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Watching movies and superhero cartoons, I'm struck with this question: what material do they use for their masks? A lot of times, for the bigger over-the-head ones, artists seem to favor plastic, synthetic fabric, or light-weight metal. But what about the little ones, like Robin's? How does that little mask stay on his face? If I were to write about a superhero, what would be a plausible material for the mask? I need to know what materials a mask would use so that I know what should be available in the superhero's city. I would also like to have a scientific basis for what is used in the story.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you tell how this is related to world-building? Storytelling is most often off-topic here. $\endgroup$ – Hohmannfan May 11 '16 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ that I good question I never though of it before. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure May 12 '16 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ Zorro: satin over crinoline + string. Lone Ranger (TV): split cowhide + string. Robin II (Jason): vinyl + spirit gum. Green Lantern I (Alan Scott): green denim or sailcloth + string. Green Lantern II (Hal Jordan): vinyl + spirit gum. Night Owl I (Hollis Mason): leather + spirit gum. Comedian (Eddie Blake): padded leather + spirit gum. $\endgroup$ – A. I. Breveleri May 12 '16 at 2:21
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    $\begingroup$ is this just a question about props? If your superhero sweats a lot or has oily skin "pros-aide" sticks better and less probability of allergic reactions. Another adhesive used for props is liquid latex... some is allergic to that too $\endgroup$ – Erik vanDoren May 13 '16 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ Unubtanium would make a great superhero outfit material. $\endgroup$ – X-27 May 15 '16 at 23:33
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I think this is just a matter of preference and what world you are running in. With that aside, some kind of light-weight synthetic plastic or cloth would be great. In the Marvel world, everyone knows about Adamantium and Vibranium. Those are just the most popular. There are most likely many more advances in the world that fit to this scenario. A search for fictional materials or even real ones should help you out.

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If I were a superhero, I'd want my mask to be functional, protecting my face in addition to my identity. I'd use one of:

  • Carbon fiber composite, which is lightweight, strong, and already black. It's a bit expensive, but can be built or repaired in a garage using epoxy.
  • Titanium sheet. It's a little denser than carbon fiber, but it bends instead of shattering into razor-sharp shards. It can be anodized or painted black. You can buy it online, and it works about like a springy steel (you can drill it, file it, hammer it, etc).
  • Stainless steel. Steel is strong, although heavy, and stainless won't rust to your face. Steel can be welded at home.
  • Beryllium. This is an incredibly light and strong wonder metal, but it's rare, and it produces poisonous dust when worked. It's implausible to work in a garage, but with advanced technology could be useful.

Any of these are strong enough to survive a direct strike from a baseball bat, and are electrically conductive (which protects against electroshock weapons, electrical arcing, lightening strikes, etc). If they're shaped to a mold of your face, they would require only a tiny amount of sticky adhesive to stay put.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure gluing a sheet of stiff metal over your face is going to help if you get smacked by a bat. Unless it absorbs impact energy, it will just transmit to impact straight to your skull :) Might help if you get shot though, at least prevent a penetrating injury (though I doubt anything thin enough to wear as a mask would stop a decent bullet). $\endgroup$ – Jason K Jul 14 '16 at 14:22
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Leather.

But not any leather. It has to come from a super beast. The kind the police and armed forces can't kill on their own, which is why they need super heroes in the first place, you know?

I'd love to pick Doomsday hide to make a hat or a pair of pants. If that stuff can take a nuke at point blank range and not get a single scratch, it would make prime superhero uniform material. It would be a long time before it would need any sewing repairs. Should work well for a mask too.

If you want something different, though, Mithril makes good chain mail. You coud make a chain mail balaclava with it.

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For a "real world" hero without access to magic materials, probably something like ballistic goggles. Look at what soldiers are wearing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wiley X makes some (http://www.wileyx.com/Tactical/products/goggles). This would give protection to the eyes from shrapnel, wind, sand, etc. They are large and would obscure the face to about the same extent most comic hero masks do (which is to say, not much at all!).

Otherwise I suspect it would be ballistic nylon (the thick 1000 weight stuff) or even better, Kevlar. This would be tough, abrasion resistant, and could be cut and molded into the appropriate shapes. Some stiffening around the edges and a thick elastic strap would keep it attached to the face (unlike a lot of comic masks, which seem to be glued on).

Actual impact protection would require a helmet with padding. Those form fitting masks wouldn't provide much, if any, protection from a bump to the noggin. Though the old style football leather helmets were surprisingly protective (http://healthland.time.com/2011/11/07/in-football-leather-helmets-could-provide-a-better-defense-against-concussion/)

Ultimately you'd probably want to use something like the liquid armor under development (https://www.policeone.com/police-products/body-armor/articles/2098350-New-liquid-body-armor-hardens-on-impact/) but that stuff is probably decades away from being useful, especially for something like a helmet/mask.

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in film 'the green hornet', both the main character and his sidekick have metal masks that cover from about the upper lip and up (from memory), the trouble is, there aren't really any materials that would save you from being shot in the face that are bullet proof

HOWEVER, a combat helmet would be much more effective

on a separate note: why is this on world building...

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