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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Charles Victor Szasz / Vic Sage
The Question
of Justice League (DCAU) and L.A.W.

The Question is a clearly Objectivist super-hero who was created by devoutly Objectivist comic book artist Steve Ditko.

From: Peter Sanderson, "Comics in Context #30: Knight After Knight", published 13 February 2004 on IGN Entertainment website (http://comics.ign.com/articles/595/595592p3.html; viewed 16 June 2006):

Miller also uses the Question, whom Steve Ditko created for Charlton comics. Ditko's treatment of the Question was founded in his enthusiasm for Ayn Rand's brand of conservative political philosophy. When DC acquired the Charlton heroes in the 1980s, the Question was recast as a liberal; I recall one "Question" letter column in which the editor argues that by that point DC had done more "Question" stories than Ditko, so their interpretation was by now correct. This seems a prime case of a character being radically altered from his creator's intentions. Commendably, Miller returns the Question to his philosophical roots. Actually, Miller takes him further than Ditko did. The Question was the basis for the more fanatical Rorschach in Alan Moore's Watchmen, a book known to have influenced Miller, and Rorschach, in his moral views and manner of speaking, seems to have inspired Miller's Question.

From: Matt 'Stars' Morrison, "The Mount: 'I'm Telling You For the Last Time . . .'", published in Fanzing #52, January/February 2003 (http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing52/themount.shtml; viewed 22 May 2006):

The other night, some fellow geeks and I got to talking about some political matters in addition to the usual shop talk and this question was raised: what side of the political spectrum do you think most superheroes come down on?

Now, there are a few obvious gimmies... The Question? Ayn Randian Libertarian.

Of course it's easy for second-tier heroes to have a distinct political identity. Many is the time a writer has used a lesser-known character as a mouthpiece for his own opinions.

From: "Question (comics)" page on Wikipedia.org website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Question_(comics); viewed 24 April 2007):

The Question is an American comic book superhero. Created by Steve Ditko, he first appeared in Blue Beetle #1 (June 1967). Originally created for Charlton Comics, he was acquired by DC Comics in the early 1980s and was incorporated into the DC Universe.

The Question is one of the more philosophically complex superheroes. As a tireless opponent of societal corruption, the Question expounded Ditko's belief in Objectivism, during his career as a minor Charlton hero (much like Ditko's earlier creation, Mr. A). In an acclaimed 1987-90 solo series from DC, the character developed a Zen-like philosophy...

The Question Annual #2 retroactively altered the character's origin by revealing that Victor Sage was originally Charles Victor Szasz, an orphan who had a reputation as a troublemaker. Szasz prided himself in defiantly enduring the physical abuse of the Catholic orphanage where he was housed. He eventually managed to get into college where he studied journalism. However, his higher learning did not mellow his violent tendencies, such as when he beat up his pusher for giving him LSD which caused the frightening experience of doubting his own senses under its influence.

The 2005 Question mini-series suggested that the Question's long experience and practice with meditation had led him into shamanic trances, and later into a more permanent state of shamanic awareness, in which he was able to interpret coincidences and thus "talk to the city." In this state, he was also able to sense chi, or life force. He is now able to "walk in two worlds" for an increased awareness of his surroundings and of any disturbances in a city's natural order...

Homages

* Rorschach -- When Alan Moore was unable to use Charlton Comics characters by name in his comic book series Watchmen, he patterned Rorschach after the Question, making him a merciless trenchcoat-and-fedora-clad vigilante who took moral absolutism to its most violent extreme...

* The Question was featured in Frank Miller's IBatman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again as a libertarian, anti-government conspirator. This version of Sage -- as a nod to Ditko and Alan Moore -- is Randian [i.e., devoted to the teachings of Ayn Rand] and preachy, at one point going on television for a series of humorous "Crossfire"-style exchanges with the liberal archer Green Arrow. Additionally, he is shown as a technophobe monitoring the dark conspiracy Batman and his allies must face...

The Question has been a major recurring character in the animated television series Justice League Unlimited... He is portrayed as a conspiracy theorist, a blend of Rorschach from the Watchmen comics and Fox Mulder of the popular X-Files series. His character design is similar to the O'Neil/Cowan revamp of the character.

The Question of the DC Animated Universe is a completely obsessive, darkly comic loner -- skeptical, eccentric, paranoid, antagonistic and unpredictable, often given to believing in various odd conspiracy theories. Claiming to have Apophenia he is the Justice League's best detective (besides the obvious Batman). He's been shown humming pop songs while breaking into a building, claims the motives and purpose of aglets (the plastic caps at the end of shoelaces) are "sinister", and believes in ominous links between boy bands and global warming, the Girl Scouts and the crop circle phenomenon, and fluoridated toothpaste and spy satellites. He also believes there was a literal 'magic bullet', forged by Illuminati mystics to hide 'the truth'. In recent investigations, he also discovered that Baskin-Robbins in fact has thirty-two flavors of ice cream, and is concealing the thirty-second for dubious reasons. He expressed a belief that these and many other events are tied to a single, vast conspiracy by a hidden cabal dating back to ancient Egypt, which has supposedly ruled the world from the shadows for millennia, aided by the common man's ignorance of it. Among the new recruits, he fills the role of a detective in place of Batman...

...the episode "Question Authority"... has several homages to Ditko's Objectivist beliefs, as well as to Rorschach, Alan Moore's infamous Question pastiche. As he recoils from the information he's downloaded from the Cadmus files, he begins to speak in monotone sentence fragments, as Rorschach did. ("Not alternate reality," he quavers. "Time loop.") ...as Question confronts Luthor at his penthouse office, he declares that "A is A ... and no matter what reality he calls home, Luthor is Luthor." This is similar the law of identity phrase "A is A", on which Ditko based certain characters and their opinions.

From: "Why I'm not all that jazzed to see Renee Montoya as the Question", posted 9 April 2007 on "Comics Crew" blog website (http://www.comicscrew.com/why-im-not-all-that-jazzed-to-see-renee-montoya-as-the-question/; viewed 24 April 2007):

Ok fine, Renee Montoya, is the new Question. It isn't like DC didn't spend the last few months skirting around the issue in 52... so none of this is a big surprise. Call me a bit of a purist, but I've always seen the Question in his Ditko framework: as one of the more "adult" comic heroes that was a discussion about societal ills and gave Ditko a platform to discuss Objectivism. I never really enjoyed the more Zen version of the Question, it just didn't fit into the ideals that Ditko had set up for the character.

I managed to find a ragged copy of a Charlton version of the Question as a kid and it turned me onto Objectivism. As I grew up I read more and more Rand but didn't slip as deep into it as some people did. Ditko, on the other hand, fell deep into it and spent about 3/4ths of his career putting out Objectivist inspired comics. The Question is probably as close to getting balanced as Ditko ever got.

Charlton Comics was one of the first places that Ditko was allowed to be himself. Their editor had a fairly relaxed view of what the creators there could put out. Ditko started getting into Objectivism towards the end of his career at Marvel. After his falling out with Stan Lee (over the Green Goblin?) he went off on his own. One of the first things he put out was an Objectivist comic called the Avenging World that was set in an abysmal world with very sparse dialogue. Eventually he settled down and started to write seriously for Charlton again which gave him creative freedom over what he put out. While Dr Strange is noted for being surreal and altruistic, everything he did during his run at Charlton was hardcore Objectivist. The Question was his first attempt at blending Objectivism with comics and is probably the only series where he actually got it right. It was through the Question that Ditko was able to attack moral relativism, one of the things that Objectivism found detestable. In the Question's world there is no such thing as a subjective decision, just right and wrong decisions.

As mainstream appeal became harder to accomplish he dove deeper into indie comix and started putting out stuff that made anything he put out with Charlton seem like a leftist hippie bong pipe. Most of what he put out between stints at DC and other various publishers was highly influenced by Ayn Rand, impossibly rare to find, and unappreciated unless you were a hardcore Objectivist.

It was through Mr. A that Ditko started getting preachy:

When Blue Beetle got his own magazine, they needed a companion feature for it. I didn't want to Mr. A, because I didn't think the Code would let me do the type of stories I wanted to do, so I worked up the Question, using the basic idea of a man who was motivated by basic black & white principles. Where other "heroes" powers are based on some accidental super element, The Question and Mr A's "power" is deliberately knowing what is right and acting accordingly. But it is one of choice. Of choosing to know what is right and choosing to act on that knowledge in all his thoughts and actions with everyone he deals with. No conflict or contradiction in his behavior in either identity. He isn't afraid to know or refuse to act on what is right no matter in what situation he finds himself.

Source [link to: http://www.vicsage.com/essay/ditko.php].

So this brings me back to the Question.

Why shouldn't DC [screw] with the character? Because it was the last time Ditko connected with his fans. It was before he lasted a single issue of Hawk and Dove. One was a personification of right-wing ideals and the other of left-wing ideals. Ditko was so slanted towards the right that he made Hawk into a complete badass... and completely neutered Dove, making him into a whiny bitch-boy that cried over fighting. While I've appreciated everything DC has done with 52 so far I question the merit of changing one of the few propaganda characters Ditko created even further simply to market them more. It might make Montoya a bit more popular with fans, maybe even sell a few more issues of a limited series featuring Montoya as the Question... but Zen meditation is everything that Ditko didn't want for the Question.

I hope that DC takes the character back to its roots. I hope they make Montoya into what Ditko had envisioned the Question to be. But I know that's probably just a pipe dream...

Discussion

From: "What Religion is Your Favorite Superhero?" discussion board started 20 April 2006 on official website of DC Comics (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072337&tstart=0; viewed 8 May 2006):
relmurmot
Posted: Apr 20, 2006 9:30 AM

...What is the religion of the heroes we read about?... Don't get me wrong, not picking on anyone, just wonder what everyone thinks what our heroes believe. ...Other threads touch on the subject in passing, time to discuss it!


aristagoras
Posted: Apr 21, 2006 6:52 PM

The Question - "critical atheist."

Given both his Objectivist foundation and his Zen leanings, I would think Vic Sage would be (henceforth "critical") open to the idea of God or higher powers, but ultimately assert without ire or bile that more evidence is needed to establish both their existence and relevance.

Not my view on things, but I think it'd be his.

From: "New Christian JLA member" message board, started 5 May 2005 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000023085&start=165&tstart=0; viewed 15 May 2006):

sensorsnake
Posted: May 5, 2005 7:53 PM

I propose DC adds a new superhero to the JLA. His name is Shepard [Shepherd] and he fights injustice and evil in a Christian way.

His powers would essentially be a the addition of the powers of Firestorm and Superman.

While the JLA fights to protect earth from alien threats, Shepard's focus would be to protect innocents such as unborn children.

What does everyone think?


destroyauthority
Posted: May 16, 2005 12:31 PM

...I think between Green Arrow, the Huntress, the Question, and Guy Gardner they would have given Shepard a nice 'blanket party' just to properly welcome his evangelizing ass to the Watchtower.

[webmaster: This poster seems to be implying that sensorsnake's proposed "anti-abortion" Christian super-hero would be strongly resented by a number of other DC superheroes who are also known for their frequent evanglization of their beliefs, but whose beliefs are different from those espoused by "Shepard."]

From: "Superman is Jewish in origin" message board, started 15 September 2005 on Krypton Site.com website (http://www.kryptonsite.com/forums/showthread.php?s=9e8ba60333b234b4d5508404d4b8f006&threadid=41222&perpage=15&pagenumber=2; viewed 5 June 2006):
yeshuamyking7
09-20-2005 12:10 AM

I wouldn't necessarily narrow the field of politically-minded heroes to just Green Arrow. I think they all tend to care about the world they live in, politics included, to varying degrees. Green Arrow just expresses it more. The Question is an ultra-conservative, and has even been portrayed as nearly fascist in his outlook.

From: Steve, "Religion and super heroes", posted 16 June 2006 on "Making a Long Story Longer" blog website (http://www.moodyloner.net/2006/06/religion-and-super-heroes.html; viewed 16 June 2006):

Here is an interesting list of Super Heroes by religious affiliation [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html].

Least surprising: Captain America - a Protestant, no shocker there.

Most surprising: The Thing - Jewish!

They classify the favorite of my later teen years, the Question, as Objectivist, which is close enough to a religion I suppose.

From: Doug Tonks, "A Higher Power", posted 22 October 2006 on "All New! All Different! Howling Curmudgeons: Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism!" blog website (http://www.whiterose.org/howlingcurmudgeons/archives/009995.html; viewed 25 April 2007):

The never-identified but usually heeded "they" claim that there are two topics you should never talk about: religion and politics. But since Mike already brought up religion... I'll follow it up with a link to this page [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], which lists the religious affiliations of various comic book characters. Many of the religious identifications are backed up with lengthy supporting arguments, but some of the more minor characters get little or nothing in the way of explanation.

Some of them are not too surprising... Others are obvious...

But this being comic books, it's not too long until things start getting a bit less clear... a few characters are given a religious affiliation that's not exactly religious. The Question is (or started out being, anyway) an Objectivist; the Red Skull is a Nazi. While neither of those IDs are incorrect, I'm not sure either one is a religion...

Posted by Doug at October 22, 2006 7:12 PM


I think the site is using a very general definition of religion to mean a comprehensive metaphysic and its consequent ideology, discipline, or practice, not necessarily "worship." Not many might seem like religion, but neither is Buddhism from a purely theistic perspective... If the ideology has an eschatology, then I'd say yes.

In this sense "Objectivist" and "Communist" would qualify...

Posted by: Chris Durnell at October 23, 2006 2:18 PM

From: "How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?" forum discussion, started 20 May 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?p=3716053; viewed 24 May 2007):

05-20-2007, 06:23 AM
JoeZhang

How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?


05-20-2007, 02:54 PM
Michael Hawk

...according to Wikipedia, I can't find a single [Marvel superhero] atheist besides Yellowjacket. However, DC has the Atom, the Question, Booster Gold, Rorscach, Dr. Manhatten, Lex Luthor and Booster Gold as atheists.

From: "There Are No Lions Here", posted 15 October 2006 on "Pretty, Fizzy Paradise" blog website (http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2006/10/there-are-no-lions-here.html; viewed 30 May 2007):

[Reader comments:]

At 5:40 PM, Matt T. said:

...That Adherents site is nifty, but there's some hinky aspects to it... like the site's owners didn't bother to do more research into the labels and just figured if they're passionate about a certain aspect of politics - feminism, animal rights, social justice - it's the same thing as being a Catholic or a Baptist. Just came off as lazy to me.

Nor, for that matter, are socio-political philosophies like Objectivism (The Question, Layla Miller, Rorschach) religions in the classical sense. Again, I've met quite a few worshippers of Ayn Rand, but as the gentleman above said, every group has it's loons.

From: "Religion of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 29 March 2006 on AllSpark.com website (http://www.allspark.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4168; viewed 1 June 2007):

Speedbreaker
post Mar 29 2006, 08:38 AM

I found this great resource entirely by accident:
http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html


Spark
post Mar 13 2007, 06:17 PM

...Knew Moon Knight was Jewish...

Hadn't really thought about it that much otherwise. Got to love Deadpool's religions - all lapsed. Surprise.

The Question and Rorschach, Objectivist. Heh.

The Power Pack being Mormon doesn't surprise me in the slightest.


Thylacine2000
post Mar 14 2007, 10:31 AM

I would not consider Objectivism to be a religion, not unless it's specifically cult-of-personality Randianism.

Environmentalism is definitely not a religion (Ra's al Ghul), and neither is animal rights (Animal Man).


Spermbank Zodberg
post Mar 14 2007, 07:46 PM

The site does enjoy confusing "religion" with "driving ideology".

From: "Super-Friends", posted 17 June 2006 on Galent/"Whatever Remains..." blog website (http://galent.livejournal.com/17249.html; viewed 6 July 2007):

galent (galent) wrote,
@ 2006-06-17 11:48:00

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html

So, lacking any real life, and pushing the cause of the comic book geek back about 20 years, some dork working for Adherents.com has put together a website of The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters. Is this an interesting subject? Absolutely. Does it make one a dork for thinking about such things? No. So why am I characterizing it so negatively? Because I wonder about anyone who would make a list of almost EVERY comic hero, villain, and supporting character, and chart their religious affiliations in depth. The site is huge.

It also includes odd but interesting articles such as "Batman Crucified: Religion and Modern Superhero Comic Books" http://wacc.dev.visionwt.com/wacc/publications/media_development/archive/1997_4/batman_crucified_religion_and_modern_superhero_comic_books

And "Never Discuss Religion or Politics: A rebuttal to 'The Mount'," http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing52/feature7.shtml ,which discusses if Superheroing is liberal or conservative. While incoherent and not really well thought out, it is interesting.

So what did I learn?

First, there are not too many, as in none, Unitarian superheroes, nor villains, nor victu... supporting characters. Which is odd, as if anything calls for interpretive dance, it is bright blue tights.

Nor, contrary to my Subject line, are there any Quakers. Pacifists make crappy superheroes.

Second, the great classic heroes, Superman, Batman, Spider-man, the X-men, Hulk, and on and on, had Jewish creators: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, and Stan Lee. Needless to point out, very few super heroes ended up Jewish, though there are some. Outsiders trying to fit in, being rejected, yet being special.... Hmmm... Where did the Jewish kids in the 20s 30s and 50s come up with this stuff?!?!?!

Also of interest, Wonder Woman was created by feminist psychologist William Moulton Marston, and refuses to be Christian of any denomination. She's Greek.

Here's a quick rundown of the few favorites I found. Each has a full article, complete with references, on each character.

Sooo... Superman is a Methodist, Spider-man is undefined Protestant (as is, SURPRISE, Captain America), and Batman is a lapsed Catholic/Episcopalian mix (I think the lapsed part sums it up). Wonder Woman is Greek, and Bibleman is, apparently, Baptist. Hellboy is Catholic, what with all those relics and whatnot. Batgirl is "religiously untrained; potential Christian," whatever the hell that means. Also, Rorschach is an Objectivist (I guess..., but there are problems with that), and V is an anarchist. Surprise!

Also, there are two "Palestinian Muslim" Heroes. Your favorites and mine, The Doctor and Wild Rose ( which I am sure have nothing to do with The Doctor, of "Who" fame, and his current companion Rose). The former was actually a suicide bomber, before becoming Earth's protector. Oddly, this character is not published by DC, Marvel, or Image. They must be jealous.

This post would be incomplete without a mention of the Acidic Jew, though I will leave his religion to your imaginations.

Or the Jewish Hero Corps (Menorah Man, Magen David, Minyan Man, Shabbas Queen, Dreidel Maidel, Yarmulkah Youth, and Matza Woman)!

Or Zatanna, who is apparently "eclectic Pentecostal Dianic Wiccan." Hell, take 'em all!

Now the Villains... Hmmm..., dominated by Communists, atheists, and Catholics! Again, I smell odor of the prejudices of the first half of the twentieth century all over this list. Ra's al Ghul is a "fundamentalist Environmentalist." The Joker is an atheist. Harley Quinn, however, is Jewish, as is Magneto. Sabertooth is a born-again Christian. And Mephesto is, surprisingly enough, the devil.

And the meat... er.. supporting characters: Lois Lane is Catholic, but Jimmy is Lutheran. I thought I sensed a conflict there. (Not really. I don't think I have ever read a Superman comic. He's boring. Oh wait! I think I read the one where he got killed in the early 90s. Cultural education, you understand... and perverse glee.) Alfred's Anglican, of course. Dr. Leslie Thompkins is a goddess worshiper, who knew? And J. Jonah Jameson "hates Spider-man." That's his religion. Oh, and God is God.

The things I never knew.... (Like who half of these people are.)

I love pop-culture, in a sort of train wreck way, and I am fascinated by religion. This is a great site. Watch them grasp as straws and pigeon hole fictional characters into religious denominations! Great! Next up, possible alien homeworlds of today's politicians and celebrities.


(Anonymous)
2006-06-19 01:23 am

re: "Rorschach is an Objectivist"

Objectivists would object to your lumping in Objectivism with religion. They've evolved so far beyond religion, or didn't you know?


2006-06-19 01:42 am

Hey, don't look at me! Blame Adherents.com!

Their religion categories were actually fairly funny. As I mentioned Communism and "hates Spider-man" were religions (as was "atheist" but we all knew that), though I think that it is wonderful to have a character named Rorschach be classified as an Objectivist.

Q: "What do you see in these ink-blobs?"

A: "Clearly, and in the true nature of Objective reason, as described and argued by Ayn Rand, the shapes on that card can only be dogs playing poker, while a clown looks on from the corner . . ., and my father touches me inappropriately under the table. That is what it is. If you see anything else, it is due to your lack of perception of the true innate reality!"

It is an irony that even Alan Moore could enjoy!


(Anonymous)
2006-06-19 02:19 am

I don't have a problem with "hates Spider-man" being a religion.

Personally, I'm pretty tired of the true innate reality touching me inappropriately.


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