Charles Russell’s 1994 film The Mask is remembered as a goofy, basically lighthearted Jim Carrey vehicle featuring cartoonish, over-the-top special effects and such memorable catchphrases as “Sssssssmokin’!” and “Somebody stop me!” But, if the movie had followed the template of the Dark Horse comic books on which it was based, it could have been one of the most gory, disturbing, blood-drenched adaptations of all time. But maybe that version would not have been a $351 million hit, spawning a sequel and an animated series. YouTuber Doug “The Nostalgia Critic” Walker has prepared a side-by-side comparison of the film and the comic, and his findings are eye-opening in more ways than one.
As Walker explains, the 1991 print incarnation of The Mask starts off a lot like the familiar Carrey film: “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 destroyed and now operates on cartoon logic.” This is whether the two paths diverge dramatically. The comic book Ipkiss becomes a homicidal maniac, dubbed “The Big Head Killer,” and goes on a deplorable murder spree before being gunned down by his own girlfriend. The mask then passes from one owner to the next, including a cop and a gangster, usually resulting in gore and carnage aplenty. While the 1994 movie is bloodless, the Dark Horse version has a considerable body count. “It’s insane how mean spirited this comic is,” Walker observes. But does that mean Russell’s film is a bad adaptation of the source material? Not necessarily. The movie just uses the same basic premise to tell a different, happier kind of story. Walker says that a good analogy is the campy 1960s Batman TV show. “It’s just kind of its own thing,” he says. “It uses the same characters and ideas but for entirely different means.”