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LAUGHING MASK

Real Name: Dennis Burton

Identity/Class: Human (World War II to modern era)

Occupation: Government operative; former vigilante, deputy district attorney

Group Membership: The Twelve (Black Widow/Claire Voyant,  Blue Blade/Roy Chambers, Captain Wonder/Jeff Jordan, Dynamic Man, Electro, Fiery Mask/Jack Castle, Master Mind Excello/Earl Everett, Mister E/Victor Jay, Phantom Reporter/Dick Jones, Rockman, Witness)

Affiliations: Colonel Frank Dexter, Commissioner Herrick, Lieutenant Detective Lew Goldman, Major-General Maurice Rose, Mr. Swabert

Enemies: Maurice Bellos, Lester Deeks, Renard Harr, Nazis, Will Whalen (see comments)

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: Purple Mask (temporary codename), "my good fellow" (nickname used by Master Mind Excello)

Base of Operations: Unrevealed;
                                   formerly the Twelve's mansion, New York;
                                   formerly a bunker in Berlin, Germany;
                                   formerly a town near Rapid Falls, United States

First Appearance: Daring Mystery Comics I#2/7 (February, 1940)

Powers/Abilities: The Laughing Mask possesses no known superhuman powers. A trained athlete, skilled hand-to-hand combatant and gunman, he can shoot with deadly accuracy even while wearing his luminescent mask. In combat, the Laughing Mask relies on twin single-action, semi-automatic pistols chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. His trademark high pitched, maniacal laughter tends to unnerve his opponents in combat. Burton might suffer from a form of schizophrenia, as he is often seen talking to his mask. Dennis Burton has a BS in forensic chemistry and a JD in law. He has a knack for the art of disguise. Laughing Mask has no qualms about executing those he considers guilty. While controlling Electro, Burton possesses all the abilities of the original machine, which include superhuman strength, durability and flight, while also using more modern weapons technology such as gattling guns and two shoulder mounted rocket launchers.

Height: 5'10
Weight: 175 lbs.
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown

History:

(The Twelve I#6 (fb) - BTS) - Dennis Burton was born around 1908 (see comments).

(Daring Mystery Comics I#2/7 (fb) - BTS) - For generations, the Burtons served the cause of justice and Dennis did the same by becoming assistant District Attorney at a young age. However, by the 1ate 1930s it became clear to him crooked politicians made it increasingly difficult for him to convict gangsters. Therefore, he took the law in his hands as the Laughing Mask, a costumed vigilante who soon became the dread of the underworld.

(Daring Mystery Comics I#2/7) - On January 1st, 1940 Dennis Burton began investigating a series of mysterious accidents involving derailed trains. He soon discovered the incidents were caused by a band of gangsters who systematically sprayed the tracks with corrosive acid to make it seem like the railroad company was working with faulty equipment in an attempt to discredit them. The mob was hoping to eventually buy the license to exploit the tracks for a bargain. Burton eventually managed to stop them, both as himself and the Laughing Mask, killing several gangsters in the process but keeping one alive so he could testify.

(Daring Mystery Comics I#3/3) - Dennis Burton was alerted to the plight of Mr. Swabert by Commissioner Herrick. Gangsters had stolen the plans of his house, figuring they contained the location of his late father's hidden fortune. When they didn't find the plans useful, Swabert began receiving death threats. Burton decided to get involved as the Purple Mask. He arrived at the Swabert mansion in time to save the man from a pellet of poison gas hidden in the telephone receiver and set to explode as soon as the gangsters' deadline hit. The Mask then engaged the criminals who had come to loot the house, during the fight a stray bullet accidentally hits a secret switch that reveals a cavernous room, complete with acid pit and drawbridge, where the Swabert fortune is hidden. Two of the gangsters quickly headed up the bridge to get the money, while Purple Mask kills their associates. He then rushed after them, startling one so much he jumped into the acid pit. The Mask then forced the one surviving criminal to surrender and confess their crimes.

(Daring Mystery Comics I#4/1) - Using several disguises, including a farmer and a hotel waiter, the Laughing Mask solved a string of bank robberies perpetrated by a band of criminals led by Mr. Whalen, who was actually the owner of the First National Bank that was also robbed. As Burton, he recovered and returned the stolen money.

(The Twelve I#3 (fb) ) - Later in 1940, the Laughing Mask ended a hostage situation by first defeating the gangster only to shoot him at point blank range while the newly liberated female hostage looked on in horror.

(The Twelve: Spearhead#1 (fb) - BTS) - When the United States declared war on Germany and Japan, Dennis Burton eventually went to fight the Nazis in Europe. Using his background in law enforcement, he was assigned to the war crime investigation department, even though he was still active as the Laughing Mask.

(Daring Mystery Comics I#3/cover) - On one occasion, he single-handedly attacked a bunker from which the Germans planned to fire a rocket in which they had chained a woman.

(Avengers/Invaders#10, 12) - In 1943, the Red Skull (Johann Shmidt) came into possession of the Cosmic Cube, which led to the creation of alternate reality Earth-93198. In this timeline, Burton was one of the many superheroes who were killed and impaled on a massive wall. The same Cube was later recovered by soldier Paul Anselm who used it to resurrect the heroes. The heroes including Burton combined their efforts with the Invaders and time-displaced Avengers to battle the forces of the Red Skull. When the Skull was defeated, the Cube was used to wipe the heroes' memories of the entire event.

(The Twelve: Spearhead#1) - In the early Spring of 1945, Burton (and his vigilante alter ego) were operating in Germany where they both did their job as part of a larger military contingent that included other masked heroes. When Dynamic Man had captured a number of high ranked Waffen SS members, he delivered them to Dennis Burton. Expecting to be tried by a war tribunal, the SS'ers were shocked to find the Laughing Mask waiting for them. As soon as Dynamic Man flew off to "find some real men", Burton brutally executed the officers by shooting them through the head one by one. He motivated his act as being the proper payback for the SS murdering major-general Maurice Rose a few weeks earlier.

(Marvels Project#8 (fb) - BTS) - In the final days of World War II, the States bound hero Angel (Thomas Halloway) became aware that thanks to heroes like Laughing Mask the world was entering the age of marvels and heroes prophesied by the dying, time travelling gunslinger Matt Hawke back in 1939.

(The Twelve I#1) - On Wednesday April 25th, 1945, the Allies began their final assault on Berlin. The Laughing Mask and eleven other vigilantes found themselves teaming up to investigate the largely abandoned headquarters of the SS for possible snipers or other opposition. The search led them to an underground lab facility which actually turned out to be a trap. Once they were all inside, the doors closed and a special knockout gas was pumped in. SS officers hurried in to put the heroes in freezing tubes, planning to study and dissect these "supermen" after the war so they could turn the next generation of Nazis into a true master race.

(The Twelve I#1 - BTS) - The SS officers hadn't counted on the Russian army reaching strategic parts of Berlin before the allied forces. The Russians captured and executed the SS officers responsible for keeping Laughing Mask and the other heroes on ice.

(The Twelve I#12 - BTS) - All the heroes were bombarded by the continuous cybernetic thought waves of the robot Electro who was desperate and alone after the impenetrable bunker cut off his connection to its inventor Philo Zog. Eventually, he'd form a bond with the android Dynamic Man, but the continued exposure to Electro's brainwaves left all the heroes present uniquely capable of connecting with Electro.

(The Twelve I#1 - BTS) - In recent years a German construction crew accidentally unearthed the underground facility where the heroes were being kept. The American authorities were informed and quickly took charge of the situation, bringing everyone back to the United States where they were revived and led to believe it was still the 1940s in an attempt to gently reintroduce them to today's world.

(The Twelve I#1) - Phantom Reporter and Captain Wonder eventually saw through the ruse, forcing the military to inform the others of their current predicament as well. The Laughing Mask and his compatriots all agreed with the army's offer to help them get adjusted so they could be what they were before: heroes serving their country in its hour of need.

(The Twelve I#2) - Laughing Mask and the others moved to a luxurious mansion outside of New York supplied and funded by the army. Their liaison Colonel Dexter showed them around and ensured the heroes they were welcome to stay there rent- and expense free for 12 months while they got their bearings in this new world. Burton, familiar with these kinds of government deals, wondered what the catch was. Dexter assured them there was no catch: the government hoped that after one year, they would continue on as heroes bankrolled by the government. If they wanted to leave after twelve months, that was also fine. Later that night, while he was kept up by Rockman's continued pounding in hopes of reaching his underground people, Burton sat in bed looking at his grinning mask, seemingly lost in thought.

(The Twelve I#3 - BTS) - His experiences during WWII, when he was considered little more than a "tourist" by the heroes with actual superpowers, had left the Laughing Mask troubled and insecure. Determined to make a name for himself, he decided to have a few drinks to get his dander up.

(The Twelve I#3) - One night, holding a bottle of whisky in one hand, his mask in the other, Burton made his way to the storage area where the inert Electro was being kept. Severely inebriated, he began to rant about showing everyone he was a real hero and that he did have what it takes. He briefly thought back to the time he executed three hostage takers, talking to his mask as if it was a separate person. He found his resolve, put on the mask and went out on patrol in New York City.

(The Twelve I#4 (fb) ) - At around 22:30 hours that same night, the Laughing Mask was on hand to stop two criminals from robbing a liquor store. Using a well-placed shot to destroy one of their shotguns, his hysterical laughter and sudden appearance startled them long enough for L.M to knock both thugs out. Content that he had done good, Laughing Mask returned home before the police arrived.

(The Twelve I#4) - The next morning, police officers arrived at the mansion the Twelve were staying at, looking for Laughing Mask. Despite Colonel Dexter's protests everyone there was a hero given freedom from liability and prosecution for actions committed in the course of heroism, they wouldn't go away. The police officers, eager to follow procedure, wanted to take L.M.'s guns to the station to register them, which was mandatory for heroes as well as police officers. Ever eager to cooperate with the law, Burton freely handed his trademark firearms over.  Later that evening, he attended the going away party thrown for Master Mind Excello who had reclaimed his wealth and was moving to a place of his own.

(The Twelve I#5 - BTS) - Forensic experts connected Laughing Mask's guns to bullets taken from a gangster murdered in 1940. Because there is no statute of limitations on the crime of murder, lieutenant detective Lew Goldman was dispatched along with a police escort to arrest Laughing Mask.

(The Twelve I#5) - Eager to continue his new crime fighting career as soon as he got his guns back, the Laughing Mask even proposed a partnership with the Phantom Reporter. Burton figured he could write of their adventures in his Daily Bugle newscolumn, or possibly even change his nickname to Frowning Mask so they would be an ever better fitting duo. On a more serious note, he told the lovelorn Reporter that the mysterious Black Widow was never going to love him because she didn't even deem him worth a second glance. Before he could go on, their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of detective Goldstein who placed the perplexed Laughing Mask under arrest.

(The Twelve I#6) - The arrest of Laughing Mask turned into a media spectacle, with several news crews covering the case. Burton was booked, processed and put in temporary lock-up with a few violent criminals who couldn't wait to nail the fallen hero. In the ensuing scrap, Burton endured at least one black eye, though it only fueled his determination, defiantly claiming the Laughing Mask feared no one.

(The Twelve I#8 (fb) ) - When his precognitive vision ensured Master Mind Excello that Laughing Mask would be needed in the near future, the independently wealthy superhero used his money to pay Burton's bail. He received both his weapons and his costume back and returned to the mansion.

(The Twelve I#9) - The Laughing Mask was present at the mansion along with most of the others when Master Mind Excello dropped by for a mysterious visit. Burton thanked Excello for bailing him out but was told "think nothing of it, good fellow". A little while later, unaware the Phantom Reporter had been called away to investigate the murder of the Blue Blade by the robot Electro, the Laughing Mask was reading the Daily Bugle's report on him being released on bail.

(The Twelve I#10) - Laughing Mask, along with the surviving 1940s heroes, gathered at their mansion to hear the Phantom Reporter and Master Mind Excello's proof the robot Electro wasn't responsible for the recent death of their ally Blue Blade's. Slowly establishing the evidence, they revealed the overly zealous, moral Dynamic Man was the true culprit and a sexless android to boot. Infuriated his true, inhuman origin was uncovered, the superbly powerful creature vowed to kill every last one of them.

(The Twelve I#11) - Laughing Mask was ready to jump Dynamic Man, but didn't get the chance. He was eventually trapped with the others when Dynamic Man destroyed the support beams of the house causing the structure to collapse on them. Thanks to Rockman's strength, everyone escaped unscathed even though Rockman himself seemingly perished underneath the vast amount of rubble. L.M. was not involved in the final fight against Dynamic Man, which ended with both the evil android and Fiery Mask dying in the line of duty. He attended the hero's funeral, along with the others and witnessed how the Phantom Reporter (who had inherited the Mask's fire powers) lit the hero's tombstone as a lasting tribute.

(The Twelve I#12) - The American government struck a deal with Dennis Burton. In exchange for him using his unique brainwaves to pilot the newly acquired Electro robot, they would drop all charges and consider his time in cryogenic suspension as time served. It didn't take long for Burton to mull it over, he accepted the offer and entered the employ of the United States armed forces. After the Electro robot had been refit with some more modern weaponry like gattling guns and two shoulder mounted rocket launchers he was sent into war zones to deal with America's enemies. He was last seen in the Middle East gleefully slaughtering a group of native rebels.

Comments: Created by Will Harr (writer), Maurice Gutwirth (pencils & inks).

The Twelve were found in Germany on Wednesday August 2nd, 2008. This was during the rise of the Initiative in comics. The date is topical.

The news report on Laughing Mask's arrest claims Dennis Burton was 37 years old. He disappeared in 1945, so subtract 37 and you end up with 1908 as his most likely year of birth.

In Avengers/Invaders#10 & 12 he was wearing his Purple Mask costume when he was impaled on the Red Skull's wall and when resurrected by the Cosmic Cube.
--Ron Fredricks

Full names for Bellos, Renard and Whalen were revealed in Laughing Mask's profile in the Marvel Mystery Handbook.

The Laughing Mask received profiles in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z HC#14 and Marvel Mystery Handbook 70th Anniversary Special#1

Original entries on Daring Mystery Comics#2,3&4 by LV but re-read and rewritten for this new profile.

Profile by Norvo

CLARIFICATIONS:
The Laughing Mask should not be confused with


images: (without ads)
Marvel Mystery Handbook#1, p20, pan1 (main image)
Daring Mystery Comics I#2, p18, pans1,2,3,4 (1940s)
Daring Mystery Comics I#3, cover (purple mask)
The Twelve: Spearhead#1, p36, pans4,5,6 (executes SS officers)
The Twelve I#5, p25, pans4&5 (arrested for murdering a 1940s gangster)
The Twelve I#3, p16, pan2 (talking to his mask)
The Twelve I#12, p23, pan3 (controlling Electro)


Appearances:
Daring Mystery Comics I#2/7 (February, 1940) - Will Harr (writer), Maurice Gutwirth (pencils & inks), Joe Simon (editor)
Daring Mystery Comics I#3/3 (April, 1940) - Maurice Gutwirth (pencils & inks), Joe Simon (editor)
Daring Mystery Comics I#4/1 (May, 1940) - Maurice Gutwirth (pencils & inks), Joe Simon (editor)
The Twelve I#1 (March, 2008) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils), Garry Leach (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#2 (April, 2008) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils), Garry Leach (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#3 (May, 2008) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils), Garry Leach (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#4 (June, 2008) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils), Garry Leach (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#5 (July, 2008) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils), Garry Leach (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#6 (August, 2008) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils & inks), Garry Leach (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#8 (December, 2008) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils & inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers/Invaders#10 (June, 2009) - Alex Ross (plot), Jim Krueger (plot/script), Steve Sadowski, Patrick Berkenkotter (pencilers), Stephen Wacker (editor)
Avengers/Invaders#12 (August, 2009) - Alex Ross (plot), Jim Krueger (plot/script), Steve Sadowski, Patrick Berkenkotter (pencilers), Stephen Wacker (editor)
The Twelve: Spearhead#1 (May, 2010) - Chris Weston (writer, pencils, inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Marvels Project#8 (July, 2010) - Ed Brubaker (writer), Steve Epting (pencils & inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#9 (April, 2012) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils & inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#10 (April, 2012) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils & inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#11 (May, 2012) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils & inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
The Twelve I#12 (June, 2012) - J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Chris Weston (pencils & inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)


Last updated: 09/04/16

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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