Last week, in celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary, I highlighted two villains from his rogue’s gallery that may not be as known as other. This week I present two other villains that haven’t had the mainstream exposure as some of the more popular villains that appeared in movies and whatnot.
Black Mask1 – Roman Sionis
First Appearance – Batman 386 (August 1985)
Roman grew up in a wealthy family with parents who were more concerned about their social status than his well being. His father owned a makeup company, Janus Cosmetics, and used that fortune to elevate his social circle to “befriend” Thomas and Martha Wayne. Roman’s parent’s obsession with status led them to force Roman to be friends with Bruce Wayne (spoiler: he becomes Batman). Roman grows to hate the false faces his parents and other people of note wear to hide their true feelings.
Upon graduating college, Roman begins working for his father, where he meets and falls in love with a secretary, Circe. Because of her middle class status, Roman’s parents disapproved of Circe, and forced him to end the relationship. Upset with his parents, Roman burns down their house with them still inside, killing them both. After some bad business decisions, and permanently scarring hundreds of women, Janus Cosmetics was in ruin. Bruce Wayne bails out the company, but this just enrages Roman even further, reigniting his hatred for Bruce.
Roman’s mental instability was exasperated when he was struck by lightning at his parent’s crypt. Taking this as a sign of his rebirth, Roman carved a mask out of the black wood of his father’s coffin, and Black mask was born.
Building a criminal empire with his False Faces, criminals all forced to wear masks to cover their true faces, Black Mask has plagued Batman and the other protectors of Gotham City for nearly 30 years.
He’s appeared in video games and cartoons, but has yet to make it to the big screen.
Personal Favorite Moment:
The novelization of the classic “No Man’s Land” story has some great scenes with Black mask, but my personal favorite would have to be from “War Games”. In this arc that ran through the different Bat-titles at the time, Stephanie Brown, former Spoiler, future Batgirl, current Robin, decides she’s going to show Batman her worth by enacting one of his plans to unite the Gotham Underground under a single criminal leader that Batman could control.
The plan hinges on one Matches Malone to show and begin the process. Unknown to Stephanie, Matches is one of Batman’s undercover personas. This oversight ignites a gang war that ravages Gotham.
During this time Black Mask assumes the role of Orpheus, a Bat-affiliate, and infiltrates Batman’s camp. With Spoiler captured he tortures her for information on Batman. The damages of the torture results in Stephanie’s death (of course being comics she later returns, but that’s neither here nor there).
In the void in the criminal world power structure resulting from “War Games” Black Mask emerges THE criminal kingpin of Gotham, and the character truly came into his own.
Maxie Zeus – Maximilian Zeus
First appearance – Detective Comics #483 (May 1979)
Created by – Denny O’Neil
Maximilian is a former history teacher whose wife left him. This, as so often happens in comics, drives him insane and into a life of crime. After working his way up the ranks, Maxie puts together his own group of superhuman criminals he dubs the New Olympians. Each member with a different Olympian god’s motif, they kid name an Olympic athlete in hopes of making her Maxie’s bride and future mother of his child, Medea (not to be confused with Tyler Perry’s Madea). Batman and the Outsiders thwart this attempt in a series of Olympic like events.
Personal Favorite Moment:
Zeus’ most popular appearance may be in Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel in which Maxie is linked to the electroshock therapy equipment. He constantly receives shocks to the brain, and these have driven him to believe he’s a new proto-god taking place of the historical mythological Zeus.
However, my favorite moment is from Batman and the Outsiders #14, in which the aforementioned Olympic contest occurred. Zeus and his New Olympians are empowered by the Monitor (long story) and each possess the abilities of their mythological motif. It was a fun story with no lasting repercussions that don’t happen often any more. And really, why wouldn’t Batman participate in the Olympics if he were real?