Investigative TV reporter Vic Sage was fixing a late dinner at his home in Crown City when he noticed an ad on the television.
“Stay tuned for Batman, starring Lyle Waggoner.”
This reminded him that the next day he would be interviewing that same actor on his show. Normally he didn’t bother with actors or entertainment figures, but this was a special case — a favor to Sam Starr, the network president — and he had agreed to do the interview.
He had no idea this interview would lead him into the strangest case of his crime-busting career so far. The Question would soon find himself involved in something he had never experienced before.
Vic Sage had transformed himself via his chemical gas into his other identity as the Question, mysterious faceless crime-fighter and man of the shadows, who struck suddenly and swiftly against crime and evil. Walking down a back alley while following a lead on a suspected child pornography ring, he heard the loud, thundering crash of furniture breaking and a window shattering, then saw a body come flying out of a window.
This immediately put him on the alert.
Two more bodies came flying out. The Question approached the window and recognized all three as minor-league hoods. Clandestinely looking through the window from the side, he saw a nearly destroyed living room with more bodies and a brief glimpse of a long, dark-colored cape. He ducked into the doorway of the building and made his way into the hall up to the door, which was also shattered.
Entering the apartment in a combat stance, he found himself face-to-face with someone who looked a lot like the character he had seen on TV earlier that night.
“Who are you?” the costumed figure asked, raising a fist.
“The question is often asked, and the answer is the Question,” said the faceless crime-fighter, “but why are you dressed like Batman?”
“I am the Bat-Man, faceless one,” said the dark-clad figure, “and if you’re here on behalf of these evildoers, then prepare to be taken down.”
“Evil is what I fight, Batman,” said the Question, “but judging by the sirens, we had better become scarce.”
The Bat-Man jumped out the window, and through the use of a rope or cable, he was immediately out of sight.
Shortly, the Question stood on a nearby roof, reflecting on his recent encounter. He certainly was in excellent shape and obviously knew what he was doing, he mused. However, if he’s copying the TV character, he’d best avoid copyright and trademark lawyers. Still, I do hope I meet him again. Despite his lack of originality, he could be a potential ally.
He checked his watch and decided he still had time to look for the scum-bags he had started out that night in pursuit of.
Unbeknownst to him, in the nearby shadows, a masked man was watching him. This is not Gotham City, and I don’t recognize this guy, but something tells me I had better follow him.
The Question had the feeling he was being followed. Must be that fellow who thinks he’s Batman, he thought. Maybe he is, for all I know. Anyone could train themselves to be a crime-fighter, after all. Although reasonably, I would think anyone going to so much trouble would come up with their own identity instead of copying a costumed clown from TV.
Nearby, the Bat-Man watched. This faceless one is cautious, he thought. He even seems to sense my presence; I have to give him credit for that. Still, I feel he needs watching. Maybe it’s the fact he has no face — it’s got to be a mask — but I am still puzzled by who he is and how I got here.
Arriving at the address he had been given by his informant, the Question began to scout the building, a rather typical, rundown brownstone. Few lights were on, and he found it easy to make his way toward the source of what little illumination there was.
The Question peered inside and spotted what looked to be a film set, cameras, lights, microphone, and a bed, and tied to that bed was a female child whom he estimated to be about ten years old.
He then spotted two rather rough-looking men enter the room and begin checking equipment, while a third man came in. This man was tall, skinny, and almost sickly looking. He was wearing a bathrobe and combing his hair. When one of the men gave him a signal, he put on a domino mask, took off his robe, and snuffed out a cigarette.
“OK, Jake, you know what to do,” said one of the others. “We gotta get this in the can by ten so Julie can take it.”
“Yeah,” said Jake. “Then I get my dope, right?”
“Right here, buddy. Good stuff. Do her real good, and you get it.”
That was when the Question decided it was time to crash the party.
Nearby, watching through binoculars, the Bat-Man made the same decision.
The Bat-Man had tossed a line from the nearby building he was perched on to the one the Question had entered, when he spotted a vehicle approaching the building. He waited as a limousine pulled up, and five well-dressed men got out. These were hired muscle, obviously, by their looks, and even in the semi-dark the Bat-Man could see the bulges of pistols in shoulder hosters.
“All right, youse guys,” one man said to the others. “Lissen up. Blackie should have the goods shortly. Then we take the film to the boss and remove the body. Youse got it?”
“Yeah, yeah, Julie,” replied one. “Sames you been saying all along. Come on, we gonna hang outside dis dump while they film this crap?”
I wonder who their boss is, thought the Bat-Man. Hmmm… I don’t blame what’s-his-name for wanting to rescue that child immediately, but these clowns could lead me up the food-chain. He decided then and there that they would tell him what he wanted to know, with or without being beaten up first.
The Bat-Man made sure his cape was spread out and billowing in the wind when he stood up on the edge of the roof and projected his voice.
“OK, you have thirty seconds to tell me who your boss is and where he is, or you’ll feel my fists in your ugly faces.”
They looked up. “Hey, it’s one of them action-heroes!” shouted Julie, the leader of this motley crew. Pistols were drawn and fired as the Bat-Man leaped down into the fray.
In a matter of five seconds, five men were lying unconscious on the ground, while the Bat-Man stood holding their leader clenched by his shirt, just inches from his face. “Talk, scum-bag, or you’ll really feel pain!”
“Who the fu — ugh! OK, OK, I’ll talk!” cried Julie.
At that moment, the Question emerged from the building holding a sleeping child in his arms, wrapped in a blanket. He wasn’t surprised to see the caped crime-fighter before him. “Police are en route,” he said matter-of-factly.
After another threat, Julie quickly gave the Bat-Man the information he wanted and was rewarded with a quick knockout punch. “The girl OK?”
“If being abused, in shock, and beaten is OK,” said the faceless crime-fighter, “then yes. She’s OK. Here, take her.”
The faceless crime-fighter gently handed her to the caped crusader, and the Question checked the unconscious thugs for car keys. “We can’t leave her here. Some other predator could be lurking around. We’ll use the car these scum-bags drove. Is that OK with you, Bruce?” He used the name from the Batman TV show in a mocking tone, but the caped crusader unmistakably stiffened upon hearing it. Beneath his mask, the Question raised one eyebrow and thought, Interesting…
“You never did tell me who you are,” said the Bat-Man, almost defensively.
“The Question is my answer. Now, I’m trusting you only because you seem reliable, and I trust my instincts. I am assuming you want these semi-human pieces of crap as badly as I do.”
“You got that right, mystery man,” said the Bat-Man. “Let’s roll.”
“Captain McCormick, we got one heck of a situation going on in the Little Spain neighborhood.”
The captain, a burly man in his mid-forties, sighed heavily, put down his coffee mug, turned the sound down on his small black and white TV, and looked up at the uniform who had just entered his office. “What now? Someone do a good deed there or something?”
The young officer shrugged. “Possibly. We got a report of one hell of a ruckus with bodies flying all over the place, and I don’t mean at the Hungry Dragon, either, but one of the apartment buildings.”
“Ahhh… Another gang rumble?” asked McCormick.
“Something like that,” said the officer. “Witnesses describe a faceless man and someone who looked like TV’s Batman, only wearing black and dark gray, not the light blue and gray like on television.”
“Cheee-rist — in my city?” said Captain McCormick. “Costumed nut-cases running around?”
“Apparently,” said the young officer. “And get this — officers on the scene found evidence of a kiddie porn ring and signs a child had been there, but again witnesses say the faceless man took the child, and he and the, uh, Batman took a limo belonging to some guys who had only arrived there moments before. After, of course, beating the crap out of them.”
“All right, all right,” grumbled McCormick. “I’ll call Vice. I have a feeling this is going to be a long night.”
The uniform left, and McCormick looked at the silent TV screen. “Dick, this is more like your beat than mine.” He turned off the TV, lit a cigar, and began dialing his phone. “Faceless man, my backside!” he muttered. “Next, I’ll be told Captain Atom is handing out cotton candy at the fair!”
The uniform popped his head back in. “Captain, we got a positive I.D. on some of the, uh, victims. Get this: they’re known Mafia goons.”
“Holy shi–!” muttered McCormick. “OK, thanks.”
He began to seriously consider his wife’s suggestion to take a job in some small quiet town where the biggest crime was speeding.