According to what he has said on his Fatman Returns podcast, several years ago Kevin Smith, together with Marc Bernardin, were asked to do a proposal for a live-action Question project that certain executives were very high on. Apparently, they were ready to present, or had presented and gotten the green light to make at least the pilot, when word came down that there was a “rights issue” and the project had to be shelved. I had to wonder, what were these rights issues, and were they insurmountable? I can see three possibilities:
- This is admittedly the most boring, and the most likely: some rando bought the movie or TV rights once upon a time, and while they have no ability to make anything happen, those rights haven't expired. The only thing to do is to wait it out if there's a finite expiration on the rights, or to go through the expense of tracking down the rights holders or their heirs and buying the rights back.
- I heard this a few years ago: Charlton was sloppy, and while they may have gotten the rights to use their characters in animation, they never conceived of a live-action version and so failed to secure those rights in the original contracts. In that case, DC wouldn't hold those rights either, as they could only buy what Charlton legally owned and was able to sell. If true, this might be nearly insurmountable, as the original creators or their heirs would all need to be found and releases signed. Fortunately, I no longer think this is very likely, since Peacemaker is included in The Suicide Squad.
- This is my own possible theory: Steve Ditko either specifically retained the live-action rights, or else kept some kind of sign-off power so he could veto any live-action use he didn't like. I don't have any concrete evidence, but here is my circumstantial case:
- By the time Ditko got to Charlton, he was already a Big Deal, having created Spider-Man. If he wanted some sort of veto over something Charlton didn't think was at all likely to happen, he probably would've gotten it.
- We know Ditko was particularly proud of, and protective of, The Question. He was essentially a Comics-Code Approved version of Mr. A.
- In the early years of the Arrowverse, there were lots of hints at Ted Kord thrown around; Kord Industries was a thing, his name was on billboards, etc. Brandon Routh's role on Arrow and then Legends always felt a lot more like Ted Kord than Ray Palmer. There were lots of rumors or fan energy around a Blue and Gold movie. Then, all that (except for the fan energy) suddenly vanished. Blue Beetle II, Ted Kord, was created by Steve Ditko for Charlton.