The news that Greg Berlanti is developing a Booster Gold movie for Warner Bros. with Thor screenwriter Zack Stentz is something likely to provoke one of two reactions from fans of his DC Entertainment TV shows The Flash and Arrow. Either they’ll be excited, or they’ll be wondering “Who is Booster Gold, anyway?” (Also worth noting that Berlanti previously sought to bring Booster Gold to the small screen, teaming in 2011 with Flash and Arrow boss Andrew Kreisberg to develop a script for Syfy.)
The answer to that question starts in 1986, when Booster Gold No. 1 was released, introducing the comic book faithful to a mysterious new superhero who most definitely wasn’t what he seemed — and even what he seemed wasn’t what most comic book readers were used to. Egotistical, arrogant and prone to bad decision making, Booster Gold was a lesson in what happens when someone becomes a superhero for the wrong reasons. Although he wasn’t a bad guy, per se, he also wasn’t entirely that heroic, either.
Created by Dan Jurgens, the writer/artist who would later go on to kill Superman in the classic 1990s comic book storyline, Booster was the collision of the 1980s “greed is good” aesthetic and the superhero ideal. An everyman from the 25th century, Booster — real name Michael Jon Carter; the “Booster Gold” identity was a mistake when asked by President Ronald Reagan for his superhero name that stuck — escaped to the present day with a handful of stolen technology that he used as the basis of his superhuman identity… an identity created as much to gain corporate sponsorship and make money as to do the right thing, although he had no problem doing that whenever possible, as well.
Throughout the original 25-issue run of the Booster Gold series, the character slowly started pivoting towards a more selfless outlook, but it was elsewhere that the hero gained his most vocal fan following. Booster became a member of the massively successful 1980s Justice League revamp with that title’s 4th issue, remaining a member until 1994’s No. 91. As a member of the Justice League, Booster was more as a comedic foil for another member of the group, the Blue Beetle, with his greed and ego played for laughs and his heroism downplayed considerably.
For much of the following decade, the character was lost to poor sales — post-Justice League, he appeared in a low-selling spin-off title Extreme Justice (It was the ‘90s; “extreme” was big) and a couple of ill-fated Justice League revivals, but nothing really managed to resonate with audiences until he found himself one of the core cast members of DC’s critically acclaimed weekly series 52.
Intended, in part, as a primer for newcomers to DC’s comic book universe, 52 also worked as an extended makeover for Booster Gold as a character. Driven by tragedy (The death of the Blue Beetle) and the mystery of his 25th-century foreknowledge of events no longer matching up with reality, the hero underwent a makeover in terms of high concept: no longer was he the jerk becoming a hero despite himself of the original series, or the lovable punchline to multiple jokes of his Justice League days — by the end of 52, he had become the guardian of time itself, traveling with his son (Rip Hunter, better known to mainstream audiences from the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow) through history to repair attempts by other time travelers to rewrite history for their own ends.
Following the reboot of DC’s entire superhero line in 2011, the company has literally tried to keep each take on Booster around: as revealed in the 2015 Convergence storyline, the time-traveling hero managed to survive the reboot, existing alongside a “core timeline” version that closely resembles the original version of the character. The comedic Justice League member, however, re-emerged in the future of a parallel world in the Justice League 3000 comic book series.
Because of this, it’s unclear which Booster Gold will end up showing up on the big screen: the cocky ego-driven sell-out, the well-meaning bozo who hangs around with other superheroes, the one man who can save history from threats from today, tomorrow and yesteryear, or some combination of the three? One thing is clear, however: there’s a lot for Berlanti and Stentz to work with, should they choose to. Hell, at one point in Booster’s career, he even got to visit the creation of the multiverse itself…