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How Black Mask Rose From Obscurity to Become a Top Bat-Villain

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
How Black Mask Rose From Obscurity to Become a Top Bat-Villain

This is “I’ve Been Here Before,” a feature that deals with a term that I coined called “nepotistic continuity,” which refers to the way that comic book writers sometimes bring back minor characters that they themselves created in the past as characters in their current work.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Mickey A., we look at how Black Mask took off almost A HUNDRED issues of Batman before making a triumphant return.

When Black Mask made his debut in 1985’s Batman #386, they decided to go very light on the hype for the new villain. Oh, wait, did I write “go very light on the hype?” I meant they went EXTREMELY over the top in their hype for the new character. The headline had this shockingly boastful text box on it –

Yes, crazier than the Joker. Deadlier than Ra’s Al Ghul (who, you might recall, has almost destroyed the WORLD more than a few times in his villainous career). And, of course, the decision to tie him directly to the 1980s. All fine choices.

The first page of his debut continues the hype over this new villain…

As it turned out, Roman Sionis was the son of a rich Gotham City family. He was literally dropped on his head right after he came out of his mother’s womb. He grew up friends with Bruce Wayne, but it was specifically a “mask” that he put on, which he was taught to do by his rich family. He had to always act the “proper” way and hide his inner feelings underneath the mask of refinery. There is then a sequence where he tries to pet a raccoon and it bites him. It was rabid and it messed him up as a kid. What’s weird is that the whole “rabies” thing really isn’t given a callback, so I don’t know if we’re supposed to believe that the rabies made him evil or not. Seems kind of hard to believe, right? Anyhow, he grows up and becomes an executive at his father’s cosmetic company. He also falls in love with a beautiful model. When his parents insist that he stop dating her, he kills them in a fire. He gives them fancy ebony coffins and a nice tomb.

Now that he is in charge of his family’s company, he begins to collect expensive masks. It also turns out that he’s also a moron, as he decides to invest heavily in making the company a “face paint” makeup company.

It fails miserably.

His model girlfriend starts cheating on him. He then moronically decides to produce cosmetics that bond to your face and can’t come off…

His company is ruined. It is only saved by a buyout from, of course, Bruce Wayne. Who wants to save the company out of admiration for Roman’s father. Roman visits his parents’ tomb and hijinx ensue and he ends up with a piece of his dad’s coffin and it gives him the idea to become a masked villain (as you do)…

He forms the False Face Gang…

He begins to kill off the board of directors of Janus (the cosmetics company that Wayne Foundation bailed out) via masks that not only stay on them, but poison them…

He also hunts down his now ex-girlfriend and ruins her face and forces her to become his “queen”…

Batman defeats him, but not before a fire at his parents’ tomb burns his ebony mask on to his own face. He is now stuck with a “black mask”…

In Moench’s last issue, Batman #400, which is also the last issue of Batman before the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, Black Mask is one of the people freed from Arkham Asylum by Ra’s Al Ghul…

That was it for Black Mask. He made a couple of minor (MINOR) cameos in comics set in Arkham Asylum, but otherwise, that was it. The only chance he had for returning was if Doug Moench returned to write Batman.

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