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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!

6/27/07

178. The Question

Question 1.jpg

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.

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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.

Question 5.jpgQuestion 6.JPG
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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.

16 Comments

I was Rorschach for Halloween two years ago. I’m thinking about being The Question this year.

I’m hoping Rene would make for a good Question…and if she can’t, we still have the Q from Earth-4.

I’ve been watching JLU on Boomerang, and he cracked me up something fierce…especially when he got tortured by Dr. Moon and started babbling about conspiracies. Boomerang hasn’t gotten to the one episode where he’s investigating an ice cream shop and says, “Thirty-TWO!”

If we’re going beyond a week with Ditko, any chance for a profile of Prince Gayven, the fourth Starman?

Go Question!

Suck it Rorshach, you cynical knockoff.

I loved the question on Justice League Unlimited (the 32 flavors joke was my favorite), but never read any of the comics at all. Poking around, I really don’t see any Question-related trades at all (though I’m not really looking very hard) except for the yet to be released one mentioned in the article… are there any worthwhile ones?

Rorshach wasn’t really a knock-off, actually.

And yes, please more Ditko.

Stephane Savoie

June 28, 2007 at 5:47 pm

There’s a trade collecting the early O’Neal/Cowan stuff solicited in the new Previews. It should be out in September.
There are Archives collecting the Ditko stuff as well (Action Heroes), but it’s substancially pricier.

I read and enjoy all of the “365 Reasons” articles, and it’s quite clear when you just let your love of your subjects come to life on the page.

It may be early to start thinking about it, but my day just won’t be complete when this year-long celebration ends. You’ve opened my eyes to a whole boatload of new and exciting stuff. I find this column to be both informative and enjoyable to read each day.

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Rorshach was one of the greatest, scariest, saddest characters ever. The fact that he was a deliberate rework of the Question just made him cooler.

And if you want to make it Ditko month you go right ahead. How about a few profiles of his best villains? (read: GOBLIN)

You owe it to yourself to read the rest of those O’Neil/Cowan/Magyar issues. I’d say issues 7-14 was the peak of that series.

I also am just now getting acquainted with the wonderful animated Question through the current reruns on Boomerang. Wow, what a great job! McDuffie had the balls to incorporate large parts of Rorschach back into the character and still managed to keep things pretty much family friendly. And the twisted romance he has with the Huntress is so touching and effective. They become the heart and soul of the series, even though their both presented as nut-jobs. I don’t suppose that romance ever showed up in the comics?

The Question was definitely one of my favorite characters on the JLU animated series. The character got such brilliant dialogue. Jeffery Combs was a brilliant casting decision.

And, while I’ve never been fond of Objectivist philosophy, I’m glad that the writers included a nod to Ditko’s original stories, with the Question’s line to Luthor that “A is A… and no matter what reality he calls home, Luthor is Luthor.”

So, while I don’t agree with a lot of Ditko’s ideological stances, he is a brilliant artist, and the Question is certainly one of the most visually striking of his creations, and the basic premise & background of the character is solid.

Andrew Collins

June 29, 2007 at 9:18 am

Question is one of my all-time favorite characters. The fact that DC is finally reprinting the O’Neil/Cowan series makes me happy to no end, as did the prominent guest appearances on Justice League Unlimited. I especially loved the romantic pairing with the Huntress, something carried over from the Rucka Huntress comic.

Sadly no, the Vietch/Edwards mini isn’t out in trade. I know because I waited for it but it never was solicited.

I’m willing to give the Renee Montoya Question a chance, but I’ll miss Vic. He deserved better. :(

Andrew Collins

June 29, 2007 at 9:22 am

Matt Bird said:
“They become the heart and soul of the series, even though their both presented as nut-jobs. I don’t suppose that romance ever showed up in the comics”

In the Batman/Huntress: Cry For Blood mini-series (by Greg Rucka & Rick Burchett) they are paired together. Vic takes on the Richard Dragon role of mentoring the temperamental Huntress into controlling her anger a little better. In the process, the two fall into bed a few times and have some nice dialogue and interplay. It wasn’t quite as twisted as McDuffie & Simone’s handling on the JLU cartoon, but I still liked the pairing. I don’t know if the romance ever carried over to the Batman books or not. Question kind of dropped out of sight after that and I’ve never heard the Huntress even reference the events of that mini-series. Which is too bad because it is an excellent mini-series, and a favorite of mine, being both a Question and Huntress fan. It’s in trade for only like $10-12, and well worth picking up.

Hey! Thanks for the great reason to love comics. And thanks for linking to us!

Oh, and as a post-script, June marks the 40th anniversary of the Question!

I would like to write The Question and intend to do so, maybe a story that is set in past, also Rorschach is pretty original I believe but I like the exchange of ideas that can be present in America( Greatest Country in the World).
The Question and Rorschach are good characters, oh on a side note did you ever think that Rorschach was killed off because either a) It was the greatest way to show Rorschachs ideals acted upon meeting an irresistable force and the immovable object concept or B) That Moore knew that The Question would be killed if he got into a superhero situation or in regular continuity….?
Either Moore was told to kill him off or looked into the future….
…both are plausible in their own right but I think it’s impossible to find out if a character dies next issue or not, well covers either ruin it or the Internet as some people (Not anybody on CBR) will post pages from a comic nobody has bought yet I digress: He’ll be back, I know so.

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