Every Wednesday, you can count on Boosterrific, the Internet's premiere Booster Gold fan site, to let you know what comics the Greatest Hero You've Never Heard Of appeared in this week.
According to that site, it's been 402 days since the last time Booster appeared in a DC Comic.
The fact that Booster has appeared so rarely in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe is as aggravating for his hardcore fans as it is baffling: the last volume of Booster Gold ended at #47 (but also included a #0 and a #1,000,000 -- and was ended not by low sales but by the Flashpoint reboot itself. 49 issues isn't only a respectable run for any comic, it's damn near unheard-of for a relatively minor character like Booster in the current comics marketplace.
Right after Flashpoint, a slightly-redesigned Booster returned at the head of a new Justice League International title, which ended after just a year. After the final issue of JLI, there was an annual, in which Booster Gold witnessed the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman starting up with a kiss and disappeared into the timestream.
This was, at the time, expected to pay off pretty quickly, but it didn't. Even when we briefly saw the character again later it had little-if-anything to do with his disappearance. Of course, at the time, the DC Universe had just been radically reinvented and not every characters was going to get a lot of attention or "screen time." Heck, entire groups of fairly major characters hadn't been seen in years!
Fast forward to Rebirth.
Batman is the head of an extensive Bat-family again in Detective Comics, which features Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and more.
Dan Jurgens is back on Superman with Action Comics, and in the first three months of Rebirth, the Man of Steel took on Doomsday in Action while Superman saw him dealing with The Eradicator.
Wally West is back, he's a Flash (not The Flash), and they're doing more with him than they've done since 2005.
On and on, the DC Universe seems to be embracing its history and legacy. Hell, even Ted Kord is back in action (and behind snazzy goggles again) in Blue Beetle, even if he isn't and has never been a costumed superhero in this continuity.
There are a few characters who remain notably absent, though, and perhaps none more notably than Michael Jon Carter, the superhero known as Booster Gold.
When Flashpoint happened, Booster and his mentor/son (time travel is weird!) Rip Hunter noticed a disturbance and worked to address it, making Booster Gold one of the only DC books to actually deal with Flashpoint in-story. At the end, Booster returned to Vanishing Point and said something about needing a new costume, which seemingly tied into the re-envisioned look he had in Justice League International.
"I think it's fairly clear Booster remembers being a Time Master because he recognizes Vanishing Point," former Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens told us back in 2011. "He wasn't confused by where he was... only how he got there. His reason for going there and methodology used are what puzzle him."
In Justice League International Annual #1, a slightly older version of Booster Gold came back from the future, where he apparently worked with A.R.G.U.S., arrived and, among other things, referenced working with Rip Hunter. That's interesting because during Booster's Time Master days in the most recent volume of his solo book, they had been working closely.
That version of Booster seemed, to those of us who had read it, to coincide with an older version of Booster who had appeared periodically during his solo title, and the Time Masters: Vanishing Point miniseries that ran alongside the Return of Bruce Wayne event. That older, wiser Booster (pictured at right) was the one who was the father of Rip Hunter, and frequently appeared at key moments in the story to secretly advise Rip, or to quietly influence events without being noticed by his younger self.
In Booster Gold, Volume 2, the older Booster was THE Time Master, with the secrets of the universe laid bare for him. It's pretty obvious, then, why seeing a version of that character had led many fans to wonder whether, when Booster reappeared after vanishing in the JLI Annual, he might come back with a more advanced understanding of the DC Multiverse. That the Booster Gold of the New 52 seems to be actually, physically the same person as he was before Flashpoint also instills people with a sense that he could be the Psycho-Pirate of Flashpoint--a character whose very existence could unravel the whole story for everyone else in the DCU.
It would later turn out that, despite fan theories, the Booster who appeared in Justice League International #1 was not the same Booster who had been in the pre-Flashpoint stories. That Booster, apparently realizing that there was something terribly wrong with the timeline, had paired with Rip and worked outside of time, as detailed in Convergence: Booster Gold. At the end of that series, the true nature of Booster and Rip's work as Time Masters had been revealed to the post-Flashpoint Booster, and the older Booster had evolved into the new Waverider.
There was, then, an explanation for Booster's long absence between the time when Justice League International was cancelled and when Convergence took place. But the character -- one of only a handful of DC heroes who aren't Batman- or Superman-affiliated to have a series last for fifty issues in recent years -- has once again vanished from the scene following the events of Convergence, and it's hard not to imagine that's connected to the behind-the-scenes mysteries surrounding Rebirth.
After all, one of the big questions that fans asked following Flashpoint was, if the timeline was radically altered following the event, weren't Booster and Rip -- the Time Masters -- doing a pretty bad job of Time Mastering? It seemed possible that someone or something was manipulating them, or preventing them from being able to see everything they needed to see.
That last bit could prove to be important, since "chronal interference" that prevented Doctor Manhattan from seeing the past or the future (usually one of his powers) was key to making the plot of Watchmen work. Now that DC Universe: Rebirth #1 has been released and fans know the mysterious hand behind the creation of the post-Flashpoint DC Universe was in fact Doctor Manhattan's, one has to wonder whether Manhattan and Ozymandias, to whom he was speaking in the Rebirth special, might be doing something similar to the DC Universe's Time Masters.
It wouldn't be unprecedented, even in recent history. When Convergence happened, the sorcerer Deimos rounded up all the time travelers he could because he could sense that their abilities jeopardized his plans more greatly than even heroes like Superman and Batman.
In Waverider, the DC Universe has the closest thing to a Doctor Manhattan-like understanding of time that it will likely ever get. When he makes physical contact with a person or object, he can see the whole past and future of that thing unfold for him, in much the same way Doctor Manhattan described time as being a multifaceted surface, where ordinary humans could see only one side but he could see them all.
Certainly, then, Waverider would have to know from spending time with Rip Hunter and Booster Gold that they were from two slightly different worlds with slightly different histories, and probably how those differences came to pass.
Could it be that Booster Gold and the Time Masters aren't simply missing, but have made a strategic retreat so that, as they did in Convergence, they can play a key role in the crisis to come when the secrets of Rebirth finally come to light?