Was An Edit Forced On a Question Story to Avoid the Comics Code's Wrath?

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The ending to a controversial Question story was edited to tone down the story down for the Comics Code.


Appears to be False

Recently, I wrote about how Steve Ditko created an Objectivist superhero called Mr. A in 1966, but he realized that the character was far too violent to be published in a Comics Code approved comic book. When Ditko needed a back-up feature for his Blue Beetle series at Charlton Comics (after first introducing Blue Beetle in a back-up story in Captain Atom's comic book), he decided he would adapt Mr. A and tone him down so that he would be acceptable to the Comics Code. The resulting hero was the Question, who had most of the same beliefs as Mr. A (they were effectively the same character), but he just expressed them in a slightly less violent fashion.

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Ditko wrote the first three Question back-up stories in Blue Beetle, but Ditko was never a huge fan of his own scripting and so Steve Skeates was brought on to script the Question story in Blue Beetle #4. Later, Skeates would script Ditko at DC Comics and there would be some conflict between the two (mostly driven by Ditko's DC editor, Dick Giordano, who amusingly enough was also the guy at Charlton who asked Ditko to launch a line of superhero comics and who Ditko then brought with him to DC when Ditko moved there in late 1967). In fact, as I explained in an ooooooooooold Comic Book Legends Revealed (we're talking over 13 years ago here), Ditko had a conflict with Skeates in that very same story, where Skeates had the Qustion say to a criminal, "Now listen here, friend" and Ditko was aghast, as the Question would NEVER call a criminal his FRIEND! So the line was whited out after the pages were already otherwise finished, as you can see in the page below...

The set-up of the story is that someone wants to kill Vic Sage, the television investigative reporter alter ego of the Question...

Ditko gets in some good mockery of protesters, as there are protesters to Vic Sage, even as Sage is a target of criminals due to him being such a good reporter...

In the end, the Question confronts the would-be killers and knocks them into the rush of the water in the sewer...

They ask the Question to help save them and he turns them down. However, he notes that he'll call the cops and they'll pick them up if they survive the water (but they'll pick them up either way)...

It was a shockingly dark ending for a 1967 superhero comic book. It was pushing the issue with getting Code approval, but the whole "I'll call the cops to come get you" part toned it down a lot, even though the Question clearly still acknowledges that they could easily die even WITH the cop's being called.

Reader Lynn J. wrote in to ask whether it was true that that extra line was forced on Ditko. After all, Skeates scripted it, it's easy enough to see Giordano telling him to add it.

However, that wasn't the case. The line was included by Ditko. The whole point of the Question was that he WOULD be Comics Code approved, so Ditko was totally fine with it. In fact, Giordano later talked about how much he liked the line (even if he was also shocked by it).

In some ways, that ending led to a whole generation of "Anti-heroes" willing to kill their enemies.

Thanks for the suggestion, Lynn!


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