Monday, May 16, 2011

So Many Masks

Several weeks ago we had a poll asking which type of mask you'd wear if you were a hero. You never really realize how many there are out there until you break them down...which we'll do right now.

Domino Mask

Worn by: Nightwing, Green Lantern, Robin, etc.

Probably the most famous type of mask, it also covers just about the least of the face. I still have a hard time believing this would fool anyone, but it apparently has for years.

The mask begs the question "What in the world is keeping it on your face?" First of all it has to be something that will stay on in the middle of a fight no matter how sweaty you get. But then it has to be removable without ripping the skin around your eyes off.

Yes, I know Green Lantern's mask is created by his ring and is therefore part of the costume, but Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood, and many others have had this little thing stuck to their faces for years without a problem or reasonable explanation.


Worn by: Batman, Nighthawk, Red Robin, etc

The most popular choice in our poll, the cowl serves this purpose of keeping the hair covered at least. Now it's not necessarily as easy to figure out who you are under the mask as the domino mask would be.

Add to that a certain streamlined effect and you have a pretty cool look. The fact that it's attached to the flowing cape doesn't hurt either. All in all it can be a fairly intimidating appearance when it's done right.

There's a reason Batman's iconic look has stayed with pop culture for decades. It's an old faithful design that just works.

Full Face Mask

Worn by: Spider-Man, Union Jack, Deathstroke, etc

For a real mystery man look, it's hard to go wrong with this type of mask. Covered completely, heroes sporting this look have that mystery surrounding them that leads a lot of people to wonder what person is really under all that.

Truthfully though, it's hard to imagine Spider-Man without his full mask. And Deadpool just doesn't seem as funny any other way. Union Jack was able to use the look to his advantage to fool Baron Blood into thinking he was an old man when in actually he was young Joey Chapman.

There are a lot of advantages to going this route...though the cost of material goes up a little. That, and it's hard to figure out how you can breathe that well in a tough fight with cloth on your face.


Worn by: Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Plastic Man, Vigilante, etc.

Now this one is hard to pull off right. The first time I read a Plastic Man comic in the 70's I couldn't figure out what was going on with his eyes. Which way was he supposed to be looking? Eventually I figured it all out and the craze seemed to catch on.

Now heroes like Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle have added to the mix of using a functional mask. I mean, when it's raining outside which hero can still see in a torrential downpour? Try that Spider-Man!

Seriously though, I think this could be considered cheating just a little.


Worn by: Nomad, Hitman, Blade, etc.

If you're not up for goggles, there's always a cheaper way out through sunglasses. While I consider Jack Munroe's Nomad to be one of the best heroes out there and best costume for a casual hero type, I've never been one to follow how he kept the sunglasses on. Also, how are they handy in a fight indoors?

It's really hard to see a hero pull this off and not look like someone off "Jersey Shore", but it's been done. Oddly enough, this is the one look that looks best in the movie versions of the characters. It's hard to pull off a mask on a real person, but sunglasses always look tough.

I almost threw Cyclops in with this group, but I'm not really sure it would be fair. I think he'd fall more under a mixture of the goggles and sunglasses crowd.

No Mask

Worn by: Superman, The Sentry, Punisher, etc.

Of course, there are those who skip masks altogether and just say "Here I am. Look at me!" It's usually done by someone with nothing to hide because their identity is public (like the Punisher) or they look differently when in their secret identity (like DC's Captain Marvel or The Sentry). And yes, Superman hides behind glasses (even dumber than a domino mask) and still folks can't figure out who he is.

Whatever the reason, this is the easy way out. Fight as hard as you want to and never worry about someone seeing your face because your mask got shredded. I can't say I'm a fan of this though. For me, I think it's always cooler to see a hero in some form of mask. The only exception I'll give is the Punisher. I think he'd look a little weird wearing one for some reason.


Worn by: Ant-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Fate, Forbush Man, etc.

For real protection, it's hard to go wrong with a good old-fashioned piece of metal on your head! Whether you're using it to control an entire suit of armor like Iron Man or just to hide your identity like Red Hood, you can't say anything about the functionality of one. However, hiding the costume takes a lot of creative thinking when you can't just cram it all under your tuxedo and walk in.

I've always  thought artists probably love drawing helmeted characters more than anything else. No worries about emotion on the face or anything...just a blank slate.

The only character easier to draw would have to be the Question.


Worn by: Green Arrow, The Spectre, Moon Knight, etc

While hiding identity, I have to say this one would be hard to justify as safe. Think about it: your peripheral vision is absolutely shot. True, you're ready for a rainstorm, but if someone comes at you quietly from the side you are dead.

Also, how do you keep this on your head while you're running after (or away from) a bad guy? When I have my hood on and I go running to my car in the rain, it always flies back and lets me get soaked.

Functionally, I have to say this one is at the bottom of the barrel. Yes, the "mysterious stranger" look works when stepping out of the shadows...but it's not the best choice in a fight.

Over-the-Head Mask

Worn by: Captain America, Hawk and Dove, the Atom, etc.

I'm not sure of the official name for this look, so let's just say it's a cowl without the cape kind of thing. It's been popular for years with everyone from the Flash to Vindicator wearing one.

The thing that makes this one slightly less believable is the way the heroes usually have it during "casual times". Most of the time their whole head is through the mouth part with the mask laying behind their head until the pull it up over their head and on. That sucker would be so stretched out it would blow off in a light wind.

There is a variation of this mask where the hair is seen. Marvel's version of Captain Marvel and the original Captain Britain look are two heroes who go that way with it. Again, I'm not sure what it's officially called though. You know what I mean, right?

Weird Everything-But-The-Face Mask

Worn by: Puck, Justice, The Angel, Gambit, etc.

Ok, I had no idea what you actually called this one, but I've seen it from time to time. I guess this would be considered a "face frame" more than a mask.

I suppose this one would be more for those heroes who want to wear a mask, while still wanting people to know what they looked like underneath. This might even fit into the "no mask" category.

Maybe you're proud of your hair, or maybe you just like the way you look in the mirror, either way, if this is your choice it's not very functional for anything other than keeping your ears warm in the wind.

There are a lot of characters that fit into combinations of categories that I didn't cover. For example, Magneto would fit into the helmet/face-frame mixture. Doctor Doom would fit into the helmet/hood group. Deadshot would be an entirely new combination, with full-face mask/eyescope group. The combinations are endless.

As you can tell, it would be impossible to categorize them all. Hopefully I've covered the most often used ones though.


Anonymous said...

Regarding domino masks: they're help on with spirit gum, which is used by actors to hold on prosthetic noses and hairpieces and whatnot. Its use has been mentioned a couple of times in the comics (most recent one I noticed was in the previous run of Green Arrow, about 4 years ago, when Mia asked Ollie to pass her the spirit gum).

Here's a site selling Green Lantern masks (both Hal and Kyle versions), which explicitly state that you need spirit gum ('not included'):


Brian Reaves said...

Awesome link, Doc! Thanks for sharing that one. With the movie coming up, you never know when a cool "green hero" mask would come in handy!

Anonymous said...

Hal's mask covers his nose so strictly speaking its not a true domino mask.

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