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Comic Book / The Mask

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"I must share these powers with mankind, use them to protect and serve others in need.

But first..."

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 Mask series is composed of:

Main series
  • The Mask #0 (also known as The Mask: Mayhemnote )
  • The Mask 1-4
  • The Mask Returns
  • The Mask Strikes Back
  • The Mask: The Hunt for Green October
  • The Mask: Southern Discomfort
  • The Mask: Toys in the Attic
  • The Mask: I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask

Specials and Spin-Offs


Adaptations to other Media

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. Depending on who's wearing the mask, though, the injuries can sometimes have cartoony effects on normal people, too, such as Ricky blowing up a police station... but leaving all cops inside intact, but with the old cartoony "covered with soot" effect, which they even comment on.
  • 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.
  • Back from the Dead: Stanley Ipkiss as Zombie!Big Head in the Night of the Return of the Living Ipkiss...Kinda short story.
  • 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 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.
    • In Joker/Mask there's Batman fighting against Joker!Big Head (if The Joker alone is already dangerous, here becomes up to eleven).
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Being a Villain Protagonist, expect there to be stories where Big Head comes out on top, but the biggest instance would have to be I Pledge Allegiance to The Mask. Big Head successfully gets into office and immediately begins running America as his own personal kingdom. He comes within an inch of pushing the button to start a nuclear war against the rest of the planet before his previous wearers make a suicide mission to kill him. In the chaos, they all get killed and the Mask is seemingly destroyed... only for its ethereal image to rant to the reader that they don't need it anymore, and they can create all the chaos he wants without it riding their faces. The very last panel? A shot of the Statue of Liberty with Big Head's face telling the reader "go fuck yourself".
  • Been There, Shaped History: Kathy has a dream which demonstrates the Mask being used for an African tribal ritual. Whilst it takes place at least close to the modern day, it's not too hard to believe it's been going on for longer. Since whoever wears the Mask becomes a living cartoon character, it can be inferred that this ritual is the inspiration for cartoons in general.
  • Black Box: At one point in I Pledge Allegiance, an exact replica of the mask is magiteked out of a mystical green material from Scandinavia and 3D printing technology. Despite matching the composition of the original, it does nothing.
  • 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.
  • Body Horror:
    • Walter casually cuts or mutilates himself to intimidate people.
    • 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!
  • Book Ends: 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.)
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: 'I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask' has one, where Big Head comments on his success as a "dark horse" candidate (in a Dark Horse Comics publication). He even turns to the reader and asks if they get it.
  • 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.
    (later in the issue)
    News Report: 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 is replicated near identically in Lobo/Mask when Lobo is wearing it.
    • Although he died in the first arc, Stanley Ipkiss is usually mentioned or referred to during the whole series, at least by Kathy or Kellaway. The Joker/Mask and Night of the Return of the Living Ipkiss...Kinda plays with Ipkiss' graveyard. In the former, Kellaway buries the mask in his tomb and in the latter, the Mask takes his corpse to get a Zombie!Big Head coming back for vengeance.
  • 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.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: At one point, Big Head reveals a bomb (that he himself pulled out from Hammerspace, no less) with the text "Warning: Do not strike with hammer" on it. Guess what he does.
  • Cassandra Truth: The post-Strikes Back comics typically feature Kelloway finding out that the mask has made its way to another city and traveling there to help the local cops stop it. You'd think Big Head would be a known quantity by this point but somehow the locals always chalk his warnings up to craziness.
  • 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 bleed into his normal persona.
  • Covers Always Lie: In the Joker/Mask covers, The Joker and Big Head appear together as if they were a Big Bad Duumvirate, when in reality it's just Joker!Big Head (or the Joker with the mask on). Granted, one of Joker's henchmen also briefly puts on the mask and becomes Big Head at the beginning of the first issue, so the two still get to appear together during the comic, albeit only in one issue.
  • 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, in which the Wild CATS Wild Storm member has to find a MacGuffin to Las Vegas, where another user of the Mask appears.
    • Also Joker/Mask, though it seemed to be in its own hybrid canon that combined the comics and cartoon into one. The story goes canonically after all the comic book arcs and ends with Kellaway burying the mask in Ipkiss' graveyard.
    • There is also Mask/Marshal Law.
    • The Mask: World Tour which features where Big Head travels through Comics' Greatest World.
      • Ghost also made an appearance in an issue of Adventures of the Mask. Also, there's a cameo in this issue where Big Head is one of the children's costumes with Hellboy and Madman.
    • In one issue of SpyBoy, The Protagonist's grandpa (who's a former spy) is seen watching TV in his house when a group of ninjas attack him. It's shown that he was watching the movie on TV, with Big Head appearing with his yellow outfit.
  • 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.
  • Episode of the Dead: Night of the Return of the Living Ipkiss...Kinda, a mini chapter in which the mask buried in Ipkiss' graveyard takes his corpse to come Back from the Dead as Zombie!Big Head.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Stanley!Big Head 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.
  • Evil Versus Evil: In the early comics, pretty much everyone is a villain. The rare exception might be Walter who is still more of an Anti-Hero along with Masked Kellaway and Masked Kathy who are heroic unlike Stanley.
  • Fan Film: Various has been released, most of them are made as sequels for The Movie:
    • 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 here.
    • Also before this, in 2014 received another fan film, called Return of the Mask based on The Movie.
    • And before those two, there's also The Mask Strikes Back (nothing to do with the comic book arc) made by the same team who made the fan film Batman: Duality.
  • From Bad to Worse: Explicitly observed by Batman in Joker/Mask; where the Mask normally brings out the wearer's repressed desires, since the Joker "wears his innermost desires on his sleeve", all the Mask does is basically make him unstoppable.
  • Gorn: Big Head's bloody trail of victims are depicted with realistic gore and without censorship, as are Walter's self mutilation habits.
  • G-Rated Stoner: One of the four friends of The Mask Strikes Back is Hugo, a former stoner who mantains the stereotype (especially the baggy eyes and clothes) despite continuously saying he left "that" behind a year ago.
  • Grey-and-Black Morality: This can happen with the benevolent mask personas when they show themselves to be good people (despite being chaotic) and their enemies are the worst kind of people on the planet. It helps that the benevolent mask personas have redeeming qualities such as love, care, compassion, kindness, and having cartoonish traits which makes them funny and endearing, while their enemies don’t have any of that.
  • God of Chaos: In general the series is about the eponymous Mask made by magical African Indians (in The Movie was made by the god Loki) who converts its wearer into "Big Head", a unstoppable agent of chaos capable of blowing an entire city to ashes, depending on the user of course.
  • 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.
  • Hammerspace: Characters often wonder where Big Head gets all of his weapons. That's assuming the Mask isn't literally creating matter from nothing, anyway (and even Kathy - while wearing the Mask - wonders where her own weapons came from).
  • 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.
  • Hero-Worshipper: The four boys from The Mask Strikes Again are all fans of Big Head and follow his "feats", especially the anarchist Rick, who even has a drawing/picture of Big Head in his jacket.
  • 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 Am Not Shazam: Before the film came out, the green-headed character was The Big Head Killer, not The Mask.
  • 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.
  • Invincible Villain: Being a borderline Reality Warper in a setting with little to no competition, Big Head is effectively unbeatable. Walter is the closest thing he has to a peer in combat, and even then, the big guy's record against him is pretty awful. Most of the time, when even large numbers of well-armed people try to engage him, what follows is an extravagant showcase of brutality. Several comics involve the idea that the only good way to get rid of Big Head is to get him to take off the mask and then either kill the user or convince them not to put it on again (which is difficult, to say the least). Even then, this is a temporary measure, as the mask itself is indestructible and has an unerring tendency to find new wearers.
  • The Juggernaut: Walter.
  • The Jekyll Is a Jerk: Loss of Inhibitions or not, quite a few Mask users are seen to be total jerks even without the Mask, most prominently Stanley Ipkiss. Unlike his movie counterpart (who had the benefit of both Adaptational Heroism and Adaptational Nice Guy) Stanley was petty, jerkish, and cowardly; becoming Big Head just made his sick dreams come true and while he's nowhere near as Ax-Crazy as Big Head, he's enough of a Psychopathic Manchild to gloat over what he did even once he removed the Mask.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Some mask wearers such as Kathy, Kellaway, Eric Martins, Ray Tuttle and his daughter Emily are chaotic like the rest of the mask personas, but unlike the others, they tend to have more control of their actions and even have the ablilty to feel gulity when they go too far. They can be heroic as well, and do their best to keep innocent people away from their fights. They also care about their loved ones, such as Eric, who went on a rescue mission to save his sister from people who wanted to sacrifice her, and Ray and Emily, the latter of whom also saves a bunch of kids from being bullied, empathizing with them due to being a victim of bullying herself.
  • 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 (except Walter, who's immune to the mask, for the surprise of all.)
  • 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.
    • Adventures of The Mask comic series is this as it is a part of the animated series and it features The Mask who is a Cloudcuckoolander and also a good-hearted superhero instead of Big Head who is a violent Anti-Hero and a supervillain sometimes as well.
    • 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.
  • Motion Comic: The Mask: The Origin released in 1995 is an interactive CD-ROM adaptation of Big Head's Origin Story (The Mask: Mayhem) but animated and with voices (and very rare to find nowadays.)
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kellaway 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.
    • Ray Tuttle has this reaction as well in The Hunt for Green October, after learning one of his victims died of a heart attack.
  • 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 safekeeping after trying and failing to destroy it. When he finds he can't trust himself with it, he buries it 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.
  • Petty Childhood Grudge: One of Big Head's first victims is a school teacher who bullied Stanley when he was a kid. Stanley held onto that grudge well into adulthood, with the Mask allowing him to finally settle the score.
  • 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.
  • President Evil: I Pledge Allegiance to The Mask is about a politician who wears the Mask and goes to make Big Head a presidential candidate.
  • 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 story 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.
  • Ship Tease: A moment between Kathy and Kellaway in the fourth comic.
  • Slasher Smile: Whoever the user is, 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.
  • Spin-Off Babies: Itty Bitty Mask miniseries.
  • 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.
  • The Stoic: Walter.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Played with with Kellaway in The Mask Returns. He gets shot down by mobsters while trying to find the Mask, but isn't killed. He spends the rest of the story arc in a coma, but he gets better for the next 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 of the four boys, Hugo the junkie, 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.
  • Wham Shot: Issue 3 of I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask starts with one. During a flashback that happens 2 years prior to the events of the story, Big Head takes out a group of Neo-Nazis, and we then see who was the wearer of the Mask this time; it’s Lionel Ray, Kellaway’s former partner.
  • 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. See Those Wacky Nazis.