charlton comics

Blue Beetle v.1 #4

Cover of Blue Beetle #4 by Steve Ditko“Kill Vic Sage” – Dec. 1967

Plot: Steve Ditko
Art: Steve Ditko
Script: Steve “Warren Savin” Skeates
Lettering: Bob Agnew
Published by Charlton Comics

Revenge is the reason why a killer has been hired and the order given–‘Kill Vic Sage!On a shady dock in the West River district of Crown City, two hoodlums wait in the shadows for the man known as Vic Sage. As a figure passes, they leap out and bludgeon him with a blackjack, but the victim is not who the two thugs suspected it would be: “This ain’t Vic Sage! Who…what is he? Looks like he’s wearin’ some sorta mask!” The other thug surmises that Sage must’ve sent someone in his place and decides, “We’d better take ‘im to Arbo!”

Arbo stands half in the light, half in the darkness in a warehouse by the pier, looking through the Question’s belongings. His hair is slicked back and he has a pencil-thin mustache etched above his lip. His face remains stone, but his words are anything but impassive: “You fools! That’s ‘The Question!’ I’m a wanted man and you idiots bring him here! If he should…” But one of the thugs interrupts him to suggest they find out who The Question really is. The mask won’t come off, but Arbo finds and identification card in the Questions belongings, saying he’s a man named Nick Rager.

Nick Rager? The Question, tied to a chair, thinks to himself, “That’s the one thing in my favor! The gas that cements the mask to my face also changes the printing on those chemically treated cards!” Vic Sage is lucky — or is he? Arbo decides that though he gets, “Paid to knock off punks like Sage…I’m gonna take care of this one for free!” One of the thugs kicks the Question, chair and all, through a trapdoor into a well.

The impact shatters the Question’s chair, and he quickly pulls off his belt, designed to unravel in one long piece. He makes a grappling hook out of pieces of the chair and soon he’s crawling out of the trap door. There’s no sign of the thugs or Arbo, but now Vic Sage knows someone is out to get him. “But that’s all I know! I have no idea who’s behind this, who that hired killer is or even the names of those muscle men! In other words, I have no leads! And in that case, there’s only one thing left to do! Play sitting duck! But this is one sitting duck who’s going to be on guard!”

Outside the W.W.B. offices, the Women’s League march with picket signs — “Sage Against Society’s Rights – Even criminals have rights! Help protect public rights! Denounce Sage!” Syd and the Yes Men peer out the window, and wonder out loud why Sage has to stir up so much trouble. They’ve tried everything to get rid of him, but have been unsuccessful in getting Sage’s sponsors to pull out. On top of that, Syd’s father has declared that Sage can run his show as he likes.

Meanwhile, Sage broadcasts his views on personal rights: “I repeat, rights can only belong to individuals! Groups, by themselves have no rights! The rights belong to the individual within the group! And no man, nor group, has the right to forceably violate another man’s rights! He may do so–just as he may kill–but by no stretch of the imagination has he the right to do so!” Syd and the Yes Men wait outside to confront Vic — the Yes Men have convinced Syd to give Sage one more change to get in line, or else! But just as Syd prepares himself to make the demand, a creepy messenger boy arrives with a package for Sage. Syd tells Sage to avoid controversy in his broadcasts, but Sage is preoccupied by the sound inside the package. He hurls the box through the window as the Yes Men accuse him of madness. But outside, there’s an explosion as the package blows up. Across the city, an unknown person voices his disappointment: “You failed again, Arbo! And I won’t stand for another such failure! This next time you’re going to take care of him where I can watch him die!”

Syd calls this the last straw, and demands that Sage stop making waves on the air, or else! Sage goes to see Syd’s father to get his take on the situation. He finds him supportive: “You see things in black and white! You’re not afraid to challenge the public’s views and stimulate us all to rethink our issues! When I signed you, I thought I was prepared for all sorts of opposition–protests, threats…but not violence! I can’t expect anyone to face violence for me!” But Sage’s not leaving that decision to the station owner. He’s willing to face the prospect of getting killed if Starr is willing to let his show go on. Starr agrees.

Sage checks in with the news team and tells them to get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, they go hunting the attackers. Sage stays up half the night himself, going through his files and making a list of people who hold grudges against him. His list-making gets interrupted by a phone call. Arbo speaks from the other end–they’ve got Nora, and threaten to kill her unless Sage plays ball. Arbo tries to force Nora to talk to Sage, and when she won’t he smacks her around. She still makes no noise, but Sage himself gets riled: “Okay, scum! Knock it off! I believe you’ve got her! Now what do you want?” They want Sage to come to an address they supply…alone.

“At last, I’ll have my revenge!” gloats a voice from the shadows. He steps forward to reveal himself as Nat Kat, a former city purchaser whose graft and embezzlement operation was blown by a young reporter named Vic Sage. He went to prison, but swore he’d get even with Sage.

“Well, well, you’re a poor mistreated soul, aren’t you?” chides Nora. “You’re a real man of virtue too aren’t you, Mr. Kat? That’s why you paid those killers to pay Vic back for something he had every right to do!” Kat responds angrily that Sage should’ve minded his own business. Nora retorts, “Who forced you to kill in the first place?”

Kat almost loses it, but Sage arrives. Kat demands to know if Sage recognizes him, and Sage responds: “You weren’t important enough for me to remember.” (Though there seems to be some extra space at the beginning of the word balloon.). Kat orders Arbo to keep his gun trained on Nora, while he jogs his memory. But Nora takes the opportunity to kick the gun from Arbo’s hand. Sage starts throwing punches, and drops a smoke bomb to confuse the captors. As Arbo goes for his gun, Sage selflessly jumps on top of Nora. But the cavalry arrives in the form of Captain Lash and the Crown City police, just in the nick of time.

The police nab the lookouts, but can’t find Kat or Arbo. They either left via the roof, or by one of many exits in the cellar, says one of the police officers. Sage refuses the option of police protection–now that the crooks are exposed, they’ll be more worried about saving their own necks. Sage decides to follow some leads on his own, but Lash warns that he’d better not go trying any more rough stuff, “Unless of course, you have Nora along to give you a hand– or rather–a foot!” But Sage tells Nora to get back to the studio to round up the details of the story. He wants to be ready to broadcast when the case wraps up.

A short time and distance away, Sage finds himself unrolling the Question mask from his belt buckle. He believes Arbo and Kat escaped through the sewer and he’s found the place where the tunnels converge. He makes the transformation into the Question and heads down into the labyrinth of tunnels to find the two criminals. After a brief search, he rounds the corner–to find the two of them drawing their guns! Thinking quickly, the Question does a forward flip and kicks both of the men into the rushing waters of the sewer: “That puts these rats right where they belong!”

Kat and Arbo grab onto a pillar for support, but they can’t last there for long. They cry out for help from the Question: “You can swing over on the pipes and pull us out!” yells Arbo. “You have to save us!” yells Kat.

The Question replies, “You’re both crazy if you think I’d risk my neck to save the likes of you! As far as I’m concerned, you’re just so much sewage! And you deserve to be right where you are!

“You’re inhuman! You can’t leave us here! You’ve no right! It’s your fault we’re here! You must save us! It’s your duty! It’s–” pleads Kat.

“Duty?? To whom??” asks the Question. As the two men are carried away by the sewer current, the hero thinks aloud: “I sure don’t wish those two any luck! But they just might survive their trip to the river! I’d better call Captain Lash so he can pick ‘em up either way.”

One Response to “Blue Beetle v.1 #4”

  1. Anthony Lloyd says:

    Contoversial ending at the time but maybe tame by todays standards but neverthless excellent Quetion story

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