While it may not be as sexy for the average fan as the “Who is the Blackest Night Big Bad?” question I posed a while back, there’s another mystery out there that’s nearer and dearer to my Booster Gold-loving heart; namely “Who is the Black Beetle?”
Back when it was solicited, Booster Gold #24 promised to answer the question—but according to a recent Gold Exchange interview with Dan Jurgens, that issue and the one that follows it will now just have some movement in the direction of answering the question, not an answer unto itself. He did, however, promise that #25 would have at least one major revelation: the identity of The Black Beetle’s mysterious ally, a lab-coated stranger who remains locked up in a high-tech facility in the side of a snow-covered mountain while Black Beetle does all the dirty work. Whether this man is Black Beetle’s boss, or the other way around, is unknown at this point (when I referred to him as Black Beetle’s “puppet master” once, Jurgens was quick to point out we didn’t know who was really in charge there), but he seems like a good place to start for speculation’s sake. So: Who is he? I’ve got some ideas—and then next week I’ll look into who might be The Black Beetle himself. As with the Blackest Night story, I’ll start with the guy who’s my odds-on favorite…but the rest of the list has no particular order.
This longtime Justice League villain has good reason to want the JLA dead—which seems to be all Booster and Rip’s shadowy adversary has really vocalized as a raison d’être. He’s faced off with Booster before (with the JLI). He also played a big role in 52, the story where Booster’s renaissance really began. In terms of physical appearance, the shaggy hair and white coat (seen most clearly on Black Beetle’s partner in this month’s Booster Gold #23) fit right in with Morrow. And while it’s probably intellectually safer to keep Booster Gold and its Blue Beetle co-feature separate (Jurgens has said there are no immediate plans to cross the two over), the Black Beetle’s theft of a sophisticated android at the end of Blue Beetle’s just-finished three-parter could turn out to be very telling if his partner was the inventor of Red Tornado, Amazo and Tomorrow Woman.
Why not him? Well…I can’t think of a good reason, except that he’s busy hassling his old golf buddy Will Magnus in recent issues of Metal Men. But if Black Beetle can be used in two stories that are published within the same covers at the same time, one imagines that Morrow—a villain with much more range and experience—can appear in two places at different corners of the publishing office.
Everything that’s happened in the last few years of the DC Universe—and certainly everything that’s happened in Booster Gold—can be traced back to the night Max Lord killed his old friend and Teammate Ted Kord. And while it may have given Lord inestimable power if Booster had saved his best friend (as seen in “Blue & Gold”), it’s hard to know for sure that Lord didn’t have something in place to keep his Checkmate empire going after his apparent death. That would explain the snowy mountains, and Max would certainly have reason to want the JLA gone. Beyond that, this is the first story since the beginning of Booster Gold that didn’t have at least one direct tie to Blue Beetle and/or Max Lord. And with Black Lantern Ted looming on #26’s cover, wouldn’t it be interesting to know the status of Max (whose former life as an AI might lend him some ability to body-hop) going into that?
Why not him? It seems unlikely from a dramatic perspective that Max would be brought back and not Ted. Not emotionally satisfying! Besides which, Max is a likely Black Lantern and that has its own set of issues.
Another scientist (and therefore another reason for the white coat), Matthew Ryder is the man who would one day become Waverider, the most visually-recognizable of the Linear Men group that Rip Hunter used to lead, before apparently locking them up for reasons unknown. This alone, combined with the fact that The Linear Men protected the “sole, true” timeline and Hunter and Booster are partially responsible for the restoration of the Multiverse, could give him the motivation to attack his would-be allies. The character was also created by Jurgens, who has a history of reusing Waverider, often with slight tweaks to the character, in stories (notably Armageddon 2001, Zero Hour and Superman/Doomsday: Hunter and Prey).
Why not him? Jurgens has indicated that while the Linear Men’s story will be told, it won’t be for a while, with the Black Beetle and Booster’s upcoming clash with the Legion of Super-Heroes taking priority.
You can’t keep a good time-traveler down. They proved this numerous times following the death of Hal Jordan, when Parallax would appear in Green Lantern or other books in spite of his death. Hank Hall is a character who played a big role in two of Jurgens’ big time-related crossover events (the aforementioned Zero Hour and Armageddon 2001 stories), and while he may have died there an expertise in dealing with time travel might have left a resurrected-but-powerless Hall looking for a willing ally (he’s known best for working in pairs, from Hawk & Dove to Extant & Parallax/Mordru).
Why not him? Well, for starters Hank Hall’s a Black Lantern. Depending on how they end up explaining just what the Black Lanterns do and how they work (how, for example, is Ted Kord, whose body was burned up, returning?), this could totally exclude him from consideration.
A cop from the 25th Century, Broderick took it hard when football hero Michael Jon Carter was caught taking a dive on games to help out his family finances. So needless to say, he was pretty happy to be the one responsible for bringing Carter in for execution after he stole a time machine and started calling himself “Booster Gold” back in the past. When Booster went home (the first time Trixie came back with him, in the ‘80s), along with Rip Hunter and Jack Soo, Broderick followed him back and spent much of the latter half of Booster’s original monthly trying to bring the hero in, dead or alive. Physically, his profile matches (at least loosely) the one seen in silhouette of our bad guy in Booster Gold #22 and the futuristic/stylized cuffs on the bad guy’s shirt in that issue might point to someone from the future, too.
Why not him? The motivation just isn’t there. First of all, he grudgingly admitted that Carter may belong in the past after all, before disappearing off into the sunset years ago. And while he might change his mind and go after Booster, it’d be a huge leap of faith that someone whose entire birth hinges on time being pretty solid for the next 500 years would want to prematurely kill Superman.
Another guy who’s dead, but who might not be. While using him again (and again and again) might seem suspect so early in the series, try to remember that when Jurgens was writing Superman, Hank Henshaw came back again and again, making himself a villain of almost Luthorian proportions once he was introduced as the Cyborg Superman. Eventually he appeared too much and people got burned out of him (think Superboy Prime). Then he went into hibernation for a few years and came out awesome. It’s really hard to kill a guy made up of chronal energy, so if Jason managed to get a physical body back, he could very easily be working with his old partner again.
Why not him? Well, I already said it. Using the same villain for the third story arc in less than 30 issues would be pushing it, and Jurgens has been around the block long enough to know that. Look for Rex Hunter to come back closer to issue 50 than issue 25.
You know what’s cool about being so badass that when you’re dead, people want to resurrect you and take advantage of your power or influence? It’s that time doesn’t hold much meaning. This evil pharaoh, whose resurrection Booster and a slightly-younger version of himself halted in Booster Gold #18 (recently collected in Booster Gold: Reality Lost), has plenty of reason to think that taking Booster and Rip out of the equation would be just great.
Why not him? It would take a huge leap of faith to determine that the Black Beetle saw any upside in bringing in a villain who could potentially sap his scarab of its power, and/or be more powerful than him. This guy also seems to have no powers himself, to speak of. And an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who wants the JLA dead isn’t completely out of the question, but seems kind of arbitrary.
One of the very few “action” characters from the first monthly who’s not made an appearance yet in the second (I don’t count supporting characters, friends and lovers like Dirk or Trixie.), Soo was almost as good as Rip Hunter at working with time travel. It took both of them to make the Time Sphere work when Booster first arrived (since Hunter hadn’t yet invented it and Booster’s was the first working version he had ever seen), and so he clearly has the talent.
Why not him? Simple: Barring a colorist mistake, the bad guy is white. Jack is not. Also, he’s got straight hair, not the wavy and/or messy variety seen on our antagonist.
Co-created by Dan Jurgens, the leader of the Sun Devils comes from a future where earth is part of an interstellar alliance at odds with an evil empire of lizard-men. Very Star Wars-inspired, it first seemed as though Sun Devils took place in a different universe than the regular DCU. Maybe the Crisis on Infinite Earths fixed that, though, because Sunn appeared, ancient and three-quarters insane, in 1994’s Superman #86 (also by Jurgens and former Sun Devils inker Steve Mitchell), where it was revealed he’d been chasing the series’ villain through space and time his whole life. If there’s a guy out there whose profile and attire more closely match the ones seen in #22 than Broderick’s, it’s Sunn (I checked the books side by side and was pretty impressed). Additionally, an old blackboard clue in the first year of Booster Gold said, “The Sun Devils will save us all!” When asked about the matter, co-writer Jeff Katz said that they had decided to make Rik Sunn a member of the Time Stealers. He later clarified that it was a joke, but…!
Why not him? The only reason I remember them is that I have a soft spot for the series that even its writer/artist has described as unique. Very, very few people have ever heard of Rik Sunn or his Sun Devils. While Jurgens is certainly one of those people (Sun Devils was his first writing job at DC), I wouldn’t expect them to seriously play a part in any major story.
Booster Gold, Rip Hunter or Ted Kord
I’m lumping all these guys together in a kind of “time travel is wacky, Rip and Booster have resorted to misrepresentation of the facts loads of times to get the job done, and who knows what agenda they might be playing?” thing. Ted has been a popular answer among the “Who is Black Beetle?” discussions with the idea that he might be working some kind of angle to make Booster a better hero.
Why not them? It seems unlikely with so many bodies potentially piling up, and so much temporal chaos being created by all this. Why would they do this just to make their past selves work their tails off fixing it?