Thursday, October 24, 2019


Remember that old tee-vee commercial catch phrase "Aunt Jemima, what TOOK you so long!" which got a whole load of self-important wags all up in arms about racism real or perceived here in this Big Beauteous Land o' Ours? Well, in echoing those long-suppressed sentiments all I gotta say is "Comic book publishers, what took YOU so long in getting these much valued (or so the comic book snobs say) stories reprinted when you've been milking money outta us reprinting every other comic book epic onna face of this earth for the last fifty-plus years of our lives!"

Charlton was by no means DC and in fact had been absorbed by that megagalopigan empire quite awhile back.  Come to think of it, they did reprint some of these older Charlton efforts at the hands of Steve Ditko under the title SPACE WARS if I ain't mistaken. But for some not-so-strange reason Charlton never did get to re-releasing these particular old sagas that Ditko himself did during his post-Marvel time at Charlton, which not-so-surprisingly was right before his short spell at National, and his efforts there have been reprinted at least once which makes me wonder if those were OK for a new audience why weren't these???

It's an especially strange howcum since the Question himself was eventually revived in the DC scheme of things albeit in a fashion than I know originator Ditko would hardly approve of.

Fortunately the public domain scourers at Gwandanaland know a good title to reprint when it stares 'em inna face and decided to slap the original Question series of sagas into a nice if thin (there weren't that many!) collection for us Johnny come latelies to pour over. The repro is OK considering that Charlton never really was known for its high quality and the EC-styled type printing does give these stories a certain cheap 'n "unprofessional" look. But who amongst us reg'lar BLOG TO COMM comic book fans really "care" about minor quibbles such as that when it's the stories, the art and the overall effect of a story that we're most concerned with, unless you are one of those sticklers for fine style and minutiae you need an electron microscope to fully comprehend.

You get five stories here, four backing features from BLUE BEETLE and the book-length effort from MYSTERIOUS SUSPENSE #1 that still has Ditko fans talking in those hushed 'n reverent tones that Ditko fans have talked in ever since the sixties. And yeah, they all are really fine, encompassing tales that I would say are custom made for an autumn's day like this when reading a comic book is oh so more important than raking up all those leaves in your yard, priority minded thing you are and shall remain.

As it is with Ditko's less-commercial and philosophically overdriven MR. A. series from which the Question is based  (complete with the snazzy fedora albeit no face in place of the metallic mask) there's no origin story to be found unlike with his Dr. Strange, and we hadda wait five issues to get that! However, the same basics do apply here as they did Mr. A. what with the Question's alter-ego being a driven news personality (in this case television commentator Vic Sage) who works in a media that tends to be built upon a falsely-placed altruistic bent  reporting usually out-of-context "facts" to fit some misplaced social good need. This force in the Question saga's best represented by Syd Starr, the vainglorious son of Worldwide Broadcasting Company founder and president Sam Starr. (A cyster, Celia, was written outta the flow early on perhaps because she was rather useless as a character only being there as part of a failed romantic interest subplot with Sage's faithful secretary). Sam Starr does somehow correlate to Mr A.'s alter ego Rex Graine's own boss who, while feeling uncomfortable about the idea of moral absolutes and perhaps seeing some grey structure in human dealings, nevertheless keeps Sage on the payroll because he's not afraid to take chances and go after the concept of corruption as something that spoils a philosophical purity in thoughts and ideas and...sheesh, maybe if I didn't get so bored when I took that "Introduction to Classic Greek Culture" course (no jokes please!) I could really understand what all this is supposed to really be about!

Many of the same targets that were found in MR. A. pop up here and were (are?) sure to upset those more laid back comic book kidz in their bell bottoms who used to drop windowpane and stare at those Dr. Strange panels for hours on end. Modern Art (or at least an art that represents man's inhumanity to man and people who are perpetually persecuted by those better off) comes in for a ribbing an' yeah, even I wonder if the soup can presented in the painting art critic Boris Egar presents to Syd is some sort of commentary on Andy Warhol! Protesters and the soft on crime crowd are also commented on in a negative light which is a bit surprising just considering how much the comic book field lauded these very same types by the time 1970 rolled around. And believe-you-me, none of that "criminals are people too who have rights and are really just as good as the rest of us" moralizing you used to see a lot of on everything from NAKED CITY to PHIL DONAHUE shows up in these sagas!

The issue-long MYSTERIOUS SUSPENSE saga's perhaps the crowning point in the original Question run and it's too bad it's the last given how there was a whole load of untapped potential and other jamz to have been found with this title. Many have written about this 'un which runs like an extended MR. A. saga (and in fact is very similar to the two tales found in the second issue of the original A. series in the mid-seventies), and ya gotta admit that the way Ditko blended his own philosophy in with what I would call a gripping story really  does stand out especially when compared with some of the tales that were popping up on the comic book racks during not only those times, but ours.

'n call me an' ol' snifflin' blubberin' fool, but I still can get charged up readin' this particular tale which shows Sage pitted against a corrupt soda manufacturer whose dilly-dallying with a notorious mobster conflicts with his public image as a Mr. Clean-type businessman. Lots of pressure mounts up to the point where you can just feel the tension that's gonna build up to one mighty climactic orgasm of action splatter all over your mind, and yeah, once again, I can see some of the BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN types snugglin' in their fart-encrusted bedrooms just being TURNED OFF indefinitely by the entire scope and range of this tale that, although perhaps created to make the reader challenge some of his own notions of society and where we should stand in this universe of ours will naturally miss the target by a mile.

And it makes me feel all the better for some perhaps not-so-strange reason. After YEARS of being control-conditioned into accepting various vague notions of love and brotherhood something like the Question really does serve as a particularly potent antidote. Let what happened to me happen to you before it's REALLY way too late.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...which is a bit surprising just considering how much the comic book field lauded these very same types by the time 1970 rolled around."

The (((comic book field)))...