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.
When Roman was twelve, he 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 an even colder and more unbalanced individual.
At age 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 his parents' decision, managing for the first time in his life to successfully don one of the "masks" his parents loved so much. The subsequent summer, Roman's parents would die 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.
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 each of the executives, leaving their faces horrifically disfigured after a painful death. 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 ( Jason Todd) 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 symbolic 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. Completely unhinged, the crime lord fled back into the burning bedroom. In an attempt to save him from a fiery death, Batman flung a Batarang-attached cable around Black Mask's knees, causing him to fall face-first just as the bedroom's rafters were beginning to collapse. 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, it was soon revealed that the flames had burned the mask into his face, ironically accomplishing his wish to obliterate all traces of Roman Sionis.
Shortly afterward, Black Mask was arrested, and sentenced to the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
Return to Gotham
Black Mask, as well as his False-Facers, would return to menace Gotham again and again, even after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. The crime lord was amongst the super-villains released by Ra's al Ghul during the events of Batman #400, supposedly the final Earth-One Batman tale. 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.
Post-Crisis, Black Mask made a brief appearance in Batman: Shadow of the Bat #3 (part of the "The Last Arkham" storyline) 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.
By Batman #494, Black Mask had 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. The crimelord quickly rose through the ranks of Gotham's underworld while at the same time continuing 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 him to disguise himself as a new recruit to the False Face Society who was Christened "Skullface" by Black Mask himself.
Though "Skullface" was able to foil another arson attempt by the False Face Society with the help of Robin ( Tim Drake), 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's "mask room" to starve, and began to redirect his energies to strengthening his criminal empire. During this time, however, he began to grow suspicious of "Skullface's" inquisitive nature, and correctly began to suspect (as did Tattoo) that the new recruit was a spy.
The following night, Black Mask began to interrogate Fox, demanding that the WayneCorp executive betray all that he knew about Bruce Wayne. Defiant, Fox resisted Black Mask's 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 at point-blank, Circe leaped into the fray and threw off the crime lord's aim. In the confusion, Bruce managed to escape, and don the cape and cowl of Batman.
In a matter of seconds, Black Mask and Tattoo fled into the night, with Batman in hot pursuit. The pair were eventually cornered on a pier, and with no other option left, Tattoo began to fight the Caped Crusader. After a short yet 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 the crime lord's body, but would find only a decoy Black Mask constructed from the corpse of a WayneCorp executive that Black Mask had earlier kidnapped, and Batman - already in the throes of a mid-life crisis - took his failure to capture Black Mask extremely hard.
Black Mask remained at large throughout the events of " Knightfall" and " Zero Hour". He resurfaced shortly thereafter in Detective Comics #684 , still leading the False Face Society, and killed rival mobster "Dirty Dan" Doyle in an ambush shootout.
Later still, in Batman #518, 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, the Caped Crusader tracked both men to an abandoned theater. Though Batman arrived too late to stop LaMonica from killing Black Mask's men, he was able to prevent LaMonica from shooting 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.
In Detective Comics #697, both Black Mask and the False-Facers became involved in a gambit concocted by Batman and the Gotham City Police Department to flush out Lock-Up. 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. Such a move was meant to lure in Lock-Up, as the vigilante targeted any and all criminals who managed to "weasel" out of prison sentences. Unexpectedly, however, Black Mask sent in a gang of False-Facers to kill the "traitor", nearly resulting in the plan's total failure.
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.
Batman: Bullock's Law saw Black Mask approaching Harvey Bullock and offering the cop 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 testimony at the upcoming trial of Johnny Poodles - a top False-Facer - that would dismiss the entire case. Bullock initially refused the offer, but later gave in, and began to eliminate Black Mask's competition around Gotham. When the cop's resolve began to slip, Black Mask went so far as to offer him the identity of a notorious serial killer known as the "Widow-Whacker" - a False-Facer himself. In the end, however, Bullock's integrity won out, and the cop gave an honest testimony at the Poodles trial that ensured Poodles' conviction. Angered, Black Mask sent several False-Facers to execute Bullock, but the cop managed to lure the False-Facers into the territory of a rival biker gang, resulting in a shootout that left only Bullock himself alive.
The New Face of Crime
Black Mask underwent an enormous shift in personality and modus operandi after Gotham had been declared a "No Man's Land" in the wake of the Cataclysm earthquake. The crimelord, 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 his goal was no longer 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 numerous followers cut a bloody swath across the earthquake-ravaged Gotham, heading for the still-standing Gotham clock tower and facially mutilating - and sometimes murdering - anyone in their 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 intervention 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.
Later on, the incarcerated Black Mask (who had apparently abandoned his new philosophy while in Blackgate) would play a small but pivotal role in Nightwing's mission - as per 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 a dozen-odd 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 ticket to their freedom. The inmates ultimately decided to refrain from killing Nightwing, and the former Robin paid them in kind by helping them use gunpowder residue to blast an escape out of their 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.
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 such as his new lieutenant, Xavier Dylan. 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 on the crimelord's payroll shot Catwoman's friend Holly Robinson, the thief 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 the Russian mob: the heroin was destroyed by a bomb, while the diamonds were pilfered. To top everything off, several of the policemen on the crimelord's payroll were removed in a corruption bust.
The enraged Black Mask sought vengeance on Catwoman, managing to enlist the help of the thief's childhood friend, Sylvia Sinclair - one of the few who knew of Catwoman's secret identity as Selina Kyle. In the following days, the crimelord masterminded the bombing of a community center that Catwoman had paid for the construction of, the abduction and torture of Catwoman'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 ace in the hole: a captive Holly, brought to their clutches by the delinquents of the East End. Catwoman immediately surrendered upon seeing Holly, and with Sylvia holding the thief at gunpoint, Black Mask led Catwoman down into his torture chamber. Upon entering the chamber and seeing her sister chained to a wall, 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 take Maggie's place on the wall so that she would be tortured to death instead.
Catwoman agreed to Black Mask's conditions, but after the thief was properly chained, Black Mask promptly went back on his word and ordered Maggie killed. His betrayal, however, had been anticipated by Catwoman, and the thief 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 by this turn of events, Black Mask fled the torture chamber, leaving Sylvia behind to stall Catwoman. Catwoman, however, quickly subdued Slyvia and chased after the crimelord, eventually cornering him. 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 from Catwoman, but the vengeful thief gave him none; seconds later, the crimelord's grip broke, and he fell several stories to his apparent death.
From Crimelord to Crime King
Unbeknownst to anyone, Black Mask survived his fall, and spent the next several months in hiding, planning his return to power. A perfect opportunity came when an enormous cross-city gang war erupted, due to Stephanie Brown faultily implementing Batman's "War Games" strategem in an attempt to impress the Caped Crusader. Taking advantage of the chaos, the crimelord 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, all while murdering some competitors - such as Diego Escabedo - and threatening others - such as the Ventriloquist and Scarface - into allying with him.
Black Mask's machinations came to a head with his murder of the gang leader Orpheus, who was secretly an agent of Batman. Since "War Games" hinged upon all of Gotham's gangs becoming united under Orpheus, the crimelord found himself in a position to come out the absolute winner of the gang war. Almost simultaneously, Black Mask encountered the Spoiler, who he managed to overpower after a long struggle; subsequently, he tortured out of the young heroine information about Orpheus's role in the plan. The crimelord was then paid another visit by Hush, who voiced his desire for a non-aggression agreement and, as a peace token, offered Black Mask the location of the Batcave. Soon, Black Mask was began to masquerade as Orpheus, fooling Batman into thinking that his plan could still be salvaged. Though the disguised crimelord's scheme nearly became unglued due to a sudden attack from Philo Zeiss, he managed to keep the situation in hand, even arranging for Zeiss's escape once Batman arrived on the scene.
"Orpheus", together with Batman, then 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 - including the likes of the Scarecrow, Killer Croc, and Tweedledee & Tweedledum - were soon herded into the structure, with the Gotham City Police Department - 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" - with the help of his new allies, Firefly and Doctor Death. 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 stop Doctor Death and 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 the vigilante 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 achieve victory when the young heroine hesitated over whether to kill 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, her tormentor began the final stage of his plan, using the information that Hush had earlier given him. Black Mask 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 (as well as 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 (mainly by using the other criminals as "cannon fodder" to overload them), and confronted the information broker 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 end the crimelord's threat once and for all. The two men - to Oracle's horror - immediately began to pummel 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.
Reversal of Fortunes
Though Black Mask now controlled nearly all of Gotham's vices - drugs, extortions, weapons-running, etc. - and even the services of "supervillains" such as the Mad Hatter and Mr. Freeze, his rule over the city was soon challenged in the "Under the Hood" story arc by a new and ruthless vigilante calling himself the Red Hood. The Red Hood began a one-man war on the crimelord's empire almost immediately, starting by forcing Gotham's top eight street dealers to ally with him instead of Black Mask. At first, Black Mask dismissed the newcomer as a serious threat, but the Red Hood soon proved the crimelord's sense of priorities wrong by sabotaging an enormous weapons shipment that the crimelord had planned; under the cover of night, he activated a model of the battle android Amazo (which Batman and Nightwing ultimately neutralized) and stole a crate containing over one hundred pounds of Kryptonite, but not before destroying most of the cargo with a bomb. A furious Black Mask then tried to "purchase" the Kryptonite back from the vigilante, planning to have Mr. Freeze kill him at the exchange site, but the plan was rendered utterly useless by the arrival of Batman and Nightwing.
In subsequent weeks, the Red Hood stepped up his war against Black Mask even further, destroying several more shipments that the crimelord's organization had masterminded. 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 from the crimelord to bring the Hill under control with the help of Killer Croc (who had been rendered a mindlessly obedient enforcer, thanks to an implant from the Mad Hatter) only ended in failure; the two female vigilantes teamed up and subdued Croc, even clawing a taunting message for Black Mask into the mutant's hide. The blow was later compounded when Croc managed to remove the Hatter's implant from his skull, breaking free of Black Mask's control. Afterward, Croc immediately "resigned" from the crimelord's service, slaughtering several of Black Mask's underlings in the process.
Black Mask's fortunes took an even steeper downturn during the "War Crimes" storyline, as 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, AKA the Spoiler. 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. The crimelord's hopes of sullying Batman's image even further, however, were complicated when his attempted murder of Aaron Black himself was interrupted by the Joker. As Black Mask fought the Ace of Knaves, 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 the Dark Knight's clutches.
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 and his guest speaker, Crystal Brown - mother of Stephanie Brown. Though the real Batman appeared on the scene and stopped him, Black Mask was able to evade him once more, this time by burning Stephanie's medical records, which Batman had desperately hunted for weeks in hopes of unearthing the truth behind Stephanie's death. With Batman temporarily distracted, Black Mask escaped Rodriguez's studio, only to run afoul of the Joker shortly afterward. A "rematch" between the two men resulted, during which the Joker revealed the reason behind his vendetta 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 to be his and his alone.
Eventually, both Batman and the police were able to track down 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 the crimelord's skull, and was only neutralized with Batman's assistance. Shortly afterward, the Dark Knight beat both criminals into submission, and turned them in to the waiting 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.
After being killed by Catwoman, Black Mask returned as a Black Lantern. He attacks Catwoman during one of her heists, but after seeing she doesn't fear him, he decides to go after her sister Maggie at the local mental institution in order to get more fear and hatred. Catwoman recruits Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and chases after black mask. After finding Maggie, Black Mask traps her and prepares to feed her Maggie's eyes, as he did to Maggie after torturing her fiancee. Poison Ivy then traps Black Mask in a giant plant, burning him with acid forever.
The Court of Owls
For more information see : A Court of Owls
While Batman investigates Dan Matthews, a guard at Arkham Asylum who maybe on the take, Dan in a desperate attempt to get away, opens several of the inmates cells. Black Mask is one of those inmates seen attacking the Batman before the Joker appears to come to Batman's aide and the pair work together to beat back the group of rampaging inmates.
The Night of the Owls
For more information see: The Night of the Owls
When the Court of Owls come to Arkham Asylum to kill Jeremiah Arkham, Roman Sionis is behind held there for observation. Roman had turned himself in seeking treatment for his darker half. Although Jeremiah had never truly become the Black Mask yet he understood the power tempting Roman. Now when the Court of Owls' Talons come for Jeremiah he feels his only hope is to release Roman, give him back his mask that gave him the ability to control weaker minds. Roman uses his power on the other inmates who mob the talons. Everything seems to be going Roman's way until he tries to control the Batman, who showed up to save Jeremiah. Black Masks powers don't work on Batman and he destroys the Roman's black mask, leaving Roman crippled.
Seeds and Dirt
Backup story in: Detective Comics #14
Black Mask is seen in his cell when Poison Ivy breaks into Arkham Asylum to break Clayface out.
*Note Black Mask is wearing his Black Mask when Ivy sees him in his cell.
Detective Comics Annual 1
Black Mask wanted to get the masks back and restart the False Face Society. They were hiding in the Black Otter Carnival. The Mad Hatter stole the masks and infiltrated Black Mask's group. Mad Hatter had his minions attack Black and his group. Batman arrived and defeated Mad Hatter and Black Mask. Batman gave Black Mask a flying kick and cracked Black Mask's mask and placed in his trophy room while Mad Hatter and Black went back to Arkham.
Powers and Abilities
Criminal Mastermind - He is considered the top strategist and organizer in the Gotham Underworld.
Torture Master - Has been known to torture people into insanity. It is considered his defining skill, as he both physically and mentally tortures them to a degree few could match.
Hand to Hand Combat - highly accomplished athlete and has been seen to be on par with heroes and villains such as Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood, Catwoman, and at one point the Batman.
Peak Physical Conditon All aspects are considered on par with most adventurers in his time.
Marksman - Considered by many to be deadly accurate
Master of Disguise- Has been able to blend in and even fool the Batman with his disguises.
Psychology - Well trained in it, former premiere Doctor at Arkham Asylum
Batman: Crimson Mist
The 1999 Elseworlds graphic novel Batman: Crimson Mist, written by Black Mask's original creator Doug Moench as the final part of the "Red Rain" saga, features a brief cameo from Sionis and the False Face Society.
Black Mask is portrayed in the graphic novel as one of Gotham's last costumed criminals - most of the others having already been killed by a vampiric and increasingly bloodthirsty Batman. Despite this, Black Mask arrogantly brushes aside the "rumors" of the vampire Batman, and rejects the alliance that Two-Face and Killer Croc offer him.
The crimelord's confidence in the power of his own gang, however, is soon proven to be foolish, as the vampiric Batman soon bursts into his hideout and brutally slaughters his underlings. As the crimelord begs for mercy, the undead vigilante kills him as well. Subsequently, Batman drains Black Mask and the False-Facers of their blood, before decapitating all of them and impaling their still-masked heads on the spikes atop Blackgate Penitentiary's walls as a warning to all of the criminals inside.
Although Paul Dini voiced the possibility of the character appearing on Batman: The Animated Series, Black Mask ultimately made no appearances in any of the animated shows set in the DC Animated Universe.
Batman Adventures, vol. 2
Ultimately, the only appearance that Black Mask made in any property tied to the DC Animated Universe was in the comic Batman Adventures (vol. 2), a short-lived ongoing from the early 2000s. Here, the character was re-imagined by writers Ty Templeton and Dan Slott as the rising star of Gotham City's underworld, and the main villain of a four-issue storyline.
Though Black Mask retained the name Roman Sionis, it was revealed that he (unlike his mainstream DCU counterpart) was a competent businessman prior to becoming Black Mask. Ultimately, however, Sionis and his company lost everything during a failed takeover of Wayne Enterprises, fueling Sionis' hatred of Bruce Wayne. As Sionis reached his nadir, he was approached by a representative of a mysterious mastermind known as the Red Hood, who offered him the chance to become Gotham's top crimelord by leading the False Face Society. To this end, the Red Hood supplied Sionis with money, weapons, and men, as well as his iconic black mask.
Black Mask and his cronies (who included Firefly, Bronze Tiger, Black Spider, Gorilla Boss, Deadshot, Sportsmaster, and a pre- Plastic Man Eel O'Brien) soon became one of the most powerful forces in Gotham, though they were initially dismissed by Batman (who was more concerned with the Penguin's recent success in Gotham's mayoral election). The Dark Knight only began to pursue Black Mask in earnest after he narrowly managed to save Harvey Bullock from becoming Deadshot's next victim, and infiltrated the False Face Society (with the recommendation of O'Brien) as "Matches" Malone. In a matter of weeks, "Matches" subjected Black Mask's criminal empire to sabotage after sabotage, resulting in the arrests of Firefly, Sportsmaster, Bronze Tiger, and Gorilla Boss, and the loss of thousands of dollars in illegal revenue.
Even with his hiring of Andrea Beaumont, AKA the Phantasm, Black Mask could not prevent his empire from slipping away. Soon, the False Face Society was whittled down to seven members: two thugs named Vito and Mikey, Black Spider, Eel O'Brien, "Matches", Phantasm, and Black Mask himself. At his wit's end, especially with his own boss, the Red Hood, pressuring him, Black Mask finally stumbled onto a bit of luck when Phantasm managed to capture Batgirl ( Barbara Gordon). After hearing the Phantasm's theory that one member of the gang was a spy for Batman, Black Mask placed Batgirl into a death trap, and gathered all of the remaining members of the False Face Society. The trap was designed to drown Batgirl with exactly seven turns of a wheel; Black Mask, naturally, gave the first turn, and ordered each of the six remaining members to follow suit.
Black Mask's gambit, however, failed when Batgirl managed to set off some gas pills she had earlier stolen from Phantasm. A panicked Black Spider then fired his gun at the trap, shattering it and freeing Batgirl. Seizing the opportunity, "Matches" immediately accused Black Spider of being the traitor - an accusation that Black Mask believed. Unexpectedly, Black Spider turned his gun on Black Mask, but the crimelord's life was saved when "Matches" pushed him out of the way, taking Black Spider's bullets himself. A grateful Black Mask then proclaimed his everlasting trust in "Matches", declaring the man family.
Unfortunately, it was by this point that the Red Hood finally lost patience with Black Mask's constant failures. The mastermind declared Black Mask "compromised", and initiated a self-destruct sequence within Black Mask's headquarters. The disgraced crimelord was just barely able to escape his hideout before it exploded; subsequently, he contacted O'Brien and "Matches", and ordered them to accompany him on "one last job". The "job" in question revealed, much to "Matches's" dismay, just how unhinged Black Mask had become; with no care whatsoever, the crimelord crashed his limousine into the lobby of the Wayne Enterprises building, waving a gun and taking dozens of bystanders hostage. His demands were simple: Bruce Wayne was to give himself up within thirty minutes, or all of the hostages would be shot.
A disgusted O'Brien promptly left the scene, refusing to be accessory to murder. Angered, Black Mask turned his gun on his former underling, only to be stopped by "Matches", who shattered his mask with a single punch to the face. Incensed, and feeling betrayed by his "family", Sionis fled deeper into the Wayne Enterprises building; seconds later, "Matches" re-donned his garb as Batman and gave chase. The former crimelord eventually made it into the building's subbasement, where he was cornered by Phantasm. The assassin easily disarmed Sionis and prepared to kill him, explaining that the Red Hood had offered her Sionis' former position and benefits. At the last minute, however, Batman intervened, and Phantasm retreated; Batman then left Sionis cuffed in the subbasement for the police to find.
Batman: Dark Tomorrow
The 2002 video game Batman: Dark Tomorrow was Black Mask's first appearance outside the comic book medium; here, the crimelord was voiced by Michael Wright. The game's adaptation of Black Mask was incredibly faithful to the comics canon, portraying him as the powerful and violent leader of the False Face Society. Black Mask's role in the game's storyline is minimal; his primary function is to be the game's first "boss" character.
Near the beginning of the game, Black Mask and the False Face Society, armed with advanced weaponry, are shown battling the Ventriloquist's mob in what is stated to be the latest clash in a long gang war. Batman soon interrupts the firefight, takes down most of the combatants, and chases Black Mask and the remaining mobsters into a warehouse. After defeating Black Mask, Batman pumps the crimelord for information, demanding to know where his gang's new weapons came from. Black Mask, visibly terrified of his mysterious benefactor, refuses to give the Dark Knight any names. In frustration, Batman leaves Black Mask and his gang inside the warehouse for the police to pick up.
The 2004 animated series The Batman was the first time that Black Mask (voiced by James Remar) was portrayed on television. Here, the crimelord's true identity is unknown; he is mentioned to lack fingerprints, and he is never seen without his (apparently irremovable) mask. This incarnation of Black Mask is once again the leader of an enormous criminal organization, complete with a deputy always referred to as "Number One". Throughout the series, Black Mask has shown a habit of cruelly and violently disposing of these deputies at a moment's notice, before promoting a randomly-selected henchman to be his new Number One.
Black Mask first appeared in the Season Four episode "The Breakout", where he acted as a terrorist who threatened Gotham City with an "electromagnetic shockwave generator" that could destroy entire buildings within seconds. After demonstrating the weapon's effects on a building, Black Mask demanded an enormous ransom from Gotham, to be paid at midnight the next night. The city failed to pay on time, but Batman managed to track down and capture Black Mask before he was able to carry out his threat. Even in custody, however, the crimelord's threat was far from extinguished; his organization still had the doomsday device, and plotted to break their boss out of police headquarters. Though Robin and Batgirl admirably attempted to stave off Black Mask's henchmen, the crimelord was ultimately freed, and soon climbed aboard a waiting helicopter, ready to enter the weapon's firing code. The two young crimefighters were able to capture Black Mask aboard the helicopter, but it was Batman who managed to deactivate the weapon in time, rendering the firing command useless.
Black Mask later made a cameo in the episode "Rumors", as one of the many super-villains who had been captured by the new vigilante Rumor. Once freed, he joined the other criminals in attacking Batman and Robin, but was quickly subdued.
Later still, in the Season Five opening episode "The Batman/Superman Story", Black Mask makes another appearance as the ally of Lex Luthor (along with fellow Gotham criminals Clayface II, Bane, and Mr. Freeze). He assists Clayface in transporting a kidnapped Lois Lane to Gotham, to serve as bait for Superman. Upon Superman's arrival, Black Mask shot the Man of Steel with a special energy weapon designed to mimic red sun radiation, sapping Superman of his powers. Black Mask's men then provided backup as Bane, Freeze, and Clayface attacked Superman, shooting at the Last Son of Krypton from afar with laser rifles. However, the tide began to turn in Superman's favor with Batman's well-timed arrival; as the two heroes felled his allies one-by-one, Black Mask attempted to escape, only to be tripped by the captive Lois. As Black Mask was taken into custody, Lois told Batman and Superman of Luthor's involvement in the scheme, having earlier overheard a phone call that Black Mask had made in her presence.
Black Mask's final appearance was in the episode "What Goes Up...", where he was shown for the first time as an inmate of Arkham Asylum, strapped to an operating table and seconds away from having his mask removed by Arkham's doctors. He was freed, however, with the help of his newest partner, the Shadow-Thief. Shortly afterward, Black Mask and the Shadow-Thief staged a museum robbery, stealing a meteorite made of Nth Metal. With the meteorite, Black Mask produced a special anti-gravity powder, with which he planned to rob the Gotham Gem Depository; after sending Shadow-Thief to distract the Dynamic Duo (as well as the recently-arrived Hawkman), the crimelord applied a special "hoop" of the anti-gravity powder around the foundations of the gem depository, lifting the building into the air and allowing his helicopter to tow it away.
As Black Mask and his men looted the depository's vaults, however, Batman, Robin, and Hawkman caught up to him and the airborne building. After a climactic battle, Black Mask was defeated once more.
The Batman Strikes!
The Batman Strikes!, released as The Batman's official tie-in comic, has used Black Mask on two separate occasions.
The crimelord first appeared in The Batman Strikes! #39, having gathered nearly all of Gotham's costumed criminals at a meeting. After criticizing Gotham's crime as being "mom-and-pop" operations, Black Mask revealed that the entire meeting was a trap, and had his newest partner, Mr. Freeze, freeze all of the "competition" solid. Immediately afterward, Black Mask double-crossed Freeze, knocking him unconscious with a joy buzzer pilfered from the Joker. With no rival criminals left in Gotham, Black Mask next paid a visit to Wayne Industries and offered Bruce Wayne a "partnership", asking for a pooling of resources - a corporate merger - in order to shift Gotham's crime to the less violent, white-collar variety. When Wayne coldly refused, Black Mask replied that Wayne's company helped his cause merely by existing - its domination of the economy, after all, regularly put other companies out of business, flooding Gotham with unemployed and desperate people ready to turn to crime.
After the crimelord left, Batman and Robin followed him to his penthouse, where he had already gathered dozens of underlings in preparation for the Batman's inevitable appearance. To the crimelord's surprise, Batman entered peacefully and, instead of attacking his men, showed them a video promoting the benefits of Bruce Wayne's new adult education center. Swayed by promises of employment with benefits, all of Black Mask's men promptly left the penthouse, dismissing themselves from his service. A furious Black Mask then attacked Batman, and was soundly beaten; subsequently, Black Mask was found insane by Gotham's courts, and sent to Arkham - where the many super-villains that he had double-crossed earlier were eagerly waiting.
Black Mask made another appearance in The Batman Strikes! #47, once more playing the role of a ransom-demanding terrorist. After blowing a building in the middle of Gotham to rubble, the crimelord brazenly crashed a party being hosted by Bruce Wayne, and delivered an ultimatum to the city: he was to be paid $500 million by ten o'clock, or he would activate bombs planted in buildings all across Gotham and reduce the entire city to ruins. As Batgirl, Robin, and the police worked to calm down the panicking public, Batman discreetly clung to the side of Black Mask's getaway helicopter and eavesdropped on the crimelord's real plan - namely, setting off the bombs whether or not the ransom was paid in time.
The helicopter eventually delivered Black Mask - and Batman - to Black Mask's personal ocean liner, already headed toward international waters. Climbing aboard the ship, Batman quickly sabotaged its power grid, simultaneously deactivating Black Mask's bomb-detonation system and reversing any monetary transfers that his bank account may have received. The vigilante did not reveal this fact to Black Mask until he had beaten all of the crimelord's underlings into submission, tricking Black Mask into believing that he was on the cusp of an unstoppable victory. The revelation enraged Black Mask, and Batman easily subdued him.
Lego Batman: The Videogame
Released in 2008, Lego Batman: The Videogame incorporates many elements of the Batman mythos, Black Mask included. The console versions of the game do not feature Black Mask as an "official" character and never mention his name, but the Character Customizer within Arkham Asylum features a "head" Lego that is undoubtedly based off of the crimelord's namesake mask. It is thus possible to "build" a custom Black Mask, and play as him.
In contrast, Black Mask is featured as an "official" (and playable) character in the Nintendo DS version of the game. He does not take part in the main storyline; instead, he is a bonus character to be "found" in the "Villain Hunt" mini-game. Once found, he can be "purchased" and made a playable character. As a playable character, Black Mask's abilities include a ranged attack (via pistol) and the ability to plant limitless explosives.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
The 2008 animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold featured several appearances from Black Mask, here voiced by John DiMaggio. As is typical of many other DC characters adapted by the series, Black Mask's portrayal is a mixture of his different portrayals in multiple "eras" of comic books. The crimelord retains the fedora and double-breasted suit of his early appearances, but his trademark mask more closely resembles the one of his later appearances, with a skull-like design and exposed "teeth". The False Face Society, the crimelord's traditional gang, is also faithfully adapted (although Tattoo is depicted as thin and tech-savvy, as opposed to the muscular enforcer of the comics).
Black Mask first appeared in the second-season episode "The Plague of the Prototypes!", armed with a powerful energy gun and leading his False-Facers on a series of bank robberies across Gotham. The initial robbery was halted by Batman's squad of "Bat-Bots" (as Batman himself was busy repelling an alien invasion at the time), but Black Mask and his men managed to escape the mechanical crimefighters. Subsequently, Tattoo managed to hack into the Bat-Bots' control systems, turning them into Black Mask's loyal followers. Black Mask then staged another, successful bank robbery; even the arrival of Batman himself could not stop him and his mechanical enforcers. After the Bat-Bots easily trounced Batman, Black Mask left the Caped Crusader for dead; indeed, only the timely intervention of Ace the Bat-Hound and Proto, a dim-witted but well-meaning prototype Bat-Bot, managed to save Batman from a fiery death.
In the meantime, Black Mask ordered the Bat-Bots to steal a half-dozen nuclear bombs, before having them "thin out" the old members of his gang (sans Tattoo). He then revealed his ultimate plan: to use the Bat-Bots as suicide bombers that would destroy half of Gotham, allowing him to extort whatever he pleased from the other half. After sending out the robots, he prepared to broadcast his demands over Gotham's airwaves, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Batman, Ace, and Proto. Working with data from Tattoo's laptop, the trio managed to track down and neutralize five of the Bat-Bots; the sixth, with no pre-programmed target, nearly went off (especially after Black Mask sped up the detonation timer), but was stopped by Proto at the last second. Subsequently, Black Mask was beaten into submission by Batman, and re-incarcerated.
Black Mask and the False Face Society later made a cameo in the third-season episode "Shadow of the Bat", where their latest crime - a jewelry store robbery - was interrupted by Batman (who had recently been turned into a vampire by Dala). The vampiric vigilante easily swatted aside Black Mask's men, before chasing the terrified crimelord down, overpowering him, and feasting on his blood. Black Mask's fate afterward remains unknown, although the end of the episode suggests that the aforementioned events were merely part of a dream.
Batman: Arkham Origins
In Arkham Origins, Black Mask will be the main antagonist. He has sent 12 assassins including Deathstroke to kill Batman on Christmas Eve at Gotham City.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Black Mask himself does not appear in any portion of Batman: Arkham Asylum; his trademark mask, however, can be seen mounted on the wall of Doctor Young's office. In addition, a newspaper clipping found elsewhere in the game bears the headline "ROMAN SIONIS IN COURT!", referencing the crimelord's previous occupation as the hapless CEO of Janus Cosmetics.
The game's unlockable character profile of Black Mask makes mention of the fact that he is a "skilled marksman, known for double handguns".
In addition, the Collector's Edition of the game features (amongst other paraphernalia) a journal written from the perspective of Doctor Young, offering detailed psychological profiles of many of the characters featured in the game. Young's notes describe Black Mask as "a mild psychopath" with "narcissistic tendencies", but claim that Black Mask's primary psychological malady is his obsession with Bruce Wayne, and suggest that this obsessive resentment may come from Sionis projecting his own childhood traumas onto Wayne. Young then notes that the two may, in fact, have never met as children, and that the "feud" is entirely an invention of Sionis' own mind. Finally, Young (somewhat sarcastically) comments that the subject of Black Mask's obsession is the truest indicator of his questionable insanity, as she cannot imagine any sane person being obsessed with someone as vapid as Wayne.
Batman: Arkham City
Black Mask physically appears in Batman: Arkham City, voiced by Nolan North. The crimelord can be seen in the very beginning of the game, locked inside Arkham City and attempting to fend off two TYGER guards with a broken chair. The guards quickly subdue Black Mask, and beat him severely while he is at their mercy.
Later on, one of the game's many Riddler challenges, located in the Industrial District area, alludes to Black Mask having once escaped Arkham City - apparently the only inmate ever to do so. It was apparently this escape (facilitated by explosives stolen from the Penguin) that drove Quincy Sharp and Hugo Strange to install machine guns atop Arkham City's walls.
Black Mask plays a slightly more prominent role in several of the game's exclusive challenge maps, available through various downloadable content (DLC) packs. The storyline of the maps in question - "Black Mask" and "Freight Train" - feature Robin breaking into Black Mask's hideout and eliminating many of his henchmen, before chasing the crimelord onto a train speeding through the area. The Boy Wonder subsequently eliminates an assortment of former henchmen who had once belonged to various gangs - including Mister Hammer of the Abramovici twins - before beating Black Mask himself into submission.
Batman: Under the Red Hood
Black Mask appeared in the 2010 animated film Under the Red Hood, part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line. The film was an adaptation of Judd Winick's "Under the Hood" storyline, and retained much of Winick's characterization of the crime-lord as a sarcastic and (sometimes comically) short-tempered "control freak". In addition, the film identified Black Mask (voiced by Wade Williams) as the first crime boss in twenty years to have totally united Gotham's gangs, and thus the effective power behind all organized crime in Gotham.