...The Question!
Banner: The Question by Denys Cowan

The Question v.1 #1

"The Bad News" - Feb. 1987

The Cover of The Question #1 by Bill Sienkiewicz
ENLARGE
Script: Dennis O'Neil
Pencils: Denys Cowan
Inks: Rick Magyar
Lettering: Gaspar
Colors: Tatjana Wood
Editor: Mike Gold
Cover: Bill Sienkiewicz
Published by DC Comics

Hub City Friday, November 21, 10:45 P.M.: Charles Victor Szasz has exactly 25 hours and 15 minutes to live.

A man in a blue fedora and matching trenchcoat stands in the rain outside a shack on the wharf, his face shrouded in shadow. Inside, three men huddle around a card game, the smoke from their cigarettes rising toward the light suspended a few feet above their table. Charles Victor Szasz has been waiting, tensing his muscles, preparing himself for violence: "That he may die is of no interest to him in these charged seconds. Here, now, he is fully alive and that is what matters..."

A voice on the TV inside announces a special report from KBEL's Vic Sage, and as if this were his cue, Szasz puts a foot through the door of the shack, stating plainly that the men inside possess a tape cassette that he wants. The men stand, as the television in the background discusses civic corruption, and challenge the intruder. Szasz responds by elbowing the largest of them so hard that the thug's skull cracks the television as he falls. A second man advances, swinging wildly. His punch misses, but Sage's counter-punch connects. A woman looks on silently, with a hint of a smile at the corner of her lip. Szasz swings a chair at the third man, knocking a small pistol from his hand, then uses the remnants of the chair to knock his opponent to the floor. He takes note of the woman: "You're staying out of it, lady. That's smart." She replies, still Mona Lisa smiling: "I despise violence!"

A pair of hands come down to meet the base of Szasz's neck. He drops to the floor, where his agressors pick him back up again. The largest of the men, recovered from his earlier encounter with the television, grips the man's face with both hands: "Let's see who he is!" But whatever covers Szasz's face won't come off. Distracted by the mask, the big man finds himself the target of a kick to the face, his nose and teeth crushed, and Szasz pushes off to throw himself and the man holding him through a table behind them. We see that Szasz has no face. An elbow to this other man's face, and all opponents are down. "Barbaric," says the woman.

Szasz goes to the thug who couldn't connect with a punch, and demands the tape. The man concedes defeat and pulls the desired object from a safe. "Mister, givin' you this is prob'ly gonna get me bad hurt. So answer me this...who are you?" In response, Szasz hands him a blank white card that starts to smoke, slowly revealing -- "Question mark?"

"You are half right," says the woman.

11:01 P.M.: Charles Victor Szasz has 24 hours and 59 minutes to live. Climbing into a red Volkswagen Beetle, Szasz speeds away. He's enveloped in a ring of yellow smoke, and reaches up to remove the featureless mask. He passes a pair of cops doing sixty, and out of boredom, they decide to pull him over. But Szasz can't trifle with traffic tickets. He pulls the gear shift and rockets away from the cops. "He's doin' over a hunnert! Gotta be!" says one of the cops as they stop the chase.

Szasz arrives outside of KBEL studios as the weather report comes on. A producer named Finch is calling for the head of Vic Sage, who's due to go on in six minutes. Szasz, nee Sage, enters the production room and hands the tape to the news director, instructing him to play it during his spot. "Mr. Sage...your script..." says the assistant director. "I'll ad-lib," Sage replies. "Your make-up." "I'm beautiful just the way I am..." Sage replies without irony.

News anchor Myra Connelly introduces Sage as the weather report ends. The tape contains footage of the Hub City Commissioner of Schools snorting cocaine with a woman who Sage ties to a man who he believes blackmailed his way into a fat building contract with the school system. Shadowy figures watch the report on a big screen. One asks, "What do you think, Reverend?" The reverend replies: "Lamentable. Most Lamentable." Sage concludes his broadcast with a dig at local government: "The decent people in this town are paying for services that don't exist while the political slugs get fat. Why doesn't Mayor Wesley Fermin do something about it? Is he lazy, stupid...or worse?"

Perhaps worse. Mayor Fermin is infatuated by Sage's co-worker, Myra Connelly, and ignores Sage's words as he watches the news to get a glimpse of her. He wonders aloud if he could meet her, and the Reverend, sitting on the couch beside him, says, "Ask and ye shall receive."

One of the thugs from the wharf appears and asks what to do about Sage. The Reverend suggests getting him fired, but the thug cites Sage's ratings as a good reason the news station would keep him on. Perhaps, ponders the Reverend, Lady Shiva should teach him a lesson. Shiva, the woman who watched the earlier battle, agrees to do whatever they ask of her, "Provided I wish to." The thug accuses her of standing by idly while the "no-face guy" beat them to a pulp earlier. Shiva replies: "I provide my services for a fee. I do neither less nor more than I am requested. I was not requested to protect a videotape -- nor to nurture the inept."

But how did Sage know where to send No Face to find the tape? It must've been Milty Cohen, says the thug. When we meet Milty, he's drenched with sweat with his back against the brick wall of a Hub City back alley. Jake, the big thug from the docks, introduces him to Baby Gun. Gun can't talk at the moment, because someone busted his jaw. But Jake describes the M.O. for Milty -- Baby Gun is named for his 4.5mm air gun. He likes to get close, says Jake, as we see the gun against Milty's temple. Jake drops ash from his cigarette as Milty is blown away.

"Quiet too. Sucker don't hardly make a sound," he says.

Characters

  • Vic Sage / The Question
  • Jake
  • Donny
  • Milty
  • Lady Shiva
  • Finch
  • Myra Connelly
  • Wesley Fermin
  • Jeremiah Hatch
  • Baby Gun
  • Aristotle Rodor
  • Moe Fredericks

Gallery

Trivia / Minutiae

Vic Sage's real name is established in this issue as Charles Victor Szasz.

Sage is seen smoking for the only time in this issue. He doesn't quit soon enough, however, as 20 years later, in the series 52, he's diagnosed with lung cancer.

This month's Recommended Reading: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

Relevant Links

DC Comics

Denny O'Neil

Denys Cowan

Bill Sienkiewicz

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