Who is the faceless pursuer of truth and fighter of crime? Who is this anonymous figure out trying to solve mysteries, uncover conspiracies, and protect the people? It isn’t what is the question, but who is The Question. What makes the vigilante able to go by as truly faceless and blend into the crowd? There have been two Questions and we’ll answer them both over the course of two Character Spotlights. So who was the first Question? Let’s find out.
The original Question, Charles Victor Szasz, would take on the name Vic Sage as he’d become a famous television journalist who was notorious for getting in the faces of those he would expose for their wrong doing. He learned to be an in-your-face reporter from his college days in Hub City, where he harbored a crush on Lois Lane (They have similar personalities, don’t they?). One of Sage’s old college professors, Aristotle Rodor, would call him in one day to show him a new invention. Psuedoderm was going to revolutionize the medical world as a replacement skin for those who needed it. Sadly, it was likely to kill when applied to open wounds, so Rodor decided to never release it. This didn’t stop his co-creator, Dr. Twain, from trying to sell it illegally. Sage realized he had to do something, but would be instantly recognized for his journalism career. Rodor built Sage a mask out of Psuedoderm that would give him a faceless visage to chase down Twain.
After taking down Twain, Sage decided to continue wearing his mask (and later upgrades by Rodor that would allow him to change his hair color, as well) and protect Hub City as The Question. During his early years of crime fighting, Sage was quite black and white in his views (as he shared the Objectivist views of his creator Steve Ditko), and would be remorseless in his stopping of criminals. Leaving criminals to fend for themselves in dangerous situations he’d put them in until the cops could save them.
Sage would stop crimes as The Question and report them as Vic Sage to the public. Eventually, Sage would leave Hub City for Chicago, where he’d meet another superhero, Blue Beetle. These two would team up and fight crime together all over the place. (The pair was the inspiration for Rorschach and Nite Owl II from Watchmen; they were originally going to be the very characters in the story!) Sage would even run into Batman in Gotham City, where the two would team up to solve crimes.
Sage would return to Hub City, but when he did he’d come across Lady Shiva (Remember her? She’s Cassandra Cain’s mom and possibly one of the most lethal people on the planet.). This would prove badly for him, as he’d get nearly beaten to death by her employers. Shiva saves him for whatever reason she wants (because she’s Shiva and don’t you forget that), and sends him to her mentor, Richard Dragon. Here Sage would learn martial arts and Eastern philosophies (shaking up his Objectivist views) from Dragon. Sage would return to Hub City with a new outlook on life and crime fighting.
As he returned to Hub City, it was clear that the city was nearly tied with Gotham as the worst city in the U.S. and needed some real work. The mayor was a corrupt alcoholic named Wesley Fermin; his wife Myra (a former flame of Sage’s) would often run the city when her husband was missing, trying her best to maintain order. Wesley would become ill, and Myra would take over as mayor for a while until she could run for mayor herself. During this time she and Sage would begin an affair, with him as Sage and The Question (ewww, no face relations). Myra would win the election when her opponent was murdered. Her victory was short lived when Wesley shot her, putting her in a coma. Wesley was killed in the following police standoff. Hub City fell into chaos, and Sage had to try and maintain order. Occasionally Batman and Green Arrow would show up to aid him in his pursuit for a better city, until Myra would awaken from her coma to finally help take back the city.
Lady Shiva would show back up and eventually become an ally of Sage’s, taking on gang warfare in the city. When the city was in a more stable state, Sage began to question his conflicting old beliefs with his new, realizing that he had the dark urge to take the life of another. He fought this and realized that his time in Hub City was becoming toxic to his mind. Sage has a hallucinogenic vision of his mother telling him to leave Hub City or never find happiness, and he would hear this again from Richard Dragon. Lady Shiva would come to aid him in leaving, and when he left, Myra asked he take her daughter, Jackie, away from the city as well.
Sage would head to South America, hoping to end his career as The Question, but his peace was not meant to last when he got caught up in a drug war. To save Jackie’s life, Sage had to kill a man, realizing he did not care about killing other enemies. Ready to take this new mindset to the U.S., he and Jackie headed back. Sadly, Jackie would die on the way back to Hub City.
Sage would spend time away from Hub City and travel the United States helping out with other superheroes, since his time with Batman, Blue Beetle, and Green Arrow had given him a name in the super community. He’d end up on a team called the Living Assault Weapons alongside Blue Beetle and others to fill in for the missing JLA to save the world. During this time with L.A.W., Sage would come across the city of Nanda Parbat, a mysterious city of monks hidden away from the rest of the world. When Sage returned to Hub City, he’d learned that Myra had moved on. He’d move to Gotham where he’d team up with the Huntress and the two would become somewhat of an item as well as a crime fighting team at times.
Having experimented with hallucinogens in the past, Sage would awaken a shamanic ability to hear the city he was in. He’d moved to Metropolis and would help Superman take down a criminal organization (lead by Lex Luthor, of course) using the bathroom and sewage systems to hide from Superman’s X-Ray vision and politeness towards people in the restroom.
During the events of Infinite Crisis, Sage would become a part of the Battle of Metropolis, in which the villain team the Society declared war on Metropolis hoping to destroy it. Sage and the other heroes were able to hold off the total destruction of Metropolis, but much damage was done to the city and community of heroes, losing Superboy in the process.
In the aftermath of the Crisis, where many of the major heroes had left for a year, Sage would return to Gotham to take over for the absent Batman. He even went as far as to replace the bat symbol with a question mark signal to show that Gotham still had a protector. He also used his signal to get in contact with Renee Montoya, former Gotham PD turned Private Investigator, to aid him on mysterious calls to a particular building. Roughly a year later, Sage and Montoya would find themselves in the city of Khandaq saving Black Adam and Isis on their wedding day, garnering Sage a major award,
the leg statue The Order of the Crescent.
Upon returning to Gotham, Sage learned he was dying of lung cancer. Montoya immediately took him to a hospital. When they learned the hospital could not help, the two went to Nanda Parbat hoping for a mystical remedy. Sadly they were too late, and Sage died in Nanda Parbat and was buried there. He’d briefly return during the Blackest Night as a Black Lantern, but was later returned to rest in Nanda Parbat. This was the end of Vic Sage but not of The Question, but we’ll get to that next time.
In the New 52, Vic Sage is a far more mystical character. He is a wizard who has committed a great crime, and the seven wizards of the Rock of Eternity condemn him to walk the Earth. He is faceless and has no memory of who he is, cursed to search for answers to questions he cannot find. That doesn’t sound good at all to me, that sounds like a different character all together; just make a new character, don’t try to change the legacy of Sage. You know what the New 52 should have done? Brought in the Justice League Unlimited version of Sage, the conspiracy theory filled detective who was mostly an outcast of his own design. DC has some great renditions of their characters, the ones that way more people see on TV than they do on the page. Look at this guy!
So we say good bye to Vic Sage, but what about hanging out with Renee Montoya for a year? What was that about? Well, it was an apprenticeship; Vic passed on the legacy, the mask, and the hat to a new Question, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll have to know more about Renee Montoya before that. Join me in two weeks for a spotlight on Montoya.
Blue Beetle #1
Justice League Unlimited