The first of three Jim Carrey films turned into an animated series, The Mask: The Animated Series was based on the film The Mask, which in turn was based on a series of comics published by Dark Horse.
|The Masque's first appearance in Dark Horse Presents #10.|
Created by John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke from a concept by Mike Richardson, Richardson devised the idea in 1982 before making a single sketch of the character in 1985 for APA-5, an amateur press publication created by Mark Verheiden. After Richardson started Dark Horse, he pitched the idea to writer/artist Mark Badger. Badger debuted the character as Masque in Dark Horse Presents #10, 1987. As Badger’s strips began to grow increasingly political, Richardson ended the strip in order to restore his original vision and hired Chris Warner to devise the definitive look of the character. Arcudi and Mahnke were brought in to create his adventures, and The Mask finally appeared in Mayhem #1, 1989. Described as “a combination of Tex Avery and The Terminator,” the character became incredibly popular. After Mayhem’s cancellation, The Mask continued on in a series of self-titled mini-series and one-shots.
|Stanley brings Kathy the mask, which seems to talk to him.|
The Mask was centered on a magical mask that grants its wearer superhuman abilities and the power to defy the laws of physics. The wearer can move at super speed, contort their bodies in impossible ways, become other people, pull objects out of thin air, heal quickly and so forth. It amplified the wearer’s hidden desires, driving them steadily crazy as they become increasingly violent and destructive. When the mask is worn, the wearer gains a green head with giant teeth.
|The Mask's violent rampage in Mayhem #2.|
Stanley Ipkiss was the first wearer, having bought the mask for his girlfriend Kathy. Stanley violently avenged personal grudges, earning him the name Big Head as his rampages grew more brutal. When Kathy figured out who Big Head was, she killed Stanley and gave the mask to Lt. Mitch Kellaway for safe keeping. Kellaway donned the mask himself and used it to take down a mob family. Only mute, muscle-bound Walter could stand up to Big Head’s power. The mask continued to find its way into the hands of various victims, becoming seduced and warped by its power as they violently acted out their deepest fantasies.
In 1994, The Mask was brought to the big screen by New Line Cinema in an action/comedy film starring Jim Carrey as the titular character. Directed by Chuck Russell on a script by Mike Werb, the film focused on meek, pushover Stanley Ipkiss (the original wearer from the comics): a bachelor who lived with his dog, Milo, worked at Edge City Bank and loved cartoons--particularly Tex Avery’s. Upon finding the mask of Loki, the Norse trickster god, Stanley put it on and became The Mask. As The Mask, Stanley gained a new confidence and powers that turned him into a living cartoon, which he used to punish those who had wronged him; from his bullying landlady, Mrs. Peenman (Nancy Fish), to auto mechanics that ripped him off. However, mafia officer Dorian Tyrell (Peter Greene) wanted the power of The Mask for himself while Lt. Mitch Kellaway (Peter Reigert) and his partner, Det. Doyle (Jim Doughan), wanted to see The Mask behind bars. All the while, reporter Peggy Brandt (Amy Yasbeck) tried to uncover the story of The Mask while Stanley sought to win the heart of Dorian’s girlfriend, the lovely singer Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz in her first film role).
The film was a box-office success, and work was quickly begun on a possible sequel. Carrey was offered $10 million to star, but turned it down due to his experience making Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, noting that revisiting a character offered him no challenges as an actor. Carrey wouldn’t again star in a direct sequel to one of his movies until 2014’s Dumb and Dumber To. With Carrey out, the producers moved forward instead with an animated spin-off that would incorporate some of the ideas for The Mask II throughout its run.
|Stanley Ipkiss and the dormant mask.|
Developed by Duane Capizzi, the series picked up right from where the film ended, but with some changes. Stanley (Rob Paulsen) kept the mask instead of throwing it away in the river. The Mask himself went from being malicious to simply mischievous, with a greater heroic stroke than in the film. The Mask’s restriction of only working at night (due to Loki being a night god as well) was also removed, meaning his insane antics could happen 24/7. His favorite hangout with his friend Charlie (Mark L. Taylor), the Cocoa Bongo Club, still existed, but the character of Tina was eliminated completely. Despite being entirely a cartoon, the show attempted the same balance of reality to counter The Mask’s cartoonish abilities, but often times circumstances would lead even the “real” elements to be subjected to the laws of cartoon physics. Originally, Stanley’s design looked closer to Carrey’s appearance, but Carrey had asked them to change it.
|The Mask turns Pretorius over to Det. Doyle and Lt. Kellaway.|
Charlie was made the manager of the bank where he and Stanley worked, exhibiting all the characteristics as their boss from the movie (self-serving, womanizer, letting Stanley do all the work) while maintaining a friendship with Stanley. Lt. Mitch Kellaway (Neil Ross) and his dim-witted partner, Det. Doyle (Jim Cummings), continued their relentless quest to capture and end The Mask’s career, however Kellaway was portrayed taller and younger like his comic counterpart. Kellaway was often the recipient of atomic wedgies from The Mask in a running gag. Reporter Peggy Brandt (Heidi Shannon) became the primary female character of the series, but not a love-interest for Stanley due to her selling him out to Tyrell during the movie. She had attempted to make amends for her mistake and saved Stanley’s life several times, which was the only reason he ever helped her on her quest to break serious scoops.
|The Mask vs. Pretorius.|
The show itself took on the vibe of a superhero parody. The police were completely inept as was the Mayor (Kevin Michael Richardson), relying on The Mask to save the city countless times. The Mask was given an arch-enemy in Pretorius (Tim Curry), a mad scientist who placed his head on tiny spider-like robotic legs that could attach to a larger android body. Other colorful foes populated the series with their own agendas or by joining forces with each other. Some of these foes included Walter, a carryover from the comics, the mute strongman who could actually harm The Mask and split the mask in half; The Terrible Two, Dak (Cam Clarke) and Eddie (Jeff Bennett), were two comic book fanboys who tried to give themselves super powers via radiation exposure, turning themselves into Putty Thing and Fish Guy, respectively; Kablamus (Cummings, impersonating Sterling Holloway), became capable of self-explosion after being accidentally dropped into his chemicals while working on an unbreakable balloon formula; Channel Surfer (Gary Owens) teleported through televisions on his surfboard after throwing a fit when his favorite show was canceled and his TV fell on him; and Gorgonzola the Cheese Witch (Cree Summer), created through a contest held by Disney Adventures magazine, who could possess someone via an amulet and turn anything into cheese. Allusions and spoofs to other superheroes from other publishers were common, either in The Mask’s transformations or in the characteristics of his rogues.
|Milo gets his own turn wearing the mask.|
Remaining from the movie were Stanley’s faithful dog, Milo (Frank Welker), antagonistic landlady, Agnes Peenman (Tress MacNeille), who constantly verbally abused Stanley and ended up the butt of The Mask’s pranks as a result, and Dr. Arthur Newman (Ben Stein), a psychologist who didn’t believe in The Mask’s existence despite having worn it once himself in “Shrink Wrap.” Stein was the only actor from the film to reprise his role, however there were plans to bring Tyrell, the villain from the movie, back with his henchmen as ghosts, with Greene in talks to reprise his role along with Orestes Matacena as Niko. However, the idea was eventually scrapped. Integrated from the comics was the concept of the mask being worn by multiple people, from friends to several villains.
The Mask: The Animated Series debuted on CBS on August 12, 1995. Along with Capizzi and Arcudi, it was written by Dean Stefan, Ernie Jon, Henry Gilroy, Steve Roberts, Alexx Van Dyne, Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir, Brooks Wachtel, Julia Lewald, Mark Seidenberg, Thomas Hart, Sib Ventress, Steve Cuden, John Ludin, Adam Gilad, Ralph Soll, Richard Stanley, Mel Gilden, Stephen Levi, Tracy Berna, John Behnke, Rob Humphrey, Jim Peterson, Steve Melching, David McDermott, Diane M. Fresco, Bob Ardiel and J.D. Smith. During its three-season run, The Mask featured three different theme songs. All were sung by Paulsen and written by Keith Baxter and Christopher Neal Nelson and featured a swing-style like what was featured in the Coco Bongo Club from the film.
|What else can you expect from a girl named "BaBoom?"|
The second season episode “Flight as a Feather” is rarely seen in American rebroadcasts of the show due to risqué material. The episode depicted the Mayor’s ex-girlfriend, exotic dancer Cookie BaBoom (Summer), crashing one of the Mayor’s many parties looking for revenge on him. She was depicted as wearing nothing but dynamite strapped to her body, and The Mask disarmed her by stripping the dynamite off. Her resulting implied nudity was used to distract Kellaway and Doyle from pursuing him. As a result of the suggestive themes, only certain markets would broadcast the episode when the series went into syndicated reruns.
|Holy meta crossovers, Batman!|
After three seasons, the series ended its run on CBS and moved into syndication. To end it with a bang, it was decided that the final episode would be a crossover with another Carrey show on CBS: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. In it, Milo’s brain is switched with a scientist’s resulting in his being dognapped, and Stanley called the only person qualified(?) to help: Ace (Michael Daingerfield). The episode, “The Aceman Cometh,” was part one of the crossover, with the second part airing as part of Ace’s show in the adjoining timeslot.
In 1996, Dark Horse published a comic series set in the world of the show called Adventures of the Mask, which had a 12-page promotional edition sponsored by Toys R Us, and Upper Deck released a set of trading cards. Toy Island made a series of action figures in 1997, although clips from the show were used in advertisements for Kenner’s own toy line based on the movie. Taco Bell also released a set of four figures and other toys in their restaurants, and Kellogg’s included pencil toppers in their cereals. Six VHS tapes were released with through New Line Home Video between 1995 and 1996, each containing two episodes. The opening two-part episode of the series was included on the Son of the Mask DVD (more on that below) as well as given its own individual release. In 2018, Warner Archive released the complete first season to DVD. The entire series has been made available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
|Joker uses his new powers to re-brand himself in Joker/Mask.|
And what of The Mask himself? In 2000, The Mask met his final fate in the comics with the DC Comics crossover mini-series Joker/Mask. Kellaway followed the mask to Gotham City where it had gotten into the hands (and on the face of) The Joker. With Batman’s help, the mask was removed and Kellaway buried it in Stanley’s grave. 14 years later, the Mask would return to comics in some form in the opening arc of the Dark Horse series Itty Bitty Comics, which took an all-ages approach to established and original characters, and then re-embraced his violent roots in 2019 with The Mask: I Pledge Allegiance to The Mask.
|Powered boy vs. masked dog in Son of the Mask.|
In 2005, New Line attempted a pseudo-sequel film without Carrey called Son of the Mask. Loki (Alan Cumming) was sent by Odin (Bob Hoskins) to retrieve the mask. Cartoonist Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy) became owner of the mask when his dog, Otis (Bear), found it in a creek. Conceiving a child while wearing the mask, Tim’s son Alvey (Ryan and Liam Falconer) was born with the powers of Loki. Stein again reprised his role as Dr. Newman, and Ross provided Alvey’s deep voice. The film ended up being a tremendous flop, making audiences wonder why anyone involved with the production didn’t declare “SSSSSSSSSomebody stop me!”