The man who would become known as Vic Sage was born as Charles Victor Szasz, an orphan who was raised in a Hub City orphanage, where he gained a reputation as a troublemaker. Because of his behaviour and defiant nature he was frequently beaten by the nuns who ran the orphanage, and often victimized by the other children. When he was old enough he left the orphanage for college, where he studied journalism. He found work as a reporter, but was dissatisfied with his life and had trouble controlling his violent tendencies. Sometime later he met Aristotle Rodor, who helped him channel his anger and aggression into a new, heroic persona - The Question.
Vic Sage was created for Charlton Comics by Steve Ditko. He first appeared in the DC Universe in 1985, and the character was revamped for that universe by Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan in 1987.
Sage was originally created as a minor Charlton Comics hero. He was heavily influenced by his creator's objectivist views, similar to Ditko's other previous creation, Mr A, and espoused a firmly objective standard of ethics. In his first appearances, Sage had very little backstory, and was often ruthless in his treatment of criminals.
Modern Age: New Earth
When a number of Charlton Comics' characters were purchased by DC, Sage migrated along with them. He made a few small appearances before 1987, at which point the character was given his own series. His backstory was heavily expanded upon. The character maintained the philosophical bent that had characterized his early incarnations, but drifted away from Objectivism towards a more Zen-based philosophy.
Post-Flashpoint: Earth 0
The Vic Sage of the the new 52 has received a completely new makeover. He now appears as a supernatural being who is also part of the Trinity of Sin. His identity is still unknown, as is his powers. All that is known is that he now talks in mangled speech balloons (much like Rorschach) and still deals out vigilante justice, he's also seen leaving his unique calling card at the scene of the crimes he prevents.
Major Story Arcs
The Question is born
Vic Sage is an investigative reporter working for World Wide Broadcasting Co. (WWB) in Hub City. He is approached buy an old friend and ex-professor, Aristotle Rodor, who tells Sage that Rodor's old partner, Dr Arby Twain, is attempting to sell Pseudoderm, which had been tested and found to be dangerous when applied to open wounds, to Third World countries as a form of bandage. Sage wants to expose the scheme; however, he can't investigate without revealing his identity. With the help of Rodor, he creates the identity of the Question, wearing a featureless mask made of Pseudoderm. He gathers the information needed, and uses his position at WWB to broadcast the truth about Pseudoderm. After Twain is defeated, Sage decides to use the Question identity in future investigations, and to protect "his" city.
Modern Age: New Earth
Vic Sage, an investigative reporter recently returned to Hub City, the city of his birth, has been stirring up trouble with some very important people, both in his civilian identity and as the Question. These people formulate a plan to silence him that leaves him nearly dead. He is rescued from certain death by Lady Shiva, who sends him to be trained by Richard Dragon. Under Dragon's tutelage he learns martial arts and develops an interest in eastern philosophies. Upon his return to Hub City, a newly refocused Sage dedicates himself to eliminating the corruption that has been slowly but surely taking control of every aspect of life in Hub City.
Cry for Blood
Sage spends some time in Gotham, and takes a professional and romantic interest in Huntress, in whom he sees a reflection of himself. He brings her to Richard Dragon for training in the hopes of moulding her into a better crime fighter, a hope which is continually frustrated by her casual attitude towards murder as a means to an end.
Sage is re-imagined as a semi-mystical visionary who utilizes the binary gas (re-imagined as a hallucinogen) to enter into trances that allow him to "communicate" with cities. He also practices a questionable moral code that allows for murder when he feels it is justified, and he often treats enemies brutally. While using the gas, he detects a plot by Lex Luthor to assassinate Superman, and foils it. Superman expresses gratitude for the rescue, but forces Sage from the city because of his flexible morals when it comes to murder.
Sage makes contact with Renee Montoya, who he hires to observe a warehouse being used by Intergang to smuggle weapons. Eventually it is revealed that Sage is dying of lung cancer, and wishes to train Montoya as his successor and help her understand who she truly is. He has her train in Nanda Parbat with his mentors, Dragon and Rodor, while also working with her in Gotham to discover the Religion of Crime's plot. Sage's condition begins to deteriorate, and Montoya attempts to return him to Nanda Parbat, under the belief that he will not die so long as he is there. They fail to locate the city in time, and Sage succumbs to his cancer in the snow just outside the city, passing on the identity of the Question to Montoya.
Sage return's for one final comic during Blackest night in the one-shot Question #37, as a resurrected Black Lantern. During a training session between Lady Shiva and Renee Montoya, Charlie interrupts and begins to fight the two, trying to coax them into feeding him emotion. The fight continues until Renee realizes that he cannot be beaten. She uses a mental calming technique, relieving herself from emotion and disappearing to the black lantern senses. Shiva does the same, and becomes invisible, but Tot is feeling fear. Sage shambles closer to him, attempting to slaughter him, but Tot overcomes his emotions and disappears to Charlie's "emotion sight". The question then wanders off looking for the three of them, and Renee claims shes going to stop him.
Post-Flashpoint: Earth 0 (The New 52)
Trinity of Sin
The Seven Wizards of The Rock of Eternity summon the Trinity of Sin, who consists of Pandora, the Phantom Stranger and The Question. Pandora being the same woman who opened Pandora's box, and the Phantom Stranger turns out to be Judas Iscariot, while the Question's identity is still unknown. The Question challenges the Wizards to kill him, and asserts that he will rise to power and make the world fear his name if they didn't. The Wizards wipe his name from his memory and from history. His facial features are removed, and he is cursed to forever question his identity and search for answers that he will never find. He is banished along with the others to walk the Earth while cursed with immortality, he may be the DC universe equivalent of the Wandering Jew of medieval christian folklore.
Years if not decades later, he is shown having rescued the mayors kidnapped daughter in Hub City, searching for answers he seems to be convinced that Pandora and the Phantom Stranger hold the answers he seeks.
The Question then appears to Dr. Thirteen and asks him what it would take for him to betray the Phantom Stranger. Under direction from the Question, Dr. Thirteen calls the Stranger and tells him that he may find information about his family if he goes to a casino in Las Vegas. However, this only causes tension between the Stranger and the Sons of Trigon whom he plays in a game of high stakes poker. This gives the Question time to continue with his secret plans and he tells Dr. Thirteen to call the Stranger again, luring him back to Thirteen's lab. When the Stranger arrives at the lab, the Question distracts the Stranger while Thirteen stabs him in the back with the Spear of Destiny. The Question then tells the Stranger to "just shut up and die".
Powers and Abilities
- Martial Arts - He is a highly skilled martial artist and hand-to-hand combatant. When Shiva visited Hub city she saw promise in the Question and challenged him. She won of course but was convinced a great warrior layed beneath the surface. She sent him to Richard Dragon to be trained further. After this training he fared much better in a rematch though Shive is still his better. She did comment that he had lost some of his killer edge.
- Exceptional Detective Skills and Higher Intelligence
- Illusion / Misdirection - continued use of the gas to bond his mask has allowed Vic to enter a hallucinogenic state much like that of native medicine men. In this state he has taught himself mild mystical abilities. He can cast illusions that affect the minds perception of things. These illusions affect even the greater senses of Superman. They could not fool the electronic detection equipment of Inter-gang monitoring from afar but could make him invisible to those present. He can make himself appear to be someone else. He can also make subtle suggestions that others can take as their own thoughts.
- Talking to Spirits / Planet - Also with this mysticism he can talk to the spirits or the city/ area/ planet. he used this to be aware of even the hidden activities of inter-gang that Superman wasn't able to detect. He was able to track them and their activities across the city. He was also made aware of the danger presented to Superman in Metropolis while in Boston. The "city called him"
Weapons and Equipment
Sage wears a Pseudoderm mask that allows him to see, speak and breathe normally but renders his face featureless. It is attached to his face via binary gas which, when released, binds the mask seamlessly to his face as well as changing the color of his hair and clothing, all of which have been specially treated with a reactive agent. A second dose of the gas unbinds the mask and changes his clothing and hair back to their usual color. He stores the mask and gas in a specialized belt buckle. The gas is also used on a specialized calling card that releases the gas at a certain time, revealing a question mark on the formerly blank card.
In the Flashpoint alternate universe, Vic Sage is a member of the Resistance.
Earth-4 and Earth-9
An unnamed character who resembles Sage briefly appears on Earth-4 along with a number of other characters who similarly resemble original Charlton properties. On Earth-9 a global surveillance network is named "The Question". It is possible that other variations of the character exists on other Earths.
The character of Rorschach was heavily based on the Question. This has lead to an interesting feedback loop where some interpretations of the Question after Watchmen's release have tended towards displaying Rorschach-like qualities. In The Question #14, Sage reads a watchmen comic, and later tries to be more like Rorschach, but after being beaten up and asked any last words he states: "Rorschach Sucks."
Justice League Unlimited
The Question made a number of appearances in the Justice League Unlimited animated series. He first appears in the episode "Fearful Symmetry," and makes speaking appearances in a subsequent four episodes, as well as cameo appearances in five others. He bears more than a passing resemblance to Rorschach, and is noted in the series as a "crackpot" and paranoiac who is obsessively dedicated to an incredibly complex conspiracy theory that he believes dictates the course of human events. Despite his eccentricities he is acknowledged as a superb detective, and is instrumental in unraveling a conspiracy and uncovering important secrets in the series. He is voiced by Jeffrey Coombs.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
The Question appears in the cold opens of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes "Mystery in Space!" and "The Knights of Tomorrow!" He also appears in the episode proper of "Darkseid Descending!" In his appearances he speaks almost entirely in questions. He is voiced by Nicholas Guest.