Who Is the Question?
Around January my friend Gary Lobstein contacted me about writing a short documentary on the Question, one of his favorite comic characters. He had shot some interview footage with writer Denny O' Neil and artist Rick Burchett discussing the character, but had no specific thoughts on how to structure a narrative around it.
At the time I had little knowledge of the Question -- or about how to write documentaries -- but I did know that it had been created by Steve Ditko, who I'd recently learned (via Sean Howe's excellent book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story) is himself a fascinating character.
Ditko's use of comics as a platform for personal expression is not especially unique in the medium, but it is unusual for someone of such strict moral and political persuasions to be as closely associated with icons of mainstream culture as Ditko is (he's most often cited as the co-creator of Spider-Man, one of the most decidedly "corporate" comic characters in history).
But Ditko is only part of the Question's story, and though he intended the character to be a vehicle for his beliefs, an explicit translation of the things he could only suggest in his work-for-hire stories, changes in ownership and creative direction over 30+ years transformed the character from Ditko's personal soapbox into a vessel through which other writers have explored a diverse array of ideas.
It was that evolution -- ironic, even somewhat tragic, but ultimately inspiring -- that I felt was worth exploring.