May 22, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #192: The Question

A faceless hero looks deeply into things until DC decided he needed to be mystical or something.

I mentioned in last week’s entry on the Phantom Stranger that DC Comics, for some reason, made major changes to the character when the New 52 started.  As part of some “Trinity of Sin,” the Stranger suddenly had a strongly implied identity and some other character traits that he’d never had before.

Well, it turns out DC did the same thing to another longtime character, and this one was even less mystical than the Stranger.  I’m talking about the Question.

Who is the Question?  He’s Victor Sage, or Charles Victor Szasz depending on the story.  The Question first appeared in the pages of Charlton Comics’s Blue Beetle #1, a creation of Steve Ditko.  By day, Sage was a crusading reporter in the fictional Hub City who had a habit of hitting back at corruption a little harder than most.  While investigating a scientist, he was approached by a former professor named Aristotle “Tot” Rodor, who would go on to become the Question’s behind-the-scenes man.  It seems Tot and the other scientist had developed an artificial skin called “pseudoderm”  Although intended to be used to heal bad injuries, chemicals involved in making the stuff were a bit…fatal when applied the wrong way.  Tot had a conscience while his former partner was looking to sell it to some Third World countries.  Tot went to his old student, looking for help.

Problem: Sage was a well-known TV reporter.  What to do?

Simple!  Make a mask out of the pseudoderm that, when applied, would give Sage a faceless appearance.  Stashing a special gas in his belt buckle, Sage could use the gas to not only apply the mask but also to change his clothes and hair color to further his disguise.  The faceless vigilante the Question was born!

How does he see through that?

Now, this was a Steve Ditko creation, and like a later character he created, former Misplaced Hero entry Mr. A, Ditko intended the Question to be an Objectivist, a follower of the philosophy of Ayn Rand like Ditko himself.  And, as I said way back when I wrote up about Mr. A, I do not have any idea how virtuous selfishness works on a superhero since those guys tend to be more altruistic.

But then Charlton’s characters were bought up by DC, leading to a wide range of changes in the Question.

First, the Objectivism was changed to a more Zen philosophy.  That held for a while, connecting the character to Tibetan monks and the like.

Sometime after that, his philosophy changed to some sort of warrior ethos.

He had a relationship with the Huntress, something that carried overto the animated series Justice League Unlimited, where the character, memorably voiced by actor Jeffrey Combs, was now a conspiracy theorist.

Oh, and then he died in the 52 mini-series, but not before he passed along his identity and faceless masks to former Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya.

She had her own thing going for a while.

And then the New 52 started and…well, there wasn’t a Question.

Sort of.

See, Vic Sage came back as a shifty government operative, but he wasn’t the Question.

Meanwhile, a figure who looked an awful lot like the Question turned up as one of the three people in the “Trinity of Sin” group alongside the Phantom Stranger and a woman named Pandora.

This version of the Question was punished for…something by having his identity stolen from him.  He did some good in an effort to learn his identity, and the only real hint of who he might have been, such as it was, was that Pandora believed he’d be very dangerous if he knew his real name.

So, a quasi-mystical Question somehow came out of a character that was mostly just a guy with a special mask?  I think I know why that Question disappeared with the New 52.

Oh well.  Maybe we can see what DC is doing with the Watchmen characters.  The Question was the basis for Rorschach after all.

Though, I think Rorscach’s mask is a bit cooler.