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Big Head is Back! Christopher Cantwell & Patric Reynolds Talk The Mask

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

The Mask is returning with a new series, I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask, this October from Dark Horse Comics. I will admit that I was mostly familiar with the character from the 1994 film, so boy was I in for a treat when I set my eyes on this book. It's full of cartoony and gruesome violence with all kinds of satire. I had a chance to speak with writer Christopher Cantwell and artist Patric Reynolds about the project.

Years ago, a weird mask of unknown origin and limitless power was buried in the cement of an apartment building's basement floor. Edge City and its residents have all but forgotten the mysterious green-faced killer known only as ''Big Head.'' But now, decades later, the bizarre Tex Avery-style killings are happening all over again and are on a collision course with a bizarre political campaign where a homicidal maniac wants to ''Make America Green Again''! 

James Ferguson: After being dormant for so long, why is The Mask returning now?

Christopher Cantwell: Because the world is on fire, and we can now do a Big Head story where no one is really shocked by his actions, even though they’re worse than they’ve ever been. It just rolls off people’s backs, and they actually dig it. Acting like a super villain unabashedly seems to be in vogue these days, so we may as well write a comic book about that. The Mask is perfect for that. 

Patric Reynolds: I couldn’t imagine a more ridiculous, unpredictable time in to be alive in America than right now.  Big Head would feel right at home in 2019, and if he were running things, I’m not sure if we’d be any worse off, honestly.

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JF: Who picks up the Mask this time around?

CC: A presidential candidate who is dead last in the polls. None of the political parties are real in this, but they’re all amplified positions of real-life politicians. Our guy is actually the professorial boring progressive. But the Mask shows that what he really wants is power, like most people who unfortunately run for public office. 

PR: A few new characters, actually.  The first is a foster kid who puts on the mask to dole out some aptly hideous justice to his former abusive foster parents.  He sees the awful power in the mask and finds the fortitude to take it off and get rid of it, only to have it end up in the hands of a failing presidential candidate. No one is buying this guy’s brand of warmed over progressive ideas, as he earnestly speaks to empty VFW halls and falls further behind in the polls… until he finds the Mask.  As the story goes along, we see how the Mask corrupts him and unlocks the monster that he’s been suppressing this whole time.  His transformation is a pretty compelling thing to behold.

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JF: The kills in I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask are equal parts cartoony and gruesome. How do you find the right balance between the two?

CC: I have a terribly dark sense of humor that I think was a defense mechanism that stemmed out of the inordinate fears I experienced as a child (I suffer from Pure O OCD, which led me to horrible ruminations on situations that would paralyze me in my life). Humorously depicting violence is a (bullshit) way of me being able to control it. I try to make myself laugh in thinking about what could happen. This may piss people off, but the Mask doesn’t kill anyone with guns this time around—guns are featured in one scene, but only in an absurd way between two unkillable characters. I don’t think it’s funny anymore. I used to, for sure, as a dumb young guy, but not now as I get close to my 40s and have two young kids and things have spiraled out of control in the way that they have. Big Head is also more of a blunt force trauma creature, too. It forces me to be creative…in a way that would really disappoint my mother. And does. Addendum: Brad Pitt’s death in Burn After Reading is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and it does involve a firearm. But I’m not the Coen Brothers.

PR: Probably the most challenging thing that I’ve had to do is trying to pull off the elastic, cartoony gruesomeness with a more realistic drawing style.  I use a lot of photo reference in my work, but I can’t exactly take a photo of me putting a fist all the way through someone’s face, or Google “Person pumped full of chocolate syrup and then exploding.”  What I’ve found is that I have to adjust my style to make it a little more organic and elastic (while using more of my imagination and less of what I see in the reference), while bringing it a little closer to the “cartoony” end of the spectrum to make it blend in with the potential action sequences.

I definitely don’t want to desensitize the reader to the violence, so I have to find the right balance between being suggestive and explicit. I’ve found that putting the action in heavy, noir-ish shadow and using silhouettes can be effective way to show violent action.  It can suggest enough of what’s happening and let the reader imagine the rest of the (gory) details, and oftentimes the reader’s imagination is more potent than anything that I can draw.  I think inviting the reader to participate in this way can make the action more engaging, too.

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JF: I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask builds upon the pre-existing continuity of The Mask, yet is easily accessible for new fans. Can you recommend any previous Mask books that newcomers to the character should check out?

CC: The Mask and The Mask Returns, 100%. That’s where I pulled inspiration from. I liked The Mask Strikes Back, too… it scratched that itch for Big Head, and it opened up more possibilities of other kinds of people wearing it.

PR: I’ll echo what Chris said, which that readers should definitely look at The Mask Returns and The Mask Strikes Back. Those two storylines shed some light on Kathy Matthews and Mitch Kellaway’s history with the mask, and help explain why it’s seeking them out this time around.

Horror DNA would like to thank Christopher Cantwell and Patric Reynolds for taking the time to speak with us. The Mask: I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask #1 is set for release on October 16th, 2019.

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About The Author
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Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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