Interview: Dan Jurgens on Booster Gold and the Tangent Universe
It’s pretty safe to say that creator Dan Jurgens is responsible for some of the most popular characters and events in the last 20 years of DC Comics.
After striking gold in the mid-‘80s with his work on the original Booster Gold series, featuring the solo adventures of a character he created, Jurgens continued his streak through the ‘90s with his seminal work on the "Death Of Superman" story. It was in this project that he created two of Superman’s most popular villains, Doomsday and Cyborg Superman. No stranger to major, universe-spanning events, Jurgens penciled both Armageddon 2001 and Zero Hour, the latter of which he also wrote. In the late ‘90s he created the Tangent Universe for DC and currently writes the ongoing DC series Tangent Comics: Superman’s Reign.
Last year, Jurgens returned to the character he created, continuing as artist on DC’s ongoing Booster Gold series, but stepping aside as writer. The new series teamed him with superstar scribes Geoff Johns and movie executive Jeff Katz. Issue #9 hits stores this week, and continues the current “Blue & Gold” story arc. This arc recently saw the return of fan-favorite character Ted Kord, The Blue Beetle. And if Jurgens’ cover to this week’s issue is any indication, fans of the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis series Justice League International won’t be disappointed.
I spoke to Jurgens about his work on Booster Gold, Tangent Comics: Superman’s Reign and his career at DC comics.
COMICMIX: To start with, let’s talk about Booster Gold. What’s it like working with writers Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz on a character that you created so many years ago?
DAN JURGENS: There are times I just sit back and look at it and kind of have one of those “wow” moments. Just because it’s something that I probably didn’t anticipate doing.
CMix: Did you ever imagine when you were creating the character that he would last this long?
DJ: No. If you go back to those days, I hadn’t been in the business for that long. So any concept of what I might be doing, if anything 20-some years later, well it just was not anything that you stopped to consider. Whether it was Booster Gold, Superman or Spider-Man, or anything else. It just isn’t part of your thought process. At least it wasn’t part of mine.
CMix: How has the character changed since you first created him?
DJ: I don’t know that the character has changed a lot. If you go back to Booster’s first appearance, he was always supposed to be a fun, a joking sort of character, and he’ s still essentially that. I think his character’s become better defined. I think that his relationship with Blue Beetle is a really important element of who he is now, and of course that didn’t exist at the beginning. Like I said, I don’t know if his character has changed – and I think that’s part of the success. I think his character has been added to, amended and flushed out some but I think part of the reason we are succeeding is because his character has not changed.
CMix: How much are you involved in creating the story? Do they run ideas by you or are you completely surprised when you read a script for the first time?
DJ: Well, they write the script, send it and I take it from there. But we do talk reasonably often. We talk about ideas that we’d like to do and what we’d not like to do. So we certainly have, I think, a bit of give and take about the book and who Booster is. But that’s not to take anything away from them at all. The stories that are happening right now, certainly Booster’s journey through time, is absolutely due to Mr. Katz and Mr. Johns.
CMix: You mentioned Blue Beetle and his friendship with Booster. What’s it like drawing those two characters together again?
DJ: It’s a lot of fun. When I was writing Justice League and doing Booster and Blue Beetle as a team, just dealing with them was always a lot of fun. Visually they work well together and the fact that they are demonstrable friends is a lot of fun. For me I’ve always liked buddy films, for example. There is something there that always works and it’s something that we just haven’t done enough of in comics anyway. So the fact that we have that element going right now is a strong point of success for us.
CMix: So would you say that they’re sort of the Riggs and Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon) of the DCU?
DJ: A little bit, yeah. There were many points throughout my career where I was supposed to be doing a “Blue & Gold”-type book. For whatever reason, whether it was lack of time or all of a sudden DC decided not to, we just never did it. There were many points where we were going to do it and it just didn’t happen. So I think it’s nice that we’re finally getting to do it. I think it’s also nice because there is clearly a real thirst for Ted Kord out in the market place right now. Obviously we have a very different Blue Beetle running around in a Blue Beetle book right now, but there are still a lot of Ted Kord fans out there and to the extent that we can give them something they want, that’s great.
CMix: Have you been surprised by the fans’ positive reactions to the book?
DJ: I guess I could say, yes and no. Not to dodge the question, but when we first started talking about doing Booster Gold, I kind of wondered if there would be that kind of a thirst for it out in the market place. But once I started talking to Geoff and Jeff and I read their proposal, in terms of what they wanted to do, we talked about where we could take it. Then I thought, “We’re doing something pretty good here and it’s going to find its audience.” And that’s sort of what happened.
CMix: Booster Gold #0 featured a return to Zero Hour – what was it like for you to revisit that part of your career?
DJ: You know, I probably thought that I would do that (return to Zero Hour) far less than [I thought] I would ever work on Booster Gold again. So certainly that was a surprise, but a lot of fun. In terms of doing the Zero Hour stuff, the funny thing is, and I know I told Geoff Johns this and I may have told Katz this as well, but it’s kind of like, “You know, guys – we can do some new stuff, too. We don’t always have to make this the Dan Jurgens retroactive retrospective.” But it was a lot of fun to do and I sort of missed Parallax, so that was a lot of fun to draw.
CMix: From the cover of this month’s issue it looks like the JLI will be making an appearance. What is it like drawing all of those characters together again after all this time?
DJ: It’s fun. For me, I always enjoyed drawing Guy Gardner. I mean the guy reeks of attitude. That classic look he had as a Green Lantern I think has epitomized who Guy is. I think having Fire and Ice next to each other is always good. They’re kind of like the flipside of Blue Beetle and Booster. They’re sort of like the female “buddies,” so that’s always fun to draw. And I think that when you mix Batman into it, you just can’t go wrong.
CMix: What can fans of the series expect from the conclusion to “Blue & Gold?"
DJ: I think we have a couple of real surprises cooked up in terms of where this book is going and what it’s going to be. And there will be a couple of treats that I think they’re going to enjoy.
CMix: Geoff Johns has said that he will be leaving Booster Gold at some point in 2008 and Dan DiDio has stated that the book will continue after he leaves. Can you give us any insight to where that all stands?
DJ: I think right now we’re still trying to hammer everything out. What we’re trying to work on is getting the timing down in terms of making sure that when Geoff leaves, he gets to say everything he wants to say in terms of the book. It’s also important to note that he’s done a fabulous job and we hate to see him go. I think all of us would prefer that he not leave. All I can say is yes, what Dan DiDio said is correct. The book is going to continue and we’re just trying to hammer down the details of when Geoff leaves, who’s going to take over and what’s going to happen after that.
CMix: And as far as you know, you’ll stay involved with the book?
CMix: Where would you like to see the character go in the next few years? What role would you like to see him play in the DCU?
DJ: I think that the place where he is right now, in terms of being a crucial player who is involved with some big stuff and no one really realizes, is a fine place for him. You know one of the things that you can’t really do when Booster is always time-hopping is to get into that character aspect of who he is in terms of merchandising and that kind of stuff. So I think one of the things that could be fun is if we could see him a little bit in his own time, just so we can capitalize on that stuff that makes him unique. It’s not like we’re going to see Superman or Batman do that kind of stuff.
CMix: Do you think it’s possible that the fans have outgrown that side of his personality because they’ve embraced his new heroic side so much?
DJ: I think it’s always a balance. I’ve always had the general theory about a character that when they are created that it is that original template of creation that is generally going to serve them best. One of the things that I think often happens is that massive re-launches and reengineering of characters doesn’t really go well. For example, DC recently redid Firestorm and it was a very different character. They also redid Blue Beetle and again, it was a very different character. As I said earlier, one of the things that I think has made Booster work is his character has not changed that much.
Now in terms of him being "Mr. Merchandise," has he out-grown it? Yes. Have the fans looked at him in a different light? I think they have. At the same time, I think Booster is still the type of guy that if the Goodyear Blimp is flying over Metropolis and it catches on fire, he’ll go there and do what he can to save the pilots and make sure that it doesn’t crash into the crowded city streets. But he is still always going to be the guy who is going to tell Skeets to send out an alert to the news stations to make sure that they’re there to film it. He’s still that guy. That’s who he is. Those elements still have to play a little role in the stories. That’s what we see with Ted and Booster together. That relationship that they had back when Keith and DeMatteis were doing Justice League is still a part of who they are today. I think readers like those constants.
CMix: You created DC’s Tangent Universe in the late ‘90s and have now brought it back with Tangent Comics: Superman’s Reign. Can you talk a little bit about what Tangent Comics means to you and how the Tangent Universe will fit into the DCU for the foreseeable future?
DJ: When we first started working on Tangent many years ago, there was always the general idea that hopefully we would be able to come back to it someday. Considering the amount of work we had put into creating the Tangent Earth, the individual characters, the bible for the whole series and all that stuff. I think at that time, all of us who were involved pretty much had the idea that this stuff was going to hopefully endure somehow. We did two waves of Tangent books and then, for a variety of reasons it just kind of went on the shelf and sat there for a while. Dan (DiDio) first asked me about it probably two or three years ago now but it took this long to get going.
I think its great that it’s up and running because what it does is, it gives the tapestry of all 52 universes a world that is clearly defined in terms of having it’s own set of characters, its own set of politics and its own set of technical advances. I think ultimately that always becomes a potential playground. I think it’s great to have it back as part of the Multiverse – because it is probably more flushed out than the other Earths as a whole, and we are able to tell more unique stories with Earth Tangent. The fact that they’re now going to become a stronger part of the DCU is great.
Obviously there is going to be a mass awareness on the part of DC characters as to this other Earth that’s out there with another Superman or Batman. Obviously that kind of harkens back to some of the more classic moments in DC history. Tangent is now able to become another aspect of all of that and a very well realized one, I think.
CMix: What character did you create for Tangent that you are most proud of or is your favorite?
DJ: I think there were a few of them. I always was partial to the Joker, to the Flash and I always liked Green Lantern. When I created her, she was just a mystical woman who hangs out in a cemetery and is able to raise people from the dead. Other creators added to all of these Tangent characters, and in this case, certainly James Robinson added a tremendous amount to the Tangent Green Lantern. She is probably my favorite of all.
CMix: We saw clues that she and other Tangent characters might be returning as far back as Infinite Crisis. Were you involved in laying down all the groundwork for this return?
DJ: Yeah. That goes back to Dan, Eddie Berganza and I having some very early discussions. We were saying, “Let’s start this up. Let’s start to lay the groundwork for what this is going to eventually be.”
So, going back to the Infinite Crisis book, we started to sneak a couple of things in. I made sure along the way that we were going to try to sprinkle a glimpse of the Tangent Universe here and there to make sure that people were aware of it. It’s just fun for readers to see it and recognize it and it started to set us up for where we wanted to go.
CMix: You’re well-known for your work on the groundbreaking "Death Of Superman” story arc, did you see the Superman: Doomsday animated film?
DJ: This is going to sound very weird. I’ve got it here sitting on my shelf and I have not yet watched it. I’ve always hesitated to watch it because it is obviously a reimagining of a piece of work that I had a hand in, and seeing it would kind of short-change the process a little bit. I have just never taken the time to bother to watch it. I know it seems odd. People can’t believe it but that’s the case.
CMix: Finally, you wrote the “History Of The DCU” backup stories for 52, was it difficult to condense 80 years of comic book continuity into 40 pages?
DJ: In four-page installments, yeah. Obviously we knew that we were just going to be hitting the high points but at the same time as we were working on it, I kept saying, “My God, we need more pages.” I mean, instead of four pages a week for 12 weeks, it could have been 20 pages a week for 12 weeks. There were many times when I think we wanted to go into more detail and we just didn’t have the room to do it. So the idea was to just absolutely hit the high points and make sure that everyone has a very base understanding of what the DC Universe is and the general time line that was there.
Booster Gold #9 hits shelves this week from DC Comics, while issue #3 of Tangent Comics: Superman’s Reign is scheduled for release the following week, on May 21.