The Big Picture

The Mask comic is much darker than the film adaptation, featuring graphic violence and a serial killer protagonist. The original Mask trilogy explores different characters who wear the mask and gain its chaotic powers. The success of The Mask led to crossovers with DC Comics characters, including Lobo and the Joker.

The Mask is notable for a number of reasons. It was part of a trio of films, alongside Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb & Dumber, that cemented Jim Carrey as both a comedic force and leading man. It’s the role that launched Cameron Diaz‘s career. For a time, it was even one of the biggest comic book films ever made. That last part may send heads spinning, but it’s true: The Mask is based on a Dark Horse Comics miniseries. Long before Marvel and DC ruled the silver screen, Dark Horse provided fodder for plenty of comic book adaptations, including Timecop and Tank Girl. Most of these adaptations, like future comic book films, would undergo some major changes from page to screen — and The Mask is the most drastic, as the original comic is a bloody romp full of black humor.

The Mask

Bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss is transformed into a manic superhero when he wears a mysterious mask.

What Happens in ‘The Mask’ Comics?

The Mask was created by John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke, and much like the film, it centers on the misadventures of Stanley Ipkiss once he discovers a mysterious green mask. However, this is where The Mask diverges from its source material as the original comic transformed Ipkiss into an outright serial killer. Under the thrall of the mask, Ipkiss embarks on a bloody revenge spree against everyone who ever slighted him. The mechanic who kept adding charges to his bill has an exhaust pipe forcibly crammed down his throat. Two young thugs who attempt to mug him are confused when Ipkiss pulls out a balloon…then makes a machine gun out of it and sprays them down in cold blood. He also begins to change when he isn’t wearing the mask, growing verbally abusive to his girlfriend Kathy while also growing dependent on the mask. Eventually, Kathy shoots Ipkiss in the back and takes the mask for herself.


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The next person to don the mask is Lt. Mitch Kellaway. Frustrated with his inability to pin down a local gangster as well as the disappearance of Ipkiss — whom the media took to calling “Big Head” — Kellaway ends up donning the mask after Kathy turns it in. He then becomes a vigilante, using the mask’s powers of chaos to make a difference in The Mask Returns. The Mask Strikes Back would wrap up the original Mask trilogy by exploring what happens when a group of college students find the Mask. Dark Horse sporadically released other comics within the world of The Mask, including the Southern Discomfort miniseries which took place in New Orleans and I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask where a beleaguered politician seeks to use the Mask’s power to become President.

A large part of what made The Mask comics so shocking was the level of violence in each miniseries, and how said violence was displayed. Whoever holds the Big Head mask cannot be killed — they often get shot in the head, thrown off buildings, and even run over, and still they get up, albeit with gore and gaping wounds. The result feels like a Looney Tunes cartoon on acid, thanks to Arcudi’s go-for-broke scripting and Mahnke’s extremely detailed artwork.

How Is Jim Carrey’s ‘The Mask’ Movie Different From the Comics?

When The Mask hit theaters, it’s safe to say that it toned down the darker elements of its premise. While the film still focuses on Ipkiss, Jim Carrey makes him a far more sympathetic character.He still starts out as a guy who gets steamrolled by life, but putting on the Mask helps him to gain a sense of self-confidence. He also becomes a truly heroic, if absolutely chaotic, character; the main conflict of the film pits Ipkiss against gangster Dorian Tyrell (Peter Greene), who also happens to be his rival for the affections of singer Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz). While Kellaway, played in the film by Peter Riegert,is still pursuing Ipkiss, he never dons the mask — and actually has a happy ending, as he manages to put away Tyrell’s men.

Interestingly enough, an actual comic book writer did help develop the film: Mark Verheiden. Verheiden was no stranger to adapting comics — he wrote the original Timecop comic, as well as the screenplay for the film and episodes of the TV series. Verheiden’s early draft of The Mask was a mix of the final product’s zany tone and the dark material that permeated the comics. Moments where Ipkiss literally breaks the fourth wall to talk to Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel are mixed in with scenes where Ipkiss wreaks holy vengeance upon everyone who ever wronged him — including one of his teachers.

‘The Mask’ Would Do a Crossover With DC Comics

The success of The Mask led to a resurgence of the character in comics. The biggest standout was a trio of crossover comics with DC Comics characters,and in the spirit of the original Mask comics, these characters were antiheroes. First there was Grifter of the WildC.A.T.S., then the Main Man himself — Lobo! The biggest crossover, however, would take place with none other than the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime gets his hands on the mask, becoming an unstoppable force of destruction; this draws Kellaway to Gotham City where he joins forces with Batman.

Aside from the DC crossovers, the longest running Mask comic was Adventures of the Mask, which took place within the continuity of The Mask: The Animated Series. Both series feature Ipkiss using the mask to protect his home of Edge City, causing chaos all the while. While characters from the movie, most notably Kellaway and Ipkiss’ dog Milo, made appearances, Adventures of the Mask was far more oriented towards younger viewers. It was the longest running Mask series, going for a full 12 issues. It remains to be seen if Dark Horse will resurrect the Mask series, and if it will stick to its darker roots if it does.

The Mask is available to rent on Prime Video and Apple TV+ in the U.S.

Rent on Prime Video

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