It isn’t exactly hard to say why The Face is one of my favorite Golden Age heroes; it was his striking visual. Specifically the dichotomy between that memorable green (though for some reason in all the stores in The Face #1 it’s colored a bright blue) fright mask,with it’s fangs, strangely proceeding hairline and dark shading around the eyes suggestive of a domino mask and his working clothes, a powder blue tuxedo.
When radio announcer Tony Trent (who had to wear the exact same tuxedo, even when no one could see him as a job requirement; fun fact, until 1938 all NBC radio announcers were required to do their jobs while wearing tuxedos) became sick of the crime stories dominating the news he added a mask to his ensemble and became the crime fighter The Face.
There wasn’t anything special let alone supernatural about Trent’s mask (you’re probably thinking of The Mask) though at least initially it wasn’t just a piece of molded rubber. Originally it supposedly conformed so closely to his face that it didn’t look like a mask and though Trent intended to only frighten cowardly criminals he pretty much freaked out anybody who crossed his path. No explanation was ever given as to how Trent acquired it, at least not in the Golden Age, but in the three issues of What Is…The Face? published by A.C.E. Comic (which featured artwork by Steve Ditko and this really kicking Alex Toth cover) published between1986 and ’87 it was hinted it was much more than a simple disguise.
No Tony Trent was just a guy who was reasonably good in a fight and handy with a .45 who out of a sense of moral indignation (and, I’d like to think, because it was so much damn fun) went around beating the crap out of gangsters…and that was good enough for me. Though, if absolutely forced to I’d admit that like most really good Golden Age characters there was a wide, wild streak of unfulfilled potential running right through The Face. On the surface at least he seemed to be a monster who decided to give crime fighting a try, like a Dick Tracy villain gone straight or if Dr. Jekyll decided to go hunt humans and knew nobody would care as long as he preyed on the dregs of society.
And let’s not kid ourselves, there was that suit. Back in those days no matter who or what you were (it took me like 40 years but recently it occurred to me that even the Frankenstein Monster was expected to wear a suit) you were expected to make a little effort when it came to your appearance.
It should also be noted that The Face was an always handsome feature drawn by Matt Bailey which managed to really hang in there, appearing in such Colombia Comics as Big Shot Comics #1-104, The Face #1-2, Skyman #1 and Sparky Watts #1
However by 1941 The Face had lost a lot of his appeal (for me anyway) by having Trent travel to the Pacific where, naturally, he fought the Japanese wearing attire more suitable for the climate. More appropriate, sure, but this was further evidence that ‘realistic’ doesn’t often translate into ‘fun’ (in this story Trent also realizes that wearing a full rubber mask in the tropics isn’t exactly practical and elects to create a cheesecloth version).
Another interesting fact about The Face he was one of those masked mystery men who managed to survive a few more years by ditching the whole masked man angle. By 1948 Tony had given up being The Face and fought crime as himself, appearing in two issues of his own title.
Plus there’s a nice MARVELO story…
…and the always wonderful SPARKY WATTS.
— Steve Bennett