Comic Book / The Mask

"Who's laughing now?"
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The Mask is a comic book series best known as the inspiration for that film where Jim Carrey was even more of a live-action cartoon character than usual. Unlike the movie, the comic book is not harmless slapstick, fitting much better in the comedy horror genre.

The story of the comics begins when Stanley Ipkiss, a seemingly nice guy with repressed violent thoughts buys a green mask (really a semi-living artifact stolen from a tribe in Africa) for his girlfriend, Kathy. Putting the Mask on that night and suddenly changing into a green-headed being with near-infinite powers, Stanley spends the next several months killing anyone he dislikes and becoming increasingly militant and deranged, until a final showdown with police and his girlfriend leaves him dead. The Mask ends up in the hands of policeman Lt. Mitch Kellaway, who becomes the next "Big Head", carrying out similar murders against anyone he dislikes, until he finally realizes what's happening. The stories over the years follow the Mask itself as it goes from owner to owner, usually pursued by Kellaway as he is one of very few who knows the truth behind Big Head's character.


The comics had the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: While it's hard to think this could apply to the original Mask comics... they were actually the product of John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke fleshing out and adapting Mike Richardson's original "Masque" concept. Most of the original ideas remained intact, however.
  • Amusing Injuries: Zig-zagged. Big Head's shtick includes re-creating cartoony injuries like Squashed Flat, Torso with a View, etc; when they happen to him, it's played straight, but when they happen to other people it's subverted with realistic amounts of blood and pain. However, even some of the latter is played for Black Comedy.
  • Art Evolution: The artist Doug Mahnke's pencilling style evolves quite a bit throughout the first album.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Mask.
  • Asshole Victim: Rapaz, a drug dealer and a mob hitman Kellaway!Big Head had to contend with. However, while some of Big Head's victims are assholes, his actions are so extreme that even the assholes mostly don't deserve what happens to them.
  • Ax-Crazy: People who wear the Mask don't start out like this, but it does happen eventually and anyone who already is will get even worse. Also, whenever the Mask wants a melee weapon in the comics, he tends to pull a battleaxe out of nowhere.
  • Badass Adorable: Emily, Ray Tuttle's daughter, once she decides to put on the Mask and give the bullies at school and the Nazis torturing her dad what's coming to them.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Although Walter isn't a superhuman in a comic book sense, his large build and brute strength is enough for him to fight toe-to-toe with Big head, even hurting him on multiple occasions, and once even beating a Kathy!Big Head by surviving whatever she threw at him and outlasting her until she just gave up..
    • Lt. Kellaway has fought against Big Head with nothing more than police training and indomitable will. Lampshaded when he faced off with a group of high-tech mercenaries with nothing more than a pistol.
  • Body Horror:
    • Mask wearers are referred to as "Big Head" for a good reason. Their head becomes a giant mutated lump with large eyes, a huge mouth, no ears and a tiny nose.
    • The two jerkass auto mechanics that Big Head kills early on. One is wrapped up and impaled by chains and tools. The other one... well... his skull was removed and replaced with a muffler, complete with a visual of skin stretched out over the muffler. It wasn't pretty.
    • Big Head is capable of disguising himself as other people, which is harmless enough. The horrific part comes from how he discards these disguises; by ripping the skin off his face to reveal his true appearance!
  • Bookends: The first person to wear the Mask, Stanley, is the last one to have it at the end of the comic's run. (Sure, it's a dead body, but it counts.)
  • Black Comedy: Mostly from the cartoonish ways Big Head offs his victims.
    • His sense of humor also falls into this category more times than it doesn't.
  • Brick Joke: This.
    Mafia Boss: Take Joey, David and Franky over to Cincini's restaurant and blast the hell out of every Cincini within ten miles of the place. It's almost midnight, so they'll be closing up the place in just a few minutes.
    ([[[Beat]])
    M Afia Boss: No, you ***ing morons! I want you to go there tomorrow during the lunch-hour rush! Now get the hell outta here!
    (later in the issue)
    News Report: ...at least a dozen hostages. Apparently the whole debacle stems from an alleged mob dispute, but further details are sketchy. Why the gunmen chose to attack Angelo Cincini here, during the lunch-hour rush, is anybody's guess.
  • Bully Hunter: "The Hunt for Green October" features a father scaring off his daughter's bullies while going out to get revenge on the man who didn't take responsibility for the death of his wife. The daughter later gets to actually put on the Mask and beat them down after one too many public humiliations at school. She also viciously eggs some nasty boys who were egging other kids.
  • Call-Back: In the original 4-part series, a 2-page spread of a laughing Kellaway!Big Head's vigilante spree in action. A near identical spread shows up again in Lobo/Mask when Lobo is wearing it.
  • Canon Immigrant: After the movie, in the last few remaining comic appearances The Mask had, Big Head took to wearing a variation of the iconic yellow suit from the movie and cartoon universe, even though the user wasn't Stanley.
  • The Corruption: The Mask itself can and will corrupt anyone and everyone that wears it. See Ax-Crazy above. Some people do realize when they're about to cross the line (Kathy, for example, does an admirable job of holding on to her sanity as Big Head), but that's not always the case, as proven by Stanley when the homicidal impulses provided by the Mask bled into his normal persona.
  • Crossover:
    • Lobo VS The Mask. Which ultimately leads to Lobo wearing the Mask. Carnage ensues. At least, more carnage than when they were fighting.
    • Grifter VS The Mask.
    • Also Joker/Mask, though it seemed to be in its own hybrid canon that combined the comics and cartoon into one.
    • There is also Mask/Marshal Law.
    • The Mask: World Tour which features where Bighead travels through ComicsGreatestWorld
      • Ghost also made an appearance in an issue of Adventures of the Mask.
  • Curbstomp Battle: At the end of the first two series, this is what happens to the cops when they try to stop Big Head.
  • Dark Action Girl:
    • Kathy when she gets the mask, although since she's up against the mob and takes the mask off before she loses complete control, the "dark" part is somewhat debatable.
    • Vanessa, the Nazi assassin from The Hunt for Green October is a more straight example.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Big Head is this, but it varies between wearers.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • Walter blasts Kathy!Big Head with both barrels of an elephant gun. For a being enhanced with the powers to bend reality and shrug off fatal injuries, Kathy stayed down for the count long enough to make us think she was dead.
    • This also happens the first time we see Walter as he gives Kellaway!Big Head quite a harsh beating that actually stuns him. We ARE talking about a being that gives entire police precincts the runaround here!
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Big Head brings out a person's psychotic tendencies towards people who've wronged them, or adds them if they don't have any, especially Stanley!Big Head. He killed his old primary school teacher for embarrassing him as a child and ran over someone because they owed him sixty dollars.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Yes, there is one. Ray and Emily, at the end of "The Hunt of Green October", use the money they got from the Nazis to leave Sky City behind and start anew somewhere else.
  • Estabilishing Character Moment: Stanley!Mask notes that he could use his powers to help others. "But first..." Cue him slaughtering a gang that pestered him earlier.
  • Evil Mask: Eyup, what with all the murdering and corrupting people and what not.
  • Gorn: Big Head's bloody trail of victims were depicted with realistic gore and without censorship, as were Walter's self mutilation habits.
  • Fan Film: In 2017, director Jason Gerbay released a long-awaited fan-reboot based on the comic, both borrowing elements from it and creating a new story entirely. The film revolves around a married couple and their friend finding the titular item and using it for their personal gain. It can be seen either here or here.
  • Groin Attack: Used by Stanley!Big Head against a police officer who stumbled upon him after the massacre. By shoving an Uzi down his pants and firing.
  • Hammer Space: Even characters often wonder where Big Head gets all of his weapons. That's assuming the Mask isn't literally creating matter from nothing, anyway.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Several characters have donned the mask with the intention of using its powers only for good, but Big Head's personality always takes over sooner or later.
  • Honey Trap: Kathy uses this to get close to the mobster wearing the Mask and get it away from him.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Especially in the early comic issues.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Kellyway says this when they try to stop Stanley!Big Head by sideswiping his car into a wall at 90kph, despite the fact there is someone else trapped in the back. It doesn't stop Big Head.
  • The Juggernaut: Walter.
  • Karma Houdini: Gina Mazarin, the Jerkass lawyer from "Toys in the Attic" who made and sent the spiteful non-invitation that made Aldo don the Mask and murder her high school thespian colleagues, never gets any comeuppance because the police get to Aldo and give him a Suicide by Cop, preventing her from becoming his final victim.
  • Legacy Character: Whoever finds the Mask becomes the next Big Head.
  • Laughably Evil: Big Head might be a killer who does things to people that may lead to a Moral Event Horizon, but he is funny while doing it.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • The Mask Strikes Back series, which was made shortly after the film, tones down the violence to a more cartoon-like fashion. Also, unlike the other wearers of the Mask, the four kids don't use it for revenge and take it off before they become Ax-Crazy.
    • The 2014 Itty Bitty Mask mini-series turns this Up to Eleven, specifically a comic aimed at small children with no violence whatever.
  • Lost Tribe: The Mask itself originally belonged to an unnamed African tribe, which used it in their rituals.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kelleway is just able to snap out of Big Head's influence when he realizes he is nearly killing his partner and friend, causing him to see the horrors of his actions and get rid of the Mask from himself.
  • Mythology Gag: In The Mask Strikes Back, a reference is made to Big Head wearing a yellow zoot suit, which is part of the film version's iconic outfit but which the comic book version is never seen wearing (except in some of the crossovers).
  • Nigh Invulnerable: The Mask itself, as evidenced by Kathy's failed attempts to destroy it, which include a broken sledgehammer and chainsaw. The Mask confers a variety of this onto its wearers: they can be harmed the same way as ordinary humans but there's no pain and they'll always heal no matter what.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Kathy gives the Mask to Lt. Kellaway for safe keeping after trying and failing to destroy it. When he finds he can't trust himself with it, he buries in concrete (which of course only keeps it down until the beginning of the next story arc).
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Big Head suffers injuries and bleeds profusely, but ignores almost all of it. Though being a magical artifact that can bend reality, Big Head can instantly re-grow and regenerate anyway. In some cases, Big Head's been known to turn severed pieces into clones.
  • Pet the Dog: Stanley!Big Head helps a small kid who's being bullied by two others, by hitting the bully on the head hard enough to raise a lump.
  • Police Brutality: Kellaway!Big Head went on a massive killing spree to off drug dealers, mobsters and anyone else he felt the system let slip through. He only snaps out of it when he is about to kill his partner by shoving a lit stick of dynamite down his throat.
  • Power Makes Your Voice Deep: While it's hard to depict, Big Head's angular voice bubbles and scratched out lettering indicates a monster-like tone of voice that characters often comment on. The CD of the first two series shows that Big Head can also make his voice very high.
  • Puff of Logic: The zombified Stanley after Kathy points out that he didn't have the Mask on, and thus couldn't have returned as Big Head. Or at all.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The Mask itself is a semi-living entity that can speak. Anyone who wears it is initially in control, or so it seems, as they seem to be fully aware of what they're doing with their new powers. However, they're quickly driven to murder and violence and after only a short time find their own minds being subdued as the Mask takes control.
  • Reality Warper: The Mask gives this ability to its wearers. Stanley!Big Head was able to stop a several storey fall by 'slamming on the brakes', one of the teenagers with the Mask created pyrotechnics from thin air, and that's not even covering the hammerspace or shapeshifting that the Mask confers.
  • Rebus Bubble: Shown when Kathy briefly mulls over the relationship between the mask and Big Head.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Starting with Stanley, any Big Head is prone to this.
  • Secret Identity: Subverted as the Mask changed hands quite often, though as far as most of the police and media knew, it was the same killer each time.
  • Self-Mutilation Demonstration:
    • Kellaway!Big Head shoots himself through the hand to test out the Mask's powers. He aims the gun against his head at first, but changes his mind due to possible consequences.
    Kellaway: Gee. If this doesn't work, won't I feel stupid?
    • Rick!Big Head cracks himself over the head with a giant mace to prove the Mask's powers to his friends.
    • Walter would also mutilate himself just to screw with people.
  • Shapeshifting: The Mask conferred this power on its wearers in the comics. Stanley!Big Head disguised himself as an elderly woman and a police sergeant to deadly effect. When he reverts back to his original form it involves ripping off the disguise which is depicted as if he's ripping off his skin.
  • Ship Tease: A moment between Kathy and Kellaway in the fourth comic.
  • Slasher Smile: Whether it's Ipkiss or Kellaway, they sport a few great ones while wearing the mask.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Unlike the Jim Carrey film, the comics, especially when they started, were INSANELY cynical and mean-spirited. Most characters were corrupted by greed, power, and selfishness in a already Crapsack World.
  • Squashed Flat: After Stanley first puts on the Mask, he's run over by a car and flattened, complete with hideous amounts of blood. But he's just fine.
  • Stable Time Loop: Lobo/Mask. Lobo is hired to hunt down the "Ultimate Bastich", a being that destroyed numerous planets and killed billions. He's led to Earth, the last known location and finds Big Head, who, after a lengthy fight, admits it was his last wearer. After a lengthier galactic hunt, Lobo takes the Mask himself, ends up going through a wormhole, and after being offended by a child's crayon drawing, obliterates numerous worlds. He'd been hired to hunt himself. The loop was broken at the end of the issue, however.
  • Stern Teacher: Stanley's old teacher was one, even to the point of doing the same to students now as she did to Stanley as a boy... right before Stanley!Big Head entered the classroom and killed her in front of the children.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Kellaway in The Mask Returns. He gets shot down by mobsters while trying to find the Mask, but isn't killed. The rest we see of him is unconscious in a hospital bed, but he gets better for the next story arc.
  • Symbol Swearing: Despite heavy bloodshed and gore, actual cursing was censored in the books.
  • Taking You with Me: A heavily injured Nazi tries to pull this on Big Head using an Explosive Barrel. Subverted: Big Head, being immortal, is left unscathed, so all it ends up doing is killing him and his wounded, but still living, comrades. Exactly why he thought this would work is unclear, given how they'd previously shot Big Head with a missile barrage to no effect.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: A group of neo-Nazis show up to claim the Mask in The Hunt For Green October. Goes about as well for them as you'd expect.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: In The Mask Strikes Back we see what the world looks like from the point of view of someone wearing the Mask.
    • Well, sort of. One character follows the logic of shapeshifting to its end, using the mask's powers to make him look and sound completely normal. Given the mask's established personality, it's possible the Mushroom Samba that ensues is the mask's revenge for being stifled.
  • The Voiceless: Walter never speaks.
  • Uninstallment: A story arc showing what happened to Kathy between Stanley's death and her handing over the Mask to Lt Kellaway (including what would have been the first appearance of Walter) was planned but never published.
  • Unwitting Pawn: People who wear the Mask are just tools used by the Mask itself.
  • Villain Protagonist: While Stanley just wanted revenge for all those who did him wrong, Kellaway really wanted to use the Mask for good. Let's just say Big Head had other plans.
  • Voice Changeling: Big Head can mimic anyone's voice to impersonate anyone.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Walter is nigh-invincible...but his head is too big for the Mask to fit.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Oh sure, at first being the Mask is fun, but by the end of it you become so Ax-Crazy it's not even funny.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Naturally.

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