Warning: Contains spoilers for DC vs. Vampires: Hunters #1
Gotham crime boss Black Mask has officially been called out for having the worst gimmick of any villain in Batman‘s rogues’ gallery. The Dark Knight has faced villains with some of the most bizarre gimmicks in comics, from iconic mainstays like Two-Face and his two faces to silly one-offs like the Condiment King. No matter how odd though, the gimmicks are what draws fans to having an appreciation for them and recognizing who they are just by looking at them. Black Mask, on the other hand, is a villain who may be brutal, but his calling-card is the worst of the bunch.
Created by Doug Moench and Tom Mandrake in 1985, Roman Sionis aka Black Mask made his first appearance in Batman #386. He’s best known as a lethal mobster with a fixation on torture and causing pain. He’s murdered countless people since his debut in horrific ways such as poisoning them with handmade masks and cutting off faces. Sionis is certainly not someone a citizen of Gotham would want to get tangled up with in the crime world. The problem though is he has the weakest gimmick of any of his criminal adversaries. The element that makes Black Mask known throughout the criminal underworld is…his black mask. That’s it. He dons a black skull mask because of his fixation with masks, but there’s very little else that it does. It’s just a way to strike fear into his enemies.
Black Mask’s gimmick was recently called out in the one-off special DC vs. Vampires: Hunters by Matthew Rosenberg and Neil Googe. In the main series for the vampiric DC invasion, multiple DC heroes and villains are shown to have their vampire forms alter what they’re known for and used to their advantage. Black Mask, on the other hand, is just an ordinary person with a black skull mask, so what does he do to show he’s a vampire? He just puts vampire teeth on the mask. It’s so ridiculous that even Robin can’t help himself, calling him “a glorified janitor with a goofy mask on.” There’s just not much to his gimmick that warrants him having a cool vampire form.
DC has tried to rectify Black Mask since the New 52 began in order to make him stand out more. Black Mask has been given superpowers like hypnosis and the ability to take the form of other heroes minus their powers. Still, it’s not enough because he doesn’t have much to accompany the mask that he wears. To the vampires in the DC universe, he’s viewed as lesser because he doesn’t have as much potential as a vampiric hero or villain with stronger powers. They even make him the official receptionist that Damian must get through in order to speak to Nightwing, bringing him down from his crime boss status and essentially showing that he’s viewed more as cannon fodder that can warn them of danger. His vampiric abilities can’t enhance a gimmick that essentially just makes him a normal vampire with a mask on, so it’s better to make him a pawn rather than something important.
Later in the one-shot, it’s shown that Nightwing’s reservations about Black Mask being outsmarted are warranted as Damian manages to stake him without a fight. Since Black Mask’s mask is primarily there to just strike fear, it does nothing to defend him from being easily killed by Robin. Adding some vampire fangs to the mask didn’t end up helping him because it’s just an accessory. Black Mask may be an intimidating villain that is cruel and won’t let his victims die easily, but he still has the worst gimmick of any Batman villain because of his focus on the mask.
DC vs. Vampires: Hunters #1 is available now!