Giffen & DeMatteis Go Back to the Future with "Booster Gold "

Booster Gold. This is your life.

You have your own solo ongoing series, plus you're headlining not one but two event miniseries, "Justice League: Generation Lost" and "Time Masters: Vanishing Point" for DC Comics this summer.

Feeling pretty good, right?

Well, bad news, dude. Dan Jurgens, the man who created you and has been writing "Booster Gold" for more than a year, has set sail to write "Time Masters." Yes, like we said, you're in that too, but it's more of an ensemble piece, so you'll be sharing the spotlight, there. The same goes for "Generation Lost."

Who are we going to get to write this thing? If only we could go back in time and...wait a second, you're a time traveler. We can go back in time. So let's head on back to the late '80s and see if we can't get some help from Justice League International.

And look what we've found here, Booster.

Keith Giffen ("Legion of Super-Heroes") and J.M. DeMatteis ("Weird War Tales"), who teamed on "Justice League International" for its launch in 1987, begin their highly anticipated run on "Booster Gold" this week with issue #32. CBR News spoke to the fan-favorite writing team about the character, the series, what to expect and what not to expect in the future.

The title also features covers by Kevin Maguire, the artist for much of the Giffen/ DeMatteis run on "Justice League International," and interior art by Chris Batista ("The Last Days of Animal Man"), who Giffen worked with on the DC weekly series, "52."

This week, your run on the "Booster Gold" monthly series begins. While the character has been around for nearly 25 years, his importance to the overall DCU has never been more visibly on display than now as Boo also a featured player in "Justice League: Generation Lost" and "Time Masters." What is it about Booster that you think makes him shine and what separates him from other major DCU superheroes like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern.

Keith Giffen: I don't know. I think Geoff [Johns] did a good job of putting his thumb on what worked well with Booster. And Dan [Jurgens], knowing Booster better than anyone else having created the character, continued along that and added to it and kept the book interesting and the fans and the readers just responded.

And when we come into "Booster Gold," we're not turning him into the guy he was in "Justice League International." This is a Booster who has matured. This is a Booster who is now a very confident superhero who is using his head more often than not, and if we throw him into a humorous situation, he almost becomes the J'onn J'onzz figure from the old "Justice League." He's kind of the straight man. He's the guy who says, "We really shouldn't be here."

J.M. DeMatteis: I think the thing that both makes Booster shine and separates him from the DCU icons is the fact that, beneath the time-traveling skin, he's just a regular guy. Yes, he surfs through history, saves the universe, but he's not a genius, super-humanly talented or ridiculously brave; he has to dig deep to find his bravery, his inner hero...and sometimes it's just not there. That's why I always related to him and why he worked so well with Blue Beetle. Underneath the spandex, they were two incredibly relatable people.

You have a long history with Booster, having scripted him for years in "Justice League International." Why do you think that, to this day, "JLI" remains one of the most beloved runs in the history of comics, and what role did Booster play in the success of that run?

Giffen: If Booster Gold wasn't a decent character it didn't matter how good the old "JLI" book was or how much we did with the character, he would have bottomed out. So I think we had a good, underestimated character walking into the Justice League who DC really had no plans for, so we were kind of allowed to play him our way. And it just sort of took off from there. I don't think the book had that much to do with Booster or Booster have that much to do with the book. It was more synergy. Right characters, right book, right time, I guess.

DeMatteis: Well, first of all, I'm incredibly grateful that people still think of our run that way. At the time, we were just cogs in the machine, doing our best to crank out a monthly book, with editor Andy Helfer keeping it all from flying apart. I really didn't have a clue that, more than twenty years later, people would talking about our stories in such glowing terms.

That said, I think the answer to JLI's longevity is directly connected to what I just said about Booster: our League was a group of characters who were super-heroes second and people - flawed, fun, sometimes incredibly screwed-up, relatable people - first. It's why our League was so much fun to write and why, I think, it was fun to read.

In terms of the pacing of "Booster Gold," will it be all "bwa-ha-ha," all the time or will the title have a serious side, like your more recent work on "Magog" and "The Life and Times of Savior 2?"

Giffen: It's not a funny book. "Booster Gold" is not a humor book now. DeMatteis and I, when we get together, something happens. We do approach these stories tongue-in-cheek and certain situations are going to arise that are going to have a humorous tone to them. The thing is that Marc and I kind of affectionately point out some of the inherent silliness that occurs in superhero comics without openly making fun of it, because we have genuine affection for these characters. We don't go out to make them look like idiots. We really enjoy these heroes and the concepts and some of the odder aspects of the DC Universe.

I know a lot of the fans say that whenever we come on a book, we just make a fool of the character. We never saw it that way. We never saw it that way at all.

I would say if they are looking for the kind of tone, it will probably be like the first year of our "Justice League." I would look at the Grey Man story and the Teasdale Imperative and maybe the story we told with Despero in it. These were drop-dead, serious situations, with villains that mattered, but the characters still had a little bit of time to get together and goof around and blow off a bit of steam.

DeMatteis: If you go back to our run on the League, it was never all "bwa-ha-ha." We'd often spin things off into deeply serious, sometimes shocking, areas. I always use shows like "M*A*S*H*," "All in the Family" and "Scrubs" as examples of what I'm talking about. Supremely silly - laugh out loud funny - but quite capable of grabbing your heart, shocking and surprising you with the Big Emotional Moment. So, yes, "Booster" will have lots of laughs - the "bwa-ha-ha" quotient will be high - but he's dealing with some deadly serious issues, and there will be an undercurrent of tragedy beneath the humor.

Will you be picking up on plot threads from Dan Jurgens' run, or is this a fresh start for Booster? Are you maybe going back to some threads from your time with the character in the 1980s?

Giffen: I don't want to give away too much about what's going on in "Booster," but the reason Booster keeps traveling back into the past is due to events that take place in the "JLI" book - that's dating back. That said, when he travels to the past, he's not always going to find it easy to accomplish what he has to do. He's going to find himself interacting with characters that he's interacted with before. He's going to have JLI adventures.

The Blue and the Gold feature very big in this book. The fans want Ted Kord back. OK. You can't have Ted Kord back as in bringing him back to life, but you have him back - we got him. We're doing Blue and Gold adventures. And we're going to be doing many of them. We're also going to be touching on little untold stories from the JLI era. Booster and Beetle started a repossession business once, and we only saw one adventure. So one of the first things we do when we throw Booster back into the past is we tell one of the untold adventures of what happened when they went to repossess something. And we get Scott and Barda involved. We can go back into the past and utilize characters that you can't use nowadays because they are either dead or they don't exist or whatever. But they are part of DC's history.

DeMatteis: There will be a little of everything. Dan [Jurgens] has established the foundation that we're building on, so all that will play into our stories. But, being who we are, we'll be rocketing off into many different directions.

Beyond that, I don't want to give away any major plot points, but I will say this: If you liked our Justice League, you'll be very happy. I know I am.

In a sense, Booster has become DC's version of Doctor Who these past few years. Is writing time travel and alternate universes a difficult type of storytelling to manage, or does its limitless story potential simply fuel creative opportunities? Maybe a bit of both? Meaning, are there any pitfalls you have to avoid when writing time travel stories?

Giffen: The problem with time travel stories is there is always a paradox involved if you get too deeply into it. We're just skimming the surface. Booster Gold is back, gets wrapped up with Blue Beetle, they have an adventure, that's an untold adventure that really doesn't change anything in the timeline, but is just a good, solid, adventure with characters that we hope you like.

One of the things that we're establishing in "Booster Gold" is that you can't change the past. You can't change the timeline. You can add to it as long as it doesn't affect incidents that have already been locked into the timeline. But you can't go back and kill Hitler and avoid World War II because World War II is a piece of history. If you think of history as a chain, you can not remove a link. You can't. No matter how hard you try, when you come back to the future, somehow, the past will re-assert itself. I kill Hitler, it turns out it grazed his skull. He's back. World War II happened. Sorry. You can't change that. The idea is that when we go back into the past to tell adventures, I try to make sure that they are adventures that aren't links in that chain - things that aren't going to affect the present.

Time travel can be a lot of fun as long as you don't get too ambitious with it and think: "I can use this to put my imprint on the DCU and change this whole sequence of events," because A) it's bullshit and B) it's not your job. Your job is to respect the integrity of these characters and the work of creators that have come before. And it's also lazy writing and I just don't want to do that.

DeMatteis: I think the fun of time travel far outweighs the limitations. And, anyway, I let Keith work out all the temporal conundrums. He's much smarter than I am.

In "Booster Gold" #33, Booster faces himself and the Justice League International. As you wrote the original series, it presents quite the opportunity to go back and revisit a run that fans consistently place at the top of most all-time favorite lists. Will the Booster you're writing from the past sound like the Booster you wrote in the 1980s, and will the Booster from the current continuity have a different voice?

DeMatteis: The Booster from the past is...well, the Booster from the past. The current incarnation of Booster has gone through a lot - to say the least - and one of the ideas we'll be playing with is how much Booster has changed and how difficult it can be for him, for anyone, to go home again. To try to be the person you once were.

Are there any other characters from DC's past - living or dead - that while you may not have official plans to do so yet, you'd love to take Booster back to explore during your run?

Giffen: Of course! When you think of stories like this that are so wide open, there is always a wish list. I'd like to do a General Glory and Ernie story, if I can figure out a way of making those characters interesting again - they weren't the most popular characters in the world. Other than that, I'd love to drop Booster into the middle of Kamandi's world. I don't think that's possible at this point with DC's continuity. I'd also like to go back and see whatever became of the original sword & sorcery Starfire.

DeMatteis: I will never pass up an opportunity to use G'nort. Keith, of course, may have other ideas - but I'll bully him into it.

What would you say to yourself if you traveled back and time to right some wrong or revisit some important event?

Giffen: I'd go back to the day after I got married and say, "Look. You can be happy or you can be right - you can't be both."

DeMatteis: "Don't worry about high school! In the scheme of things, it really doesn't matter!"

You're working with Kevin Maguire on covers, but you also have Chris Batista on interiors. Can you speak about what your artistic collaborators bring to the series?

Giffen: The kid [Batista] is on fire. I just love the guy's work, he's a good, solid talent. He really cares and he knows what a deadline is. He gets his stuff in on time. And apparently, he's a huge Booster Gold fan. He's wanted to do Booster Gold for ages and I'm telling you, I looked at the pencils for the first issue and I thought, "Finally: scope and drama." He's knocking it out of the ballpark.

And Kevin's a buddy. He could call me tomorrow and tell me he needs my help to work on a project and he wouldn't even have to tell me what the project is, Kevin is an automatic, absolute"Yes."

He's a one of a kind talent who had a lot to do with the early success of "Justice League" and also has been helping keep that Justice League feel alive, whether it's through drawing "Formerly Known as the Justice League" or "Metal Men" backups or covers for "Booster Gold."

DeMatteis: Kevin beautifully encapsulates what our stories are about. We wouldn't even be talking about "JLI" if not for his contributions.

And what I've seen of Chris' art so far is just wonderful. He's just right for the stories we're telling: lots of energy, impact, and character.

"Booster Gold" #32, written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and featuring art by Chris Batista, is on sale now.

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