False Face Society (1985)
Roman Sionis first appeared as the leader of the False Face Society, a group of criminals who could be identified by their colorful, creative, and sometimes terrifying masks. Using his parents’ crypt as his base of operations, the False Face Society carved their influence through Gotham’s underworld to the point that they became a threat to the city’s safety which its protector, Batman, could no longer ignore. This initial crime spree took the lives of several powerful Wayne Enterprises executives, in vengeance for the perceived slights against his own honor when they absorbed Janus Cosmetics. But with the newly appointed Robin Jason Todd at his side, Batman managed to halt the spread of the False Face Society and have Sionis committed to Arkham Asylum.
Crime Lord of Gotham (2000-2004)
Like many would-be contenders for control of Gotham’s underworld, Black Mask got his chance to rise once more during the events of NO MAN’S LAND, where a plague-ridden and earthquake-ravaged Gotham was forced to fend for itself. Claiming a large portion of Gotham for himself as it was broken into pieces by its signature Super-Villains, Black Mask rebranded himself as a cult leader, demanding ritual disfiguration from his charges in tribute to his own skull-faced visage.
Black Mask’s operations in No Man’s Land were put to an end when Batman returned to clean up the city, but he soon regrouped as the kingpin of a drug trafficking operation in the East End of Gotham - Catwoman’s territory. When Catwoman struck against Black Mask’s operations, he retaliated by kidnapping her Maggie and Maggie’s husband, Simon, killing Simon in front of Maggie, and forcing Maggie to eat her husband’s eyes. This ritual utterly broke Maggie’s mind, rendering her catatonic — an assault which Selina would not soon forget. (CATWOMAN #16, 2003)
But soon, Black Mask would become more powerful than ever before, realizing his own grand ambitions. When the factions of Gotham’s underworld went to war in the “War Games” storyline, it was careful, clever maneuvering on Black Mask’s part which made him the victor. When the dust cleared, all the crime families and gangs of Gotham had pledged their allegiance to Sionis.
Mask vs. Hood (2004-2006)
Black Mask may have remained the criminal overlord of Gotham in perpetuity, if not for one factor: the return of Jason Todd, the first Robin to oppose him (“Under the Hood”). Now under the guise of Red Hood, Jason sought to address Gotham’s crime problem in a way that his former mentor Batman never could: by taking direct control of it himself. But to do that, Gotham’s current king of crime had to fall. Organizing guerilla tactics and strategic takeovers, Red Hood chipped away at Black Mask’s consolidated operations until he could no longer claim to be the big man on campus. And while Red Hood himself was eventually chased away from his new position as crime lord by Batman, Black Mask’s empire would never be the same.
In his efforts to crawl back to the top, Black Mask once again ran afoul of Catwoman- who had, indeed, not forgotten their previous encounter. Rather than allowing him to risk the safety of those she loved once more, Catwoman put a gun to Black Mask’s face. Sionis was confident that Selina was one of the heroes now, and that she’d never take the shot. Sionis was wrong. (CATWOMAN #52, 2006)
Jeremiah Arkham (2009-2014)
After Batman’s supposed demise in FINAL CRISIS, Batman’s family was divided over who would be the one to assume the cowl in his absence. And during this time, another mantle was being assumed… that of the departed former crime lord of Gotham, Black Mask. As the newly recognized Batman, Bruce’s original ward Dick Grayson deduced that the new Black Mask was none other than Jeremiah Arkham, the supposed caretaker of Arkham Asylum who had himself been driven mad by his duties.
After the time-altering effects of FLASHPOINT, the death of Roman Sionis was undone — though he was now a full time patient at Arkham, controlling Jeremiah Arkham as his own puppet through a mysterious mind control property embedded in his mask. Roman would assume direct control of his operations once more during the invasion of Earth by the Earth-3 Crime Syndicate of America in FOREVER EVIL, where he joined the ranks of their Secret Society of Super-Villains.
After a brief partnership with Penguin and Great White Shark, Black Mask reasserted his position in the criminal landscape of Gotham by entering into a tentative partnership with Red Hood and his team of Artemis and Bizarro to take control of Gotham for themselves — one which Red Hood intended to betray from the very start (RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1-6, 2018). Defeated by Red Hood and his Outlaws, the sadistic Black Mask had historically proven to be an even more dangerous threat to Gotham and its citizens when he felt embarrassed. So to ensure no one was hurt again, Damian Wayne locked Black Mask up in a secret prison overseen by his newly reorganized Teen Titans (TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1, 2018). Black Mask remained there for quite some time, his location unknown to all but a select few within the Teen Titans themselves - until Damian brought in Deathstroke the Terminator for imprisonment at the same facility, where it didn’t take much coaxing to convince him to break all of Damian’s prisoners out.