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Black Mask

DC Signature Collection
by yo go re

Here comes the crazy!

Roman Sionis was born to wealthy, pretentious parents who cared more about their social status than their own son. Driven mad by his self-absorbed folks and their disapproval of the meager working class woman he loved, Sionis engineered their murder. Creating a black mask for himself to represent the metaphorical one his parents hid behind, the sadistic Sionis built a ruthless criminal empire. In a bizarre twist of fate, his mask was permanently fused to his face in a standoff with Batman, forever branding him the Black Mask.

Black Mask is a perfect example of a figure that belongs in Mattel's DC subscription: he's recognizable mainly to hardcore nerds, and he has a design and a history that would make him inappropriate for mass market shelves. If this figure was sold at Walmart, the bio on the back would have to say "Black Mask is a Gotham crimelord who hides his real face behind an ebony disguise." Which is all true, but sort of misses the point.

The head is necessarily new, since Mattel has never had the Four Horsemen make them a Red Skull action figure. You know, we get that having his face burned made his skin turn black and somehow skeletal, but why did it make his eyes blank white? The DC Direct figure did the same thing, so it must be on an official model sheet, but why?

Black Mask uses the standard DCUC "suit" body, but his coat is a new piece, so he doesn't look like a clone of the suited bodies that have gone before him. the tie may be reused from Wesley Dodds, perhaps. He's wearing gloves, complete with Disney-style lines on the backs of the hands. The gloves and shirt are gray, the suit and shoes are black, and his tie is black with gray stripes; as you can imagine, being a sadist isn't the only reason this figure isn't well suited to the mass market.

We do have to say that the proportions seem slightly off, like the molds were tooled incorrectly. The head and hands - the new parts of the sculpt - are too small on the body. It makes him look like a kid wearing his father's suit. It's not something you'll notice once you shart playing around with him and get him in a fight with Batman, but when he's just standing there alone it stands out.

Black Mask comes with three accessories of varying quality. "Quality" in the subjective sense: they're all objectively constructed with an acceptable level of skill, so in that sense their quality is just fine. He's got one simple knife, and okay, yeah, that makes sense for him to have. Then there's some weird double-bladed thing on a stick, which is just strange and draws attention to itself by how unusual it is.

Finally, he comes with Batman's cowl. It's an entirely new piece, molded to look like it's collapsing in on itself, and has a strange little bump up on the top. It's not sized so the figure can hold it as all, so what's the point of it? Well, it comes from the cover of Batman #636 - and so does the knife, now that we look at it! But why is the mask blue instead of the black seen on the cover? Maybe somebody figured there was already enough black in this set. Maybe it was based off the "color-corrected" versions of the art that are floating around out there on the net, which make the mask look blue (and the wall look purple)? That explains the shape, but it's not like you can actually stick the knife into the mask. There's a notch on the back, almost like you should be able to hang it from the tip of the knife, but you can't do that, either.

Mike Thompson did a killer job on the portrait this month! Black Mask is just a guy in a suit, right? But the painting on the back of the box makes him look like a guy capable of holding his own with Batman. He's wielding the weird pronged blade, so apparently somebody thinks that's a real thing that's important to the character, and he also has a gun. A gun? Why couldn't we get a gun!? Roman Sionis is a man of simple devices, not goofball imaginary weapons no one has ever seen.

And while we're on the topic of hypothetical accessories that would have been awesome? How about a second head featuring Black Mask's classical look, before he became the Black Skull? Big, chunky face, a fedora, all that. Come on, Mattel!

Black Mask doesn't seem like a character Mattel would have been able to do: he's more dangerous than the Joker, more disfigured than Two-Face, and has less interesting clothes than the Penguin. But as an online-only release, he can work. And while he's mostly good, there are a few little missteps that make him less than he could have been.

-- 10/03/12

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