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Quote1.png I'm not happy, you all know, I'm not happy, and despite appearances... ...this ain't a damned smile on my face. Quote2.png
Black Mask src

Roman Sionis, better known by his criminal alias Black Mask, is a longtime enemy of Batman and one of the most prominent figures in Gotham City's organized crime.

Once a member of Gotham's social elite and president of makeup giant Janus Cosmetics, Roman's own poor business sense led to a series of decisions that largely destroyed his reputation as both. Humiliated, Roman sought revenge on those he perceived to be responsible for his misfortunes - namely, Bruce Wayne and his company. To this end, Roman created the identity of the crimelord named Black Mask, as well as the criminal organization known as the False Face Society.

Early Life

Roman Sionis was born to a wealthy Gotham City family in 1971 [1]. Shortly after his birth, his parents dropped him on his head, possibly doing mental damage.

Growing up, Roman's parents cared far more about their own social standing than about the well-being of their child. Because of this, young Roman developed a fascination with masks, which he compared to the phoney way his parents would act around their socialite friends. Roman grew to despise his parents, and by extension their friends, which included Thomas and Martha Wayne, initiating a resentment for their family from an early age.

When Roman came of age, he became the vice president at his father's makeup company Janus Cosmetics. However, ambitious for total control of his family empire, Roman burned his family home down, killing both his parents inside, and was bequeathed all their wealth.

Rise and Fall of Janus Cosmetics

Now the president of Janus Cosmetics, Roman enjoyed the fruits of his ambition and became fascinated with collecting exotic masks from every corner of the world.

Roman creates his original mask

However, ultimately, Roman was a poor businessman and almost ran his family company into the ground. In a desperate attempt to save Janus Cosmetics as it hovered around bankruptcy, Roman approved an experimental, new cosmetic product, which backfired, as it turned out to be hazardous to humans. Janus Cosmetics was besieged by several hundred lawsuits and plummeted towards total ruin. Roman, humiliated, was forced to accept a bailout from Wayne Enterprises to save his company, on the condition that Roman resign as president of Janus Cosmetics.

Having lost his empire, Roman went to the crypt where his parents were buried and began smashing his father's ebony coffin with a stone in frustration. Roman decided, with no other prospects, he would turn to organized crime and, using the dark wood from his father's coffin, fashioned himself a mask to use for his new identity - Black Mask. [2]

Early Crimes

Black Mask's first appearance

Black Mask started gathering members for his new criminal organization called the False Face Society. To differentiate themselves from all the other gangs in Gotham, Sionis forced his cronies to wear masks from his own personal collection that he felt corresponded to their personalities. With his new organization assembled, Black Mask started his vendetta against the Wayne Foundation and their leader Bruce Wayne.[3]

After a few of the False Face Society's coordinated attacks, Batman deduced Black Mask's true identity. In order to draw him out, Bruce Wayne invited Sionis to a masquerade ball at Wayne Manor, where Sionis then attempted to assassinate Wayne. The hit was a failure though, and Black Mask fled from the premises.

Batman and Robin chased after Black Mask and tracked him to the Sionis family estate. Black Mask's former home had been rebuilt since his parents' demise but had since gone abandoned after he lost his fortune. Black Mask, in the same way he killed his parents, intended to burn the house down again to further distance himself from his past. As the house went up in a blaze, Batman and Robin battled the False Face Society, defeating them all and setting their sights on Sionis.

Black Mask attempted to escape through the fire of his own creation, but Batman caught him, causing Sionis to fall face-first into a pile of fire below. Sionis screamed in agony as his ebony mask was burned into his face. Batman and Robin were able to douse the fire and save Sionis' life, but his face was permanently contorted into the shape of his black mask.

Black Mask was taken in by the authorities and delivered to Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane.[4]

Knightfall

Eventually, Black Mask was broken out of Arkham by the new villain Bane as part of his plan to break the Bat. Black Mask, eager to return to crime, sought to reassemble the False Face Society. He hired a new, powerful lieutenant named Tattoo to help him.

In his first mission back, Sionis ordered the False-Facers to burn down various Wayne Enterprises-owned buildings around Gotham. Batman, catching on to the plan, infiltrated the False Face Society under the name "Skullface". From the inside, Skullface foiled another arson attempt with the help of Robin, but he was unable to stop Tattoo from kidnapping Lucius Fox.[5]

Black Mask interrogated Fox for information about Bruce Wayne back at his hideout, but "Skullface" came to the rescue. Though Fox was freed, Skullface's cover was blown, and Black Mask now knew he was Bruce Wayne. After a brief fight, Bruce secretly switched into his Batman costume and tried to apprehend Black Mask. Though the False Face Society and Tattoo were captured, Black Mask escaped into the river, leaving a decoy behind for he police to find. Batman - already in the throes of a mid-life crisis - took this failure extremely hard on himself.[6]

Other Criminal Activities

Black Mask remained at large for a long time until he resurfaced, still leading the False Face Society, and killed rival mobster "Dirty Dan" Doyle in an ambush shootout.[7]

Black Mask and the False Face Society

Later still, Black Mask was approached by a young hoodlum named Johnny LaMonica, also known as the Black Spider, who wished to join the False Face Society. Finding LaMonica irritating, Black Mask demanded that the young man "make his bones" first by crashing another masquerade ball being held at Wayne Manor. Doing as ordered, Black Spider failed to hurt a single person and was barely able to escape Batman.

Batman would later learn, however, that LaMonica was a double agent for "Turk" Ottoman, a rival of Black Mask. Realizing that Black Spider intended to kill Black Mask one way or another to make way for his true employer, Batman tracked Black Mask to an abandoned theater. Though Batman was too late to stop LaMonica from killing several False-Facers, he was able to prevent LaMonica from killing Black Mask. Deeming the armed Black Spider to be the greater threat, Batman fought with LaMonica, having no choice but to allow Black Mask to escape in the confusion. The next night, Batman staged a desperate and violent manhunt for the crimelord, but to no avail.[8]

When a new and radical vigilante known as Lock-Up appeared in Gotham, Black Mask and the False Face Society became unwitting partners in a plan concocted by Batman and the Gotham police to capture the self-declared crimefighter. One of the False-Facers' top enforcers, Joe Rabbit, was captured and pressured to turn state's evidence against Black Mask, receiving high publicity from the local media. This was meant to lure in Lock-Up, who targeted any and all criminals that managed to escape prison sentences. Unexpectedly, however, Black Mask sent in a gang of False-Facers to kill the "traitor", nearly scuttling the plan.

For a brief period, Black Mask attempted to expand his operations into Gotham's sister city Bludhaven by threatening the city's Vietnamese gang for control over the heroin trade. However, the scheme was ultimately foiled by the city's new protector Nightwing.[9]

On one occasion, Black Mask approached Detective Harvey Bullock with a deal: in exchange for a disc filled with information about the False-Facers' rivals in the underworld - "enough potential cases for ten successful police careers" - Bullock would give a false testimony at the upcoming trial of Johnny Poodles - a top False-Facer. Bullock accepted the deal but, when it came time to give his testimony, he gave a truthful statement anyway; Poodles' conviction was assured. Angered, Black Mask sent several False-Facers to kill Bullock, but Bullock escaped the hit alive.[10]

No Man's Land and the True-Facers

When Gotham was destroyed by a massive earthquake and declared a "No Man's Land", Black Mask, along with Gotham's other top criminals, seized portions of the city's ruins for themselves - in Sionis' case, the Fashion District.

No Man's Land

Black Mask had undergone an enormous shift in personality after having researched the Spanish Inquisition. His obsession with masks began to mutate, merging with a new interest in physical pain and torture. Eventually, Black Mask came to think of torture as an "art form", and his own mask, which had been seared into his face in his earlier fight with Batman, as proof that he had survived his own personal torture. [11]

In the ruins of the fashion district, no longer committing crimes for monetary gain, Sionis instead began to espouse a nihilistic philosophy that claimed Gotham's "true face" had been revealed by the earthquake. Black Mask's followers, now calling themselves the "True-Facers", became a full-blown cult, horrifically disfiguring their own faces and doing the same to anyone who continued to uphold a "false face".

The former crimelord and his followers began to expand their empire and focused on overtaking the Gotham Clock Tower, which was still the base of operations for Batman's ally Oracle. As the True-Facers moved in on the tower, Oracle almost shot Black Mask with an emergency sniper rifle, but Black Mask's life was inadvertently saved by the arrival of the new Batgirl, who beat many of the True-Facers into submission before breaking Black Mask's arm. Upon seeing their leader humbled, the rest of the True-Facers fled, and Batman soon arrived to take Black Mask to Blackgate Penitentiary, temporarily run by Batman's former enemy Lock-Up.[12][13]

Eventually wanting to end their tenuous relationship with Lock-Up, Batman assigned Nightwing to infiltrate Blackgate and depose the villain. Though Nightwing was captured, he temporarily allied himself with Black Mask and the Scarecrow to finish his mission and defeat Lock-Up. Nightwing, however, had no intention of letting the inmates run free once again and returned them to their cells.[14]

Battling Catwoman

After the United States government lifted the No Man's Land and welcomed Gotham back into the union, Black Mask returned to his traditional role as a mob kingpin, though he completely abandoned the False Face Society in favor of ordinarily-attired criminals. Soon, he turned his attentions to the drug trade in Gotham's notoriously crime-ridden East End, enlisting the help of many corrupt policemen to secure his hold over the area. His activities, however, eventually led him to clash with the East End's newly-appointed "protector" Catwoman.

Black Mask, enemy of Catwoman

After two policemen under Black Mask's command shot Catwoman's friend Holly Robinson, Catwoman retaliated with an elaborate revenge scheme, breaking up a heroin-diamond exchange that the crimelord had planned with Gotham's Russian mob; the heroin was destroyed, while Catwoman kept the diamonds for herself. To top everything off, several of the policemen on the crimelord's payroll were removed in a corruption bust.[15]

The enraged Black Mask sought vengeance on Catwoman and eventually caught wind of rumors concerning a woman named Sylvia Sinclair - an incarcerated woman who was a childhood friend of Catwoman's and knew her secret identity.[11] In exchange for freeing her, Sylvia gave Black Mask all the information he wanted, allowing for his revenge on Selina to become much more personal.

The crimelord masterminded the bombing of a community center that Selina had funded and ordered for Catwoman's associates Holly Robinson and Slam Bradley to be assassinated, though they survived the hit. Also, unbeknownst to Catwoman until later, Black Mask targeted her sister Maggie. Sionis kidnapped Maggie, physically tortured her, then murdered her husband Simon Burton and forced her to eat his eyeballs.

Catwoman, more furious at Black Mask than ever, confronted him at his headquarters, but she was forced to surrender when Black Mask revealed he had Holly and Maggie as his prisoners. Black Mask offered Catwoman a deal - he would release them if Catwoman agreed to take their place and be tortured to death. Catwoman agreed to the conditions, but after she had been properly chained, Black Mask went back on his word and ordered to have Maggie killed. Catwoman anticipated this betrayal though and activated a bomb she had planted earlier in the crimelord's penthouse, giving her a chance to escape.

In the chaos, Catwoman caught up to Sionis and began beating him senseless for everything he had done. The fight got out of hand, and Black Mask was thrown to the edge of his penthouse's balcony, hanging onto the ledge by one hand. Black Mask begged for help, but the vengeful Catwoman gave him none; Black Mask's grip broke, and he fell several stories to his apparent death.[16]

War Games

 Main article: Batman: War Games

Unbeknownst to anyone, Black Mask actually survived his multi-story fall in his last battle with Catwoman and bided his time for his eventual return.

Some time later, when Spoiler accidentally initiated an enormous cross-city gang war in Gotham, Black Mask saw it as his opportunity to return.

Secretly building a network of allies throughout Gotham's underground, Black Mask's gang began to rise back up in Gotham by capturing and torturing his competition, eradicating and assimilating the Escabedo Cartel, the Lucky Hand Triad,[17] and the Ventriloquist's gang.[18]

As Black Mask's rise began to reach its head, Sionis murdered the gang-leader Orpheus, who was secretly working for Batman,[19] and captured the Bat's sidekick Spoiler. He tortured the girl for information for days before apparently killing her. [20][21]

Sionis wrongly reveals the Clock Tower as the Batcave

Black Mask assumed Orpheus' identity to further his plan. [22][23] As Orpheus, Sionis gathered the remaining warring criminal factions to Robinson Park and, instead of ending the war like Batman would have wanted, encouraged them to become more vicious towards the city's vigilantes.[24] Batman, betrayed, unmasked Orpheus before Black Mask escaped into the night. [25]

Using information given to him by the new villain Hush,[26] Black Mask went to the Gotham Clock Tower with a television crew to record a live broadcast of what he was told was the location of the Batcave.[27]

Though he was technically wrong, the clock tower was the headquarters of Oracle, and, after Black Mask's gang bypassed all her defenses, he took her captive. [28] Batman sprung into action to save her, and, in a last ditch effort to defeat Sionis, Oracle activated a self-destruct sequence within the clock tower. When the countdown expired, the headquarters was destroyed, but Sionis survived and escaped. The gang war eventually subsided, but Black Mask's televised power move made him the undisputed kingpin of Gotham's remaining underworld, uniting all the gang's under his leadership. [29]

Batman-Black Mask

When a man called Aaron Black inspired Gotham to take a renewed interest in the events that led to the death of Stephanie Brown, Black Mask hoped to capitalize on the wave of negative publicity and impersonated Batman to incriminate the vigilante for murder. Black Mask-Batman even attempted to murder Aaron Black himself but was interrupted by the Joker.[30] As Black Mask fought the Joker, the real Batman arrived on the scene, broke up the fight and chased Black Mask off.[31]

Black Mask impersonates Batman

A few days later, Black Mask re-donned his Batman disguise and interrupted a live broadcast featuring Stephanie Brown's mother Crystal. The real Batman appeared and stopped him, but Black Mask was able to escape again, burning Stephanie's medical records on the way.

During his escape, Black Mask once again came across the Joker, who shot him in the leg.[32] Finally, after weeks of chasing both criminals, Batman caught up to both the Joker and Black Mask and captured them, seemingly ending Sionis' reign of terror.

However, despite being delivered to the authorities, Black Mask managed to escape custody before his trial by killing at least six people.[33]

Under the Hood

 Main article: Batman: Under the Hood Back on the streets, Black Mask continued to terrorize Gotham as its head of organized crime. He began actively recruiting supervillains to maintain his status, trying to hire Mister Freeze as an enforcer.[34]

Around this time, Black Mask's operations were targeted by a vicious, mysterious anti-hero calling himself the Red Hood. Though Sionis initially dismissed him, Red Hood really caught the crime lord's ire when he hijacked Black Mask's expensive shipment of Kryptonite.[35] Black Mask sent Mr. Freeze to murder Red Hood, but the attack failed.[36]

For weeks, Red Hood continued to undermine Black Mask's operations, but Sionis decided to take a different approach. Instead of fighting the problem, he simply waited for Batman to eventually take out the problem for him.[37]

Continuing business as usual, Black Mask allied himself with the Mad Hatter to use his mind-control technology to brainwash Killer Croc as one of his grunts. This scheme was eventually stopped by both Batman[38] and Catwoman [39]. Croc, while on a bank heist with the False Face Society, managed to free himself from the mind control and murdered Black Mask's men.[40]

Black Mask tried to buy the Gotham Museum, valuing it for the real estate. Unwittingly, this action entangled him in Hush's latest scheme to kill Batman. In order to distract Sionis, Hush used the serial killer Murmur to frame Man-Bat for killing Black Mask's employees, which in turn led Black Mask to declare war on Man-Bat. Eventually, Hush discovered Black Mask's secret headquarters and burned it to the ground, forcing Batman to spring into action and save Black Mask's life.[41]

Red Hood's attacks on Black Mask's empire started to damage his business enough that he was forced to take a more active approach. Soon, Red Hood located Black Mask's new hideout and used a rocket launcher to destroy the place. Angry and desperate, Black Mask accepted an offer from Deathstroke to join the new Secret Society for the resources to kill the Red Hood.[42] Black Mask was disappointed when the Society's "help" turned out to be Captain Nazi, the Hyena, and Count Vertigo, none of whom were particularly infamous or powerful; his fears were quickly confirmed when the Red Hood, with Batman's help, defeated the trio.[43]

Black Mask vs Red Hood

Trying bargaining instead, Black Mask struck a deal with the Red Hood. As per the agreement, Sionis gathered all his lieutenants into one room and killed them. Despite kneecapping his own operation to appease the man, Black Mask was double-crossed by the Red Hood anyway. Sionis stabbed the Red Hood in the chest, seemingly killing him,[44] until Batman revealed the man Sionis killed was one of the Red Hood's decoys. Focusing his efforts of the Hood, Batman left Black Mask trapped in a minefield of miniature explosives for the police to apprehend.[45]

Black Mask escaped this predicament anyway and returned to running Gotham's underworld.

Final Days

After a new group of supervillains were chased out of the East End by Catwoman, Black Mask renewed his interest in terrorizing his old enemy.

Black Mask's death at Catwoman's hands.

Black Mask kidnapped Catwoman's close ally Slam Bradley and subjected him to extreme physical torture. Bradley was rescued by his son, an undercover cop posing as a supervillain called Smart Bomb, and Black Mask surrendered his mutilated (but alive) captive without a fight.[46]

Black Mask's attack on Catwoman's allies couldn't have come at a worse time for her; she was in the middle of an identity crisis from the revelation that Zatanna had brainwashed her into becoming a crimefighter. Catwoman, furious with a new philosophy on crime, invaded Black Mask's penthouse and cornered the crimelord with a gun. Black Mask, not believing that Catwoman would actually shoot him, taunted her with the promise to become her "arch-nemesis" by killing all of her loved ones. However, Black Mask predicted wrong, and Catwoman shot him in the head at point blank, murdering him.[47]

The Gotham City Police Department investigated Black Mask's murder for over a year but didn't find any evidence to make a conviction. Eventually, a new Black Mask surfaced - Jeremiah Arkham - continuing the legacy of the original.

Blackest Night

 Main article: Blackest Night

As a Black Lantern

When the embodiment of death Nekron sought to conquer the universe during the Blackest Night, he sent Black Lantern rings throughout the galaxy to resurrect corpses to serve as his army. One of these rings reached the body of Roman Sionis, and he was temporarily resurrected as a zombie member of the Black Lantern Corps.

The reanimated Black Mask immediately tracked down Catwoman, looking to avenge his own murder. However, Catwoman refused to show any fear, dampening Black Mask's power. As a means of provoking Catwoman, Black Mask invaded the Adams Psychiatric Institute, where the catatonic Maggie Kyle was still being held and used his Black Lantern Ring to transform it into a replica of his old torture chamber.

Catwoman and her new allies Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy trapped Black Mask inside a giant pitcher plant that would continue to digest his regenerating zombie-body until the night was over. In one respect, however, Black Mask was successful; his reappearance at the psychiatric hospital triggered Maggie's fragile psyche, infusing her with a burning hatred for Catwoman.[1]

After Nekron's defeat, Roman's corpse returned to the grave.


Abilities

  • Criminology: Black Mask is arguably the greatest criminal strategist and organizer in Gotham, having taken almost full control of the city's underworld on at least two occasions.
  • Business Management: While Roman proved to be a poor businessman prior to becoming Black Mask, he eventually became skilled enough to maintain a massive criminal empire.
  • Tactical Analysis
  • Disguise: Black Mask is a formidable master of disguise as well as a highly gifted actor, as he was able to fool even the deductive skills of Batman when disguised as Orpheus. He most often uses face putty or plastic masks to hide his skull-head and look like someone else.
    • Acting: He has led almost all of Gotham to believe he was Batman when donning his suit.
  • Marksmanship: Roman Sionis is an excellent marksman who always carries at least two semi-automatic handguns. He has proven capable of hitting highly nimble athletes (like Jason Todd and Catwoman) in mid-air with relatively little effort and has also shot mid-flight batarangs away from himself.
  • Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced): Black Mask is a highly accomplished athlete and hand to hand combatant who has been shown fighting on par with the likes of Nightwing, Red Hood, Robin, Catwoman, and even Batman himself on at least one occasion. In the last case, however, Batman later mentioned that he had been previously exhausted by three days of nonstop fighting in Gotham's citywide gang wars.
  • Weaponry: Perhaps Black Mask's most defining skill is his mastery of both physical and psychological torture, which he often uses either to extract information, or simply to torment his enemies.
  • Interrogation: Black Mask is an expert on torture techniques that would make talk even the most strong-willed person.[6][17][18][20]

Weaknesses

  • Criminal Insanity: While not traditionally insane by any recognizable disease or mental defect, Roman is criminally insane which means he cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.

Equipment

  • Toxic Masks: Early in his criminal career, Black Mask often made use of masks laced with Janus Cosmetics' defective makeup. A heavy enough dose of the toxic makeup could kill a grown man in thirty seconds when applied to unprotected skin. Roman also occasionally used masks with more diluted amounts of the makeup as torture devices.
  • Black Lantern Ring: While a member of the Black Lantern Corps, Black Mask possessed a Black Lantern Ring and was endowed with all of its abilities, including energy constructs, flight, strength, emotional reading, and a powerful healing factor.

Weapons

  • Firearms: Roman has used a variety of firearms throughout his criminal career, beginning with a single .45 pistol that he stole from the Sionis manor. Shortly before his death, he had progressed to the point of using a Thompson submachine gun with ease.


  • Although this character was originally introduced during DC's Earth-One era of publication, their existence following the events of the 1985–86 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths remains intact. However, some elements of the character's Pre-Crisis history may have been altered or removed for Post-Crisis New Earth continuity, and should be considered apocryphal.
  • According to his headstone, Roman was born in 1971, and died in 2008, at the age of 36 or 37. [1]

Related

Footnotes


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