Do superhero secret identities still have worth nowadays?

Discussion in 'Comic Books and Graphic Novels' started by QLRformer, Mar 20, 2020.

  1. QLRformer

    QLRformer Seeker

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    Superman recently released his identity to the world as a gesture of trust. Previously, Lois Lane released his identity because a villain had found out about it and was trying to use it against him.

    Batman released his identity to Gotham in the White Knight comic as an appeal for people to trust him.

    And Tony Stark did his reveal in the MCU as a gesture of audacity and flamboyance. (He couldn't properly cover it up, and he's too egotistic to not be a hero).


    For various reasons, the secret identity concept - used keep your close ones safe by keeping your hero and private life separate - has been broken over comic-book history. I'm speaking in terms of outright public disclosure, not traditional revealing to only a few special people.

    As a social gesture, disclosure of identity invites trust and cuts away double life complications, but also draws attention from bad guys. When Tony Stark revealed himself, he got attention from the US government and rival scientists.

    But as an individual, a secret identity allows a sense of privacy which all people should have. Superman values his Clark Kent identity because it's not just a disguise but a part of him, that allows him to rest at Kansas away from the troubles Superman is needed to resolve. Even Superman needs to rest in body and spirit occasionally, and constant public exposure/celebrity status can hamper that.

    So the dilemma is: are secret identities for superheroes still worth keeping, or should they be retired?
     
  2. Honorbound

    Honorbound The Working Hermit

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    Depends on the hero - some heroes, like Iron Man or Captain America, work well without them, but others, like Superman and Batman, need the secret identity in order to properly define their characters. For Superman, having his Clark Kent identity is how he stays in touch with humanity. And Batman is partly defined by his secrecy. And the "keep your close ones safe by keeping your identity a secret" is still a thing - there's a reason certain SWAT and special operations types don't advertise who they are. And on top of that, at the end of the day, superheros are vigilantes, acting outside an ineffective system in order to seek natural justice - keeping their identity secret allows them to act effectively without a corrupt politician telling them "no, don't go after the mob boss whose drug money funds my political campaigns."
     
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  3. SouthtownKid

    SouthtownKid Headmaster

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    Didn't work out so well for Peter Parker when he tried it. Come to think of it, it didn't work out so well for readers when Peter Parker tried it.
     
  4. TheLastBlade

    TheLastBlade Well-Known Member

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    It’ll only be relevant when the plot demands it nowadays.
     
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  5. Tetratron

    Tetratron Well-Known Member

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    Depends on the character. I'd say characters like Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man they are necessary while ones like Iron Man or Wonder Woman work fine without them.
     
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  6. Megastar

    Megastar Well-Known Member

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    The problem with Superman and Batman's secret identities is most of Superman's enemies wouldn't care becusce their aliens, like Brainiac or are already targeting him, becusce he's a good reporter exposing their crimes. And half of Batman's villains (Ra's al Ghul, Bane, Hush, Riddler, Two-Face, and the Joker) already know his secret identity and even as Bruce Wayne they target him just becusce he's rich and famous.
     
  7. Honorbound

    Honorbound The Working Hermit

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    Depends on the incarnation. In most of the animated depictions, Bane, Riddler, and Two-Face don't know who he is, Joker doesn't care, and Ra's knowing is treated as a big deal. As for Superman, not all of his enemies are from space - a number of villains are earthbound, foremost among them being Lex Luthor. As to why they're targeting Bruce and Clark, it's one thing to target a nosy reporter and a feckless playboy billionaire. It's another to know that your targets are Superman and Batman.
     
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  8. Maximus Danz

    Maximus Danz Made In Heaven

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    I 100% agree!

    I feel like their identity adds something to them. Superman's and Spiderman's identities, in my opinion, tie them down to the Hero of the everyman as they appear to just be workers who have super abilities and use them for good. Batman's show the sheer determination of an ordinary man was as society would think of him as a spoiled rich kid when he actually is a hardened warrior who cares deeply about his fellow man. It's good, ironic contrast.
     
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  9. Hobbes-timus Prime

    Hobbes-timus Prime Well-Known Member

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    I think the concept is mostly played out. The Superman/Clark Kent glasses thing has been a joke for decades. And privacy is increasingly rare for everyone.

    That, coupled with the fact that comic continuity keeps heroes in an eternal state of being in their 30s, means a lot of modern heroes now grew up in an internet and video saturated time. For maskless heroes, it's really become an impossible secret to keep. And most who wear masks are probably still more exposed than you'd think. Face recognition technology, phones with GPS that track your movements, every bystander carrying a camera with them at all times...

    There are a few like Batman, that I think it still works for. The secret is part of his arsenal, what with being an urban legend and inspiring fear. Plus he had an incredibly privileged upbringing and tons of resources that would allow a certain protection.

    But does Peter Parker need to hide? And could he pull it off? I'd probably answer no to both those questions.
     
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  10. Haywired

    Haywired Hakunamatatacon

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    A secret identity can work if the writers can handle it.

    NO concept is going to work with talentless writers.

    Public reveals for heroes with secret identities are one the favorite writing crutches, though. Especially the less talented the writer is and the more they need story gimmicks.

    Thinking about it.... It's true for most of the modern writers. ;]

    Public identity heroes is a concept that works too, although it usually is an important part of their character concept.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
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  11. Tetratron

    Tetratron Well-Known Member

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    Yes, in contrast I don't think characters like Iron Man or Wonder Woman lose anything by being known as public heroes.
     
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  12. Maximus Danz

    Maximus Danz Made In Heaven

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    I think Ironman actually benefits from a public identity for pretty much the exact opposite reason of batman, it flys in the face of what people think about stark.
     
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  13. Megastar

    Megastar Well-Known Member

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    Well in the current Incarnation most of Batman's major villains know he's Bruce Wayne, from Ra's al Ghul, Bane, Hush, Two-Face and the Joker. Yes, but right now I'm talking about the comics and recently they have all been attacking Bruce Wayne, his friends and allies. Yes, a number of them are Earthbound and usually target his wife Lois anyway because she's writing a story exposing their crimes and recently Lex Luthor found out after Superman went public with his secret identity. True but now it is both.

    The point is Batman and Superman no longer need their secret identities because they're going to get targeted anyway and their biggest enemies already know their secrets.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2020
  14. Honorbound

    Honorbound The Working Hermit

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    That's comic book continuity, which will reinvent itself when convenient. Look at the various reboots. As to non-comic media, the principle still applies.
     
  15. shamanking282

    shamanking282 Well-Known Member

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    That very short era after he revealed himself in Civil War until One More Day came out was actually pretty great. All the Spider-Man titles were exploring the effects that had on him and his supporting cast. We could have had a neat new status quo, but of course Quesada only even let Pete reveal his identity because he knew he was gonna change it back in a year or so.
     
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  16. Deathcatg

    Deathcatg Well-Known Member

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    I kind of liked it too, especially Peter becoming a high school science teacher. If they would have brought back the baby from the 90s, this would have been my favorite version of Peter; one that was finally progressing to the next steps in life. I can only take the "Ol'Parker Luck" routine of restarting the status quo before finding the character unappealing personally.
     
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  17. QLRformer

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    That clip will always be my response to that statement.


    On this I have to agree. Can't speak on current affairs, but today's world is so connected and surveyed that any sense of privacy is difficult or at best temporary to manage.


    Which Peter Parker, the high school adolescent trying to make sense of life, or the grown adult who is more mature and (more or less) able to keep his affairs in order?[/QUOTE]


    It's not a question of secrecy, but of an individual right to privacy.

    Superman deserves to be Clark, to rest as much as he can with the family that raised him. Superman once said "I am Clark! I want to be Clark! I would go crazy if I had to be Superman all the time!" He recognizes that he isn't almighty as people believe/wish he was, and that he needs a break to renew himself as much as possible. Clark Kent allows him that rest - but more importantly, Clark is who he was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent in Kansas. His personas are dual, and one is not superior to the other.

    With Batman, well, he's on a slippery slope, trying his best to be as different from his unbalanced nemeses as possible. That can make his Bruce Wayne persona valuable too, as an industrialist providing jobs and philanthropy in Gotham. But even he has a right to some privacy, his attempted relationship and engagement with Catwoman as well as his Bat-family/squadron was an attempt at teamwork and establishing a surrogate family away from the pressures of superheroics.
     
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  18. Con2Couch

    Con2Couch Member

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    I get the thought process that says "secret identities are pointless in the modern age", but good writing (like most concepts in fiction) could probably still pull off the notion with current tech and societal trends in mind.
     
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  19. QLRformer

    QLRformer Seeker

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    We could do with some examples, maybe?
     
  20. Con2Couch

    Con2Couch Member

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    In the case of someone like Batman, Bruce Wayne would probably use things like social media, device tracking, etc. to create a false trail that would throw off anyone like a reporter looking into Batman's identity.
     
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