Q&A: 9 answers for The Question's 50th anniversary

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Jun 14, 2017, 12:00 PM EDT

The mysterious faceless hero known as The Question is one of comic books' most visually striking and compelling crime-fighting enigmas. He first appeared 50 years ago this month in the pages of Charlton Comics' Blue Beetle #1, before being integrated into the DC Universe in the mid-'80s, along with the rest of Charlton characters.

But despite the character's long history, he's a somewhat under-valued gem in the pantheon of the DC Universe and the superhero world at large. He's only had a handful of series to his name and has made a criminally small number of appearances in recent years.

From his origins to his present situation to his future, The Question raises lots of his namesake. So to enlighten you to the truth that is the Question, we've compiled nine essential questions about the Question that everyone should ask, and unlike the Question, we're nice to enough to give you all the answers.

So read on to find out all about this half-century-old hero ... and be sure to ask all of your questions in the comments below.


Who is The Question?

Appropriately, this very same question was asked on the cover of the comic that the Question debuted in! There have been several versions of the Question, but the original and most well-known character was Vic Sage, an ace investigative reporter who dons a faceless mask to gather the answers he could never get in his civilian disguise. His origin has been tweaked, but the most common telling is that Vic was raised in an abusive orphanage and when he was old enough left to study journalism. He was later approached as a reporter by an old professor and mentor named Aristotle Rodor, who tipped Sage off about a potentially toxic substance being sold to unknowing countries as medical supplies, and gave him some of the substance to use as a mask. After putting a stop to the operation, he decided to keep the mask and identity.

Renee Montoya, an officer of the Gotham City Police Department, has also used the alias in the years after her mentor, the original Question, died. There's yet another version who was introduced in the New 52 era of DC Comics, but he's not as cool — we'll get to him in due time, though.


Who created The Question?

The Question was created by none other than Steve Ditko, the artist who is best known for co-creating Spider-Man and Doctor Strange at Marvel. Vic Sage was just one of a number of characters Ditko created for Charlton, most notable among them being the Ted Kord version of the Blue Beetle and Captain Atom. Ditko drew the character's stories at first as a backup strip in Blue Beetle and later as a short-lived feature in the anthology Mysterious Suspense.

The Question is seen by many comics historian as being one of Ditko's most personal creations, seeing as how reflective he is of the artist’s often controversial political views. The Question is meant to be the embodiment of the heroic lone-wolf hero on an uncompromising hunt for truth and justice, no matter the consequences to the corrupt society he rails against ... ideals that echo those of Ayn Rand, an author who Ditko came to admire during his time at Marvel.


Is The Answer related to The Question?

Thankfully, he sure isn't! They aren't even in the same universe. The Answer is a super lame and obscure Spider-Man villain with an unforgivably terrible flowy purple outfit and pompous attitude. As is usually the case, the Question is far better and more interesting than the Answer.

Thanks for asking though!


What are The Question's best stories?

Unfortunately, since The Question has had so few series, this one is pretty easy. The most celebrated run on the Question is the one introduces him into the DC Universe in a self-titled 1987 series by Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan. The series had the titular character trained by Richard Dragon in martial arts, and also in the ways of Eastern philosophy. Vic underwent a transformation of character as he adjusted to new beliefs that were less black-and-white than his previous characterization. The series lasted for just over 30 issues and is by far the character's longest-running series.

Vic Sage and his protégé Renee Montoya played a big part in the weekly series 52, which had Vic contracting lung cancer and eventually passing his mantle down to Renee. The following stories with Renee tied her closely with the new Batwoman, who she frequently teamed up with in more ways than one.


Has The Question appeared outside of comics?

The Question has yet to appear in live action, sadly, though his hometown of Hub City has made a few appearance in The CW's superhero television universe. The Question's biggest claim to fame outside of comics is in animation, specifically as a recurring character on Justice League Unlimited. In that version, he's played up as a conspiracy theorist who often works around and outside of the Justice League, trying to expose the secrets of Project Cadmus. He's also romantically involved with Huntress in the show, a callback to the Huntress story "Cry for Blood" when Vic Sage helps Huntress learn to contain her rage.

And of course, a character based on The Question has made it to the big screen -- one who, the way DC's continuity is going, is basically an alternate reality version of the Question. I’m talking, obviously, about Watchmen's Rorschach. The ink-blotted vigilante is far and away the most popular 'super hero' from the landmark graphic novel, and was — like the rest of the book's cast — a pastiche of one of Ditko's Charlton creations.


When did we last see The Question?

The Question has had it rough in the post-Flashpoint era. Despite Montoya having a backup feature in Detective Comics heading into the event, once the New 52 hit it was a long time before she or Vic Sage were seen in the rebooted universe. Montoya eventually popped up again as a GCPD officer who seemed like she'd never been the Question, though her history with Batwoman may still have happened in some form. A government stooge named Vic Sage showed up in Suicide Squad, but the name is all he shared with the previous character and he never became the Question.

While all that was going on, a new supernatural Question popped up as part of DC's mysterious and now largely forgotten Trinity of Sin, along with Pandora and the Phantom Stranger. This Question was a cursed, faceless, time-displaced amnesiac who committed some unspeakable crime. He tried to regain his identity by investigating the Secret Society, but he didn't prevent anything or learn anything, and nothing ever really came of him. That Question was last seen in the final issue of Trinity of Sin and will hopefully be wiped from our memories.


Where is The Question in DC's Rebirth?

Great question! The character has been absent from the Rebirthed universe, but that doesn't mean it will stay that way. Renee has been appearing in Detective Comics, but as a police officer, and Vic is nowhere to be found. But things are a'changing in the DC Universe, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some form of the Vic Sage Question very soon.

Across the DC Universe Rebirth one-shot, "The Button" crossover, and the upcoming Doomsday Clock, DC is telling the story of its universe realizing there's something very wrong, and missing, from it. It's still unclear what's going on, but we do know it seems to involve the Watchmen. Doctor Manhattan seems to have been the cause of some timeline-splitting events, and there's a man resembling Ozymandias snatching characters from the DCU. He has at least a couple of mystery prisoners, and you know who I wouldn't want snooping around if I were Oz? Anyone who reminded me of Rorschach. It's even possible that these aren't the Watchmen at all but instead the characters from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's Watchmen homage story Pax Americana, and we could get that Question!

There are a lot of openings for a return, and I think the Magic 8 Ball would say "Very Likely" were you to ask it the question.


Who should write, draw and play The Question?

If I were to hire a team for a Rebirth'd, ongoing Vic sage-starring The Question series, I'd hire Tom King and Greg Smallwood. King has proven that he can handle stories with shades of grey and differing, evolving perspectives in, well, pretty much everything he's done, from Sheriff of Babylon to The Vision to Batman. He's a master at calculated, structured storytelling, which fits well with the Question's methodical and deliberate approach. Smallwood has shown on his incredible Moon Knight run that he has a talent for facial expressions and scarily tangible textures, which would be amazing to see on the faceless, smoky sleuth.

If the series was starring Renee Montoya as the Question, I'd enlist the talents of Brian Azzarello and Ramon Villalobos. The writer of 100 Bullets and artist of Nighthawk doing gritty conspiracy-driven neo-noir starring a badass Latina vigilante/cop? That's a must-buy book, no questions asked. You can have those for free, DC.

As for fan-casting the all-but-inevitable The Question movie, I'd like Matthew McConaughey channeling his character from True Detective as Vic Sage, mentoring Diane Guerrero from Orange is the New Black as Renee Montoya. Please cancel all future DC movies and do this instead.


Why is The Question important?

The Question is certain to leave a lasting legacy on the comics medium thanks to being Rorschach's inspiration, but even beyond that he is one that could be particularly relevant today. In our politically polarized society, a character who adheres to a code that is logical but radically different to the superhero community at large is one worth exploring. Is The Question an idealist? A revolutionary? Just a crazy person? How long should he be expected to hold to his principles before compromising? These are just a few of the questions that the Question asks, and in the hands of a great writer and artist they could speak powerfully to a modern audience.

Whether it's Vic Sage, Renee Montoya or a brand new faceless face, the Question needs to return to the spotlight soon, and of that, there is no question.