Black Mask (character)
Cover of Batman #636 (January 2005).
Art by Matt Wagner.
|First appearance||Batman #386 (August 1985)|
|Created by||Doug Moench (writer)|
Tom Mandrake (artist)
|Alter ego||Roman Sionis|
|Team affiliations||False Face Society|
Sionis Crime Family
Secret Society of Super Villains
Black Lantern Corps
|Notable aliases||The Crime King|
Black Mask (Roman Sionis) is a fictional supervillain appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. Created by Doug Moench and Tom Mandrake, the character debuted in Batman #386 (August, 1985). He is commonly depicted as a brutal and ruthless crime lord in Gotham City who has a fixation with masks and derives sadistic pleasure from the act of torture. Black Mask is one of the most enduring enemies of the superhero Batman and belongs to the collective of adversaries that make up his rogues gallery.
The character has been substantially adapted from the comics into various forms of media, including the cartoon show The Batman, the animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood, and the Batman: Arkham video game series. Black Mask made his live-action debut in the 2020 DC Extended Universe film Birds of Prey, portrayed by Ewan McGregor. Black Mask will appear in the second season of Batwoman.
Fictional character biography
Black Mask's origin story was established in his first appearance. Roman Sionis was born to wealthy and utterly self-absorbed parents, who cared more about their social status in Gotham City than their own son. Moments after Roman's birth, the doctor carelessly dropped him on his head, and his parents covered up the entire incident so that their high society friends would not find out. Years later, he was attacked by a rabid raccoon at the Sionis family country estate, and his parents forbade him to mention the incident to anyone. Despite their dislike for fellow socialites Thomas and Martha Wayne, Roman's parents continued to associate with them to maintain their social standing, and forced Roman to befriend their son, Bruce. His parents' hypocrisy had a deep impact on Roman, and he grew to resent them and the "masks" that they wore in public.[volume & issue needed]
After graduating from high school, Roman was given a high-ranking position in his father's company, Janus Cosmetics. There, he met and fell in love with working class model Circe, though his parents did not approve of the relationship and forced him to break it off. Enraged, Roman burned down his family mansion, killing both of his parents and inheriting their fortune and business. Roman lacked his father's business acumen and eventually ruined Janus Cosmetics by funding a failed line of face-paint make-up. Desperate, Roman had the staff chemists create a product that was rushed to the market without proper testing, disfiguring several hundred women. Circe, now Roman's fiancée, then broke up with him in front of his entire staff.[volume & issue needed]
Bruce Wayne, now the head of Wayne Enterprises, offered to bail Janus Cosmetics out on the condition that Roman gave up control and allowed Wayne to appoint his own Board of Directors. Humiliated and furious, Roman broke into the cemetery where his parents were buried. Before he could unlock the Sionis crypt, a lightning bolt struck him, blasting the door open and hurling Roman head-first into a nearby stone. Roman took the incident as an omen of his "rebirth" and entered the crypt, smashing his father's ebony casket with the stone and using its shattered pieces to carve a skull-like mask, starting a new life as the crimelord Black Mask.
Within a month, Black Mask had assembled a group of dozens of criminals called the False Face Society, using the Sionis crypt as their base of operations. Each member of the False Face Society wore a distinctive mask, and the gang's crime spree spread rapidly throughout Gotham, eventually attracting the attentions of the police and Bruce Wayne, now operating as the vigilante Batman.[volume & issue needed] To settle old scores, Black Mask murdered three Wayne Foundation executives and kidnapped Circe, forcing her to don a mask laced with Janus Cosmetics' toxic makeup, sparing her life but permanently disfiguring her face. Black Mask then threatened Circe into rejoining him, giving her a "mannequin" mask intentionally designed to mock her former life.[volume & issue needed]
Batman eventually managed to deduce Black Mask's identity, and correctly predicted that Bruce Wayne would be Sionis' next target. To set a trap for Black Mask, Bruce held a masquerade ball at Wayne Manor, and Sionis infiltrated the ball and lured Bruce to the mansion's conservatory to kill him. Bruce disarmed Sionis, forcing the latter to retreat to his hideout with Robin (Jason Todd) secretly following him. While Batman and Robin fought his underlings at the graveyard, Black Mask escaped through a false bottom installed in his father's coffin and headed to his family estate. Black Mask then entered his old bedroom and set fire to the old toys inside, intending to burn the mansion to the ground to symbolically kill his old identity as Sionis. Before Black Mask could escape, Batman flung a Batarang-attached cable around the crime lord's knees, causing him to fall face-first on the burning floor just as the bedroom's rafters began to collapse. The rafters pinned Black Mask's face into the pile of burning toys, and although Batman and Robin were able to tow him out of the fire, Sionis' mask had been burned onto his face. Black Mask was subsequently sent to Arkham Asylum, where he remained behind bars until the international terrorist Ra's al Ghul freed all of its inmates. Black Mask was not amongst the criminals who followed the Joker in searching for the one behind the breakout and thus never took part in the "war" against Batman's allies and loved ones. As this tale was the last "canonical" one to take place on Earth-One, it can be assumed that Black Mask remained at large.
Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jeremiah Arkham frees all of Arkham Asylum's inmates, including Black Mask, to attack Batman during the events of "The Last Arkham". Sionis then returns to crime after an unspecified breakout, evidently retaining most of his Pre-Crisis history. He soon begins the False Face Society anew, rising through the ranks of Gotham City's underworld while furthering his vendetta against Bruce Wayne. To stop the False Face Society, Batman poses as a new recruit to their ranks, christened "Skullface" by Black Mask himself. Black Mask later kidnaps Lucius Fox, who had a hand in Bruce Wayne's bailout of Janus Cosmetics. Although Batman is eventually able to save Fox, Black Mask manages to evade capture. Black Mask remains at large throughout the events of "Knightfall" and "Zero Hour", and resurfaces shortly thereafter to kill rival mobster "Dirty Dan" Doyle in an ambush shootout.
Black Mask is later approached by the Black Spider, who wishes to join the False Face Society. Black Mask demands the young man to "make his bones" first by crashing a masquerade ball being held at Wayne Manor. Batman later learns that the Black Spider is a double agent working for mobster "Turk" Ottoman, and tracks him down to an abandoned theater where he prevents him from shooting Black Mask, who subsequently escapes during the chaos. Black Mask reappears as a crimelord in "The Cult" storyline, having given up his vendetta against Bruce Wayne. He controls a large portion of Gotham's criminal underworld until the city is destroyed by an earthquake in the "No Man's Land" story arc. Black Mask later becomes the leader of a cult, whose trademark is ritual scarring, until Batman and the Huntress dissolve it by defeating and imprisoning Black Mask in Blackgate Penitentiary, though the crime lord escapes before the city is made a part of the country again.
In Catwoman #16, Black Mask begins a drug trafficking ring and decides to move his organization into Gotham's East End. Catwoman soon begins interfering with Black Mask's plans, stealing money from him and giving it to the poor. Black Mask retaliates by forcing Sylvia Sinclair to reveal Catwoman's secret identity to him. After destroying Catwoman's youth center, Black Mask kidnaps her sister and brother-in-law, the latter of whom he tortures to death with power tools, before forcing the former to eat pieces of her husband's corpse, including his eyeballs. Catwoman arrives to find her brother-in-law dead, her sister insane, and her friend Holly Robinson on the verge of being tortured. Enraged, Catwoman engages Black Mask at his penthouse, where the crime lord falls from the top of the building.
In Act Two of War Games, the Spoiler seeks Orpheus out, hoping to get Batman control of all of Gotham's crime lords. However, Black Mask murders Orpheus by slitting his throat, and proceeds to torture the Spoiler to obtain information about the rest of her plan. Black Mask then assumes Orpheus' identity using face putty and padding, fooling even Batman and Onyx. As Orpheus, he goes on a mission to kill any member or associate of the Batman Family. As Black Mask returns to continue torturing the Spoiler for entertainment, he finds that she has escaped and subsequently tracks her down. Although she escapes his clutches once again, the Spoiler supposedly dies due to the injuries inflicted on her and the willful negligence of Leslie Thompkins.
Black Mask later infiltrates Oracle's Clocktower in an attempt to expose her to the mob, and Batman attacks him in a blind rage. Fearful that Black Mask will kill Batman, Oracle activates a self-destruct device in the tower to get Batman to save her. Black Mask then becomes the overlord of Gotham's underworld, gathering enough financial resources to purchase an Amazo android and a large supply of kryptonite. Allied with reporter Arturo Rodriguez, Black Mask begins a campaign to discredit Batman; while Rodriguez slams Batman in the press, Black Mask commits a series of murders disguised as the Dark Knight. The real Batman eventually exposes Rodriguez and captures Black Mask, but the crimelord kills the escorting officer transporting him to jail and escapes again.
Later, a series of attacks by the Red Hood (revealed later as being Batman's presumed deceased protégé Jason Todd) causes Black Mask to losing power and money to this new rival. The assassin Deathstroke later approaches Black Mask, offering him a place within the Society. Eager to strengthen his increasingly tenuous grip on the underworld, the crimelord accepts. However, the Red Hood is even able to elude the Society's members; eventually he complete dismantling Black Mask's control over the city's organized crime. Black Mask then continues to threaten the most important people in Catwoman's life, prompting her to retaliate by shooting Black Mask's jaw with her gun, killing him. After the shooting, Selina Kyle passes the mantle of Catwoman to her friend Holly, who is soon arrested for Sionis' murder. During the Gotham Underground storyline, dozens of would-be crime bosses attempt to fill in the vacancy created by Black Mask's death.
In Blackest Night, Black Mask is resurrected as a Black Lantern, and attempts to show Catwoman why "shooting him in the head was a bad idea". In an attempt to scare Catwoman, Black Mask goes after her sister once more. He demonstrates the ability to fly and reorganize the structures of buildings. Poison Ivy manages to stop Black Mask by trapping him inside a mutated pitcher plant, its digestive juices dissolving his body as fast as his ring could regenerate it.
The New 52
In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, Roman Sionis is re-established as Black Mask, and his history with the False Face Society remains somewhat intact. This version of the character has split personality disorder, with Roman Sionis being one personality and Black Mask being the other, and the technology in his mask grants him the ability to control "the weak minded." Roman Sionis is first seen in Arkham Asylum's infirmary being treated by Dr. Jeremiah Arkham during the Night of the Owls; Sionis attempted a hunger strike to try and regain his mask. When the Talons attack the Asylum, Dr. Arkham gives Sionis his mask back to telepathically influence the inmates into attacking the Talons and keep anyone from following Arkham to his safe room. Black Mask then attempts to use his abilities on Batman, but fails and is forced to escape the asylum. Black Mask later resurfaces to re-assemble the False Face Society, coming into conflict with the Mad Hatter while doing so (who considers Black Mask an enemy due to their similar mind control abilities). Batman intervenes and puts an end to their battle, and Sionis is sent back to Arkham Asylum. During the Forever Evil storyline, Black Mask appears as a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains when the Crime Syndicate arrive from their Earth. Black Mask and his False Face Society crash the Rogues's battle against Mr. Freeze and Clayface to claim the bounty on the Rogues.
In the DC Rebirth reboot, Roman Sionis remains one of Gotham's most powerful crimelords. This version of the character dons a black metallic mask, and is allied with the Penguin and the Great White Shark in an alliance known as "the Blacks and Whites". Together, they hire the KGBeast to kill Batman. In the Watchmen sequel Doomsday Clock, Black Mask is among the villains that attend an underground meeting held by the Riddler to talk about the Superman Theory. In Teen Titans Rebirth, Damian Wayne keeps Black Mask locked up in his secret prison after learning about his involvement in the destruction of the Arab restaurant Tarbooshes.
Powers and abilities
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Black Mask is a criminal mastermind and tactical analyst with vast wealth and resources at his disposal, making him one of the most powerful crime bosses in Gotham City's criminal underbelly. He utilizes his various connections to eliminate opposition and consolidates power using fear and intimidation; he is renowned for his brutally sadistic physical and psychological torture techniques, which he uses either to extract information or simply to torment his enemies for entertainment. Black Mask is an expert marksman with firearms, particularly with his signature twin automatic pistols, although he is proficient with melee weapons such as swords as well. He is a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and has displayed impressive levels of stamina and endurance; his high tolerance for pain has allowed him to hold his own against accomplished fighters, such as Batman and Catwoman. Black Mask is also an accomplished businessman, impersonator, actor, and escape artist.
Per the events of The New 52, Roman Sionis' ebony black mask possesses hypnosis-like mind controlling abilities that extend through the material of the masks that his henchmen wear, rendering them directly under his control. Black Mask has also killed his victims by applying toxin-filled masks to their faces, poisoning them and leaving their faces hideously shriveled and blackened. His mask also allows him to assume the form of other people, from Ted Kord to Superman, though without assuming their powers.
Other characters named Black Mask
In the Battle for the Cowl storyline, a second criminal using the Black Mask alias emerges. His identity is eventually revealed to be Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, who took up Roman Sionis' mantle after suffering a psychotic breakdown from exposure to a variety of mind-altering chemicals from various Batman villains.
In DC's line-wide revision of its superhero comics, DC Rebirth, a story presents Black Mask's father Richard Sionis as the precursor to the Black Mask alias, where he was just called "the Mask" and was the founder of the False Face Society. When Richard was in the hospital and dying of old age, Roman sneaked into the hospital disguised as a nurse and poisoned his father in order to gain complete control over the False Face Society, though he does leave his father's signature mask on his corpse. This story retconned the information where Charles Sionis was his father.
Batman: Crimson Mist
In the Elseworlds storyline Batman: Crimson Mist, Black Mask arrogantly dismisses Two-Face's warnings about the now-vampiric Batman, believing himself untouchable until Batman attacks the False Face Society in their warehouse base while in the form of a monstrous bat. The vampiric Dark Knight tears through Black Mask's minions, even tearing a man's head off with his mouth, and is later shown leaving the Society's severed heads outside Blackgate Penitentiary.
Batman: Gotham Adventures
The Batman Adventures
During The Batman Adventures comic book series, Roman Sionis is depicted as a businessman who turned his company into a corporate juggernaut, until Wayne Enterprises results in the loss of his industry. An associate of Red Hood then approaches Roman, convincing him to become the Black Mask and lead the False Face Society, though he is ultimately apprehended by Batman.
The Batman Strikes!
Batman: Arkham Unhinged
Injustice: Gods Among Us
In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Black Mask is seen fighting against the Justice League during Harley Quinn's riot, and later appears in Year Five, where he gathers with six other criminals. When Damian Wayne intervenes in their meeting, the villains knock him into unconsciousness until Dick Grayson saves him.
In other media
- Black Mask appears in The Batman animated series, voiced by James Remar. A powerful crime lord with a vast organization of henchmen (such as his lieutenant "Number One"), this version's mask is unremovable and he has no fingerprints or distinguishing features, making it impossible to identify him. In "The Breakout", Black Mask threatens to activate a powerful shockwave generator in Gotham City but is ultimately apprehended by Batgirl and Robin while Batman disarms his device. In "Rumors", Black Mask is seen as one of the many villains captured by the new vigilante Rumor. In "The Batman/Superman Story (Part One)", Lex Luthor hires Black Mask, Clayface, Bane, and Mr. Freeze to kill Superman only for Batman and Robin to show up and defeat them. In "What Goes Up...", Black Mask hires the Shadow Thief to break him out of Arkham Asylum and steal an Nth element meteor to lift Gotham's gem depository from the ground, though his heist is foiled by Batman, Robin, and Hawkman.
- Black Mask appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, voiced by John DiMaggio. This version wears a mask where the lips move, but not the teeth. He is also more bulky and physically imposing, contrasting his canon version's normally average and slim physique. In "The Plague of the Prototypes!", Black Mask reprograms Batman's Bat-Robots to steal powerful explosives in an attempt to destroy half of Gotham, only to be defeated by the Dark Knight. In "Shadow of the Bat!", Black Mask is bitten by the vampire Batman whilst robbing a bank, though the ending suggests that the episode was merely a dream.
- Richard Sionis appears on the FOX TV drama Gotham, portrayed by Todd Stashwick with this appearance predating his comic book introduction. In the first season episode "The Mask", Sionis is the head of a major finance organization, which is also host to a secret and brutal organized fighting ring. Sionis pits employees against each other in fights for the death in order to secure more lucrative positions in the company, all while being broadcast to some of the city's elite. When Detective James Gordon is caught investigating the fight ring, Sionis himself, sporting a black mask, attempts to kill Gordon but is knocked out and arrested. He was shown to be incarcerated at Arkham Asylum in season 2 until he is among the inmates sprung out by Tabitha Galavan. When Richard declined Theo Galavan's offer to work for him, he was whip-strangled and repeatedly stabbed to death by Tabitha to serve as a warning to the other inmates.
- Black Mask will appear on the second season of The CW's Batwoman.
- Black Mask appears in the animated feature film Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010), voiced by Wade Williams. This version is depicted as the first crime lord ever to take complete control of Gotham City. As a massive turf war escalates when the mysterious Red Hood attempts to overthrow Black Mask, the crime lord is eventually pressured into breaking the Joker out of Arkham Asylum to kill the new Red Hood. In the epilogue, Batman apprehends the Joker and the Red Hood disappears while Black Mask awaits trial for his alleged involvement in the Joker's escape.
- Black Mask also appears in Batman: Death in the Family. While he plays similar roles as in Under the Red Hood, he dies three different, gruesome deaths (all taking place at his office, which is blown up by Red Hood's bazooka) depending on the different choices viewers make about Jason Todd's fate. In Todd's story as Hush (the "Robin Cheats Death" option), Black Mask is killed after Hush shoots his rocket launcher to his office, exploding it while Black Mask gets burned, and falls to his explosive death after hitting a gas truck underneath. In Todd's story as Red Robin (the "Kill the Joker" + "Jason Escapes" options), he attempts to escape similarly to Under the Red Hood, only to be decapitated by the emergency door caused by Red Robin's rocket launcher. In Todd's story as Red Hood (the "Catch the Joker" option), he is vertically bisected by the shattered glass caused by Red Hood's emitter projectile.
- Black Mask appears in the DC Animated Movie Universe film Batman: Bad Blood, voiced by Steve Blum. He is confronted by Batman and Robin during an arms deal and his mask is burnt onto his face in the ensuing battle, after which he is taken into police custody.
- Roman Sionis / Black Mask is featured in the DC Extended Universe, portrayed by Ewan McGregor.
- The character is first referenced in Justice League (2017). A billboard of his corporation Janus Cosmetics is visible in Gotham City's skyline.
- Black Mask makes his live-action debut in Birds of Prey (2020). Roman Beauvais Sionis is a narcissistic crime lord who masquerades as the charismatic owner of the "Black Mask Club", a popular nightclub among Gotham's criminal element. Cut off from the family fortune after running their business into the ground, Roman seeks to become the most powerful kingpin in the city to outdo his father. He has the Bertinelli crime family murdered (although one family member, Helena, survived the massacre) to obtain a diamond embedded with the account numbers to their fortune. When Cassandra Cain steals the diamond from him, Sionis places a bounty on her head. At the Amusement Mile, Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya defend Cassandra from Sionis, who has donned his trademark black mask and rallied his False Face Society. Black Mask shoots Montoya and kidnaps Cassandra with Quinn in pursuit. Cassandra hides a grenade in Black Mask's pocket and Quinn knocks him off the pier, causing him to explode before hitting the water below.
Lego DC series
- LEGO pieces to build Black Mask in the character creation feature can be unlocked in Lego Batman: The Videogame after obtaining all of the mini-kits in the villain chapters. He is also featured as an unlockable character in the "Villain Hunt" minigame in the Nintendo DS version.
- Black Mask appears in the Nintendo 3DS version of Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.
Roman Sionis/Black Mask is featured in the Batman: Arkham video game franchise, voiced by Nolan North (in Arkham City) and by Brian Bloom (in subsequent appearances). This version of the character is known for using body doubles in situations that may endanger his own life.
- Roman Sionis' eponymous mask appears in Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) as an answer to one of the Riddler's challenges. His mask is found hanging in a frame in Dr. Penelope Young's office, and scanning the object will unlock Black Mask's profile.
- Black Mask briefly appears in Batman: Arkham City (2011). During the opening, Bruce Wayne sees Black Mask being subdued at the gates of Arkham City by Professor Hugo Strange's TYGER guards. A crudely-covered hole in the Industrial District's containment wall can be found along with several wanted posters for Black Mask; scanning the area reveals that he had used explosives to create the aforementioned hole and escape from Arkham City before being recaptured. Black Mask is also featured in several exclusive challenge maps.
- Black Mask appears in the prequel Batman: Arkham Origins (2013). Prior to the game's events, Roman Sionis is kidnapped by the Joker who subsequently poses as Black Mask on Christmas Eve and uses his vast wealth to hire eight assassins to kill the vigilante Batman. Batman frees Roman at his own Steel Mill and questions him regarding the Joker's whereabouts only to be attacked by Copperhead, allowing Sionis to escape. Black Mask later appears in a "Most Wanted" mission, during which he rebuilds his empire by stashing several drug canisters throughout Gotham City. Batman ultimately destroys all of the canisters and defeats Sionis and his henchmen at the church. Black Mask is also featured in his own challenge pack, which contains two additional challenge maps for Batman and Deathstroke, as well as the companion game Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, where he takes control of Blackgate Penitentiary's Industrial Building.
- Black Mask appears in the Red Hood DLC of Batman: Arkham Knight (2015). In the DLC, Red Hood interrupts an arms deal between Black Mask and the Penguin's men. At a weapon's storage unit, Red Hood interrogates one of Black Mask's last men standing, who reveals Black Mask's location in Downtown Gotham. Red Hood fights his way through Black Mask's men and eventually gets to the crime boss himself, who is at Red Hood's mercy. Black Mask begs Red Hood to let him go, even suggesting Red Hood tell him where to go. However, Red Hood instead throws the Black Mask out of a window, plunging to his apparent death.
- Black Mask appears as a boss in Batman: Dark Tomorrow, voiced by Tom McKeon.
- Black Mask appears in DC Universe Online.
- Black Mask is among many other DC characters included in Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure.
- DC Collectibles has released a 7-inch Black Mask action figure in a Batman: Arkham Origins four-pack (along with Batman, the Joker, and Deathstroke), based on his appearance in the video game. This figure was sculpted by Gentle Giant Studios and includes two automatic pistols.
- TriForce has released a Batman: Arkham Origins Black Mask Arsenal Full Scale Replica consisting of the character's mask and knuckleduster, crafted and cast in polystone. The replica measures 18 inches in height and weighs in at 15 pounds, and is limited to 500 pieces worldwide.
- A Funko Pop! vinyl figure of Roman Sionis in a white suit was released in 2020 based on his appearance in the Birds of Prey film.
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