Friday, May 8, 2015

Hooked by the House Ad: Booster Gold

Booster Gold was the 1st new super-hero concept DC Comics published after it's landmark maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, a story which not only celebrated the publisher's 50th anniversary, but also, in a pure storytelling sense, consolidated many of the company's disparate timelines, dimensions & realities.  A clean slate was created for a universe of characters, and the time was right for new talent to put a new spin on the idea of what it means to be a hero.  Booster Gold, the idea of Booster Gold, at least - as premiered in a memorable house ad just in advance of the series launch, held some promise of a new kind of hero.

Readers thumbing through their comics with a cover date of February 1986 (the above scan comes from a copy of Wonder Woman #329, the last issue of one of DC's longest running titles), were greeted by a brilliantly colored full page ad for a new title, its main figure striking a typically heroic pose - legs straight, arms akimbo.  A big smile creases his face, as he's surrounded by some slightly faded objects and vignettes.  These little scenes aren't of the hero, Booster Gold, saving victims from a fire or rescuing pets from trees, these are the trappings of a hero of the 80s: a killer logo (who designed this? Anyone?), an attractive woman, a flying robot buddy, billboards, a luxury car (was the Boostermobile a Bentley?), the Metropolis skyline, CASH!

The first super-hero of the era was a for-profit hero.  Not a mercenary, per se - Booster Gold had a heart of -- well, his heart was most often in the right place, but he didn't shun the spotlight.  He reveled in it.  He accepted endorsements, courted the press, and made lots. Of. CASH!

Booster was the brain child of Dan Jurgens, a new-ish talent at the time who'd spent most of his career to date behind the drawing board, having a 2+ year stint on Warlord.  I'm pretty certain this was his first published work as a writer - he'd go on to write and pencil all 25 fabulous issues of Booster Gold, before moving on to other projects at DC including that other hero from Metropolis.

For his greatest creation, Jurgens came up with a pretty interesting concept - Booster (real name, Michael Carter) was a disgraced college athlete from 500 YEARS IN THE FUTURE, who cleaned toilets at a place called the Space Museum.  Frustrated with his life, he thought to turn it around by stealing equipment from the Museum, including a time machine and Skeets the security robot, and high-tailing it to the past, using his & Skeets' future knowledge to earn lots of money and save lives as a super-hero on the side.  Not your typical bitten-by-radioactive-responsibility origin story.

Booster would just as soon solve problems with his checkbook as with his fists
The thievery & outlaw-ism (?) was not evident in the house ad - this would all be revealed rather slowly in the series, but the ad pointed the way, and provided a hook that make me want an issue of Booster Gold more than I wanted a Pogo Ball (which was quite a bit, I'll tell you).  Unfortunately, it
took me even longer to find an issue of Booster Gold than it did to find one of 'Mazing Man.  It wasn't until issue #19 that I was able to read about the Corporate Crusader's adventures.

My 1st issue of Booster Gold, and still one of the most cherished books in my collection
Booster ended up being well worth the wait.  Booster Gold #19 was the perfect issue for me to start with, as it made a big impression on me for a couple of reasons.  First, it definitely did CASH in on & drive home the self-serving nature of Booster's career as the hero.  He was not ashamed to reap the benefits of his celebrity (the hot girlfriend that we never see again, the ability to crash fancy art openings, etc.).  This was different from the true blue heroics on display in Super-Friends.  Something else I'd not quite seen before, was the hero of the story getting his ass completely handed to him.  The villain of the issue was the Rainbow Raider, a former Flash foe, who due to his outright dismantling of Booster Gold, I assumed was some heavyweight villain.  It wasn't until much later that I discovered his reputation as an also-ran in the Flash's Rogues Gallery.  This revelation failed to diminish the impact of the, frankly, ease with which The Raider defeated Booster Gold.  The issue also has quite a memorable cliffhanger - one of my favorites of all time. It would be over 10 years until I found out how Booster managed to come back to beat the bad guy & regain his sight, but being left hanging didn't detract from what a great introduction to the character this issue was for 9-year old me.  And following his later adventures in the Justice League was a clue that things from this particular adventure turned out alright.

One of the more 'vivid' cliffhangers in my memory
So I'd say the promise of the house ad, in this case, had been fulfilled.  It pledged something new, the beginning of a legend (and a FREE PIN with purchase) and despite many of Booster Gold's adventures in his own title and beyond being pleasant, conventional super-hero stories, and his long standing role as joke of the Justice League, the concept of a hero-of-the-time (which he most certainly was), one with a novel and quite refreshing origin story still holds true.  Booster was a departure, of sorts, from many of his super-hero contemporaries, and remains one of my favorite characters of all time.

By the way, does anyone have an extra Booster Gold pin they'd be willing to part with?

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