troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Dramatic Unmask

Harley Quinn: Ain'tcha gonna take his mask off and find out who he is?
The Joker: And reduce my primal enemy to a mere man? Harley my dear, I'm so disappointed in you. Where's the fun in that?

When a masked character takes off his mask, revealing his identity to a shocked character and audience.

When The Hero decides to invoke the Dramatic Unmask it can be the moment they finally chose to reveal their secret identity to an ally or love interest. A gesture of trust that understandably means a lot within crimefighting circles. Their enemies will often attempt to unmask them in the hopes of making them more vunerable by endangering not only their life but that of the hero's loved ones. Exposing a hero can also have the added benefit of having the authorities attempting to incarcerate them. Afterall they are vigilantes.

In the case of the villain the big reveal may be the final part of their plan. A old face come to haunt the hero from the past or worse someone they trusted. Expect villainous characters to be especially smug if this is a complete surprise to their opponent. When the villain desires to hide behind anonymity, expect the protagonist to be the one to go about unmasking him, sometimes at any cost, so that justice is served.

Across media there is a tendency to conveniently overlook why an individual isn't unmasked when he or she's at the mercy of their foe earlier in the story. This is more commonly seen with villains, who despite having the time to put their unconscious victim into an elaborate Death Trap, don't take a moment to remove a mask. Justified in that it's done for the sake of preserving drama and most audiences will let it slide to prolong the guessing game. In some cases the rivals will even lampshade their desire not to learn the others identity as it would reduce their Arch-Enemy to being a normal person rather than their larger than life alter-ego. Although in some stories this is precisely why they want to unmask their nemesis.

Often occurs along with Luke, I Am Your Father or Samus Is a Girl. Can include Bandaged Face or Latex Perfection. Relative of Dramatic Curtain Toss, a subtrope of The Reveal. Contrast with Anti-Climactic Unmasking, where the unmasked party isn't recognized by the other characters, and Stranger Behind the Mask, where they aren't recognized by the audience. Secret Identity Apathy is the aversion.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

Individuals Unmasking Themselves

     Anime and Manga  
  • Code Geass:
    • Lelouch reveals his identity to Kirihara in Episode 11 to get his support, and later unmasks himself to Euphemia when she tells him she already knows who he is.
    • He does it again in the second season finale when the Black Knights turn against him due to Schneizel's Quote Mine and accuse him of deception.
    • Kallen, in the first part of the season 1 finale, removes the mask covering half of her face, revealing her identity to Rivalz, Shirley, Milly, and Nunnally.
  • Bandit Keith in Yu-Gi-Oh!, even though he's obviously Keith. Made more absurd in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, where he still has his Verbal Tic.
  • Subverted in Cromartie High School: a new guy comes to Cromartie and claims to have changed in his personality, re-igniting certain principles of badness once lost in the students. They don't know who the heck he is, though, because they've never seen his face before - because Masked Takenouchi realizes that he forgot to put on his mask.
  • Inverted in Death Note, where Near dons a dramatic mask for Light's benefit.
  • Subverted in a filler episode of Naruto, where Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke spend an entire episode debating what secret Kakashi might possibly be hiding under his mask: abnormally thick lips, buck teeth or some other facial anomaly. They try and trick him to take it off but have all of their plans fail, until he finally offers to remove it. Under is mask is... another mask.
  • This is a common occurrence in the more plot-involved arcs of Detective Conan due to characters existing on both good and bad sides who are masters of disguise. Often the disguises are used to protect the identities of the main characters when facing off against the Black Organization, and usually the masks will come off once they're no longer necessary. One of the more notable instances is in episode 345, where Heiji had disguised himself as Shinichi, Conan was disguised as Haibara, and Vermouth had been Dr. Araide for multiple appearances. All three of them end up dramatically unmasking during the events of that night.
  • At the beginning of the finale in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo, Vinegar Doppio walks behind a pillar when approaching Polnareff and emerges from the other side as Diavolo, the main villain of the storyline. Even though the audience is in on this at this point it comes as a huge shock to Polnareff.
  • After Kinnikuman defeats Warsman with the Kinniku Buster, Warsman struggles to his feet, relates his tragic backstory (Especially dramatic as he had been The Voiceless until then), and removes his own mask, revealing his circuit board face. As this was a mask-removal death match, it's a signal of surrender.
  • Lupin III: A Master of Disguise and expert in Latex Perfection, Lupin loves to take off his disguises as he escapes his crimes, usually to taunt the target of his thefts and/or Inspector Zenigata.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion. Not that we can't guess who it is earlier, but Asuka yanking off her fullface helmet in the Action Prologue of 3.0 reveals her Eyepatch of Power for those who weren't spoiled by the trailers.

     Comic Books  
  • Partly Spider-Man during Marvel's Civil War arc. While it has this effect on the people watching him in the story (and is a Dramatic Unmask in delivery), the readers already know who he is.
    • Played perfectly straight, however, when the Green Goblin originally unmasked himself as Norman Osborn during Stan Lee's original run on the title after Steve Ditko left and John Romita Sr. took over on art.
  • Batman, who is Crazy-Prepared is seldom dramatically unmasked. The plot contrives to stop those who would unmask him before it happens. Or he's wearing another mask under the first one so he remains masked even if he removes the cowl. This makes it much more dramatic on the rare occasions when the mask does come off — most memorably when he pulled it off himself to show Joe Chill, his parents' killer, who he really was.
    • Him not figuring the finer details about it this how Hugo Strange figured out his Secret Identity, by... pulling his mask off.
    • He's sometimes Crazy-Prepared enough to cover his upper face with paint or another mask in anticipation of being unmasked, so as to still conceal his identity. One time when Batman was trapped at gunpoint by Gotham Police and they ordered him to unmask himself. He did it... only to reveal a blond guy who is nothing like Bruce Wayne.
    • Sometimes in the animated series, he wears a mask over his cowl, so he can take the former off dramatically before kicking the bad guys' asses.
    • Once, Batman fought the Red Hood to a standstill; during which RH managed to strip Bats of one glove and his utility belt before ripping his mask off. Stoically, Bruce made no attempt to cover his face. His secret was safe, however: The street they're fighting on was empty and the Red Hood, aka Jason Todd, already knew.
      • ...who himself has just performed his own Dramatic Unmask, with a twist: he's wearing a Domino Mask under his helmet, which of course doesn't hinder Batman recognizing him in the least. Later, a villain asks him why he wears a mask under his helmet, to which he answers:
        Red Hood: I did it once for dramatic effect and then it just got to be a habit.
    • In Grant Morrison's run on Batman and Robin spent twelve issues building up speculation around who mysterious masked man Oberon Sexton was, with many readers speculating that it might be Bruce Wayne himself. In a dramatic unmasking, he is revealed to be The Joker.
    • During Batman: No Man's Land, when the people left in Gotham after the earthquake were left to form communities and territories and fend for themselves, Commissioner Gordon feels betrayed by Batman, thinking that he had abandoned them for a while. They meet in Gordon's yard for a confrontation that lasts an entire issue, laying bare what each means to the other, culminating in Batman trying to earn his friend's trust by removing his mask. Gordon refuses to look, but appreciates the gesture, and they make up.
    • During the Hush arc Batman finally unmasks to Catwoman thereby progressing their relationship.
  • An issue of Young Justice has a group of young heroes on a camping trip playing Truth or Dare. Robin is challenged to remove his mask. Turns out he's as Crazy-Prepared as Batman himself and has decided to wear an inner mask for the occasion to preserve his identity.
  • This is the emotional climax of JLA: Year One. The newly-formed League is struggling with confusion and mistrust; disheartened, they start to turn away from each other...and Flash pulls off his cowl and announces his name. After a beat, the others follow suit.
  • Also used in JLA: Tower of Babel, in what is essentially Mark Waid riffing on his own earlier storyline a generation later. In Year One the breakdown in trust is caused by Martian Manhunter making contingency plans against every super on the planet and an enemy making use of them; in Tower of Babel the same thing happens with Batman's countermeasures. Batman leaves the League in the aftermath, but later rejoins after allowing everyone into the Batcave with all the computer files unlocked, and revealing himself as Bruce Wayne.
    • While everyone is pretty gobsmacked at that, that's nothing to the reactions when Clark Kent introduces himself. Most of the younger League didn't realize Superman even had a secret identity.
  • In the "Trial of The Flash" story arc, the Flash was forced to unmask when he was on the witness stand. Fortunately, he had just been in a horrific battle with a baddie, destroying his face, and had taken the opportunity to get plastic surgery; so he reveals a face that looks nothing like Barry Allen's.
  • Subverted/lampshaded in the Buffy Season 8 comics: Twilight starts to unmask himself, but only because his neck itches. He never lifts it past his chin.
    • Played straight in the penultimate story arc when he unmasks himself as Angel.

     Film  
  • Batman Returns. Bruce rips the plastic mask off dramatically.
  • Undercover Brother. The title character, while masquerading as an elderly janitor and James Brown.
  • Khan's removal of his mask in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. For a reveal where it's doubtful that anyone didn't realize who it was going to be, Ricardo Montalban still does it masterfully.
  • Inquisitor Makkabeus from Damnatus amd a second time, as he rips it off again during his battle of wills with Nira.
  • Parodied in The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (a bad Sherlock Holmes spoof, featuring Holmes's incompetent great-grandson and Watson's incompetent grandson). At the end, Watson strips off his Latex Perfection disguise—he's really Mrs. Hudson, the housekeeper, and she's really an American villain out to destroy the world.
  • One classic example is more a classic unhooding in The Adventures of Robin Hood, when the King reveals himself to the Merry Men. The shedding of a stark plain black cloak for the bright red and gold tunic and armor makes for a powerful impression.
  • Happens multiple times in works featuring the Predator; where the creature removes its mask to reveal its face. Many times accompanied by "You are one ugly motherfucker."
  • At the end of the original Halloween (1978), Michael Myers is finally unmasked to reveal...a surprisingly attractive man.
  • The Scream series is probably one of the biggest examples, having all seven killers of the franchise unmask themselves to the ever-Final Girl Sidney Prescott, either by attacking her directly, or by killing one of her friends in front of her.
    • The only exception is Charlie from Scream 4, who reveals himself to the audience (but not Sidney) by stabbing his Ship Tease and leaving her for dead. He does promptly reveal himself to Sidney right afterwards, though.
  • Meet the Robinsons: Parodied when Bowler Hat Guy dramatically rips his clothes in front of Wilbur to reveal he is still wearing the same baseball uniform that he used when he was Goob, Wilburís roommate at the orphanage.
  • Our introduction to the villain of The Evil That Men Do, which opens with a masked Torture Technician lecturing a group of army officers.
    "Now the hood which serves to separate the interrogator and subject psychologically is not always necessary. There are times when one does without it."
    (removes his hood to show the face of a white-haired, dignified-looking man)
  • Lord d'Arcy unmasks the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (1962) when he confronts him, and promptly runs away at the sight of his face, never to be seen again.

     Literature  
  • While on Adumar, Wedge Antilles wears a lavender half-mask when he doesn't want to be recognized and swarmed by a crowd that half-worships him for his Improbable Piloting Skills. Twice he takes it off to reveal himself to other offworlders, once to Admiral Rogriss, later to Iella Wessiri.
  • Chris Wooding's Broken Sky series has one of these at the end of Act One, where Ryushi learns that the Spirit-Mask Warrior; the one responsible for killing his father is, in fact, his elder brother Takami.
  • Deconstructed along with many other tropes in Soon I Will Be Invincible. Supervillain Dr Impossible dreams of the day he will do this on finally defeating his Arch-Nemesis ColdFire, revealing himself as the nerdy college kid who created ColdFire in a Disastrous Demonstration. When he does so, ColdFire doesn't recognise him at all.
  • The Saga of Arrow-Odd: As king of Greece, Odd vows that he will find out the true identity of the mysterious King Quillanus of Novgorod, a great conqueror who always wears a mask. Odd lands an army in Russia and challenges Quillanus to a tournament. After three days of indecisive jousting, both agree that they are equally strong, and Quillanus suggests they make peace with each other. Odd wants to accept on the condition that Quillanus reveals his true identity to him. Quillanus takes off his mask, revealing the scarred face of Odd's arch-enemy Ogmund Eythjolfslayer.

     Live Action TV  
  • Power Rangers does this for a lot of Sixth Rangers. A particularly memorable one is the White Ranger from the second season, who turns out to be Tommy.
    • It's also quite dramatic when a Ranger is forced to unmask (or re-mask) and reveal his or her identity to a friend or family member who has been outside the loop thus far. Particularly memorable is Wes's cracked helmet revealing his identity to his father and Eric.
  • The Mexican talk show Contrapunto ended up playing host to one of these in 1984 when longtime lucha libre icon El Santo publicly unmasked for the first time in his 50 year career. This is widely considered to have been Santo's way of saying goodbye to his fans as he died a week later from a heart attack.
  • Leela does this to Magnus Greel in the Doctor Who serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Sharaz Jek does this to himself in The Caves of Androzani. Neither result is pretty.

     Music  
  • The cover of KISS Unmasked is done comic book style, where the members of KISS take off their masks to reveal their true faces...which look just like their masks.

     Video Games  
  • In Xenosaga episode III, the Red Testament takes off his mask and reveals himself to be Kevin, Shion's dead lover.
    • Also in Xenosaga episode III, the White Testement removes his mask, revealing himself to be Albedo, the Big Bad of the second game. A Genre Savvy gamer would have been able to guess his identity before hand, however.
  • Darth Revan takes off the mask in a scene of Knights of the Old Republic. It turns out Revan is the main character!
  • Happens early in Golden Sun, with Felix.
  • DiZ does it near the end of Kingdom Hearts II, although the "dramatic" part is debatable.
    • Played a tad bit straighter with Vanitas, The Dragon of Birth by Sleep, during the Final Episode. Holy... Namely, the fact that he has Sora's face, but with black hair and yellow eyes.
  • Master Chief takes off his helmet at the end of Halo but his head is conveniently off-screen. And if someone somehow looks at him anyway... he's got another helmet under the first one.
  • The Shyguy victory animation from ''Mario Power Tennis'' actually shows him walking up to the podium where Luigi will give him his trophy, but he trips on the last step before the top, causing his mask to fall off. Luigi sees the Shyguy's face (but the player doesn't) and is freaked out before the Shyguy puts his mask back on and takes his trophy.
    • This was also reused in Mario Strikers Charged Football.
  • An inverted variation happens in Overlord II, where Florian confirms his identity as the Emperor by putting the mask on.
  • Mother 3: The Masked Man removed his mask. The face underneath looked just like Lucas. It was Claus.
  • Persona 4 has Teddie removing his head to show he's human. In his first try, Yosuke stops him because there's kids watching and they'll be scarred for life when they see an empty mascot.
  • In Phi's ending of Virtue's Last Reward, K takes off his mask and armor to reveal that he is the old woman. This is surprising because in K's own ending, which is required in order to unlock the Phi ending, Sigma took off K's mask and saw his own face.
  • In Dishonored, the player has the option to do this if they confront Hiram Burrows directly in his safehouse.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Archangel's recruitment mission sees him remove his helmet and reveal his identity to Commander Shepard. It's Garrus Vakarian, squadmate from the first game and a good friend of Shepard's.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, the Ascian Lahabrea removes his mask and hood after the Player Character's rescue mission in a Garlean base, to reveal Thancred underneath.

     Web Comics  

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  
  • Justice League and Justice League Unlimited: While neither character's Secret Identity is ever a plot point, both Hawkgirl's and The Question's unmaskings are presented as dramatic, romantic scenes.
    • Invoked but averted during the "Freaky Friday" Flip episode — Lex Luthor, while in The Flash's body, decides to take off his mask and check a mirror. However, he has no idea who he's looking at.
      • This is also an inside joke aimed at the actor who voices Flash in the JLA animated series, Michael Rosenbaum, who also plays Lex Luthor on Smallville.
      • Same thing once happened in the comics. Heat Wave, one of Barry Allen's Rogues, finally got his old enemy's mask off but didn't recognize him. (This can trigger a little Fridge Logic: why do bad guys think they'll recognize the hero with his mask off, anyway?) Barry then had to worry that the villain might someday put a name to the face he'd seen, but Heat Wave's eventual Heel-Face Turn removed that danger.
      • This trope backfired a little differently on Manfred Mota, a one-shot villain. Mota had fought the first two Flashes and thought they were the same man in different costumes. When he powered himself up to fight the third, he won easily, and triumphantly unmasked his foe to the public — who already knew. Wally West had recently made his identity public. Oops.
    • End of season 2: To avoid detection from an occupying army, Martian Manhunter suggests hiding in plain sight in civilian clothes. Not a problem for MM, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, who don't have secret identities to begin with, leaving just Flash, Superman, and Batman. Flash expresses doubt, saying that while he trusts everybody, he's not sure if he's ready to reveal his identity. Batman, completely living up to his legacy, proceeds to list off their identities, ending with himself as he pulls off his cowl. As Flash puts it "...Showoff.".
  • The last episode of Batman Beyond had Terry pull off his mask during a rescue attempt in order to convince a kid that it was okay to trust him. Bruce is understandably livid, explaining that because: a) the kid knows what Terry looks like and b) he said he saw Batman's face when he was interviewed afterwards, every villain in the city will be after him for that information. It gets subverted when, subjected to a mental probe, the kid has already replaced Terry's face with the face of his favorite cartoon hero.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Amon's face is revealed twice. When Korra confronts him in the auditorium, she asks him to take it off and he does, but he has put suitable makeup on that makes it look like he got burned. However, the next time (and last time) his mask comes off is in the water in Yue Bay when he is thrown out the window of the pro-bending arena; his mask then floats to the surface.
  • Subverted in South Park: Cartman convinces fourth-grade superhero Mysterion to take off his mask and reveal his identity in order to prevent threats to public safety (ŗ la The Dark Knight); Mysterion complies, only to reveal that because the face of every fourth-grader on the show looks exactly the same, it is impossible for the viewers to know his true identity. Cartman and the rest of the characters, however, recognize him immediately.
    • In a later episode, it is revealed that Mysterion is Kenny.
  • In Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spidey unmasks himself because he wants to show trust to Angelica and Bobby, who he's figured out are Firestar and Iceman, respectively. And they're both shocked to discover he is Peter. Particularly Bobby.
  • During part of the beginning of The Great Mouse Detective, when Basil is disguised, full-body, as a fat white Chinese rat.
  • Virtually every woman with a speaking part who isn't a regular on the old G.I. Joe cartoon was, in fact, either the Baroness or Zaranna in disguise, complete with a scene in which she pulled off a Mission: Impossible-style face mask to reveal her true identity to the always astounded Joes. Especially hilarious in one episode where a woman wearing glasses turned out to be the Baroness wearing her usual glasses under a mask which had its own pair of glasses.
  • Twice in one episode by Robin from Teen Titans, appropriately named Masks. He turns out to be Red X, wearing his Robin mask under the Red X mask. Unfortunately, it was insanely obvious since Scott Menville sounds the same in every role he plays.
  • Tighten actually does this near the end of Megamind during the scene where he decides that he's better off as a villain and starts destroying the city.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes follows up a fight between the Avengers and Black Panther with the latter removing his mask to reveal himself as not just any intruder, but Wakadan prince T'Challa.
  • In the Grand Finale of Danny Phantom, after Danny saves the world, he reveals his half ghost status to his parents, as well as a dozen other people. Fanon likes to exaggerate whether or not the whole world knows the truth.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien features the return of villainous Time Master Eon. He's going from timeline to timeline, trying to wipe out every Ben Tennyson, not just the one who foiled him (who turns out not to be ours; Race Against Time was an AU.) His Mooks get unwillingly unmasked first; for the full impact, read the "someone else unmasks him" section first. No, really. We'll wait. Okay, after that, Eon gives us his Motive Rant, and finally takes off his own helmet: he is in fact also an alternate Ben, who feels There Can Be Only One. Of course, this clashes with the portrayal of Eon in Race Against Time, but this could always be a different Eon.

     Real Life  
  • This news story about a would-be real-life superhero on trial:
    Jones put his mask back on after the hearing to speak with reporters ó then dramatically removed it again to reveal his true identity.

Unmasked by Other Characters

     Anime and Manga  
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Chrono captures and forcibly removes the disguise of the Mysterious Protector, sending the mask spinning, revealing them to be the Cat Girl familiars of Gil Graham.
  • An interesting aversion occurs in Jubei-chan season 2, Ninja Mikage manages to unmask Freesia in a fight....but Freesia is in her adult form, and has never used it for anything but fighting the main characters; so it's meaningless.
  • Yuri Killian does this in Kaleido Star to confirm his suspicion that the mysterious "masked performer" showing up his newly-bought Kaleido Stage is really Layla Hamilton, who allegedly quit performing.
  • At the climax of the first season of Code Geass, Suzaku shoots Zero's mask, splitting it in half and revealing Lelouch's face under it. This act is pretty much entirely symbolic, since it's all but said that Suzaku had already figured things out but didn't want to admit that Lelouch, his best friend since they were children, could be Zero.
  • In Sailor Moon, while Tuxedo Mask's identity]] is known rather early to the audience, some versions still do this scene. The first anime has Zoicite knock off his mask - but in a subversion, nobody except Beryl and Zoicite see his face. The manga actually does this out of order - after rescuing an unconscious Sailor Moon in battle, Tuxedo Mask takes her back to his apartment. When she wakes up, she sees Mamoru, still wearing some of his uniform but otherwise already unmasked. He lets her put his mask on his face as she puts two and two together.
    • In the Live Action version, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Moon realizes who he is when they unknowingly replay an arguement they've had earlier on in their civilian guises. She slowly reaches to unmask him and Mamoru realizing the jig is up, doesn't resist.
  • Bleach: Sajin Komamura blocks an attack on his friend using his helmet, breaking it apart and revealing that he is an anthropomorphic wolf. While the scene is played up a bit for drama, no one present actually cares what he looks like.
  • In Medabots, Space Medafighter X gets badly injured, and his golden mask begins to crack. When it is broken it reveals... a second, white mask! Space Medafighter X is really the Phantom Renegade!
  • One Piece
    • This trope is toyed with in one point where it's strongly implied that the other characters have met Iron Mask Duval before. (Luffy even claims that the crew should know his face.) When Duval's helmet is finally kicked off, it turns out that Duval is a total stranger. The crew only knew his face because it was identical to the poorly done sketch used by the Marines for Sanji's wanted poster.
    • The CP9 reveal their true identities during the Water 7 arc in One Piece.
  • Schwarz Bruder from Mobile Fighter G Gundam is eventually seen without his mask near the end of the series (although one character had already seen his face before that point) and at this point it is revealed that Schwarz Bruder is actually Kyoji Kasshu.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, after Zechs Marquise finds himself distancing himself from OZ's leadership and rebels by rebuilding Wing Gundam, he's sentenced to Trial by Combat. Over the course of the battle, his mask cracks and finally shatters, at which point he drops his former identity as OZ's Lightning Count. He still uses the Zechs Merquise name, but only as an alternative to his real name, Milliardo Peacecraft.
  • In Naruto this is played very straight when Tobi finally gets his mask torn off his face, only to reveal that he's Obito Uchiha, a former disciple of the main character's father. The unmask is also "dramatic" in that Naruto smashes the mask in question with a rasengan. The worst part about this is that he was battling not only Naruto, but also Bee, Gai, and Kakashi.
  • Being a pastiche of pro-wrestling, Kinnikuman has had numerous unmaskings and near-unmasking, especially during the Dream Tag Tournament, with Neptuneman and Big The Budo stealing masks to give to their underlings. Also, by the laws of the Kinniku Tribe, if any Kinniku shows is unmasked, they must take their lives.
  • Lupin III: On the rare occasions Inspector Zenigata figures out Lupin's schemes, he usually gets the privilege of unmasking Lupin after the thief is captured. Unfortunately, the Crazy-Prepared Lupin usually giggles and escapes anyway, since he always has another trick up his sleeve. Or in his shoe. Or even in the mask itself...

     Comic Books  
  • Watchmen, both the comic and the movie, shows the police finally apprehending and forcefully unmasking Rorschach. To surprise of the audience, he turns out to be a previously introduced background character.
  • Roger Stern's original run on the Spider-Man comics of the 1980s introduced the Hobgoblin, the fourth replacement of the then-deceased original Green Goblin. Unfortunately, the mystery of the Hobgoblin's true identity was dragged out for literally years on end and as various writers and editors took the place of Stern and Danny Fingeroth, it was forgotten whom Roger Stern had intended the Hobgoblin to be. The way Tom DeFalco continued the saga made many people think that it was Ned Leeds, only Christopher Priest (then Jim Owsley) sabotaged that by summarily killing off Ned Leeds in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1. In the end the matter was dropped into Peter David's lap to resolve at short notice in one issue, and he decided that Leeds had been the Hobgoblin all along. It wasn't until Stern returned for a few issues to the Spider-titles years later that he had the real Hobgoblin returned and Spider-Man unmasked him as fashion mogul Roderick Kingsley. Many fans cheered, but many others reacted with: "Who???" The "real Hobgoblin" subsequently had his ass handed to him by the original Green Goblin (returning from the dead) and wasn't used in the mainstream Spider-books for the years, not returning until a brief appearance during "Big Time".
  • A Darkwing Duck comic in Disney Adventures had Mondo the Mad Mask Misappropriator, who unmasks heroes. He almost gets Darkwing but he had several masks on under his Domino Mask.
  • Subverting this is a Running Gag in Ultimate Spider-Man. Peter Parker gets dramatically unmasked frequently, but no one ever has any idea who he is, since he's just some high school student.
  • Subverted even more in the original Amazing Spider-Man series where Doctor Octopus unmasks him in front of the other students who immediately recognize Peter but refuse to believe a geek like him could possibly be Spider-Man. They even convince Doc Ock himself that he caught not the real Spidey but just some kid in a cheap costume, preserving Peter's secret.
  • In the Story Arc The Trial Of The Flash, Barry Allen's lawyer, having guessed who he is, decides this would be a huge mitigating factor; no jury will convict a man for saving his bride-to-be from his first wife's murderer. So she unmasks him in open court — to reveal a face we've never seen before. The explanation? Barry recently took severe facial damage in a fight and was fixed up by his friend Solovar in Gorilla City. At that time he asked for a favour, and now we know what it was: instead of repairing his old face, he had Solovar make him a new one, right down to the hair color. (Barry's life was a mess at this point, and he intended to start a new one after the trial.) This wrecks his lawyer's plan, but Barry is ultimately acquitted anyway, and he gets his old face back in time for his big Heroic Sacrifice in the Crisis.

     Cross Media  

     Film  
  • William Wallace in Braveheart unmasks one of his opponents in the Battle of Falkirk, revealing him to be Robert the Bruce, who William thought was an ally.
  • Ever After: when the Wicked Stepmother unmasks Danielle at the Masquerade Ball, it wouldn't really matter - except she then proceeds to tear Danielle's false identity to shreds.
  • Happens to Aladdin with his Prince Ali disguise (first by Jasmine, then by Jafar) although without an actual mask.
  • The Legend of Zorro has the eponymous hero being captured and unmasked by the bad guys, who also have his wife and child in tow. Elena already knows his identity as do the audience; the only important character it's a reveal for is his son.
  • Cars 2 featured a variation of this: At the end of the film, Mater actually lifts up Miles Axlerod's hood to confirm the fact that he is really the evil mastermind behind the Lemons.
  • Both subverted and played straight in Spider-Man 2. While saving a train full of people, the lenses on his mask are damaged and he rips the whole thing off to see better. Later, when he's recovering with the help of the people he saved, it's not dramatic because no one recognizes him, and they give him his mask back in gratitude. Played straight later on when captured and brought to Harry Osborn who rips the mask off and does recognize him.
  • Parodied in Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth, wherein the villain has so many masks that the characters unmasking him eventually grow bored and the unmasking itself stops being dramatic.
  • The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (1962) dramatically removes his mask before swooping in to rescue Christine from a Falling Chandelier of Doom.

     Live Action TV  
  • Done in the finale of The Prisoner with Number One. Turns out that Number One is a monkey. Only that happens to be a mask as well, so there's another Dramatic Unmask. This time, it reveals Number Six.
    • In an earlier episode, A, B, and C, Number Six's dreams are being tapped into and viewed by Number Two - in his dream, No. 6 makes a big show of unmasking the mystery man behind his resignation... Number Two! It turns out 6 got wise to the dream tapping technique and fixed it so he could consciously alter his dream and mess with his captors' heads.

    Pinball 
  • In Cirqus Voltaire, completing "Unmask Voltaire" reveals that the Ringmaster is actually Madame Voltaire, who was also the Announcer throughout the game.

     Video Games  
  • Whenever Kirby defeats Meta Knight, his mask breaks apart and you see...Meta Knight is basically a blue-colored Kirby. How cute! He promptly wraps his cloak over his face and retreats.
  • Vega of Street Fighter has scenes like this. Though his identity is known anyway and the mask is only to protect his face, several adaptations of the games still make a big deal out of him being unmasked by other people and thus having to show his face. Some of the games let the player knock off the mask themselves. He also has a taunt where he takes off his mask himself, and his Time Over defeat pose has him remove the mask and crush it in his hand.
  • The Knights of the Old Republic example above is, of course, inspired by the scene in The Empire Strikes Back with Luke and the hallucinatory Darth Vader.
  • In the Water Path to Frozen Essence, Mina accidentally pulls off the Oracle's hood enough to see his face. The player doesn't recognize the character (whose face isn't shown in any other path), but Mina does and the shock is enough to break her out of her Trauma-Induced Amnesia.
  • In Persona 4, Yosuke tries to remove Teddie's mask, only to see it's empty inside.
  • In K's ending of Virtue's Last Reward, Sigma takes off K's mask only to find his own face behind it.

     Web Comic  

     Web Original  
  • Actually a dramatic re-masking in Italian Spiderman, where Italian Spiderman rips off the face of his enemy to reveal it to be his enemy Captain Maximum who wears a luchador's mask.

     Western Animation  
  • Spoofed in an episode of American Dad!. Roger poses as a college professor, but things go horribly wrong when his "seize the day" philosophy causes a student to murder his father. Near the end, Roger admits that he isn't even a professor, and demonstrates by ripping the patches off his jacket's elbows, causing the student to gasp in shock.
    • In another episode:
    Stan: Give it up, Roger!
    Roger: I'm not Roger, I'm the Phantom!
    (Stan pulls off "The Phantom"'s mask)
    Stan: (gasps) Roger!
    Roger: Well, yeah, I...what?
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Blue Spirit", Aang does this to the mysterious rescuer Blue Spirit, revealing Zuko, his main enemy.
  • In The Legendof Korra, Amon unmasks himself in order to reveal his scar in front of a shocked audience. The mask is knocked off a second time when Korra sends him out of a window and into the ocean. At this point, the scar is revealed to have been fabricated, and his true identity as Noatak is revealed.
  • Subverted many times in the Belphegor series. Each time the protagonists corner Belphegor to unmask him or come close to uncovering his identity, it turns out either that the unmasked man isn't really him or he manages to destroy the evidence of his identity before they get to it.
  • In The Legend of Zelda episode "Sing For A Unicorn" Sing attacks Link and Zelda, and they presume she's a monster for a short while. When they work out she's human they grab her and unmask her in such a style that it's a Shout-Out to Scooby-Doo.
  • Parodied in The Mask, where Pretorius tries pulling off the hero's mask only to find another thing below (a skull, another mask). At one point, alter-ego Stanley Ipkiss's face is seen... but the hero removes that, as it is another mask.
  • Subverted in ReBoot when Bob removes Hexadecimal's mask. There's nothing underneath it and energy erupts out of the hole where the mask was. Bob has to put the mask back on her to stop her from exploding.
  • This is mandatory in nearly every episode of Scooby-Doo ever made. "Now let's see who you really are!" It's pretty much the Trope Codifier for most people.
    • Parodied (like everything else) in the Johnny Bravo / Scooby-Doo Crossover, which had them pulling off numerous masks off of one person, including this one exchange in the middle:
      Everyone: Joe Barbera?!
      Johnny: [looking at the camera] Who's that?
  • Slade is forcibly unmasked twice in Teen Titans, but both times are somehow twisted around into The Un-Reveal. In the first season, the shadows conveniently blocked his face from view, and in the fourth season, he was conveniently dead, and thus his face was nothing more than a skull.
  • Though he's already aware of her identity, Sentinel knocks off Blackarachnia's face-concealing helmet in Transformers Animated and reveals her mutated face to the audience for the first time. It's noteworthy in that Blackarachnia had spent the entire series lamenting how hideous she had become as a techno-organic, when in reality the only people who'd commented on her form thought she was smokin'. Under the helmet? It's pretty damn scary.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has The Wasp unmask Yellowjacket to reveal that her suspicions of Yellowjacket actually being Hank Pym were true.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King", it's clear Mayor Hill has no clue who the crazy guy that just put him into a Death Trap is. Until he takes off his glasses, at which point Hill does recognize him. Even though he's dressed the exact same way he was the last time Hill ever saw him... 7 years ago.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series had something similar to the comics situation, where Doc Ock unmasks Peter. However, this was during the Neogenic Nightmare arc and his powers were on the fritz. As such, when Ock saw his former student's face, that was the thing that confirmed for him it couldn't really be Spider-Man: It's just Peter, no wonder he was so easy to capture instead of leaping around and running on walls while quipping!
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien features the return of villainous Time Master Eon, as mentioned before, and he's on a mission to take down every Ben Tennyson in The Multiverse. His Mooks aren't the monkey guys from The Movie, but ninja-like warriors with lightsabers who never speak; Gwen and Kevin fight them. Finally, Gwen casts a spell that freezes them all, and de-helmets one of them. Well, now we know what he does with the alternate Bens he defeats. They're his brainwashed goons.


Domino MaskWho Was That Masked Index?Evil Mask
Double ConsciousnessIdentity IndexEnemy Within
Dramatic Necklace RemovalCostume TropesDress Code
Double Reverse Quadruple AgentDisguise TropesDressing as the Enemy
Came Back WrongImageSource/Western AnimationElite Mooks

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
100088
2