Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Superhero Media: The Mask

I'm fairly sure I haven't seen The Mask since I saw it in cinemas as a child, and I probably wouldn't have bothered with it if it hadn't been on television and I hadn't just read some of the comics. To say that The Mask comics are different to the film adaptation is almost redundant now that DC Vertigo have republished the old Dark Horse series and most fans are aware that the comics were a violent and bloody romp. Yes, in The Mask comics, Stanley Ipkiss (and others who later wear the mask) is a cartoonish serial killer on a rampage of petty revenge, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. It's certainly an interesting read if you get the chance to check it out, but that's not what we're talking about now. The film adaptation plays the story much lighter,with Ipkiss still being out for revenge, but not killing anyone and only seriously wounding people who try to hurt him. The power of the mask is seductive, and Ipkiss must struggle against it to maintain his own identity. 

Where as The Mask comics are about the darkness inside everyone, the film is more about overcoming the temptation to take the easy way out. It would be simple for Ipkiss to become the Mask the entire time, give up the life where he has to work and struggle and live outside of the law, but he makes the choice to be who he really is, flaws and all. In an interesting twist, the journalist that seems genuinely interested in Ipkiss rather than the Mask is the woman who betrays him, instead of the mob moll singer he's obsessed with; it actually took me by surprise, which was nice. Much of The Mask is played for laughs, which makes sense with the cartoon affectations and weird setting, but a sinister undercurrent runs through the entire film. The local nightclub is run by organised crime, the beautiful sunsets are caused by methane pollution and the public park is built over landfill, but no one really seems to care so long as they can get money and make a life. Hauntingly relevant. 

The more heroic take on the Mask/Big Head Killer really could have some legs if you wanted to explore it as a character concept in gaming, sort of a more violent Plastic Man or Ambush Bug. The Mask is heroic, to a degree, but his propensity for violence and selfish behaviour would place him on the outs of most teams, but his presentation is a bit much for the Nightstalkers or Thunderbolts. I think the superhero film scene is diverse enough in its current form to accommodate a version of The Mask closer to the comics, but I could equally see this more generally palatable version making a return as well. Hell, why not both, as a counterpoint? After all, we have both Supergirl and The Boys, contrast and comment are always welcome and interesting. As regular readers will know, I'm big on discussing superheroes in a broader context and the two versions of The Mask are a pretty good starting point.

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