Question (comics)

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The Question
Question03.jpg
The Question vol. 2, #3 (2004)
Cover art by Tommy Lee Edwards.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
(Originally Charlton Comics)
First appearanceBlue Beetle #1 (June 1967)
Created bySteve Ditko
Revamped by:
Dennis O'Neil
Denys Cowan
In-story information
Alter egoCharles Victor Szasz
Team affiliationsL.A.W.
Black Lantern Corps
Notable aliasesVic Sage
AbilitiesUrban shaman
Proficient acrobat
Genius-level intelligence
Master detective
One of the world's foremost martial artists and hand-to-hand combatants
 
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This article is about the first Question. For his successor, see Renee Montoya.
The Question
Question03.jpg
The Question vol. 2, #3 (2004)
Cover art by Tommy Lee Edwards.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
(Originally Charlton Comics)
First appearanceBlue Beetle #1 (June 1967)
Created bySteve Ditko
Revamped by:
Dennis O'Neil
Denys Cowan
In-story information
Alter egoCharles Victor Szasz
Team affiliationsL.A.W.
Black Lantern Corps
Notable aliasesVic Sage
AbilitiesUrban shaman
Proficient acrobat
Genius-level intelligence
Master detective
One of the world's foremost martial artists and hand-to-hand combatants

The Question (real name Charles Victor Szasz aka Vic Sage) is a fictional character, a superhero that appears in comic books published by DC Comics, created by writer-artist Steve Ditko, and debuting in Charlton Comics Blue Beetle #1 (June 1967). The character was acquired by DC Comics in the early 1980s and incorporated into the DC Universe. Following the events of the 2006–2007 miniseries 52, his protégé Renee Montoya took up his mantle and became his successor.

As conceived by Ditko, the Question was an adherent of Objectivism during his career as a minor Charlton hero, much like Ditko's earlier creation, Mr. A.[1] In a 1987–1990 solo series from DC, the character developed a Zen-like philosophy.[2]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Charlton Comics[edit]

Based in Hub City, Vic Sage made his mark as a highly outspoken and aggressive investigative journalist. Not long after starting his TV appearances, he began to investigate Dr. Barby Twain.

Mysterious Suspense #1 (Oct. 1968), Charlton Comics. Cover art by Steve Ditko.

Sage was approached by Aristotle Rodor, his former professor, currently a scientist. Rodor told Sage about an artificial skin he had co-developed with Dr. Twain called Pseudoderm. Pseudoderm was intended to work as an applied skin-like bandage with the help of a bonding gas, but it had an unforeseen toxicity which was sometimes fatal when applied to open wounds. Rodor and Twain agreed to abandon the project and parted ways, but Professor Rodor discovered that Dr. Twain had decided to proceed with an illegal sale of the invention to Third World nations, regardless of the risk to human health.

Sage resolved to stop him but had no way of going after Dr. Twain without exposing himself. Rodor suggested that Sage use a mask made of Pseudoderm to cover his famous features. Armed with information, and more importantly a disguise, Sage eventually caught up with Dr. Twain, stopping the transaction and extracting a confession, then leaving Twain bound in Pseudoderm. On television, Sage reported on Dr. Twain's illegal activities.

Sage decided that this new identity would be useful for future investigations, and partnered with Professor Rodor, who supplied the Pseudoderm and eventually modified the bonding gas to change the color of Sage's hair and clothing. The two men became good friends, with Sage affectionately referring to Rodor as "Tot".

Compared to other superhero characters of the Silver Age of Comic Books, The Question was more ruthless in his methods.[citation needed] For example, when he was fighting some criminals in a sewer and knocked them into a deep and fast moving water flow, he declined to pull them out despite their real danger of drowning. Instead, he left to notify the police to retrieve them in case they survived the ordeal.

The Question's most frequent foe was Max Bine a.k.a. the Banshee. Introduced in Blue Beetle vol. 4, #2 (Aug. 1967), Bine was the apprentice of a circus performer named the Flying Dundo. Designing a cape that enabled the ability to fly, Dundo was slain by his pupil and Max Bine became the costumed Banshee using his mentor's invention to terrorize towns he crossed. The Banshee would meet his match when he reached Crown City and would spar with the Question on several occasions.

The Question briefly appeared alongside his fellow Charlton "Action Heroes" as part of the Sentinels of Justice published by AC Comics.

DC Comics[edit]

The Charlton characters were acquired by DC Comics while the former company was in decline in 1983. The Question appeared briefly in 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths and in a two issue arc of DC's Blue Beetle revival.

O'Neil series[edit]

DC gave the Question his own acclaimed solo series in 1987, which was written by Dennis O'Neil and primarily drawn by Denys Cowan.[3] The series was published for thirty-six issues, two annuals, and five "Quarterly" specials. In The Question #1, the Question was defeated in personal combat first by the martial arts mercenary, Lady Shiva, beaten near to death by the hiring villain's thugs, shot in the head with a pellet gun, and thrown into the river to drown. Lady Shiva then rescued him for reasons of her own and gave him directions to meet Richard Dragon as soon as he recovered enough to get out of bed. Once there, Sage learned both martial arts and eastern philosophy. When he returned to the city, he resumed his journalist and superhero careers with adventures that tended to illustrate various philosophic points. To further illustrate those ideas, Dennis O'Neil had a reading recommendation in the letters page of each issue.

In the O'Neil series, Vic Sage is an investigative reporter for the news station KBEL in Hub City, who uses the identity of the Question to get the answers his civilian identity cannot. Unlike other vigilante superheroes, O'Neil's Question is primarily focused on the politics of his city, and rather than hunting down the perpetrators of petty theft, he tends to fight the corrupt government of Hub City. O'Neil's Hub City is noted as being "synonymous with venality, corruption, and violence",[citation needed] perhaps even outranking Gotham City as the most dismal city in the DC Universe version of the US.[citation needed] Despite the impoverished and scandalous nature of Hub City, O'Neil insisted repeatedly that it was based on an actual US city, though for most of the series' run he refused to comment on which one that might be. He eventually confirmed, near the end of the run, that Hub City was based on East St. Louis, Illinois.[4]

The Question #34 (January 1990); DC Comics. Art by Denys Cowan.

For the majority of the series, Vic Sage is covertly assisting the good-hearted Myra Fermin to win the seat of Hub City Mayor. His interest in Myra extends beyond admiration, as the two shared a relationship before his near-death experience with Lady Shiva and his training under Richard Dragon. Upon his return, he discovers she has married the corrupt drunkard Wesley Fermin. Despite Myra's losing the election by one vote, she becomes Mayor when her competition is found dead as a result of what is called "the worst tornado in history." At her victory speech, her husband Wesley shoots her for supporting what he believes to be Communist beliefs, putting her into a coma and sending Hub City further into chaos. Sage dons the guise of the Question, acting as the city's only form of justice for a short while, before the Mayor wakes from her coma. Gang warfare in the weeks following the election leads Sage to Lady Shiva, first as a combatant, and then enlisting her help as an ally of sorts to get in a position to talk to the gang-leaders. As Myra adjusts into her role as Mayor of Hub City, she and Sage begin to rekindle their relationship, though Myra tells Sage she will not act on her feelings until she leaves office. Despite their long-term friendship, she never connects that Sage and "the man without a face" are one and the same until the very end of his time at Hub City.

O’Neil's Question is very conflicted on how far to go in enforcing justice, often feeling tempted to kill. He resists this temptation during his time in Hub City, realizing that part of his desire to go so far is just to see what it feels like to take a life. His relationship with his mentor, Aristotle Rodor, is one of many things that keep him from going over the edge and back towards the darkness he had shown in his youth on the streets of Hub City.

Eventually,[5] during a massive hallucinogenic trip, his subconscious tells him through images of his mother that he has to leave Hub City to ever be able to live happily. This viewpoint is bolstered by the utter societal collapse the city. Around the same time, Richard Dragon comes to see Vic, as Richard has sensed that Vic is on the verge of a major turning point in his life, and convinces Vic that living in Hub City is killing him. In an agreement with Richard, Lady Shiva arrives with a helicopter to usher The Question and Aristotle Rodor away, at which point she decides to stay in Hub City and embrace the chaos. Vic nearly convinces Myra to come with him and escape the chaos of the city. Myra remembers the people of the city who need her, mainly the children. She leaves Jackie in Sage's care and goes back to do what she can. .[6]

After leaving Hub City, Vic takes Jackie with him to South America, hoping to rid himself of his "No Face" alter ego and find a land free of the clutter and corruption that filled Hub City. However, Vic quickly gets drawn into a drug war which ultimately forces him to kill in order to save Jackie's life.[7] This marks a major turning point in the Question's career as he thinks to himself that he didn't feel anything and would kill again if needed. Though it is not entirely clear what the Question's current view is on murder, he kills again in the 1991 Brave and the Bold mini-series and the 2005 Question mini-series.

Jackie becomes ill and Sage returns with her to Hub City. Despite medical care, Jackie passes away. [8]

The Question Annual #2 retroactively altered the character's origin by revealing that Vic Sage was originally Charles Victor Szasz (not to be mistaken with serial killer Victor Zsasz), an orphan who had a reputation as a troublemaker. Szasz prided himself on defiantly enduring the physical abuse of the Catholic orphanage where he was housed. He eventually managed to get into college where he studied journalism. However, his higher learning did not mellow his violent tendencies, such as when he beat up his pusher for giving him LSD which caused the frightening experience of doubting his own senses under its influence.

Veitch miniseries[edit]

The 2005 Question mini-series, authored by Rick Veitch, reimagines the character as a self-taught urban shaman whose brutal and at times lethal treatment of enemies now arises from a warrior ethos, rather than Objectivist philosophy. The Question "walks in two worlds" when sent into visionary trances by Rodor's gas, now retconned as a hallucinogen. In these trances, cities (Chicago, where he is a TV anchor, and then Metropolis, where the series takes him) "speak" to him through visual coincidences and overheard snatches of street conversation. Regarding himself as a spiritual warrior, he is now comfortable killing his enemies when this seems useful and poetically just. He uses his skills and his alternative moral code first to detect and then to foil a plot by Lex Luthor not only to assassinate Superman (using chi energy which Sage can detect) but to prevent his return from the dead (which Superman had recently achieved following his death in DC's notorious Doomsday event) by damning his soul upon death. Sage is revealed to have a lifelong infatuation with fellow journalist Lois Lane, which he does not divulge to her. Superman accepts the Question's visionary drug use, and expresses gratitude for his assistance, but forces him to leave the city after several unheeded warnings about killing, and also after noticing Sage's crush.

Interest in Huntress[edit]

During the "Cry for Blood" Huntress arc, and other smaller appearances surrounding it, the Question was active in Gotham City, during which time he expressed an interest in Huntress, both romantically and in her development as a crime fighter. In an attempt to help her find peace, he takes her to his old mentor to undergo the same training he himself underwent in the O'Neil series, but is frustrated by Huntress' continued acceptance of killing as a solution.

Huntress later worked closely with Sage's successor as the Question, Renee Montoya, and is saddened to hear of Sage's death. She credits him with "saving her from herself", and misses him.

"52"[edit]

Main article: 52 (comics)

The character's difficult ethical history, and the character himself, were laid to rest by DC in its year-long weekly title, 52, in which Sage recruits and trains Gotham ex-cop Renee Montoya as his replacement before dying of lung cancer. In this incarnation he is wry, cheerful and avuncular, although still enigmatic. He displays no discernible philosophical commitments, aside from a determination to recruit Montoya and to have her decide who she is and who she will become. Montoya is herself agonized over the issue of killing criminals, although her guilt is over a principled refusal to kill one, specifically the murderer of her former partner. The series' action chiefly alternates between Gotham City, where Montoya struggles to save Kate Kane from Intergang and its Crime Bible cult, and Nanda Parbat, where she trains with Sage's mentors Rodor and Dragon, and whence she later returns with Sage, too late to find him a cure for his cancer. En route there, Sage dies muttering snatches of conversations from his early comics appearances and a final invocation to Montoya to decide who she will become.[9] After grieving, she determines to take up his mantle as the new Question.

Blackest Night[edit]

In the Blackest Night crossover, Vic Sage is reanimated as a Black Lantern. He goes after Renee, Tot and Lady Shiva, who manage to elude him by suppressing their emotions, making them invisible to him.[10]

After the end of Blackest Night, Sage's body is reburied in Nanda Parbat by Montoya and Saint Walker of the Blue Lanterns.[11]

The New 52[edit]

When magic was first harnessed by humans on Earth, the first magic users saw it as their duty to protect the Earth and humanity from those who would seek to harm it. These seven wizards of the Rock of Eternity summon before them the three worst sinners in Earth's history for judgment. The Trinity of Sin as they come to be known consist of a woman named Pandora, Judas Iscariot (the man who would become the Phantom Stranger), and the Question whose sin has yet to be revealed. The Question is punished second after the Phantom Stranger and defies the wizards and the power that they claim. He says that if they do not kill him he will rise to power again and the wizards and the world will fear his name. The wizards then erase his name from his memory and the memory of the world and erase his facial features. He is then cursed to wander the Earth constantly questioning everything and seeking answers he will never find.[12] Centuries later, he is still wandering the Earth but is now dealing out vigilante justice. One such instance occurs in Hub City where he saves the mayor's kidnapped daughter and ties the kidnapper John Dandy to the top of a light post, leaving a question mark calling card behind. The Question is still searching for answers and seems to be convinced that Pandora and the Phantom Stranger hold the answers he seeks.[13]

A government official named Victor Sage appears as the new head of the Suicide Squad in New Suicide Squad #1.[14]

Equipment[edit]

The Question's mask is made from Pseudoderm, a substance made by Doctor Aristotle Rodor. According to the revamps of 52, this substance was developed using technology lifted from an old Batman foe named Bart Magan (Dr. No Face) and Gingold Extract, a fruit derivative associated with the Elongated Man. The Question's series by Denny O'Neil presented Pseudoderm as Rodor's attempt to create an artificial skin for humanitarian purposes. The Question is able to see out clearly through his mask. In early appearances, the mask was described as containing air filters.

The Question's specialized belt-buckle, which releases a binary gas that binds his mask to his skin and temporarily recolors his garb and hair, is similar to that of the Spider-Man villain Chameleon. In his initial appearances, which were drawn by Steve Ditko, the Chameleon had used a device in a belt buckle which emitted a transformation-enhancing gas. The binding element is adjusted to Sage's specific body chemistry.[citation needed]

The binary gas reacts with chemicals in Sage's treated clothing and hair, causing them to change color. Sage's hair would change from red to black, or later to a darker red. Sage's treated clothing would change to light blue and orange, or later to dark blue. Some later versions of the gas caused no color change whatsoever. The faceless mask, combined with the color change of clothing, was sufficient to disguise Sage's identity to most onlookers. All of Sage's clothing was similarly treated. Originally Sage favored trench coats, business suits, and fedoras. Later he expanded his treated wardrobe, giving him a less standardized look.

Early in his career, the Question used seemingly blank calling cards with a delayed chemical reaction that after a specified time caused a question mark to appear in a burst of gas. Other writing could be similarly treated to reveal itself at the pre-determined time.

While the binary gas has no other known properties, the Question often used the gas to enhance his image and intimidate criminals into confessing by implying that the gas would cause anyone exposed to it for extended periods to lose their face permanently.

Homages[edit]

52 Multiverse[edit]

In the final issue of 52 (2007), a new DC Multiverse is revealed, originally consisting of 52 alternate realities, including a new "Earth-4". While this new world resembles the pre-Crisis Earth-Four, including unnamed characters who look like the Question and the Charlton characters, writer Grant Morrison has stated this is not the pre-Crisis Earth-Four.[16][17] Describing the conception of Earth-4, Grant Morrison alluded that its interpretation of Vic Sage would resemble the classic Charlton incarnation, with tones borrowed from Rorschach and Watchmen.[17] A number of other alternate universes in the 52 Multiverse may also contain versions of the Question from DC Comics previous Elseworlds stories or from variant "themed" universes, such as the gender-reversed world of Earth-11.[18]

In Grant Morrison's Multiversity series, the Vic Sage/Question is one of the core protagonists in Pax Americana, an issue of that limited series set in the New 52's Earth 4 continuity, along with the Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Nightshade and Captain Atom.

On Earth-9, "The Question" is the name given to a global surveillance network.[19]

Other versions[edit]

Flashpoint[edit]

In the alternate universe of Flashpoint, Question is a member of the Resistance.[20]

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

The Question in Justice League Unlimited.

Video Games[edit]

Merchandise[edit]

Collections[edit]

The Question's 1980s series has been collected into trade paperbacks:

Collections featuring the Renee Montoya Question:

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Question's Fraternal Twin". vicsage.com. Retrieved 19 November 2008. 
  2. ^ "The Question: Zen And Violence". Geekscape. 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  3. ^ Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. Formerly part of the Charlton Comics line, the Question carved his mysterious niche into the DC Universe with the help of writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Denys Cowan. 
  4. ^ McElhatton, Greg (2004-08-05). "Birth of a Nation". ReadAboutComics.com. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  5. ^ The Question #34 (1990)
  6. ^ The Question #36 (1990)
  7. ^ The Question Quarterly #1 (1990)
  8. ^ "Question Quarterly" #2 (June 1991)
  9. ^ "52" Week Thirty-Eight (2006)
  10. ^ The Question (Vol. 1) #37 (February 2010)
  11. ^ Green Lantern #56 (Sep. 2010)
  12. ^ The New 52: FCBD Special Edition (Volume 1) #1 (May, 2012)
  13. ^ Justice League (Volume 2) #0 (September, 2012)
  14. ^ New Suicide Squad #1 (July 2014)
  15. ^ The Question #17 (1988)
  16. ^ '52' 52: 13/5 (May 2, 2007), DC Comics
  17. ^ a b Brady, Matt (2007-05-08). "The 52 Exit Interviews: Grant Morrison". Newsarama. Archived from the original on 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2007-05-12. 
  18. ^ DC Nation #89, DiDio, Dan. November 28, 2007. All DC Comics published this week.
  19. ^ Tangent: Superman's Reign #1
  20. ^ Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons #3 (August 2011)
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ "Classic Heroes: The Question action figure at DC". Dccomics.com. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  23. ^ "DC Minimates; Wave 8: Batwoman (Modern) & The Question (Modern) action figures at DC". Dccomics.com. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  24. ^ "''Zen and Violence'' trade profile at DC". Dccomics.com. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  25. ^ "''Poisoned Ground'' trade profile at DC". Dccomics.com. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  26. ^ "''Epitaph for a Hero'' trade profile at DC". Dccomics.com. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  27. ^ "''Welcome to Oz'' trade profile at DC". Dccomics.com. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  28. ^ "''Five Books of Blood'' trade profile at DC". Dccomics.com. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 

External links[edit]