While most superheroes have, at some point, had their secret identity revealed or at the very least threatened, for the most part, the world is unaware of who lies behind the mask. Even when a secret identity is revealed, there’s always some retcon that puts everything back to normal. Superheroes are lucky that writers are always there to save their butts whenever their identity are at risk, coming in with creative ways to stop the metaphorical cat from getting out of the bag. This is to say that most superheroes are terrible at keeping their secret identity.
To be fair, we’re sure it’s pretty dang hard to lead a double life — lying to the ones you love, ducking out on social obligations to save the day — but at the very least, you’d think some of these heroes would have gotten better at keeping their name and face under wraps after all the years they’ve been at it. Maybe we’re bias since we, as the readers, know who is behind the bask, but some of these superheroes aren’t even trying. While there is some suspension of disbelief when it comes to masks and aliases, these 15 heroes really need to do better at keeping their identities a secret.
15. GREEN ARROW
The CW version of Oliver Queen on Arrow is terrible at keeping his identity a secret — how many people are part of “Team Arrow” now? — and the comics version is just as bad. Much like Bruce Wayne (we’ll get to him), Oliver Queen inherited millions of dollars after the death of his parents. It’s honestly pretty surprising that the people of Star City, or sometimes Seattle, don’t put two and two together, especially when you lay out all the facts.
Not only is a gadget-savvy vigilante running around the city, he also has the same build, hair color and goofy Robin-Hood-esque goatee as the city’s richest citizen. That little domino mask ain’t doing much to cover his face. Heck, on Arrow, Ollie didn’t even bother with a mask at first, and just slathered some green grease paint on his face, its like he wants people to know he’s the vigilante of Star City.
And now for the other famous archer superhero, Hawkeye… Or is it Hawkguy? Well whatever identity it is, Clint Barton definitely doesn’t seem to have a full grasp of this “secret identity” thing. Like a lot of Marvel heroes over time, Hawkeye eventually abandoned the concept of a secret identity, but both before and after that, his secret-keeping-skills left a lot to be desired.
First off, he’s gone through quite a lot of costumes and hero identities, including Goliath and Ronin, and he would eventually go back to being Hawkeye… while there was another vigilante using the name. In terms of actually keeping a secret, Clint hasn’t had too many blunders in his superhero career; however, in the pages of Matt Fraction’s critically acclaimed run, Clint definitely doesn’t make any efforts to hide the fact that he’s Hawkeye to his neighbors, or anyone for that matter.
13. JOHN STEWART
Green Lantern John Stewart was originally introduced as the substitute Green Lantern for Earth. After some initial disputes between him and Hal Jordan, John proved himself as a hero and Hal gave his approval. While originally appearing in a Lantern uniform identical to Hal’s, John eventually received a more original and iconic costume. With all his outfits, however, John goes without a mask.
There’s actually an explanation for this in the comics. When Stewart first began his Green Lantern training, he cast aside the mask, claiming he was proud as his face and identity as a black man, and he had nothing to hide. It’s actually a pretty strong reason to cast aside the mask and he hasn’t been drawn with one since. Maybe we should give this one a pass, since its John’s choice to reveal his identity rather than being bad at keeping it a secret.
12. JESSICA JONES
To be fair, after dropping her original superhero identity as Jewel, Jessica Jones’ personal identity wasn’t exactly a concern of hers, but we’re still gonna count it since she’s gone through quite a few secret identities. After first getting her powers in a tragic accident that killed her parents, Jessica saw Spider-Man and was inspired to use her newfound abilities for good. With super strength, durability and the ability to fly, Jessica went by the name Jewel.
During her time as Jewel, Jessica went without a mask, merely sporting purple hair as a disguise. After being mind controlled by The Purple Man, Jessica gave up the Jewel name, eventually starting her own detective agency, Alias investigations. This is a bit of an ironic name since Jessica herself has gone by several aliases, not bothering with a costume and/or mask with most of them.
11. ALL THE ROBINS
From the original boy wonder, Dick Grayson, to the testy little murderer that is Damian Wayne, Robin has served as the sidekick to the caped crusader for decades. Though there are tweaks with each iteration, the Robin costume is relatively the same: red top, green or black pants and boots, a bright yellow cape and, of course, the signature domino mask. As iconic as the Robin Mask is, it’s not exactly the best identity protector.
Furthermore, the thing with Batman and Robin is that people know them as the dynamic duo. Meaning, some Gotham citizens already have their suspicions that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and it doesn’t exactly dismiss those suspicions when Bruce Wayne adopts an orphan at the same time a new sidekick starts hanging around with Batman.
10. LUKE CAGE
When Luke Cage first premiered, he was simply Luke Cage, and wouldn’t find himself using the Power Man moniker until over a year after his first issue. It’s sometimes not always clear why Luke seems to go back and forth between his name and the Power Man identity, so perhaps it’s not technically a secret identity. However, that’s where things get interesting, and somewhat careless on Luke’s part.
“Luke Cage” itself is already a false name. He chose this name after being sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, getting superpowers and then breaking out. Smart move to go by a different name, but what isn’t a smart move is putting himself in the public eye, which is exactly what he did by being a “hero for hire.” Luckily, the Luke Cage Netflix series solved this problem by making Mike Colter’s Luke Cage reluctant to be a hero.
As Invincible, Mark Grayson wears a costume that thoroughly conceals his identity; his superhuman speed and flight also help him keep away from the press. However, over the course of the long, sweeping, soap-opera-like dramatic events of the comic, Mark’s secret identity becomes a lot less secret.
The first little identity slip results in the world becoming aware that Invincible is the son of fellow superhero Omni-Man, and that his name might be Mark. Omni-Man himself doesn’t bother with a mask and is a semi-popular novelist, so it’s lucky that Mark had the help of the U.S. government to help cover up his identity. Mark goes on to tell quite a few friends and loved ones that he’s Invincible and his various superhero brawls don’t really help. Plus, Mark is in a relationship with Atom Eve, another mask-less hero who is seen fighting alongside Invincible.
8. THE SAILOR SCOUTS
Sailor Venus, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter and, of course, Sailor Moon: these guardians from Sailor Moon make up the Sailor Scouts, sailor-uniform-clad magical girls who protect Japan from the forces of the Dark Kingdom. When they’re not fighting evil as the Sailor Scouts, the five guardians go to high school like any other girls their age, keeping their second lives a secret from everyone around them… Sort of.
While Usagi and her friends don’t exactly go around telling the world who they are, it doesn’t seem like a secret since they don’t wear masks. Seriously, a mask is like, rule #1 of being a superhero. The Sailor Scouts’ “disguises” consist of sailor outfits (that are pretty similar to their school uniforms), boots, gloves and tiaras. Tuxedo Mask might be somewhat useless, but at least he wears a mask, it’s even in the name!
7. THE FLASH FAMILY
The Speed Force is a powerful force indeed, giving its welders immense abilities. However, one of those abilities doesn’t seem to be basic knowledge of how to keep a secret identity. The very first Flash, Jay Garrick, is probably the worst offender of this. All he had was that helmet to conceal his identity. Sure he might blur his face with super speed, but he also let his photo be taken for a magazine cover.
The modern Flashes aren’t any better. Barry is always disappearing in a flash before The Flash shows up, and Wally West thought showing off his bright red hair out the top of his costume was a good idea. Heck, look at CW’s The Flash; he’s got an even bigger group of people that know who he is than Arrow. Do you think the “I know Barry Allen is The Flash Club” has matching jackets?
Daredevil has had quite a few instances in which his secret identity has been revealed. The one that had the most lasting effect, however, was when the FBI leaked his identity to the press. This identity crisis, unlike the others before it, was a bit harder to shake off for Matt, as it led to the media circus that would ruin his career as a lawyer.
Luckily, Murdock & Nelson were still able to help their clients through legal counseling, depicted in Mark Waid’s run on the character. Waid also poked fun at the identity rumors by basing a lot of his run’s humor around the fact that people casually accuse Matt of being Daredevil. Matt does eventually reveal his identity at the end of Waid’s run, leading to the character’s move to San Francisco. However, his identity would once again become secret in a recent retcon.
5. WONDER WOMAN
It’s probably pretty hard to establish a legally recognized identity when you’re from a mythical island of immortal warriors. In fact, the “Diana Prince” persona was actually bought off of a military nurse who gave it to Wonder Woman in exchange for money to see her husband. While this Diana did indeed look like Princess Diana, this is definitely a weird bit of writing from the history of Wonder Woman.
To make matters even weirder, the original Diana Prince eventually returned to Princess Diana and asked for her identity back. Wonder Woman complied and would even pose as the other Diana so her husband wouldn’t find out she was looking for a job. It’s all very confusing and it doesn’t seem like Wonder Woman was all that committed to her secret identity. Luckily, modern depictions like the recent Wonder Woman film have made the Diana Prince identity much less confusing.
4. IRON MAN
It’s not hard to see why the MCU decided to forgo the secret identities of their movie heroes. Part of it has to do with the need to connect all the movies, and part of it is because through a modern lens, secret identities are kind of unnecessary for superheroes. We could debate that notion all day, but the point is that it really makes sense why Tony Stark said he was Iron Man at the end of the first MCU film.
However, before he decided to toss away his speech cards, Tony was told to claim that Iron Man was his bodyguard, a now somewhat old bit from the comics. Originally, since Iron Man was seen leaving Stark Industries constantly, Stark claimed that the armored hero was his personal security. Eventually though, after telling various friends of his identity, Stark came out with the truth.
There are a lot of ways to look at the duality of Superman and Clark Kent. Wether you see Superman as a god wanting to live as a man or a man who is secretly a god, we can all agree that his disguise sucks. Seriously, how on Earth do the people of the DC universe not realize Superman is Clark Kent?
One could argue that Superman is one of the most photographed people within the DC universe, so it stands to reason that everyone should recognize that he’s Clark Kent, especially when he works for the paper that features him the most! Maybe people just assume that Superman wouldn’t even have the need for a secret identity, and Superman does do a good job of acting differently as Clark, but the lack of a mask makes it all pretty obvious.
Spidey is one of many superheroes who has had his identity revealed to the public, only to have the reveal retconned later on. In the events of Civil War, Spider-Man served as the poster boy for superhero registration, revealing his identity on national television. However this was later retconned in the events of One More Day. Prior to this, however Spider-Man’s secret identity wasn’t always perfectly kept.
While Spider-Man is one of the more attentive superheroes when it comes to his secret identity, he’s still not perfect. For one thing, he’s been known for years as the only photographer who can manage to get pictures of Spidey: a dead giveaway. Further, one of Spider-Man’s greatest traits is never looking the other way, so his need to always help others often left him haphazardly ducking out of social situations, brewing suspicions amongst friends and loved ones.
Batman is a great character, plain and simple. He’s beloved by many and has a lot of the cool elements and enemies; he has detective skills, a tragic backstory and, of course, endless money and gadgets. One might be able to argue that the simpler gadgets like a Batarang or a grappling gone could be bought by anyone, but the rest of Batman’s arsenal is beyond monetary reason.
Batman’s got a cave full of various vehicles, crimefighting gadgets, supercomputers and other bat-themed technology. Anyone could tell you all that advanced technology costs money, and who has the most money in Gotham? Bruce Wayne. Take it even further and whose company develops advanced technology not for public use? Wayne-Tech. We’re starting to think the citizens of Gotham aren’t the brightest bunch if they can’t figure out who Batman is behind the mask.
Which superhero do you think has the hardest time keeping their identity secret? Let us know in the comments!
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