DC Do Or Die: Making A Case For A Question TV Series


TV has superhero fever and DC is a big part of that. The DC TV universe is expanding. Arrow has spawned a number of spinoffs and helped usher in a new television universe. Not only are more DC shows coming to the CW, but also other networks. DC properties are a hot commodity right now. The expansion of DC’s television world raises some thoughts. Which characters should get his/her own show? The Question is a character I think everyone should consider.

It is a golden age for comic book television. Superhero TV has become almost a pillar of television in today’s small screen industry. There are even some superhero shows that are the backbone of their network. They are truly the backbone of the network. Arrow and The Flash, CW series, are the most watched shows on the network. iZombie, another CW show, has become a cult hit in its debut season. Fox’s Gotham is a sure favorite as it has garnered much praise from critics and fans. In November, CBS will be premiering Supergirl. Let’s not forget that a Teen Titans show is coming to TNT and a Superman prequel titled Krypton, will be airing on the SYFY network in the near future. All of these shows are DC properties.

This has got me thinking as to what else DC could make into a TV show. I have much respect and love for Marvel TV, but, as of now, DC has a stronger grip on TV as Marvel doesn’t have as many TV shows airing—yet.  That’s not to diminish the quality of Marvel TV as their shows are quite successful and very good.

There are certain properties that just fit better on the small screen. There’s an obvious A-list of heroes and a B-list. You’ve got your top tier heroes in Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman etc. And then there are your second level characters like Green Arrow, Booster Gold, Static Shock, Blue Beetle and, a personal favorite of mine, Question.

For the uninitiated, The Question is a character whose world is occupied with weirdness, mystery and the supernatural. His real name is Vic Sage, and he is a private detective at night and a reporter by day. He dons a mask made from an artificial skin-like substance called Pseudoderm which, coupled with a binary gas, erases all of his facial features.

His media portrayal, outside of comics, has been miniscule at best. He appeared on Justice League Unlimited, for a short time during a brief story arc. He also appeared on a few episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This character is crying out for a live action debut. Green Arrow was a somewhat unknown character to the public before his CW show. Now he’s almost as noticeable as the world’s finest of Superman and Batman. He went from little known vigilante to renowned TV star.

Green Arrow had the right characteristics and enough potential to become a television hit character. There was faith that the archer could spawn greatness.  The Question ought to have that same faith. Here’s my case for why The Question should have a live action TV series.

A HARD-BOILED VIBE

“I find that the greatest mysteries are in the dark souls of those whose evil ways threaten society.” –The Question

Smoky dive bars, deep shadowy alleys, seductive femme fatales and an oppressive urban landscape under the plight of corruption. These subjects are strongly linked with hard-boiled fiction. Hard-boiled fiction is synonymous with the old Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s. But, its influence is still evident in today’s entertainment. The cynical detective was the superhero of this age. Today, modern superheroes are caped demi-gods who possess unimaginable powers. But, there are some contemporary superheroes that embody the classic noir tropes. Daredevil, Batman, Punisher, and Judge Dredd are some heroes who fit the hard boiled criterion. The Question is also a suitable fit.

The Question is a character who presents a vastly different vibe from other comic book heroes. His world is more noir and crime novel than superhero comic book. Question is more akin to a case-hardened pulpy detective than a superhero. He’s often portrayed as a reserved and quiet detective who exposes corruption. However, in other media, he’s a crackpot conspiracy theorist who’s viewed as being a little unhinged. This was the case with his portrayal in Justice League Unlimited. Overall, Question is first and foremost a detective. His home is the cruel dark metropolis that’s seething with corruption. He navigates the dark alleyways with a cynical familiarity. He’s not your average hero. His corrupt and dark world is what separates him from other comic book heroes. Yes, I understand that Batman’s world is just like Question’s. But, Batman is often a part of something larger, like the Justice League. He’s protecting the world just as much as he’s protecting Gotham. His interests are just as invested in planetary threats as they are urban dangers. But, the similarities to Batman are a positive. Batman is often celebrated for his dark and gritty stories and atmosphere. Question can gain that same illustriousness as his world is shady and uncompressing as well.

Morals are a strong topic in hard boiled tales. The protagonist is often loose with his/her morals and toes the line between good and evil. It’s the dreariest of circumstances where the hero must determine how their morals will determine the outcome of the situation. It’s compelling. In my opinion, the most interesting comic book characters have shaky morals. It’s what makes the so fascinating. It creates a relevance to the reader and/or audience. Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil series is a perfect example of this. Matt Murdock fights his thirst for violence. His anger is a facilitator for him to have to lash out and hit something. He’s fighting his own nature. Matt is coming close to becoming a killer. Captain America has killed Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow too. But the Avengers killings are not motivated by murderous intentions. It’s a duty. In some cases its self-defense. The Avengers are like soldiers, aiming to protect the world. Their actions depend on the purpose of those they are protecting. Those they’re protecting most likely have the intention to live. It’s their responsibility to protect life by any means necessary. If they take a life, in battle, it’s viewed as being a necessary evil. It’s a part of war. If a soldier kills an enemy within the boundaries of law then it is not murder. Daredevil, however, looks to kill out of anger most of the time and vengeance. Rage regularly fuels his killing desire more so than the protection of life. Daredevil inhabits a dark world and it weighs on him. This is something Question often wrestles with.The world he inhabits is not only an examination of corruption and violence in a city but also within an individual; the hero. These are the themes that are symbolic of hard boiled and noir stories. He’s a character that embraces older storytelling tropes and that’s refreshing. Question is opening a gate to darker storytelling; something that will contrast greatly to his DC TV counterparts like Supergirl and Flash. Maybe even Green Arrow too as Arrow seems to be heading more towards his comic depiction; a representation full of levity and light humor. Question won’t be making sly jokes as he pummels you in a dark alley.

BLESSED ARE THE WEIRD…

Weird is good. Being weird means being different; Different means being noticeable, interesting and not normal. A deviation from the norm is often something that’s applauded in some aspects. This deviation is an eccentricity that’s the opposite of societal commodities. Being the opposite of what’s accepted often attracts people. Superman is courageous, honest and compassionate. Batman is cynical, brooding and ruthless. Batman is the cool one right? His parallel traits are weird compared to Superman. The Last Son of Krypton would view The Dark Knight as a strange individual. But, weird is good here. Weird makes Batman the more interesting hero. Question is the epitome of weird.

Let’s get something straight: Question is a lot stranger than Gotham’s brooding nighttime protector. As a matter of fact, he’s one of the oddest comic book characters out there. He’s paranoid and conspiracy obsessed. A superhero that’s paranoid seems odd. And that’s good. A vulnerable hero is a more relatable hero.

Question’s unusualness is heavily derived from his paranoia. He’s so creepy; a creepy hero. But, the unusual air that surrounds Question is also rooted in mysticism and the supernatural. Question, as mentioned before, is a detective. In all of his incarnations, that’s the backbone of his character. He’s a reporter looking to expose corruption through vigilantism and deduction. His gumshoe skills include more than just having excellent abilities of investigation.  In some of his portrayals, Question is linked to shamanism and mysticism. His connection to the supernatural aids him in his detective work. The supernatural spirituality of the Question is an intriguing peculiarity that differentiates him from other heroes. The fact that Question embraces the mystical in a somewhat awkward and unbalanced way gives the detective a lonely subtext.

The Question #1-6: “Devil’s in the Details” is a 6 issue run by writer Rick Veitch and aritistTommy Lee Edwards.

Vic Sage finds himself facing off against an enigmatic mystical asssassin who “walks two worlds“. The killer is called the Psychopomp. Sage heads to Metropolis to find out about the Subterraneans, the gang that hired the Psychopomp. During the course of his investigation, he recognizes that all of this is connected to the Man of Steel himself, Superman.

This comic does many things well. It presents an interesting contrast between the grandiose splendor of Superman and the grit and grime of Question. There worlds are an enticing dichotomy. The significance of this 6 issue series lies in the representation of the Question. Veitch was the first writer to portray Question as a philosophical mystic. This comic run was notable for its depiction of the Question as a socially inept urban shaman who can “read” and “feel” the city. Question can tap into the energy of the metropolis and move in and out of the visible world. The artwork in these issues is striking and colorful. When Question “feels” the city, the depiction of that is like a painting. The artwork compliments the mystical storyline well. It breathes life into the clever plot.

This “urban shaman” title may seem like a large deviation from the classic character whose personality and world were given a definitive take by Steve Ditko and Dennis O’Neil. And it is. That may upset some Question purists.  Change equals gain. When anything changes, opportunity is gained.  And change is inevitable. Comic writers bring new interpretations of classic characters all the time. Change allows for growth. If a character stays the same, there’s a lack of authenticity or contrast. The Veitch series was the best written Question series since O’Neil. The alterations made have shaped the character into a more unique individual. I believe the Veitch elements should be included. The change to the Question may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does bring something new and weird to the table. Questions view of the world when he’s depicted as a mystical philosopher is remarkable. The world can be a very incredible place when you’re a bit strange.

 

YOU HAVE MUCH TO LEARN YOUNG GRASSHOPPER

The devoted pupil and the tough but gentle master is a common trope in Kung Fu movies. A student submits completely to the teachings of the master. They absorb the master’s philosophies and change for the better. The student makes a broad transformation. The teachings of the master become a guide for the student in life. Vic was trained by DC Comics martial arts master, Richard Dragon. Dragon is a master combatant who has trained characters such as Huntress, Oracle, Lady Shiva and Renee Montoya. He is also a man of philosophy. His practice of Far Eastern philosophy guides his Zen like way of life. He imparts these teachings on Sage.

The Question was not only trained in martial arts but, maybe more importantly, the philosophies of Far East Asia. These teachings made Sage question life and the force behind everything. Simplicity and sincerity were significant in adapting to the “way”. This changed Sage’s entire outlook on life and rid him of his anger. He now approached his crime fighting attempting to understand evil and the forces behind it. This student teacher association is the reason for Question’s methods and ideology.

Many superheroes have a significant mentor who helped shaped them into who they are. Daredevil has Stick. Batman has Ra’s Al Ghul. Batman and the various Robins. Scott Lang and Hank Pym. This common comic book relationship adds a familial type of depth to the character. Question is a socially awkward and strange kind of guy, but he does have relationships that mean something to him; Relationships that define him. Question must be humanized.

THE TONE

House of Cards, American Horror Story and True Detective. The atmosphere of a Question series should be a combination of all of these terrific shows’ tones. The political intrigue and corruption of House of Cards fits well with Questions constant opposing of governmental venality. The bizarre paranormal ambiance of American Horror Story parallels Question’s association with the supernatural and the strange. The psychological intensity and the constant questioning of life’s meaning that’s perpetual on True Detective, is reminiscent of Question’s ideology.

A Question series should be a detective serial that’s littered with supernatural, metaphysical and political elements.  A perfect home for this series would be somewhere like HBO, FX or Showtime; a network that’s accustomed to adapting dark content.

OBJECTIVIST SUPER-HERO

 

Steve Ditko, the creator of The Question, had made the character a believer of Objectivism in his early days. In terms of his personality, Question inclined to see the world in terms of absolutes, like most Objectivists. Since other writers have taken over the paranoid detective, the objectivist Question slowly faded away. But, Questions’ objectivst roots weren’t completely ignored.  In JL Unlimited, the creative team took the added the conspiracy theory angle. This created the slightly crazy persona for Question. Also, they reintroduced some of his Objectivist principles.

The Question tells Luthor: “Everything that exists has a specific nature. Each entity exists as something in particular, and has characteristics that are part of what it is. A is A, and no matter what reality he calls home, Luthor is Luthor.”

 

Objectivism promotes the visible truths of reality. Reality is an absolute. Facts are the only truths that are important. The facts support that Luthor is evil. And no matter what reality Luthor is in, he can’t fight the facts; he can’t fight his own nature. Questions’ Objectivist beliefs are in full display in JLU. They are meshed well with his conspiracy obsessed attitude.

Question’s unique brand of beliefs is something that unique. Most other superheroes aren’t concerned with the rationality of reality. It’s these distinctive principles that only add to the intrigue of Question. A television show would be a prime area to explore all of this.

 

CONCLUSION

If DC TV wants to change the game, they need a Question series. Superheroes are sometimes clichés; at least their characteristics are. Question is the antitheses of your average caped protector. He’s an “out there” hero.

 

“I’m a well known crackpot…”

–The Question

LET IT MARINATE!!!

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