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Look Back: Daredevil Reveals His Secret Identity to Karen Page!

This is "Look Back," a feature that I plan to do for at least all of 2019 and possibly beyond that (and possibly forget about in a week, who knows?). The concept is that every week (I'll probably be skipping the four fifth weeks in the year, but maybe not) of a month, I will spotlight a single issue of a comic book that came out in the past and talk about that issue in terms of a larger scale (like the series overall, etc.). Each week will be a look at a comic book from a different year that came out the same month X amount of years ago. The first week of the month looks at a book that came out this month ten years ago. The second week looks at a book that came out this month 25 years ago. The third week looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth week looks at a book that came out this month 75 years ago.

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We continue the August Looks Backs with August 1969's Daredevil #57, by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan and Syd Shores, which has Daredevil reveals to Karen Page that he is actually Matt Murdock!

The notion of the secret identity is something that has been present in popular fiction for a long time before there was ever comic books. Just to pick one example, Robin Hood was an alter ego for Robin of Locksley. However, the secret identity soon became a standard trope in the world of superhero comics. The interesting thing about this is that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were about to alter that trope just TWO YEARS into the existence of Superman (well, Siegel and Shuster's art studio, so Paul Cassidey and Wayne Boring)!

From Superman Through the Ages, learn about "The K-Metal From Krypton,"

Conventional Supermanic History tells us that Kryptonite, Superman's one major weakness—a piece of mineral from his home planet—was created fully formed from the writers of the Superman Radio Show in 1943 and first appeared in the Superman comic books in 1949. It tells us that Superman never learned that he came from an alien planet—nor that said planet was named "Krypton"—until 1949. And it also tells us that Lois Lane never learned that Superman and Clark Kent are one-and-the-same until sometime in the 1990s.

If Jerry Siegel, who created Superman with Joe Shuster, had his way, all of these events, and more, would have occurred in 1940—but "The K-Metal from Krypton" was never published.

and further,

In "The K-Metal from Krypton," as a meteor from Krypton approaches Earth, Superman learns for the very first time what it is like to lose his powers. He goes through confusion, pain, and emotional turmoil like none we have seen in later stories. He debates about whether or not to continue as Superman without his powers. And in a scene showing what truly makes Superman "Superman," he chooses to continue on with the name and costume even though, as far as he knows, he will remain forever without his Super-Powers.

He also learns, for the first time, that he comes from an alien planet; and that this mysterious substance must be from that same planet.

K-Metal itself, unlike the later variety of everyday Green Kryptonite, not only causes Superman to lose his powers—it also causes normal, non-powered humans to gain Super-Powers. This secondary feature of the metal would very rarely be used with Kryptonite in the comic books—generally only with animals—and would not gain wide-usage until the Smallville television show.

and finally...

"The K-Metal from Krypton" evolved the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane. Having completed his soul-searching and faced with impending disaster, Superman sacrifices his secret identity to Lois in order to facilitate her rescue. Not a hoax, not a dream—and not an imaginary story. For real. But rather than the reaction that one might expect, Lois isn't necessarily pleased at having been played the fool. Artwork by Joe ShusterThe implication, however, is that she would eventually get over her annoyance, and the story concludes with the two characters working together as a team to fight crime and corruption for the benefit of humanity, forever altering the dynamic of their relationship.

So yes, almost as soon as Siegel and Shuster introduced Superman, they had decided to have Superman reveal his secret identity to Lois Lane. That's remarkable. Of course, National Comics editorial squashed the story (over the years, an interesting angle on the squashing has been put out there that that moment should have been the point where it was obvious that Siegel and Shuster's character was truly no longer their own) and it was that squashing that basically solidified the concept the secret identity as being a sacred superhero trope.

During the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Lois Lane's attempts to discover Superman's secret identity were regular features in the pages of Superman and Action Comics (and her own magazine, Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane, which launched along with Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, following the success of the Adventures of Superman TV show).

Over in Batman's titles, Jack Schiff (the editor of the series) followed suit and had Vicki Vale constantly try to figure out Batman's identity. When Batwoman was introduced, Batman figured out HER secret identity quickly enough, but she tried vainly to discover Batman's secret identity. It was just a core aspect of the superhero trope.

One of the first superheroes to have a public identity was the Elongated Man, whose lack of a secret identity was a novel concept that would be accompanied with a footnote every time he showed up in a comic book, as seen in Flash #134 (by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella), where the Flash meets up with the Elongated Man and we get to see that familiar footnote for the very first time telling us that, oh yeah, everyone knows Elongated Man's secret identity, and it is then demonstrated on the next page that it is public knowledge...

Other DC heroes would occasionally reveal their secret identities, as well, to select folks. Green Lantern revealed his identity to Tom Kalmaku, his best friend, who was also his mechanic at Ferris Air. Superboy's secret identity was discovered by Clark Kent's best friend, Pete Ross, who was so noble that there was never any doubt about whether he would reveal that identity to anyone.

When the Marvel Universe began, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were originally planning on sticking to the standard tropes and the Fantastic Four were set to get masks when they made their costumed debut in the third issue of the series (they went without costumes in the first two issues, likely as an attempt by Lee to make the comic seem similar enough to Marvel's monster comics of the era, which were the most popular books for Marvel at the time...and PERHAPS even a case of trying to keep DC Comics, who distributed Marvel's comics at the time, from knowing right away that Marvel was getting into the superhero business again, as well...that might be less of a motivating factor)....

While the Fantastic Four were a notable exception, for the most part, the other Kirby/Lee and Ditko/Lee superheroes stuck to that basic secret identity approach. Spider-Man, for instance, was always hiding his true identity from his beloved Aunt May and from the rest of the world, as well, as most people thought of Spider-Man as a criminal thanks to that jerk, J. Jonah Jameson. Thor constantly wishes that his nurse, Jane Foster, would look at him as Dr. Donald Blake the same way that she seemed to look at Thor. Tony Stark wondered what people would think if they knew that Tony Stark was secretly Iron Man (the other Avengers' minds would be BLOWN, as they would constantly talk back in the day about how much they think Tony Stark would be a great superhero if he ever chose to be one).

However, over time, it seemed as though Marvel was beginning to waver a bit when it came to the secret identity game. In 1966, things began to shift a little bit, though. Thor finally revealed his secret identity to Jane Foster in Journey Into Mystery #124 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Vince Colletta)...

That same year, Hank Pym revealed that he was Giant-Man to the rest of the Avengers in Avengers #27 (by Don Heck, Stan Lee and Frank Giacoia)...

However, Daredevil not only continued with the secret identity trope, Stan Lee took it to ABSURD degrees as blind lawyer Matt Murdock had to keep his secret identity hidden from his law partner, Foggy Nelson, as well as their secretary (and Matt's love interest), Karen Page. I mean, ABSURD degrees!

For instance, in Daredevil #16, Spider-Man and Daredevil face off. Unluckily for Spider-Man, he was facing off against just Daredevil and not an entire team of X-Men, as Daredevil handled himself very well against ol' Spidey, even capturing him for a time. When Spider-Man escapes, he tracks down Daredevil to the office of Nelson and Murdock. Once there, he figures Foggy Nelson, despite being chubby and thus obviously not Daredevil, must be Daredevil because the other dude, Matt Murdock, is blind. Foggy goes along with it, because he sees that it makes their secretary, Karen Page, think better of him. He eventually goes so far as to buy a Daredevil costume to further the illusion. This goes poorly for him when a bad guy mistakes him for the real Daredevil. This leads to him being proven to be NOT Daredevil. Daredevil is off on a couple of missions that take him away from New York. While gone, Spider-Man sends a letter to Matt Murdock telling him that he figures that HE must be Daredevil then. Karen opens the letter and now she and Foggy believes Matt is Daredevil.

This leads to Matt coming up with the most logical solution to the problem possible, as we see in Daredevil #25, by Stan Lee, Gene Colan and I believe Frank Giacoia)....

Having now written himself into an absurd corner, Matt has to continue this ridiculous fiction, but luckily for him, Foggy and Karen are two of the most gullible people alive, so we get the following...

The following issue, Lee and Colan go into greater detail explaining how Matt is able to pull off this perfect con...

Beyond everything else silly about this thing, how about just the general "Matt is blind and Mike always wears sunglasses" thing. Wouldn't even a slightly curious person try to get Mike to take off his sunglasses at one point?

But no, Foggy and Karen are fully on board...

It just continued for WAY too long. In Daredevil #33, he decides to deal with the whole "Wait, Matt and Mike have never been in the same room before? What's up with that?" scenario with a plan that, by all logic, should have no chance of succeeding...

Later in the issue, Matt discovers the troubles of vying with himself for Karen's affections...

Until finally, Matt comes up with a way to "kill off" Mike Murdock...

Wouldn't Karen and Foggy be suspicious when a brand-new Daredevil shows up? Nope, he just says that he was trained by Mike and that is apparently enough for everyone. Yeesh.

Anyhow, Roy Thomas eventually took over the series from Stan Lee and early in Thomas' run, he had a villain, Starr Saxon, discover Daredevil's secret identity, so he decided to "kill off" Matt Murdock, as well, in Daredevil #54!

Three issues later, Karen Page went to visit her mother at her hometown to deal with Matt's death when Daredevil shows up. He tracks down a new villain, who turns out to be Karen's long-lost (and presumed dead) father, Paxton Page! He dies for real now...

At Page's funeral, Matt reveals his identity to Karen (way to pick your moment, dude)...

Karen struggles with the truth in the next issue (also by Thomas, Gene Colan and Syd Shores)...

Of course, while Matt promises that he will quit being Daredevil, things just never work out that way, and so the next few issues have a recurring theme of Karen and Matt arguing over whether he will actually quit being Daredevil or not.

Eventually, it grows to be too much for Karen that she actually quits in Daredevil #63...

and moves to Los Angeles!

That's not totally it for Karen in the series, as she promptly gets a job as a soap opera actress and Matt comes out to California to spend time with her and solve some murders on the set of her soap opera, but for the most part, that was the end of Karen Page as Matt Murdock's love interest and it probably DID start with the secret identity revelation.

Hmmm...maybe superheroes SHOULD keep that stuff a secret!

(And, of course, Karen Page later becomes a drug addict who sells Matt's secret identity for some heroin, but that's a story for another day)

If you have any suggestions for September (or any other later months) 2009, 1994, 1969 and 1944 comic books for me to spotlight, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com! Here is the guide, though, for the cover dates of books so that you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional amount of time between the cover date and the release date of a comic book throughout most of comic history has been two months (it was three months at times, but not during the times we're discussing here). So the comic books will have a cover date that is two months ahead of the actual release date (so October for a book that came out in August). Obviously, it is easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago was released, since there was internet coverage of books back then.

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