A lot of movies, blockbuster or otherwise, start off as comic books. More than you would initially think, but it makes total sense, comics are just another medium for great story-telling, of course those great stories will make it to cinema. And a movie’s journey from comic to movie is very backwards from my own journey into the world of comics. I started off as a cinephile and moved into the world of comics through films I loved like Watchmen, Kick-Ass and a little TV show called The Walking Dead. After seeing these films I enjoyed immensely, I wanted to know more, so I picked up the books. I then got into the original TMNT comics (I had loved the cartoon & toys as a kid) and Batman comics, through the Arkham games actually, although I had seen and enjoyed all the Batman films. (sans Batman & Robin)
The Mask is a different case. I had watched the cartoon series growing up, but I had not seen the 1994 hit movie or read the original comic run. That was, until about a week ago. I found a copy of The Mask Vol. 1 paperback (collects issues 0-4) online and bought it and read it. A few days after reading it I was able to borrow a copy of the movie on blu-ray. Here are the major similarities and differences.
Both center around a green mask that, when worn, give the wearer extraordinary powers, shape-shifting and invulnerability, essentially. Some characters appear in both the book and the movie, namely Stanley Ipkiss & Lt Kellaway. Other than that, that’s kind of where the similarities end, except for a few scenes taken right out of the books.
For instance, the scene where Big Head (the Mask) is making balloon animals and creates an actual functional tommy gun, or the scene where he gets revenge on the crooked auto mechanics who ripped him off. Both straight from the pages of the comic.
The way the mask makes people behave under it’s control is essentially the same but the people who wear it are portrayed very differently. Stanley in the comic, I felt, was more of a snivelly little jerk, not the lovable loser in the film. He had hate and revenge in his heart before he ever put on the mask. His love interest in the comic is his girlfriend Kathy, not some bank robber lady. The mask is bought as a gift in the comic, not found is body of water. Also, the reason Big Head fights in the comic is much more for revenge than for any sense of justice or do-gooding. Which is more of the vibe I got from the film.
Lt. Kellaway is also very different in the comic. He is shown as an upstanding, hard-nosed, honest, by-the-book cop. Not the hard-ass saddled to an idiot like in the film. He actually ends up wearing the mask after Kathy gives it to him out of fear of it’s power.
Other than that the overall tone of the comic is much darker and more adult. Violence and adult language is much more prevalent in the comic.
Which is better?
That’s very hard to say, and not just because it’s an objective question. I enjoyed both but I’d still say the comic is much more to my liking. Very original, funny, and engaging. (It even has Walter, for those of you who watched the cartoon) But the film had it’s finer points as well. As a film, it had to be a much more cohesive, all-inclusive story, where the comic was much more a collection of separate, but connected, stories.
Also, Jim Carrey’s performance was so perfect for both sides of the Mask, Stanley and Big Head. The effects at the time were cutting-edge (I’m still pretty impressed with them today). Yeah, it was more family-friendly than I prefer but hey, that’s Hollywood.
All in all I would still recommend the book before the movie. It wasn’t as well developed but it was such a blast to read. I will definitely be picking up more collections of The Mask. Such an interesting character, I’ve got to see where else the series goes. Son of the Mask however… I don’t think so.