Friday, March 6, 2009

Watchmen Weekend Begins with The Question and Peacemaker

What it is, Groove-ophiles! I know what you're thinking--what has Watchmen got to to with the Groovy Age? The comics came out in the 80s, the movie's coming out now--what's Ol' Groove up to? Never fear! You know I've always got an angle, don'tcha? Y'see, we know the Watchmen movie was inspired by the Watchmen comic which was inspired by a premise Alan Moore cooked up for Charlton's Action Heroes when DC got the rights to 'em as a "gift" for former Charlton editor, then DC editor Dick Giordano, right? Well if ya didn't ya do now! So how does that tie into the Groovy Age? Well, as I often point out, the Groovy Age started in 1967. Guess what Charlton was publishing in 1967?
Which led to this in 1986...

Which led to this in 2009.

Now, if you're like me (even just a little) you're gonna go see Watchmen sometime this weekend. Win or lose, good or bad, we're gonna see it! So why not mix a little today in with our yesterday? And just to keep things interesting, you can look at today's post as a double-dose of Famous First Fridays, 'cause Ol' Groove is layin' the first appearances of both the Question (Rorschach's inspiration) and Peacemaker (who became Watchmen's Comedian) on ya!
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and = , dig it? Here we go!

The Question made his debut as the back-up feature in the first issue of Charlton's revamped Blue Beetle comic (March 1967). Created by Steve Ditko under the editorship of Dick Giordano, the Question quickly became a comicboook cult fave. In the Question, Ditko created a hero who saw the world as he, himself, saw it: in black and white. Good is good, evil is evil, and there are no gray colors. The Question was relentless in his quest for the truth and for right as no other comicbook hero before him, and inspired many who came after him (well, inspired them to be relentless, especially when the "grim and gritty" trend kicked in). In his other identity, the Question was Vic Sage, a "hard-hitting TV reporter" who also relentlessly sought the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The Question existed to find the answers that Vic Sage could not find. Deep stuff, man, but even Li'l Groove could dig where Ditko was coming from with all of this. In fact, discovering the Question as a child might've made him even easier to understand! Ditko came up with a very cool and innovative look for the Question, hearkening back to the grand old crime-fighters of the Golden Age like the Spirit and the Sandman. But it was that mask, that featureless, faceless face mask that really ramped up the awesome factor. Check it our for yourself...

While Syd Starr is making his speech, the police are busy busting up a gambling ring led by a self-proclaimed "three time loser" named Lou Dicer. Dicer shoots and wounds a policeman (the Comics Code still ruled in '67, baby!), making good his escape. Sage takes to the airwaves with the story of Dicer's crimes. It's then we see Sage is not the Question's version of Clark Kent. Sage begins to, well, preach to his audience about how the average citizen who participates in any type of gambling is helping keep Dicer and his ilk in business. Of course, the public doesn't like to hear that crime is their fault , and the folks who run Sage's TV station, except for station president Sam Starr, see him as a troublemaker. "We have to remain neutral. Just report the facts..." one of his superiors says. Not if you're a hero in a Steve Ditko story, baby! Especially not if you're the Question!

Naturally, after a beating like that, Dicer's men talk. The Question heads directly for Dicer's place where he overhears the crook talking to to his mysterious partner. Deciding it would be more productive to let Dicer lead him to the mysterious partner, the Question shadows Dicer to the pre-arranged meeting place, but not before he phones the police to fill them in on what's about to go down...

How's that for an original twist? It's not the Question who takes Dicer down and uncovers the identity of his partner, but the police! Why? Because the Question had faith in the men in blue that they could get the job done--so much faith that he was there with a live camera crew to film the whole episode for his news show.

The Question appeared in all five issues of Blue Beetle, plus in the legendary one-shot issue of Mysterious Suspense (July 1968). All were plotted and drawn by Ditko, all were scripted by D.C. Glanzman (who's identity is still debated to this day--Dave Glanzman, Sam Glanzman's brother? Sam Glanzman himself? And how much re-writing did Ditko do?) except for the untitled story in BB #4, which was scripted by the great Steve Skeates under his pen name of Warren Savin.

Peacemaker also began his comicbook career as a back-up strip. He first appeared in Fightin' 5 #40 (August 1966--yeah, he first appeared before the Groovy Age actually started, but his mag ran through 1967--let your hair down and have some fun, man!), written and drawn by Joe Gill and Pat Boyette. Another sort of oddball hero, the Peacemaker was actually a pacifist envoy to the Geneva Arms Conference by the name of Christopher Smith. Smith we learn became the Peacemaker because he was a "...man who loves peace...so much so, that he is willing to fight for it!" It says so right there on the splash page...

As the story begins, Smith is mulling over his mission. He has learned that a warmonger named Emil Bork is stirring up border wars in South America. Thing is, Smith is on Bork's mind, too. Bork is in Geneva and has arranged a very unpleasant welcome for our peace-loving envoy...

Bork, hiding in plain sight as an advisor, meets Smith later that evening at an embassy function. The two men play cat and mouse with each other, in a James Bondian battle of wit and words. Smith knows Bork has the authorities duped. That means he must take matters into his own hands as...aw, you guessed it!

Of course that wasn't the end of the Peacemaker, and he did finally defeat Bork in the next issue of Fightin' 5. Peacemaker then graduated to his own comic, which ran five issues (December 1966-August 1967).

Before I go, I have to thank Dave Olbrich for naming the ol' Diversions blog as his Fanatic Blog of the Month for March! Dave's Funnybook Fantatic is a joy to read and a class act, as well. Ya know Dave has great taste, so if you're not reading it, read it!

Tomorrow, BLUE BEETLE and THUNDERBOLT! Be here!



7 comments:

  1. Awesome stuff Groovemeister! This is why I read your blog.

    Jim

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  2. Not a big fan of comics like "Watchmen," but I may try to check the movie out anyway. Nice to know, however, it was inspired by comics from the "Groovy Age"!!

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  3. There's always been this itch in the back of my brain about the conceptual origins of the Watchmen characters... Just the right blend of originality and familiarity. Thanks for sharing!
    I'm looking forward to Part 2.

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  4. Groovy Agent, have those Question stories ever been reprinted? I'd love to see more of 'em. Do I understand right there were only six by Ditko?

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  5. I dig that you're digging my Watchmen Weekend, Jim! Ol' Groove ever aims to please!

    Glad you enjoyed the post, anyway, Chris. Just me trying to find ways to pull fans of all ages and tastes together. ;D

    BBS, what a small world! One of my bestest pals, the late Kurt Bowlock (his nom de plume, btw) grew up in the Dayton area and loved to talk about his favorite bookstore--Bonnett's Book Store! Now, lo and behold, Bonnett's is reading Ol' Groove's blog. How cool is that?

    Grant, you're right about the number of Ditko Question stories. DC did one of their Millennium Editions featuring Mysterious Suspense back in 1999; all the stories are reprinted in DC's Action Heroes Archives (available through Ol' Groove's Amazin' Amazon Store, btw--thanks for the excuse to run a plug!)

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  6. According to the GCD, Ditko did the scripting on most of those Blue Beetle issues, with the exception of the Skeates' tale in #4. Reading from the entry for BB #5:

    "D.C. Glanzman is credited with scripting, but editor-in-chief Dick Giordano has said they asked D.C. to use his name (as per Ditko's request to not be credited) and Dick said D.C. agreed (Comic Book Artist #9)."

    There was also a Millenium Edition of the Mysterious Suspense Issue.

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  7. I bought a Mask from www.morphonite.com which is really great. I just love it.

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