365 Reasons to Love Comics #178
(I’m getting some weird problems from Firefox and the WordPress posting form that caused me to lose yesterday’s column, and almost lose today’s– something’s spiking my CPU usage up to 100% and freezing stuff up. I know Firefox uses a lot of RAM, but… anybody have an idea, or will my computer self-destruct in ten seconds?)
DITKO WEEK dares to move into Day Four with today’s fedora-laden entry! Y’know, Mr. Ditko gave us so much goodness, one week may not be enough to contain it. Would anybody mind? I hope not. Archive’s here. Onwards!
178. The Question
This entry finishes off Ditko’s “Big Three;” we had Spider-Man, Dr. Strange (way back in Doctor Week), and now the lesser-known but powerful Question character. He’s not as popular as those other guys, but his star has been rising in recent years. He was the best thing to be found in the Justice League cartoon (“The things on the end of your shoelaces are called aglets. Their purpose is sinister!”) and he was enjoying a comeback in the comics. So, naturally, they killed him off and replaced him with a new one. But this column is here to praise the Question, not to bury him.
Steve Ditko created the Question for Charlton Comics in the back pages of Blue Beetle #1 (say, there’s another cool Ditko creation. Wonder if he’ll show up this week?). The Question was really Vic Sage, a hotshot journalist who became a literally faceless crime-fighting vigilante. Outfitted with a “pseudoderm” mask thanks to Aristotle “Tot” Rodor, Vic Sage became the Question, a man with no face out to right the wrong he saw in society. Ditko himself wrote and drew precious few Question stories, but the character endured. How could he not, though, when he boasts one of the greatest visuals in comics? A faceless man in a coat and hat is simple, but incredibly effective and immediately unnerving. It works wonderfully.
The original portrayal of the Question sided with Ditko’s own Objectivist philosophy, much like a later and similar Ditko creation who we’ll probably see in a day or two. (Spooky, eh?)
DC Comics later bought Charlton out and began using several of their characters, including the Question, in DC continuity. The Question first served as the basis for the fascinating Rorschach in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, which we all know and love. Shortly after that, Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan debuted their Question ongoing, which lasted for thirty-six issues, two annuals, and five installments of “The Question Quarterly.”
In this new series, the Question was completely reinvented from Ditko’s original vision, transforming into a zen martial artist instead. His true name was revealed to be Charles Victor Szasz, not Vic Sage. I’ve only read the first six issues, myself, but it seems to be a terrific series, bringing Hub City to life and filling the pages with a rich story and some great moments. A trade of those first six issues is coming soon, followed by the rest of the series, one assumes. Look for it. Good stuff.
After his series ended, ol’ Vic ended up in guest star status again. Greg Rucka showed an interest in him, using him in a Huntress mini. O’Neil returned to the character for a ’97 one-shot. The brilliance came, however, in Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards’ Question mini from 2005. The Question was taken even further down an antithetical path from Steve Ditko. Sage was cast here as something of an urban shaman taking on bizarre crime in Metropolis. This mini is an overlooked gem with a great story and drop dead gorgeous art. I don’t think it’s in trade, but it should be. Write to your Congressman.
Next, the Question appeared, as said above, in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, voiced by Jeffrey “Re-Animator” Combs and portrayed as a slightly mad but utterly brilliant conspiracy nut who happens to be right. And, of course, we all know the Question returned to comics as a mentor to Renee Montoya in last year’s 52. Everybody liked him, so naturally, he was killed off and replaced. Bah.
I’m sure Vic Sage will be back eventually in some form or another. The Question is a great character– and he’s a survivor. He’s lived through the demise of a company, through multiple creative interpretations, and even through his own death, once. Who’s to say he shan’t return this time as well, once again singing “Danny Boy” as he appears out of the smoke?
Be sure to visit the internet’s premiere Question website, which is loaded with cool stuff.