...The Question!
Banner: Mr. A by Steve Ditko

The Question's Fraternal Twin

Ditko's other Objectivist hero

Ditko's Mr. A from Witzend #3
 
Ditko's Mr. A
from Witzend #3

When Blue Beetle got his own magazine, they needed a companion feature for it. I didn't want to Mr. A, because I didn't think the Code would let me do the type of stories I wanted to do, so I worked up the Question, using the basic idea of a man who was motivated by basic black & white principles. Where other "heroes" powers are based on some accidental super element, The Question and Mr A's "power" is deliberately knowing what is right and acting accordingly. But it is one of choice. Of choosing to know what is right and choosing to act on that knowledge in all his thoughts and actions with everyone he deals with. No conflict or contradiction in his behavior in either identity. He isn't afraid to know or refuse to act on what is right no matter in what situation he finds himself.

Where other heroes choose to be self-made neurotics, the Question and Mr. A choose to be psychologically and intellectually healthy. It's a choice everyone has to make.

--Steve Ditko in an interview with fanzine Marvel Main

Who is Mr. A?

Reporter Rex Graine is a newspaper reporter driven by his A=A / black and white ideals to fight the evil (black) with the powers of good (white) through means of physical intervention and verbal philosophizing. Graine opens his secret closet and inside are the suit, fedora and rigid metal false face that he uses in his nightly mission.

The ideas that Graine puts forth are influenced by those of Ayn Rand and her Objectivist philosophy, and especially those put forth in her book Atlas Shrugged. Mr. A differs from the Question in several ways. For one, whereas the Question maybe let some people get drowned in a sewer, Mr. A most definitely allows a criminal to fall to his death from the side of a building to teach another character (and the readers) a lesson about making decisions that benefit the self over altruism toward others.

The method of storytelling also varies in various Mr. A stories -- some issues are semi-straightforward plots, as were the stories of the Question; some are a long series of text balloons with Mr. A presenting ideas and allegories that relate his philosophies to humanity in general; some even begin with short essays on the subject of the black and white world as Mr. A and Ditko see it.

Much as the Question had a calling card featuring a Question mark, Mr. A also had a trademark card that was equally divided, one half black and one half white. One wonders whether or not that should have been the coloring for the similarly shaped/divided panel at the end of the Blue Beetle story in Blue Beetle v.1 #5.

Mr. A made his first appearance in Wally Wood's Witzend #3, and was parodied there a few issues later by a character named "Mr. E." All Mr. A stories are black and white (aside from the covers) and appear here and there throughout fanzines, Ditko packages from Robin Snyder, and, briefly, in a series bearing the name of the character.

Gallery

Key Appearances

Mostly compiled by "Robbie Reed" at Dial B For Blog

  • 1967 - "Angel" - witzend #3
  • 1967 - "Money" - witzend #4
  • 1968 - Quarter page spot illo - Sense of Wonder #6
  • 1968 - Quarter page spot illo - Comic Crusader #4
  • 1969 - Quarter page spot illo - Comic Crusader #5
  • 1969 - Quarter page spot illo - Eon #3
  • 1969 - "The Community U.N." Pt. I - Comic Crusader #6
  • 1969 - "The Community U.N." Pt. II - Comic Crusader #7
  • 1969 - "The Defenders" - Sense of Wonder #11
  • 1969 - "Violence, The Phoney Issue" - Guts #5
  • 1969 - "Guardians" - Graphic Illustrations #3
  • 1971 - "Middle of the Road" - Graphic Illusions
  • 1972 - Inside front cover illo - Epoch #4
  • 1973 - "White and Black" - Quintessence #22
  • 1973 - "Right to Kill" - Mr. A #1
  • 1975 - "Count Rogue," "Good, Evil, Compromise, Corruption" - Mr. A #2
  • 1978 - "Death Vs. Love-Song" - Comic Crusader Storybook
  • 2000 - "Mr A. Faces the Knifer - Ditko's 176-Page Package: Heroes

Relevant Links

Mr. A

Steve Ditko

 

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