The Arrowverse’s Black Mask Is A Big Improvement On The DCEU & Gotham

By restoring his original motivation from the comics with a new twist, the Arrowverse’s Black Mask improves upon the DCEU and Gotham versions.

Warning: SPOILERS for Batwoman season 2, episode 9, “Rule #1.”

Batwoman formally introduced the Arrowverse version of Black Mask, giving audiences a better and more comic-accurate version of the villain compared to the DCEU and Gotham series. Furthermore, Batwoman presented a background for the False Face Society leader that recalled his motivations in the comics, while simultaneously putting a new spin on his reasons for becoming a crime boss.

First appearing in Batman #386 in August 1985, Black Mask was created to be a dark mirror of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, being the scion of a rich Gotham City family who lived a double life motivated by the death of his parents. Despite similar origins, Batman and Black Mask differed in most respects, as a young Roman Sionis hated his family as much as Bruce Wayne loved his. The Sionis clan was not a loving one and Roman realized at an early age that his parents were more concerned with keeping up appearances than his welfare and happiness. Their hypocrisy, flaunting their wealth to impress their “friends” among the idle rich while bad-mouthing them in private, fueled Roman’s obsession with masks and the facades people presented to the world. This led to his creating a mask that revealed his true monstrous self, as he built a new life devoted to destroying the polite society his parents exemplified.

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Related: Batwoman’s New Kate Kane Continues Arrowverse’s Multiverse Clashes

This hatred of hypocrisy was forgotten by most adaptations of Black Mask in media outside of comics. The DCEU Black Mask portrayed by Ewan McGregor in Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was a charismatic yet brutal crime boss, whose motivations beyond acquiring money and power went unexplored before his explosive demise. The Black Mask of Gotham was similarly shallow, making only two appearances before being unceremoniously dispatched by Tabitha Galavan after he refused to join a new super-group of Arkham escapees. The Arrowverse version of Black Mask proved far deeper after only a single appearance, making his debut in the Batwoman episode “Rule #1”.

Batwoman Black Mask with Kate Kane

After capturing the new Batwoman Ryan Wilder, Black Mask explained why he was more than the “sadistic drug lord” Batwoman accused him of being.  It was Black Mask’s goal to build a new society that could better manage Gotham City than the corrupt elites that currently ran it, which was why he called his gang the False Face Society. Black Mask also claimed that everything he did was in the name of a daughter had been unjustly imprisoned by Crows Security and was later killed by the original Batwoman. Wilder laughed off the idea that Black Mask was some kind of concerned citizen wearing a creepy costume, but he proclaimed that his mask was “a symbol of liberation from people like you; people who think they’ll never be held accountable as long as they pretend that what they do is justice.”

This new take on Black Mask is compelling, if only because of the novel twist that he is a father seeking to avenge his daughter’s death at the hands of crooked cops; a fitting nemesis for a Batwoman who became a hero to avenge her mother. This new Black Mask is also uncharacteristically sympathetic, having set himself against the forces of law and order in Gotham City to expose their corruption in the same way as Alice. There is some cruel irony, however, that this Black Mask has already made a hypocrite of himself, financing his new society with a designer drug called Snakebite that endangers the people he claims to be trying to save. On the other hand, given that most of the market for Snakebite seems to be the bored children of the idle rich, it seems likely that Black Mask may be trying to hit the people who finance The Crows where it hurts them most; the heart or the pocketbook.

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