QUES­TION EV­ERY­THING

The who, what, where, when, why and how of DC's The Ques­tion, who turns 50 this year.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By KALEON RAHAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

WHO is The Ques­tion?

Cre­ated in the now-de­funct Charl­ton­verse in 1967 be­fore be­ing ab­sorbed into DC in 1983, the char­ac­ter has been around for the past 50 years, but his sta­tus in the over­all DC uni­verse re­mains, well, a big ques­tion mark.

Not good enough to get a per­ma­nent slot in the Jus­tice League (though he did gain mem­ber­ship in the an­i­mated Jus­tice League United se­ries), and nowhere great enough to even be con­sid­ered for a cine­matic ver­sion, The Ques­tion has, nev­er­the­less, re­mained one of the more enig­matic and mys­te­ri­ous char­ac­ters in the DC uni­verse.

What is it about The Ques­tion that has made him such a cult fig­ure de­spite his rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity? Surely there is a niche in which this char­ac­ter with the coolest call­ing card ever can re­side?

Here are the an­swers to some of the more press­ing ques­tions con­cern­ing the char­ac­ter.

How did The Ques­tion arise?

The Ques­tion was cre­ated by Spi­derMan co-cre­ator Steve Ditko for Charlton Comics’ Blue Bee­tle (1967) se­ries, which came four years af­ter Spidey’s first ap­pear­ance in Amaz­ing Fan­tasy #15.

Un­like Spidey, how­ever, Charles Vic­tor Szasz aka Vic­tor “Vic” Sage doesn’t have any pow­ers. In­stead, he has a highly in­quis­i­tive mind and a propen­sity for vi­o­lence – which, when you put it that way, doesn’t re­ally seem very su­per­hero-like.

Us­ing Rus­sian-Amer­i­can nov­el­ist-philoso­pher Ayn Rand’s views of ob­jec­tivism as a fo­cal point, Ditko’s orig­i­nal ver­sion of the Ques­tion leans to­wards the right of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum and pos­sesses a stark sense of moral­ity.

(Ob­jec­tivism is the “con­cept of man as a heroic be­ing, with his own hap­pi­ness as the moral pur­pose of his life, with pro­duc­tive achieve­ment as his no­blest ac­tiv­ity, and rea­son as his only ab­so­lute” to quote from Rand’s At­las Shrugged.)

When DC took Charlton’s char­ac­ters into its fold, The Ques­tion was rein­tro­duced in the pages of Blue Bee­tle #4 and sub­se­quently got his own reg­u­lar se­ries, cre­ated by none other than the leg­endary Denny O’Neil.

Given carte blanche to re­de­fine The Ques­tion, O’Neil tested new ground by shift­ing the char­ac­ter from be­ing an ob­jec­tivist to adopt­ing a more Zen-like be­lief sys­tem, tack­ling hard-hit­ting is­sues such as pol­i­tics, poverty, fem­i­nism, re­li­gion, and racism.

Who IS The Ques­tion?

While his ori­gins and sub­se­quent rein­ven­tion by O’Neil sounds pretty heavy for a comic book char­ac­ter, The Ques­tion isn’t ex­actly a su­per­hero in the first place.

In­stead, Vic Sage is a tele­vi­sion in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist who goes the ex­tra mile by ac­tu­ally solv­ing crimes with his al­ter-crime-fight­ing-ego as The Ques­tion.

He does have one of the most unique stylish cos­tumes and call­ing cards in comics, though. Of­ten seen wear­ing a (usu­ally blue) suit and tie with a long trench coat and match­ing fe­dora, the most unique part of his ap­pear­ance is his lack of a face.

The Ques­tion wears a spe­cial mask made from “Pseu­do­derm” (the same ma­te­rial that gives the Elon­gated Man his pow­ers) that he keeps in his belt buckle. The mask makes him look face­less and needs to be bonded onto his face with a gas that also al­ters his hair and fab­ric colour.

He also has a blank call­ing card that emits a smoky ques­tion mark upon be­ing touched.

What can The Ques­tion do?

Frankly, the idea of a masked vig­i­lante de­tec­tive solv­ing crimes out­side the law makes The Ques­tion sound like a B-grade Bat­man. While The Ques­tion has su­pe­rior an­a­lyt­i­cal skills and ad­e­quate crime fight­ing skills, he lacks the fi­nan­cial re­sources and the con­nec­tions that Bat­man’s Bruce Wayne has.

An­other ma­jor dif­fer­ence be­tween The Ques­tion and Bat­man is that the former tends to cross the line, Pu­n­ish­er­style, when ques­tion­ing or deal­ing with crim­i­nals.

Iron­i­cally, it is the Dark Knight who gets him to “up­grade” his abil­i­ties, af­ter a near-death en­counter with Lady Shiva and her posse (in 1987’s The Ques­tion #1).

As part of O’Neil’s “ma­jor over­haul” of the char­ac­ter, The Ques­tion was beaten to a pulp and thrown into a river to die. But Shiva had a change of heart and Vic Sage did not end up as fish food. In­stead, he lives to hear a stern lec­ture from the Dark Knight, which leads him to sub­se­quently learn kung fu from the in­fa­mous Richard Dragon.

Sub­se­quent up­grades to The Ques­tion’s abil­i­ties in­clude mov­ing from be­ing philo­soph­i­cal to ac­quir­ing shaman­ism tech­niques, to “feel­ing” the ground he op­er­ates on, ie Hub City.

Where is the Ques­tion now?

In the Hi­malayan city of Nanda Par­bat ... dead as a door­nail!

In the 52 post-In­fi­nite Cri­sis lim­ited se­ries in 2007, The Ques­tion head­lined a sub-story where he and former Gotham City Po­lice Depart­ment (GCPD) de­tec­tive Renee Mon­toya teamed up for a se­ries of ad­ven­tures. It turned out that Sage was suf­fer­ing from lung can­cer and wasn’t look­ing for a side­kick or part­ner at all, but rather, suc­ces­sor.

The 20+ is­sues he shared with Mon­toya stands out as one of his defin­ing mo­ments, as it re­ally in­creased in­ter­est in the man be­hind the face­less mask. It also built the foun­da­tion for Mon­toya to as­sume the man­tle and vided more gran­u­lar­ity to a char­ac­ter closely con­nected to the GCPD and find fel­low de­tec­tive Har­vey Bul­lock.

Why isn’t The Ques­tion more pop­u­lar?

Com­pared to his Ditko-roots, the O’Neil days were cer­tainly sev­eral notches more in­ter­est­ing – both in depth and di­men­sion. How­ever, it was still not good enough to cap­ti­vate read­ers’ mind in the 1980s or even to­day.

How­ever, a win­ning blue­print for rein­vent­ing The Ques­tion ex­ists in thin the form of Roscharch, Alan Moore’s pro­tag­o­nist from the Watch­men se­ries.

Ini­tially, Moore wanted to use the Charlton char­ac­ters for Watch­men been but was over­ruled by DC as he in­tended to kill off some of them, which didn’t jive with DC’s plans for its then re­cent ac­qui­si­tion.

In­stead, Moore (and Dave Gib­bon cre­ated Roscharch based on The Ques­tion – and the end re­sult was an in­stant suc­cess!

Which brings us to an­other, er, ques­tion ... would The Ques­tion be an in­stant suc­cess if he were re­branded as Roscharch to­day? With the on­go­ing in­fu­sion of Watch­men el­e­ments into DC-verse, there are valid rea­sons to do so, but it would come at the ex­pense of tar­nish­ing Roscharch’s con­tri­bu­tions to the epic

Watch­men se­ries.

Watch­men to pro­mote The Ques­tion? It just ain’t worth it!

To bring this de­bate to a close: O’Neil did do a homage-within-a-homage (The Ques­tion #17), where Vic Sage ac­tu­ally reads Watch­men and won­ders about be­ing Roscharch but con­cludes that their meth­ods are just too dif­fer­ent.

When will The Ques­tion re­turn?

De­spite Vic Sage’s death in the 52 event, he was later res­ur­rected as a Black Lantern dur­ing the Black­est Night event and on an al­ter­nate ver­sion of Earth. Later, in the 2011-2015 New

52 re­brand­ing ex­er­cise,

DC tried to ret-con him as one of the

“Trin­ity of Sin”

(to­gether with

Pan­dora and The

Phan­tom

Stranger), giv­ing him a su­per­nat­u­ral back­ground. But that failed mis­er­ably – he made his fi­nal ap­pear­ance in Trin­ity Of Sin #6 and is never seen again.

Frankly, these fee­ble at­tempts only serve to soil the man’s legacy, es­pe­cially af­ter his el­e­gant exit in 52.

Re­viv­ing Vic Sage aside, there’s also the pres­ence of Renee Mon­toya’s Ques­tion to con­tend with. While she’s still far from an A-lis­ter, the Mon­toya ver­sion of The Ques­tion has, nev­er­the­less, held her own with what lim­ited pres­ence she’s had. Hav­ing been com­pletely dropped in the New 52, she made her come­back in Con­ver­gence with her own lim­ited tie-in se­ries – Con­ver­gence: The Ques­tion – in which she teams up with Bat­woman and Hun­tress.

With her es­tab­lished links to the GCPD, Gotham City, and Bat­woman, we think it would be bet­ter if DC just let Sage stay dead and al­low Mon­toya to em­bark on an un­in­ter­rupted jour­ney to mould her Ques­tion per­sona. But will she ever get her chance to shine? That, my friends, is the mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion.

PHOTO: DC COMICS

Renee Mon­toya makes a come­back as The Ques­tion in Con­ver­gence ,in which she teams up with Bat­woman and Hun­tress.

The Ques­tion has a spe­cial mask that makes him look face­less. It also needs to be bonded by a gas that also al­ters the colour of his hair and clothes.

Vic Sage doesn’t have any pow­ers. In­stead, he has a highly in­quis­i­tive mind and a propen­sity for vi­o­lence.

DC res­ur­rects The Ques­tion as one of the New 52’s ‘Trin­ity of Sin’, with Pan­dor and The Phan­tom­dora Stranger.

The ques­tion is, will Vic Sage re­turn to be­ing the Ques­tion? — Pho­tos: DC Comics

ne of the ndora

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