I was just able to complete my collection of “The Question” monthly comics. I started collecting “The Question” in 2013 when a friend questioned my veracity with comics in general, and I realized he had a point. I liked comics, but you need to wear that shit like a merit badge. The series ran from ’87-’90 and from what I can tell was most famous for pissing off Ditko fans. Shout out to vicsage.com for the wonderful list of appearances (that I’m still working to complete) and to Monroes Collectibles for supplying the bulk of my collection. In all I spent about $1 an issue collecting these 37 mint or near mint comics.
I’ve got a lot to say about The Question, so I’m breaking it down into three (or four) posts. First, *my* history with The Question.
I first discovered The Question through “The Watchmen” (DC, 1986). Doing the math on this one won’t be hard if you know anything about “The Watchmen,” but for my road of discovery, read on.
I was probably nineteen or so when I first read “The Watchmen” on a friend’s recommendation. The rest of the comics world had long discovered Rorschach’s brutal heroism and Ozymandias’s heroic villainy. No one had mentioned these characters weren’t completely original, and I was taken aback at the similarities between Nite Owl and another DC comics character: Blue Beetle.
Short Rant: Everyone always says Nite Owl is more like Batman, but come on. Those goggles? That self-deprecating sense of humor? And put Archie and the Bug side-by-side and tell me they don’t look like the same ship. Just because Nite Owl operates at night does not make him a Batman clone. /endrant
I’m sure that to a true Watchmen offcianado it was common knowledge that Moore wrote the proposal for what would become “The Watchmen” using the recently-acquired-by-DC, Steve-Ditko-created, Charlton comics characters. His idea didn’t fly, but killing off and forever maligning completely unique characters, that’d be just fine. Thus, The Watchmen. But I hadn’t heard that, I’d only observed that Nite Owl and Blue Beetle sure did look similar.
I was familiar with Blue Beetle from the JLI days of the early 90s. I wasn’t a big fan of DC comics, but JLI was an exception. It was quirky, funny, adventurous, and frankly with all the gritty Marvel my friends and I were reading at the time, I was glad for a little levity that was all my own. That comic introduced me to the Blue & Gold (though it would be almost two decades before I started about reading them).
So there I was, having just read “The Watchmen” more than ten years after it was first published, familiar enough with the Blue Beetle to recognize the similarities, and no expert around to connect the dots. I had just resigned my discovery to the nerd-portion of my brain, that would someday regurgitate this curiosity with, “Hey, did you ever notice that…” when I happened to stumble across this comic.
This was clearly a before-my-time Blue Beetle, but obviously the same character. There was the Bug, looking like Archie with legs. And… is that a proto-Rorschach? Now I was on to something and I had to know, Who is The Question?
Enter the Internet, back when it was used for good. In a comic-centric AOL chat room I posted my hypothesis to fifty or so cyber strangers. It was a long, block-of-text question that would have done Wikipedia (had it yet existed) proud, citing sources and everything. Fifty cyber strangers assured me I was correct in the most loving and encouraging way possible, because this was the nascent Internet, a land of hope the meek were in the process of inheriting.
The elation of that discovery stuck with me. I read some then-contemporary “The Question,” but it never grabbed me. I had always enjoyed the Dick-Tracy-style hard-boiled detective and I wanted *that* to be The Question. Little did I know that that’s how the character had started.
Next time on My Comic Life: The History of The Question.