One great writer/artist, two great characters. Steve Ditko is famous for co creating Spider-Man with Stan Lee. Before that he worked for a now defunct company called Charlton Comics. Although Charlton doesn’t exist, all of their properties now belong to DC Comics. This includes The Blue Beetle and The Question, both of whom died (before New 52 continuity, I am not paying much attention to New 52 versions) and have been had their legacy move on to newer characters.
A few weeks ago, I erred in what comics I thought I had, and was prompted to review Mysterious Suspense #1, his first full length story, instead of the original Question appearance from Blue Beetle #1 that I wanted to review. So, I ordered the $75 Action Heroes Archives Volume 2, the only collection from DC to contain the 7 page story I was looking for. Still less than half the price of buying the original issue on eBay. It carries all the Ditko stories he did for Charlton from 1966-1968, when he left for greener pastures at DC. I will take full advantage of this book and give you the promised Question review, as well as a review of the first Blue Beetle appearance, which also appears here.
The Question, alias Vic Sage, first appeared as a 7 page back-up in Blue Beetle #1, June 1967. In it, we meet Vic Sage, his coworkers, his boss and his news team at The World Wide Broadcasting Company. After their intros we cut to a police bust in process. A criminal and concealed “respectable” business man escape. The criminal is a known gang member, Lou Dicer. On the air, Sage warns Lou that his days are done and says some controversial things to the public, including that they are to blame for allowing people like Lou Dicer to walk the streets. This causes his co-workers to become upset and demand for his dismissal, which his boss denies. Following this, Sage becomes The Question and heads to where Lou Dicer base of operations. He politely hands Dicer’s crew’s asses to them and waits for dicer to come by so that he can follow him. He follows Dicer and discovers that the “respectable” business man was one of his coworkers at the WWNC. He shows the tape of the arrest on air, which pisses his other coworkers off yet again, but knows he is in the right for doing so.
This wasn’t too dissimilar to his first full length story from Mysterious Suspense #1. The major differences are that we don’t know who the business man is in this story and that Sage isn’t trying to find proof, he’s just trying to find answers. This story was a little more action and was less saturated with dialogue. As I have recommended before I highly suggest checking out Greg Rucka’s 2000’s work and Dennis O’Neil’s 80’s work with the character.
Blue Beetle also appeared as originally in a 7 page back up. This time in Captain Atom #83 from November 1966. We follow Ted Kord (His name isn’t given yet, but we know its him) on his first night with the alias, as he follows a serial bank robber, Killer Koke. His pursuit is in his also unnamed flying beetle ship. He swings down from it to confront Koke’s gang who is fleeing the scene of another heist. The gang tries to remove Kord’s mask, only to find it unpenatrable. About to shoot him and move on, the gang only stops when the police catch up and they flee again. When Blue Beetle comes to he does what he should have done initially. He flies over the criminals getaway car and picks it up with his own ship. He then drops it off at Police HQ and heads home for the night.
Plotted by Ditko the script was provided by Gary Friedrich. I felt like this was a nice, simple, if not somewhat fantastic, story of a night on the town as a scientifically capable superhero. We see his gadgets, see his style, a watch him save the day. We don’t know really what he stands for like in The Question, but its the 60’s and he captures bad guys, so we assume its truth, justice, and the American way. Ted Kord was not the original Blue Beetle, that honour belongs to Dan Garret, who originally appeared as the character in Fox Feature Syndicate’s Mystery Men Comics #1 in 1939. This comic doesn’t forget it either, the former Blue Beetle is given respect not once, but twice, and while I haven’t read it yet, Kord and Garret’s connection is explained in the next issue.
I have an odd fascination with radio shows from the 40’s and one I used to listen to was the old Blue Beetle ones, starring Dan Garret. Because of this, I have a nostalgic appreciation for Garret even though he has been all but forgotten by the majority of DC readers and writers. When Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick killed Ted Kord (Dammit Johns and Rucka, you had a hand in killing off Vic Sage as well!!!), I felt this was taking an even further step from the original character. Possibly because of this or maybe just personal preference, I have had a hard time accepting the current BB, Jaime Reyes. Johns and Rucka do earn some forgiveness though, as they have given Blue Beetle and The Question, respectively, respectable, heroic departures and have paid their respects. Johns brought BB using time travel in his Booster Gold series and Rucka had a long passing that paid homage to earlier stories as he died. Rucka also kept the torch burning in the character Renee Montoya who was trained and inspired directly by Sage and characters from his time are in her stories. For Blue Beetle, I recommend reading Geoff Johns Booster Gold series, and Kieth Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis’ Justice League International, which builds the strong friendship of these Gold and Blue. Len Wein wrote a series for BB when he first was brought into the DC landscape, but I have not read it.
Thanks for reading. Check back for 1971 Ra’s Al Ghul and THX 1138 goodness later this week! Feel free to leave thoughts in the comments section below.