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BUILDING A BETTER “BOOSTER” with Jurgens, Johns & Katz

by  in Comic News Comment
BUILDING A BETTER “BOOSTER” with Jurgens, Johns & Katz
“The All-New Booster Gold” #1 on sale in August

The odyssey of Booster Gold is a uniquely strange and sinuous tale, even for the famously dynamic DC Universe. Born in the 25 th century and kicked off his college football team for betting on his own games, Michael Jon Carter traveled back in time with a bag of technological tricks and a robot sidekick to earn fame and adoration in our time as Booster Gold, who could be called a “superhero” only by a particularly loose definition of the word. Signing endorsement deals and posing for news cameras, Booster chased wealth and celebrity at every opportunity – and failed miserably due simply to a spectacular amount of pride, ego and arrogance.

Still a hero, in his fashion, the charming if hubristic Booster Gold did mostly the right thing for mostly the wrong reasons, and went on to become a featured cast member in the much beloved “Justice League International” by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. JLI” saw the dubious Booster Gold grow into quite a decent hero, until the pivotal ‘Death of Superman” storyline left the plucky if piggish hero literally in tatters and subsequently relegated to the B and C-lists of DC characters.

Booster Gold remained in relative exile for many years before reemerging, curiously, as a key figure in the events of “Countdown to Infinite Crisis,” “Infinite Crisis” itself and finally –and shockingly– in the seminal “52,” in which he proved to be not just a good and proper superhero, but possibly the single most important costumed character in the entire DC Multiverse. Too bad for Booster, he can’t tell anybody!

Booster Gold: the hero of “52”

Still, Booster did get his wish in the form of an unbelievably massive new fanbase in the comics reading public, and the hugely popular character is set to continue his exhilarating journey next month in “The All-New Booster Gold,” a monthly ongoing series by “52” co-author Geoff Johns, co-writer Jeff Katz, and Booster Gold creator himself, artist Dan Jurgens. CBR News caught up with the temporally-advanced creative team to talk about the life and times of Michael Jon Carter, and to find out just how “all-new” and improved Booster Gold is – or is that Boo$ter Gold?

“It’s straight up Booster Gold ,” declared Geoff Johns to CBR News. “[‘The All-New Booster Gold’] is a book in the same vein as Giffen’s ‘Justice League’ and ’52.'”

Co-writer Jeff Katz echoed Johns’ sentiment, adding, “We have been entirely cognizant of the cries from fans that Booster’s hell over the past few years amount to him stepping up in the end and becoming a ‘proper hero.’ Hell, I was one of those fans myself. And as we all saw in ’52,’ he stepped up big time when the multiverse needed him most.

“As for the ‘proper hero’ thing, however, it is still Booster . He’s going to get the status he deserves – probably one of the most important players in the entire DCU – but it wouldn’t be Booster Gold if it was going to be easy or as expected.”

“The All-New Booster Gold” #2

The new series begins with the six-issue “52 Pick-Up” storyline, which finds Booster Gold right where Johns left him in the final issue of “52:” traveling the timestream with his robotic sidekick Skeets, his ancestor Daniel AKA Supernova, and his boss, of sorts, Time Master Rip Hunter, protecting all of time and space from evil exploitation as the greatest hero history will never know.

“And when we say the greatest hero history will never know, we mean Booster Gold learns early on from Rip Hunter the dangers of being a time traveling hero,” Johns explained.  “Rip Hunter himself keeps his true identity and birthplace a secret so known of his time traveling adversaries can go back in time and murder him in his crib.  So, although Booster is now on the up-and-up, Rip sees Booster’s public status – a self-centered and slightly inept hero – as the perfect cover.  Booster’s told he can’t let anyone know he’s changed.  The first issue is about whether Booster is up for that or not.”

“As we like to say, Rip is Dean Stockwell to Booster’s Scott Bakula,” said co-writer Jeff Katz, referring to the time travel adventure series “Quantam Leap.” “Skeets…well, he’s Ziggy.”

Indeed, Skeets returns as Booster’s faithful robot sidekick after a brief (if you can call a year brief) turn as the most dangerous villain in the DC Universe. “Skeets is loaded with information covering nearly all time periods,” said Geoff Johns. “He’s Booster’s Jiminy Cricket.  Always hovering over his shoulder.  Always trying to help guide him.”

“The All-New Booster Gold” #3

Along for the time-ride is Daniel Carter, well known to readers of “52” as Booster’s wayward ancestor. “Daniel is Booster’s only tie to the real world,” Johns said. “Booster met him for the first time in ’52’ Week 52 and is now crashing at his house in Pittsburgh.  Daniel is the guy that Booster got all his bad traits from.  Daniel was a football star in high school until he was taken out due to injury.  He sits around playing X-Box Live most of the day.  He has no motivations.  No drive.  No girlfriend.  No friends.

“As Booster says in the first issue, ‘I can’t wait to meet grandma.'”

Two other characters will play steady roles in the series. One is known to people, the other is new. Not included among them is of course the enigmatic 1950s Time Master Rip Hunter. “Rip Hunter is the mysterious time traveler running the show,” Johns said.  “He’s a well-experienced, no nonsense adventurer.  He’s a thrill seeker who constantly restrains himself, someone who is always thinking he can relax as soon as he’s taken care of his current mission. But, of course, another mission always comes up.”

“The All-New Booster Gold” obviously grew out of the character’s developments in “52,” but there was more to it than just marketing synergy. Indeed, Booster Gold has himself become a force of nature, one that Geoff Johns couldn’t deny. “When I was working on ’52’ with Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Keith Giffen, I really fell hard for Booster Gold,” Johns confessed.  “I always liked him. Giffen’s Justice League was my League growing up –along with Europe, which is way underrated–  and as ’52’ progressed, I got more and more ideas for a Booster Gold monthly. 

“We knew there were going to be books spinning out of ’52’ and everyone assumed I’d tackle Black Adam.  But I’d been working with Black Adam for years between ‘JSA’ and ’52’ and, in all honesty, I couldn’t stop jotting down ideas for a Booster Gold series.  The concept was in my head.  The adventures were starting to form.  Everything was there except the time.”

That’s where film producer and 20 th Century Fox executive Jeff Katz came into the picture. “He’s a massive DC geek,” Johns remarked. “So we were talking about Booster Gold and, believe it or not, Booster is Jeff’s favorite character.  We threw the idea around of co-writing the book.  Dan –God bless him– came on board and we were good to go.  Jeff and I literally sit at the computer together after plotting the book over dinner and write the script from start to finish.  It’s been a blast.”

“It’s been a pretty surreal experience,” Jeff Katz said. “I went from a fan praying that Booster – who along with Ted Kord seriously influenced my sense of humor as a kid – would come out the other side of ’52’ a hero to being one of the guys responsible for him taking that final step.

“As Geoff noted, I’m a pretty big DC geek and would often bug Geoff or Grant Morrison among others with my theories about the twists and turns in the ’52’ series, a few of which ended up being right on. I’m very proud to say that I called the Booster/Supernova twist way early.

“Justice League International” – a less than heroic Booster, but no less beloved

“Giffen’s ‘JLI’ was very much my League growing up, to the point my parents knew that ‘Justice League’ was the #1 title I needed sent to me at summer camp. In a weird way, Booster is carrying the torch for a lot of those characters — Ted Kord obviously, but there are dozens more– and further legitimizing their legacy as influential to the future of the DCU.

“And ditto what Geoff said about ‘Justice League Europe.’ Viva Le Renard Rouge!”

It’s a somewhat unusual scenario in superhero comics for the creator of a character to draw that character’s stories from other writers’ scripts. It’s even less often that fans of that creator grow up to write those scripts. “It’s been kismet, really. A total honor and a pleasure for me, personally,” said Jeff Katz of Dan Jurgen’s involvement with “The All-New Booster Gold.” “Dan’s style is timeless and he’s doing some great, great work here. In a way, for him I’m sure it’s a bit like watching your child grow up and head off to college. And after a prolonged adolescence, Booster Gold is ready for adulthood at long last. Having Dan be a part of that next phase has just been too valuable for words.”

“Dan has been great,” agreed Geoff Johns, who, like Katz, grew up reading DC Comics by Dan Jurgens and has gone on to incorporate many of Jurgens’ concepts into his most famous works, most notably the Cyborg Superman Hank Henshaw in “Green Lantern,” Extant in “JSA,” and Booster Gold in “52.”

“It’s been interesting to see a type of Booster resurgence over the past couple of years,” Dan Jurgens told CBR News. “I think it started a bit with Booster’s appearance on the ‘Justice League Unlimited’ cartoon and continued with the events of ‘Infinite Crisis’ and ’52.'”

Booster Gold and Skeets in the animated series “Justice League Unlimited”

“Dan won’t say it, so I will,” Jeff Katz remarked, “The Booster Gold episode — “The Greatest Story Never Told” — is the best ‘JLU’ episode of the entire run. Period. End of story. It just nails the character perfectly.”

“It’s even better to see that Booster hasn’t changed much,” Jurgens continued. “Seriously, the look, the style, the character –or in Booster’s case, the lack thereof– are all consistent with the original blueprint. I think that’s a huge plus in a sea of characters, which seem to undergo so many radical changes we lose our ability to recognize them.

“In terms of Superman, Doomsday, whatever… it’s kind of cool to see what happens over time. In general, things are pretty much intact and I appreciate that. With Booster, it was great seeing him play a central roll in ’52,’ not so much because it’s Booster but because I think it worked great for the story.”

The original 1980s “Boo$ter Gold” by Dan Jurgens

Indeed, “52” showcased Booster finding newer, bigger, grander ways of being Booster, and “The All-New Booster Gold” continues the character’s paradoxical evolution to become not just a better Booster but a better hero as well. “When we first met Booster, he had one goal: to prove to the world he’s for real,” Geoff Johns explained. “When we first met him in ’52,’ he had just helped pass the legacy of the Blue Beetle on to Jaime Reyes. He was ready to join the Justice League again; this time the ‘real one,’ with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  Now that ’52’ is over, Booster’s back on that path. He’s determined to join the Justice League.  In some way, recognition still helps motivate the improved, ‘altruistic’ Booster.”

Certainly, Dan Jurgens’ involvement helps keep Booster “on model,” and fans will be glad to know that Jurgens’ impact on “The All-New Booster Gold” goes far beyond the obvious prestige of his name on the cover and artwork within. The writer-artist has proven invaluable to his collaborators Johns and Katz.

“Dan’s made suggestions, one of which plays a big role into something we already had planned for the second arc,” Geoff Johns said.  “He has told me which Legionnaire’s flight ring Booster is wearing which will play into a story later down the road.”

Booster Gold origin by Mark Waid and Dan Jurgens

Such explorations into Booster and DC lore will be made in “The All-New Booster Gold,” serving to reward old school fans returning to the adventures of Booster Gold as well as endearing new readers to the intricacies DC Universe. “You’ll note a lot of easter eggs,” Katz confirmed. “The aforementioned Legion flight ring, among others will date back to the original 80’s run. We should also probably tease that “52 Pick-up” has a few specifically sly guest appearances that set-up our second arc – title withheld for suspense – which we think should get people talking and please long time Booster fans.”

For Jurgens, the time travel angle of “The All-New Booster Gold” was a natural direction for the character, and synced nicely with ideas the author was developing during his many years at DC Comics in the 1990s, many of which return in some form in the new book, including his time travel heroes the Linear Men. “I’m so partial to the name ‘Linear Men’ that we have to keep that, somehow,” Jurgens revealed. “‘Vanishing Point,’ too. See what a pain it can be to have a writer drawing your book?”

“I always thought ‘The Linear Men’ should be the name of a progressive rock band, sharing a bill with Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer,” remarked Katz. “Waverider can open for them.”

Booster Gold origin by Mark Waid and Dan Jurgens

The Linear Men were last referenced two years ago in the pages of Geoff Johns’ “JSA,” in which readers learned Rip Hunter’s crew were wiped out by the villain Degaton. “More on this in the months ahead,” promised Johns.

“Whether it was Booster, Rip Hunter, The Linear Men or the timestream itself,” continued Jurgens, “I always played around with time travel and related concepts on a lot of my projects. One of the hazards of time travel stories is the overwhelming serious tone they can sometimes take,” Jurgens continued. “The vast majority of time travel stories seem to involve One Authoritarian Character making heavy pronouncements from on high. God knows– I wrote my share of those!”

From this truly all-star book, readers can expect to see “time traveling adventure stories laced with humor, emotion and action celebrating the great history of the DCU and forging new paths ahead,” stated Geoff Johns. “Our goal is nothing short of giving Booster Gold a niche no one else can fulfill and pushing him as high up the chain as we can.  He got a lot of spotlight in ’52.’  Now he’s got a book all his own again.”

Booster Gold: Time Master(?)

“When I read the proposal by Geoff and Jeff, Inc., I simply couldn’t say ‘no,'” Jurgens confessed. “There was simply too much there in terms of interest and intrigue that I knew it was going to be great fun. When readers experience these stories through Booster, it makes it a lot more fun. There’s a bouncy irreverence to the character that propels the stories and makes them a lot more entertaining.”

“Honestly, the beauty of this concept and this character is that the sky is truly the limit,” added Jeff Katz. “We can play with anything and anyone. As Geoff said, this is Booster’s domain, his niche, and he’s going to run with it and never look back. I think we all share the same goal of continuing the great character work Booster has had over past few years and elevating him, finally, to the heroic status he truly deserves. Even if nobody else in the multiverse can ever know about it. The fans will always know – and that is the important thing.”

Unfortunately for some – most likely very few – fans, one memorable element of the classic Booster image will not survive the migration to “The All-New Booster Gold.”

“The only way Booster puts the collar back on is if a corporate sponser pays him to do so,” proclaimed Dan Jurgens. “Or a hottie whispers in his ear that collar “works” for her.”

Now discuss this story in CBR’s DC Comics forum.

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