Thursday, June 15, 2006

Secret Identities

Are secret identities necessary? On a whole, yes. I mean I can just imagine how much duller Superman would be without Clark Kent. Not every hero needs a secret ID of course, but I find that the heroes who do have them are more interesting by far.


Lets take a look at heroes who have no secret ID.


She-Hulk


This book was BORING until they brought Jennifer Walters back. Seriously, I never could care about the glamourous world of She-Hulk and liked this character A LOT more when she had to be Jennifer again. I appreciate that Jen prefers She-Hulk but that was part of the reason it was interesting to give her a human side - it helped you to empathize with her character. Not to mention you got to discover the character all over again. As much as Jen isn't a "secret" ID (at least not anymore) the character is much more interesting without just She-Hulk.


Wonder Woman


I like Wonder Woman, I really do - but I have a hard time caring about the day in the life of an Amazon Princess. As much as I enjoy WW I could never relate to her character. She's one of the celebrity superheroes and as such she's seen as "above" humanity rather than beside it. I think this is one of the major flaws of the heroes who don't have a secret ID. Of course with this character her secret ID has always been a bit of an issue as she's always WW first and when she does have a secret ID it's little more than a facade. The only time her secret ID was convincing was in the silly WW hippie comic era with her wacky clothing and martial arts instructor. Of course those books are some of the most fun.


Supergirl


This is another character who has had some issues with the whole secret ID thing. As much as she really hasn't needed it I wish they had been able to do more work pursuing Kara as Linda Lang and this was a fresh twist on Kara's character. Without a secret ID it was difficult to fit Kara into the whole Earth thing. Obviously she doesn't need this on New Krypton, but everyone there has superpowers and there's no real reason to find a different way to relate to the main population. Of course I always loved Peter David's work on Matrix/Supergirl and that whole storyline was a cool way of giving Matrix a secret ID as well as really making her Supergirl. I was pretty sad they phased her character out.



in comparison:

Superman


As I said before, I wouldn't care for a Superman with no Clark Kent. Without his secret ID this character would lose the most interesting thing about him. Supes isn't about what he can do as Superman - it's about the fact that in spite of what he can do he still wants to be one of the people he protects. That's what makes him such a great hero. Also, where would the Superman comics be today with all the wacky secret ID hi jinks that ensued? There would be no bad jokes about the fact that Clark hid away his identity with a pair of glasses, there would be no torturing of Lois, and worst of all there would be no Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter. The secret identity is a wonderful thing!


Batman


Batman would be so much less effective if people knew who he was. I mean he'd be hard pressed to strike fear into the hearts of villains as Bruce Wayne: Millionare Playboy. I'm laughing just trying to picture that one. No, really, try to picture that one. If I was a villain I'd fall down laughing. Even the new Spectre said it - that somehow finding out who Batman was just made him a man behind a mask. Secret IDs allow for the superhero myth to grow, without it the heroes are just paparazzi bait. Beyond that now Dick can carry on the Batman legacy without having to do much more than change his costume. While many people do know that the man behind the mask has changed enough badguys think it's the same scary man out there hunting them down. Sadly some of the secret ID thing seems to have backfired with Hush but Dick seems to have worked that out (we'll see).


I think the secret identity is a long standing comic book tradition and is of huge importance to the superhero genre. Secret identities not only help to answer the question of how these heroes deal with the fact that their enemies could come after their loved ones but they also allow the reader to better relate to the character. Yes, there are some great heroes who don't have secret IDs (the F4 for one) but that doesn't mean it'll work for every character. I, for one, am a big fan of the secret ID :)

10 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff said...

Great post! Couldn't agree more. Here's my rant on the subject---Marvel did one of the stupidest things ever, perhaps even worse than the Clone Saga debaucle. Okay, as we all know, 9-11 has had a profound effect on comic books, especially Marvel's. Their heroes are based in NYC and after seeing in real life what a true evil mind could do, it kind of made the superheroes seem irrelevent and silly. So Marvel started to change things to make their heroes more believable. They slowly did away with the things they thought were silly about superheroes: costumes, supervillains, and secret identities were out; real world tragedies and talking heads were in. Joe Q has said that they wanted to make the superheroes more like the real life heroes of 9-11: the police, firemen and port authority officers who put on a uniform every day and head out to keep us safe, often at the cost of their health or loss of their lives. Do cops hide behind masks when dealing with murderers, rapists and other scumbags who threaten revenge when taken down? No. In fact they all have shiny badges with an ID number on them. Would it be hard to look them up and kill their loved ones or burn down their houses in retalition for incarceration? Not really. But how often do we hear of such a thing happening?
So if the cops of NYC, who deal with the worst life has to offer every day, are brave enough to show their faces without cowering in fear for the safety of their loved ones, should superheroes be any less courageous?
What they're forgetting is that superheroes aren't real. You can't compare some muderous thug to Electro riding on the powerlines, running megvolts across May's chest when she answers the phone. Now that Spidey's ID is out, how is he supposed to do his job? "Peter Parker broke my jaw! I'm suing! And not just him, but the whole gov't too cuz he is their representative now." Your car gets dinged in the latest battle with Spidey and Rhino? Sue Peter Parker. Feel your civil rights were violated when Petey left you webbed up to a lamppost? Call the Cockrain Firm and sue Peter Parker. How are May and MJ gonna live more than another 3 seconds? I heard Mr. Mcguinn say that Avengers Mansion was a safe house. Is he nuts?? That place has been compromised so many times and blown to bits more often than Xavier's. And even if it was safe, does that mean May and MJ can never leave the grounds?
There are so many new ways to screw with Spidey now. Mess with his finances. Order 2 dozen pizzas under his name and send them to the mansion. Ring the bell and leave a flaming bag of radioactive monkey dung on the stoop. You can punk him forever without really breaking the law. And just who is gonna hire a known superhero? You think anyone wants a Goblin grenade tossed into their office building? Or Venom and Carnage showing up to slice and dice the secretarial pool? From now on, every time Spidey hits someone I'm gonna be thinking, "Call Jacoby&Meyers! We got a hot lawsuit here!!" Every time I see a panel with MJ or May on it I'm gonna think, "How are they still alive?" It's also tough to fight crime with the papparazzi dogging your every move and women screaming in ecstacy when they see you walking down the street, chasing you and tearing your clothes off. This was the dumbest move ever and you gotta wonder how they're gonna put the shit back in this goose. Maybe Zatanna could make a trip to the Marvel U.

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

First of all, I still think the clone saga was worse (but at least they make fun of it now).

The thing I find interesting is how over at DC they did a lot of recent stuff that dealt with the nessesity of retaining a secret ID as a superhero if you're going to have a semi-normal life on the side and also protect your loved ones. I mean look at poor Steve over at WW (even though it wasn't him, but still). I mean he gets kidnapped just because he's WW's friend. As much as I don't like what they did with Z with all the identity stuff, it still made sense in the way that having all the villains find out who the heroes were would be a really BAD thing. Now Marvel's gone in the opposite direction.

On one hand I'm curious to see how they're going to deal with this whole thing. I mean, it is possible to run the Marvel U that way, I just think they'll lose out on a lot in the long run. It actually looks as if they're going for an Aberrant-type universe... but that only works when there's a reason behind everyone manifesting powers (like Supreme Squadron). But even with "mutants" Marvel still has more than one orgin story. So there are many different circumstances involved in hero's lives and it makes it unlikely that the mutant registration act will work out well. In Spiderman's case it makes NO sense as his secret ID was always a huge part of the character.

I also think Marvel is killing a lot of the fun in comics. Costumes, capes, and secret identities are part of the fun of the superhero world. Next thing you know they'll take away code names :(

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Great post. Loved the Tombstone. My feeling on the subject is that once you try to bring super heroes into the "real world", then super heroes make no sense. In order to have super heroes certain things can't be the real world. It was okay to add more real world elements into comics, but you have to draw a line. And once all vigilantes have no secret idenities, the whole myth of the concept of super heroes falls apart. Marvel has lost my interest in their characters big time with this latest stunt. It is going to be hard to put all the demons released back into Pandora's box.

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Well, when you're trying to appeal to a 20-something audience who grew up on South Park and Family Guy, fun is thrown overboard for black humor and grossouts. A lot of fans from 17-24 don't know a thing about the Silver Age of comics and really have no interest in learning. So to them, who grew up reading the comics of the 90's, anti-heroes are the real heroes. They like guys like Punisher, Wolverine and Ghost Rider who will kill if necessary and don't worry about secret identities or costumes or archnemesises. And when you drag heroes into the real world, you lose all the fun and magic. In the real world, how believable is it that you'd be able to maintain a secret ID? Everyone has a camera on them these days. I just can't get over how Marvel, a company I loved as a kid and a teenager, has completely destroyed any positive feelings I might have had for them. I have no love and no use for their universe anymore. I wish them well with their new fanbase, but I will not be part of it.

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Blogger Arielle said...

Y'know, not exactly on topic, but I have to say, She-Hulk is cute! I like the green hair and green skin thing far better on a chick than on a guy. I'd never seen a picture and somehow I had this image in my mind of a large, trollish woman with huge muscles smashing things... Silly me, it's a comic book about a female character, I should have known better!

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Actually She-Hulk is different than the Hulk - Jen Walters can switch between She-Hulk and her normal human self (mostly) at will. This is because she gained the Hulk like powers from a blood transfusion from cousin Brucie. So she's her orgin is different and thus the different manifestation of her powers. Actually Ragnell wrote a really nice post about reason She-Hulk is attractive as her Hulk self, it was pretty interesting.

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Airelle - She-Hulk is hot. Ask Cshiana top see the covers of the current She-Hulk series - especially the one with the horse.

Jeff- I agree, Marvel is killing the magic that makes super-heroes fun.

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Byrne's SheHulk was a cheesecake book told tongue in cheek. He would always find a reason for her to get her clothes ripped off and somehow end up nearly naked. Shulkie would be aware of this sexploitation which was part of the fun. Byrne's run on the book was defining and formative for the character. Only Dan Slott has come close to giving us a glimpse of the woman behind the green.
So you know who the most popular hero in the DCU is right now? Black Adam. He is the hero for this new generation that is unaware of the Silver Age of heroics and grew up on the comics of the gritty 90's. He wears no mask, has no secret identity, and kills the baddies, hence no rogue's gallery. This is the badass hero for the new generation of fans. He's got Marvel zombies crawling out of their graves and skulking on over to the DCU's cemetery. Guess secret identities are considered goofy now. Is this the right direction to go in?

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Jeff - No wrong direction- short term gain - long term loss. Another sign of the decline of Western Civilization.

PS - I wouldn't mind putting my tongue inside She-Hulk's cheek.

Friday, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

From Newsarama--

Newsarama: So, Joe - the reveal - you really went through with it. Was this something that Mark [Millar] wanted to do since the first days of his pitch, or did it come in later, and if so, how did it make its way into the story?

Joe Quesada: It came in a little later, but the pieces fit perfectly together. I believe it came up in one of the first email chains that we started about Civil War.

NRAMA: Gut level, when you read this script for the first time, did you agree with it, or did you have to be convinced?

JQ: About a month ago, during one of those infamous 50-email-long creative chains, I asked the question, 'whose idea was it to unmask Peter?' The reason I was asking was because I had forgotten. This happens often, to all of us, because so much stuff gets thrown around at these summits that you just can’t keep track of who said what, you just know it was said. To this day, while I have this vision of Mark first saying the words Civil War, there might be an argument that it came from Bendis or Straczynski or Loeb, it’s like the chicken and the egg.

Anyway, when I asked the question, everyone pointed at me and said that it was originally my idea. For the life of me, I remember liking the idea, but I don’t remember instigating it. Perhaps that’s why I liked it so much [laughs]. Truth be told, Tom Brevoort is laying claim to being the first one to mention it, so I place this all squarely on his shoulders.

So, when I read the script for the first time, when I saw the art for the first time, I was chilled to the bone, but excited as all heck. Knowing what I know, this is just an amazing time to be a Marvel fan and especially a Spider-Man fan!

NRAMA: Macro-view – why? Why is this move necessary for the Pro-Registration side, and for Civil War as a larger story?

JQ: The Spidey reveal serves many purposes. It serves a number of story-driven purposes that will play themselves out in the next year-and-a-half, but it also drives the whole Registration point home. Peter Parker is our everyman. Spider-Man is our corporate mascot. Who better to show the implications of Civil War, both present and future, than the character that most Marvel Comic fans relate to? It was almost an inevitable, perhaps foregone conclusion.


NRAMA: Mark and Tom [Brevoort] have mentioned to us that the story went through a lot of drafts on its way to completion. How about the unmasking? Was that something that needed to be finessed?

JQ: If you read Mark’s first outline, you’ll see that this wasn’t a part of it, so some rearranging had to happen. I believe we’re about a half an issue off from the original plot outline. What also had to be finessed was the timing. This had to be coordinated with all the other Spider titles and every single Civil War tie-in.

NRAMA: Why was it important, if unmasking was the larger goal, that Peter do it himself, and not have his masked ripped off, his photo taken, etc?

JQ: It shows his belief in Registration and his trust in Tony. It’s just so incredibly important to the story and the characters. Besides, there is so much power in Peter taking it into his own hands, his family supporting him in the decision. More than the reveal, my favorite part of this whole thing was the issue of Amazing that preceded it. Just the love and support shown by Aunt May and MJ was fantastic and a real pleasure to read.


[At this point, we’re going to let Joe go get a glass of water. We’ve invited the writers of the monthly Spider-Man titles and their editor (you know, the guys who now have to make this work) to respond to a few questions and share a few thoughts on all this…]

NRAMA: Okay, fellas, as each of you see it, why did Peter reveal his identity publicly?

Axel Alonso: This was Peter’s show of commitment to the cause. And a show of solidarity with his current mentor, Tony Stark. Peter went above and beyond the requirements of the Superhero Registration Act when he ousted himself to the world.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: For me, it was a question of loyalty, and a very, very personal choice (as opposed to an ideological one, which is what's driving Cap and Iron Man, I feel). Peter feels indebted to Tony for all he's done for him and his family; this is one way of repaying that.

Also, if Peter hadn't revealed his identity, in the new post-Civil War climate, he would've become an outlaw ... on the run. Which wouldn't have been so bad for him, Spidey's used to being reviled, but it would've cut him off from his family, or put them on the wrong side of the law.

Also, Peter's all about vows and ideals. "With great power comes great responsibility." He feels that burden tremendously, and when something is law - or something is made illegal - he takes it extremely seriously.

Peter David: For a number of reasons: Out of loyalty to Tony, and because he had the support of his loved ones. But ultimately, I think what it comes down to is that people like Jameson have been declaring for years that Spider-Man has no regard for the law. If he openly defied the Registration Act, then he would have verified once and for all the worst things that had ever been said about him. I don't think he wanted that to happen.

NRAMA: How does the reveal affect your series?

AA: It affects everything. Peter Parker is and always has always been the heart of the Marvel Universe. Where he stands on the issue of Superhero Registration sends a ripple affect across the superhero community and the fan community. For him to take such a step is huge. The personal costs are profound, maybe even devastating. The question isn’t whether there will be hell to pay, the question is, How much?

RAS: It's an added layer of complexity, of intrigue. Not just plot-wise, but also emotionally. This was a decision everyone in the Spidey-verse will be affected by, will have an opinion about. And not just MJ and May and the people Peter works with, but his students, his old girlfriends, his old classmates, everyone.

Everything you thought you knew about Spider-Man is suddenly a lot fresher, a lot more dangerous. And it sort of makes Peter's life much more...relentless, you know? Like now, there's no respite for Peter or Spider-Man, he's at risk (and his family's at risk) 24-7. I think that intensity will definitely inform what's going on in Sensational. The bleed between Peter's two worlds, his family life and his adventures as a superhero, will be greater, with more crossover between the two. Peter "problems" will now affect Spidey; and vice-versa. It's gonna be a lot of fun.

PAD: Tremendously, particularly since - when it comes to the Peter Parker side of his life - I'd wanted to focus on his work as a teacher. So naturally, this entire development upends what I was planning, and sent matters into a totally different direction. It's really unexplored territory, and thus is both exciting and scary.

NRAMA: For decades, Peter has nearly lived in fear that if his enemies knew his identity, his loved ones would be in danger, let alone what JJJ would do...are his fears well-founded?

AA: No doubt, this is Peter’s biggest fear realized. But, of course, he only did it because his loved ones – MJ and Aunt May – knew all the facts and supported him on this move. They know what they’re getting themselves into.

RAS: Absolutely. Knowledge is power, and for a masked superhero to give up his or her secret identity to the world... I mean, a secret identity is the proverbial ace up a superhero's sleeve, so for someone to give that up... I mean, yeah, I would say Spidey's fears are extremely well-founded...

PAD: Oh, I think unquestionably, yes. Just for starters, Jameson now knows he's been paying Peter Parker to take pictures of himself for years. He's not going to react well to that. Plus parents of his students are terrified that their kids are going to be targets for supervillains, and not without reason. He's not going to be able to have anything approaching a normal life anymore.

NRAMA: So - your upcoming story (we're showing some of the "new" covers) - what can you say about what's coming up for Peter in your series, now that the whole world knows?

And Axel, how has the overall tenor of the line changed with the reveal and the identity now public?

AA: The most immediate thing Peter has to deal with is this revelation in the context of a fast-growing Civil War. The battle-lines are being drawn, and if Tony Stark is taking the point of the implementation of the new law, then Peter Parker is the poster child for the cause. He laid it all on the line with this one.

RAS: Sensational's first issue after the unmasking (with incredible art from new father Clayton Crain - congrats, man!!!) is a stand-alone called, "My Science Teacher is Spider-Man!!" It sort of examines how this monumental decision affects a single person. Namely, one of Peter Parker's star pupils, a skinny kid who goes to Midtown High and wants to be a scientist.

Of course, this being a Spider-book, some villain is bound to drop-in, and in this case, it's Dr. Octopus, who of course unmasked Spider-Man once before, in Amazing Spider-Man #12," I think, but couldn't believe high schooler Peter Parker was really Spider-Man! So naturally, he's pretty upset about the whole thing.

After that, we have "The Deadly Foes of Peter Parker," which dusts off the Chameleon (who's all about faces and masks and identities, of course,) and teams him up him with some classic foes for an all-out assault on every facet of Peter's life.

PAD: The major storyline coming directly after Civil War will lead into a three-parter with Mysterio that takes place at, naturally, the school where Peter teaches. Peter's going to fighting desperately to hold onto his job while at the same time being terribly conflicted about it. Flash Thompson, once he finally accepts the truth, is suddenly going to want to be Peter's best friend, which pisses Peter off since Flash used to be his best friend, but now it's only because he knows Peter is his hero.

Peter is going to find himself in the bizarre position of needing superpowered bodyguards for the school, for his loved ones, for the Bugle, for anyplace that Peter Parker frequents, because he can't be everywhere and he's sure not going to ask the Avengers to act as his personal 24/7 back-up. So yeah, it's going to be shaking things up.

NRAMA: Thanks guys...

Friday, June 16, 2006  

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