2367: Masks

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Haunted Halloween masks from a mysterious costume shop that turn you evil and grow into your skin score a surprisingly high 80% filtration efficiency in R. L. Stine-sponsored NIOSH tests.
Title text: Haunted Halloween masks from a mysterious costume shop that turn you evil and grow into your skin score a surprisingly high 80% filtration efficiency in R. L. Stine-sponsored NIOSH tests.


This comic is another in a series of comics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comic is a line from top to bottom explaining how good different types of masks are at preventing respiratory virus transmission. This comic may have been inspired from a Polygon article published on May 15th.

Types of masks

  • Zorro/Lone Ranger: A strip of cloth around the eye-level. Since it does not cover the mouth and nose, the main ways the virus leaves the body to infect others, or the mouth, nose and eyes, the main ways it enters the body, it is ineffective and no better than wearing no mask at all.
  • Batman: Batman's iconic headgear has gone through many revisions, and consists either of a simple cloth cowl or a helmet and visor. Does not cover the mouth, but may cover the nose. However, the mask only covers the top part of the face, i.e., not the mouth or nostrils. This mask might be slightly more effective than the Lone Ranger style mask due to the intimidation effect keeping other people back, and depending on its length, it might help direct air that the wearer breathes out down instead of towards others' faces, which would reduce the risk of spreading any respiratory diseases that the wearer may be infected with.
  • Theater masks (Sock and buskin): Traditionally used as a symbol of performance theater since ancient Greece. The eye and mouth holes are often open, thus exposing the wearer.
  • Skincare (facial mask): A layer of mud or moisturizer. By nature, it does not cover the mouth or nostrils, but it may keep the wearer from touching their face and is usually worn by someone sitting in a chair or lying back on a bed, not out getting in other people's personal space.
  • Scarecrow: A burlap sack. While it provides some cover to the mouth and nose, it is heavily porous. This could also refer to the Scarecrow, a DC Comics villain. If so, the mask would probably be much more effective than an ordinary burlap sack, as that character uses airborne drugs as weapons, and would have to have very good filter ability to protect himself.
  • Guy Fawkes mask: A plastic mask that is a stylized depiction of Guy Fawkes (designed by David Lloyd for the comic book V for Vendetta and made popular by its movie adaptation and subsequent adoption by the Anonymous movement). Most Guy Fawkes masks provide small holes in the front for comfort, thus facilitating spread of the virus.
  • Cloth: A cloth mask that blocks most large particles, like virus-laden saliva. To be most effective, it must cover nose as well as the mouth. These are much cheaper than N95 masks, and can be reused by washing. Not all cloth masks are created equal, some designs and materials are more effective than others at holding back contagious particles, but Randall lists them under "Effective" on the whole. They are relatively effective at preventing the wearer from infecting others, but are less effective at protecting the wearer from being infected by others, because droplets leaving the body are large enough to block, but small enough to get through cloth after evaporation. The felt-like nonwoven fabric of surgical masks blocks more droplets and aerosols than the same thickness of knit or woven fabric.
  • Spiderman[sic]: A full face covering of spandex-like material (Spider-Man comics rarely if ever specify what material Spider-Man makes his costume from). Would block most virus particles. (The correct spelling is "Spider-Man", with a hyphen, and "Man" capitalized.)
  • N95: A standard air filtration mask, commonly used in industry but also used in healthcare. The name "N95" signals that it is not resistant to oil, but successfully filters 95% of airborne particles. It has proven to be one of the more successful masks during the 2020 pandemic. N95 masks usually include non-woven filtration material, which while often stiff like cardstock, is more similar to the felt-like fabric of surgical masks than to woven cloth. N95 masks can filter particles much smaller than the gaps between layers and strands in the fabric.
  • SCUBA: A Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Most SCUBA equipment used an open-circuit design allowing exhaled air to vent to the atmosphere. Underwater, this would not be a threat to other divers who would also be breathing air from their tanks. However, on land a typical SCUBA regulator would expose others to virus particles. Closed-circuit SCUBA equipment recirculates the user’s gas supply but they still contain a means of venting extra gas into the atmosphere. Neither system contains expiratory HEPA filters making both ineffective at preventing virus transmission. That all said, SCUBA equipment still covers the face and nose, rather than directly exposing others to unshielded breathing and coughing.
  • Vader: Reference to one of the main antagonists in Star Wars, in which he wears a suit of armor with a built-in rebreather. Similar to SCUBA gear, it circulates air back to the user, in order to defend against the spread of the virus to the wearer. The question of whether Vader's mask would protect against COVID was implicitly referenced again in 2441: IMDb Vaccines.
  • Mysterio: Reference to one of the antagonists in Marvel ComicsSpider-Man as part of the Sinister Six. He wears a glass helmet. In the comics Mysterio often uses mind-altering chemicals, and his suit is designed to shield himself from his own weapons. By the same design, it would shield himself and others from the spread of viral infection. He might also not even be in your presence if, especially as in the film version, the Mysterio you see is himself currently an illusion.
  • Haunted Halloween Masks: The title text is a reference to The Haunted Mask by R. L. Stine, a book in the Goosebumps series. The mask transforms the wearer into a monster, with an open (uncovered) nose and mouth. The test results claim that the wearer is still somehow substantially protected against inhaling virus particles, but this may be a fraudulent test result due to pressure from the sponsor of the test, R. L. Stine, to get more people to wear such masks; it is also possible that the supernatural effects somehow include blocking virus particles, as parasites generally benefit from keeping their hosts alive and healthy, at least in the short term. NIOSH refers to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Position on chart

  • [With 0% at the top position of the top arrow and 100% effective at the position of the bottom arrow the masks effectiveness would be approximately as follows:]
[02%] Zorro/Lone Ranger
[03%] Batman
[07%] Theater
[10%] Skincare
[15%] Scarecrow
[18%] Guy Fawkes
[48%] Cloth
[52%] Spider-Man
[68%] N95
[71%] Scuba
[80%] Vader
[90%] Mysterio


[A chart is shown with a title and explanation at the top:]
By effectiveness at preventing respiratory virus transmission
[The chart consist of a vertical line going top to bottom with arrows at both ends. There are labels at the top, around the middle and at the bottom:]
Not effective.
Extremely Effective
[Along the line there are 12 bullets. From each bullet there goes a line (often with one or two turns) to a depiction of a type of mask. Each mask type is labeled. The first six masks are all close to the top, the last only halfway down to the middle of the line. The next two are right around the middle, then two are halfway towards the bottom from there and the final two are close to the bottom, with the last very close to the botom. From top to bottom:]
Zorro/Lone Ranger
Guy Fawkes

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What is the mysterio reference? Donthaveusername (talk)

Mysterio is one of Spiderman's recurrent villains. Nutster (talk) 18:57, 2 October 2020 (UTC)
Thank you Donthaveusername (talk)
Mysterio could reference this: [1] Sebastian-- 12:43, 3 October 2020 (UTC)
That globe is clearly a reference to the Spiderman villian. The Goosebumps character did not wear a mask as far as I can tell. Nutster (talk) 14:42, 3 October 2020 (UTC)
It's Mysterio, the Spider-Man villain, who basically wears a fishbowl/crystal ball over his head, as shown in this graph. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:21, 26 September 2021 (UTC)

How could Randall forget The Mask? Although I'm not sure where it fits on the scale. Barmar (talk) 20:32, 2 October 2020 (UTC)

I was desperately missing an Opera Phantom reference. (Apparently made as a 'skewed partial' mask because the original concept was impossible to operate in.) 22:45, 2 October 2020 (UTC)
I would assume The Mask protects against infection quite well, considering it protects even against bullets and explosives. It may not prevent spreading the virus to others, though. -- Hkmaly (talk) 01:18, 3 October 2020 (UTC)
It would protect against or foster any effect or aspect of the virus exactly as much as the wearer wanted it to. It can bend or rewrite reality or unreality in any way, at a whim. The only weakness to the Mask is the wearer du jour, so it would utterly, entirely and completely depend upon who's wearing it. So, as to where it fits on the scale - it doesn't (?) - Brettpeirce (talk) 15:29, 6 October 2020 (UTC)
Depends. The mask when off/real life no-magic replica, is essentially identical to the Skincare one with open eye and mouth holes, except more substantial, being made of wood, so it would be there. Worn, with the magical transformation, there's zero coverage so it would be up with Zorro/Lone Ranger/Batman. Or, alternatively, you'd now be the embodiment of Loki, a god, so probably immune to viruses and thus below Mysterio. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:21, 26 September 2021 (UTC)

With Batman/Spiderman/Mysterio on the list, wouldn't the Scarecrow mask be that of the Batman Villain?

The appearance of the scarecrow mask in the comic is similar to some incarnations of the Scarecrow in the various Batman comics. In that case, it would be very effective as Dr. Crane (the man behind the mask) uses psychoactive air-borne chemicals and the mask actually hides very effective filters. That mask sure does not look like Ray Bolger's makeup from the Wizard of Oz. Nutster (talk) 14:42, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

It's considered possible that the virus could be transmitted through the eyes, e.g. by touching a contaminated surface and then rubbing one's eyes. This hasn't been confirmed; it is at most a minor route. Should we mention this when noting the lack of protection offered by e.g. the Lone Ranger / Zorro mask? BunsenH (talk) 03:47, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

Early in the pandemic - like May/June 2020 - I saw an article where some doctor had been vigilant protecting his nose and mouth, washing hands frequently as a doctor, who swore him contracting the virus was proof that you can contract it through the eyes, that he did. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:21, 26 September 2021 (UTC)

What about iron man? The 𝗦𝗾𝗿𝘁-𝟭 talk stalk 04:06, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

All the incarnations of the various Iron Man armours, except perhaps for the first one, contain independent air supplies, which allows the operator to survive underwater and at very high altitude, where people usually can not breathe. Therefore, the Iron Man mask should appear as even more effective than Mysterio's one. Nutster (talk) 14:47, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

Spiderman's mask is extremely porous, how would it be that effective? SDSpivey (talk) 04:58, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

Spiderman's mask would act as a nebulizer, making virus transmission far worse. 13:09, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

I would expect that Spiderman's mask would be about as effective as a regular cloth mask. Nutster (talk) 14:42, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

Various iterations of Zorro have different masks. Sometimes they are as shown in this comic, a fabric strip with eye holes tied around the head, but arguably more common is a scarf with eye holes that covers the entire upper head and is tied in the back. --John from Arlington (talk) 13:32, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

Covering the top of the head still would not reduce the transmission of an airborne virus. Nutster (talk) 14:42, 3 October 2020 (UTC)
Which is why I was always skeptical of this thing. And also with so many people wearing visors (e.g. shop-assistants) where they're worn pretty much just as a (far out) eye-shield but plenty of air both towards and away from their mouth and nose.
(And far too many people, if they aren't wearing masks as chin-straps in a 'mask-required' context, think they're mouth-masks and hang them beneath their noses as if nostrils don't matter.) 23:01, 3 October 2020 (UTC)
It should of course cover the nose, but even covering just the mouth would be of some use. You don't cough out your nose. The mask would disrupt the airflow when the wearer coughs, so that the virus does not get to travel the 2 metres to the next person before falling below that person's face height. (Cough expel droplets, droplets contain virus, droplets have weight.) Spider-Man's mask might do the same, but I doubt it; if the fabric was dense enough, he'd suffocate. Of course, that is only useful when the wearer has contracted the virus but has not developed the full-blown Covid. If it's just a cold, the mask does nothing about Covid. 19:54, 20 October 2020 (UTC)

Star Wars should be italicized. PvOberstein (talk) 18:40, 3 October 2020 (UTC)

What are HEPA filters made of

I've been told that HEPA filters are very similar to the filters in consumer vacuum cleaner bag accessory assemblies, and also similar to the N95 filters sold for masks. What are those filters made of? How are they made? Can I make them at home? Can I make something similar at home? Thanks in advance. 03:17, 5 October 2020 (UTC)

This isn't really relevant to the discussion. 04:40, 5 October 2020 (UTC)

Has Batman been mentioned so many times that he needs his own category? See this search. --Kynde (talk) 07:30, 5 October 2020 (UTC)

Why is Spider-Man listed as SpiderMan in the explanation? There is nothing to suggest that the M should be capitalized. Shouldn't we be using Spiderman or SPIDERMAN? 14:24, 5 October 2020‎

We use "SpiderMan" in the explanation only when we're directly quoting the comic, with the error noted. Otherwise in the explanation, we use the correct spelling. I don't know why people are getting it wrong in the discussion here. :-)
We don't yet have the "[sic]" note in the transcript, but probably should..? BunsenH (talk) 17:10, 5 October 2020 (UTC)

I live in the village where Guy Fawkes grew up, and our local pub is named after him. The staff wear masks but, incredibly disappointingly, not "Guy Fawkes masks". Properly missed a trick there.Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 14:48, 5 October 2020 (UTC)

If I was in charge or at least connected, I'd design some Guy Fawkes masks to be able to accept the mouth/nose filters some cloth masks use. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:54, 26 September 2021 (UTC)

The explanation talks about Guy Fawkes being designed for the V For Vendetta comic, but didn't that all come from a REAL guy REALLY using that mask/imagery? As depicted in the V movie? I won't update it because I'm no expert, but I'm fairly sure... NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:54, 26 September 2021 (UTC)