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No Face Under the Mask

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When a character always wears a mask, one will wonder what his face really looks like. Sometimes it turns out that he doesn't have a face. Instead of some kind of mundane climax or anticlimax, we get thrown straight into Nightmare Fuel territory: Instead of a face, the character has some kind of blank slate, rotten mess, arcane forcefield or other completely inhuman thing that does not qualify as being a face.

Also happens when someone mistakes a suit of Animated Armor for a person.

Not exactly a Sub-Trope of The Faceless or The Blank, since those tropes are character types and this trope is a situation where a character transitions to the second trope from one specific subtype of the first trope. It's a kind of The Reveal as well as a kind of The Unreveal. As such, expect unmarked spoilers. Compare Not a Mask, where what you'd see if you took the "mask" off would probably still be pretty bad.

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Celty from Durarara!! wears a motorcycle helmet to conceal that she is a dullahan and thus has no head.
  • In Fate/stay night, True Assassin wears a white mask to conceal the fact that he doesn't have a face.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
    • Alphonse Elric appears to be a large man wearing a medieval suit of plate armor, unless his faceplate is lifted or his helmet is knocked off, revealing empty space. (Technically it's his soul, as it was bound to the armor when his body was consumed by a failed transmutation spell, but souls are invisible.)
    • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos: Literally invoked, as the villain of the film had his face torn off by a chimera years before the events of the movie.
  • In GeGeGe no Kitaro (2018), Nanashi's true appearance behind his mask is nothing but a void of darkness, along with having a very thin tongue.
  • In the Mind Rape scene of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the hooded demons that Asuka meets are like this.

    Comic Books 
  • Sort of happened during Batman's first encounter with Anarky. Batman took Anarky's mask off, only to see a flat white plastic surface underneath. Anarky was just a teenager, so, underneath his cowl and mask, he wore a plastic mannequin part on top of his head to appear taller.
  • One JLA story had some Applied Phlebotinum separate all the heroes and their secret identities into separate people, and the separated Batman had only the barest outline of a face under his cowl. This was to symbolize that, without Bruce, the identity of Batman barely has any motivation, while Bruce himself was slowly going insane from not having an outlet for his righteous fury at crime.
  • Justice Society of America villain Johnny Sorrow was flung into Another Dimension and remade by the Eldritch Abomination that calls it home. Afterwards he is an invisible, intangible specter while wearing his mask. When he removes it, he becomes solid and reveals an other-dimensional visage so incomprehensibly hideous that all but the most powerful (or blind, or insane) of living things will instantly die at the sight of it. The reader typically only sees a bright light. The one time that it was shown, it appeared to be a disgusting, incongruous mass of tentacles.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes
    • When Sensor Girl joined and Ultra Boy used his vision powers to see under her mask, he sees a blank face. Sensor Girl is Projectra and the blank face was created with her illusion power.
    • Another Legion member, Wildfire, is really a sentient ball of energy and his body is a humanoid-shaped HAZMAT suit which contains him.
  • In the first albums of Lucifer, Mazikeen chose to have a half-face and to wear a mask over the faceless half. Mortals assume she wears it for Rule of Cool or because of some mundane injury. The Reveal freaks out at least one human enough to make a really bad choice.

    Comic Strips 
  • Downplayed in a Garfield strip where Jon puts on an ugly mask to scare Garfield. Garfield, unphased, tries to unmask Jon, only to pull the masked head clean off Jon's torso, much to his shock. Jon then reveals he somehow managed to contort himself so his face was at belly-level, with the masked face just a fake-out.
  • In SnarfQuest, Princess Penelope falls in love with Aveeare: not understanding that he is a robot and believing him to be knight in a suit of armour. At one point she sees him with visor up (as he is conducting repairs) and sees that he has no face, just circuitry which she interprets as a mass of scar tissue that has completely obliterated his facial features.
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    Film — Live Action 
  • In the Live-Action Adaptation of Fat Albert, Dumb Donald removes his ever present face-covering hat after some time in the real world to discover a rather attractive face. Once the gang returns to their world at the movies end, they're disturbed to find that everything under his hat doesn't exist, leaving a pair of eyes floating around, because nothing was ever drawn under there.

    Literature 
  • In The Doomfarers of Coramonde by Brian Daley, the general of the evil wizard's army is wearing a golden mask. Turns out he is blank under the mask: No eyes, no nose, no mouth, no nothing. The wizard must have either created him or mutilated him horribly.
  • In Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, Sheelba of the Eyeless Face wears a mask to conceal the fact that he has no eyes in his face — there's just a flat patch of skin where eye sockets ought to be. This doesn't seem to cause him any difficulty with vision, but then, he is a mighty wizard.
  • Thomas Ligotti uses this trope to drive home a rather unsettling point about identity in "The Greater Festival Of Masks". Variations on the theme also occur in "Masquerade Of A Dead Sword" and "The Last Feast Of Harlequin"; it is also used as a metaphor in several of his poems.
  • An iconic scene in The Invisible Man has the title character remove the bandages from his face to reveal that his face (and the rest of him) is indeed completely invisible. Quite likely the Trope Maker.
  • Keys to the Kingdom: The Piper has been almost completely dissolved by Nothing, and wears a mask mostly to give himself a form.
  • Robert Chambers' The King in Yellow owed an obvious debt of inspiration to Poe, though when it comes to the Stranger at its masked ball (who is probably some kind of Humanoid Abomination) the "mask" in question may be not so much an example as an inversion:
    Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
    Stranger: Indeed?
    Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
    Stranger: I wear no mask.
    Camilla: (terrified, aside to Cassilda) No mask? No mask!
  • In The Lord of the Rings, the Lord of the Nazgûl (the Witch-King) wears a mask-cum-helm to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, despite having no corporeal head beneath it. In the film version he is seen placing it atop his robe's empty shoulders, in effect defining his head. Otherwise, all the Nazgûl wear concealing hoods, which have the same function — in fact, their robes as a whole define the shape of entirely invisible bodies. Of course, with the benefit of Ring-O-Vision, Frodo gets to see 'through' to the ethereal remains of their faces.
  • When the prince unmasks the stranger in the Red Death costume at his costume party in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death", the costume is completely empty and falls to the ground, because the stranger was actually the personification of the plague.
  • One of the most famous examples is The Phantom of the Opera, who's described in the book as being hideous-looking and skull-faced underneath his mask. This has not held true of all the film adaptations, however, especially the most recent one where Gerald Butler appears to have just a mild skin rash underneath his half-mask.
  • Michael Moorcock's The Queen of the Swords. Corum uses the Hand of Kwyll to open the visor of Prince Gaynor the Damned to reveal a vaguely-face-shaped mass of rot.
    Corum stared at a youthful face which writhed as if composed of a million white worms. Dead, red eyes peered from the face and all the horrors Corum had ever witnessed could not compare with the simple, tragic horror of that visage. He screamed and his scream blended with that of Prince Gaynor the Damned as the flesh of the face began to putrefy and change into a score of foul colours which gave off a more pungent stench than anything which had issued from the Chaos Pack itself.
  • Reaper Man uses this trope when Death, as “Bill Door”, confronts the “new” Death who has arisen in his absence from duty. The old Death manifests as a skeleton, but at least it’s a human skeleton; this shows that he has some sympathy with humanity. The new Death is an immaterial spectre, and utterly inhuman.
  • Two examples in Rivers of London:
    • At the end of Moon Over Soho Lesley takes off her surgical mask and Peter's reaction is that the scars and wreckage left from Punch's possession of her means that what is left no longer qualifies as a face.
    • A variation occurs in Broken Homes: when facing off against the Big Bad of the book, the faceless man, Peter realizes he has a spell that obscures his face (thus his name). After essentially disbelieving the effect, Peter still can't see the villain's face: he is wearing a mask under the illusion.
  • Sherlock Holmes give us "The Veiled Lodger", who is described as this:
    It was horrible. No words can describe the framework of a face when the face itself is gone. Two living and beautiful brown eyes looking sadly out from that grisly ruin did but make the view more awful.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • Not only does Omega lack a face under his mask, but he doesn't even have a body. His willpower was the only thing that kept his existence. (The best part is, doesn't even realize he doesn't have a body anymore. When his mask is whipped off and it's all revealed he has a bit of a Villainous BSoD.)
    • The Headless Monks are another example, having no heads beneath their hoods.
  • Stark of Farscape has two-thirds of a normal humanoid face, while the other third is a shimmering golden energy mass with telepathic properties, normally hidden beneath a leather mask.
  • At the season six climax of Stargate SG-1, master villain Anubis sheds his mask to the ascended Daniel Jackson, who reacts with considerable surprise. Not until partway through the next season would we find out what lies beneath his mask and cloak: a black, cloudlike energy form, the physical manifestation of the "half-ascended" Anubis.

    Multiple Media 
  • BIONICLE:
    • Played with with the Toa Inika's faces: on the toys, they're featureless blanks. According to the story, their heads glow so brightly when they remove their masks that nothing can be seen of them.
    • As well, Makuta Teridax's nature as an entity composed of gas and armor is revealed in-universe when the Piraka attempt to steal his mask off his corpse, but find absolutely nothing underneath. Ironically, in the movies, he's the only character whose maskless head can be seen, and it's the same as the actual Lego piece — certain moments of Special Effect Failure do reveal that none of the other character models were given faces underneath the masks, just a flat surface with eyes.
    • The toy version of Kazi uses an all-purpose connector piece for a head, so he has no face. Krika, Bitil and Gorast also lack faces, because their masks weren't designed to fit on any head-piece — however unlike Kazi, they probably had no faces in the story either, due to being Makuta.

    Video Games 
  • In Chapter 5 of Bendy and the Ink Machine, Henry breaks Sammy Lawrence's mask during his Boss Battle, revealing him to have nothing but an inky blob of a head under it. This elicits a Don't Look at Me! from Sammy.
  • A variant shows up in Dark Cloud 2 - Osmond is a small, rabbit-shaped creature covered head to toe in clothes. When Monica asks him to lend the protagonists a hand, he considers it for a moment, then detaches his glove to give to her, revealing that he has no hand or arm underneath it.
  • Happens briefly in Diablo III when the archangel Tyrael defies Heaven. His hood falls back, revealing empty space where a face begins to form as Humanity Ensues.
  • In Kirby Star Allies, Void Termina wears a heart-shaped mask in its first and third phases. When it is knocked off, there’s nothing but a portal to its internal organs.
  • One possible answer to the question of what's under Darth Nihilus' mask in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.
  • Implied to be the case with Bobbin Threadbare and the rest of the Weavers from Loom.
    Cob: Why not? There's nothing to fear under that fine robe of yours, is there?
    Bobbin: If you fear Nothing, then you'd better not touch me.

    Webcomics 
  • In this Awkward Zombie page, Wolf and Dark Pit speculate about what Dark Samus looks like under her helmet, only to find out that there's nothing there.
  • Parodied in Dark Legacy Comics. In one strip, two characters are busy unmasking "liars", thus ruining everyone's Halloween costumes. In the end, they "unmask" a pandaren by tearing of his real face. Since he doesn't have any face left under that "mask", well, ewwww....
  • In Exiern, we have a woman who has a human body but no face or physical brain. Instead, her mask hides a swirl of bluish energy that she can use in combat. At first, the kids who run into her and knock her mask off don't realize this.
  • Flipside: The Archmage Qtalda is a child-sized figure whose clothing completely hides her body; her face is covered in bandages and a headdress. This lets her escape an apparently lethal disintegration spell. It's unclear what she does have for a body other than that it's tangible and leaves footprints.
  • Latchkey Kingdom: Willa wakes up trapped in a jellyflesh bodysuit that won't come off, and covers her mouth. But when her friend Debbie uses electricity to shock the suit off, it turns out there's nothing underneath: The jellyflesh construct has duplicated Willa's identity before being driven off.
  • Downplayed in Sidekick Girl. Declan Jade, antagonist of the Gravity arc, wears a White Mask of Doom that covers all of his face except for one eye. When he removes it, wee see that half of his face is relatively normal, but the other half is a mass of scar tissue, due to the accident that nearly killed him.
  • This is implied to be true for Leyland in Use Sword on Monster, and the possibility disturbs him greatly. Later confirmed when we learn that Leyland, or at least a different version of him, was created through the Law Of Narrative Causality and the narrator never bothered to give that Leyland a physical appearance beneath his getup.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Played for comedy in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode that introduced the supervillain Man-Ray. At the end of the episode, he takes off his mask and cowl to show his turn away from villainy... and he has no head under it, just a stump of a neck. Nobody particularly minds.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Mr. Saturday Knight," the Black Knight not only wears his helmet in the locker room, he shaves with it on; meaning he spreads shaving cream on the side of the helmet and shaves it off (and then curses under his breath when he cuts himself with the razor). Apparently, as with Man Ray above, his helmet is his head.
  • Hexadecimal of Reboot. When Bob removes her mask in one episode, there's nothing there but a hole with a bright white light pouring out if it, and she nearly explodes, which would've taken all of Mainframe with her. This does open up a bit of Fridge Logic as to how she keeps changing masks all the time without this recurring, though...
  • Slade of Teen Titans (2003) loves it. In "Masks", Robin defeats him and removes the mask, revealing the communicator screen and the self-destruct timer, since it was actually a Sladebot. In the season four finale, Slade's mask is knocked off, displaying a bare skull with a single blazing eye, as by that time he was The Undead. He gets his human body restored later, but we don't get to see his normal face.

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