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  1. #1
    Mighty Member mathew101281's Avatar
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    Default Is the secret identity a dead concept for Superheroes?

    It seems like it in a lot of ways. Marvel seems to be aiming their heroes more and more in the public identity direction.

  2. #2
    Looney Toon Carabas's Avatar
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    Mostly yes, with a few exceptions.

    And even with heroes that still have one it is played for laughs more often than not.
    "One may be intelligent, and a Nazi. Then one is not decent. One may be decent and a Nazi. Then one is not intelligent. And one may be intelligent and decent. Then one is not a Nazi"
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  3. #3
    Astonishing Member Kusanagi's Avatar
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    It's not overall, but it's definitely dead or dying at Marvel. DC has enough main eventers where the secret identity is integral to the character. Marvel's had large chunks of its main characters where secret identities were either never important or quickly tossed aside in favor of being public (Fantastic Four, X-Men, Incredible Hulk)

    In terms of prominent characters with secret IDs Marvel has Spidey/Daredevil (though his gets exposed like every couple years or so), and...um...Ms. Marvel? It's a definite dying breed.
    Last edited by Kusanagi; 03-03-2018 at 05:36 PM.
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  4. #4
    Amazing Member Adam Allen's Avatar
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    I think part of the problem is wanting your hero to be practically flawless. Like, it used to be that Clark Kent was supposed to seem too wimpy to possibly be Superman, Bruce Wayne too shallow and immature to possibly be the Batman, but over time it gets to where even the alter-ego of your superhuman hero can't be seen to have too many very human flaws ... even if the flaws are clearly just part of a disguise, as in the above cases. But, it's why Peter Parker can't stay a loser who struggles to pay his bills and gets pushed around by bullies. It's not enough to have super powers and to be a hero -- no, you have to actually be cool, too!

    I'm not a fan of the trend personally, because I think the idea that anyone could be behind the mask of the hero was pretty appealing to me, when I was a pretty geeky and awkward kid, myself. I also really liked how it emphasized how you didn't necessarily get to be both the hero and the cool kid. That, to some degree, being a hero would probably be a kind of thankless job.

    I think some of this is still baked into the core concept of the superhero, but we're also competing with the cult of celebrity ... you know, if Tony Stark can be a superhero and rich and famous, why would any hero put up with being some penniless nobody?
    We've got the power to be loving each other, no matter what happens -- we've got the power to do that

  5. #5
    The Fastest Post Alive! Buried Alien's Avatar
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    The concept is still there, but hasn't been actively used much in recent years. Long gone is the classic trope of the superhero first appearing in the story in his/her civilian identity, only to need to find a place to duck away and change into his/her superhero alter-ego when the action starts to go down. It's a shame in some ways: seeing the "ordinary" guy or gal transform into the hero (and then back again when the danger is resolved) was a huge part of the appeal of superheroes in earlier years.

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  6. #6
    Looney Toon Carabas's Avatar
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    I think the main reason for the concept going out of style is that as technology marches on, it has become ever less probable that somebody without Bruce Wayne resources would be able to have a secret identity.

    If Superman rushes into a phone booth to change into his supersuit (let's say it's the 90's and they still exist), he gets caught on an anti-vandalism camera.

    Another thing that has made them go out of style is that people got wise to the fact that constantly lying to all your friends, family, spouse in some cases... makes you kind of an asshole.
    "One may be intelligent, and a Nazi. Then one is not decent. One may be decent and a Nazi. Then one is not intelligent. And one may be intelligent and decent. Then one is not a Nazi"
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  7. #7
    Death becomes you Osiris-Rex's Avatar
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    The only practical reason for maintaining a secret identity is so you can mingle with ordinary people out in public without getting mobbed for autographs. Or in the case of a vigilante to not be arrested on sight.
    But for friends and family it makes no sense to keep it from them. I like how the CW handles it. Friends know Oliver is Green Arrow, Barry is Flash, Kara is Supergirl, but the general public doesn't know.

  8. #8
    Ultimate Member
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    Exactly, for certain types of characters, the secret ID still works, but for others it really doesn't make sense. Moon Knight probably needs a secret ID but not the Scarlet Witch.

  9. #9
    Boisterously Confused
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carabas View Post
    I think the main reason for the concept going out of style is that as technology marches on, it has become ever less probable that somebody without Bruce Wayne resources would be able to have a secret identity.

    If Superman rushes into a phone booth to change into his supersuit (let's say it's the 90's and they still exist), he gets caught on an anti-vandalism camera.

    Another thing that has made them go out of style is that people got wise to the fact that constantly lying to all your friends, family, spouse in some cases... makes you kind of an asshole.
    What you say is true. However, I think the trend of narcissist-worship has a lot to do with it. Fewer people want to project themselves on anyone but a 💯 cool character. Admiring a part-time dork reflects badly on themselves.

    It also maybe a function of the average age of comicbook readers. The secret identity had power when comics were for children because the idea of being all-powerful without giving up themselves was appealing. Don Markham speculated that was what lay at the heart of (the original) Captain Marvel's appeal.

  10. #10
    Better than YOU! Alan2099's Avatar
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    I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that stories are moving away from the soap opera aspects where secret identities shine and more and more into the Big Screen Black Buster stuff where everything has to be a HUGE event. There's not as much room for the heroes outside of their masks in that type of story telling.

  11. #11
    DC Comics Forum Mod The Darknight Detective's Avatar
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    All I know is if I were a superhero, I would unquestionably go the secret identity route.
    A bat! That's it! It's an omen.. I'll shall become a bat!

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  12. #12
    Looney Toon Carabas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Darknight Detective View Post
    All I know is if I were a superhero, I would unquestionably go the secret identity route.
    How long do you figure you'd manage to keep that secret once law enforcement (or even the military) starts to get serious about finding out who this guy is?
    "One may be intelligent, and a Nazi. Then one is not decent. One may be decent and a Nazi. Then one is not intelligent. And one may be intelligent and decent. Then one is not a Nazi"
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  13. #13
    DC Comics Forum Mod The Darknight Detective's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carabas View Post
    How long do you figure you'd manage to keep that secret once law enforcement (or even the military) starts to get serious about finding out who this guy is?
    Well, it would be either a secret identity or no superhero identity at all for me. I wouldn't risk my family over it, though I would still try to do what I could if possible.

    Would it be tough? Sure. A superhero in our world would have a much harder time, no doubt.
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  14. #14
    Extraordinary Member Trey Strain's Avatar
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    It might be, but it shouldn't be. When it goes, then supporting casts tend to go too, and the stories become poorer as a result. Everyone in a comic doesn't need to be a super-hero.

  15. #15
    Looney Toon Carabas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trey Strain View Post
    It might be, but it shouldn't be. When it goes, then supporting casts tend to go too, and the stories become poorer as a result. Everyone in a comic doesn't need to be a super-hero.
    Do you have an example of this happening? And not Wonder Woman, because her endless supporting casts always go away, secret ID or not.
    "One may be intelligent, and a Nazi. Then one is not decent. One may be decent and a Nazi. Then one is not intelligent. And one may be intelligent and decent. Then one is not a Nazi"
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