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The Question

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Has anybody read about The Question?

In the mid-1960s, Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spiderman, left Marvel Comics and created some characters on his own for Charlton Comics. One of them was The Question, a character based firmly on Ditko's belief in Objectivism.

The Question is Vic Sage, an uncompromising journalist with an unyielding desire to find the truth. The main difference between him and conventional superheroes is that The Question isn't Sage's alter ego, that is, it's not a different personality: there is no difference between what The Question says and does as a vigilante and what Sage says and does as a journalist. The mask he uses to conceal his identity merely exists to enable him to explore things in ways a public figure like Sage would not be able to.

There have been several other versions of The Question over the years, and while all of them are quite interesting, none is explicitly Objectivist like Ditko's.

A recommended read is Mysterious Suspense #1, the first full-length adventure of The Question by Ditko. It's available in a "Millenium Edition" reprint by DC Comics (the original costs too much.)

Later in the 60s, Ditko also created Mr. A, which as far as I know, is a character even more explicitly Objectivist. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to read this material.

If you want to find out more about The Question, I recommend you this excellent fansite: www.vicsage.com

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Has anybody read about The Question?

About him, a little. I don't read comics (or graphic novels if you preffer), but I'm a fan of superhero animation, particularly the 90's through mid-2000s WB Batman, Superman and Justice League series. In the latter The Question was a pivotal character in a season's story arc. I liked him, but he struck me as far too paranoid and conspiracy-minded to be Objectivist.

Of course I'm sure that's not the version of The Question you meant. Even in the animated series he's not taken entirely seriously (one scene has him discovering a 32nd flavor at an ice cream retailer; clearly a comic relief bit).

I have been thinking of writing a serious story or series with an Objectivist superhero. I'm laboring under a difficult rule, however: no superpowers allowed, and all the hero's technology and actions have to at least seem plausible. This rules out characters like Batman. My top contender is an alien cop stuck on Earth (yes, I know) who can make use of very advanced technology. I'm thinking of having her consult with the police in a free-lance basis.

Anyway, I think I'll look up your Question references.

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About him, a little. I don't read comics (or graphic novels if you preffer), but I'm a fan of superhero animation, particularly the 90's through mid-2000s WB Batman, Superman and Justice League series. In the latter The Question was a pivotal character in a season's story arc. I liked him, but he struck me as far too paranoid and conspiracy-minded to be Objectivist.

Yes, the animated Justice League version of The Question was a different version, which was rather amusing. He is indeed too paranoid and conspiracy-minded. Nevertheless, he's the only non-Ditko Question to maintain at least some few characteristics of the original (he even cites the law of identity in one episode!)

What a great show JLU was, by the way.

The original, purely Objectivist Question appears only in the 60s stories by Ditko, and also, as far as I know, in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again

The character of The Question, in all of his incarnations (except Rick Veitch's), has those characteristics that you mention: no superpowers, no gadgets.

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What a great show JLU was, by the way.

There was a brief scene in another episode of JLU in which Lex Luthor is in a fight with another villain, an intelligent gorilla named Grodd. They're throwing insults at each other, and at one point Luthor says "Idiot! Simian! Half-baked Objectivist!" I just about dropped my drink the first time I heard that, because it was so totally unexpected.

A bit of digging on the net reveals that the Grodd character apparently claims to be an Objectivist in the comics, apparently as part of a slam against Rand by the guy who created the character in the first place.

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A bit of digging on the net reveals that the Grodd character apparently claims to be an Objectivist in the comics, apparently as part of a slam against Rand by the guy who created the character in the first place.

I didn't know that. Whoever came up with that (it doesn't necessarily have to be the creator of the character, it could be any other writer who used it later on) has such a deep misunderstanding of Objectivism that he shouldn't even dare to use the term in public.

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Yes, the animated Justice League version of The Question was a different version, which was rather amusing. He is indeed too paranoid and conspiracy-minded.

He had some good lines in that regard. Remember when he's being tortured by an idiot who asks "Tell me what you know"? Question answers "The things at the end of shoelaces are called aglets. Their purpose is sinister." I mean, that's not what you should ask The Question :)

Nevertheless, he's the only non-Ditko Question to maintain at least some few characteristics of the original (he even cites the law of identity in one episode!)

Indeed. "A is A," he says. "Luthor is Luthor," he adds. But then he embraces determinism. That is, alternate-Luthor did X, therefore this genetically identical Luthor will also do X. This offended me because the whole point of the alternate universe episode was one's power to make choices that affect events.

But worse than that, Question goes and offers himself as a sacrifice to save the League. Think about it.

What a great show JLU was, by the way.

Oh, yes. I can't decide whether it ended one season too late, or three seasons too soon. But I very much enjoyed the glimpse into Terry McGinnis' future at the end of the Cadmus Arc. The Arc itself was really good. Amazing how frightened people can be of the good, isn't it?

I also liked the romance between Question and Huntress. They fit well together. Black Canary and Green Arrow also fit well, but I don't like Green Arrow that much (I suppose you can see why)

The character of The Question, in all of his incarnations (except Rick Veitch's), has those characteristics that you mention: no superpowers, no gadgets.

Gadgets are ok. We humans depend on technology to get everything done. Take away the products of our minds and we're nothing but kibble for hungry predators. So gadgets, for a superhero, imply a superior mind, or at least access to the products of superior minds. Think about Batman's gadgets to see what I mean, from the funky boomerangs to the batmobile

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I think The Question goes to confront Luthor more because of his uncompromising quest for justice rather than just for self-sacrifice. Anyway, as I told you, traces of Objectivism in the animated Question are mere hints, a kind of homage to Ditko, not more. The real Objectivist Question is in Ditko's stories.

Good point about gadgets. And of course I see why you don't like Green Arrow :thumbsup:

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I think The Question goes to confront Luthor more because of his uncompromising quest for justice rather than just for self-sacrifice.

Yes. And as far as such a thing can be handled well, it was handled well. but Question never seems to consider other means (ok, it's a 22-minute cartoon, I know, and subtleties tend to get lost along the way).

Good point about gadgets. And of course I see why you don't like Green Arrow :thumbsup:

I sort of liked him when I first saw him, but I judged his costume was too reminescent of Robin Hood's. First I thought it was more a cliche, Robin Hood being so well-known as an archer, etc. But when you get to know the character better, you realize it's neither coincidence nor lack of artistic imagination.

In retrospect there's some irony in having Batman offer him a post in the League, but only a little.

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I was thinking about what Gabo was saying about The Question being a character who only uses a disguise for publicity reasons, who stays the same in and out of costume. It got me thinking about, probably (besides, of course Bats), my favourite superhero - Rorschach.

http://trouble.philadelphiaweekly.com/archives/rorschach.jpg

Rorschach holds an unswerving principle of justice as his highest virtue. He believes that evil is evil, that it must be identified as such and must be punished - even up to the very end of the Watchmen when...

...

rather than letting the utilitarian Adrian get away with staging an alien invasion, so as to end the Cold War between the US and the USSR, he threatens to go back to America, to tell people the truth. He is killed by one of the supposed heroes of the story, as he says the lines, "Of course. Must protect Veidt's New Utopia. One more body amongst foundations makes little difference. Well - what are you waiting for?"

He is blunt in his manner and actions and does not hesitate for a moment to do the right thing. Unlike Batman, who treats justice like a mistress he must obey, to whom he is a slave, Rorschach sees justice as a recognition of reality and how one must act in regard to it - and he does act in regard to it!

He posses great detective skill, a keen eye for observation and most importantly: no super powers. Not even a huge enterprise to source funds from for his crime-fighting career - he makes the best of everything he has, of the friends he has to help him (of the few he does have) and fights with every jolt of energy in his body.

What's very interesting, is his identity without his costume.

He is not very good looking, but he has sharp, rugged looks. Clearly defined bone structure, carefully sunken cheeks, and most interestingly - bright, red hair. And his name sounds awfully like someone else we know with bright, red hair, unconventional looks...

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I was thinking about what Gabo was saying about The Question being a character who only uses a disguise for publicity reasons, who stays the same in and out of costume. It got me thinking about, probably (besides, of course Bats), my favourite superhero - Rorschach.

Did you know that Rorschach was originally based on The Question? In fact, the original idea of Watchmen was to work with the Charlton heroes. But then DC changed their mind because the characters would be rendered practically useless after the series was finished--- so Alan Moore created brand new characters, which gave him more artistic freedom.

That's why the similarities between The Question and Rorschach.

Rorschach is indeed a remarkable character, and my favourite in Watchmen (my others are Nite Owl and Ms. Jupiter). The only thing in him that is not consistent with Objectivism is that he regards the universe as mostly malevolent--- he has a rather bleak view on existence (you see this clearly in chapter 6). It is only fortunate that this view leads him to embark on an uncompromising fight for justice rather than otherwise.

If anybody hasn't read Watchmen yet, by the way, you're in for a treat.

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From The Question's fansite, www.vicsage.com, an interview where Steve Ditko discussed the rationale behind The Question and Mr. A:

Steve Ditko: "Every person, whether he wants to be or not, is in a continous struggle. It's not a physical life or death struggle yet it's a threat to every man's survival.

No man has to battle or fear the supernatural, it doesn't exist. No man has to fight or fear creatures from outer space. No man has to battle foreign armies. The country's armed forces are prepared for that possibility. A man's battle isn't against foreign conspiracies, the FBI & CIA are set up and equipped to deal with that threat. The police are equipped to deal with crime. Health problems are battled by the medical profession. Against any of the above dangers no man has to face them alone. But in that one continuous struggle, man has to constantly face the danger alone. No one can face it or fight it for him. It is the strugglee for his mind! It is the struggle against everyone he comes in contact with. It is a struggle to keep his mind from being corrupted and being ruled by irrational premises.

A man is what he stands for--why is it right to stand for it and to protect and defend for all the time? In the struggle, a man can lose only if he gives in, defeated by self destruction, by accepting the wrong as right to act against himself.

Honest men, like dishonest men, are made. The honest refuse to accept wrong as right, the dishonest refuse to accept right as right. Each deliberately makes a a choice.

This struggle is not openly recognized. Accepting lies, dishonesty, etc. or practicing evasions etc, are not criminal acts. Nothing but a man's own mind can protect him from accepting and practicing the irrational, and suffering from it's corrupting effects, but a man has to choose to do it.

This is the premise that the Question and Mr. A are based on. Evil is powerless. A mind that refuses to accept or defend the truth, by that act, permits lies to exist, to give them respectability and influence, thereby undercutting and eventually destroying everything that is of real value. Destroyed, not by the power of evil, but by the good's refusal to protect itself against an enemy that could exist only with good's permission.

A man's refusal to understand the issue changes nothing. If a man doesn't know why a thing is right or wrong, he has no defenses. He's vulnerable. He has no standard by which to measure, accept or reject any proposition. The Question and Mr. A are men who choose to know what is right and act accordingly at all times. Everyone should."

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I found this paper called "The Illustrated Rand: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/essa...stratedrand.pdf It talks about Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden's opinion of comics, and of the two authors most influenced by Rand: Steve Ditko and Frank Miller.

Another graphic novel character that I think can appeal to Objectivists is Anarky, who originally appeared as a Batman "villain" in issues written by Alan Grant. Anarky is really a 16-year old boy (12 when he first appeared) who dedicates his whole life toward fighting the parasites which are dooming our civilization.

His speechs are very Randian, check out these:

"In harsh economic terms, there are only two kinds of people in the world... those who produce services, goods and values... and those who don´t. And before you say what about the old, the young and the sick... we look after them, right?... Intentional non-producers are parasites. To hide their parasitism, they employ the techniques of deception, coercion and naked force. Parasites can never create. They can only destroy. Today, for the first time in history, the parasites outnumber the producers who support them. They're entering a final feeding frenzy, which will result in the ultimate evil: a totalitarian state."

(from Anarky limited series #3)

"Aristotle believed that man is basically good, decent and noble. If left to his own devices, he'll seek individual happiness within an orderly society. For Aristotle, human life and sovereign conciousness were the universe's greatest values. But Plato believed man is a wild and savage beast, incapable of self-discipline. To manage him for his own best ends, man needs rulers: kings, governments, priests, presidents. For Plato, human life is worthless, to be endlessly sacrificed to "higher" causes and ideals. Which one do you think the world followed?"

(from Anarky limited series #2)

If anybody is interested, the best Anarky stories were collected in the Trade Paperback "Batman: Anarky"

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Here is an article that I had found in the New York time that praises the art work of Ditko but denounces his admiration for Ayn Rand. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/17/books/re.../Wolk-t.html?em

“By then, he’d fallen under the spell of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and started producing an endless string of ham-fisted comics about how A is A and there is no gray area between good and evil and so on.”

“The portrait that emerges here is of an artist whose principles have ossified into bitter perversity. “

I think it is the New York times that is perverse. I don’t care for comic books or Ditko’s work myself but I thought some people might be interested.

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Another comic character that O'ists could relate with is Tom Strong. A series of Allan Moore comics about a boy who was raised on an island by his scientist father and mother. Tom Strong defeats his enemies usually in a non violent way by reasoning with them. It sounds boring when I explain it, but of course it's worth a read when Allan Moore explains it. Plus you can't ever go wrong with crazy arian nazi chicks as your enemies.

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I found a very interesting piece called "Ditko shrugged", which focuses about Ayn Rand's influence on Ditko with lots of detail. In general it's very respectful of Objectivism (although the author didn't quite get that Rand considered herself a Romantic only as regards literature).

Here is is: http://www.comicsbulletin.com/soapbox/118945139174676.htm

Universehead, I agree. Tom Strong is an excellent comic book series, highly recommended.

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No, it is never stated what philosophy he follows, but i do know where you got that idea from. you got it from the title of chapter 6, The Abyss Gazes Also, a shout-out to the Friedrich Nietzsche quote that goes something like this "When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back."(paraphrasing, of course)

so, no, Rorschach is closer to Objectivism than Existentialism. all existentialists do is whine how the universe is unexplainable, so why do anything.

Edited by chuckleslord

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