John Arcudi & Doug Mahnke
It’s impossible to talk about the mask without mentioning the 1994 film starring Jim Carrey, and rightly so, The Mask is a brilliant film and one I have loved almost all my life. However I would be willing to bet that a large percentage of the film’s fans are unaware that it is a comic book adaptation and even less would know how radically different the series is.
The film is a light hearted comedy in which Stanley Ipkiss (Carrey) finds a mask that gives him supernatural powers, turning him into a human cartoon character. The comic follows the same basic plot but has a far darker tone. The tone is set perfectly from the outset as the “main character” Stanley Ipkiss only lasts two issues before being killed, indeed very few characters get the chance to wear the mask for very long and the characters true identity changes regularly.
Whenever anyone puts on the mask they are given the ability to become an invincible cartoon character and this is where the genius of the series lies. Big Head, as the character is known, obeys the laws of cartoon logic, this means he can do the bizarre things we expect of characters like Bugs Bunny of Felix the cat, so he changes outfits from panel to panel, pulls bombs from nowhere and draws leg length axes from his jacket pockets. The smart thing about this is that even though Big Head can live by these rules, the rest of the cast is left to obey by the rules of the real world, so when big head pulls a bomb from his pocket he might end up in a cartoony explosion, coated in soot holding an “ouch” sign but for everyone else, the bomb is real.
The Mask is an extremely violent comic but this use of cartoon violence makes it something much smarter and unique than a lot of other comic book fare.
This collection gathers the very first Mask mini series and sees the mask jump from Stanley Ipkiss, briefly to his girlfriend Kathy then on to Lieutenant Kellaway. Ipkiss uses the mask to get even on everyone who has ever bullied or taken advantage of him while Kellaway uses it’s powers to break up a drug gang that he had been having trouble gaining evidence against.
The idea is that the Mask draws forth the ideal identity of the wearer, Ipkiss for example, is a weakling who becomes strong through the masks influence, though wearing the mask has risks. We’re given the idea that the mask is at least partly sentient and wearing it for a long time gradually shifts control over to it, the wearer falling deeper and deeper under its spell.
This trade paperback serves as a brilliant introduction to the series and, under the original writers, serves as one of the best arcs of the character. Film fans will notice that this is obviously the story the film drew inspiration from and will recognise several scenes but will see every one of them in a new light. I can’t recommend this enough, if you’re a fan of the film you’ll love reading the story in a different light and if you’re a comics fan in general then it’s a must read.