Wednesday, April 19, 2017


I recently treated myself to a re-read of Denny O'Neil's and Denys Cowan/Rick Magyar's (et al) excellent The Question series, a tight thirty-six issues and three annuals of veritable perfection whose followups scratched the itch left behind in its absence but never really provided the material to keep the series alive. I followed that up with Rick Veitch's and Tommy Lee Edward's criminally underrated The Question miniseries, six trippy issues which set The Question firmly into the Superman universe and, by doing so, effectively made the Maximortal-vs-El Guano arc from the semi-eponymous series official canon in the DC Universe. Nicely played.

In any case, I also hopped back to read The Question backups in the old Charlton titles, plus his appearance in Mysterious Suspense, all of which got me thinking: Why isn't The Question DC's most badass hero? Why isn't he DC's The Punisher?

Fewer guns should be involved in that comparison, of course, but The Question has managed to maintain his utter badassery through three different incarnations, not to mention a truly heroic arc and nobly tragic end in DC's Fifty-Two and an intriguing successor -- if hampered by narrative uncertainty -- in Renee Montoya. He's the toughest, least compromising character in DC's roster, really, without the tough guy snarling and dependence on a raft of firepower.

I mean, dig this:

This was a character so intense and involving that Alan Moore and Grant Morrison both found different purchases in his brand of uncompromising ethos. Darwyn Cooke, whose art is gorgeous but whose stories never did much for me, still managed to create an intriguing alternate take on The Question as a super-spy, and Frank Miller's The Question was a hard-as-nails homage to the original Ditko character. Likewise, an off-kilter and idiosyncratic portrayal in the animated Justice League series of the early 2000s raised the character's profile to the degree where I think the audience would've happily accepted a larger role for the character in-universe.

What happened instead is that he got redone as a figure in DC's "Trinity of Sin" and I don't think anything came of that? And when he was rebooted and replaced, again, it was as a relatively pointless and disposable Suicide Squad character.

DC's having another reboot now. Of course, they'll have another one in about four years if no one waves shiny keys at Dan Didio in the interim. I've always been an advocate of switching around the rosters and the personalities in comics, and I honestly would love to see the Question surpass Batman as DC's go-to hardcore badass ... with a philosophical bent.


Eric said...

I dunno: I find The Question to be fun in small doses, but ultimately The Question and his doppleganger, Mr. A, show up the reasons Objectivism and superheroes don't really mix. Indeed, The Question mostly makes his impression by being a contrast to more altruistic heroes, meaning he works better as something different than he does as a self-sustaining concept (at least that's how I view it).

On a related point, it says a lot about what's wrong with Zack Snyder's Watchmen that he thinks Rorschach is a badass hero a la The Question, and apparently completely missed it that Rorschach is Alan Moore's piss-take on Ayn Rand: Moore's basically saying you'd have to be a mentally-ill vagrant, the kind who stands on streetcorners yelling at random strangers, to actually buy into her philosophy. Which, in turn, is kind of a flipped bird at Steve Ditko I guess (maybe not entirely intended), though even if you agree with Moore (okay, yes: I do; hope that doesn't offend) there are plenty of other reasons to love Ditko and be indulgent about this.

Tony L said...

Whilst the newer incarnations have been good nothing can match the resilience and stubbornness of the Questions' stand on corruption and moral issues of the day in the back of Blue Beetle issues. But most of all the story in my favourite comics ever Mysterious Suspense. An issue I reread from time to time and a comic I shall always treasure. It has been said before but Steve Ditko was a genius.

Tony L said...

Whilst the newer Question has some admirable traits, the original Question stories in Blue Beetle 1-5 and of course Mysterious Suspense in my opinion stand up to the test of time as the moral issues are as pertinent today as they were then. Six comics which I read from time to time and enjoy them now as I did in the late 60's. Particularly Mysterious Suspense a comic I will treasure always. Steve Ditko you were and still are a genius at telling a story.

Moondarq said...

I think the line that the Question draws is pretty reasonable. He isn't playing judge, jury and executioner, like the typical blood-spattered vigilante "hero". He just isn't willing to risk his own life to save the bad guys he fights. I think if there were real life superheroes, a lot of them would behave similarly.

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