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Meta-Messages – The Question Thinks Rorschach Sucks

All October long I will be exploring the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator using the characters in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments! If you have a suggestion for a future meta-message, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com.

Readers William C. and Syd M. both suggested I feature a recurring bit that Denny O’Neil did in The Question #17 where the Question takes the opportunity to read Watchmen for the first time.

The Question is chasing some bad guys to Seattle (the artwork is by Denys Cowan and Rick Magyar) and he picks up a book to read on the airplane…

Throughout the issue, the Question begins to think WWRD?

First, when he has problems holding down his liquor…

And later, when he hunts down some bad guys…

Things go poorly, and they take Question out to the woods to kill him. He briefly escapes, thinking about how similar this situation is to how Rorschach met his fate…

And then the end…

Do note that the Question does not actually think Rorschach sucks. It is a joke.

The Question is luckily rescued by Green Arrow.

Funny stuff by O’Neil (who made sure to thank Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in the issue).

EDITED TO ADD JUST TO AVOID ANY POSSIBLE CONFUSION: Oh, and just in case you don’t know anything about Watchmen and/or the Question, Rorschach was based on the Question. That’s the joke.

29 Comments

Nice how Cowan copied the nine-panel grid layout, at least in that last page. But is that inset shot of Rorschach walking Cowan aping Dave Gibbons, or a reprint of an actual Watchmen panel?

I believe the former.

Best comic series ever (see my link). I remember seeing the original art for this on eBay awhile back, and if I recall correctly, there was a drawn panel on that page, and not a paste-up. Cowan did some amazing art on this too-short series.

Wait, you’re a Question fan, Eric? I never noticed.

nice was hoping the question joking Roarschach sucks. given how ironic the thing is since alan moore based the character on the question. a short lived cool series.

man… those pants!

The inset panel of Rorschach walking down the alley appears to be the Dave Gibbons art from one of the promotional posters DC sent to Direct Market stores prior to WATCHMEN’s release. Each featured a differed character and a quote from the graphic novel that summed him up. http://dailypop.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/watchmencomic_poster1.jpg

randypan the goatboy

October 21, 2011 at 7:18 am

I know that the Question was kind of not really in the DC Universe…[like Green Arrow at the time] but how cool would an apperance by captain Atom and Blue Beetle have been. If you are going to go that far you might as well go all out. maybe even have nightshade , the peacemaker and even Thunderbolt make cameos while Vic Sage questions where the ida for Watchmen came from…hrrrmmmm

randypan, the Question and GA were both very much in the DCU at the time. However, Denny O’Neill preferred keeping their stories more down to earth and generally eschewed team-ups with “mainstream” DC heroes other than Batman.

I don’t know why DC never threw the Watchmen prototype characters together into a super team. Call them the Sentries and launch it with the new 52.

@Ian, i think they did do that in the 90’s in a series called “L.A.W.: Living Assault Weapons,” which I’ve never read, but is apparently God-awful.

That’s a very interesting idea, Ian. I don’t know how the people who think Watchmen is the greatest thing ever would feel about it, but I’d certainly read it.

LAW was done by some extremely talented creators but yeah, it did not go well.

Think this goes beyond being a meta message

You mean I wasted a possible comic book legend? D’oh! :)

Luckily, Omar gave me something else I can use for one.

They did do that with L.A.W., which was hamstringed by editorial at the time who pushed post-Kingdom Come changes on the story. Had Layton & Giordano been able to do their original plan, I believe it would have been much better.

Also, there was a super short-lived team up series from AC Comics, in one issue before the Charlton characters were sold to DC. Seen in Americomics Special #1. Blue Beetle also had an Americomics issue, that sort of tied up some continuity issues between the Kord and Garrett versions of the character.

At least Rorschach never wore a mullet.

To suck or not to suck? That is the Question.

I…I kinda liked LAW. It’s been a while since I read it, though.

Man, this is pretty cool. I don’t remember if this is one of the Question issues I have or not. (I have a bunch, but I have parts of the series where I only have every other issue, and I have a feeling this is one I don’t have.)

And if that isn’t a pasteup of a Gibbons pic, Cowan is even more amazing than I realized. That’s spot on Gibbons!

Brian writes at the end of the article: “EDITED TO ADD JUST TO AVOID ANY POSSIBLE CONFUSION: Oh, and just in case you don’t know anything about Watchmen and/or the Question, Rorschach was based on the Question. That’s the joke.”

A bit odd, considering Comic Book Urban Legends #20. (http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2005/10/13/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-20/ )

“When Alan Moore first came up with the idea that became the comic series, Watchmen, he thought that what would work perfectly would be a line of superhero comics that was not being used at the time. The comic company that Moore initially considered?

The MLJ/Archie Superhero line!”

The Question was originally published by Charlton. I would guess that the MLJ character who would’ve inspired Rorshach would’ve been the Fox (who was a reporter in his “secret” identity and had no real super-powers but was just a highly trained athlete).*

Of course, since DC had just acquired the Charlton characters, Moore was “convinced” to use the Charlton characters as his templates.

*For some reason, I do seem to recall reading a list where Moore revealed the full list of MLJ characters to their Watchmen counterparts but haven’t a clue where I read it. I think I read it in print, not on the ‘net, but it’s been years and years ago.

So good to see Vic Sage!

The next issue, #18’s team-up with Green Arrow is probably my favorite single issue of all time.

Both Green Arrow and the Question were Mature Readers books at the time. I don’t know if it was official policy, but I recall strict separation between Mature Readers characters (GA, Question, John Constantine, Sandman, maybe Omega Men) and All-Ages book characters. There were rare exceptions (a Hal Jordan appearance in GA, a crossover between GA, Question, and Batman through Annuals, a brief no-dialogue GA cameo in a crowd scene in Justice League, a Death cameo in Captain Atom), but I don’t know if the Question would have been allowed to feature Blue Beetle or Captain Atom in a guest shot.

I think you’re probably right Mike, that there was some sort of policy about keeping the Mature Reader characters away from the other books. Given that Jennette Kahn had issues with things in the MR books, she certainly wouldn’t have wanted those characters in the mainstream DCU. ( I think I misspelled Kahn’s first name…).

I’m thinking of the Veitch/Zulli Swamp Thing meets Christ, and the Sandman “people in the DCU don’t masturbate” from the serial killer issue, on the issues she had with MR stuff.

Although looking back, she probably was much smarter about those issues by keeping things separate, and not have stuff like decapitations and so forth as part of the major crossovers….

However, I started thinking about it — some JLA characters are in the early Sandman issues, and Dr Destiny is the “star” of “24 Hours”, one of the Scariest Comics. Was there an exception made?

I seem to recall something about that, actually. I think I’ve read that Neil was asked (or did it on his own) to use “lesser” characters (I think it’s Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle that appear in the one issue, iirc), and not to refer to them by their “superhero” names. Presumably this was a way of getting around this semi-official policy?

I smell Legends here Brian — was there an official DC policy keeping MR books separate from others back in the late ’80s? Was Neil using the JLA in a roundabout way in early Sandman because of that?

And if you have covered this before, can you direct us to when?

Man Watchmen is the greatest. Hope DC doesn’t screw it up with those 4 prequels (but I have a feeling they probably will).

Joseph: The initial idea was to use the MLJ heroes, but the actual characters hadn’t been created at that point, so any direct line between one of the finished Watchmen and an old MLJ hero is going to be pretty flimsy. The main characters were based directly on the Charlton heroes and are not-really-veiled-at-all homages to them–with few exceptions such as Silk Spectre, who’s more like Fox/Quality’s Phantom Lady than like Charlton’s Nightshade.

That said, some of the Minutemen, like Mothman and Hooded Justice, are definitely reminiscent of the MLJ heroes.

I don’t think they kept “Mature Readers” characters that separate considering they did a single story that ran across the Batman, Green Arrow and Question annuals.

While it was great that DC reprinted the entire Question series (#1-36 anyway) in TPBs over the past few years – I think because Greg Rucka really pushed for it when he introduced Montoya in the role – but I wish they’d also reprinted the 2 Annual crossovers that, together with Green Arrow Annual #3, wrapped up “The Question, vol. 1″.

The first crossover, that some of you mention (Detective Comics/Green Arrow/The Question Annuals #1) was one of the best storylines of that decade. Green Arrow/The Question Annuals #2 was decent, and GA #3 only had a cameo by Sage but bridged voiume 1 with what was to come (the erratic Question Quarterly) nicely.

Fun fact: Rorschach is actually based on the Question.

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