REFLECTIONS #238: Jeff Katz

Tue, March 25th, 2008 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Robert Taylor, Staff Writer

"Booster Gold" #7 on sale now

You'd think Jeff Katz would be tired by now. First he travels all over the globe for his day job as VP of Production at 20th Century Fox. Right now he's in Australia because of a little movie called "Wolverine," and two weeks ago he was in New Zealand.

He also happens to co-write "Booster Gold," which upon its release in 2007 quickly became a huge sleeper hit for DC Comics. Co-written with Geoff Johns, "Booster Gold" tells the story of the title hero's adventures through time and space to repair rips and tears in history, most recently one that reunited him with his best friend Ted Kord, the slain Blue Beetle.

What's next for Booster and his intrepid co-writer? Read on, dear reader….

Story continues below

How far back do you go as a comics fan?

I learned to read on comic books, as a matter of fact.

And were you a Marvel or DC guy growing up?

I would say plenty of both, though probably 2-to-1 DC as a kid. I grew up in Michigan and would get 10-cents-a-bottle for every bottle I recycled. My parents would always let the bottles build up a little bit so that I could take the money and spend it on comics, which were 75-cents-a-pop back then. Comics and movies were what I spent all of my money on. There were certain stores in the Detroit area that it was a big deal for me to go to because they had a big comic book selection, much more than the local store.

Dan Jurgens' original Booster Gold stories are available in "Showcase Presents: Booster Gold," on sale this week
[Comics have] dominated a large part of my life. My one year of college (I'm a proud college drop-out), we had a bed-mattress/couch – sort of like a futon – that they gave you when you moved into the dorms at Michigan State, and my friends and I took one and covered it with my old "Superfriends" sheets from childhood. Comic book heroes have been a part of my life since I can remember, even so far as using the life lessons from comic books as I was growing up.

What are some of the moments you read growing up that stood out to you and made you go, "Whoa!"

"Crisis On Infinite Earths" was a big, big deal. I was six or seven years old, and when The Flash died that was a huge deal. The murder of Justice League Detroit by Ivo was big as well. I loved the John Byrne "Action Comics" run that had Superman plus a guest star in each issue. They did Superman vs. Superboy with that great Legion tie-in. Hell, I actually remember being a fan of "Legends" when I was younger, which set up the new Justice League with Beetle and Booster in it.

I remember "Batman: Death in the Family" was a big deal. My teachers even wanted to borrow the issue where Jason Todd got killed. The Spider-Man wedding was a big deal. I like the "West Coast Avengers," oddly enough.

It was my world that I escaped into. My three loves as a kid, and I'm fortunate enough to have worked in all of them, were film, comics and wrestling.

Have you ever stopped reading comics?

"Booster Gold" volume 1 on sale in May
The only time I flirted with it was my one year of college when I didn't have any money. I still bought comics, but that's easily the time in my life I was buying the fewest. But I would still be on the Web and I'd still buy Wizard to be up to date with everything that was going on.

When I moved to L.A., it wasn't workable to bring my entire collection, so I remember vividly boxing up the ones I was willing to part with and giving them to an orphanage before I left. I'm not the kind of guy that polybags every single one to keep pristine forever, but I love the idea of giving my collection to my kids someday, should I have them (kids, not comics).

And now whenever I'm in a public place and reading comics, I like to leave them behind to be found, hopefully by kids or new readers. They are all over the place in New Zealand and Australia. I left the first issue of Bucky as Captain America in the Auckland Airport food court. That's my little tribute to Brubaker.

I think one of the problems with our business is that we have priced ourself out of a new audience to some level. I think that needs to be taken on very quickly. In a world where comics are three dollars, and it's four dollars a gallon for gas, we need to move quickly to compete because there is too much else to spend that money on. It's going to hurt comics in the long run. That's my rant for the day.

Today is it still 2-to-1 DC, or has it evened out?

It's everything today. I am still a very big DC guy, I read plenty of Marvel and plenty of the indies.

"Booster Gold" #8 on sale in April
The movie business is one where there are lunch meetings, dinner meetings and drink meetings, and I'm the guy that will expressly not have meetings Wednesday night because it's comic book night.

And what books are making you go "Wow!" right now?

Most of the stuff that Brubaker is doing. I'm a big "Green Lantern" guy, and "JSA." I like "Scalped." I loved the end of "Y: The Last Man," which wasn't what I was expecting. Love "The Walking Dead." Love "Blue Beetle." I prefer "New Avengers" to "Mighty Avengers." "Iron Fist." "Checkmate." "The Boys." "Shaolin Cowboy."

I just love walking up and down the aisles every Wednesday and looking around. I even have a spinner rack in my office at Fox.

How have you liked the "Identity Crisis," "Infinite Crisis" and "52" event comics?

"52" is one of the real triumphs of the last decades of comics, but I particularly love the idea that you have to read these books that really matter and have bearing on the entire universe. When it's done right, there is nothing better. It's exciting and I get very pumped up.

"Identity Crisis" I liked, but felt was a bit predictable in that I knew Sue Dibny was dying from the very first house ad. Jean Loring was something I saw coming as well, but I loved the Captain Boomerang/Jack Drake stuff.

Booster Gold: the hero of "52"
"Infinite Crisis" was great because "Crisis on Infinite Earths" was really one of the big comics for me so it was fun to revisit.

But I loved being able to pick up "52" every week. I have gone and read #1 to #52 in order over and over, and gave my brother the trades for the holidays. And it had an "up" ending and showed that the universe had a wealth of potential. I get "grim and gritty," but I don't think that "fun" should be a four-letter-word in comics. Comics can be fun and still have weight and relevance and bearing on the entire universe, and that's what we're trying to do with "Booster Gold."

Speaking of Booster, how big a fan were you before you got the gig?

Gigantic. Very big. He was one of my favorites.

Are you as big of a DC continuity buff as the book would make you seem to be?

Geoff and I both are. It became something that was fun for us to play in, and something we could go wild with. Doing Rip Hunter's chalkboard alone was a pleasure. The fan response to that chalkboard is amazing.

How as your co-writing process evolved since the title began?

The first couple issues were Geoff and I going to dinner and plotting pages #1-#22 and then knocking it out together on a weekend in the same room. We would bring out different things in each other that we don't when we are solo, and that is great fun.

Booster Gold: Time Master(?)
Now, Geoff and I will go to dinner or lunch, plot #1-#22, and we will horsetrade which sections to write, go home and do our thing.

It's been a really good process, and DC has been really supportive and left us alone to do our thing. It's only been positive, and has been one of the best experiences of my life, both personally and professionally.

What's the most surprising thing Johns threw in that made the issue for you?

It's a little thing, but it was inspired. In the first issue, there is a beat where Booster saves a boy and tells the kid "Tell them Superman saved you." Geoff totally aped the moment from the first movie, being the Richard Donner fanatic he is, of Christopher Reeve flying off in the end. Such a nice little touch. And [series artist and Booster Gold creator] Jurgens nailed it, too.

There has been a lot of sly, subtle stuff, like me doing the Blue Beetles doing Abbey Road, and we are always looking for those Easter-Eggy things to do. They're just too much fun. Everyone involved loves the DCU with great passion. So we don't have to educate anybody, and that accounts for a lot at the end of the day. If I say I want to use Power Girl's ugly old cat, Jurgens and [editor Michael] Siglain know what it is immediately. [laughs]

What are you most proud of with the book?

I'm proud of the fact that we have been able to do a book with a lot of heart and humor to offer, while still keeping a real sense of danger and high adventure. The Skeets/Booster dynamic is always a lot of fun and something I've loved to write. I just love Skeets. I'd write a Skeets solo book if I could. I loved the beat where we sent Booster into the Old West to meet and fight with Jonah Hex and we had Skeets programmed with old Western film scores. Dan Jurgens knocked it out of the park that issue when he had Skeets riding the horse, which might be my favorite comic book image ever now. I'm just so proud of the little touches. I like sly.

Let's talk Dan Jurgens.

Having Dan involved has been better than I could have ever hoped. Dan's style is timeless and works in any era. Any business goes through its phases and fads, but Dan is a true constant and he always delivers. And he's very underrated still, because I think he does facial expressions as well as anybody I've ever seen. He's done some sly facial tics unlike anyone I've ever seen.

It's been a thrill for me personally. Look at his "Death of Superman." Or "Justice League." "Zero Hour." And I get to work with him on his own creation, and have him like the shit that I'm doing! It's crazy.

Did you think "Booster Gold" would become a sleeper hit?

I always thought people would like it but maybe not at the level they seem to now. It's been a nice twist. The character was set up in a great place coming out of "52," and if it was ever going to work, now was the time. In the worst-case scenario, we figured we would at least have a year.

The idea that the book has been embraced like it has is jaw-dropping for me. I haven't been to a convention this year yet, and it won't hit me until then, but even the fact that we are getting a hardcover collection for a "Booster Gold" book is hilarious. I have been shocked by the number of people that have reached out on Facebook or MySpace to say how much they like the book. It's actually gotten a nice response from my peers in Hollywood as well. The whole thing is surreal to me.

Anything you would go back and change?

I'm sure there is. I would have liked to have played Rex Hunter as a red herring a while longer, I think. That's off the top of my head. I don't re-watch my old movies when they are done because I don't want to drive myself crazy nitpicking. I think I'll apply the same rule here. It's never going to be perfect, but all things being equal, I'm very pleased with what we've done.

"Booster Gold" #0 ties-in to Dan Jurgens' "Zero Hour" crossover event -- about 15 years late
Who had the idea to do the "Zero Hour" tie-in issue nearly fifteen years late?

I'm not even sure. We were talking about doing these types of crossover issues very early on, and I can tell you that we have "Booster Gold" #1,000,000 upcoming. I would have loved to get in "Armageddon 2001" somewhere in there too. A lot of stuff that we did came from original spitball sessions.

Plus, when you are working with Dan Jurgens, it makes a lot of sense. You get the rare opportunity to see Mullet Superman, after all!

It must have been great to have that silver-y cover for the #0 issue, like all the original "Zero Hour" crossovers?

I wanted to have that exploding zero too, but I was pretty geeked that they did that.

What else is coming up?

In terms of what is coming up now, it's about whether Beetle and Booster can come together to right what they have done while still letting Ted stay in our time and continue the Blue and Gold adventure. Things are going to converge, with villains coming into play that haven't yet. A lot of the themes from the first several issues will come into play, and it will end with a surprise or two for fans.

Is there any part of the DCU you decided purposely to avoid?

"Booster Gold" #9
There is nothing we've been overtly negative on. God, if we play with "The Killing Joke," there aren't many places we won't go. It's like why the hell not? We have 52 universes and decades of great stories to play with, so why not?

What else do you want to work on?

Teen Titans, definitely. Suicide Squad, which is also the DC movie I most want to make. Here's a weird one: Zatara. I'd like to do Zatara next, actually. Lobo. I would do "Brave and the Bold" in a heartbeat.

Ready for the lightning round?

Let's do it.

What was your first comic book?

I'm pretty sure it was Batman-related, but I don't know exactly. So either something Batman or "Teen Titans" I'd wager.

Has there ever been a comic that touched or changed your life?

The arc that introduced Tim Drake as Robin. I remember as a kid who was not a Jason Todd fan, I wanted to see a kid in comics who was smart and felt real world. Tim was that to me and I loved that he found out who Batman was with simple detective skills. As a kid, you just want to read people who can be avatars for yourself, and he was one of them for me.

Ted Kord's death was a big deal for me, too.

Let's say you were writing a yearlong weekly comic book series with three other writers. Who would they be?

Geoff, because we naturally work together well. I need to give you four, so Geoff, Grant Morrison, Brubaker and Brian Michael Bendis. I was with Brubaker last week, and he was a guy I would kill to work with.

"Booster Gold" #10
If you could only write one comic for the rest of your career, what would it be?

"Brave and the Bold."

And who would be drawing?

Ethan Van Sciver.

What is your favorite comic book movie of all time?

"Superman 2." I love General Zod.

The Richard Donner or Richard Lester version?

Dick Donner is the man, bar none. Just a great, great guy. However, Donner cuts out my favorite line in the movie, where Superman flies up to the Daily Planet and says to Zod & Co. "Gentlemen, would you care to step outside?"

If you could only be remembered for one thing in your career, what would it be?

Whatever the medium, hopefully for making original, outrageous and memorable stuff.

Related
JEFF KATZ'S TRUE COLORS: "BLUE & GOLD"
BUILDING A BETTER "BOOSTER" WITH JURGENS, JOHNS & KATZ


GEOFF JOHNS THINKING BIG IN THE DCU, PART 1


DC FLASHBACK: BOOSTER GOLD

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