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Off My Mind: When Secret Identities Get Discovered

It can be a hero's biggest weakness and there are few options once it gets out.

Superheroes train themselves to overcome any obstacles. They need to be prepared to face any enemies that come their way. Attacks can come in any form and in order to survive and protect the lives of the innocent, they need to be ready.

While most heroes do train and prepare themselves, some do have apparent weaknesses. Some might suffer from a physical weakness like Superman with Kryptonite but other heroes suffer from a different kind of weaknessa secret identity.

A secret identity is a hero's greatest strength and weakness. If it ever gets discovered, it could mean the hero or their loved ones are at serious risk. When this does happen, the hero only has a few options they can consider. (Note: there will be some spoilers to ACTION COMICS #10, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #11 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #545 (from 2008!).

== TEASER ==

Recently in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, young Miles Morales has been getting used having powers and being Spider-Man. His father doesn't seem too keen on the idea of anyone taking matters into their own hands and trying to be a hero. The problem is, his Uncle Aaron has figured out his secret.

That might not seem so bad since it's his uncle. The problem is, his uncle is a pretty shady guy. He's a criminal and a killer. He pressured Miles into helping him take out the Scorpion because he owed him a lot of money. He claimed it would be just one time and then he'd leave him alone.

Of course that's not how it would play out. Miles' uncle realizes the power Miles has and how he could absolutely use him to his advantage. Miles is just a kid and he doesn't want his dad to know what he's doing. When Aaron asks him for another favor, Miles is going to have to figure out what to do.

Also this week, Clark Kent is having problems with his secret as well in ACTION COMICS.

A man calling himself Nimrod after a passage in the Bible has made it his mission to hunt and kill pretty much everything. He is determined to kill Superman because he is an alien. Nimrod has already hunted and killed every species on Earth so this is his next logical challenge.

What makes Nimrod especially dangerous is he's used his hunting and tracking skills to use. He's managed to figure out who Superman is.

There are numerous other cases in the past where heroes have had to deal with this problem. Once the secret is discovered there's only a few things they can do.

Get "rid" of the person

Obviously this isn't really an option for heroes. A hero can't simply kill the person that knows their secret. Of course with the person knowing, there's the potential that information could lead to the deaths of innocents. The hero could try to justify that removing this person would just be another way to do their duty of protecting others.

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Heroes can't kill just because their secret got out.

Mind wipes or telepathically erasing the information

This isn't really an option for the average hero and it could lead to other problems.

Back in IDENTITY CRISIS, it was revealed that Zatanna used her powers to give Doctor Light a mind wipe after he committed a repulsive act. He didn't necessarily discover someone's identity but we'll focus on the actions that were used to deal with him.

Despite what he did, he brings up a somewhat valid point. Messing with a person's mind is still a violation. Each time Professor X or Emma Frost tampers with a person's memories, they are violating the person and their rights. Despite what he Light did, Batman didn't feel mindwiping him was the solution. That resulted in Batman getting his memories adjusted as well. It was just a big snowball of a mess.

Fake your death and create a new secret identity

When Superman realized he was being followed by Nimrod, it appears he quickly put a plan into motion. The world believes Clark Kent is dead. This caught Nimrod off guard. So what can Superman do now? Looks like he'll be creating a new secret identity.

Again, this isn't the best solution. If a hero has friends and family, faking their death might solve the immediate problem but it also means they won't really be able to have any contact with them. Not all heroes have the luxury of simply walking away from their lives.

Make a deal with the "devil"

This is never a good idea. Never.

What is the solution?

Basically superheroes need to do everything they can to keep their secret identity closely guarded. Too much depends on it. There are those that don't bother having one. This frees them from having to worry about it. They can focus on actually being a hero all the time. It's not the easiest thing to do since they would have to be extra cautious about friends and family.

Superheroes with secret identities need to do all they can to ensure they never get discovered.

67 Comments
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Posted by Inverno

The general public must be like "WHY DIDN'T WE THOUGHT ABOUT THEM BEFORE?!"

Posted by wowylied

The problem is that in reality, a person with great power will not hide itself. They have guy like bruce wayne and his brain, superman, superboy, supergirl, powergirl, all the firestorms, captain atom, the flash but no one really help the world. Yes they fight some thief and killer but what about the world ? The DC humanity could be venturing inside the galaxy if they stopped thinking so small. Secret identity are a weakness for me. Because of that they can use their power for the better cause.

Posted by Necrotic_Lycanthrope

That deal with Mephisto was the stupidest thing anybody could ever do in Marvel (outside of not resurrecting Jean Gray).

Posted by _Cain_

@Necrotic_Lycanthrope said:

That deal with Mephisto was the stupidest thing anybody could ever do in Marvel (outside of not resurrecting Jean Gray).

Posted by DJ1107

How many times did she come back exactly?

Edited by moywar700

Have zatanna mind wipe people for the lulz.

Edited by jaredbright

The SPider-man Unmasking ruined the book, not because you can't do anything with it. You can, it's the biggest thing ever to happen to the guy and they seemed to go out their way to not tell the story. I could write an essay on how bad it was in so many ways. But the main thing is they only cared about making so Spider-man was unmarried and that would solve everything for them. I think it destroyed the character becuase it made him everything but what he was. At the time, he was about 3 different things, none resembling Spider-man that much and now what do you expect to happen. They threw out the biggest thing ever and didn't even care about doing it.

OH, he had just died, too. Died or something with a cocoon... what?

Dumbest thing I ever saw.

The only solution in these places is to either do it or not and keep it that way for quite a while. I don't know what they did with Daredevil. That's the second time everybody found out who he was.

Posted by htb106

It would be quite hard for Batman to create a new identity because if everyone thought Bruce Wayne was dead then the world would ask "who's funding batman?"

couldn't they create another "super-hero" identity? basically, couldn't superman get a new suit and just name himself something else?

Posted by KainScion

finds out who superman is......... 'god i'm a retard. damn you glasses!!!!!!!!!!!'

Posted by TheMess1428

How many people guessed Bruce Wayne was Batman and couldn't prove it? Batman Inc totally disproved all those theories. lol

Posted by Eyz

Augh...NO! Not the deal with devil-thing!! I tried to forget it!

Posted by Immortal777

Well at least most superheros try to keep a secret Identity Kaine the new Scarlet Spider doesn't even try he can't seem to keep his mask on.

Posted by thephantomstranger

Simple, amnesia kiss everyone who knows your secret identity...or atleast that's what Superman II taught me.

Then Superman IV taught me that if your feeling down you can un-amnesia someone, get some to praise you, and then re-amnesia kiss them...you know the moral thing to do...

Posted by deadpool25mm

@wowylied said:

The problem is that in reality, a person with great power will not hide itself. They have guy like bruce wayne and his brain, superman, superboy, supergirl, powergirl, all the firestorms, captain atom, the flash but no one really help the world. Yes they fight some thief and killer but what about the world ? The DC humanity could be venturing inside the galaxy if they stopped thinking so small. Secret identity are a weakness for me. Because of that they can use their power for the better cause.

That "weakness" of theirs is what keeps their loved ones from dieing on every day of the week.

Posted by DarthShap

When their secret identity gets discovered, they just go "Look! It's the superhero you say I am! That definitely proves that I cannot be him! I obviously could not have given the costume to my BFF so he would get me out of this situation! "

Posted by AirDave817

Secret identities don't seem to be too much trouble for The Avengers...

Pretty much every one knows Tony Stark is Iron Man. Thor doesn't seem to have or need a secret identity. There's not much Bruce Banner can do about his identity. Doesn't seem to matter if Steve Rogers, Clint Barton or Natasha Romanoff wear masks.

If Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were real, how big a deal would it be? They'd be celebrities like Charlie Sheen. Except for Batman, who's considered an urban legend. Does Wonder Woman really use a secret identity? I think the bigger secret is Superman being an alien. No matter how many stories show up in the paper or on the news, that would always be a bigger story than who he really is. A hunter trying to hunt down Superman and kill him just seems hilariously funny rather than deadly serious somehow. Does he have any Kryptonite? And how does a person acquire Kryptonite? It's not like there's a huge supply. So, you'd have to steal it. If you even knew about it being something that could weaken Superman. There's a few things about Superman that's taken for granted.

It's a bigger deal for someone to find out Spider-Man or Batman's identity. Not so much Superman. He could just use his heat vision to perform a lobotomy like he did on Doomsday in Justice League Adventures...Batman could just get Alfred or Superman to help impersonate him. Seems like Miles needs to out his uncle in some way without revealing his own identity - unless it's important that his dad know who he really is like MJ knew Peter's identity...

Posted by DarthShap

@AirDave817 said:

Secret identities don't seem to be too much trouble for The Avengers...

Pretty much every one knows Tony Stark is Iron Man. Thor doesn't seem to have or need a secret identity. There's not much Bruce Banner can do about his identity. Doesn't seem to matter if Steve Rogers, Clint Barton or Natasha Romanoff wear masks.

If Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were real, how big a deal would it be? They'd be celebrities like Charlie Sheen. Except for Batman, who's considered an urban legend. Does Wonder Woman really use a secret identity? I think the bigger secret is Superman being an alien. No matter how many stories show up in the paper or on the news, that would always be a bigger story than who he really is. A hunter trying to hunt down Superman and kill him just seems hilariously funny rather than deadly serious somehow. Does he have any Kryptonite? And how does a person acquire Kryptonite? It's not like there's a huge supply. So, you'd have to steal it. If you even knew about it being something that could weaken Superman. There's a few things about Superman that's taken for granted.

It's a bigger deal for someone to find out Spider-Man or Batman's identity. Not so much Superman. He could just use his heat vision to perform a lobotomy like he did on Doomsday in Justice League Adventures...Batman could just get Alfred or Superman to help impersonate him. Seems like Miles needs to out his uncle in some way without revealing his own identity - unless it's important that his dad know who he really is like MJ knew Peter's identity...

It is not a big deal because the writers do not use it as such.

The villains should try to kill their close ones every single issue. The thing is, it just would not be interesting to read.

But for every character with a secret identity, preserving it is vital for them and their close ones (there are of course exceptions like the Joker, the Riddler, Hush and Ra's who have their reasons for not wanting to reveal it to the world).

Posted by leokearon

Don't have a secret identity then you wouldn't have to worry about trying to keep it secret

Posted by GR2Blackout

@Necrotic_Lycanthrope said:

That deal with Mephisto was the stupidest thing anybody could ever do in Marvel (outside of not resurrecting Jean Gray).

I agree.

Posted by wowylied

@deadpool25mm said:

@wowylied said:

The problem is that in reality, a person with great power will not hide itself. They have guy like bruce wayne and his brain, superman, superboy, supergirl, powergirl, all the firestorms, captain atom, the flash but no one really help the world. Yes they fight some thief and killer but what about the world ? The DC humanity could be venturing inside the galaxy if they stopped thinking so small. Secret identity are a weakness for me. Because of that they can use their power for the better cause.

That "weakness" of theirs is what keeps their loved ones from dieing on every day of the week.

One life mean nothing if they could improve all mankind. Sacrifice are necessary sometime.

Posted by InnerVenom123

Nice diss at OMD.

Posted by deadpool25mm

@wowylied said:

@deadpool25mm said:

@wowylied said:

The problem is that in reality, a person with great power will not hide itself. They have guy like bruce wayne and his brain, superman, superboy, supergirl, powergirl, all the firestorms, captain atom, the flash but no one really help the world. Yes they fight some thief and killer but what about the world ? The DC humanity could be venturing inside the galaxy if they stopped thinking so small. Secret identity are a weakness for me. Because of that they can use their power for the better cause.

That "weakness" of theirs is what keeps their loved ones from dieing on every day of the week.

One life mean nothing if they could improve all mankind. Sacrifice are necessary sometime.

Then you dont know what being a Hero truely means, A Hero will sacrifice himself for one man/women/child.

Posted by Immortal777

@deadpool25mm said:

@wowylied said:

@deadpool25mm said:

@wowylied said:

The problem is that in reality, a person with great power will not hide itself. They have guy like bruce wayne and his brain, superman, superboy, supergirl, powergirl, all the firestorms, captain atom, the flash but no one really help the world. Yes they fight some thief and killer but what about the world ? The DC humanity could be venturing inside the galaxy if they stopped thinking so small. Secret identity are a weakness for me. Because of that they can use their power for the better cause.

That "weakness" of theirs is what keeps their loved ones from dieing on every day of the week.

One life mean nothing if they could improve all mankind. Sacrifice are necessary sometime.

Then you dont know what being a Hero truely means, A Hero will sacrifice himself for one man/women/child.

You just agreed with him/her that hero is one life and that hero is sacrificing his/her life for the improvement of mankind.

Posted by 202122

Why not chuck them in a dungeon?

Posted by the3rdborn

I think a mind wipe is A ok, its not like your erasing everything

Posted by VintAge68

Interesting feature, though it seems quite evident that a secret identity ceases being a secret when discovered. Yet using pseudos and avatars being so common nowadays, secondary IDs obviously don't make everybody a superhero, either. And, doesn't this show also a tendency to overly mythify secrecy...?

Posted by ReVamp

@GR2Blackout said:

@Necrotic_Lycanthrope said:

That deal with Mephisto was the stupidest thing anybody could ever do in Marvel

I agree.

Apart from the Gwen incident, indeed.

Posted by deadpool25mm

@Immortal777: No, then you didnt understand what he said...

Posted by Immortal777

@deadpool25mm: I understood what he/she was saying. Sacrificing the few to save the many not really hard to understand.

Posted by deadpool25mm

@Immortal777: So why you said that i aggred with him? I dont think you should sacrifice anyone but the hero since he took it upon himself to save other.

Posted by cbishop

Ahhh, Nimrod - it's good to see that somebody's using Kraven the Hunter again. :)

Posted by Immortal777

@deadpool25mm: If you look at what you said in a different way you would understand but it doesn't really matter.

Posted by cbishop

There's also the option of sucking it up and dealing with it. It was working just fine for Spidey in House of M, and Wally West dealt with it for years. Yeah, he had to protect his fam a few times, but that's normal. Plus, you do what anybody else does when someone gangs up on you - you call in backup. Captain Cold and Heatwave threatening Linda and the kids? Call in Green Lantern or another Justice Leaguer for help, and bring the smackdown.

Posted by Killer_of_trolls

movie Tony Stark: *Yao Ming face*

Posted by AweSam

Green Arrow should be the easiest. Have you seen his beard? How many people go with the Shakespeare look.

Edited by RedheadedAtrocitus

I personally think every superhero should have a neuralyzer from MiB with them just in case their cover is blown. Yes, essentially it is a mindwipe just like Identity Crisis was all about but regardless of its ethical questions I think it is the most convenient and safe way for superheroes to then continue the good fight should they be discovered.

Posted by The Stegman

Fake your death obviously.

Posted by JonesDeini

Well we all know that logically the best thing to do is to sell your marriage to the devil to revive your aunt who will clearly be killed by your enemies...

Posted by Trodorne

@G-Man said:

Make a deal with the "devil"

This is never a good idea. Never.

Let me respond to this with my own picture.

Posted by Necrotic_Lycanthrope

@DJ1107:

Jean Gray? As far as I know she was resurrected once or twice in Phoenix Form, but the died for good. But then you have her "clones" popping up all over the place, so who's to say how many times she's been brought back or killed. (616 Universe, Ultimate is still alive.)

Posted by Necrotic_Lycanthrope

@ReVamp:

?

When Stacy died? Or when she (or a clone) married the Green Goblin?

Posted by ReVamp

@Necrotic_Lycanthrope said:

@ReVamp:

?

When Stacy died? Or when she (or a clone) married the Green Goblin?

Neither. She didn't marry him, but I'm assuming that this may be what you're talking about.

Basically what happened is that during Stan's original run on The Amazing Spider-Man, at one point Gwen's father dies, so she goes to live with relatives in England (London, I believe). Regardless, during Sin's Past, it was retconned that she left because she had cheated on Peter, with the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn -- the Father), when he was going through some mental/emotional trouble and got pregnant with twins.

And that's skimming the details. I think its easily the most character degrading in one single story arc. Yes, more than OMD in my opinion.

Posted by Necrotic_Lycanthrope

@ReVamp:

*throws up mentally*

That is not only degrading, but disgusting, ridiculous, and further more idiotic. What Stan had was solid and made sense. Why did they have to fudge it up so bad?!

D:<

Posted by DoctorTrips

I've always been a big fan and proponent for the secret identity. It adds a great dynamic to a superhero's life from a storytelling perspective. It's always fun to see them balance all those factors; such as Peter Parker balancing his high school life with his crimefighting life and seeing him have to give up certain things in order to keep doing the right thing. That's interesting, when characters such as Tony Stark go "I am Iron Man." it always feels like a massive cop out too me; like the writer didn't want to go through the trouble of being creative and having to invent new ways to keep the balance. It's one of the reasons I don't like Iron Man (2008) as much as I would have, it's great till the last three minutes.

The thing about putting on a mask or a helmet or what have you and going off to do superheroic stuff makes you like Ra's al Ghul said "More than just a man." you do become a symbol and icon of virtue - you know anybody could be Batman or Spider-Man or even Captain America or Iron Man, but then word gets out or they unmask themselves and then it's just Tony Stark or Steve Rogers and who wants to be those guys? I'd rather be Iron Man not Tony Stark (Tony's kind of a jerk). So that's kind of my reasoning behind why I still like secret identities and I know there are a lot of people who argue against them because they're "unrealistic".

Shut up.

Everything these characters do isn't real, we can let the laws of storytelling dictate how they operate and just let it slide.

But in terms of how to deal with the aftermath of an unmasking or being discovered? I'd say murder would be effective. Kidding of course. I'd say go World's Finest Superman/Batman style and just stand in for the other. If Tony really needed it, Steve Rogers could have donned the suit and pretended to be Iron Man. Or whatever. It doesn't matter, writers will find a way to get out of a character getting unmasked.

Edited by 4thhorseman

Or just do what some superheroes do. Have a shapechanger take the place of either the secret identity or the hero, and have the real one do the other. Superman has used this several times with both Matrix Supergirl and Martian Manhunter then go out in public and have that squash the rumors.

Posted by RedOwl_1

@leokearon said:

Don't have a secret identity then you wouldn't have to worry about trying to keep it secret

Then everybody will came and kill everybody you know or love....... no thanks

Posted by Replicant0658

@Necrotic_Lycanthrope said:

That deal with Mephisto was the stupidest thing anybody could ever do in Marvel (outside of not resurrecting Jean Gray).

Nooo, making Jeph Loeb Executive Vice President/Head of Television of Marvel Entertainment is the stupidest thing anybody could ever do in Marvel...

Posted by ravisher

bong!

Posted by AMP - Seeker of Lost Knowledge

One Book Says it ALL: Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller

Posted by difficlus

All this article and no real solution was given apart from prevention? He forgot they could be like the FF or Iron man and become celebrities...

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