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Unearthing the Question

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 As the Blackest Night spreads across the DC Universe, Broken Frontier unearths the histories of several of the key players in the event.

Spoiler warning:  Read no further if you’ve not had a chance to dig into your most recent Blackest Night titles…

Making his first appearance in the back-up feature of Blue Beetle #1 (June 1967), The Question was born Charles Victor Szasz.  Raised in an abusive Catholic orphanage (The Question Annual #2, 1989), Szasz rose above his circumstances and put himself through college studying journalism (The Question #1, January 2005).  Working under the name “Victor Sage”, Szasz became an outspoken and controversial print and television reporter in Hub City.  One of his most important stories came when he was contacted by a former professor, Aristotle “Tot” Rodor, who along with a colleague (Dr. Twain) had developed an artificial skin to be used in medical applications.  The skin – pseudoderm – proved to be toxic when exposed to open wounds, leading Rodor to discontinue the experiment.  He contacted Sage to expose Dr. Twian, who had taken pseudoderm to the blackmarket for sale in the Third World.  Using a mask composed of pseudoderm as a disguise, Sage anonymously exposed Dr. Twian’s plans.

With Tot’s help, Sage refined the pseudoderm mask – using a hidden compartment in his belt and a special boding agent gas which also could quickly alter the color of his hair and clothes – and became the costumed vigilante known as The Question.  Operating out of Hub City, The Question continued to appear in the pages of various Charlton Comics titles including Blue Beetle (#1-5, June 1967-November 1968), Mysterious Suspense (October 1968) and Charlton Bullseye (Volume 1 #5, September 1976 and Volume 2 #1, June 1981), as well as Americomics Special #1 from AC Comics (August 1983).

Following DC Comics’ acquisition of the Charlton heroes, the Question made a brief appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-1986), before making more substantial appearances in Blue Beetle (#4-7, September-December 1986).  A new chapter in the Question’s life began when he attempted to expose the corruption in Hub City’s political powerhouses.  Ambushed and severely beaten by Lady Shiva, The Question was dumped in the river (The Question #1, February 1986), before being fished out by his assailant.  Told by Shiva to seek out the marital artist, Richard Dragon, The Question began to rebuild himself (The Question #2, March 1986).  Under Dragon’s tutelage, Sage gained mastery in hand-to-hand combat, as well as an introduction to eastern philosophy that broadened his world and moral perspectives.  Aided by the belief of criminals that he had been killed and risen from the dead, The Question embraced his campaign to systematically destroy the corruption in Hub City.

  

Following the death of Hub City’s corrupt minister (at the hands of Sage’s lover, Myra Fermin), The Question served as the city’s protector (The Question #5, June 1987), often wrestling with the morality of killing for the greater good.  As Sage worked outside of the law, Fermin attempted to work within the system, running for mayor (The Question #14, March 1988) – a post she eventually achieved by default when the mayor elect was killed during a tornado (The Question #24, January 1989).  In the aftermath, Myra was shot, plunging the city into further chaos, leaving the Question as the only force of order.  Despite his efforts, Hub City continued to sinker deeper and deeper in madness, taking the Question with it.  Following a hallucination and a visit from Richard Dragon, Sage became convinced that he needed to leave Hub City to begin the next chapter in his life (The Question #34, January 1990).  Unable to convince Myra to accompany him, Sage and Tot left Hub City to find new peace (The Question #36, April 1990).

Despite this new hope, The Question eventually found himself in South America, drawn into a vicious drug war.  Finally backed into a moral corner, Sage chose to kill rather than let an ally be killed (The Question Quarterly #1, Autumn 1990).  Returning to Hub City (The Question Quarterly #2, Summer 1991), The Question’s adventures would ally him with the likes of Green Arrow (The Brave and the Bold #2-6, January-June 1992), Azrael (Azrael Plus #1, December 1996), and Steel (Steel #38, May 1997).  Following a brief reunion with Myra (The Question Returns #1, February 1997), Vic entered a handful of partnerships, including membership in L.A.W. (Living Assault Weapons, L.A.W. #1-6, September 1999-February 2000) alongside Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Judomaster, Nightshade and Peacemaker (all former Charlton heroes.  He also briefly relocated to Gotham City, developing both a professional and physical relationship with the Huntress (Batman/Huntress: Cry For Blood #1-6, June-November 2000).  Following a brief stint in Metropolis during which he developed the shamanistic ability to “speak” to the city through the uses of hallucinogens (The Question #1-6, January-June 2005), The Question disappeared for several months.

  

In the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, Vic relocated to Gotham City – at first appearing to help fill the void created by Batman’s absence, but in actuality to begin grooming a successor (52 #1, May 2006).  Setting a series of challenges before despondent former Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, the pair embark on a mission to take down the crime syndicate known as Intergang.  The due eventually arrived in Nanda Parbat, reuniting Victor with Tot and Richard Dragon (52 #26, November 2006).  There, Renee begins training under Dragon and uncovered that the Question is dying of cancer (52 #27, November 2006).  After returning to Gotham City to aid Renee’s old lover, Batwoman, against Intergang’s Religion of Crime, Vic began to subcumb to his illness (52 #30, November 2006).  As Vic slowly slipped into delirium, Renne decided his only chance would be to return him to Nanda Parbat.  As Renee struggled through the snowy mountains with his prone form, The Question challenged her to accept that his fate was decided, and that she too must embrace her own destiny (52 #38, January 2007).  Victor Sage died in the snow, leaving Renee alone to ponder how she would answer the question of her own fate.  Completeing the journey to Nanda Parbat, she resumed her training under Dragon and Tot and returned to Gotham City where she became the new Question (52 #48, April 2007).

Since that time, Renee and Tot have continued to honor Vic’s memory, but they may face their greatest challenge when their old friend returns from the grave as a Black Lantern in The Question #37…

  

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