To both heroes and villains, the costume holds a lot of purpose: it presents them as a symbol for their cause — be it sinister or heroic — and it makes them memorable. At the center of every great costume is the mask, iconic and protective of their identity, though not every hero and villain is on board with the latter. Regardless of whether or not villains like Dr. Doom care if their identity is known to the public, the mask is still an important part of the costume.
Comic heroes and villains have sported masks of all variety, some sticking out more than others, be it because they are unique, creative or just plain weird. A mask is a symbol, as many heroes will constantly repeat, and these comic book icons are no different. The Mask is a key part of a comic character’s identity, be it symbolic or protective. Yet, among the many masks of heroes and villains, there are a few that stand out as unique and interesting examples of costume design. Under that notion, CBR decided to go through comics and villains both old and new to find some of the most interesting masks in comic history!
15. DR. DOOM
Victor Von Doom has had a pretty messed up life. He was born to a Roma tribe in Latveria, where his sorceress mother was killed and his father, a doctor, died of exposure after “failing” to save the Latverian Baron’s wife. After getting into Empire State University and meeting Reed Richards, Victor was involved in a disfiguring accident resulting from combining magic and technology. After receiving the help and training of tibetan monks, Victor forged a suit of armor that he would use to exact his revenge on those responsible for the accident, going by the name of Dr. Doom.
Doom completed his armor with a metal mask that gives him a scowling, menacing appearance. The mask looks a bit different with each artist that draws Doom, but most depict it as an exaggerated metal version of Doom’s once un-mangled face with bolts keeping the separate pieces together.
The most recent film apperances of Spider-Man — Civil War and Homecoming —finally gave us a perfect execution of his mask’s eyes, appearing to be lenses that move with Peter’s actual eyes. This is an important aspect of not only Spider-Man’s mask, but his entire costume and superhero identity, as it remains iconic and gives the hero personality.
But enough about the eyes. The mask itself, much like the rest of Spider-Man’s costume, is covered in his signature webbing and hasn’t changed much since his first appearance. The mask is both smartly designed — the webbing comes to a circle center around the face — and it represents just how important Peter’s identity to him, as he opts for full-face coverage instead of a partial mask.
13. DR. FATE
Speaking of doctors that aren’t exactly doctors, DC Comics’ Dr. Fate has one of the more famous masks in comics. Well, technically it’s the Helmet of Fate, not a mask — a tool of Nabu, a lord of order — but whatever; semantics. Combined with the Amulet of Anubis and the Cloak of Destiny, the helmet transforms its wearer into Dr. Fate. From Kent Nelson to Hector Hall, there have been many wearers of the helmet, each struggling to maintain control of their bodies as Nabu often took control of them through the helmet.
Design-wise, the helmet is classic and iconic, looking like a solid gladiator helmet with an ancient Egyptian twist to it. The helmet may grant great power, but it also gives Nabu possible access over the host, a dangerous combination and risky trade-off.
12. HAWKMAN & HAWKGIRL
Though sometimes ridiculous, masks seem to work best when they take the hero’s theme with stride — like with Mr. Terrific and Spider-Man. A great example of this comes from the Hawks of the DC universe, Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The husband and wife super-duo have rocked the beak-and-wings masks since the very beginning. Their masks are ridiculous in a lot of ways, sure, but after having been around for so long, it’s hard to think of any other head-gear for the hawk-themed heroes.
The strongest part about their masks is that, though they are similar, they are unique to each hero, Katar’s having a more “golden-age” appearance and Shiara sporting a sleeker hawk-head. In other words, Hawkgirl’s costume didn’t completely suffer from just being a female version of Hawkman’s. Through their many redesigns, these hawk masks have stayed rather consistent over the years.
Like a few of the others on this list, Catwoman’s mask has gone through a couple of different interpretations, but the most iconic is perhaps the Darwyn-Cook-designed look, which has been the base of all her modern looks. Aside from her signature (pardon the pun) catsuit, Selina Kyle’s costume is not complete without her cat-eared cowl and goggles.
The cat ears on their own are a great look, giving her a costume that fits her name while not being too overtly silly or cheesy. On top of the cat cowl are Catwoman’s signature goggles which, in most iterations, are equipped with infrared vision and other tools useful to the thief. The goggles are also “cat-eyed” with their curved tipped ends, completing the feline motif.
10. MR. TERRIFIC
If he’s so smart, how come he doesn’t know how silly he looks? Regardless, the Mr. Terrific’s T-shaped mask is definitely interesting, playing with a classic to fit the “T motif.” Most domino masks already raise a lot of questions (how do they stay on, why does it makes eyes all white, how does it move with their brows, etc.) but this one is even stranger, since it raises a lot of questions on how the mouth works.
Perhaps the thing that makes the mask so interesting is that it’s so simple. As we said before, it expands upon a simple domino in a way that was, at the time of the character’s creation in 1997, unique and unseen. A letter as part of the costume had been done before of course, but not as a mask, which gives Mr. Terrific some unique flair.
While Invincible’s open-mouthed mask and eye-lenses might not be the most original look in comics, the way that Mark Grayson’s mask incorporates into his costume is one of the most genuinely creative choices in superhero design. The design uses a lower-case I as the center of the design, and the mask forms the “dot” of it.
This simple but brilliant “i” design is in both Invincible’s original yellow, blue and black costume, as well as his black and blue suit, which he sported for a short time before returning to the classic look. The funniest part of Invincible’s mask is that its never explained how it sticks to his neck and chest, since it’s shown that when he takes it off, the “i” is incomplete. Seems like the mask literally makes the costume in this case.
Form and function; that’s all that really needs to be said about X-Men leader Cyclops’ signature visor. Though the spandex around his head has had many interpretations — some open-haired, some “skull-capped” — Scott’s visor has remained pretty consistent over the years. The lens of the visor is made with “ruby quartz” which absorbs the energy that is constantly spewing forth from Scott’s uncontrollable optic blasts.
In most older versions, Cyclops’ visor was yellow and wrapped around his ears, where the controls are located. In later depictions, the visor has no visible control and is stated as being controlled by a button in Scott’s gloves. The more recent version featured in the Marvel Now! line gave cyclops an X-shaped visor. How he sees out of this version, however, is not exactly clear.
Daredevil’s signature look wouldn’t be complete without the horns on his mask. Through all of Daredevil’s costumes — save for the “proto-costume” look — the blind vigilante has always had horns on his mask, appropriate since “devil” is in his name. Matching the red of the rest of his costume (in most versions), the mask truly gives Daredevil a menacing and demonic look about him, especially with his signature grin.
One of the more interesting aspects of Daredevil’s mask is that the eyes are almost always depicted as red as well via the “no pupils” effect, a trait that both makes the hero look more menacing to his enemies and helps cover the fact that he is actually blind.
6. THE MASK/BIG HEAD
How could we not include a character who’s name is literally “The Mask?” The comic book character, which inspired the Jim Carrey film of the same name, is depicted as even zanier and more violent than his film counterpart. In both versions however, The Mask — originally referred to as Big Head — is actually Stanley Ipkiss, a man who comes into ownership of an ancient magic mask (of voodoo origin in some versions, the mask of Loki in others) that turns him into a cartoonishly violent and zany madman with reality-bending abilities.
The power limits of the ancient mask are never fully stated, though it’s abilities are vast. In both the comic and film, the mask gives the wearer reality manipulation, increased intelligence (at the loss of sanity and self control), superhuman strength, increased durability and super-speed.
Gotta respect a guy who’s mask matches the shape of his hair, or is it the other way around? Whichever it is, Wolverine’s mask has been a staple of superhero masks and is recognizable by even the most novice comic book readers. The mask, which hasn’t changed much since it’s first appearance, resembles that of Lucha Libre’s (Mexican wrestling) and gives Logan an inexplicable “animalistic” vibe about him.
There have been some changes to the “spikes” over the years — some artists draw them more horizontally while others slick them back flatter against Wolverine’s head — and the colors go back and forth, but the base of the look has survived through the character’s long history. It’s hard to explain what it is about Wolverine’s mask that works so well (by all variables it shouldn’t work at all), but whatever it is, it really brings together the mutant’s whole look.
Slade Wilson is so confident in his own skills that he advertises to everyone that he’s missing an eye and has a massive blind spot. Seriously, that’s ballsy. Deathstroke sports his signature chainmail armor, orange gloves, bullet strap and an array of weapons both high and low-tech. On top of these, the assassin has a rather strange, but unique mask that has remained mostly unchanged throughout his different costume designs.
Outside of his costume, Slade Wilson wears an eyepatch to cover his missing eye. This translates to his costume in the form of a two-tone mask: the right side is orange and has an eye-hole, while the left side (with his bad eye) is completely black with no openings. Again, a rather ballsy move on Deathstroke’s part, but it sure as hell makes for an interesting design.
The people of Gotham City, including most of the Bat-family, tend to refer to Batman’s mask as a “cowl,” but don’t be fooled, it’s still a mask, cowl just sounds cooler. But enough semantics, let’s get to the heart of the matter: Batman’s mask. It’s dark, it’s menacing, it’s got pointy bat ears and it’s filled with lots of tech. You can argue that it’s the utility belt or the gadgets or even the insignia that make Batman’s costume the Batman costume, but it’s hard to deny how iconic his cowl is.
The classic “white-eye” effect of the mask was originally just to make him more menacing, but in modern interactions is explained as being Wayne Tech lenses that help Batman with his detective work. The mask is also technically his entire cape, since the headpiece and cloak are the same piece. It was a given to include this mask in the list since it gives Batman his signature pointy ears.
Speaking of Deathstroke earlier, let’s talk about the Marvel parody of the character that somehow became much more popular than the original. Yes, we’re talking of course about Wade Wilson (even the names are similar) A.K.A. Deadpool, the merc with a mouth. Deadpool earned himself a place on this list not just because of his similarities to Deathstroke, but also because so much of Deadpool’s humor, appeal, iconography and expressions lie in his mask.
Deadpool’s mask gives the mercenary the classic “white eyes” effect like other heroes have, but it’s so much more than that. The mask has become not only the character’s insignia, but also a way in which his expressions and humor are amplified. This is something that the effects and costuming team on the Deadpool film worked hard to recreate.
Though not the most original or unique mask in comics history, the classic domino is definitely the most iconic mask among both superhero and supervillain costume designs. One of the most iconic uses of this mask has to be with the Boy Wonder himself, Dick Grayson. While he isn’t the first character to don the domino mask, he’s perhaps the most famous example, in both his Robin and Nightwing identities.
Originally appearing as a mask that tied fully around his head, Robin’s domino mask has survived the many redesigns of the character, same goes for his similar mask as Nightwing. Heck, even The New Batman Adventure’s version of Nightwing has a great take on the classic mask. Yes, it’s hard to deny the iconography of Dick Grayson’s domino mask, especially when his look has inspired the many sidekicks that came after him.
Which mask do you think is the coolest one worn by a hero or villain? Let us know what you think in the comics!