When Vic Sage, a television investigative journalist, encountered stories he couldn't investigate by normal, legal means, he donned a special mask (kept in his belt buckle) that made it appear that he had no face. As the Question, Sage investigated corruption in the face of all danger, leaving a blank "calling card," which, when touched, emitted a smoky question mark.[1]

Childhood and Early Career

Victor Sage was born Charles Victor Szasz, and grew up an orphan who had a reputation as a troublemaker.[2] Szasz prided himself in defiantly enduring the physical abuse of the Catholic orphanage where he was housed.

Though he managed to get into college, higher learning did not mellow his violent tendencies. Sometime during college, he brutally beat a drug dealer for giving him LSD, which had caused Sage to doubt his own senses under its influence.

After graduating from college (where he nursed an unrequited crush on fellow student Lois Lane),[3] Sage made his mark as a highly outspoken and aggressive reporter with a reputation for obnoxiousness in Hub City. He then moved to television journalism, which eventually led him to investigate Dr. Arby Twain. This particular story would alter the course of Sage's life permanently.

Forming the Question

Sage was approached by his former professor, a scientist named Aristotle "Tot" Rodor, who told Sage about an artificial skin called Pseudoderm he had co-developed with Dr. Arby Twain. The design was based on the notes of Gotham criminal Bart Magan and research into Gingold, the chemical responsible for the Elongated Man's powers.

Pseudoderm was intended to work as an applied skin-like bandage with the help of a bonding gas, but had unforeseen toxicity which was fatal when applied to open wounds. Though Rodor and Twain agreed to abandon the project and parted ways, Professor Rodor later discovered that Dr. Twain planned to proceed with an illegal sale of the invention to Third World nations, despite the risk to human health.

Sage resolved to stop him but had no way of going after Dr. Twain without exposing himself. Rodor suggested that Sage use a mask made of Pseudoderm to cover his famous features. Disguised by the Pseudoderm mask and armed with information, Sage eventually caught up with Dr. Twain, stopped the transaction, and extracted a confession from him. He then left Twain bound in Pseudoderm in an ironic twist. On television, Vic Sage reported on Dr. Twain's illegal activities.

Early Team Ups

Blue Beetle and the Question

Blue Beetle and the Question

With his first venture a success, Sage decided that this new identity would be useful for future investigations. He continued to work with Professor Rodor, who supplied the Pseudoderm and eventually modified the bonding gas, giving it the ability to alter the color of Sage's hair and clothing, as well. Vic became good friends with "Tot," who became a mentor to him in both of his identities.

Shortly after debuting in Hub City, Vic Sage relocated to Chicago in order to join the staff of WWB-TV as a crusading journalist. He would continue to operate as the Question there, and would make an ally of Chicago's other resident hero, the Blue Beetle (Ted Kord).[4] He would also travel to other cities in the course of his investigations, and eventually teamed up with Batman[5] and briefly participated in the first multiverse crisis.

The Question's early crime-fighting career was somewhat successful, but his black-and-white moral viewpoint and lack of commitment would soon lead to a turning point for both Sage and his alter ego.

Near-Death Experience and Further Training

After his time in Chicago, Vic Sage returned to Hub City and KBEL television, where he worked alongside news anchor and occasional love-interest Myra Connelly. During a mission as The Question, he was badly beaten in personal combat by the mercenary and martial artist Lady Shiva, and then nearly fatally beaten by her employer's thugs. The henchmen shot Sage in the head with a pellet gun, but luckily the projectile did not pierce his skull.[6] Though he was thrown in a river to drown, Shiva rescued him for reasons of her own and gave him directions to meet Richard Dragon as soon as he was recovered enough to get out of bed.

Sage took Shiva's advice and sought out the master martial artist, who retained all of his skill even while confined to a wheelchair. Sage spent a year learning martial arts and Eastern philosophy from Dragon. The training changed and deepened The Question's moral perspective, and the crimefighter became more understanding of the moral ambiguity of his chosen work.

Vic Sage returned to Hub City and resumed his career as the Question with a new, broader worldview, and a belief that crime had to be fought at more than one level.

The New Question

Though the Question had originally established himself as a crime fighter by stopping street crime, his post-Dragon career found him attacking the systematic corruption of Hub City at its highest levels. Hub City was noted as being "synonymous with venality, corruption, and violence," and perhaps even outranked Gotham City as the most dismal city in the United States.

The Question in Hub City

The Question in Hub City

The Question's work in defending the city extended beyond street crime and into the realm of politics and social justice. He re-enlisted as an ally his former girlfriend Myra, who had married the corrupt, alcoholic mayor of Hub City Wesley Fermin in his absence. He also met Batman again and had the first of what would be many encounters with the Green Arrow.

After spending months running Hub City while her husband descended into mental illness, Myra Fermin announced her intention to run for mayor herself and received Sage's full support. Though Myra's marriage to the mayor was loveless, she resisted the temptation to reunite with Sage. However, her lust was too strong, and she had affairs with both Sage and the Question, whom she did not realize were the same man.

Myra ultimately lost the election by one vote, partly due to Sage being too preoccupied to cast a vote in her favor on election day, but she was elected to the position anyway, as her challenger had died as a result of what was called "the worst tornado in history." However, during her victory speech, her husband Wesley Fermin shot her in the stomach for supporting what he called "Communist beliefs." Myra went into a coma, and Hub City was plunged further into chaos. For some time, the Question became the city's only guarantor of justice.

The gang warfare in the weeks following the election led Sage to a reunion with Lady Shiva, who at first resumed her adversarial relationship with The Question and then became an ally to him. Through Shiva, The Question was able to meet with the gang-leaders who were creating chaos in the city.

Eventually, Myra awoke from her coma and assumed her role as mayor, regaining some control of the control. Although the Question had the support of the mayor and his mentor Tot Rodor, Sage often felt troubled about his role as the city's protector and as a fighter of crime. With the help of his allies, the Question realized that a perverse part of him wanted to know what it felt like to take another person's life, and he managed to successfully (if temporarily) defeat his temptation to kill.

Leaving Hub City

Though The Question did his best to contain the chaos around Hub City, he felt himself growing increasingly darker as time wore on. A hallucinogenic trip caused his subconscious, in the form of his mother, to tell him that he would never be able to lead a happy life unless he left Hub City. Richard Dragon echoed this viewpoint during a visit to Vic Sage when he sensed that Sage was on the verge of a major turning point in his life.

Sage nearly convinced Myra (who had only recently learned that Vic Sage and the Question were one man) to leave the city with him, but her sense of duty convinced her to remain. Before Sage left, Myra gave to him her only daughter, Jackie, and wandered back to the city alone to meet her duties as Mayor and do her best to stand for what she believed in.

Sage took Jackie with him to South America, hoping to rid himself of his "No Face" alter ego and find a land free of the clutter and corruption that filled Hub City. However, this sense of serenity did not last long. Sage was quickly drawn into a drug war which ultimately forced him to kill a man to save Jackie's life. The Question's philosophy from that point changed once again, as he realized that he had no guilt over the killing and would do it again if necessary.

Unfortunately, Jackie would die anyway, en route to her mother in Hub City.

Mobile Heroics

After leaving Hub City, Victor Sage held a series of journalistic positions in various cities, while reviving his Question persona when necessary. He would participate in major superheroic events such as the invasion of the Dominators and Brainiac's attack on Metropolis.

During this time, the Question helped protect an Indian reservation alongside Green Arrow and John Butcher and met the new heroes Steel and Azrael.[7]

Travelling superhero

Travelling superhero

The Question very briefly became a member of a superhero team called L.A.W. (Living Assault Weapons) during a time when the Justice League of America disappeared. The Question's teammates included his old comrade Blue Beetle, Nightshade, Sarge Steel, Captain Atom, and Judomaster. The team's main mission was to stop Judomaster's former sidekick Tiger from conquering the world. On that mission, the Question would also first learn of the mysterious land of Nanda Parbat.

Sage returned to Hub City several times and eventually received a bittersweet shock when he learned that Myra had finally moved on.

Following the near-destruction of Gotham City after a major earthquake, the Question relocated to Gotham and teamed up with the Huntress to protect the victims. The two heroes engaged in a short-lived affair.

After years of dabbling with hallucinogens, meditation, and his mask-activating gas, the Question developed a shamanic awareness, in which he was able to interpret coincidences and thus "talk to the city".[8] In this state, he was also able to sense chi or life force. He became able to "walk in two worlds" for an increased awareness of his surroundings and of any disturbances in a city's natural order. This ability came in handy when Sage relocated to Metropolis and teamed up with Superman against Lex Luthor and the Psychopomp.

During another multiverse crisis, the Secret Society of Super-Villains coordinated a planet-wide breakout of super-villains from every major prison. With the JLA otherwise occupied, Oracle organized a group of second-string vigilantes to oppose the escapees at each prison. The Question joined up with these heroes and, when they made their way to Metropolis, he was transported with the other heroes to fight in what would become the Battle of Metropolis.[9]

Renee Montoya

 

Main article: 52 Vol 1

Following the end of the crisis and Batman's disappearance, the Question returned to Gotham City to assume the role of its protector.[10] His first act was removing the bat symbol sticker from the Bat-Signal and spray-painting a giant question mark in its place.

This was not strictly an act of ego however, and he shone the light on Renee Montoya's apartment building in order to get her attention. Three days later, he entered Montoya's apartment and left her an address: 520 Kane Street. When Montoya visited the location, he hired her to watch an abandoned building located there for "two hundred dollars a day, plus expenses," and implied that it would be used by a third party. This mysterious behavior would lead to a partnership that would last nearly a year.

Two weeks and one night later, the two teamed up against a strange creature who entered that building. The course of their investigations then led them to Kahndaq, where they investigated Intergang dealings and prevented a suicide bombing during Black Adam and Isis's wedding. The success of this mission earned the Question the Order of the Crescent.[11]

Death

Death of the Question

Death of the Question

After returning to Gotham City, the Question learned that he was suffering from lung cancer.

Though Montoya immediately had Sage hospitalized and later took it upon herself to transport him to the Himalayan city of Nanda Parbat in the hope of using its mystical properties to save him, she was too late. Having gone through great discomfort and hardship up until the end, Victor Sage, The Question, passed away.[12]

After his death, Renee Montoya took up the mantle of the Question, using Sage's old mask to honor his legacy.

Some time later, when the villain Nekron resurrected thousands of corpses on Earth for his Black Lantern Corps, Vic Sage was reanimated as a Black Lantern. Sage's corpse went after Renee, Tot, and Lady Shiva, but they managed to elude him by suppressing their emotions and making themselves invisible to him.[13] Upon Nekron's defeat, Sage was returned to his grave.


Abilities

  • Genius Level Intellect: The Question possesses genius intelligence and has an extremely unpredictable way of thinking. He can make a weapon out of common objects and often uses his mind to win fights.
    • Investigation: Said to be the second greatest detective after Batman. One of many, he has a superior inquisitive mind and has years of experience as an investigative reporter as well as his life as The Question.
    • Journalism: Victor, before becoming the Question, was a TV investigative journalist. He had his own show and appeared on local news which sought out conspiracy theories, local crime rings, and other violent or mysterious news. His journalistic techniques were what drove him to become the Question.
    • Interrogation: His opponents often fear him due to the (arguably true) rumors of his insanity and ruthless tactics.
    • Disguise: The Question has and can assume many aliases and has, as he describes, "many different faces" such as the one he used to spy on Renee Montoya.[14]
    • Philosophy: A self-proclaimed philosopher, Vic Sage has spent years surviving and understanding in the modern to the postmodern world of big city life. He understands the functions of the people within the city and even the city itself on a deeper level.
    • Shamanism: During a particularly tough time in Hub City, the Question sought out to learn shamanistic techniques that applied to his city. He used these skills and techniques to "feel" the city and better understand it.
  • Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced): Easily capable of incapacitating large groups of criminals and has knocked out trained policemen and soldiers with minimal effort. Vic has shown enough skill to take down two vicious attack-dogs and their highly-trained owner spontaneously, one after the other.
  • Acrobatics: Although not quite on par with people like Nightwing, he has shown to be a proficient acrobat, and has used this skill to survive a fatal fall by rebounding off building sides and somersaulting to create more drag. He, like many other non-powered vigilantes, can get around by jumping from rooftop to rooftop.
  • Intimidation: He has on many occasions frightened criminals into giving him the information he wants, and sometimes resorts to methods that many heroes shy from, like threatening a killer with a chainsaw.
  • Indomitable Will: His training and lifestyle demanded much determination, and he was rarely known to give up or surrender especially in physical confrontations.

Weaknesses

  • Lung Cancer: Due to his smoking habit, Vic Sage developed terminal lung cancer, of which he eventually died.

Equipment


Continuity Notes and Alternate Portrayals

  • The Question, as created by Steve Ditko in Charlston Comics' Blue Beetle series, was a very different character than the one described above. Though his origin was the same, The Question was consciously created in order to represent Ayn Rand's views of Objectivism, which Ditko had come to embrace. Accordingly, the original Question had a stark sense of morality and was somewhat right-wing. Dennis O'Neill's later interpretation of The Question in his own comic leaves room for the Ditko stories in continuity despite the complete change in his personality, as his near-death experience was meant to be a break from the pre-Crisis version of the character. It is currently unclear how many, if any, of the Charlton stories are considered canon in the Post-Crisis universe.
  • The events of the Infinite Crisis have made some of the DC Comics Question stories unclear in terms of continuity. Lex Luthor, for example, is no longer portrayed as he was in volume two of The Question. It is also unclear whether the The Brave and the Bold series that teamed the Question with Green Arrow and Butcher fits into current continuity, as Butcher is a creator-owned character who is neither published nor referred to in DC Comics publications any longer.

Homages/Influences

  • While Charlton's version of The Question lay dormant for more than a decade, it helped inspire one of the most unforgettable anti-heroes in comic book history.
    In the mid-1980s, renowned writer Alan Moore intended to devote a mini-series to the Charlton characters recently purchased by DC Comics, thrusting them into actual Cold War history—Hiroshima, Cuba, Vietnam, Nixon, etc.—and the geo-political and social context of a world where costumed heroes had actually existed in real life since the Depression.
    DC liked the idea, but realized that Moore's story would prevent the company from ever using the characters again. So, Moore created new protagonists that were patterned after the Charlton "Action Heroes" of the 1960s, but not explicitly linked to them. The Question became the basis for Rorschach, a merciless trenchcoat-and-fedora-clad vigilante who wears a blank mask of shifting "ink-blot" patterns and takes moral absolutism to its most violent extreme. Rorschach was widely regarded as a standout character in the classic comic book series Watchmen, created by Moore and artist Dave Gibbons.
    • Later, an homage to the homage would appear in Question #17, during which Vic Sage reads Watchmen; though Sage is initially fascinated with the character, he gets beaten up after trying to emulate his brutal style of justice. He concludes that "Rorschach sucks." [16]
  • The Question is not the first comics character whose disguise included a faceless mask. Notably, The Question was a revised and adapted version of Mr. A, a character Steve Ditko had created months before with a similar modus operandi and philosophy.

Related

External Links

Footnotes



The Question
Characters The Question (Vic Sage · Renée Montoya) · Aristotle Rodor · Myra Fermin · Izzy O'Toole
Supporting Lady Shiva · Richard Dragon · Batwoman · Black Adam · Intergang · L.A.W. · Huntress · Aristotle Rodor · Myra Connelly
Enemies Jeremiah Hatch · Riddler · Spaulding
Comics Question (Volume 1) · Question (Volume 2) · Question Quarterly (Volume 1) · Azrael Plus Question #1 · Question Returns #1 · Convergence: The Question (Volume 1) · Living Assault Weapons (Volume 1) · Blue Beetle (Volume 5) · 52 (Volume 1) · Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood (Volume 1) · Final Crisis: Revelations (Volume 1)
Creators Steve Ditko · Dennis O'Neil · Denys Cowan · Bill Sienkiewicz · Paul Dini
See Also Hub City · The Question's Mask · Rorschach · Charlton Comics
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This character is or was a member of the Black Lantern Corps. Those who have died may wield the Black Power Ring, symbolizing their lack of both life and emotion.

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