Conventional wisdom holds that Rorschach is better known and more compelling than the character that provided the template for Alan Moore’s uncompromising vigilante: The Question.
I definitely won’t argue the issue of popularity. Rorschach plays a prominent role in one of the most famous and widely acclaimed graphic novels of all time and even made it to the silver screen, albeit in a Watchmen adaptation that failed to set the world on fire.
The Question has appeared on cartoons from time to time, but has nowhere near the same level of recognition among casual comic-book fans.
The issue of which character is more “compelling,” however, is another matter entirely. Rorschach – as is the case with each of Watchmen’s protagonists – is a skillfully drawn archetype that serves as a commentary on and parody of the obsessed vigilante™ trope that has gained so much popularity in recent years.
(A trend spurred in part, ironically enough, by Alan Moore’s Watchmen.)
The Question, on the other hand, has fallen victim to endless “bold new directions” and reboots over the years. Steve Ditko’s uniquely Objectivist take on the character died as soon as Charlton’s “Action Heroes” disappeared from newsstands in the late ‘60s.
Denny O’Neil remade the Question in the image of his own personal philosophies and ultimately created a character that was as challenging, and idiosyncratic, as Ditko’s version. Sadly, later revamps turned the hero into a conventional comic-book character sans the troublesome political and spiritual philosophies.
After an attempt to turn Vic Sage into an “urban shaman” went up in smoke, DC killed the character off and handed the mantle over to former Gotham City detective Rene Montoya, who was considerably more interesting as a non-powered policewoman than a masked vigilante who secretly bore the Mark Of Cain.
(Don’t ask …)
Following the recent DC reboot, I have no idea who The Question is and what he or she actually represents. Given such uncertainty, however, DC could do worse than turn to Steve Ditko’s original version. A character espousing Objectivist values would certainly be timely and inject a bit of controversy that has nothing to do with overt gore or T&A stereotypes.
Yeah right, like that will happen.
From Blue Beetle #4 (Charlton Comics, December 1967), here’s “Kill Vic Sage.” The plot and art are by Steve Ditko; the script is by Steve Skeates under the pseudonym of “Warren Savin.”