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The Past Was Close Behind: Blue Beetle and Booster Gold Discuss What Maxwell Lord Might Do to Them

This is the first of a new feature where I spotlight moments, exchanges, etc. from older comics that take on a brand new light when read in concert with later comic books.

Our first example is from Justice League America #35, where Blue Beetle and Booster Gold are bemoaning the failure of their attempt to make a Justice League-themed casino…

Obviously, roughly fifteen years later Maxwell Lord did, indeed, shoot Beetle in the head.

If you have suggestions of future installments of this feature, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

Don’t make suggestions in the comments section!

33 Comments

People complain about Maxwell Lord’s supposedly jumping out of character, but he was well established early on as a scrupleless, manipulating man. An actual villain, in fact.

He was introduced as a scruple-less man who eventually learned scruples and became a better man, to the point that J’onn J’onnz viewed as one of his best friends in the world.

I like this new feature, Brian. Great work all around really.

Nice new feature, and a challenging one, I may say. I wonder if this panel actually influenced the gruesome twist….

Brian is right. Meltzer butchered the character. In fact, it was never explained why he became another ruthless villain. He also transformed Blue Beetle into a baboon that nobody trusted (which was never ever the case with the old JLI and especially afterwards when he became more “serious”.).

@ Ricardo, to be fair, Meltzer screwed with a bunch of characters in Identity Crisis, but he didn’t touch Max. Max shot BB in DC Countdown, which was Geoff Johns, Judd Winick and Greg Rucka. Maybe he was an “architect” or something, which I don’t know about. But he definitely didn’t write it.

Some of those Marvel What-ifs have become strangely prophetic.

Johnny Thunders

January 11, 2013 at 6:13 am

Characters acting “out of character” in a story written by Geoff Johns.

What a novelty! ;)

Still a sad death. DC needs to bring him back already. They bring back shit characters like Vibe and let him star in 2 monthly comics …. WTF?!? Yet Beetle is nowhere to be found, and even Booster is now ‘missing’. I’m living in Bizarro World….

The story in JLI Generation Lost was that Max went nuts after his mother died when Coast City was destroyed. I guess it’s better than nothing, but I always hoped Max was somehow being influenced by something to explain his actions. Doesn’t really matter now, I suppose, since these versions of the characters won’t be revisited again.

Talk about JLI characters acting out of character surprises me a lot. JLI’s life and blood was writing everyone out of character, after all.

BC, if you’re going with Dylan lyrics, you missed a perfect opportunity to use “Prophesize With Your Pen” as the column title.

In a meta version of this, the current Nick Fury Jr. incarnation of SHIELD is exactly what Larry Hama pitched thirty years ago as GI Joe.

nice scary how blue beetle seems to with out meaning too forshadowing max shooting some later on . not relizing it would wind up being him. and not in his spine like he told booster gold.

Doug – I think “prophesize with your pen” is meant perjoratively in context, isn’t it?

The problem with Max killing Blue Beetle wasn’t so much that it was out of character, it was that the writers missed the point of what made Max so cool. Yes, he had villainous attributes, but he consistently used those attributes to help the heroes out. The fact that he was a good man with a lot of darkness in him made him interesting. When he shot Blue Beetle in the head, he just became another typical millionaire bad guy. And, it annoyed me that this persisted throughout other medias. In the Justice League cartoon, he was an evil millionaire building his own super hero army that would follow his commands. In Smallville, he was a petty minion to Darkseid. Thus, most mondanes think that Max is just a villain.
I will say, I was almost happy with how his sudden change to villain was explained in JLI: Lost Generation. When he first shot Blue Beetle in the head, there was a general statement that he had always worked against the heroes, which made it difficult for me to like the guy in those original comics. At least in Lost Generation it was explained that he had been working with the heroes all along, but he was gradually realizing that this was not the way to ‘save the world’. True, I found his origin of having his parents be killed by criminals to be trite and a rip off of Batman’s origin, and it did not change the fact that Max was deformed for the sake of writing more ‘grim and gritty’ stories, but at least it allowed me to like the Max that used to be, and hope that, maybe, in the future, we will see the old Max in the new 52.

Frankly, I would have preferred it if they’d used their first idea for the villain in the story – Loren Jupiter instead of Max Lord. Sure, less people knew who he was, but it was far less character butchering then what ended up happening.

That is a brutal, brilliant juxtaposition.

BC, if you’re going with Dylan lyrics, you missed a perfect opportunity to use “Prophesize With Your Pen” as the column title.

That’d be an awesome title, but the “problem” is that these are not always just going to be stuff where the past writer accidentally predicted something, but also stuff that looks ironic in retrospect. But yeah, that’s a great title – maybe I can use it for some other feature!

I’m not sure if it quite counts, but recently reread Nicieza’s X-Force and noticed that the Sabotage crossover, cover dated November 1991 (so published September 1991) features Black Tom Cassiday blowing up part of the World Trade Center and talks a lot about it being a “terrorist attack”. Very strange to read.

That Loren Jupiter thing sounds like a good CBLR item.

I was a JLI fan, but I actually kind of liked the twist of Max being evil. He had a good line about keeping the Justice League ineffective for all those years which went a long way to helping me buy it.

I wish Ted Kord was still alive, though.

Oh, and great idea for a new feature, Brian!

@ Luis Dantas:

I disagree regarding how out of character the JLI was. For my money, the Giffen-DeMatties JLI is the least understood property that DC owns.

The weakness of the DCU relative to Marvel has always been how poor the B and C-list has been. DC has as good, or better, a line-up of A-listers In Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash. They have not always been handled ideally, but any of them is rich enough to support their own franchise. However, their core super-teams (JLA, Teen Titans, LoSH) lean pretty heavily on those A-list solo franchises. As a result, the DC B-list is heavily populated with derivative characters: Nightwing, Robin, RED Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, Batwoman, Huntress, Supergirl, Power Girl, SuperBOY, Donna Troy and etc.) The list of reliable team players who don’t depend on another franchise is pretty short: Martian Manhunter, the core four New Teen Titans, Black Canary and …

DC also has some A minus listers (e.g. Aquaman, Green Arrow), who are too similar to the Big Guns and, therefore, have a hard time sustaining a solo title over the long run. However, there is not an organic place for the DCU to grow in the same way that Xavier’s Academy, or the villain-to-hero conversions of early Avengers, do for Marvel. That lack of new, non-derivative blood has prevented DC from evolving. Even their B-list super-teams (e.g. Doom, Patrol) are conceptually mostly closed systems.

Like Ostrander’s SUICIDE SQUAD, JLI changed that. The International Justice League gave a vehicle for new and super-obscure characters to enter a team context. Any country on Earth could have an embassy and a random local superhero to join the cast. For whatever reason, Giffen preferred D-listers (and below) to new creations. Almost by definition, bottom rung characters don’t have really well defined personalities.

Both Booster Gold and Blue Beetle had headlined solo series that flopped prior to landing on the JLI. The silver age Blue Beetle had enjoyed some success, but there was long gap in his publication history. I’d say that any changes in their characterization are better described as “finding what worked”. Guy Gardner was pretty consistent from GREEN LANTERN CORPS to JLI as I recall. Neither Green Flame, nor Icemaiden, had any discernible personalities in their early appearances.

I liked reading Dean Hacker’s analysis almost as much as I liked this new feature. Both were super!

More love for this new feature!

Ferb Morgendorffer

January 13, 2013 at 10:53 am

Another great Brian Cronin feature, can’t wait for more.

@Lorrie Glad to hear they wrote in some better explanation, that puts Generation Lost higher on my must-read list. I had come up with my own explanation as I actually liked Countdown and OMAC Project in spite of the derailment of Max, but the Giffen/DeMattis League is one of top five all-time favorites with Max my third favorite character after Booster & Ted. My version is all the crap he went through left him insane, but being Max he was unable to accept he wasn’t in control at all times and convinced himself he was planning this all along.

@Lyle Nailed it. He was what I imagine Xanatos from Gargoyles became after he made peace with Goliath,
a ruthless bastard who’s on the heroes side (note I haven’t read the Gargoyles comics). Your complaint about media representation is shared, that’s why I have little hope how I would handle him in any movies won’t happen – after a Magnificent 7/Satellite League trilogy, part 4 would bring Max in after the JL’s been defunct a few years and have one of the Trinity in each film with a mix of JLI/other era characters, then Max would go bad but with either the Generation Lost or my retcon there to start off to keep him sympathetic with the chance for redemption (as I probably wouldn’t kill Ted, or would pull a Coulson with him if I did).

@ Dean Hacker Nailed it too. It made Booster my favorite DC hero, made Kilowog my favorite Lantern, and showed why J’Onn is the most perpetually underrated hero in the DC stable. Hell, since I wasn’t a Suicide Squad reader it’s what made Waller one of my favorites. Until I lost them due to flood damage Breakdowns was my second most re-read DC storyline after Invasion.

Ferb Morgendorffer is right about Dean Hacker being right. The other thing I would say in response to Luis (hi Luis!) is that JLI did the opposite of what he’s saying: it stayed completely true to the characters. It had to, as it relied on our understanding of those characters for a lot of its comedy. Batman’s a stick in the mud, Guy’s a boor, Captain Marvel’s good hearted but naive. Watching these characters play off each other is what made the book so entertaining.

This is a great feature! There are countless panels and conversations I have read in older comics that could fit here, stuff like the one here. I’ll start research…

Re: Lyle — The Max Lord on the Justice League cartoon wasn’t an all out bad guy — Batman summed him up as a guy who’d do anything for a buck. He was working with the bad guys (who weren’t even full-on bad guys), but he seemed to care for the Superfriend knock-offs.

Just figured I’d chime in since I dug the JLU cartoon and the episode in question, Ultimatum, actually just aired on Network television (as opposed to basic cable) for the first time a month or two back so it’s fresh in my head.

Have a good day.
G Morrow

tdsacomic.com

In a early story in the relaunch of the Justice League(1980’s) The Martian Manhunter went thru Max’s mind(when he was knocked unconscious) and saw that he wasn’t a bad guy and even gave him a JLA communicator when he woke up. So him being a villian was just another (lazy?)retcon.

The other thing was that Maxwell Lord was deeply in love with Sue Dibney. He never acted on it because she was happy in her marriage to Ralph, but it was something he really didn’t hide too well. It was Doctor Light’s total humiliation and murder of Sue that sent him spiraling. He also didn’t trust himself as a meta either. If he had succeeded in his mission to get rid of metas, he would have finished the job with a bullet to his own head.

Still cursing DC for cancelling JLI when JLD was the carp book.

That stuff was painful. I’m not sure what it is about the systematic removal of all characters JLI (a lot by death) by the powers that be currently at DC. It’s almost pathological. I can’t wait for the next generation of creators to take over and then have Stargirl die in a plane crash, just because, well, they think it’s cool. (Then here the current guys who did the same things to beloved characters complain about it).

We as responsible comics caretakers need to stop buying Geoff Johns’ books and support all of Keith Giffen’s projects. I personally am very excited for the reunion coming up in Legion of Super-Heroes #17. Paul and Keith are like the members of the band Genesis. They are great on their own, but something magical happens when they work together. Legion has already been a thousand times better book than Justice League from a writing standpoint in the Nu52.

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