clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What is Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask character like in the comics?

Your gimmick is just ‘masks’? Do you know what city this is?

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

EWAN McGREGOR considers his literal black mask as Roman Sionis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN). Photo: Claudette Barius/Warner Bros.

With Birds of Prey screaming into theaters, we’re shining a spotlight on the DC Comics movie’s cast of characters — from A to Zsasz. There are some long histories behind some of the superheroes and villains, but here’s everything you need to know about Roman Sionis, the mafia don known as Black Mask:

What is Black Masks’ origin story in the comics?

Roman “Black Mask” Sionis was raised by very rich, very bad parents, and even then, he was kind of a big jerk. After murdering his own parents to take control of their cosmetics company, he ran it into the ground. When Wayne Enterprises bought it out and removed him from the board, he decided to kill Bruce Wayne. That quest eventually led Sionis to a mental break, after which he started wearing an ebony mask carved from his father’s coffin (so extra) and found his first small criminal empire, the “False Face Society.”

A few stories later, he was trapped in a burning building, and the shape of the mask was permanently burned into his face, turning his actual countenance into a crisped obsidian skull.

Who created Black Mask?

Doug Moench and Tom Mandrake crafted the first Black Mask story, but over the years other creators have slowly morphed him from the mask-wearing leader of a small criminal cult to one of Gotham’s most notorious crime lords.

What are Black Masks’ powers or abilities?

He’s just a baseline human with a lot of mental problems. He’s also know for his fondness of torturing people.

Who plays Roman Sionis/Black Mask in the movie?

Ewan McGregor, set to reprise his role as Obi-Wan in an upcoming Disney Plus series, went full comic book as Black Mask in Birds of Prey. In the movie, Black Mask is definitely more of the “crime lord” type rather than the “False Face” type, but he’s still got a hangup about his family legacy.

Why Black Mask’s black mask can be confusing

You shouldn’t mistake Black Mask with Mr. Bones, another DC Comics character who has a black skull head. Here’s how to tell them apart: Black Mask is a Gotham City crime lord whose face looks like a black skull, while Mr. Bones is a government expert on metahumans whose skin is invisible, so his face is actually a skull.

What Black Mask comics should I read?

Batman #386 (1985)

If you thought that Bruce Wayne was dedicated when he trained to become Batman, that’s nothing compared with the work Roman Sionis put in to *checks notes* kill his family to assume control of their fortune and then start his own secret society dedicated to masks and murder, all of which happens in this one issue. Yes, really.

Catwoman #12-16 (2002-2003)

Perhaps the perfect encapsulation of how bad Black Mask really was happened in this storyline, where he lashed out at Catwoman by kidnapping her sister so that he could drive her insane by forcing her to eat her murdered husband; yes, you read that right.

Batman #635-638 (2005)

Mostly remembered these days for bringing Jason Todd back from the dead, the Under The Hood storyline also delivered something Black Mask had been looking forward to for two decades. Roman finally leveled up from quirky gang leader to kingpin of the Gotham City underworld — and he might have survived, if it wasn’t for the mysterious guy in the red mask determined to destroy everything at any cost.