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The Question (Vic Sage) (DC Comics)

Question

(Vic Sage) (Dennis O'Neil take)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

This profile is an author-based profile. It covers the Question as written by Dennis O’Neil, which means the 1980s run of The Question and The Question Quaterly. The rest is out of scope.

The “O’Neil Question” is the same character as the “Ditko Question”, but has completely reinvented himself. If that sounds confusing, please refer to our handy guide to Questions. It explains the different takes on the concept.

This comic is one of my favourite 1980s comics. Howbeit this means that this article was one of my firsts, so it lacks many features from more modern profiles.


Background

  • Real Name: Charles Victor Szasz, aka Vic Sage
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: None
  • Base Of Operations: Hub City, occasionally mobile
  • Height: 6’2” Weight: 185 lbs
  • Eyes: Blue (as the Question, none) Hair: Reddish blond (as the Question, brown)


Powers and Abilities

The Question is a dedicated martial artist. He spends much time in meditation, training and other physical, mental and spiritual exercises. He’s a gifted natural brawler and athlete – who has forgotten everything he knew in order to be re-trained from the ground up by Richard Dragon.

He practices Kung Fu as taught by Dragon, and then adapted to street fighting and the control of armed opponents. Lady Shiva considers him extremely skilled and a true fighter, which is about as definitive a compliment as you can get on the martial arts scene.

The Question is also a competent investigative journalist. He’s very intuitive and observant, as well as charismatic and good with people. He’ll often prefer his people skills to his fists, although he’s not above some semi-gratuitous violence when angered.

He’s aware that he’s no Batman, though – just a skilled muckraker. He’s also not a technophile, letting Tot handle all the tech and computer stuff while he does the legwork.

He regularly uses meditative techniques to clear his mind. The Question will often be able to piece together and make sense of complicated cases and tenuous clues while meditating.


History

Vic Sage was an orphan who never knew his parents, or anything about his origins. He was raised in the Hub City orphanage where he was named Charles Victor Szazs. He later took the nom de plume  Vic Sage, when he broke into television journalism.

As a teenager and young man, Szazs was a muscular, tough and aggressive jock. He also felt ill-at-ease due to his lack of a past and identity.

A crusading journalist, Sage came to conduct hard-hitting and brash investigative reporting on Hub City’s KBEL-TV evening news. He worked hard at exposing the phenomenal crime and corruption that plagued the city. Yet he was but one man against a tidal wave and he felt his best, most scandalous exposes amounted to very little.

Sage yearned to take more direct action than a journalist could, but knew the police and the political and judicial system were hopelessly on the take.

A waste of skin

A former university professor of his, Aristotle Rodor, then came to him. Rodor had information about one Doctor Arby Twain, whom Sage was investigating at the time. Rodor and Twain had co-developed “pseudoderm”.

Pseudoderm was a revolutionary artificial skin. It could be extremely helpful in medicine (especially for severe burns patients), but had a crippling drawback. The aerosol that was used to bind it to flesh often triggered fatal allergies.

Twain and Rodor had agreed to forget about Pseudoderm as long as they couldn’t find a way around this problem. But Rodor learned Twain was clandestinely selling the flawed formula to third world countries.

Sage decided to go after Twain personally, since other approaches wouldn’t work. Rodor, who soon became a good friend, offered to fashion a mask made of Pseudoderm for Sage. The journalist/anchorman’s face was too well-known. The nameless, faceless, vigilante soon became known as the Question.

A big ask

The Question was a good way for Sage to express his macho tough guy violence. Although unarmed, the Question acted like a rather merciless agent of justice. His crusade against crime and corruption had him close in on Wesley Fermin, the Hub City mayor.

Fermin was actually an alcoholic, sick man with no political awareness except for obsessive reactionary goals. He was a puppet to Reverent Jeremiah Hatch. Hatch himself had little in the way of religious sincerity but much in matters of ambition and egomania.

The Question (Vic Sage) on a white background

The Question became a serious thorn in Hatch’s side. The Reverent hired Lady Shiva, who was wandering around doing random mercenary work to find a worthy opponent. The Question fought Shiva, who easily defeated him. Hatch’s men shot Sage in the head and threw him into a river.

However, Shiva had seen in the Question something she was looking for – a genuine fighter. Fate intervened when the bullet didn’t kill Sage. It skidded between his skull and skin, causing superficial but bloody entry and exit wounds.

Shiva recovered the apparent corpse after Hatch’s men were gone. She saved his life and took him to meet a wheelchair-bound man known only as “Richard”.

Kung-Fu fighters

At Shiva’s prompting, Sage agreed to train with Richard for months. He developed his fighting skills and learned a philosophy of life that was to shape his moral and ethical behaviour from that day forward. Years later, he would be able to confirm that “Richard” was actually Kung Fu fighter Richard Dragon.

Dragon was in a wheelchair since he had willed his legs to stop working. Years later, he would will them to work again. This was in part to teach Sage. The macho and bellicose reporter would not seek to match himself against a crippled man, and would thus be much more receptive to the lessons to be learned.

Sage returned to Hub City a changed man, and a changed Question. Yet, he still fought for truth and the greater good. As both a journalist and a vigilante, he handled numerous threats and was witness to a horribly decaying city and people. He neutralized the Riddler using words and Zen koans alone.

The Question even met with Batman and Green Arrow. Lady Shiva assembled the 3 of them at the request of the legendary O-Sensei, to go on a quest.

The Question helped a deeply corrupt police lieutenant redeem himself against all odds, and to become a good cop. He became close to a former lover, Mira Fermin, who was the trophy wife of the Mayor. When Fermin ran for the election as Mayor, he subtly supported her as Sage.

He less subtly supported her as the Question, disarming the numerous traps and conspiracies intended to keep the city untouched by Mira’s progressive political program.

Those who walk away

Some time after the election was won, the Question finally admitted that Hub city was an hopeless hellhole. He left and took Jackie, Mira’s daughter, with him.

Jackie, a retarded little kid with the Down Syndrome , was threatened by Ms. Fermin’s political opponents. The mayor would rather have her child away with the man she trusted the most than constantly risking death at her side.

Somewhat aimless, Sage drifted South until he found himself deep in Brazil. There, the sick Jackie finally died, apparently content to have made such a journey before her numbered days would end.

Penniless and low on morale, Sage chose to slowly and reluctantly make it back to Hub city to inform Mira of Jackie’s death.


Description

Sage changes into the Question by applying the pseudoderm mask (which he keeps in a hollow belt buckle) and then releasing around him a special gas invented by Professor Rodor. This gas allows the Pseudoderm mask to attach strongly to his face. Specially treated fibres will also change colour when exposed to the gas. This include Sage’s hair and most of clothes.

Sage often wears a good three-piece suit with tie, trillby and a large trench coat. When exposed to the gas, these clothes will take much darker tones (dark blues and grays). Also treated are various articles of streetwear – generally jeans, T-shirt, leather jacket and baseball cap. Once exposed to the gas they will take the same kinds of colours as the suit.


Personality

As Shiva noted, Vic Sage’s true face is not his face. It is the featureless, blank visage of the Question. He is a man without roots, without a past, without parents, without a childhood, without certainties, without identity.

He’s the masterless man, the ronin , the man carried by the wave, never fitting in the system, outside yet looking in with the curious gaze of the sage.

Past sins

Before he started training with Richard, Vic Sage was angry at feeling so empty inside. He was one of the good guys, but clearly not a nice man. He overcompensated for his lack of identity and sense of self.

Since he was quite a hunk and a tough jock, he built himself around a macho attitude. Young Vic was overconfident in his physical abilities, violent, sexist. He seduced a number of women but not keeping any stable relationships.

Sage was a warrior, but he was also an insensitive jerk. As the Question he was blunt and brooding. He defined himself as a driven man of action, holding the Truth as the self-evident goal of his crusades. As he was denouncing corruption as tearing down the masks of profiteers and criminals, he was hiding from himself.

Embrace the void

The teachings of Richard, strongly based on Taoism and Zen, allowed Sage to embrace the void inside him. His lack of a past, of a real goal, of an identity, of a life. He simply became able to gracefully flow with the current, humbly accepting he was a rootless man and that he actually knew nothing.

His quest for a moral, two-fisted Truth to be exposed became a far more philosophical quest for truth. About what he really is, about what other people really are, about the world.

This genuine curiosity is a driving force in Sage. He simply *has* to know the straight dope, and he’s unable to let a mystery rest. He does so with an open mind. Although he still appreciates justice and doing the right thing, he no longer forces right upon the world. He simply wants to know.

The Question is an element of change, randomly carried by the universe into a situation and laying bare the secrets and lies. This attitude of genuine interest and curiosity lead him to ask pointed questions and have quasi-Socratic discussions with many people with whom he interacts.

The old Question would have beat a man attempting to commit murder to a bloody pulp. The current Question will stop the killer with the least amount of force, and will ask why the killer wants to kill, and what he hopes to achieve.

Those questions and highly perceptive, clear-thinking remarks often do more to break the killer’s will than the Question’s kung fu.

Furthermore, having a faceless, remarkably calm and charismatic man wander in from nowhere asking razor-sharp questions can be disconcerting. Even inebriated street punks with an IQ not very far in the double digits tend to pause as they realize that “that dude has no face”.

Still fighting

Despite all his Zen strength, meditation and physical skill, the Question has not laid his old demons to rest. Life is more complicated than that. He still has an affinity for violence, and some degree of anger, as well as a desire to kick arse and take names in order to right wrongs.

He is aware that he sometimes resorts to violence that is not strictly necessary. He knows that, to a degree, hitting the mean streets is just an excuse to bust heads.

His friend Rodor, a pacifist, often mocks him about this. Sage sometimes points out that violence is often the most effective solution, especially against Neanderthal-like thugs. But he knows that it’s not entirely truthful.

The Question will almost always calmly offer a chance to surrender without violence. But sometimes his heart is not really in it. Of course, it’s a fact that people almost never surrender anyway.

Some degrees of his old pride and thirst for justice occasionally come back, too.

Sage is now a nice, charming, calm, strong, brilliant man with a great sense of wit and obvious experience. As the Question, he tends to be a bit flippant, even vaguely smug. He’s nigh-fearless, welcoming suffering and trials as an occasion to learn more about himself. As he’s already familiar with the void, he’s not particularly afraid of death.


Quotes

Passerby : “Who are you ?”
Question : “A good Question. For now.”

“It doesn’t have to go on. [parry with open hand] It can stop here [fluid dodge]. I’m serious [disarm the thug].”

“I have to know, Tot. The truth.” (adjusts baseball cap, leaves Tot’s house, gets into trouble)

Cop : “What would you say if I asked you your name ?”
Question : “Something enigmatic”.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

The Question

Dex: 07 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Seeking the Truth
Int: 06 Wil: 07 Min: 07 Occupation: Journalist
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 07 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 024 HP: 030

Skills:
Acrobatics: 06, Charisma*: 06, Detective (Legwork, police procedure): 05, Martial artist: 07, Medicine (First aid): 04, Thief (Stealth): 05, Vehicles (Land): 05

Advantages:
Area Knowledge (Hub city), Buddy (Aristotle Rodor), Credentials (Media, Low), Lightning Reflexes, Scholar (philosophy, meditation techniques), Schtick (Contender), Sharp Eye

Connections:
KBEL-TV (High), Mira Fermin (High), Police Lieutenant Isadore O’Toole (Low)

Drawbacks:
SIA to finding out Truth, Secret ID

Equipment:
The Question used to have a vintage red VW Bug retrofitted with a Porsche engine. If he ever chooses to have it repaired, its stats are [STR 04 BODY 06, Running: 07, R#2 – and the added bonus that most people will be quite surprised by a 70s Bug racing by at 150mph]


A tough Question

During much of his career, the Question’s DEX was a 06. When he came back to Hub city after his adventures in Brazil, he started to evidence a DEX of 07.

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: The Question series and specials (DC Universe)

Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Dan

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