5. The Question
Appropriately, I don’t happen to know very much about The Question, which is exactly the way he would want it. I know that the first incarnation of the character was an investigative reporter by the name of Vic Sage, and I know that somehow or another he got hooked up with a scientist on the cutting edge of making synthetic skin. The Question’s awesomeness as a comic book hero doesn’t lie in his origin story or subsequent history, or even the presence of some accidentally gifted superpower (of which he has none). What makes The Question a fantastic character is the fact that he does the sort of thing that I think all of us wish we had the means and the drive to do, at some point or another–he gets to the truth that’s buried under mountains of bullshit with smarts, tenacity, and a complete disregard for established laws that would otherwise prevent him from doing so.
If there was one character who believed in himself, it was this guy. Most of the Justice League thought he was crazy, and even I, as an outside witness, never really settled on how extensively apophenia had taken over his mind. This, however, did not stop him from trying to uncover as much truth as he could about as many things as he could think to investigate. He was well aware of public opinion, but he pressed on with a measure of resolve known only to heroes, quietly going about his business and putting as much good back into the world the best way he knew how to do it. I remember one exchange in particular that I think best sums up his flavor. The Huntress, having the opportunity to gaze at the walls of his quarters (which were covered in newspaper clippings, thumbtacks and thread), noticed something in his notes and promptly attempted to mock him with it. “I didn’t know the Girl Scouts were responsible for the crop circle phenomenon,” she said, to which The Question, unaffected by her disdain, replied, “No one does. No one even thinks to ask the question.”
I find it impossible not to appreciate that–especially these days when news coverage is at an all-time low on the trustworthiness scale. There are entire movements out there dedicated to bringing accurate information to the public, which speaks to a genuine desire in our society to be accurately informed. Unlike most of us, though, The Question’s thirst for truth wasn’t tempered by the hope that that truth would confirm his prejudices, because The Question had no prejudices. In my opinion, that counts as a legitimate super power all by itself, given how freaking impossible our society evidently finds it to live a bias-free life. It was because of this lack of bias, too, that The Question found the time to investigate things on every scale, from top-secret government projects to whether or not Baskin Robbins had a thirty-second flavor they weren’t telling anyone about.
Granted, a compulsion to uncover hidden information does not, by itself, a hero make. If you find yourself in need of proof of The Question’s heroism, look no further than a famous instance during which he attempted to kill Lex Luthor so that Superman wouldn’t have to. The circumstances behind this are rather complex, but I’ll try to nutshell it here. The Question had determined somehow that Luthor was plotting something that would likely turn the world on its head, figuratively speaking. He also determined precisely what lay ahead, and got a glimpse of a future in which Superman actually killed Luthor during the ensuing war that would break out. The fallout of this was that, after seeing the Justice League’s greatest champion cross “the line,” humanity began to fear for its safety and the Justice League disbanded, leaving no organized body of heroes to combat organized super villainy, and grand scale war ensued that would wipe out civilization. The Question, being the only one with access to this information, knew what he had to do and had this to say to Lex Luthor as he prepared to do the unthinkable (paraphrasing): “The League will recover from my perceived treachery. Superman’s ideal must live on.” The assassination attempt failed, but Superman wound up doing the right thing anyway (of course) and the world didn’t get obliterated in a war between super heroes and the rest of the human race.
His defiant and relentless search for the truth, his outward disdain for social corruption, and his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good if he deemed it necessary are what make The Question one of my favorite superheroes ever. Check back in soon for some discussion on number 4!