It was reported yesterday that comic book legend Steve Ditko passed away at the age of 90. Most of his online tributes talk about how Ditko was the co-creator of such legendary comic book icons like Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Others will talk about how Ditko shunned notoriety and just wanted to draw comics. Even others will talk about how he was a devotee of the Objectivist philosophy. Instead, I’m going to talk about how Steve Ditko indirectly influenced me into the writer I am today.
I’ve been a fan of comic book heroes since I was young. From watching the Batman ’66 reruns to the Super-Friends cartoon to picking up my first copy of The Flash from a 7-11 in the 70s, I’ve always been a fan on the superhero genre. In the late 80s as a young adult, I came across a comic at my local comic shop that caught my eye because of the protagonist’s aesthetic. It was Hub City’s trench coat and fedora-clad vigilante, The Question as written by another comic book legend Denny O’Neil and drawn by gritty artist Denys Cowan.
For those who may not be familiar with the character, news reporter Vic Sage dons the faceless visage of The Question to get the answers a journalist just can’t get. While Ditko wrote him in the 60s as a vigilante with a black and white moral code, O’Neil took the very unique approach of writing The Question as a Zen detective dealing with various shades of gray. While O’Neil’s take was a far cry from Ditko’s, he stayed true to the character’s core principle of an insatiable need to find the truth.
I first got on the internet and started creating websites back in the late 90s before blogs were even a thing. Back then mostly everyone used screen names to protect their identity. Influenced by The Question, I chose the name of TheTrenchcoat. (Not a typo, all one word with two capital Ts.) As many of you know, when Columbine happened, this led to me being confused with the so-called Trenchcoat Mafia. This was the impetus which got me into writing about crime online since I wanted to dispel many of the mistruths of that fateful day, which many are still told today. You might even say that I had an insatiable need to find the truth. The rest is history.
As I posted on social media yesterday, had it not have been for Steve Ditko creating The Question there probably would not have been the Trench Reynolds you see today. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Mr. Ditko.
While I haven’t been wowed by the Convergence storyline as a whole yet I really did like this issue.
Pre-New 52 Renee Montoya, the 2nd Question, had to watch the original Question, Vic Sage, suffer and die slowly of cancer. Now her father is close to the death because of cancer and he hasn’t talked to Renee since she came out to her family.
After having to deal with Convergence plot point she rushes to his side, they reconcile and Renee tells her father that everything is going to be ok and it’s ok to let go now.
While there was no reconciliation needed between my mother and myself when she was in bed dying of cancer and unable to respond I remember telling her that my brother and I would be ok and that it was ok to let go. She passed within the day.
So now The Question has made a more fleshed out appearance so to speak in the pages of Phantom Stranger #5.
While The Phantom Stranger battles The Spectre over the disappearance of Stranger’s adopted family. The Question appears mysteriously in the lab of Dr. Terrence Thirteen. Thirteen actually calls him The Question and says that the only thing he knows about him is that Question was part of The Trinity of Sin along with Stranger and Pandora. Meanwhile Dr. Thirteen has amassed dossiers on the other two. Thirteen contacts Stranger and implies that he has information about his family. He says he doesn’t have an answer but more like a question. Heh.
This version of The Question maintains his 1930s detective like trappings along with his lack of a face. Whether or not this is a mask or his face has been permanently made this way by the Council of Wizards remains to be seen as. Also unknown at this point if he will be going by the name of Vic Sage or not. However he does speak all in questions which is kind of neat in an Etrigan sort of way.
As I’ve mentioned before this is a big departure from The Question’s roots. In the 1960s he was intended as an objectivist by his creator Steve Ditko. In the 1980s he was reimagined as a zen detective always looking for knowledge as written by Denny O’Neil. So a 2010s New 52 Question based more than likely in magic may not be a bad thing. I say that with trepidation because other things that have appeared in the New 52 era have looked promising and turned out to be a let down. Red Hood, I’m looking at you.
But Trench, didn’t you bemoan the fact that The Question gained new magical powers in the 2005 miniseries, asked no one. Yes I did, but that was different. That was still in the pre-New 52 universe where The Question did not have magical powers, was never explained how he got them and was never spoken of again. In this incarnation The Question starts out in the realm of magic.
So I’m still hoping that The Question will be a decent character this time around much like he was in the 52 series.
I know. I haven’t been blogging about comics in a while. There’s a couple of reasons for that. The first is that my regular crime readers aren’t that interested in comics. That’s cool. No worries there. The other is that because of my real world responsibilities I no longer have the time. While I do some comics stuff over at my G+ page for the most part I’ve been reduced to a weekend blogger and comics were the first subject to get cut.
However, something happened this week that filled my geek heart with glee but then a sense of dread and it happened in Justice League #0. Not only did this issue finally have Billy Batson finally get the powers of Shazam but it marked the return of my favorite comic book character of all time. It’s the character that inspired my original internet pseudonym of TheTrenchcoat. I am of course referring to the fedora and trench coat wearing and no face having, The Question.
While I’m happy to see his return the lack of elaboration in the issue has me worried a little bit. In the New 52 The Question was one of the Trinity of Sin along with the Phantom Stranger and Pandora. It hasn’t been made clear what his sin was but he was punished by the Council of Wizards to be always questioning his identity and they removed his face. Yes, you read that right, wizards. Our intrepid faceless crime fighter may have magical powers although I hope he doesn’t. I was really hoping for a return to his original objectivist ways as was intended by his creator Steve Ditko. I would have even been happy with his 1980s zen outlook from the Denny O’Neil run on his comic. There is a glimmer of hope though. In this incarnation it was briefly alluded to that he may be written as his Justice League Unlimited animated counterpart. The conspiracy minded detective who can see commonalities that even the great Batman can’t.
Will his character be a New 52 success or will it be just another failed reboot? That my friends is the question.
A few month ago I told you about my favorite comic book hero The Question. At the time I lamented the fact that The Question went from a man who swore never to kill to a sociopathic killing machine. This past Saturday I picked up the final issue in the limited six issue run of the series. I was more than disappointed. Now he’s a magical sociopathic killing machine. In the last frame of issue #5 he’s in a port-o-john at a construction site surrounded by gun-toting evildoers. The evildoers want to make faceless Swiss cheese out of him and shoot up the port-o-john. Of course when they open the door The Question isn’t in there. Did he pull some kind of ninja-like maneuver to evade the evildoers’ bullets? Hell no. He just casually strolled out undetected by said evildoers. So he either now has the ability to turn invisible or he has the power to cloud men’s minds. Kind of like…oh I don’t know…THE SHADOW!!! Then to make matters worse while the gun-toting evildoers were trying to figure out where he went he was whispering in their ears telling them what to do then they would do it. So now is he not only ripping off The Shadow he’s also learned in the ways of The Force. With no explanation about how he came to have these powers. It would be like reading Batman and all of a sudden for no reason he can turn into an actual bat. Throughout the series they hinted that he had some kind of Shamanistic abilities, which I can kind of forgive, but to have full-blown powers just ruins the character. It’s like Superman said before throwing The Question out of Metropolis “You have the stink of magic on you”.
Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s I was a comic book fan. My favorite comic that I would never miss and move heaven and earth to make sure I could get the next issue was The Question. Rather then get into a long boring entry about the history of The Question you can go here and here. My using the name TheTrenchcoat is 90% based on The Question. He was the ultimate comic book hero to me. He wore a trench coat and a fedora and wore a mask that made him look like he had no face. He used no weapons except for his fists and vowed never to kill anyone. (Take note of that, it becomes important later on ). Near the end of his run in the 80’s The Question did kill someone out of necessity even though he didn’t want to.
Imagine my joy when I found out that a new Question series was being planned. Yesterday I finally picked it up and I was a little disappointed in the new direction. Within the first few pages of the new series he’s already killed two people. In the 4th issue of the 6 issue series he pushed two evil henchman in front of a moving subway. I must have missed something that happened to him between the time I stopped reading comics and now. Maybe one of my readers can help me out with that. Anyway since the series is taking place in Metropolis I can’t see the big blue guy taking to kindly to a vigilante that kills. Now I have no problem with comic book heroes that kill, for example The Punisher before he became a pansy war protester. However that was one of the qualities that endeared me to The Question.
Another more famous comic book character was based on The Question and that was Rorschach from the legendary Watchmen series. In that series Rorschach was crazier than a shithouse rat and had no problem at all killing evildoers. It seems like to me that the creators of this new series are basing this more on Rorschach rather than The Question. If I wanted a Rorschach series I’ll read Watchmen again.
All in all it’s not a bad series so far it’s just not The Question I remember. It’s things like this that made me get out of comics in the first place.