Thursday, June 9, 2016

Do Superheroes Need Secret Identities?

One of the choices that you had in the Marvel Superheroes Role-Playing Game was whether or not to make your hero's identity Public or Private. Because we all read comics growing up, we pretty much always chose Private. Yeah, you got a bit of a penalty (nothing like if you were a mutant) but all superheroes need a secret identity, right?

Turns out, not so much. Oh, there's no way that Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man could operate without Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, or Peter Parker, but there are some heroes where it's just not necessary. Heck, some of the most boring Captain America stories were the ones where Steve Rogers was trying to make a living as an artist. It's great that he's got a hobby, but why does Captain America, a man from another time, need to try and pretend to be someone else?

Adam Worth and I have been complaining over on The Quantum Cast that Quasar's Wendell Vaughn identity is only adding stress to his life (since he's gone for months with getting A SINGLE CLIENT for his security firm) while trying to be the Protector of the Universe. In fact, it would probably be better all around, since he spent several years off planet anyway, to just drop the pretense and live at Avengers Mansion.

This isn't to say that the hero in question should pull a TV Flash, unmasking & introducing himself to every Tom, Dick, & Harry, but just don't worry about setting up a false life. Heck, with the state of the paparazzi today, it would certainly be easier to not have to worry about who was taking of picture of you and when.

What this all boils down to is that it's really a case by case thing. There was a time when you HAD to have a secret identity to be a superhero, but that gave us Don Blake, so it's obviously a flawed premise.

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  1. I think it goes back to the idea of the super-hero as a vigilante, breaking the law for justice and is as much a part of the genre as spandex, but you're right, it's not a one size fits all idea. It would interesting to see, how many heroes, still use them.

    1. The main thing to ask when dealing with the character is "Why does this person need to have a Secret Identity?" If that question isn't asked, or doesn't get a satisfactory answer, then you need to go in another direction.

  2. True, Silver-age marvel was terrible for this.
    Later stories had to try and make Don Blake work.
    Even Johnny Storm had 'secret identity' issues

    1. Ugh. "We all pretended that you had a secret identity because it made you feel good." Great writing there, Stan.