Thursday, 7 October 2010

Booster Gold #6

This blog post has had a pretty tortured history. I had a chunk of it written, and then blogger had a fit and deleted a bunch of it. I then tried to get it written again, but blogger wouldn't let me edit or create new posts. After quite some time, I discovered that my browser was at fault, having crashed whilst attempting to update. This happened whilst I was away from my desk, so I had no idea about the update, until tonight when a little popup informed me. So, we're back, but a little behind schedule.

One of the things I got the chance to do whilst not blogging was to take a look at the latest episode of Smallville. As normal, there were things I liked and things I disliked, and as normal, the big money-shot moments just seemed to come across as a bit flat. I really dislike this new version of Cat Grant. The super-bubbly-perky character, the relentless parroting of 'Godfrey' (if she's such a hotshot young reporter, shouldn't she have her own opinions?), the forced pairing with Clark. I would be happier if they wrote the character as a normal person with the views that she has, and let the performance lead the irritating side of the character. I also found the 'lifestyle' comments regarding vigilantes to be incredibly heavy-handed. It's been covered elsewhere in more detail, but I also need to point out that Deadshot and Jonah Hex are two different characters, and nothing is gained by combining the two. And the revelation of the new costume for Clark was spoiled by some really bad CGI, especially on the flags waving limply in the background.

What I absolutely loved about the episode was the Carter Hall/Lois Lane subplot. Michael Shanks was great in Absolute Justice, but playing the identity rather than the hero really gave him the chance to shine. I loved his annoyance at Lois in the first scene, but what really sold me was the closing scene where he wonderfully conveyed centuries of love and loss. Erica Durance as Lois Lane has come on by leaps and bounds since I last really saw her in the role, back when she was first introduced. For probably the first time since the early days of Lois and Clark (or The New Adventures of Superman, if you're British), I was watching the Lois Lane that I have read for years in the comics. I wasn't expecting to be this impressed by her, but she is something I will enjoy watching in future episodes.

I also read the recent JLA/JSA crossover, but if you want to know about that, check out this episode of The LanternCast. The poor guys did the episode once, then lost the episode before it could be released, so they had to do it all over again. And the only way one of them could cope was... well... let's just say he wouldn't have been driving that day!*

To Cross The Rubicon

Creator/Writer/Artist: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: Augustin Más
Colorist: Nansi Hoolihan
Editor: Al Gold
Cover Art: Dan Jurgens and Mike DeCarlo
Cover Date: July 1986
Release Date: 14/04/1986

Jason Redfern (Fern), a teenage boy, discovers a miniature spaceship in Centennial Park, long with a miniature alien. The alien’s language cannot be understood, so Fern calls him ‘Zee’. When Zee pushes him out of the way of the exploding space-ship, Fern is convinced of his good intentions, and takes him home. At home, Zee projects an image of Superman’s ‘S’ shield, which Fern interprets as Zee’s desire to locate Superman. Catching an advert featuring Booster Gold on the television, Fern realises how to get hold of Superman. He travels to Reilleau Towers, where he is able to see Booster and tell him his story. Booster then publicly calls Superman out through the media to meet him the next day.

The next day, the media is buzzing with Booster’s decree. Clark Kent hears about it at the Daily Planet, and sneaks away to become Superman. Booster Gold arrives at the rendezvous point, having stopped off at STAR Labs to grab a life-support suit for Fern. Although Skeets is sceptical about whether Superman will show, the Man of Steel arrives. Superman is disdainful of Booster, his publicity seeking ways, and the fact that his powers are artificial. Disappointed in the reactions of his hero, Booster walks away. Skeets speaks to Superman, and reveals the secret origin of Booster Gold.

Michael Carter was a prodigious football player, the biggest name in college football in the 25th century. As he was on the verge of being signed up professionally, he was caught betting on his own games, and expelled from college. With no further hope as an athlete, and needing to make a living, he took a security job at the space museum, as well as enrolling as a student of 20th century super-heroes. Whilst participating in the studies and his duties at the museum, Michael formulated a plan, cemented when he discovered Rip Hunter's time machine in the museum. Disabling the security robot Skeets, Michael steals various exhibits to create a power suit, then travels back to the twentieth century in the time machine, taking Skeets along with him.

Superman is shocked to hear this, and accuses Booster of theft, and using the stolen equipment to make himself rich. As the two argue, Zee starts speaking. Superman recognises snatches of the language, and is able to discover that a warship is chasing Zee. Suddenly, an energy burst renders Superman, Booster and Fern unconscious. Another miniature alien appears, abducting the heroes, Fern, Zee and Skeets onto his ship, which departs for space.

pre-dates The Man Of Steel #1 by three months, meaning that we have here the very first appearance of the post-Crisis Superman. Booster does it again! This also means that Dan Jurgens debuted his art for Superman before John Byrne, and it's great art. His first panel, featuring Clark changing to Superman in an interpretation of an iconic pose, is wonderful to look at, and as fans of this era know, Jurgens' Superman art is a real keystone of the next fifteen or so years of the character.

This is a great Superman issue, and fits neatly into the timeline between The Man Of Steel #5 and #6. Superman here is confident in his position in the world, having already met and worked with one wave of heroes. Now, with the appearance of Booster Gold several years into his own career, Superman is starting to encounter the next wave of heroes, people whose motivations lie in places other than benevolence. His outrage at Booster's self-centered money-making activities, all of which stem from theft, is entirely justified, and comes from a place of confidence in not only himself but his position in relation to other heroes. The first panel in which Superman appears, a one-page splash where he stands above Booster, looking down with an expression of derision, neatly sets up how he feels, and completely wrong-foots Booster, for who Superman is a personal hero.

Of the two parts of this story, I feel that this is the stronger of the two. We get the first revelation of Booster's origin, devoid of the later embellishments and cliches that Booster would add, and the force of Superman's anger towards Booster has a powerful effect on the reader.

The Geeky Bits: Booster Gold is pretty much the first post-Crisis superhero, despite his first issue being released before the Crisis had finished publication. He has been a mainstay of the DCU, thanks to his high-profile membership of various incarnations of the Justice Leagues from the JLI onwards. He was also the first solo creation of Dan Jurgens for DC, but as before, I'm going to hold off on a full bio of Dan for a bit longer.

The title refers to the Rubicon river, which was crossed by Julius Caesar in 49BC, initiating a civil war. In general, the phrase 'To cross the Rubicon' refers to the point of no return, in this case the moment where Booster travelled in time to the twentieth century.

Next on World of Superman Booster Gold: The second half of this tale where Booster smacks down with Superman. Unless you've seen the cover, in which case you'll see that it's more a case of Superman smacking Booster down. Ouch.

* does not condone excessive alcohol consumption for the production of podcasts, blog posts, tweets, or any other type of new media (unless it's Lit Beer: My beer).


  1. Good post. The FCTC guys consider this to still be the pre-Crisis Superman, I believe. I'm a bit torn. I also read it in my post-Crisis journey, and it's even referenced when Byrne-era Superman runs into Booster again, so it should fit into that continuity. But if I recall, his power set is more pre-Crisis, and it was released while pre-Crisis Superman stories were still being told, so readers of the day shouldn't have had any reason to consider this Superman to be part of the later continuity. So it's a bit of a quandary how it should be placed. Perhaps both versions of Superman experienced a version of this adventure in each's respective continuity?

  2. Hey Jon, good to see you over here!

    There's one small element in these two issues which suggest that this might not be the post-Crisis Superman, and that is his familiarity with alien languages. The post-Crisis Superman doesn't really get out into space for an extended period until Exile (although he has a fair bit to say with regard to alien invasions before then), but my understanding of the pre-Crisis Superman is that he was rather famous across the galazy. Next up is the revelation in the next issue that the aliens are well-versed in magic. The beam that knocks Booster and Superman out is magical, and an increased susceptibility to magic is a trait that is very much associated with the post-Crisis Superman. (Please feel free to point out if I'm wrong with this, my pre-Crisis reading is extremely limited).

    Furthermore, Booster Gold is very much a post-Crisis character. The 1986 History of the DC Universe has him arriving in the 20th century after the Crisis, and unless both myself and have missed him, he doesn't appear in the 12 issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths. He exists in the post-Crisis DCU, and as such, encounters the post-Crisis Superman. Yes, this issue came out concurrent with the last few pre-Crisis Superman stories (two months before Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow), but the first issue of the series was coverdated only a month before the final issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, placing the Booster Gold continuity after the collapse of the multiverse, and thus making the Superman featured within the post-Crisis Superman.

    Well, that's my argument. If you have any other views, or want to give a good response to suggest that this is the pre-Crisis Superman, please do so. I'd love to see an opposing argument to this issue if you have one.

  3. Superman's susceptibility to magic was actually far greater pre-Crisis where, rule of thumb, he was completely ineffectual against magic. Post-Crisis the rule of thumb is that he's simply affected by it "as much as anyone else." Though even that's a "mileage may vary" situation, as my buddy Rich is usually quick to point out. In several instances, post-Crisis Superman has actually fared better against magical attacks than his JLA teammates.

    As for Booster not appearing in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, that doesn't automatically rule him out as being a pre-Crisis continuity character. After all, Hal Jordan likewise did not appear in the series, and he clearly was a character in pre-Crisis continuity.

    I realize neither of those points do much to support what I'm going to say next, but... c'est la vie. My opinion is that this is a post-Crisis-continuity issue.

    I'm sure some folks will disagree with me based on cover dates, but publication order and continuity order, as you know, don't always align, so you can't really go by that.

    (If I can put on my Continuity Nerd hat for a minute...)

    Yes, the last few issues of the pre-Crisis continuity Superman stories were still being published in mid-1986, but technically, the post-Crisis continuity Earth "began" in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #11 (cover dated February 1986, the same month as this BOOSTER GOLD issue). They were telling pre-Crisis continuity stories in SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS through cover date September 1986 (or August 1986, depending on how finicky you want to be about it). The switch from pre-Crisis continuity to post-Crisis continuity wasn't a line-wide "light switch" like is often thought. "Continuity ripples" allowed for a gray-area where both the Earth-1 Superman and the post-Crisis Superman co-existed in different published stories.

    All that said, I really consider BOOSTER GOLD to be completely in post-Crisis continuity, even though they were published for the publishing debut of the post-Crisis Superman and may not alight completely with what we came to know about him. Given when the title launched and the fact that it never tied in with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (as almost all DC's titles did), I think it's a stretch to place some issues before the Crisis and some after.

    Other issues that occasionally cause questions is Superman's appearances in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA as that title was winding down. But, those are probably better discussed another time.

  4. Yeah, the posts here are half a decade old at this point I'm aware, but for the benefit of anyone reading this page, Superman's appearance in this Booster Gold comic is Post-Crisis.

    The definitive hint is when he scans Booster Gold's equipment and fails to recognize his ring which is a Legion Flight Ring from Legion of Super Heroes. Afterall, it was shortly established that in Post-Crisis that Clark didn't don his costume until adulthood, thus no Superboy and no regular association with the Legion.