Thursday, January 29, 2009

Worst Kept Secret Identities

One of my readers (Kermyt) suggested this one, and I thought it might be fun to look into. We know how most heroes guard their secret identities to protect their families, but let's be honest: there are those heroes who do a really poor job of it. Submitted for your approval, these are the heroes who did a really poor job of keeping their secret identities secret.

Green Arrow/Oliver Queen

Ok, so this one took a while before it got out, but now it's pretty much public knowledge. Of course, considering the little flippy goatee thing was pretty much a dead giveaway long before he acknowledged the fact that he was Oliver Queen says a lot about how well the folks around him paid attention to details.

Yes, my question becomes "Why wear the mask if everyone already knows who you are?".

Do you think folks feel a little strange around the hero who still wears the mask when he's around? "Um, are we supposed to call him Green Arrow or Oliver? And are we supposed to act like that little mask is still fooling us?"

The Flash/Wally West

This one is freaky weird simply because of the turns it has taken over the years. He's Kid Flash, then he becomes the Flash, then everyone finds out who he is, then the Spectre comes along and makes everyone forget who he is (including Wally himself), then he gets his memory back and gives up his identity yet again.

When an almost-omnipotent being wipes the slate clean for you, we like to call that a "cop out" in comics (cough, cough, Spider-Man, cough cough). At least DC had the decency to make it interesting by letting even Wally forget he was a hero. But then it's a pretty dumb move to go back and let everyone know who you are again after you find out.

Villains have come after his wife, and problems have come on his kids thanks to his indiscretions. Here's hoping Wally has finally found peace now that Barry Allen will be wearing the red suit.


Ok, so this one wasn't really public knowledge to the whole world, but you've got to admit a whole lot of folks knew who he was. Not counting sidekicks like Robin(s), Nightwing, Batgirl, and Azrael, we had Talia, the daughter of his greatest enemy (and his baby mama). Catwoman finally figured it all out, Ra's Al Ghul got in there too. Bane and Hugo Strange knew who he was before it was conveniently wiped from their memories. The Riddler figured it out before having a problem with his memory that currently has him forgetting it again.

To get modern, let's not forget this Jezebel chick who recently messed him up but good, along with the Black Glove group of baddies who tried to drive him crazy.

So let's look at who hasn't figured it out yet: Commissioner Gordon. The cop. The detective. The man leading the investigative force of Gotham City. Actually, he probably figured it out years ago, but if you've got someone willing to face the super-villains for you, you go along with the charade.


Now this one is strange. Despite the fact that many other heroes have had their secret identities exposed with few repercussions, Peter's fear was what would happen to his family when the world found out...and he still told everyone who he was.

And what happened? Sure enough, they went after his wife and indestructible aunt. And again, even after everyone knew who he was, he still put on the red suit and mask and fought crime as Spider-Man--with folks calling him "Peter".

Fortunately for Marvel, there was enough pot floating around the conference room one day to motivate some writers to say "Hey, let's just let the Spectre clean it all up like he did for the Flash!"

"Wait, is he one of our characters? I don't think he's ours."

"I don't know. I can't keep up with all this crap. What publisher am I working for this week? Oh yeah, Marvel. Well, who can we use instead?"

"The devil if I know."

"The devil it is! Let's get Mephisto in those pages and give him powers he's never had before! Folks will eat it up like candy!"

And the rest is history.

Daredevil/Matt Murdock

Here's another one the Kingpin went after when the secret came out. How many times has his secret been blown? Twice, to my knowledge. And yet, despite the odds, people keep forgetting he's Daredevil.

Prove it in court, prove it with pictures, prove it with witnesses, send him to prison over it, and all we need is someone else to wear the suit for a while and suddenly everyone's thinking, "Hey, Matt can't be Daredevil cause Matt's in prison and there's Daredevil on the roof!"

"Um, couldn't someone else be wearing the suit?"

"No way! They'd never do that! Besides, who else could jump around like that and swing on a rope?"

"Spider-Man, Batman, the Blue Beetle...even Tarzan, for crying out loud!"

"Nope. That's the real Daredevil!"

"Well, ok then, we were wrong. Let's get Matt out here again."

And so it goes...

On Monday, we're taking a look at the very first official "What If?" story...but it wasn't from Marvel Comics! Join us Monday as we look at where it appears Marvel got their inspiration for the series.


Kelson said...

I like the idea of Commissioner Gordon pretending he doesn't know who Batman is just to play along.

Anonymous said...

I think you're vastly undercounting the folks who know who's under the bat cowl. Lex Luthor surely knows. (I didn't follow Bruce Wayne: Murderer, but didn't Lex mastermind that?) I'm pretty sure Batgirl's assassin father, David Cain, knows, since he's the one who did the killing Wayne was blamed for. Sasha Bordeaux knows -- though perhaps she counts as a sidekick? (She's morphed into something else.) Maxwell Lord knew, and it was in Checkmate's database so goodness knows who else has those files. Heck, the entire Injustice League (or was it the Secret Society of Supervillains?) knew the League's IDs -- twice -- but had that knowledge magically erased -- twice. Jean Loring knew (she couldn't have killed Robin's father if she hadn't) -- so does that mean Eclipso knows? Deathstroke used to know (in his own short-lived series), but I suppose that's been retconned out. A lot of folks in the League of Assassins must know -- Ra's seems to send them into Wayne Manor and/or the Batcave on a regular basis (including the latest issue of Nightwing). Superboy Prime and Alexander Luthor knew, watching as they did everything from their little trans-dimensional hideaway before between the first two Crises. The Crime Syndicate knows (certainly Owlman does, at least, since he's Thomas Wayne, Jr.). Oh, and let's not forget Tommy Elliot, a.k.a. Hush!

I guess anybody who knows that Nightwing is Dick Grayson, and that he used to be Robin, probably knows. Same for Tim Drake. Not sure how many villains that includes but it must include some.

Great topic! 8-)

Dr. OTR a.k.a. Kermyt

Brian said...

Thanks for the info, Dr. OTR! I can't believe I forgot about Hush, especially since he was just in the recent Batman R.I.P. storyline in Detective Comics.

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