Masks #1 – A Writer’s Commentary By Chris Roberson

Chris Roberson writes for Bleeding Cool;


I’ve always been a huge fan of the Green Hornet and Kato. I think I was first exposed to them in those episodes of the Adam West Batman series that guest-starred Van Williams and Bruce Lee, and I later sought out reruns of the Green Hornet TV series they were in. But my favorite Green Hornet stories have probably been in the comics, from Ron Fortier’s run at Now back in the 80s and 90s, to Matt Wagner’s brilliant origin story at Dynamite in recent years.


The Shadow. The first, and still the best. But that Shadow wasn’t just the inspiration for all the pulp heroes that followed him. In the world of comics, a certain dark knight detective owes more than a little to the Shadow. In fact, Bill Finger admitted in later life that he had borrowed the plot of the first Batman story, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” from a Shadow story (which Will Murray and Anthony Tollin have identified as “Partners in Peril”).


Not many people can get the drop on Kato. The Shadow is one of the few.


In his guise as Lamont Cranston, the Shadow spent a lot of time hanging out in the Cobalt Club. I think we lost something valuable when crimefighters stopped going to exclusive night spots in their off hours to drink cocktails…


The roots of my fascination not only with costumed vigilantes but with crossovers in general can large be traced to early exposure to the “Wold Newton” stories of Philip José Farmer, and in particular the “family tree” section of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, which I read at an early and impressionable age. Farmer advanced, and later rejected, the theory that the Shadow and the Spider were both fragmented personalities of the same confused individual. But more alarming for my young mind was the suggestion that Margo Lane had a sister named Lois…


“There is the law, Mister Reid, and then there is justice.”

This is pretty much the central question of the miniseries, so far as I’m concerned, boiled down to one sentence.


That guy looks familiar.

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The inspiration for the plot of Masks, as I’ve mentioned many times before, was a three-part storyline that ran in the Spider magazine in 1938, in which Richard Wentworth went up against a “Party of Justice” that instituted a fascist police state in New York. The idea with Masks was to take the Spider’s story from the original Norvell Page novels as a starting position, and then explore how the other costumed vigilantes in New York (and elsewhere) would have responded. So Masks isn’t an adaptation of that original Spider storyline, as much as it is a palimpsest of sorts, a new story written in between the lines of the original.


Pulp fans might recognize the name “Tony Quinn,” crusading district attorney. We’ll be seeing a lot of him in coming issues. And there’s that Rafael Vega guy again…


Let me just point out two things at this point. First, that I love the design Alex Ross came up with for the Black Legion troopers here. And second, that I still can’t get over the fact that I’ve written something that has been illustrated by Alex Ross…


Sometimes, in the early days of a project, I find myself writing a script without knowing yet who will be drawing it. But in instances where I know who the artist will be and am familiar with their work, I’m often able to imagine exactly how I think the artist will approach a given scene or panel. And what I’m writing in the script is a description of how I’m imagining the artist will draw it. Almost always, what the artist ends up doing is far better than I had imagined (which is why I’m a writer, not an artist, among many other reasons). What Alex did with this page is exactly what I had imagined, only a million times better.


Enter, the Spider…

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