I was watching Georges Franju's Les yeux sans visage
(1960) the other day and was struck by certain similarities with Batman
(1989), specifically regarding the character of Alicia.
Franju's film focuses on the efforts of a French surgeon to transplant a new face onto his daughter after she loses her own in a car accident. Throughout the movie, the daughter is shown wearing a white mask with drooping melancholy eye holes and a fixed blank expression. She removes the mask several times during the film, but her skinless features are never clearly shown.
The blank white mask she wears to conceal her disfigurement is similar to the one worn by Alicia.
I checked online to see if I could find a quote from Burton or Sam Hamm acknowledging the influence of this film. And while I didn't find what I was looking for, I did stumble across this:
Alicia was based on the character of Circe (the original Black Mask's ex-girlfriend and henchgirl) He also targeted Circe and forcibly disfigured her with the chemicals in order to force her to reunite with him. Circe would ultimately kill herself, leading Black Mask to replace her with a mannequin that he talked to as if it were a real person.http://batman.wikia.com/wiki/Alicia_Hunt
This statement isn't sourced, so it's probably just fan conjecture. But it got me thinking all the same.
The first Black Mask story arc, beginning with 'Black Mask: Losing Face' (Batman
#386, August 1985), is one of my favourite Batman stories of the mid eighties. But I'd never really connected Circe with Alicia. At least not beyond the obvious visual resemblance. But upon recently revisiting that story, I found there were quite a few parallels between the two characters. So much so in fact that I'm inclined to think it was a deliberate reference.
For one thing, Circe and Alicia were both the girlfriends of murderers who later became disfigured psychotic supervillains (Roman Sionis/Jack Napier). Both women were narcissistic models, and both lived in apartments decorated with images of their own face.
Circe broke up with Roman before he became Black Mask. And I would imagine Alicia was through with Jack after Grissom found out about their affair. But in both stories the women's ex-boyfriends are transformed into disfigured maniacs (Black Mask/Joker) and return to lay claim to their former lovers. Black Mask takes revenge on Circe by intentionally disfiguring her using a poisonous cosmetic he'd previously tried to market.
We never see exactly what the Joker does to Alicia, but evidently it's a similar act of mutilation that leaves her permanently scarred. Black Mask and Joker both keep their women around as trophies, forcing them to wear blank white masks to hide their scars.
Beneath their masks, the once-beautiful women are horribly disfigured.
Both women are apparently driven insane by their ordeal and fall into submissive trance-like states. In both stories, the person who mutilated them used their features as a canvas to express their artistic vision. Roman Sionis had previously used Circe's face to exhibit his Janus cosmetics line back when he was a legitimate businessman. The Joker uses Alicia's face to illustrate his "homicidal artist" philosophy.
It's unclear what happens to Circe. I've read some articles that say she committed suicide, but I can't seem to find any evidence of this in the comics. Her final appearance was in 'Faces of Death' (Batman
#458, October 1992), where she's last seen being taken away by some paramedics after she saves Batman's life. When Black Mask next shows up, he's replaced Circe with a mannequin. No explanation is ever given regarding her fate. I suspect the references to her committing suicide are likely a result of people getting her confused with Alicia.
Altogether, Circe appeared in three story arcs. The first, the one dealing with hers and Black Mask's origins, ran for three issues between August and September 1985. The Burton/Hickson script treatment for the first Batman film was dated October 21 1985. It's therefore possible Burton read these issues when researching for his script, as they would have been on sale at precisely the time he was writing it.
It's a constant source of frustration to me that we can't get concrete quotes confirming the films' connections with the source material. Has anyone heard or read anything from Burton, Hamm or Uslan that might verify these connections? I'd love to know if the movie, comic, or perhaps both, influenced the film.