Why They Endure: BOOSTER GOLD - the Self-Serving Superhero
Why They Endure: BOOSTER GOLD
Booster Gold is everything a hero isn't supposed to be.
"I think it's pretty amazing that fans like him so much today because, if you think about the character and the way Dan [Jurgens] introduced him, he's a character you really shouldn't like, because he's so self-serving," said Keith Giffen, who has written the character several times during Booster's 25 years in comics. "And even though he's learning his lessons and growing as a person, there's still a little self-serving core in there.
"But for some odd reason, fans just respond to it," he said.
Giffen's not exaggerating about that fan response. Booster Gold is one of the most surprisingly enduring characters introduced to the DCU in the last 25 years. Not only is he popular enough to carry his own current solo series, but he'll be central to the publisher's big summer event this year, Flashpoint. He's also a key character in the current bi-weekly series, Justice League: Generation Lost, which is finishing up in April. And he's a narrator and tour guide in the new video game DC Universe Online.
Plus, on April 22nd, the new Smallville episode "Booster" will introduce the character as a live action superhero to a whole new audience on the CW network.
First appearing during the "Me-Generation" 1980's, Booster Gold was a "loser" in the future, but came back in time to make himself rich and famous. He manipulated events from history to make himself a star, but even then, he wasn't especially good at what he did. Booster often made mistakes and bumbled his way through many of the original stories in the fledgling Booster Gold series that introduced him.
Yet the character was nothing if not unique.
Ushering in a New DCU
"He was specifically designed to be different from those that already existed," Jurgens said. "Booster was meant to be much more media aware and financially driven, which, in a way, has made him even more relevant. He was specifically designed to be part of a more modern world with the traits, faults and positives that would go along with it.
"Plus, he's always quick to crack a joke and have fun doing what he's doing," Jurgens added. "There wasn't a lot of that in the DCU."
Jeff Katz, the former Fox film executive who helped launch Booster's current series in 2007 with co-writer Geoff Johns, said what made Booster stand out was that his biggest fault wasn't one you had seen before in other characters.
"There were characters before him with flaws. But Booster is not only flawed, he's uniquely flawed," Katz said. "I can't think of any other characters who are overtly egotistical, or any other hero who is driven in the way he is, certainly not during the era when he was introduced and not in the regular universe. He's just got a really unique challenge to overcome as he deals with this huge drive he has to seek attention."
Just Like The Rest of Us
But probably more important to the 'endurability' of Booster Gold is the fact that Booster's life feels familiar to readers, in more ways than one. "I think people relate to him as the ordinary Joe, the janitor from the future, who's making good as a superhero," Giffen said, pointing out that most comic readers wonder what it would be like to try to be a superhero.
And while other characters may deal with regular problems, Booster's problems are particularly the target of joking, giving readers the chance to look at their own lives with humor.
"To me, Booster has always been the every-man in the costume, the guy who has the same troubles in life we all have," Giffen said. "The guy who has trouble picking up girls. The guy whose schemes never pan out.
"I guess maybe they respond to somebody who is having the same problems as them and knows that if he goes out and does the right thing, it's going to cost him. But he goes out and does it anyway," Giffen said.
"He's a regular guy," agreed J.M. DeMatteis, Giffen's co-writer on most of his Booster Gold stories. "A flawed human, just like the rest of us, but thrust into extraordinary circumstances and doing his very best to get by. Sometimes his best totally sucks — but he keeps on plugging. And he does it with a sense of humor."
"I'll be honest: I had no idea what to do with the character when we first had him," Giffen said. "Booster really didn't gel in my mind until he had the first 'bwa-ha-ha' moment and Beetle was laughing at him. I knew then that this character is going to know life's frustrations and is going to get knocked down a lot, but is always going to get back up again."
Beetle and Bwa-Ha-Ha
Jurgens credits Helfer's decision to add Booster to the Justice League — and Booster's almost 10 years as a JLA member — for making the character more than just a memory from a 1980s comic. "The juxtaposition of Booster to the other characters really helped define him, as did his friendship with Blue Beetle," Jurgens said. "It also kept him alive in the fans' eyes when his first series ended."
For a lot of comic readers today, many of whom started collecting comics when readership grew in the 1980s, the Justice League starring Booster Gold is the one they remember most fondly, giving the character even more resonance into the future.
"That Giffen and DeMatteis run is the definitive Justice League run of my childhood," Katz said. "I read the stuff prior to that, but that run was very, very influential to me and a lot of other people."
"In a weird way, I think they had the 'bromance' thing before people even knew what bromance was," he said. "It was really unique to comics at that time. You had Captain America and Falcon, and it was a very dry partnership, and you had Batman and Robin or any other sidekick scenario, where it was the older mentor helping a younger hero. But with Booster and Blue Beetle, it was really just friendship. That was different from what you usually saw in superhero comics. And I think there's a natural sort of affinity that comes with that.
"Those two were almost greater together than each of them were individually," Katz said.
According to DeMatteis, the friendship was something he and Giffen planned to make into a classic team. It "just evolved... they did it themselves."
As for what the teaming with Blue Beetle did for Booster's character, DeMatteis said he thinks it brought out the best — and worst — in him. "Most important, it made him relatable," DeMatteis added. "The audience really took to those two: Blue and Gold functioned as the readers' stand-ins on the team."
Giffen agreed, saying that when readers looked at Booster and Beetle, they recognized friendships they had themselves. "Everyone's got a friend who's kind of a schemer and idea guy, who's always way more ambitious than his reach. Everybody also knows the kind of guy who tends to tag along because maybe something good will happen," Giffen said. "I think it was just the fact that they were such close friends that resonated with the fans. And also that they did stuff that was identifiable, playing jokes on one another, goofing on one another, wise-cracking back and forth, just like we do in our friendship."
Katz said the friendship also helped ground the Justice League to reality in a way that wasn't seen in a lot of mainstream superhero books. "This was two guys who were almost like a Greek chorus," he said. "They were sitting there in the middle of the cave or watchtower or wherever they were, having the ability to comment on everything with humor, which grounded things a little and gave readers a doorway into these grand, epic stories. They're the two guys at the end of the bench on the basketball team that aren't getting in the game much, who are there for two halves of the game trying to crack each other up. In many ways, they're us."
But creators also emphasized that the humor of Booster's time on the Justice League was a key factor in why readers warmed to him so much.
"I've always been a believer that humor counts, and we went through so many periods of grim and gritty, and it feels like we've gone through at least a couple of those cycles since Booster was introduced," Katz said. "And to have a guy in the middle of that who can just make you laugh is great. You love him for it."
Despite the fact that Booster had a super-sized ego, creators have almost always given the character a heart toward doing good — turning a potential villain into something fans could stand behind. "Even over the two years of Booster's first series, he gradually grew to be less self-centered and more heroic," Jurgens pointed out.
"He came back into the past looking for fame and fortune, for the promotion of Booster Gold, but under all of that self-serving attitude, there was a guy who really wanted to do good," Giffen said. "I don't think you put on a costume and come back into the past in order to be a superhero without at least some moral center, even if it was buried back then."
Over the years, that part of Booster has started to grow, as the character has been free to evolve into a more heroic person, teaming with his robotic friend Skeets and the time-traveling hero Rip Hunter to save the world in his new series.
As the original creator of the character, Jurgens emphasized that even though Booster Gold and his mission have evolved, he still retains the characteristics that were established in his original solo series.
"Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz gave him a time travel mission [in the newest Booster Gold title], but it was still very consistent with his background and ultimate destination. Too often, characters are reintroduced and immediately moved too far from their original, creative blueprint, in an effort to seem new to a new audience," Jurgens said. "Everything about Booster's origin and reason for existence is still intact. "
And in a comic book landscape that often changes continuity, Booster's evolution is something that goes seamlessly with his origins. "In that last issue [of the original Booster Gold series], we stated that Booster would evolve into a very important character in the DCU," Jurgens said. "That process is something that's still in the works and is a very clear point of direction for the character."
Besides, Jurgens said, Booster is already a very timely character, without any changes. "A character who is so media savvy as Booster, who is so willing to profit from his exploits, is, in many ways, more relevant now than in 1985," the writer said.
Katz agreed, pointing toward Twitter and Facebook as examples of self-centered use of media. "We're probably as narcissistic a culture as we've ever been," he said. "Booster Gold was ahead of the curve. He really was from the future, I think."
What Comes Next
While the Booster Gold series has been written most recently by Giffen and DeMatteis, Jurgens takes over the series as he becomes an important part of DC's summer event, Flashpoint.
"It's only right," Giffen said. "Even when we were writing Booster in Justice League, there was always the awareness, at least in the back of my mind, that this was not a character I created. I was the caretaker of this character. I'm very glad Dan is coming back onto the Booster Gold book, because I think that's where he belongs."
And because Flashpoint is a time travel story, it's custom made for a character who came from the future and does his best work traveling through time. "I have to be careful here as we really aren't saying a lot about Flashpoint at present, but it's the kind of thing that's tailor made for Booster," Jurgens said. "Beyond the logistics of the story, I think his personality is one that plays well with the overall context of the story."
In the Booster Gold series, the character will continue to grow, Jurgens said. "[He] will have to do it alone as much of his support system is stripped away," the writer teased.
As for other media, Booster has already hit television as an animated character in TV's Justice League Unlimited, Legion of Super-Heroes and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And according to DeMatteis, Booster's time as an animated character will continue.
"I recently wrote a couple of episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold that featured the DC animated version of the Giffen-DeMatteis era JLI. The episodes will be on once the final Brave and the Bold season kicks off this spring," he said. "We used the current day Blue Beetle, but still infused the two characters with the same goofiness, the same brotherly bond.
"What I'd love to see is a new Justice League cartoon focusing on that incarnation of the team — with Booster and Beetle taking center stage," he said.
Booster is also a character that could make the transition to a movie — or, probably more likely, a television show, Katz said, hinting that it's something he has tried to make happen.
"I'm looking forward to his appearance on Smallville," Jurgens said. "I think fans will really enjoy it and it would be nice to see that usher in a higher profile for the character.
"In the more immediate sense, in the world of comics, I think it's great just to think of the character lasting this long and knowing that he'll hit issue 50 before long," Jurgens added. "I'd say he's moved beyond the point of being a character who once had his own title to being a character with true adhesion to the DCU."More 'Why They Endure' articles on Newsarama: