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CHARACTER NAME: Roman Sionis | Black Mask
CHRONOLOGY: Catwoman Vol 3 #52
CLASS: villain


The DCOU (i.e., post-Crisis but pre-reboot) is your stereotypical comic book universe: it consists of superheroes, supervillains, B-list everythings, and the average Joes who are either caught up in the action or who are simply distanced from it all. Or a bit of both. Gotham City, however, has a reputation altogether different from most of the world. It is a city so full of scum and villainy it is a wonder why the normal citizen would ever choose to live there. Its criminals range from the lowly pickpockets to the insane of Arkham Asylum. Unless you live under a rock, you probably have at least heard of Gotham's protector, the Batman. Is he a myth or is he a man? To man of the locals, he is nothing more than a legend. To the criminals, particularly the more notorious who have received the appellation Rogues, he is very real.

Born to a wealthy family (who hated the Waynes privately and pretended to be chummy publicly), Roman Sionis was the heir to Janus Cosmetics. His parents abhorred the thought of scandal, and as a result, suppressed anything remotely incriminating (such as Roman getting dropped on his head as a baby, or the time he was bitten by a rabid raccoon) in favor for carefully constructed "masks" which hid their true shallow, hypocritical nature. As a young adult, he fell in love with a face model named Circe at Janus, but when his parents disapproved of the relationship, he burned down their mansion in a rage, killing them. His poor business practices ruined Janus Cosmetics when he put out a caustic makeup line that disfigured hundreds of women. Bruce Wayne bailed out the company, remembering the "friendship" their parents had, but replaced all the Sionis-appointed board members with his own, effectively blocking out Roman, who saw this felt as though Wayne had made him lose face. Circe, then his fiancée, dumped Roman, and humiliated, he vowed revenge. In a psychotic rage, he broke into his parents' mausoleum and carved a mask from his father's ebony casket.

Shortly thereafter he created a gang called the False Face Society, all of whom wore masks (who became "possessed by the spirit of the mask...become something more than they ever were."). He pressed people into the gang with a 'join or die' incentive. Roman enacted his revenge upon Bruce Wayne by forcing several of the Wayne-appointed board members to wear masks filled with a concentrated and deadly version of the makeup that bankrupted him. He also tracked down Circe and forced a mask filled with a less concentrated form of the makeup onto her face, thereby destroying, essentially, her life. He then gives her the option of joining him to be his queen, or death (she chooses to stay with him). The False Facers' criminal activity got Batman's attention, who tracked down Black Mask to the ruins of his parents' burned out mansion, where Mask intended to destroy the trappings of his past in order to fully shed his Sionis identity for that of Black Mask. Having set the ruins on fire, Mask tried to escape, but was caught inside and the imprint of the ebony mask burned onto his face. Batman saved him, but not before he was terribly disfigured. He continued to wear the ebony mask over his face.

After spending time in Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, Black Mask escaped when Bane attacked the building. Mask formed the False Face Society once more to continue his crusade against Bruce Wayne, as well as to control the criminal underworld. The Society burned down properties owned by Wayne, and Mask kidnapped Lucius Fox, the CEO of Waynetech, with the intention to torture and kill him. Batman managed to intervene before Fox was seriously injured, but Black Mask escaped once more. There were several more similar encounters, one of which resulted the discovery that Circe had died and the "Circe" Black Mask had been speaking to and keeping company with was actually a mannequin.

When Gotham suffered an earthquake that caused the city to become a no-man's land, Black Mask stopped wearing the ebony mask and carved out a large portion of the East End as his territory, gaining a cult-like following who engaged in ritualistic facial scarring in place of masks. He was apprehended and placed in Blackgate Prison, but, as usual, escaped.

When the city rejoined the country, Black Mask returned to the East End, which was Catwoman's turf, and set up a drug trafficking ring, becoming the top crimelord in the area. He discovered Catwoman had stolen diamonds from him and in retaliation, devised a revenge plan. An old friend of Catwoman's joined him and revealed Catwoman's secret identity to him. Roman kidnapped Catwoman's sister and brother-in-law. The sister was forced to watch as Roman tortured her husband, and then she was forced to eat his eyeballs. The brother-in-law died, the sister was driven mad, and after a brawl, Catwoman let Roman fall off a building to what everyone hoped was his death.

But it was not to be! Roman survived like the cockroach he is and began his most enterprising undertaking yet: to become El Numero Uno of the Gotham underworld. He took advantage of the power vacuum created by Spoiler (who set into motion one of Batman's War Game contingency plans). Through kidnapping and torturing gang members to death, he determined that Batman had an inside man, Orpheus. In pursuit of finding this man, he inadvertently killed him, and came face to face with Spoiler. There was a fight which resulted in her capture and prolonged torture. He left her still manacled in his basement while impersonating Orpheus and causing a massive gang riot (and even more trouble for the Bat family). He returned to find Spoiler had escaped her bonds and they engaged in another bout of fisticuffs, this one more full of innuendo and trash talk than the previous. Their sparring culminated in her failure to shoot him when she had the chance. He shot her and left her for dead, but not before telling her to give Batman the message that he was thankful for all the poorly trained children sent his way.

Having been told by Hush that Oracle's clock tower was the Batcave, he skipped off merrily to destroy it, taking hostage a camera crew and broadcasting his efforts to the criminal population of Gotham, whom he used as canon fodder, as it were. After the criminals had cleared the tower's defenses, Roman was able to waltz right in, whereupon he began tormenting Oracle until Batman arrived to end his fun. He miraculously survived the massive explosion and within two days, he had the bosses of all Gotham's mobs kissing his hand and pledging allegiance to him.

Roman remained king of the crime hill until Red Hood began dismantling everything Black Mask had worked for. He tried several times to have Hood assassinated, but Hood escaped every time. In the meantime, Roman began a short lived, but effective smear campaign against Batman, committing murders while dressed as the caped crusader. He attracted the attention of Joker, who sought to kill Sionis for infringing upon what everyone in Gotham knows is Joker territory: Robins. The assassination attempt was interrupted by Batman, and shortly thereafter, the police, although Roman managed to escape custody, killing two armed guards, three civilian bystanders, and the presiding arraignment judge.

Black Mask continued to fume about Red Hood taking his trade and territory. While raging at his personal assistant that he didn't understand why Batman was letting Red Hood run Gotham, Red Hood blew up his office with a rocket launcher. Masky don't play that game, and thus took up Deathstroke's offer of assassinating Hood using Hyena, Captain Nazi, and Count Vertigo, which again, failed. Roman finally decided to enter a partnership with Hood, blowing away all his capos, only to find out Hood had played him and was going to have him killed. They engaged in a hand-to-hand fight which ended with Mask stabbing Hood and unmasking him, although Batman showed up and told Mask that it was a decoy. Batman trapped Mask amidst pressure sensitive, mini-explosives, but Roman somehow managed to escape.

After the incident, humiliated and retired to the East End again, Roman tried to get his groove back by redoubling his efforts against Catwoman (whom he considered his archenemy), thinking she had a no-kill rule like Batman. He captured and tortured Slam Bradley, one of her close friends, videotaping the incident, and then laid a trap for her. Catwoman showed up in his apartment with a gun, and he gave her a speech about not wanting to kill her; just wanting to make her life a living hell. They sparred, and she disarmed him, telling him that he didn't know her at all. Then she shot him in the head.


Roman is sadomasochistic, sociopathic, and short tempered. He is a master of psychological and physical torture, and cruel to the point where he has no reservations about blowing away his second in command for a perceived slight. Or for fun. He has little patience when dealing with others, generally requiring instant gratification. As a result, he is quick to anger, especially if he does not get his way ("I have anger management issues. I abate the urge [to fly into a rage] by murdering people who annoy me."). However, he will spend hours or even days slowly torturing someone.

He is unable to relate to other people in a normal, healthy manner. People are toys for him. He uses people as tools, knowing that the pain and suffering of one may cause pain and suffering to others. He has a total disregard for human life, but paradoxically knows its value for others. He feels no altruistic emotion: all his emotions are selfishly motivated. He craves control, getting off on power. He is a voyeur, liking to watch people react to the pain he inflicts (he watched his own parents burn to death at his hand, and he videotapes many of his torture sessions). He has made a detailed study of the history of torture, and possesses extensive practical knowledge on the subject. But given the amount of physical and psychological pain he's experienced (from having the contours of a mask burned to his face and falling off a building to his fiancee dumping him in public and the shame of bankruptcy), his insight on the subject suggests he might even enjoy it: "Do you know what REAL strength is? The ability to accept pain. ANY amount of pain. Not to ignore it-- that never works. You must embrace it-- almost love it, in a way."

If there's one thing Black Mask craves over all others, it's power. The insatiable need for power stems from feeling oppressed as a child by his overbearing parents, whom he viewed as hypocrites, and by extension, a hypocritical society (a detailed explanation of his hatred and obsession with masks can be found here.). While few things about Roman are subtle, even casual conversation presents an opportunity for manipulation of others, whether he's buttering someone up (especially if he believes they're useful to him) or goading them to an emotional reaction. Being the cause of others' discomfort in any way is at least something for him.

If power is the thing he craves most, Black Mask's greatest fear is the total loss of control. This is because from birth, he was essentially groomed to be The Boss. It's the only role he knows to play in life. He experienced total loss of control once before when imprisoned in Arkham Asylum after burning his face, being caught by Batman, and finally breaking completely from reality. He spent a great deal of his time in Arkham pathetically mumbling to himself. Anytime his balance of power is threatened, he quickly attempts to tip the scales back in his favor, at any length.

He loathes hypocrisy, thanks to his parents and their society masks. He has a penchant for facial mutilation arising from a deep hatred of such hypocritical "masks" and from wanting to inflict the same torture on others that he has suffered, although these days, his obsessive psychosis has abated and facial mutilation can be attributed to an awareness that the face contains many nerves (therefore increasing the amount of pain) and that disfigurement of the face will make identifying the body difficult- or if he allows them to live, they will be forever tormented by what he's done.

Beyond hypocrisy (and he doesn't view himself as being at all hypocritical, despite evidence to the contrary), there is little he is above doing: murder, lying, cheating, selling drugs to little kids, and forcing people to cannibalize each other are all par for the course. Anything and everything that he can use as a tool to get what he wants he will use. His internal censor often seems to be absent completely and he won't hesitate to say what's on his mind. This is likely correlated to the joy he takes in hearing his own voice.

His ego has been inflated from hearing his parents insist the family was better than everyone else during his developmental years, and having never had the reason to work an honest day in his life, he's maintained a grandiose sense of self-importance (even making capos kiss his hand when pledging their loyalty). Like every sociopath, he is the only person in his life that matters. Asserting his dominance and control over others is one way he reaffirms his identity to himself. He sincerely believes himself supreme, once describing himself to Batman as "a legend".


Face morphing, involuntary cat attraction


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Roman will remember his most recent jaunt in the City.


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