Was The Mask Supposed to be Gory?
March 15, 2016
(The short version of the NC's intro plays)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to. A lot of us are familiar with the hit film The Mask.
(A picture of Eric Stoltz as Rocky Dennis from the 80's movie "Mask" pops up)
NC: No, not that one, but trust me. That's hilarious! You'll get a lot of laughs out of that. No, no, I'm talking about the Jim Carrey movie.
(Stills from the Jim Carrey Mask movie pop up. We also see a pic from The Mask animated series and the poster for the cinematic puke stain, Son of the Mask. The YouTube Audio Library track "Fairytale Waltz" by Kevin MacLeod plays throughout)
NC (vo): Featuring cartoony visuals with groundbreaking effects and spawning several spinoffs, including a TV show and an instructional video for the Antichrist. Most of you won't be shocked to know that The Mask was based on a comic book. This is no big surprise, I mean, the movie was about a weak guy getting superpowers to save the day.
NC: But that's not the kind of comic book it was. The comic book was disturbing as hell!
(We see the cover of the first issue of The Mask)
NC (vo): It was violent, intense, gritty, and so gory that I'm just gonna warn you now that if you are the tiniest bit squeamish, you should not watch this from here on out. No, really! I know it sounds silly, but The Mask can be so bloody it can actually make people queasy, it is that intense.
NC: Oh, I see. You're still watching the video, so you think you can handle it. Well, just to make sure you made the right choice, let me show you this little brief scene from the comic where a guy starts...
(We see a scan of some panels from the comic. Walter is dragging a knife across his cheek and the word "SSSK" is spelled out as he does)
NC (vo): ...cutting his cheek. Yeah, he's just doing that for fun. Can't you just hear that spelled-out sound effect?
NC: Still think you can take it? Well, how about another panel...
NC (vo): ...of him doing the same thing, only this time a little closer? Notice how much detail they're drawing in there with the veins and such?
NC: Still good? How about one more panel...
NC (vo): ...that they include? This one the closest, oozing with red, where you can practically see all the art that they-
(The offscreen viewer groans and suddenly passes out, and "Told Ya!" appears on screen in bright yellow letters. We see more pages from the comic)
NC (vo): The purpose of this editorial is to show the difference between two seemingly different, yet still related works of the same name. Do these differences make them stronger, weaker, do they help them stand as individual pieces or confuse whatever mood and tone they were trying to get across?
NC: Well, let's start from the beginning. Published in 1991...
NC (vo): ...The Mask at first seems to start off like the movie. A wormy dweeb named Stanley Ipkiss is everybody's punching bag and wishes he could fight back. When getting a present for his girlfriend Kathy, that being the artifact of the Mask, he tries it on for fun and, like the film, turns into a green-headed loon who can't be killed and now operates on cartoon logic.
NC: Well, okay, so he gets revenge like in the movie and cartoon hilarity ensues, right? (looks up) Not exactly.
NC (vo): While some scenes are similar, the effects of this cartoony nature extend only to him. So, when he makes a Tommy Gun out of a balloon, he doesn't scare the annoyances with it, he blows them into hamburger. And when he sticks the car parts in the mechanics that ripped him off, they don't just moan at a few butt jokes, they're left as bloody corpses. In fact, Ipkiss in the movie says he might become a superhero and ends up saving the day. This Ipkiss goes on a killing spree. Not just getting revenge on people he doesn't like but just anyone in general! Suffocating a teacher, massacring total strangers and slaughtering cops just doing their job!
(As NC talks, we see Big Head choke an old school teacher by stuffing a shoe in her mouth, shoot a guy in the crotch with an uzi at close range, impales a cop with a baton and blow another cop's head apart with a machine gun)
NC: It's, uh... kinda sick!
NC (vo): Ipkiss in the film is a hopeless romantic who just wants to be the cool guy. Ipkiss in the comic is a psychotic maniac who doesn't care who he kills or how! Whether in the film, he's called the title, the Mask, in the comic, he's known as the Big Head Killer. Again, very different from the movi,e seeing as how he never spills one drop of blood.
NC: But if you're thinking to yourself, "I don't want to spend an entire comic series with this guy", don't worry! He dies very early on!
NC (vo): Kathy gets fed up with his shit and blows his brains out, resulting in her dropping off the Mask to a local cop. Take a guess what the cop's name is, by the way. You guessed it, Calloway, Jim Carrey's foil in both the movie and cartoon, though the cartoon draws him closer to the original source than the movie. But where in both of those he's a side character, here, he becomes the lead. No big surprise, the cop tries it on, and everything starts all over again. Only this time, he uses the Mask to try and stop crime. However, he's just as violent and blood-hungry, to a point where he almost kills his best friend. Figuring out he can't keep it under control, he buries the Mask, and the nightmare seems to be over.
NC: That is until the second run of the series, The Mask Returns.
(The cover and the pages from The Mask Returns comics are shown)
NC (vo): Burglars break into Calloway's house and disarm him. Trying to find a way to fight back, he digs up the Mask, but gets shot before he can use it. Yeah, kinda weird seeing all these characters you grew up with suddenly get horribly maimed, isn't it? One of the more timid and cowardly gangsters gets the Mask forced on him and, once again, it's used for evil. He uses it to rule the mob and take out threats to his mafia world. He even blows up an entire wedding because a mob boss is there. It's insane how mean-spirited this comic is! Feeling guilty for Calloway being shot, Kathy infiltrates Big Head's network and steals the Mask for herself. When she finds she can't destroy it, she realizes she has a responsibility to end the mob war the Mask started. So she slips it on and starts taking on the mafia herself, only to come across someone who seems just as indestructible, a giant of a beast named Walter. Now, while this character didn't appear in the movie, he does appear on the show. He was a mammoth of muscle and strength, whose entire life is violence. Whenever he wants to entertain himself, he'll do something as messed up as punch nails into his hand, forming a happy face. Or, as shown before, just cut himself for laughs. He's about as intimidating and as uncomfortable a character you can get. Working for the mob, though, he discovers a unique fascination with the Big Head Killer, presumably because they both seem indestructible. So, while all the other mob members try to run for their lives, Walter stays behind and won't stop until one of them is dead. This goes on for hours, until Kathy decides she can't control it anymore and knows whoever has it is just going to kill everybody eventually anyway. So she decides she doesn't give a shit and hands it over to Walter, who intriguingly has no interest in it. She's even kind of pissed off. Why wouldn't he want it? It doesn't seem to make any sense. But, before that can't be answered, Calloway wakes up from the hospital and drives a car into Walter, losing both him and the Mask.
(The third set of the comics, The Mask Strikes back, is shown)
NC (vo): Things seem to settle down until the third revival, The Mask Strikes Back. Now, this series is especially interesting, because it was written after the success of the movie, and it clearly shows. A group of teens come across the Mask and use it not to murder, but just to do teen stuff: become a rockstar, go on a party spree, and even become a superhero. The violence is replaced with more wacky visuals that fit more in the Jim Carrey movie than it did in the comic series. Even when blowing up a bomb at a police station, the cops are just covered in black soot. That kind of thing would have never happen in the first series. But it does allow for some really fun and inventive artwork, and they do still sneak in some grizzly images; as Walter is nursing himself back to health and is looking again for whoever has the Mask. This time, though, he's not screwing around. When he has the Mask, he knows what to do with it. He slaps that sucker on, only to find that it does...nothing. Yeah, it has no effect on him. This is one of the biggest mysteries of the Mask ever. In fact, Walter's whole relationship with it is kind of a big question mark. Why didn't he want it when it was first offered? Was it more about the fight? Did he want to feel he could defeat an entity that was never defeated? If so, why did he want it later? And when he did try it on, how come it didn't work? Was he so destructive naturally that the Mask couldn't add anymore, or was he so big and strong that the Mask couldn't even fit around his face? This, again, would never be answered, as he launches the Mask into the air, and Walter disappears forever.
NC: Which brings us to the last of the series or what many people consider the last one that matters, The Hunt For Green October.
(The cover and panels for the mentioned comic book is shown)
NC (vo): Yeah, I think it's a dumb title, too. While a bunch of assassins are searching for the Mask, a father is looking after his child who has emotionally shut herself out from the world, this being because her mother died. She won't talk, smile, she barely even communicates. The father comes across where the Mask landed, though, and, naturally, tries it on and uses it to go after the bullies who mocked his kid. But things become tricky when his daughter wants to dress up as the Big Head Killer for Halloween. He has to tell her no because that's a psychotic killer, even though he IS the psychotic killer. But that doesn't stop her from trying anyway, as she's booted from the school dance and made fun of once again. This is easily the most depressing part of the series, because a lot of it does center around this kid's pain. But it does add a twist when she comes across the Mask herself and, for the first time ever, a child is now the Big Head Killer. The climax centers around a battle between the assassin group, Calloway once again looking for the mask, and our father and daughter duo trying to get out of it. It certainly had more violence and gore than the last series, but the artwork was starting to get a little too busy and maybe a bit too rushed. But there was still something to the heavier moments that made it feel like it was worth getting through.
NC: After that, the Mask mostly lived in spin-offs.
(The cover for The Mask World Tour is shown)
NC (vo): Trying to draw attention to more Dark Horse Comics and looking more and more like the Jim Carrey version and less and less like the one that started off. There's even a series called The Mask & The Joker. Yeah, it gets pretty silly. But still, whenever somebody mentions The Mask comic, the first thing anyone usually thinks is that bloody intense version, just for how shocking and uncomfortable it was.
NC: With a movie that's aimed more towards kids and more friendly humor, does it really make sense to have something so bloody and so mean-spirited out there? (looks around briefly) Kind of.
(The cover for the first ever incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the comics and some panels from X-Men comic books are shown)
NC (vo): At least, if it's any good. Remember how the Ninja Turtles started off really bloody and gory? There's some X-Men comics that get pretty violent and gritty. As long as it's done well, I don't really mind that they both have their own unique style. All right, I'm not gonna act like this is Shakespeare or anything, but if you look at these comics the same way you do, say...
(The Blu-ray cover for Dracula: Prince of Darkness starring Christopher Lee is shown)
NC (vo): ...a monster movie series, it's actually rather engaging. They are stories of revenge and giving in to your inner demons. And because it switches from person to person, sometimes that can be good and sometimes that can be bad. Sometimes people have it on for just the right amount of time, others, they have it on for too long and get lost to the madness. It's a story about becoming consumed by your bad side, how much is needed and how much goes too far.
(The poster for the 1931 movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the screenshot from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, showing Frodo Baggins wearing the Ring of Power for the first time, are shown)
NC (vo): You see this kind of stuff all the time in classic horror and, yeah, even classic fantasy. That Mask does have a very Ring of Power feel to it, doesn't it?
NC: So you would think the film in cartoon would be horrible representations of the original source material. Well...the same way the '60s Batman...
NC (vo): ...is a bad representation. It's just kind of its own thing that uses the same characters and ideas, but for entirely different means. The film of the Mask is more of a slightly adult cartoon: Tex Avery with real actors. I don't think the early '90s would've been ready for something this weird and violent yet, especially with a star like Jim Carrey at it. And even the cartoon, which does borrow some elements from the comic, it's still mostly an animated version of the movie. But much like the '60s Batman, it's a fun segue to something different and more adult. It's like Jekyll and Hyde mixed with the Looney Tunes and The Punisher. it's disturbing, gory and psychotic, but it's also Gothic, creative and holds your interest. So I say it's fine to enjoy both versions and what they have to offer, even if they are very different things. Whether it's to hear somebody say "Smokin'!" or literally see somebody smoking, there's two different versions of the same story to entertain whatever strange, strange mood you're in.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll)