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Ask...The Question: How Can Mr. Terrific Be an Atheist if He's Met the Spectre?

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

June 17, 2020

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Hello. I’m Alex Jaffe, better known in our Community as HubCityQuestion. My personal mission: to take on any question you have about the DC Universe -- no matter how strange, granular, or obscure -- and present you with an answer. As a faithful steward of the truth, I offer my time in this weekly column to address these inquiries. If you’d like to submit one of your own, you can stop by my office at any time in our Community to state your case, which I will address in turn to the best of my ability. As always, I remain your vigilant detective through the comic book cosmos to discover the answers you crave. As we venture into the column’s second year, I’m happy to see that the questions still show no signs of slowing. Let’s see what mysteries we might uncover this week.

 

 

FAST FOOD

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“I was wondering what might be the history surrounded by Central City’s famous Big Belly Burger? When did it get its intro to being a place for our Scarlet Speedsters (and infamous Reverse Flash) to fill their quota on the numerous amounts of calories they must consume because of their speed metabolism? Have many other heroes besides The Flash flocked to this locale?” -ajm08g

 

The Big Belly Burger franchise rose to prominence as a culinary cornerstone of the DC Universe in the shared television continuity of Super Hero shows on The CW network, dating all the way back to Season 1 of Arrow. On The Flash, Harrison Wells even goes so far to establish it as a multiversal constant: every Earth in the multiverse has its own Big Belly Burger. Big Belly Burger even makes appearances in the Batman: Arkham video game franchise, and throughout the world of the MMORPG DC Universe Online.

 

Though most frequently referenced on TV’s The Flash, the first appearance of Big Belly Burger was in the pages of Superman -- specifically, 1988’s Adventures of Superman #441. Created as a pastiche of the real world “Big Boy” restaurant franchise, Superman first encounters Big Belly Burger on a trip to Hollywood, California when Mr. Mxyzptlk brings a statue of their mascot- a large, bearded man in an apron- to life, flinging deadly hamburgers at the Man of Steel.

 

Big Belly Burger is a widespread burger chain in the DC Universe, with locations in Metropolis, Gotham, Central City, Keystone City, Star City, Fawcett City, Gateway City, Charlton’s Point, New York, Boston, St. Louis, Topeka, Jersey City, Washington DC, and even Israel. In the 2007 Black Canary series, Dinah takes her briefly adopted daughter Sin to play at a Big Belly Burger play place. Black Manta tears one up as soon as he gets a taste of freedom in Suicide Squad #30. Billy Batson and Gangbuster each enjoy a Big Belly Burger in Showcase ‘95 #10. Kenan Kong, the New Super-Man of China, is a fan as well: the first thing he asks for on his first trip to America is a Big Belly Burger. In 2003’s Formerly Known as the Justice League, the robot L-Ron picks up a job at a New York Big Belly Burger. During Final Crisis, the Monitor Nix Uotan does the same. Natasha Irons, the niece of Steel, also works at the Jersey City Big Belly Burger for a time.

 

The first instance I was able to find of The Flash depending on the caloric intake of Big Belly Burger to keep his metabolism going was in 1999’s The Flash 80-Page Giant #2. Like many of The Flash’s most signature world building elements, this was established during the tenure of Wally West.

 

The origin of Big Belly Burger itself is revealed in 1999’s Superman Secret Files and Origins #2. Big Belly Burger was originally a humble burger restaurant from Coast City, which was bought out and franchised by LexCorp into a national staple. So remember: every time you buy a Big Belly Burger, you’re lining Lex Luthor’s pockets. There really is no ethical consumption under capitalism.

 

 

WHAT ABOUT THE INTERROBANG?

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“Does the DC Question have an arch-enemy? Someone who has vowed to discover the face behind the mask, and destroy him? Or, at the very least, make his life miserable? Back in the day, that used to be Max Bine, aka the Banshee. is he still around? I also understand that Question has crossed paths with the Riddler on occasion. Seems if anybody’s suited for the role of recurring bad guy, it would be the Prince of Puzzlers, Edward Nigma. I think Batman could spare him.” -Wrightline1.42741

 

The Question has tangled with The Riddler twice before: first, in Denny O’Neil’s classic The Question #26, where the faceless hero utterly humiliated Nygma like the broken man he is. The second was in the animated film Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold, where… well, I won’t spoil it. Seek it out and see for yourself.

 

The Banshee didn’t survive the jump from The Question’s Charlton years to DC Comics, as he hasn’t been seen since. So who might be called The Question’s arch-enemy today? There are a few reasonable candidates.

 

In O’Neil’s Question series, The Question’s nemesis is no single costumed villain, but the systemic injustice which corrupts Hub City’s very infrastructure. A far more insidious, far more real evil than any cackling scientist or towering beast.

 

Most people familiar with The Question today are aware of him thanks to his scene stealing appearances in Justice League Unlimited, which affixed to the character a conspiratorial flair. Since then, on both television and in the comics themselves, The Question has held a belief that all the great conspiracies are actually one grand conspiracy, tangled and interconnected in a way which all directs to one figure standing at the top. That figure, the subject of The Question’s painstaking research who secretly stands astride the world, I believe, could accurately be called his arch-enemy. But in 52, Vic Sage succumbs to cancer (which I imagine some smart alecs among you would like to call his “real” arch-enemy), and is ultimately denied the chance to face his ultimate foe. But that destiny is met by his successor, Renee Montoya, who sets out to finish what her mentor started. In The Five Lessons of Blood, Montoya- as the new Question- finally meets the man at the top of Vic Sage’s pyramid: who else? Vandal Savage.

 

But whatever the answer, part of what makes The Question so appealing is that he has no one who wrings their hands at the thought of his demise. The Question’s enemy list is always aspirational: the clandestine figures who control and corrupt and who no one else thinks to challenge; who believe that they cannot even BE challenged. No one has really ever sworn to defeat The Question because they’re not really sure he even exists… and that’s just the way he likes it. How do you hate a man without even a face to spite?

 

 

WHAT'S A GOD TO A NON-BELIEVER?

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“How could Mr. Terrific be an Atheist when he has met God’s enforcer, the Spectre? Does he think the Spectre is lying?” -Joesergi

 

So, another theological question, is it? All right, let’s dig in. Y’all don’t scare me. First of all, Michael Holt isn’t the only prominent atheist in the DC Universe. Lex Luthor, Tim Drake, Jessica Cruz, Will Magnus, Booster Gold, Jonah Hex, Mr. Freeze, The Joker, Ted Knight, Ryan Choi, and even Batman have all expressed their own lack of belief in God at some point or another.

 

Which is perplexing, right? The question of faith seems to be one that has been answered over and over again in the DC Universe. Every flavor of god has revealed themselves in some capacity in one grand event or another, from the ancient pantheons of fallen civilizations, to the monotheistic Presence of western religions, to the cosmic New Gods and beyond.

 

But that may actually be the issue here: the multitude of answers with which we’ve been presented. When every faith appears to have been verified by the presence of their own idea of God, which reality is true? What separates a deity, functionally, from just a more powerful instance of a Super Hero like Superman or Martian Manhunter?

 

What is a god, really? Is a god the creator of the universe? The DC Universe has many creation stories, often contradictory. One who maintains it? The forces which bind the universe together, whether they be the Speed Force, or The Green, or any other number of unseen factors, may not have any meaningful sentience. A powerful entity who responds to prayer or sacrifice? Men like Mr. Terrific himself have the means to respond to cries for help around the world.

 

Here’s the ironic truth: when gods appear everywhere you turn, that’s when it becomes the hardest to acknowledge them as anything more than just another class of life. As the line between god and man becomes ever less distinct, the reasons to believe in them disappear. This is why faith and mystery are the cornerstones of every religion on Earth. The questions are always more important than the answers.

 

 

BAT VS. CAT, PART DEUX

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“Has Batgirl ever faced Cheetah before?” -Reaganfan78

 

Cheetah’s personal vendetta against Wonder Woman means that it’s pretty rare for her to fight anyone else in the DC Universe. But in the 2019 DC Super Hero Girls animated series, one Super Hero Girl’s problem is every Super Hero Girl’s problem. When Cheetah arrives to cause trouble for Wonder Woman in the episode “#MeetTheCheetah,” Diana’s closest friends are there to help. That includes Zatanna, Bumblebee, Supergirl, Jessica Cruz… and Batgirl. Fun fact: in this series, both Batgirl and Cheetah are voiced by Tara Strong!

 

All right, then! Between burgers and god, I think that’s all the time we have this week. Keep sending me your submissions, and I’ll continue to tackle your cases no matter where their winding paths may lead me. I’m always ready for you to ASK… THE QUESTION.

 

 

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.