Previously: SECRET IDENTITIES ARE COOL!
Following up on that previous post, I’ve had a few people tell me that they mostly agree, but that it depends on the character. I certainly agree with that. And there are some characters who can work either with or without them, it just depends on how they’re written. But I think most of the icons are better with secret identities. Take Superman, for example. First, yes, I acknowledge that his disguise is absurd, and requires almost as much “suspension of disbelief” as it does to accept that he can fly…
But I feel that the identity of Clark Kent, and the supporting cast of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, and Perry White, are essential elements to the character. Scenes of Clark in his office at the Daily Planet help contrast the scenes of Superman fighting super-villains, and can add suitable elements of drama to his stories. And, for the record, just to add some controversy to this blog, I want to state that I am on the side that believes that “Superman” is the real identity, and that “Clark Kent” is the disguise. He may have been born on Earth in America and raised by human parents, but he’s still and alien who has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. The identity of Clark Kent, regular human, is someone he pretends to be, in order to fit in and, as I said before, to have some privacy and time, and not have to be Superman 24/7.
Heck, just remember the promotional lines from the classic Adventures of Superman TV series? “And who, disguised as Clark Kent, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice,” – and all that stuff. ^_^
Spider-Man also definitely needs his secret identity.
The trials and tribulations of Peter Parker, and his personal and professional lives, have always been just as important as his adventures as Spider-Man. It’s Peter Parker that most of us related to. This is why any attempts to change his identity are, in my opinion, inevitably doomed to fail, and therefor can only be temporary gimmicks. Blonde-haired Ben Reilly can’t be Spider-Man, neither can Doctor Octopus. And, no, sorry but Miles Morales will never replace Peter Parker for real, either. And it’s Peter’s supporting cast that also is essential. Aunt May, Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson, Flash Thompson. Even Spider-Man’s ongoing conflict with The Green Goblin(s) is made more dramatic because of Peter’s personal connection to the Osborn family.
Batman needs his secret ID.
Not only for internal logic to the character (his psycho enemies would kill him and everyone he cares about if they knew who he was), but Bruce Wayne can be an interesting character too, when he’s written like an actual human being and not a brooding loner. I feel that Chuck Dixon handled Bruce very well back when he was writing the Bat-books. So did Grant Morrison, for the most part. The lengths he has to go through to put on his “spoiled playboy” act, at the cost of lasting personal relationships is interesting. I’ll add the same for Dick Grayson, the former Robin and Nightwing. Dixon’s Nightwing title was excellent in the way it made Dick Grayson’s personal life as interesting as Nightwing’s vigilante life. That’s why, unlike Spider-Man, I do think Bruce Wayne could be replaced as Batman, but only by Dick Grayson, Wayne’s natural heir apparent.
I’d also add Daredevil to the list. The fact that he’s blind in real life, and therefore no one would ever suspect that he’s Daredevil, makes him even more interesting.
There are some characters that can go either way, like both Wonder Woman and Thor. Their secret identities were eliminated in the comics years ago, WW hasn’t used hers since the post-Crisis revamp by George Perez back in the 80’s, and now the successful movies have had Thor just being the God of Thunder all the time. But I still miss Diana Prince and Dr. Donald Blake, and I would bring them back if I were writing those characters. There’s something about the idea of straight-laced Diana, in her conservative business suit, with her glasses on and her hair pinned back in a bun, who quickly whips the glasses off, takes the pin out of her hair to let it fall down to her shoulders and then spins around in circle and turn into Wonder Woman, with a big flash of light. And mild-mannered Dr. Blake (who has an unrequited crush on his co-worker, nurse Jane Foster), with the bum leg, who needs a cane to walk, but when he taps the cane on the ground he turns into THE MIGHTY THOR (the man Jane is really interested in), and the cane becomes his hammer. I also like the weakness that if the hammer was out of his hand for more than a minute, he would instantly turn back into Dr. Blake. Drama!
Iron Man also could go either way. Tony Stark publicly acknowledging that he’s Iron Man is a fairly recent development in the comics (compared to the other heroes) , but that status quo has been popularized by the movies now, so it’s probably not going to change anytime soon, if ever.
The Fantastic Four have never had secret identities (except for a very brief period in the 80’s when Sue and Reed tried to move to a house in the suburbs as an average married couple) and don’t need them, because they’re really a team of explorers, more so than superheroes. Then there’s Captain America. I think he should have a secret identity, but that shouldn’t be focused on too much. By that I mean, the general public of the Marvel Universe should not know that he is really Steve Rogers. But I also don’t think that we, the readers, should know too much about Steve. The book should primarily focus on the adventures of Captain America. Steve Rogers should, to some extent, remain a cipher. That’s because “Captain America” is meant to be a symbol for the nation, a representative of all Americans. Therefor the stories shouldn’t get too bogged down in personal issue which might alienate some readers. Whether you’re Michael Moore or Ann Coulture, you should be able to look up to Captain America.
I could go on, there are other characters who work well without secret ID’s, but I still maintain that for the most part, the concept of having a secret identity is mainstay of the genre of superheroes.
Just my opinion