana Prince, Hawk shaman Katar Johnson, manhunter John Jones, Kid Flash and the Beetle (Booster is cast as a Bat Lash-like gambler; the story's well worth looking for if you can find it, thanks to it's beautiful JH WIlliams III and Mick Gray art). He also rather frequently appear in the Justice League Unlimited comic, a tie-in to the cartoon, however (Yes, it is a comic book based on a cartoon based on a comic book. What of it?).

Other media: Booster Gold was one of the many DC heroes on the gigantic Justice League line-up featured on Justice League Unlimited. While he appeared in a lot of crowd scenes, he only had one real spotlight episode, but it was a doozy. In “The Greatest Story Never Told,” Booster and Skeets are assigned to crowd control while the rest of the League take on a massive threat. He eventually wanders off and has his own adventure, saving the universe. Which he’d be only too happy to tell you about given half a chance.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Aw, Booster was great, they HAVE to bring him back...along with Beetle. The Abbot and Costello of the DCU