When The Mask hit theaters in July 1994, it became a massive comedy hit that helped launch Jim Carrey into the realm of superstardom. It tells the story of a mild-mannered banker named Stanley Ipkiss who finds a magic mask that turns him into a living cartoon character. With a hunger for mischief and a whole lot of charisma, Ipkiss as The Mask isn't afraid to break the law for fun. It features some surprisingly risqué jokes and surreal imagery, but it's (mostly) a family-friendly action-comedy romp.
Meanwhile, the Dark Horse comic it's based on is far different. Carrey's portrayal of the rubber-faced cartoonish lunatic is an amazing recreation of the character, but the tone of the comics is so much darker and more horrifying that it's a real shock any studio thought they'd be able to adapt it in the first place. The only way they could do that was to strip out the buckets of blood and mayhem.
Here's a look at how truly dark and twisted the source material for a beloved childhood comedy classic really is.
In the film version of The Mask, Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss as a hapless, shy, genuinely decent person whose id is released by the eponymous mask. When it unleashes his inner wild child, he basically does what any young man - or repressed adult man - dreams of doing: he robs banks, pranks the people who bully him, and flirts with pretty ladies. However, from the first few pages of The Mask comic, Ipkiss is a vastly different kind of person.
While the comic Ipkiss is also meek and downtrodden - he gets severely beaten by bikers in the first few pages of the story - his inner id isn't content with nonviolent hijinks and harmless fun. This version of Ipkiss transforms from a bitter, passive-aggressive jerk into a full-blown psychopath who gets revenge on the bikers by slaying them in incredibly severe ways.
Instantly corrupted by the supernatural powers of the mask, Ipkiss makes a literal list of people he intends to get bloody vengeance on. This includes anyone who has wronged him in his life, extending as far back as an elementary school teacher who used to be mean to him. Ipkiss starts wearing camo clothing, becomes outwardly aggressive, and nearly strikes his own girlfriend - even when he isn't wearing the mask.
In the movie, the mask seems to first entice people via some sort of mystical allure - then tempts them to put it on again because of the supernatural, reality-bending powers it bestows upon whomever wears it. However, in the comic, the mask appears to be remarkably more sentient than that. Even when it's not being worn, it can talk to people who are holding it.
After Ipkiss buys the mask for his girlfriend, he immediately manages to anger some bikers and is severely roughed up. Walking back to his apartment, he daydreams and mutters about getting revenge - to which the mask, apparently reading his mind, suggests they go back and eliminate the bikers.
Later, the mask also tries to persuade Ipkiss's girlfriend not to turn it over to the cops - which leads to her arguing with it inside the police station. Eventually, the mask tries to talk Lieutenant Kellaway into offing his partner. Basically, it's the One Ring from The Lord of The Rings, but way less subtle and driven by its own desire to cause utter chaos.
In The Mask movie, the green-faced wrongdoer is dubbed "The Mask" - possibly just to make things easier from a screenplay standpoint, or maybe because it seems obvious that someone with a green face is wearing a disguise. However, the comic goes a different direction. Due to the mayhem and madness unleashed by Ipkiss while wearing the powerful mask, he soon gets a catchy moniker in the press: The Big-Head slayer. The somewhat less-than-creative name obviously comes from the cartoonish giant green head that anyone who wears the mask appears to have. As Ipkiss goes around settling grudges and dispatching cops in an incredibly over-the-top spree, no one has any idea that it's even a person in a mask.
The nickname sticks even after other people start wearing the mask because, as far as the public knows, it's still the same crook. So while Ipkiss was a crazed slayer and Kellaway ends up being a vigilante who tries to stop bad guys, they are both referred to as Big-Head.
In the big screen adaptation of The Mask , Lieutenant Kellaway is a by-the-book cop who is generally a decent guy and is trying to bring the green-headed offender to justice. In the comic series, Kellaway is a hot-headed cop who genuinely cares about protecting the city but is willing to break some rules to put the bad guys behind bars (or in a grave). However, he doesn't turn into a full-on vigilante until he tries the mask on for himself and discovers its powers.
Assuming that he can use his new superhuman abilities for good, Kellaway as Big Head saves a bunch of hostages during an armed stand-off, wipes out a dealer who's got the District attorney's office on his payroll, and exposes the amoral assistant DA. However, the mask's raw madness and penchant for disorder begins to twist Kellaway, too - though he doesn't realize it until he almost slays his partner with a stick of dynamite.
Kellaway eventually seals the mask under the cement floor of his basement to make sure no one - including himself - can get to it. But the mask doesn't stay down for long. After the mob puts a hit on Kellaway, a home incursion ends with the lieutenant digging up the mask in a desperate attempt to save himself. It doesn't end well for anyone involved.