The Mask originated as a comic book series created by Mike Richardson and published by Dark Horse Comics. The series follows events related to a mask-shaped symbiotic relic which imbues any wearer with reality-bending power and physical imperviousness, as well as bypassing any of the wearer's psychological inhibitions, allowing them to accomplish their most desired goals without fear of consequences. It was conceived as a combination of comic characters The Joker and Steve Ditko's Creeper.
In all versions the story initially revolves around a magical mask which gives anyone who places it on their face nearly limitless power and an altered appearance, which is most characterized by a large set of teeth and green head. Furthermore, the mask affects the personality of the wearer by removing all personal social inhibitions; in other words, the wearer takes off his/her metaphorical "masks" by putting on the mask. Not only is the wearer's Id totally in control, but the power imbued by the Mask gives him or her the ability to realize those impulses. Therefore, the capabilities of the Mask are entirely dependent upon its wearer. While the Mask usually has this effect on the wearer, it can vary. In Joker/Mask it merely altered the Joker's appearence and gave him superpowers. In The Mask Strikes Back when a boy with no social inhibitions puts on the Mask it causes him to hallucinate.
The title of the comic book originally referred to the magical mask itself and not the green-headed character it unleashed, who was referred to as Big Head in the early stories. It was not until the films and television series that the character himself became known as The Mask. The idea was inspired by The Joker, The Creeper and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Likewise, in the original comic stories characters who wore the Mask would become dangerous anti-heroes with ultraviolent tendencies, even if this was not the original intention of those using its power. When adapted into a film, the violence was toned down to make The Mask only as dangerous as the wearer. Once the film was spun off into an animated television show, the character was depicted more as a mischievous superhero.
The Mask (comic books)Edit
The base concept of The Mask was created by Mike Richardson in 1982. It first saw life as a single sketch he made in 1985 for APA-5, an amateur press publication created by writer Mark Verheiden. After starting Dark Horse Comics, Richardson pitched his concept to Marvel comic book writer/artist Mark Badger, which resulted in the Masque strip that ran in the title Dark Horse Presents from issues #10 to #21. Badger's strips became increasingly political, and Richardson ended the strip in order to bring the character back in line with his original concept.
Artist Chris Warner was hired to revamp the character based on Richardson's original APA-5 drawing and created the definitive look for the character. The character was given a new launch in 1989 in the pages of Dark Horse's Mayhem anthology. Aspiring writer John Arcudi and artist Doug Mahnke were hired to create the new adventures, which became the first very popular use of the character, "a combination of Tex Avery and The Terminator". (The Mask stories from Mayhem #1-4 were later collected as the 1991 issue The Mask #0 and in a trade paperback collection as well.)
Mayhem was cancelled after four issues, but in 1991 Arcudi and Mahnke continued with The Mask four issue mini-series; that series also introduced one of The Mask's antagonists, a mute brutish hulk named Walter. This run was among Dark Horse's best sellers; following it, the company continued a succession of mini-series around The Mask, with various antagonists wearing the mask. These series concluded in 2000 with the DC Comics crossover Joker/Mask, in which the magical Mask finds its way into the hands of Batman's arch-enemy The Joker. The first major storylines and the Joker/Mask crossover have all been collected in trade-paperback and in a limited edition hardcover box set.
Original ongoing seriesEdit
- The Mask (#1-4, Monthly, July 1991-October 1991)
- The Mask (#0, December 1991)
- The Mask Returns (#1-4, Bimonthly, October 1992-March 1993)
- The Mask Strikes Back (#1-5, Monthly, February 1995-May 1995)
- The Mask: The Hunt for Green October (#1-4, Monthly, June 1995-October 1995)
- The Mask: World Tour (#1-4, Monthly, December 1995-March 1996)
- The Mask: Southern Discomfort (#1-4, Monthly, April 1996-July 1996)
- The Mask: Toys in the Attic (#1-4, Monthly, August 1998-November 1998)
- Joker/Mask (#1-4, Monthly, May 2000-August 2000)
The Mask (#0-4)Edit
In an antiques shop, a weak, neurotic man named Stanley Ipkiss shops for a gift to give to his girlfriend, Kathy. At the store he purchases an old, jade mask which begins to speak to him. The mask calls to be tried on and when Stanley does so he is transformed into a wacky, superpowered being with an abnormally large, bald, green-skinned head. After exploring his new abilities Ipkiss goes on a rampage, taking lethal revenge on personal grudges that range from a motor mechanic who always overcharges him to his old first-grade teacher. The media dubs this green-headed killer Big Head.
After taking the mask off Stan begins to realize what has been happening. But his acts as Big Head begin to take an emotional toll on him. He becomes verbally abusive toward Kathy. She kicks him out but keeps the mask since Stanley had bought it as a gift for her.
Later Stan breaks into her apartment to steal it back just as the police respond to their earlier domestic violence call. Deciding his only way out is as Big Head, Stan places the mask back on and nearly kills everyone in his attempt to escape. He returns home as Big Head and takes off the mask only to be shot in the back and killed by Kathy, who has put two and two together and figured out the identity of Big Head.
Kathy takes the mask to Lt. Kellaway for safe-keeping. Kellaway, who had been struggling as both the recent Big Head murders and organized crime lords ran loose through his city, disregards Kathy's warnings and tries on the mask as a joke. Becoming Big Head, Kellaway sets out to take down the crime lords that have plagued his police career.
The city, not knowing of the magical mask, assumes Big Head is still the same killer but has moved his target list to high profile crime lords. Despite Kellaway's good intentions, the mask turns his methods increasingly more violent. Walter, a behemoth sized, mutated mob muscle-man, who never speaks takes a vendetta against Big Head for killing his mob employers. Walter for reasons unclear is attacked in brutal ways by Big Head but never indicates pain and never ultimately dies. He is also the only one who can injure Big Head to any real degree.
While fighting off Walter's attacks, Lt. Kellaway as Big Head becomes the target of a police man-hunt. Big Head fights off the police and tracks down the remaining mobsters. When Kellaway's partner attempts to stop Big Head he nearly kills his friend and colleague. Kellaway, realizing what he has been doing, flees. He removes the mask, hides it away and vows never to let it be worn again.
The first half of the story following Stan as Big Head was originally in the four-issue anthology series Mayhem and was then collected as the first part of The Mask trade paperback.
The Mask Returns (#1-4)Edit
The mask falls into the hands of a small-time mobster, who uses his transformation into Big Head to become the city's preeminent crime boss. Kellaway, realizing the return of Big Head means he failed to hide the mask well enough, takes responsibility to stop him.
The Mask Strikes Back (#1-5)Edit
Four 20-something friends, named Rick, Ben, Hugo, and Archie, all fascinated by the Big Head murders find that all their lives are at a dead end, until one finds the magic mask by the city pier and brings it home. Realizing this was the source of their hero's power each of the four take turns trying it on. They attempt to use its power to fix their lives but only end up making things worse for themselves. By the end the unstoppable Walter finds the mask in his hands and puts it on... only to find his face is too big for it (Possibly ironic, considering the Mask's nickname is Big Head - another possible interpretation is that the Mask refused him). In anger, Walter throws the mask into the distance with tremendous force.
This was the last series by original creators Arcudi and Mahnke. It was also the first to be made after the success of The Mask film and as such the violence of the earlier stories was toned down and the Tex Avery aspects were more prominent than beferoe.
The Mask: The Hunt for Green October (#1-4)Edit
The Mask continues to find its way into the hands of unwitting wearers. Ray Tuttle, a loser film-buff and his daughter Emily discover its power, but Lt. Kellaway is looking to take it from them. The title parodies the title of the novel The Hunt for Red October.
The Mask: World Tour (#1-4)Edit
A new wearer of the magical mask finds his way traveling through the Dark Horse Comics universe.
The Mask: Southern Discomfort (#1-4)Edit
In New Orleans, the mask ends up in the hands of Eric Martin who tries to find his sister, all while Lt. Kellaway looks to destroy it.
The Mask: Toys in the Attic (#1-4)Edit
A character named Aldo Krasker gets his hands on the mask which leads him to subconsciously embark on a murder spree. Doug Mahnke returned to illustrate the covers for this series.
Specials and crossoversEdit
The Joker inadvertently gets his hands on the magical mask after it is found in a Gotham City museum. With its power the Joker begins to feel a new rejuvenation in his career of crime. Lt. Kellaway finds his way to Gotham and helps Batman and Commissioner Gordon in defeating the newly superpowered Joker.
Batman is able to trick the Joker into removing the Mask by claiming that the villain is no longer funny, and is relying on tired schtick and the power of the Mask instead of his own style. Lt. Kellaway asks Batman to give him the mask and promises that he will finally hide it where it will never be seen again. Batman agrees and Kellaway digs up Stanley Ipkiss' grave and buries the mask there with his corpse.
Walter: Campaign of TerrorEdit
In this four issue spin-off by original The Mask creators John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke, Big Head's arch-enemy, Walter the voiceless, indestructible mafia killer runs for Mayor of Edge City.
Marshal Law vs. The MaskEdit
The mask is applied to a superhuman serial killeraspartofasecretgovernmentexperimentwhich inevitably goes disastrously wrong. Marshal Law is called in to take down a nemesis who is not only immune to his usual ultra-violence, but can warp reality according to his psychotic whims.
Grifter of The Wild C.A.T.S. is sent to Las Vegas to break up a weapons smuggling ring at a gun show. Trouble brews when one of the tourists ends up with the mask and as Big Head causes a riot at the gun show by pulling a knife. Grifter initially mistakes the Mask for a target but when the tourist's girlfriend is threatened Grifter and the Mask team up to stop the smuggling ring.
Lobo vs. The MaskEdit
The alien bounty hunter, Lobo, is hired to find the "Ultimate Bastich", a being who has decimated numerous planets. His hunt leads him to Earth where a petty thief has become Big Head. In a battle that decimates Manhattan, Big Head finally offers to "help" Lobo find the "previous wearer."
The duo head through space causing mass destruction. In a space truck stop, Lobo ultimately wins the mask for himself, puts it on and causes even more damage. A black hole sends him back in time by a month, and he ultimately ends up being the Ultimate Bastich himself. Waking up on Earth and realizing this, Lobo tosses the mask in the same spot the thief found it. Lobo breaks the time loop when he meets his past self and turns his past self in for the reward money.
Former Mask comic team John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke returned for these books, along with Lobo writer Alan Grant.
The Mask: Official Movie AdaptationEdit
A two issue comic book adaptation of the 1994 film starring Jim Carrey. In addition to retelling the story of the first movie, this comic book version contains short moments of the story which were cut out of the final film. This includes the deleted scenes most often seen as extra features in video releases of The Mask. But it also includes completely unseen moments such as Stanley Ipkiss' watch being stolen by the same group of thugs that he pays back with the balloon animal routine and dialog by the mechanics right before they are burst in on by The Mask.
Adventures of the Mask (#1-12)Edit
Following the success of the first Mask movie, which led to the release of The Mask: The Animated Series, Dark Horse published this spin-off comic series which followed the continuity of the television cartoon. Like the television show, this title combined elements of both the original adult comics and the Jim Carrey movie. Elements from the film included The Mask as Jim Carrey portrayed him in the film: goofy and heroic with his trademark yellow suit. From the early comics were Walter and a Lt. Kellaway more like his original counterpart than as depicted in film.
This series ran monthly from January 1996 until December of the same year.
Ghost, another Dark Horse hero who was popular at the time, appeared in Adventures of the Mask #5.
Adaptations and spin-offsEdit
The Mask (1994) Edit
A film version of The Mask was released in the United States on July 29, 1994, starring Jim Carrey in the title role. Directed by Chuck Russell, the film co-starred Peter Greene as Dorian Tyrell, Peter Riegert as Lt. Mitch Kellaway, Orestes Matacena as Niko, Richard Jeni as Charlie Schumacher, Amy Yasbeck as Peggy Brandt, and Cameron Diaz, in her screen debut, as Tina Carlyle. Ben Stein has a cameo role as Dr. Arthur Neuman.
While there were early efforts to take the movie in the direction of horror (some at New Line saw it as a replacement for their fading Nightmare On Elm Street franchise), it was never completely intended as a "dark horror" picture, they had problems coming up with a script that could show violence that was comical, but had more success with a story that had comedy that was violent. Richardson always pushed in the direction of the Tex Avery concept which was eventually adopted, despite the efforts of several potential directors, including, initially, Chuck Russell, to make the move to horror. Richardson also resisted early attempts to attach both Martin Short and Rick Moranis to the lead role. Mike Deluca's suggestion of Jim Carrey for the lead, together with Mark Verheiden's "Cuban Pete" production number, set the final tone for the film.
The plot of the film was loosely based on the first half of the Arcudi/Mahnke comic book mini-series. It uses only a few scenes from the comic, including Milo the dog, the scenes of the muffler mechanics and the street gang and balloon animals.
Mike Richardson's comic origin for the character came from the ancestor worship of ancient Africans that formed the basis for the voodoo that came centuries later. In the film, however, the Loki-based origin was grafted on in Chuck Russell's screenplay. A deleted scene is featured on the DVD, where a band of Vikings drag a chest containing the mask onto the shore of North America which was also depicted in the Dark Horse Comics 2 part comic book adaptation of the film.
The Mask: The Animated Series Edit
The movie version of the character has subsequently appeared in an animated TV series entitled The Mask: The Animated Series (with Rob Paulsen as Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask) and his own short-run comic book series, Adventures of The Mask. John Arcudi, wrote season one's "How Much is That Dog in the Tin Can" and season three's "The Goofalotatots". Much as with the Beetlejuice cartoon before it, The Mask TAS took many elements from the source movie but made numerous changes. Tina was absent, but reporter Peggy Brandt had become the main female character but not love interest. Also unlike in the movie, Ipkiss appeared to be able to use the mask in daytime as well as at night.
Four VHS volumes of the series were released, all of which are now out of print. Upon the initial DVD release of the Son of the Mask, Wal-Mart stores sold an exclusive 2-pack of the movie with two episodes of the animated series ("The Mask Is Always Greener On Other Side" Parts 1&2). As of 2007, this is the only DVD release of the series.