Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 2

First Published: April 2008

Contents: Challengers of the Unknown #18 (February-March 1961) to #37 (April-May 1964)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Brown, Arnold Drake, Ed Herron, and others

Key First Appearances: Cosmo

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 1

Overview: A plane crash brings four men together, when they realize that they cheated death by walking away from the wreckage. Rocky Davis (Olympic wrestling champion), Prof Haley (master skin diver), Red Ryan (circus daredevil), and Ace Morgan (fearless jet pilot) team-up to form the Challengers of the Unknown, and their adventures continue in this second Showcase Presents volume.

Once again, the book follows a predictable formula from issue to issue. Most issues featured two stories – one with honorary Challenger June Robbins and one without June. Whether it was aliens from space, creatures from the Earth, or killer robots from laboratories, the Challengers stood up to anything thrown their way.

Only one new character is introduced in this volume, as the Challengers come across an alien animal that they adopt as a pet. Named Cosmo since he came from the stars, Cosmo would make the occasional appearance, including in one issue where his rightful owner came to Earth looking for his pet.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really want to like this book, but I just can’t. The creators had a story formula and stuck with it issue after issue after issue. The Challengers face off against threats from outer space, giant robots attacking the city, and the return of Multi-Man every four or five issues, and the story locations would just happen to require the use of their special skills. Come on, truthfully, how many stories can involve both skin-diving in the ocean AND climbing mountains? Even though the guys are living on borrowed time, at no point do we ever feel like the guys will not survive the latest adventure. It pains me to write this, but I think this is a volume that does not need to be on your bookshelf. I wish DC could skip ahead to the issues where the Challengers start interacting with other members of the DC Universe.

If you like this volume, try: the Silver Age event from DC Comics in 2000. This has never been collected, so plan on digging in some back-issue boxes to track this down. Most credit is given to Mark Waid as the overall architect of the project, but most of DC’s top talent of that time was involved in some form or fashion. The story was started with book titled simply Silver Age. Agamemno, a villain from space, enlists the help of Lex Luthor and other villains in swapping places with their heroic counterparts. The story then split off into nine one-shot books from books popular during the 1960s (Justice League of America, Challengers of the Unknown, Teen Titans, Dial H for Hero, Flash, Doom Patrol, The Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern, and Showcase). For the Silver Age: Challengers of the Unknown book, the Challengers travel to Ivy University to help Atom defeat Chronos. The Silver Age books were done to look like were released in the 1960s, complete with the checkerboard cover, an old DC Comics logo, This was a fun project to look back fondly on DC’s Silver Age of comics.

Essential Dazzler Vol. 1

Essential Dazzler Vol. 1

Essential Dazzler Vol. 1

First Published: August 2007

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #130 (February 1980) and #131 (March 1980); Amazing Spider-Man #203 (April 1980); and Dazzler #1 (March 1981) to #21 (November 1982)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Tom DeFalco, John Romita, Jr., Frank Springer, Danny Fingeroth, and others

Key First Appearances: Alison Blaire/Dazzler, Blue Shield

Story Continues In: Essential Dazzler Vol. 2

Overview: Alison Blaire wants nothing more in her life than to sing. Whether it’s for one person or 20,000, Alison wants to take to the stage and sing her heart out. What most people don’t know is that Alison is a mutant, being able to absorb sound and transform it into light. All things considered, that’s a pretty good mutant power to have if you want to be a performer. Taking the stage under the name Dazzler, Alison is ready for her time in the spotlight.

Unfortunately, trouble seems to find Dazzler wherever she goes. Whether it’s the X-Men fighting the Hellfire Club or the Enchantress crashing an audition or Bruce Banner getting upset at a college campus where Dazzler is performing, she finds herself having to user her powers like a superhero, something she truly does not want to be.

In addition to our title character, we meet the members of her band, along with her agent and road manager. We also meet her father Carter Blaire, a lawyer who wants his daughter to follow his career path. Alison’s missing mother was a singer, but disappeared when Alison was an infant. But like any good dangling plot thread, we eventually find Alison’s mother at the conclusion of this volume.

Along the way, Dazzler crosses paths with many Marvel heroes. She meets She-Hulk in Los Angeles and Spider-Woman in San Francisco during a west coast tour. From the X-Men, the Angel develops a crush on her, and does everything he can to woo her over. And she gets the opportunity to jam with the Fantastic Four, with Johnny on guitar and Ben on sax. Seriously! I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

The Origins of Dazzler – The Story Behind the Story: In the late 1970s, Casablanca Records signed a deal to co-produce a character with Marvel Comics. Given the success of Marvel’s KISS comics, the goal was to have a comic to go along with a new recording artist that would perform under the name Dazzler. The long-range goal was to develop a movie around Dazzler. Marvel came up with conceptual designs and scheduled appearances for Dazzler in three of their most popular titles – Uncanny X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four. (Fantastic Four #217 is not reprinted in this issue, but it does show the first meeting between Dazzler and Johnny Storm.)

The plan was to release Dazzler #1 to coincide with the album release. But Casablanca dropped the project and never released the album. Marvel went ahead and finally released the title nearly a year after her last appearance, and the series ran for nearly five years. The first year was one guest star (or villain) after another, in an effort to build up the fan base for the title — Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Dr. Doom, the Hulk, and even Galactus!

What makes this Essential?: OK, we can make a lot of jokes about “Essential Dazzler” being an oxymoron. Trust me, I made a lot of the jokes myself early on. That said, this is an important book in terms of female Marvel characters. In the late 1970s, Marvel introduced four titles focused on female heroes – Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Dazzler. The first three are just female analogs of their male counterparts. Dazzler was the only female character featured that was unique in her own right. Although these books were not the best sellers, Marvel remained committed to publishing the characters, long enough to warrant six Essential volumes from these four characters.

Need more convincing? Consider this thought — Dazzler was the first Marvel mutant character to have their own solo book. Before Wolverine and Gambit and Cable, Dazzler had her own monthly book. Dazzler! (And yes, while modern Marvel writers are trying to spin the narrative and make Namor the first mutant, I’m not buying that argument.)

Now, as much as I want to praise Dazzler as a character, Dazzler as a monthly comic was not that great. There are times when the story felt more like a romance book – does Alison want to date the ER doctor or her lawyer? And will she ever receive her father’s blessing for her career choice? While the art is serviceable, there are too many panels showing Alison changing clothes. That may be appealing to the young male reader, but it’s not necessary to show that scene in that panel to advance the story. EVER!

Footnotes: Uncanny X-Men #130 and #131 are also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 2.

Amazing Spider-Man #203 is also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9.

If you like this volume, try: Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. by Geoff Johns and Lee Moder from 1999. I know I am crossing the streams here between Marvel and DC, but hear me out. Courtney Whitmore’s teenage life just gets worse and worse. Her mom has just remarried, and she now has a creepy stepbrother to deal with; her family has moved to small town Blue Valley; and then she finds out that her stepdad used to be a super-hero. Using a cosmic belt first developed by Starman and later used by the Star-Spangled Kid, Courtney becomes a modern day Star-Spangled Kid, fighting the surprising number of super-villains based in her small town. The series only ran for a little more than a year. Where I see the parallels with Dazzler is her post-title career. Using the new codename Stargirl, Courtney became a member of the reformed Justice Society, becoming a key member for many years. Her popularity led to Stargirl being used on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, and she continues to thrive in the new DC 52 universe. Following her title cancellation, Dazzler ended up joining the X-Men, and became a key member throughout the 1990s. She still remains a member of one of the many X-Men teams today. The entire Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. series is available in two trade paperbacks.

Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 2

Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 2

Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 2

First Published: August 2007

Contents: Spider-Woman #26 (May 1980) to #50 (June 1983), Marvel Team-Up #97 (September 1980), and Uncanny X-Men #148 (August 1981).

Key Creator Credits: Michael Fleisher, Chris Claremont, Ann Nocenti, Steve Leialoha

Key First Appearances: Dr. Karl Malus, Turner D. Century, Theresa Cassidy/Siryn, Caliban, Flying Tiger

Story Continues From: Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1

Overview: The adventures of Jessica Drew continue in this second volume of Essential Spider-Woman. We seen Spider-Woman working as a bounty hunter in Los Angeles in partnership with her friend Scotty McDowell. Their friendship and working relationship is drifting apart, leading to both of them going their separate ways.  That path leads Jessica to move to San Francisco, where she becomes roommates with Lindsey McCabe, ²and Jessica sets up office as a private investigator.

Spider-Woman fights numerous unmemorable villains from issue to issue. The highlight of these is an encounter against the Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy. This gives Chris Claremont to bring in his X-Men for a crossover appearance. Spider-Woman returns the favor by making a guest appearance in Uncanny X-Men #148.

Throughout the series, Spider-Woman has been tormented by Morgana le Fay, who wants Jessica’s soul. This comes to a climatic conclusion with issue #50. Jessica fights for her soul in the astral plane, and finds a way to defeat her with the aide of Magnus. However, Jessica is surprised to find that her body has died while her spirit was outside of it. Magnus casts a spell to make everyone that has known Jessica to forget her, so that no one has to mourn for her. The series ends with the spirits of Magnus and Jessica Drew fading off into limbo.

What makes this Essential?: Well, quite honestly, I don’t know that this is truly essential. The Spider-Woman shown here from the early 1980s is far different from the Spider-Woman shown in comics in the 2000s. I’m looking for a positive on why this should be read, but I am not coming up with one. Conversely, I’m not finding a negative as to why this should not be read. If you want to consider this an essential, that’s fine, but it should probably be low on your list.

Deathstroke²: In Spider-Woman #39 (August 1981), a new villain is introduced who goes by the name of Death-Stroke, and his henchmen are known as the Terminators. Death-Stroke is a masked assassin-for-hire who uses blades, and claims to be the best in his business. Sound familiar? Take a look at New Teen Titans #2 (December 1980). A new villain is introduced who goes by the name of Deathstroke the Terminator. Deathstroke is a masked assassin-for-hire who uses blades, and claims to be the best in his business. The DC Comics’ Deathstroke has become a mainstay since then. The Marvel Comics’ Death-Stroke made only one other appearance, in which he was killed off.

Footnotes: Uncanny X-Men #148 is also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 3.

Marvel Team-Up #97 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: tracking down Avengers #240 and #241 from 1984. While Roger Stern was the regular writer of Avengers at this time, Ann Nocenti co-wrote these two issues to tie up the final plot threads left dangling at the end of the Spider-Woman series. We discover that Jessica’s friends discovered her body in time to revive it, but she is still in a coma in a San Francisco hospital. The Avengers enlist the help of Dr. Strange, who leads the Avengers into the astral realm to battle Morgana Le Fay for the soul of Jessica Drew. Not to spoil the ending, but the heroes win out, and Jessica Drew awakens, ready to start a new life. If I was running Marvel, I probably would have pushed to include these two issues in this Essential volume, since they do help wrap up the final storyline. These issues have not been collected yet, so search for them in a back issue bin at your local comic store.

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2

First Published: March 2008

Contents: The Brave and the Bold #89 (April-May 1970) and #98 (October-November 1971); Justice League of America #103 (December 1972); The Phantom Stranger #22 (December 1972) to #41 (February-March 1976); DC Super-Stars #18 (Winter 1978); and House of Secrets #150 (February-March 1978)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Jim Aparo, Bob Haney, Paul Levitz, Arnold Drake, Gerry Talaoc, and others

Key First Appearances: Spawn of Frankenstein

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1

Overview: This volume continues the supernatural tales of the Phantom Stranger. Many stories are stand alone tales that use the Phantom Stranger to introduce the issue, and then makes a cameo at the end. Other stories cross over multiple issues, to provide an ongoing storyline, such as his battles with Tala and Nathan Seine.

During this era, most issues featured a back-up story. Dr. 13, a.k.a. the Ghost-Breaker, would star in many of them, and his character would often appear as well in the main Phantom Stranger story. Another back-up story was the Spawn of Frankenstein, a then-modern retelling of the Frankenstein story written by Marv Wolfman with art by Mike Kaluta. In the final year of the title, the back-up story was occupied by Black Orchid, but those stories are not collected in this Showcase Presents volume.

Other Phantom Stranger appearances are collected in this volume, such as his appearances in The Brave and the Bold and in Justice League of America. Those issues have been collected in their respective Showcase titles (see Footnotes), and it may not have been necessary to include them in this volume.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I am a huge fan of Jim Aparo’s art style, which is why I purchased this book. While Aparo stayed on to provide covers for the title, he left the monthly art duties to a rotating list of artists, with most of the work done by Gerry Talaoc. Talaoc and friends do a serviceable job, but you would rather look at the Aparo covers. My other issue with this volume is that these stories do not carry any impact going forward in the DC Universe. Reading these issues is not critical to understand what happens elsewhere in another title. I personally prefer the Phantom Stranger that makes the occasional guest appearance in other books over the Phantom Stranger headlining his own title.

Footnotes: The Brave and the Bold #89 and #98 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2.

Justice League of America #103 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 5.

If you like this volume, try: tracking down old episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents via DVD or HULU. At the start of each episode, Hitchcock would introduce a story, dropping a joke or two, and a make a vague reference to the story you were about to see. At the conclusion, Hitchcock would return to wrap things up nice and neat. Rod Serling would later follow a similar format with The Twilight Zone. It’s easy to see how this format bled over into comic books, as the Phantom Stranger would often introduce the stories, then fade into the background until the very end to help wrap the story up. 

Essential Defenders Vol. 3

Essential Defenders Vol. 3

Essential Defenders Vol. 3

First Published: July 2007

Contents: The Defenders #31 (January 1976) to #60 (June 1978); and Defenders Annual #1 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Roger Slifer, David Kraft, Gerry Conway, Keith Giffen, Sal Buscema, Klaus Janson, Jim Mooney, Carmine Infantino, and others

Key First Appearances: Ruby Thursday, Red Guardian, Max Fury, Dollar Bill, Presence

Story Continues From: Essential Defenders Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Defenders Vol. 4

Overview: Full disclosure people – this may be a short review! When dealing with a non-team of heroes, with no official headquarters or leader or matching uniforms, what is there to talk about? But that is what makes the Defenders the most unique collection of heroes in comic books. So here we go with Essential Defenders Vol. 3.

Let’s start with the line-up. Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk remain the core of the team. But some new faces stop by for their time with the un-team. The female version of the Soviet hero Red Guardian “joins” the team in issue #35. Hellcat wanders over from Avengers Mansion in Defenders #44, and would become a constant with the team for the next 80+ issues. The Devil-Slayer stops by for the final story-arc in this volume, but he will not be seen again until Essential Defenders Vol. 5. Finally, Clea could be considered a “member” of the team, but she always feels like Doctor Strange’s sidekick who is along for the ride just because of Stephen.

The book is overseen primarily by two writers. Steve Gerber continues his story from Essential Defenders Vol. 2, covering the first third of this book. Towards the middle of this volume, David Kraft comes on board and becomes the regular writer for the foreseeable future. He continues with the absurdists stories started by Gerber, but sprinkles in more Blue Öyster Cult jokes along the way. (Think I’m joking? Google “Defenders Blue Öyster Cult” and peruse the results.)

What makes this Essential?: Wow, where to start…… Hmmm, being quite honest, I found this a very forgettable volume. I know I read this at some point, but I am struggling to recall much of what happened in this collection. This should be a more important book, with the end of the brilliant Steve Gerber’s run on the title, and the start of the creative run by David Kraft. But I just can’t give this a thumb’s up. If you are a fan of the quirky stories of the mid-1970s, then track down a copy of this volume. But I don’t think you would be missing out on much if this is not part of your personal library.

If you like this volume, try: the second volume of The Order from Matt Fraction and Barry Kitson. Following the events of Civil War, Tony Stark was named director of S.H.I.E.L.D. One of his roll-outs to make things safer for all Americans was the 50-State Initiative, which was a plan to place a team of super-heroes in all states. For California, the team was named the Order. (Side note, the series was originally solicited as The Champions, until it was determined that Marvel did not own the trademark for The Champions any longer. Oops!) The Order was made up of 10 heroes which all loosely resembled the Greek pantheon of gods. Each character had their own feature over the 10 issues of the series, which ended when Matt Fraction felt the story had been told. This has been collected in two trade paperbacks, but I’m sure the individual issues can still be found in the back issue bins. It’s worth a read for the Kitson art and the Fraction story.

As to why I make this recommendation, I started to recommend the 2001 Defenders/Order series, but recalled that I already put it out there win my review of Essential Defenders Vol. 1. Personally, I think this Fraction/Kitson version of The Order is more interesting, so give it a look!

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2

First Published: June 2007

Contents: Marvel Two-In-One #26 (April 1977) to #52 (June 1979); and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 (1977) and #3 (1978)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, John Byrne, Bill Mantlo, Jim Starlin, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Machinesmith, Crossfire, Lord Chaos, Master Order

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew, Ben Grimm, known better to the world as the Thing.

As with any team-up book, this is a very mixed collection of stories. Some stories are one-and-done, while others run across multiple issues. Sometimes editorial would step in and insert a filler issue into the run, as it had already been paid for yet not published. As a member of the Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm seems to be a nexus of events that happen across the Marvel Universe, which works to our benefit as readers!

There are some stand-out stories in this collection worth noting:

  • From issues #29 to #33, Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters travels to England, where they get caught up in the early adventures of the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman.
  • Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 is a continuation of a story started in Avengers Annual #7, with the Avengers battling Thanos. Regretably, Marvel did not reprint the Avengers Annual in this collection, but it can be found in Essential Avengers Vol. 8 and in Essential Warlock Vol. 1.
  • Issue #47 has the Thing “teaming-up” with the Yancy Street Gang, the gang which Ben was once a member of many years ago. Over the years, the gang has gone out of their way to play pranks and other tricks on Ben. But when the Thing is attacked, the Yancy Street Gang comes out of the shadows to protect one of their own.
  • Issue #50 was a fun meeting between the Thing and the Thing. Ben Grimm uses Dr. Doom’s time machine to travel back to the early days of the Fantastic Four. There he encounters himself during his lumpy clay phase. Of course, clobberin’ time ensues. This issue is written and pencilled by John Byrne, marking one of his earliest encounters with a member of Marvel’s First Family of heroes. (Byrne also did the pencils on issue #43.)

What makes this Essential?: I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Team-Up Books are MUST OWN! This volume is unique with Marv Wolfman’s long run on the title. He had the chance to develop stories running across multiple issues, helping to invest the reader to return each month regardless of the guest star. There are some memorable moments that impacted the Marvel Universe – Spider-Woman’s beginnings, battle with Thanos – not normally seen in the typical team-up book. Please give this a read to understand while Ben Grimm is the idol of millions!,

Footnotes: As noted in the review for Volume 1, the Fantastic Four and Alicia Masters make numerous appearances in these issues, and could be read side by side with the Fantastic Four title during this era – keep Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8 and Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 9 handy while reading this book.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
Marvel Two-In-One #26 – The Thing & Nick Fury
Marvel Two-In-One #27 – The Thing & Deathlok
Marvel Two-In-One #28 – The Thing & the Sub-Mariner
Marvel Two-In-One #29 – The Thing & Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #30 – The Thing & Spider-Woman / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #31 – The Thing & Mystery Menace (Alicia Masters) / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #32 – The Thing & Invisible Girl / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #33 – The Thing & Modred the Mystic / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #34 – The Thing & Nighthawk
Marvel Two-In-One #35 – The Thing & Skull the Slayer
Marvel Two-In-One #36 – The Thing & Mr. Fantastic
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 – The Thing & Spider-Man (with the Avengers) / Essential Avengers Vol. 8 / Essential Warlock Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #37 – The Thing & Matt Murdock
Marvel Two-In-One #38 – The Thing & Daredevil
Marvel Two-In-One #39 – The Thing & the Vision
Marvel Two-In-One #40 – The Thing & Black Panther
Marvel Two-In-One #41 – The Thing & Brother Voodoo
Marvel Two-In-One #42 – The Thing & Captain America
Marvel Two-In-One #43 – The Thing & Man-Thing / Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #3 – The Thing & Nova / Essential Nova Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #44 – The Thing & Hercules
Marvel Two-In-One #45 – The Thing & Captain Marvel
Marvel Two-In-One #46 – The Thing & the Incredible Hulk
Marvel Two-In-One #47 – The Thing & the Yancy Street Gang
Marvel Two-In-One #48 – The Thing & jack of Hearts
Marvel Two-In-One #49 – The Thing & Dr. Strange
Marvel Two-In-One #50 – The Thing & the Thing
Marvel Two-In-One #51 – The Thing & the Beast, Ms. Marvel, Nick Fury, and Wonder Man
Marvel Two-In-One #52 – The Thing & Moon Knight / Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

If you like this volume, try: tracking down a copy of Fantastic Four (vol. 3) #61 (November 2002). In this story by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, Ben Grimm is once again the victim of the Yancy Street Gang – or so he thinks! Turns out that most of the pranks he has fallen for over the years were masterminded by Ben’s teammate, Johnny Storm. Finding a receipt for the shop that sent him the latest prank (a pie in the face), Ben stomps off in a mad rage, ready to clobberin’ time the guilty party. Johnny flies after Ben, trying to slow him down and get him to cool off. Ben finally reaches the address on the receipt to find a completely empty lot. He lumbers off, puzzled by how their could be a completely empty lot in the middle of New York City. Only after the fact does he realize it must have been the Invisible Girl hiding the business, saving the Fantastic Four a costly damage bill from another of Ben’s rampages. Waid proves once again why he is a master storyteller, and the energetic art from Wieringo – gone too soon – just leaps off the page. This is a fun story and worth the hunt in the back-issue bin.

Showcase Presents Booster Gold Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Booster Gold Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Booster Gold Vol. 1

First Published: March 2008

Contents: Booster Gold #1 (February 1986) to #25 (February 1988); Action Comics #594 (November 1987); and the Booster Gold origin story from Secret Origins #35 (December 1988)

Key Creator Credits: Dan Jurgens, Mike DeCarlo, Ty Templeton, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Michael Jon Carter/Booster Gold, Skeets, Blackguard, the 1000, Trixie Collins/Goldstar, Dirk Davis, Michelle Carter, Chiller

Overview: In the 25th century, down-on-his-luck Michael Jon Carter is working at the Space Museum as a night watchman. As a promising football star nicknamed “Booster”, he was banned from the sport when it was revealed he took money to throw a game. Deciding to take advantage of his knowledge of the past, Carter steals a Legion flight ring and force-field belt, and uses a time bubble to travel to the 20th century. There he sets himself up as a new superhero, Goldstar, in Metropolis, the home town of Superman. He sets up a corporation for himself, to handle commercials and endorsements. During his first debut as a hero, he bumbles his own name, and the President introduces our hero to the world as Booster Gold!

Stuck with the botched code name, Booster Gold is the toast of the town, and in the targets of many people. New villains sprout up, such as Blackguard and Chiller, working for a criminal organization known as the 1000. Booster sister Michelle follows her brother back to the 20th century, where she becomes the hero Goldstar. Life is going good for Booster, right?

Unfortunately, life goes wrong for Booster – again! Booster’s sister is killed in battle. His wealth is taken away by his agent, who is secretly a Manhunter. Booster Gold realizes that he can still be a hero without the fame and money that motivated him in the past.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I was ready to dismiss this volume, having lived through it’s run 28 years ago. But on the re-read of this title, I have to reconsider my position on this. First, Booster Gold was one of the first NEW heroes to debut in the new post-Crisis universe. While there have been times when he has been nothing more than comedy relief, he has been active character in DC Comics for nearly 30 years now.

These stories also represent the changing view of heroes in the mid-1980s. Following works like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, heroes were no longer goody-two-shoes. At the start of this title, Booster Gold is not a likable person. He stole a Legion ring and a force field belt and travelled into the past with the intent of using his knowledge of history for monetary gain. His actions are based on what the reward is for him, and not for the betterment of others. It’s only after Booster Gold’s life bottoms out that he realizes the mistakes he has made along the way, and now must overcome his legacy of the corporate hero in order to become a true hero.

Footnotes:  The cover to Action Comics #594 is a direct homage to the cover of Booster Gold #7.

If you like this volume, try: reading Justice League International from the mid-1980s. Known as the “Bwah-Ha-Ha-Ha!” era, this book was put together by the creative talents of J.M DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, and Kevin Maquire. Following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Justice League of America as we knew it broke up, and the title itself came to an end. In the Legends mini-series that soon followed, many heroes made their first appearance in the post-Crisis universe, including the new Justice League. This was a team of the 1980s, organized by business mogul Maxwell Lord. More emphasis was put on recruiting new heroes, with very few ties to the old League. Taking a page from the Marvel style, this Justice League fought with each other (“One punch!”), told jokes, and did not take themselves all too seriously. Booster Gold joins the team in Justice League #3, and becomes a core member for the next 10 years. DC has recently started collecting these issues in new hardcover and trade paperback editions, so it should be easy to track them down!