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Roman Sionis (New Earth)

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HelpBlack Mask
Black Mask 0003
Information-silkReal NameRoman Sionis
Information-silkCurrent AliasBlack Mask
Information-silkRelativesCharles Sionis (father, deceased), Unnamed mother (deceased)
Information-silkAffiliationGotham Organized Crime, False Facers, Secret Society
Information-silkBase Of OperationsGotham City
Information-silkIdentityPublic Identity
Information-silkMarital StatusSingle
Information-silkOccupationCrimelord, Businessman
Information-silkHeight6' 1"
Information-silkWeight195 lbs (88 kg)
Information-silkHairNone (formerly brown)
Information-silkUniverseEarth-One, New Earth
Information-silkPlace of BirthGotham City
Information-silkCreatorsDoug Moench, Tom Mandrake
First AppearanceAppearance of Death

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


Born to a wealthy Gotham City family, Roman Sionis grew up with parents that cared far more about their own social standing than about the well-being of their child. When an infant Roman was dropped on his head mere moments after birth, for instance, his mother refused to sue the doctor, unwilling to slander the Sionis name in a "common lawsuit". Thereafter, people - including Roman's parents - would note that Roman's eyes contained a "strange dullness".

Roman's childhood proved to be one of pretensions as well as luxury. Countless times, his parents would don "masks" of courtesy and respect for similarly wealthy and influential guests that they privately loathed, including the Wayne family. Soon, Roman grew resentful of both the "masks" and his family's high-society "friends", not to mention his parents themselves, who would often pressure him into donning a "mask" as well.

At the age of twelve, Roman was taken on his first "camping trip" at the luxurious Sionis country estate. It was here that his lifelong obsession with masks would truly begin, as it was on the estate grounds that Roman was bitten by a rabid raccoon - a creature "trapped in a lifelong mask" just like he believed himself to be. The bite brought on nightmarish fevers and hallucinations, all of which the young Roman survived, though he would emerge from the ordeal with an even more unstable mind.

When he turned twenty-one, Roman became an employee at his father's company, Janus Cosmetics. Starting at the bottom, Roman managed to work his way up to the position of vice president in a month. Shortly thereafter, Roman fell in love with a young model auditioning for Janus Cosmetics, who operated under the stage name of " Circe". Though Roman hastily hired and proposed to Circe, his parents - still in charge of Janus Cosmetics - forbade him from associating with such a lower-class woman, and planned to fire Circe. Roman pretended to accept this, managing for the first time in his life to successfully don one of the "masks" his parents loved so much. The next summer, both of Roman's parents died in a mysterious fire.

Shortly after his parents' deaths, Roman took over the position that his father once held - president of Janus Cosmetics. However, Roman soon proved himself to be a poor businessman, refurnishing the four of the company's five public relations offices as a private apartment for himself and Circe. The final office was used as a storeroom for Roman's new obsession - collecting masks from every corner of the world. Roman's "hobby" would soon spill over into his work, as he pressed his subordinates to market a new line of "extreme", brightly-colored makeup that were, in effect, liquid masks. The new face-paint line failed spectacularly, and Roman was disgraced in the eyes of his employees.

Desperate to improve Janus Cosmetics' plunging revenues, Roman began to throw money at the company's Research and Development division, urging them to invent something new. To Roman's joy, Janus' scientists soon created a new, one-hundred-percent waterproof makeup, which Roman hastily and aggressively marketed to the public, ignoring pleas that the still-experimental makeup be tested for safety first. Unfortunately for Roman and Janus Cosmetics, the makeup proved to be a highly dangerous toxin, permanently disfiguring several hundred consumers across Gotham.

Janus Cosmetics soon found itself besieged by several hundred lawsuits, and teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. A humiliated Roman was forced to accept a bailout from Wayne Enterprises, on the condition that Roman give up control of Janus Cosmetics and allow Wayne Enterprises to appoint a new board of directors (while staying on as a figurehead leader). To add insult to injury, Circe left Roman during the whole debacle, to pursue employment as a model elsewhere.

Now totally unhinged, Roman traveled to the cemetery where his parents were buried, unwilling to blame himself for his misfortunes. As he began to unlock the door the Sionis family crypt, a bolt of lightning struck him, blasting open the door and hurling Roman headfirst into a nearby stone. Roman took the event as an omen signifying his "rebirth", and rushed into the crypt, smashing his father's ebony casket with the stone.

Roman would spend the next several days in hiding, preparing for his rebirth by carving a piece of his father's casket lid into a fearsome black mask. As the police investigated his disappearance, Roman gathered several other items from his home and from Janus Cosmetics - an automatic pistol, several thousand dollars in cash, his entire mask collection, and the remaining jars of the defective waterproof makeup - and debuted as Gotham's newest crime lord, Black Mask. [1]

Black Mask 0002

The False Face Society of Gotham

Black Mask was easily able to gather a legion of followers from the ranks of Gotham's underworld, beginning with two petty criminals whom he dubbed "Thespis" and "Tupeng". The " False Face Society", as Black Mask called the gang, was highly distinctive, and cult-like in several aspects - each member wore a different mask, which Black Mask himself assured would "recreate" the wearers' personalities into stronger ones. Operating from a base in the Sionis family crypt, the False Face Society soon buried Gotham beneath a crime wave, attracting the attention of both the police and Batman.

As the forces of law and order began to piece together Black Mask's true identity, the crime lord pursued his vendetta against those who had wronged him. With only Thespis and Tupeng at his side, Black Mask personally murdered three of Janus Cosmetics' new, Wayne-appointed executives, forcing each to don a mask laced with the failed waterproof makeup. The toxic chemicals made short work of the executives, killing each one painfully and leaving his face horrifically disfigured. This done, Black Mask next kidnapped Circe from her new career as a magazine model and forced her to don a mask laced with a diluted form of the makeup, sparing her life but permanently disfiguring her face. Black Mask then demanded that Circe rejoin him, or face the "full facial treatment", as the Wayne executives had. Left with no choice, Circe agreed, and was given a "mannequin" mask intentionally designed to mock her former life.

In the meantime, Batman had deduced Black Mask's true identity, and correctly predicted that Bruce Wayne would be the crime lord's next target. Hoping to set a trap for Black Mask, he held a masquerade ball at Wayne Manor, knowing that Sionis would not be able to resist attending. True to his predictions, Sionis, with Circe as his "date", infiltrated the ball and mingled with the guests. Sionis subsequently lured Bruce to the mansion's conservatory, intending to kill him with a gun. Bruce successfully fought off and disarmed Sionis, forcing the latter to flee the premises and allowing Robin to trail him to his hideout in the Sionis crypt.

The Dynamic Duo soon followed Black Mask into the graveyard, fighting off the hordes of the False Face Society with ease. Black Mask himself, however, escaped through a false bottom installed in his father's coffin, and fled the graveyard in a hearse. With the Batmobile hot on his heels, Black Mask drove to the Sionis family estate, chalking up his failure to kill Bruce Wayne to the "weakness" of Roman Sionis, and intending to fully sever the aforementioned identity from that of Black Mask. As Batman and Robin battled with the remaining members of the False Face Society, Black Mask entered Roman Sionis' old bedroom and set fire to the old toys inside, intending to burn the mansion to the ground.

Though empowered by the symbolism of the act, Black Mask's sense of invincibility was shortly-lived, for he emerged from the room to see that the entire membership of his False Face Society had been defeated by Batman and Robin. Unnerved, the crime lord immediately fled back into the burning bedroom. In an attempt to save him, Batman flung a cable around Black Mask's knees, causing Black Mask to fall face-first just as the bedroom's rafters began collapsing. The rafters pinned Black Mask's face into the pile of burning toys; though Batman and Robin were able to tow him out of the fire, the flames had already burned the mask into his face, forever cementing his identity as Black Mask.

Shortly afterward, Black Mask was arrested, and sentenced to the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

Return to Gotham

Some time after his arrest, Black Mask was freed from Arkham by the machinations of Ra's al Ghul, along with many other criminals hailing from both Arkham and the Gotham State Penitentiary. Once freed, Black Mask went off to pursue his own agenda, refusing to follow the Joker's lead as so many of his fellow escapees (including Penguin, Riddler, and Killer Croc) were. [2]

Post-Crisis, Black Mask made a brief appearance during the events of "The Last Arkham" as one of the inmates in Arkham Asylum. Here, he was part of an enormous mob of inmates that Jeremiah Arkham unleashed upon Batman, as part of a "disciplinary exercise". The crime lord was presumably beaten senseless, much like his fellow inmates. [3]

Later on, Black Mask returned to crime after an unspecified breakout at Arkham Asylum, leading a rebuilt False Face Society (complete with an unwilling Circe by his side) and a new, powerful lieutenant named Tattoo. As the crimelord quickly rose through the ranks of Gotham's underworld, he continued his vendetta against Bruce Wayne by ordering the False-Facers to burn down various Wayne Enterprises-owned buildings around Gotham. The rash of arsons attracted Batman's attention once more, prompting the Dark Knight to disguise himself as a new recruit to the False Face Society who was Christened "Skullface" by Black Mask himself.

Though "Skullface" foiled another arson attempt by the False Face Society with the help of Robin, he was unable to stop Tattoo from kidnapping Lucius Fox, the "mastermind" behind the Wayne bailout. His grudge still powerful, Black Mask almost killed Fox on the spot, but was convinced to spare him - for the time being - by Circe. The crimelord decided to leave Fox locked in his hideout to starve, and began to redirect his energies toward strengthening his criminal empire. During this time, however, he began to grow suspicious of his new recruit's inquisitive nature, and correctly began to suspect (as did Tattoo) that "Skullface" was a spy.

The following night, Black Mask began to interrogate Fox, demanding information about Bruce Wayne. Fox resisted these demands, even when Black Mask threatened him with disfigurement and death via one of his infamous toxic makeup-smeared masks. As the angered Black Mask prepared to force the mask over Fox's face, a desperate "Skullface" attacked the crime lord, saving Fox but revealing his identity as Bruce Wayne. Tattoo quickly managed to subdue Bruce, but as Black Mask prepared to shoot his most hated enemy, Circe leaped into the fray and threw off the crime lord's aim. In the confusion, Bruce managed to escape.

Black Mask and Tattoo then fled into the night, with Batman in hot pursuit. The pair were eventually cornered on a pier, and with no other option left, Tattoo resorted to fighting the Caped Crusader. After a short, brutal battle, Batman emerged victorious; panicked, Black Mask leaped off of the pier and escaped into the dark waters. The police would comb the area for his body, but would find only a decoy constructed from the corpse of a WayneCorp executive that the False Face Society had kidnapped some time before. Batman - already in the throes of a mid-life crisis - took his failure to capture Black Mask extremely hard. [4]

Black Mask remained at large throughout the events of "Knightfall" and "Zero Hour". He resurfaced shortly thereafter, still leading the False Face Society, and killed rival mobster "Dirty Dan" Doyle in an ambush shootout. [5]

Later still, Black Mask was approached by a young hoodlum named Johnny LaMonica, AKA 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. The Black Spider did as ordered, but 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. [6]

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. To this end, he ordered a team of False-Facers to kidnap the "children" (really a dozen unfertilized eggs awaiting in vitro fertilization) of the Mihn family, the head of Bludhaven's Vietnamese mobs. Black Mask planned to hold the eggs hostage until the Mihns gave him access to Bludhaven's heroin trade, but the scheme was ultimately foiled by the recently-arrived Nightwing. [7]

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 - and scuttle the entire case. Bullock initially refused, but later gave in, and began to eliminate Black Mask's competition around Gotham. When Bullock's resolve weakened, Black Mask went so far as to offer him the identity of a serial killer known as the "Widow-Whacker" - a False-Facer himself. In the end, however, Bullock's integrity won out, and he gave an honest testimony at the trial that ensured Poodles' conviction. Angered, Black Mask sent several False-Facers to kill Bullock, but Bullock managed to lure the False-Facers into the territory of a rival biker gang, resulting in a shootout that left only Bullock himself alive. [8]

Crime's New Face

After reading about the Spanish Inquisition during an unspecified period, Black Mask underwent an enormous shift in personality and modus operandi. 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 as proof that he had survived his own personal torture - the searing of his mask into his face. As a result, he began to make heavy use of physical torture for both business and pleasure. [9]

Once Gotham had been declared a "No Man's Land" in the wake of the Cataclysm earthquake, Black Mask, like the other released Arkham inmates, gathered a gang and seized a piece of "turf" in the abandoned, half-destroyed Gotham - in his case, the Fashion District. This time, however, he no longer wore his trademark mask, and he no longer pursued money or power; instead, he 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 cut a bloody swath across the ravaged Gotham, heading for the still-standing Gotham clock tower and mutilating - and sometimes murdering - anyone in the way. The clock tower, still the base of operations for Oracle and in the middle of "Blue Boy" (former GCPD) territory, nevertheless proved an easy target for Black Mask and his enormous mob - to the point where a desperate Oracle was ready to shoot Black Mask with an emergency sniper rifle. Black Mask's life, however, was inadvertently saved with the arrival of the new Batgirl, who beat many of the True-Facers into submission before publicly 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 (now run by the vigilante's tenuous ally, Lock-Up). [10]

Later on, the incarcerated Black Mask would play a small but pivotal role in Nightwing's mission - on Batman's orders - to end the alliance with Lock-Up and retake Blackgate. After Lock-Up and his lieutenants discovered the Nightwing prowling about the island, they subdued the vigilante and threw him into a holding cell with many incarcerated super-villains, most of whom howled for his blood. Black Mask, along with the Scarecrow, opposed this short-sighted fervor for revenge, reasoning that a living Nightwing could serve as a bargaining chip. The inmates ultimately decided to not kill Nightwing, and Nightwing paid them in kind by helping them escape the cell. Nightwing, however, had no intention of letting the inmates run free once again, and abandoned them shortly before taking down Lock-Up and his cronies. [11]

Pride Before A Fall

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.

After two policemen under Black Mask's command shot Catwoman's friend Holly, Catwoman retaliated with an elaborate revenge scheme, enlisting the help of police detective Crispus Allen and private eye Slam Bradley. The scheme was a total success, 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. [12]

The enraged Black Mask sought vengeance on Catwoman, and eventually caught wind of rumors concerning a woman named Sylvia Sinclair - an incarcerated woman who supposedly knew Catwoman's secret identity. Black Mask sent his lieutenant Xavier Dylan to confirm this information, and offer Sylvia a deal: if she agreed to help Black Mask, he would arrange for her release from prison. In the meantime, Black Mask continued to pursue the missing diamonds, violently interrogating - and eventually killing - several well-known underworld traders in the process. [13]

Sylvia, in reality a former childhood friend of Selina Kyle's, agreed to Black Mask's terms in order to settle a personal grudge against Selina. With Sylvia's assistance, the crimelord masterminded the bombing of a community center that Selina had funded, the abduction and torture of Selina's sister Maggie (compounded by the murder of Maggie's husband, Simon), and the near-murder of Holly and Slam. Catwoman eventually discovered Black Mask's involvement and location, having threatened the information out of Dylan. Subsequently, the thief burst into Black Mask's penthouse to confront the crimelord and her traitorous friend.

To Catwoman's dismay, Sylvia and Black Mask had one more weapon: a captive Holly, brought to them by the delinquent children of the East End. Catwoman immediately surrendered upon seeing Holly, and with Sylvia holding the thief at gunpoint, Black Mask led Catwoman into his torture chamber. Upon entering the chamber and seeing her sister inside the chamber, near-comatose from sheer trauma, Catwoman begged Black Mask to release Maggie. In response, Black Mask offered the thief a deal: he would release Maggie and send her to an emergency room, but in exchange, Catwoman would agree to be tortured to death in Maggie's place.

Catwoman agreed to these conditions, but after she had been properly chained, Black Mask immediately went back on his word and ordered Maggie killed. This betrayal had been anticipated by Catwoman, who immediately activated a bomb she'd earlier planted in the crimelord's penthouse. While Black Mask and Sylvia were distracted by the explosion, Catwoman wrested herself free of Black Mask's chains. Panicked, Black Mask fled the torture chamber, leaving Sylvia behind to stall Catwoman.

Sylvia, however, proved a poor match for Catwoman in hand-to-hand combat, and was quickly defeated. Catwoman then confronted Black Mask, leaving the crimelord with nowhere to run. A desperate Black Mask attempted to take Holly hostage a second time, but was outmaneuvered by Catwoman, who subjected him to a beating that left him disarmed and hanging from his penthouse's balcony by one hand. Black Mask begged for help, but the vengeful Catwoman gave him none; seconds later, his grip broke, and he fell several stories to his apparent death. [14]

From Crimelord to Crime King

Unbeknownst to anyone, Black Mask survived his fall, and spent the next several months hiding and planning his return to power. A perfect opportunity came when an enormous cross-city gang war erupted, due to the Spoiler faultily implementing Batman's "War Games" stratagem in an attempt to impress Batman. Taking advantage of the chaos, Black Mask began to build allies while keeping his own involvement secret - though Hush rebuffed him, the Russian mobster Alexandra Kosov accepted his offer of partnership. As gang violence continued to ravage Gotham, Black Mask slowly began to gather information and exacerbate the chaos.

Black Mask's machinations came to a head with his murder of gang leader Orpheus, who was secretly an agent of Batman. Since "War Games" hinged on all of Gotham's gangs uniting under Orpheus, Black Mask found himself in a position to come out the absolute winner of the gang war. Shortly after, Black Mask encountered the Spoiler, who he managed to overpower after a long struggle; subsequently, he tortured the young heroine for information about Orpheus. The crimelord was then paid another visit by Hush, who, as a peace token, offered Black Mask the location of the Batcave. [15] Soon, Black Mask developed a plan masquerade as Orpheus, fooling Batman into thinking that the "War Games" plan could still be salvaged. Though his scheme nearly became unglued due to a sudden attack from the mercenary Zeiss, he managed to keep the situation in hand, even arranging for Zeiss's escape once Batman arrived on the scene. [16]

"Orpheus", together with Batman, took the plan into its final stage: the gathering of all the surviving gangs into a large, public area. The amphitheater in Robinson Park was selected for this purpose, and the "endgame" of the plan at first progressed smoothly. Several thousand criminals were herded into the amphitheater, with the police - reluctantly following Batman's orders - lying in wait nearby. As "Orpheus" came to the podium, however, he revealed his true colors and declared his intentions to kill all of his remaining "competitors". Mass chaos immediately broke out, as the criminals, the police, and the costumed vigilantes (Robin, Nightwing, Tarantula, Batgirl, and Batman) all began to fight with one another. In the midst of all the chaos, Batman was able to unmask "Orpheus", but the revealed Black Mask managed to escape with help from the Scarecrow.

Black Mask then returned to the apartment where he had been holding and torturing Spoiler, only to find that she had freed herself in his absence. A second battle ensued between the two; though Spoiler demonstrated far more viciousness in the "rematch", Black Mask was still able to win when the young heroine hesitated at the thought of killing him. Subsequently, the crimelord shot Spoiler in the shoulder and kicked her down a flight of stairs, telling her that she was free to run, as he had no more use for her. As the heavily-injured Spoiler stumbled through Gotham in search of Batman, Black Mask began the final stage of his plan, using the information that Hush had earlier given him. He soon traveled to Gotham's North End, having gathered a large mob of surviving criminals (including Killer Croc and the Scarecrow) and taking reporter Arturo Rodriguez and his cameraman as semi-hostages. Their destination, which Black Mask - now the publicly-recognized leader of Gotham's underworld - believed to be the Batcave, was in fact Oracle's clock tower headquarters.

With Rodriguez's cameraman recording live, Black Mask bypassed Oracle's defenses and confronted Oracle face-to-face. Soon afterward, the crimelord sent Rodriguez out of the building, before shooting the cameraman dead and using the corpse as a tripod for the still-rolling camera. True to Black Mask's predictions, Batman soon burst into the clock tower, ready to finish the crimelord once and for all. The two men - to Oracle's horror - immediately began to beat one another senseless, visibly bent on fighting to the death. Unwilling to see Batman sacrifice himself, Oracle initiated a self-destruct sequence within the clock tower, forcing Batman to abandon the fight in order to save her. Black Mask once again slipped away in the confusion; as the city-wide gang war drew to a close and Gotham began to rebuild, all of the surviving gangs (save for the Hill gang, out of loyalty to its murdered leader Orpheus) crowned him the undisputed king of the underworld. [17]

Reversal of Fortunes

Though Black Mask now controlled nearly all of Gotham's organized crime, and even the services of "supervillains" such as the Mad Hatter and Mr. Freeze, his rule was soon challenged by a new, ruthless vigilante calling himself the Red Hood. The Red Hood began a one-man war on Black Mask's empire almost immediately, starting by forcing Gotham's top street dealers to ally with him instead of Black Mask. At first, Black Mask dismissed the newcomer as a threat, but the Red Hood soon proved otherwise by sabotaging an important arms shipment. Under the cover of night, the vigilante activated a model of the battle android Amazo (which Batman and Nightwing ultimately neutralized), stole a crate filled with Kryptonite, and destroyed most of the remaining cargo. A furious Black Mask then tried to "purchase" the Kryptonite back, planning to have Mr. Freeze kill the Red Hood at the exchange site, but the plan was scuttled by the arrival of Batman and Nightwing. [18]

In subsequent weeks, the Red Hood stepped up his war against Black Mask, destroying several more of Black Mask's shipments. In addition, both the Hill and the East End - the former with assassin-turned-hero Onyx leading its gangs, the latter with Catwoman as its protector - continued to defy his reach. An attempt to bring the Hill under control using Killer Croc (who had been rendered a mindlessly obedient enforcer, thanks to the Mad Hatter) failed; the two female vigilantes teamed up and subdued Croc, even clawing a taunting message for Black Mask into Croc's hide [19]. The blow was worsened when Croc later managed to break free from Black Mask's control; the freed Croc immediately "resigned", and killed several of Black Mask's underlings. [20]

Some time after these events, Black Mask attempted to buy the Gotham Museum, valuing it for the real estate. Unwittingly, this action entangled him in Hush's latest scheme to kill Batman. While Man-Bat was re-succumbing to his latent personality and going on homicidal rampages, Hush sent Murmur to frame Langstrom by killing several people around Gotham - including a guard at the museum. The guard's murder disturbed Black Mask's plans for peaceful, secret negotiations, and another murder - this time, of a prostitute in his organization - led Black Mask to declare war on Man-Bat. [21]

Hush gleefully encouraged Black Mask's underlings to believe that he was after control of the Gotham underworld, when his real aim all along was to trap Batman. Eventually, all parties involved - Black Mask, Hush, Murmur, Batman, and Man-Bat - clashed with each other in one of Black Mask's underground torture chambers. After a convoluted series of events, Black Mask was shot by Hush, and left unconscious while the entire chamber caught on fire. Batman barely managed to save the crimelord by escaping with him through the sewers below. [22]

Black Mask's fortunes took an even steeper downturn when the emergence of "reformer" Aaron Black (really Cluemaster in disguise) inspired Gotham to take a renewed interest in the events that surrounded the "War Games" debacle - specifically, the death of Stephanie Brown. At first, Black Mask hoped to capitalize on the wave of negative publicity raised by Black, going so far as to disguise himself as Batman and attacking (and sometimes outright killing) every person with some sort of connection to Stephanie. His attempted murder of Aaron Black himself, however, was interrupted by the Joker. As Black Mask fought the Joker, the real Batman arrived on the scene, broke up the fight, and gave chase to Black Mask; after a lengthy chase, the crimelord very narrowly managed to escape. [23]

A few days later, Black Mask re-donned his Batman disguise and interrupted a live broadcast of Arturo Rodriguez's talk show, attacking both Rodriguez guest speaker Crystal Brown. Though the real Batman appeared on the scene and stopped him, Black Mask was able to escape again, this time by burning Stephanie's medical records (which Batman had desperately been searching for in hopes of finding the truth behind Stephanie's death). Shortly afterward, Black Mask ran afoul of the Joker again. During the "rematch" between the two men, the Joker revealed the reason for his grudge against Black Mask: the crimelord had been responsible for the death of Stephanie Brown, a former Robin, and the Joker considered the "job" of killing any and all Robins his exclusive privilege. [24]

Eventually, Batman and the police found the two men, but not before the Joker shot Black Mask with an acid dart coated in super-epoxy. The dart slowly and painfully burned itself into Black Mask's skull, and was only neutralized with Batman's help. Batman then beat both criminals into submission, and turned them in to the police. Black Mask's delivery to justice, however, was short-lived; during his arraignment, he was able to escape once again, killing two armed guards, three bystanders, and the presiding arraignment judge in the process. [25]

Although he remained atop Gotham's underworld, Black Mask soon found that the Red Hood's attacks on his empire were worsening. Nearly all of his associates and hideouts were under attack, much of his merchandise was being destroyed, and at one point, the Red Hood even used a rocket launcher to destroy his personal office. Angry and desperate, Black Mask accepted an offer of help from Deathstroke and the new Secret Society: in exchange for joining the society, he would be supplied with top-tier supervillains that would help him kill the Red Hood. Black Mask accepted, but was greatly disappointed when the "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 and even killed Captain Nazi. [26]

To his surprise, Black Mask was then given a peace offer from the Red Hood, who claimed that he now wanted to be business partners. This put Black Mask in a bind: he was desperate to stop the Red Hood's attacks, but knew that none of his lieutenants would agree to a partnership with a man who had killed so many of their friends and associates. Black Mask ultimately agreed to the deal, and then killed all of his lieutenants, meaning to replace them with younger successors that would be more accepting of the Red Hood. When the Red Hood reneged on their deal, Black Mask flew into a murderous rage, and attacked the vigilante. [27]

After a long, difficult battle, Black Mask killed his hated foe just as Batman arrived on the scene. To his frustration, Black Mask found from Batman that the dead Red Hood was a decoy; the real Red Hood had orchestrated the fight from miles away. Black Mask, upon realizing that Batman knew the Red Hood personally, demanded to know why Batman had not stopped him sooner. Batman gave the crimelord no concrete answer, and ordered him to stay put, leaving Black Mask trapped in a minefield of miniature explosives. [28]

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

Final Days

After a group of supervillains (including Hugo Strange, the Cheetah, and Angle Man, among others) temporarily invaded the East End, Black Mask began to take a new interest in Catwoman, who had driven all of them out. Black Mask forged a new alliance with Angle Man, and proceeded to kidnap Slam Bradley. He then put Bradley through extreme physical torture, but was interrupted by the arrival of the supervillain Smart Bomb, who was in reality an undercover policeman and Slam Bradley's son. Faced with Smart Bomb's massive arsenal, Black Mask surrendered his mutilated (but alive) captive without a fight. [29]

This episode convinced Catwoman (who was already undergoing an identity crisis from the revelation that Zatanna had brainwashed her into becoming a crimefighter) that Black Mask could no longer be allowed to run free. Catwoman invaded Black Mask's penthouse, and eventually cornered the crimelord, who mockingly stated his new plan to make Catwoman his "arch-nemesis" by killing all of her loved ones. Even when Catwoman held him at gunpoint, Black Mask continued to taunt her, believing that she still considered herself a hero. He was quickly proven wrong when Catwoman shot him at point blank, killing him. [30]

While the events of Infinite Crisis (particularly Superboy-Prime's assault on the reality barrier) occurred shortly after this, Roman remained dead; several individuals in the Gotham City police continued to investigate his murder during One Year Later). The identity of the Black Mask would later be assumed by Jeremiah Arkham.

Blackest Night

Black Lantern Black Mask 001

Black Lantern Corps

Main article: Blackest Night

Nekron's actions during Blackest Night led to Roman's temporary resurrection, as a member of the Black Lantern Corps. The reanimated Black Mask immediately tracked down Catwoman, intending to painfully kill her, but became frustrated when she refused to show any fear. 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 quickly tracked down Black Mask and, after some difficulties, trapped him inside a giant pitcher plant that would continue to digest his regenerating body in an eternal loop, keeping him utterly helpless. 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. [31]

After Nekron's defeat, Roman presumably returned to death.

Powers and AbilitiesEdit


  • Criminology: Black Mask is arguably the greatest criminal strategist and organiser 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.


  • 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.



  • 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, and emotional reading.


  • 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.
  • Various Others: Roman has been shown using a variety of crude, sharp-edged weapons, as well as the use of everyday objects including kitchen knives, steel pipes, and electricity cords which he slowly drips with water to cause mild electric shocks.


  • 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.


  • Black Mask is very resourceful when it comes to torture, murder, violence and business. As such he's used various kinds of tools and techniques over the years.
  • Black Mask's face is actually a mask, from a collection he's kept, which was seared onto his face and blackened by fire.
    • Roman has been shown, with his mask, the ability to control the weak minded in Arkham Asylum. He is able to control all of the inmates with ease and almost controlled the Batman. The mind control easily stops with a blow to the face.[32]
  • According to his headstone (as seen in Blackest Night), Roman was born in 1971, and died in 2008, at the age of 37 or 38.


Discover and Discuss


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Batman Villain(s)
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