Lorendiac’s Lists: Temporary Disguises That Took On Lives Of Their Own

by  in Comic News Comment
Lorendiac’s Lists: Temporary Disguises That Took On Lives Of Their Own

Here is the archive of the lists Lorendiac posts here, and here is his latest piece! Remember, again, this list is written by Lorendiac, not Brian Cronin. – BC.

When what looks like a brand new character turns out to be someone else’s Temporary Disguise, and then later the disguise “really becomes” a new character concept in its own right, who’s fooling whom?

This list is not an April Fool’s prank, but if you happen to see it posted on the first of April (which is what I’m hoping for [Sorry, Larry! – BC]), then feel free to tell yourself it’s kinda relevant because it lists times when people at Marvel or DC have appeared to be playing a shell game with the long-suffering readers. There is an odd sequence of events which I have observed several times in my years as a diehard fan of superhero comic books. It runs as follows:

A new costumed character debuts. Then it turns out it’s an old character with a new paint job; he just felt the need for a Temporary Disguise! Then it turns out that someone else entirely, probably an honest-to-goodness new character, is now using the same colorful combination of alias-and-costume with the intention of making it a more permanent thing than the role’s inventor ever did. It often seems that something originally conceived as a “Temporary Disguise” became so popular that it finally took on a life of its own!

Years ago, I became interested in this phenomenon and solicited help from my fellow fans in finding out how often it had happened this way. I had to work out some rules of thumb for what belonged on this list and what didn’t. Please remember that the key words are Temporary Disguise. I have no interest in trying to list every possible instance in which a hero or villain has created a certain role, intending to use it for a long, long time – and then the first user eventually died or retired or mysteriously vanished or otherwise abandoned the role, leaving the field clear for someone else to come along and revive the old role, costume and all!

With that understood, here are some rules I used to narrow the field:

1. The first user of a certain combination of name and costume must turn out to be someone who was already known by another name. It should become pretty clear that the first user only adopted this “new role” as a Temporary Disguise, rather than intending to stick to it for the next ten or twenty years as a “permanent” condition. Sometimes the reader knows from the start exactly what’s going on here; sometimes the “new character’s” secret identity and backstory remain a mystery for awhile; either way is fine with me for this list!

2. After the first user is no longer actively using that Temporary Disguise, someone else (usually a brand new character) has to take it over, with or without the first user’s knowledge and consent, and apparently with more serious intentions of sticking to this new role for the long haul.

3. However, I’m not interested in cases where a “previous temporary user” is only retconned in long after the audience has become accustomed to the idea that a certain person was the first user of a certain role.

For instance, Dick Grayson had been “the first Robin” in DC’s continuity for many years before a story was published which suddenly “revealed” that many years earlier, long before Bruce Wayne ever became “Batman,” he had been the first user of the name and distinctive costume of “Robin.” Bruce created that role as a disguise to use when asking Harvey Harris, a brilliant police detective, to give him some special training in the fine art of detection; he didn’t want Harris or anyone else to realize that Bruce Wayne intended to grow up to fight crime as skillfully as possible. For my purposes, that belated retcon is irrelevant to this list. All I care about is the chronological sequence of publishing dates in the real world. Dick Grayson was the first person to call himself “Robin” while wearing that red-and-yellow-and-green costume in a published story; there was no suggestion at the time that he was just dusting off Bruce’s hand-me-downs; therefore Dick Grayson was “the first Robin” to appear in print, and he stuck with that role for a long time rather than regarding it from the start as a Temporary Disguise.

4. I’m also not interested in cases where just the alias has been used at various times in a comic book universe, but usually by people who made little or no effort to recreate a certain eye-catching costume, and often did not even acknowledge that the same alias had been used by someone else.

For instance, I have read that Maxwell Dillon, the Spider-Man foe known as “Electro,” was preceded by various other users of the same colorful alias — but as far as I know, neither Dillon nor any of his predecessors had been working hard to imitate any other “Electro” character’s distinctive look.

5. The role in question must have been used in superhero comic book stories at some point, regardless of whether or not it was originally developed in another medium.

Now for my list!

Temporary Disguises Which Took on Lives of Their Own

Batgirl. In this context, I’m not interested in the first “Bat-Girl” (Betty Kane), nor in the first “Batgirl” (Barbara Gordon). They each wore unique costumes, quite different from each other’s and from the later design which was used successively by two different Batgirls who each debuted in that role during the year-long “No Man’s Land” event. The different costume strikes me as qualifying as a different “role.”

The first Batgirl to debut in “No Man’s Land” initially called herself “The Bat” because she was trying to maintain the illusion that Batman was back in action. (In truth, Bruce Wayne was far away from Gotham, indulging in a months-long childish sulk.) However, once Batman had belatedly remembered his duty, this mysterious character was called “Batgirl” for awhile. Eventually it was revealed that she was Helena Bertinelli, usually known as “Huntress,” and she had actually continued using that old role part of the time when she wasn’t being “Batgirl,” so I doubt she ever intended to keep wearing the new Batgirl costume for the next several years.

However, Helena was soon replaced in that same role (the combo of name and costume) by Cassandra Cain, newly created during No Man’s Land for that purpose. Cassandra ended up wearing that same costume, off and on, for about a decade (our time) before relinquishing the Batgirl role to Stephanie Brown last year.

Bloodwynd. In the early 1990s a new character called Bloodwynd—who appeared to be African-American and claimed his powers were magical in nature—joined the Justice League. He participated in the fight against Doomsday (shortly before Doomsday killed Superman). Later, he was discovered to actually be J’onn J’onnz, The Martian Manhunter, in a new role. Then it was “revealed” that J’onn had not invented the Bloodwynd role out of whole cloth, but rather had been impersonating an African-American hero of that name whom nobody had ever heard of before!

Citizen V. There was a Golden Age hero in the MU who called himself this, but he is not the one I’m interested in now. When Kurt Busiek started writing stories about the Thunderbolts in the 1990s, the leader of that mysterious new group of superheroes was wearing a whole new costume design which had nothing in common with that of the Golden Age character. Thus, I count that as the “first user” of that distinctive role (a combo of costume and alias). The new Citizen V coyly refused to comment on whether or not he was a descendant of the guy from the WWII era. Eventually it turned out that this role was just a Temporary Disguise for the evil Baron Zemo (the son of the one who used to fight Captain America in stories set in WWII). However, after Zemo had been exposed as himself, Busiek introduced us to a new Citizen V who was wearing the exact same costume with more serious intentions of keeping the role for a long time to come.

The Crimson Cowl. This was originally a Temporary Disguise used by Ultron. Long after that, Kurt Busiek had a mysterious new villain use the same identity for a much longer period.

Domino. Shortly before the original “New Mutants” title was cancelled, with much of that team’s roster then being relaunched as “X-Force,” a woman called Domino suddenly popped up out of nowhere, claiming she was here at the request of her old buddy Cable (who had recently become the new mentor to the teenagers on the team). Months later, it was revealed that this “Domino” role was actually just the Temporary Disguise of a woman also known as Copycat, who had taken the opportunity to replace the “original Domino” (who only had her first appearance onstage long after the false Domino debuted).

Dusk. This identity was briefly used by Peter Parker during a crossover called “Identity Crisis” in the 1990s (no connection to the later DC miniseries with the same title) when being “Spider-Man” was out of the question because of a million-dollar bounty on Spidey’s head. The identity was later used by Cassie St. Commons of the Slingers.

Erik the Red. This identity was briefly used by Cyclops in a Silver Age X-Men story. It was later used by a Shi’ar villain, and even later the role was revived again, but turned out to be a Temporary Disguise for Magneto.

Golden Archer. This identity was briefly used by Hawkeye in a story by Steve Englehart in the 1970s. It later turned out that on the parallel Earth of the Squadron Supreme (the mainstream version, not the later JMS version) there was a hero with this same name and costume who was the Squadron’s analog of DC’s Green Arrow.

Hornet. This identity was briefly used by Peter Parker during a crossover called “Identity Crisis” in the 1990s (no connection to the later DC miniseries with the same title) when being “Spider-Man” was out of the question because of a million-dollar bounty on Spidey’s head. The identity was later used by Eddie McDonough of the Slingers.

Nomad. During Steve Englehart’s run on “Captain America” in the 1970s, he had Steve Rogers go through a phase where he was feeling so disillusioned that he no longer wanted to be Captain America. But he was still willing to risk his neck fighting evil, so he invented a new costume and called himself “Nomad.” However, it wasn’t long before he was back in harness as Captain America all over again. Much later, that costumed role was revived by a new character, a man named Edward Ferbel, who turned out to be a villain working for The Red Skull. Later yet, the role was revived by Jack Monroe (formerly the Bucky of the 1950s according to a retcon in the 1970s – it’s a long story).

Phantasm. During the “Titans Hunt” stories of the early 1990s, a mysterious new figure, apparently a brand new character if you took him at face value, started helping Nightwing and other allies in the search for the abducted Titans. The guy appeared to be ghostly in nature inside his hooded brown cloak, but was eventually revealed as Danny Chase, a telekinetic who had previously been rejected for Titans membership because he was so young. Danny died around the same time his identity was finally revealed to the readers. But then the Phantasm role was revived by the spirits of many of the inhabitants of Azarath who had previously been slaughtered by Trigon. (The new “Phantasm” still included the spirit of Danny, but I believe he had become a very small portion of the greater whole in the new arrangement).

Prodigy. This identity was briefly used by Peter Parker during a crossover called “Identity Crisis” in the 1990s (no connection to the later DC miniseries with the same title) when being “Spider-Man” was out of the question because of a million-dollar bounty on Spidey’s head. The identity was later used by Ritchie Gilmore of the Slingers.

Red X. This one squeaks through on a technicality. In the continuity of the Teen Titans animated series, Robin (probably Dick Grayson, although the show never said that was his real name) briefly posed as a new villain called “Red X” in an attempt to win the trust of his nemesis Slade (the only name ever used by the TV show’s version of “Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator”). Much later on, a new “Red X” popped up who really was a shameless thief and who had somehow stolen the same high-tech Red X suit which Robin had previously developed and then had locked away when he didn’t need it any more. Since “Red X” has also appeared in the comic books based on the TV show, he manages to qualify as a comic book character even though I believe no analog of him has been established in the “mainstream continuity” of the modern DCU.

Ricochet. This identity was briefly used by Peter Parker during a crossover called “Identity Crisis” in the 1990s (no connection to the later DC miniseries with the same title) when being “Spider-Man” was out of the question because of a million-dollar bounty on Spidey’s head. The identity was later used by Johnny Gallo of the Slingers.

Starfinger. This was originally a Temporary Disguise for Lightning Lad when he’d been brainwashed into acting as a villain in a Silver Age story. The role has been used on a more permanent basis by more than one genuine villain since that time.

Xorn. Now this one gets messy! I’ll try to summarize like crazy.

In the beginning, there was a Xorn who debuted during Grant Morrison’s run on the X-Men. Xorn had a star for a brain, wore a metal mask most of the time, had remarkable healing abilities and a gentle, philosophical nature, etc. He became a regular inhabitant of the X-Mansion.

Then it turned out that Xorn was really Magneto in disguise, as part of a fiendish plot. Some call this character “Xorneto.” Then he got killed by Wolverine.

Then it turned out that the Xorn who died hadn’t been the real Magneto.

And it turned out that the Xorn who died hadn’t exactly been the same Xorn he pretended to be, either.

Eventually the official version seemed to go along these general lines: Once upon a time there were two incredibly powerful brothers, Kuan-Yin Xorn and Shen Xorn. Kuan-Yin was the Evil Xorn. Shen was the Good Xorn. Kuan-Yin decided it would be a hoot to pretend to be Magneto pretending to be Good Xorn, and to keep up that double-layered masquerade for awhile before peeling off the outer layer of the disguise to “reveal” himself as Magneto. Later on, the X-Men came to realize that both Magneto and Good Xorn were still alive and well as separate people after Evil Xorn (or “Xorneto”) got himself killed.

This way Marvel could have it both ways at once! “Xorn died, except Xorn is still alive. Magneto died, except Magneto is still alive. Xorn the Healer was just a Temporary Disguise for Magneto — except he wasn’t — and now you are supposed to meekly swallow the proposition that Magneto and Xorn the Healer are two different guys, neither of whom was that nasty ‘Xorneto’ fellow who committed genocidal atrocities in the later issues of Morrison’s run! That ‘salvages’ Xorn, ‘salvages’ Magneto, and leaves us the option of throwing in further nonsensical complications regarding the Xorn family whenever we’re in the mood to stir things up again!”

And they have, in fact, stirred things up with such suggestions as “Xorneto was an evil duplicate of Magneto, probably created by the Scarlet Witch when she was going nuts,” and other complications. But since Morrison’s original intention, as demonstrated in the stories he scripted and in subsequent interviews after the retcons were imposed by other people, was “Xorn is a Temporary Disguise of Magneto, plain and simple,” I’m taking that as the “original version” of a concept which later took on a life (or two lives?) of its own!

Anyway, that’s the list of names I found (with help from other fans) which met my criteria for “Temporary Disguises” which later developed into separate character concepts. I suspect I’ve missed some. If, after studying my rules listed above, you think you know what I missed, please say so! I don’t know how often I will update this, but I’ll consider your feedback before I do!

Lorendiac’s Lists: Temporary Disguises That Took On Lives Of Their Own