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The Mask

The Mask is a comic book series created by John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke, published by Dark Horse Comics. It is about a magic mask that gives anyone who wears it physical invulnerability and a number of reality-defying powers (for instance, the ability to produce useful objects out of thin air), but also lowers the wearer's inhibitions and amplifies the darker parts of the wearer's personality.

The series begins with the mask being found in an antiques shop by Stanley Ipkiss, a neurotic loser who everyone takes advantage of. Trying the mask on, he is transformed into a wacky being with an abnormally large bald green-skinned head. After exploring his new abilities for a while, he goes on a rampage, taking lethal revenge on everyone against whom he holds a grudge, from the motor mechanic who always overcharges him to his old first-grade teacher. When Stanley takes the mask off, he reverts to his normal timid self, who decides he'd better leave town in case the activities of the green-skinned freak (dubbed "Big-Head" by the media) are traced back to him. The mask, however, has decided it likes it here, and arranges to fall into the hands of Stanley's girlfriend Kathy.

A storyline about Kathy's experiences with the mask was planned, but never saw the light of day; the series continues with Kathy giving the mask to a police officer for safe-keeping. Disregarding her warnings, he tries the mask on, and sets out to clean up the city. Despite his good intentions, his methods become increasingly bizarre, and soon Big-Head is the target of a police man-hunt. (The world at large, not knowing about the mask, assumes it's always the same big-headed green-skinned freak; nobody realises that he might have a secret identity.) When he nearly kills a friend and colleague who got in his way, the policeman realises how badly things have gone wrong, and swears never to wear the mask again.

In the next storyline, the mask falls into the hands of a small-time mobster, who (as Big-Head) becomes the city's pre-eminent crime boss.

After another storyline, in which four teenagers find the mask and take turns trying it on, Arcudi and Mahnke left the title, handing it over to a succession of guest writers and artists.


  1. The Mask (collects the issues with Stanley Ipkiss and the policeman)
  2. The Mask Returns (the crime-boss storyline)
  3. The Mask Strikes Back (the storyline with the four teenagers)

In addition to the ongoing series, there have been a number of specials, including Joker Mask, a collaboration with DC Comics in which the mask falls into the hands of Batman's nemesis the Joker.

Adaptations and spin-offs

In 1994, a film version of The Mask was made, starring Jim Carrey and loosely based on the early issues of the comic book series. The film version is much lighter and cartoonier: the mask's effects are zany, but not particularly evil, and Carrey's Stanley Ipkiss is a nice guy who uses the mask (mostly) for good purposes and gets a happy ending.

The movie version of the character has subsequently appeared in an animated TV series (with Rob Paulsen as Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask) and his own comic book series.