In this week's Justice League #0, readers were given the first peek at the New 52 version of The Question working in the present day DCU.
A back-up story in Justice League called "Questions," by writer Geoff Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver, expanded the ongoing story that DC is telling about the mysterious Pandora character. But it also took readers to present day Hub City, where The Question rescued a kidnapped child.
It was just a small glimpse at the hero who looks to be important to Pandora's history and next year's "Trinity War" event.
Considering the last character to wear the mantle "The Question" was a woman, this new version is quite a change. But there are a lot of similarities to previous incarnations of the character.
Newsarama looks at the various incarnations of The Question and how they may or may not inform this new Geoff Johns version in the New 52:
Charleton OriginSteve Ditko originally created the Question for a comic company called Charleton Comics. When he first appeared in 1967 in a back-up story in Blue Beetle #1, the Question was the secret heroic identity of TV reporter Victor Sage.
As he worked for justice in the fictional town of Hub City, the character didn't have any superpowers, but instead functioned as a pulpy, street-level investigator and fighter. But what made the Question unique was his faceless disguise and his brutal treatment of criminals.Instead of a mask, The Question wore an artificial skin called "Pseudoderm" over his face to hide his recognizable identity as a well-known reporter. The scientist who developed the Pseudoderm also gave Vic a gas that would change the color of his hair and clothing, further disguising him during his investigations of criminal activities.
The character only appeared in a handful of issues between 1967 and 1983, when Charleton Comics went out of business. But The Question saw a revival after Charleton's action hero characters were sold to DC.
DC QuestionAfter DC Comics acquired the Charleton characters, The Question appeared in a few issues with other DC characters, including the 1985 event Crisis On Infinite Earths that established the Charleton heroes as part of the new DCU.
But it was the acclaimed The Question series by Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan that really made the character a beloved part of the DCU. The comic, which launched in 1987, had Vic Sage fighting crime again in Hub City with his trademark faceless mask. But the story also changed the character, utilizing a resurrection to add martial arts and eastern philosophy to The Question's mythos.
The O'Neil/Cowan Question series was also among the late-'80s titles that marked a change in the way comics were written.
"I think we had moved into a place in the '80s where we were treating our characters more sincerely, and there was an expectation that we were, even while writing fantastic situations, writing honest emotions," writer Greg Rucka told Newsarama. "And then Denny and Denys come along, and they write this series that looks like it's really kind of a martial arts series, and they're taking this Randian character, and now they're really altering it to a sort of Zen philosophy on life."
Rucka said The Question was among the first times he read an ongoing superhero comic that crossed the line into "literary" content. "There was a big question being asked about the nature of sanity, about the nature of belief. And that thematically holds throughout the run," he said.
The series ran for 36 issues, and it backed away from the character's brutal approach to crimefighting, but showed that Vic struggled with violent tendencies. The O'Neil series also added politician Myra Fermin as Vic's love interest, and it revealed that Vic was actually born as Charles Victor Szasz and grew up in an orphanage.
While there were later mini-series and appearances of the character at DC — including team-ups with Blue Beetle in Chicago and new love interest Huntress in Gotham — the O'Neil-written series and its Zen-influenced hero became the "quintessential" Question for most fans and later writers.
Watchmen and RorschachWhen examining the evolution of The Question, it's important to note a mini-series where he didn't actually appear, but one which is indelibly linked to him: Watchmen.
After DC bought the rights to the Charleton heroes, Alan Moore wrote a proposal to use them for his 1986/87 mini-series Watchmen with artist Dave Gibbons.
But Moore's proposed story would have left the Charleton superheroes unusable for future comics. "When we submitted the proposal, DC realized their expensive characters would end up either dead or dysfunctional," Moore said.
So the plan to use The Question and other Charleton characters was scrapped, and Moore/Gibbons came up with their own similar set of heroes.
"The Charlton characters were superhero archetypes. There was the Superman figure, the Batman figure...," Gibbons said. "We realized we could create our own archetypes and tell a story about all superheroes."
Yet while The Question himself didn't end up within the pages of Watchmen, the legendary mini-series did influence the perception of the character and his later evolution. Fans and writers recognized that Rorschach, Watchmen's trench coat-wearing detective character, was The Question's replacement in Moore's story, complete with a similar flat-faced mask.
Because Watchmen's Rorschach became such a well-known part of comic book history, his link to The Question made an indelible impression on the comic book industry.
Justice League UnlimitedThat link between Rorschach and The Question was personified when the character appeared in episodes of the TV series Justice League Unlimited, which ran for three seasons between 2004 and 2006 and in syndicated reruns since.
This version of The Question looked like the DCU version with his faceless mask and trench coat, but the TV writers added a tendency for the character to talk out loud to himself in seemingly nonsensical sentences, sounding like the Rorschach character from Watchmen.
This version of The Question was also paranoid and saw conspiracy behind everything, adding a little humor to the cartoon character as his Justice League teammates consider him a bit of a crackpot.
Fans responded positively to the character's first appearance in the show, and he showed up in multiple episodes during the series' run.
Current New 52 writer Gail Simone used this version of The Question when she wrote an episode of JLU called "Double Date," which brought the attraction between Huntress and The Question to the animated universe.
It's also worth noting that current Justice League writer Johns, who has written every appearance of The Question in the New 52 universe so far, wrote an episode for Justice League Unlimited in 2006.
Why is that important to note? Because the New 52 version of The Question was shown to be talking out loud to himself in short, seemingly unconnected phrases, exactly like the animated version of The Question.
We're betting that this animated version of The Question is influencing the mannerisms of the New 52 character.
52The next truly defining appearance of The Question was during DC's weekly series 52, which was released for 52 weeks in 2006-2007. Written by the comic book dream team of Johns, Rucka, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison, the comic stuck with the DCU continuity of Vic Sage that had been established during the O'Neil run in the '80s.
However, this series saw the eventual death of Vic Sage, who was replaced as The Question by former Gotham police officer Renee Montoya. Before his death, Sage trained and grew close to Montoya. As the 52 story ended, Montoya picked up not only the mantle, but the faceless disguise and trench coat costume to become a new Question.
While that seemed to be the end of Vic Sage, there was potential for his existence on one of the 52 alternate earths created at the end of 52. Grant Morrison had stated that he had plans for the Charleton heroes to exist on Earth-4, including a version of The Question. The writer has yet to release his Multiversity mini-series, which was originally supposed to be set on DC's various earths, although it's still expected to be published.
Renee Montoya, on the other hand, has apparently disappeared from continuity since last year's reboot of the DCU. Although her new female Question played a role in some major recent DC events — including "still-sort-of-canon" stories like Blackest Night and the first volume of Batman Inc. — she hasn't been seen since, and the appearance of this new Question in Justice League implies she's been erased from existence in the DCU.
Justice League #0Instead, the New 52 version of The Question is not only male, but appears to have an M.O. that combines several of his previous appearances, as detailed here. The nonsensical talking of Rorschach and the JLU version of Question have been adopted, although he's got a familiar hat and long coat.
In DC's Free Comic Book Day issue, readers were shown the character's "new" origin. He was one of the three sinners who were sentenced in by The Circle of Eternity, alongside Pandora and Phantom Stranger. The man who would become Question never had his true identity revealed in the issue, although he was shown to be vain and defiant, threatening to "rise to power again."At the hands of The Circle, to punish him for his crimes, his face was basically erased, he was forced for forget his name, and he was sentenced to forever question his identity and search for answers.
What comes next for the question? Our guess is that he's heading toward next year's "Trinity War" along with Pandora and Phantom Stranger. In the words of his appearance this week in Justice League, "the man with the hat and the girl with the guns... it's all connected."Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
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