charlton comics

Blue Beetle v.1 #1

Cover of Blue Beetle #1 by Steve DitkoWho is the Question?” – June 1967

Plot: Steve Ditko
Art: Steve Ditko
Script: D.C. Glanzman
Lettering: A. Machine
Published by Charlton Comics

Meet the Question: “Vic Sage, hard-hitting TV newscaster for World-Wide Broadcasting Co. …Alias, The Question.” Also starring: Professor Rodor; the news staff: Fred Pine, Al Kert and Bob Hasel as well as the lovely Nora Lace; the Starr family: World Wide Broadcasting President and founder Sam Starr, his son Syd and his daughter Celia. And now, on with the story!

Syd Starr, P.R. director at World Wide, addresses a Women’s League: “We at W.W.B. are not just dispensers of mere entertainment…we are the defenders of truth and justice, the all seeking eye–laying bare before the public every form of injustice…whatever the risk…whatever the price! We consider this task our sacred duty! To you…to all mankind! We do it proudly and fearlessly!” Surely, the ladies reply, this man is a leader among men.

Meanwhile, crosstown, the Crown City police department busts in on a gambling ring. A man semi-disguised in a thick coat with an upturned collar, sunglasses and a fedora pulled low demands exodus from the building — he’s a respectable business man! The head gambler, Lou Dicer, responds brusquely: “You don’t worry about your rep when you get your cut of the take!” But Dicer leads the man out a secret exit in the back, using the arrest of another customer to mask their escape. Dicer makes a promise to restart the operation, and Respectable Business Man replies: “We better! I don’t intend to go long without my share of this operation.”

The two emerge from an alley, where they’re spotted by an unfortunately attentive policeman. Dicer lets bullets fly as the two men get into a car and speed away. The Respectable Business Man exclaims, “You didn’t have to shoot him!” But Dicer is blunt: “I’m a three time loser, big shot…I’m protecting my life…not my lily-white reputation!” A crowd gathers to discuss the crime, while the wounded cop recognizes the face of the man that shot him.

On his nightly telecast, Vic Sage reports that the hunt for Lou Dicer continues while accosting his viewers: “…And as usual, you, the enraged public wonders how a leech like Dicer and his ilk can thrive so readily among you! How many of you willingly support Dicer’s illegal gambling operation? How many of you frequent his gaming tables…or play a number daily? You don’t need their kind…They need you! Only you can keep them in business! They can’t exist without your play! Part of the responsibility lies with you! You are willing partners in Dicer’s crimes!”

But nobody wants to be confronted with their shortcomings. Sage’s viewers react negatively: “Someday, somebody’s gonna put Sage down!” That man, we find out, is Syd Starr, who wants Sage off the air. A flock of yes-men back Syd up. They have to remain neutral, and a “bleeding heart” like Sage scares off the public and the sponsors. But Sam Starr has a respect for Sage’s brand of journalism: “Vic Sage stays! He’s not afraid to stick his neck out!”

Sage keeps on sticking his neck out, delivering a message to Dicer through the broadcast that Sage will be seeing him in prison. Dicer doesn’t, “know who’s worse, Sage or the police,” and elects to skip town until things cool off. Sage tells his staff to keep following leads on Dicer. He’s got a hot one of his own — in a Westside alley beside a building where Dicer’s men are holed up. The men won’t tell Sage where Dicer is, but maybe they’ll tell…The Question!

Sage removes the rolled-up mask (“It took a genius like Professor Rodor to design a mask like this! A mask that you can see, breathe and speak through…and yet still look solid!“) from his belt buckle. He releases the gas that seals the mask tight and changes the coloring of his clothes, and prepares to get some answers from Dicer’s crew. He tosses a piece of paper through a transom and when it’s picked up by one of Dicer’s men it begins to smoke. Slowly the smoke dissipates and leaves behind a question mark — “It’s the Question’s card!”

The Question bursts through the door, leapfrogging over one of Dicer’s men. “Where’s Dicer? The Question wants answers!” No one seems willing to cooperate, so the Question starts throwing punches. Soon, there’s only one man left, and he still ain’t talkin’. Sage releases more of the gas from his sleeve, so that it comes pouring out around his hand. He holds this hand up to the man’s face: “Then you’ll never talk to anyone again!” Suddenly, being a stool pigeon sounds like a good idea.

The Question stands ready on the ledge outside of Dicer’s apartment a half hour later, listening at the window. Dicer’s feeling the heat, and he’s arranged for the Respectable Business Man to meet him by the stone bridge with money for the getaway. “Remember,” says Dicer, “If I get nailed, you and your respectable reputation will go down with me!” If Sage plays his cards right, he can nail both crooks. He puts in a call to Captain Lash….

Two men meet under the stone bridge. Dicer takes the money from his partner, not bothering to count it. But once his hands are full, the Respectable Business Man draws a gun: “I’m afraid this is the only way…I can’t risk having you around loose…too dangerous.” Suddenly, a spotlight shines and the two men are caught are caught under the eye of the Crown City P.D. With the bright light, everyone can tell the identity of Dicer’s partner — Jim Lark of W.W.B! “So you shot that cop?” a policeman asks. “No! It was Dicer,” blabs Lark. Down the street, Sage and cameraman Al Kert get the whole thing on film.

The yes-men and Syd have assembled in the W.W.B. offices to try to block Sage’s report on Lark, saying it would make the news station look bad. Sam Starr stands by his man: “I will not suppress the truth! It’s Vic’s show…and his decision!” Sage is there to meet those who would have tossed him off the air: “If this mess didn’t involve someone you know, there’d be no protest! I’m running the tape.”

Syd Starr doesn’t understand. “Nora, everyone’s against him! Why is he doing it?” Nora replies: “Ask your speech writer to explain it, Syd. I stand with Vic! Now, I’ve got work to do!”

Sage plays the tape, wondering aloud to his audience whether the end of one gambling ring only means another will rise in its place. The audience response? One man sleeps in front of his television set. Another ignores the broadcast in favor of finishing the crossword puzzle. A third man is too preoccupied to care: “Hey mac, place a bet for me!”

One Response to “Blue Beetle v.1 #1”

  1. Anthony Lloyd says:

    A wonderful story not dissimilar to story in Mysterious Suspense. However great in its own right

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