Comic books love plot twists and shocking their readers. Over the years, they’ve worn themselves thin on bringing characters that we don’t know and saving their reveals for a special issue. Many times, this strategy has worked, giving us fantastic reveals that were both shocking and amped up the tension to an eleven. Unfortunately, like most good things in comics, it has been overdone. Some of the biggest secret identity reveals in comic history have succeeded in bringing a big twist to the audience, but failed in making the character relevant. Where they were once fueled with ambivalence and mystery, that all changes once we see their actual faces. The dynamic changes, and we’re left with a mere shadow of what could’ve been.
Of course, this isn’t just relevant to big plot twists. As a matter of fact, there are many times where heroes and villains revealed their identities to the public, and they changed their whole character as a result. It’s time like those where we roll our eyes and look for a different comic to read. With that out of the way, let’s get on to 15 secret identity reveals that ruined popular characters. No big hero is safe.
15. GREEN GOBLIN
The Green Goblin has and will always be one of the biggest foes for Spider-Man. After all, he was the one who killed Gwen Stacy. His terrifying presence became even more intense when it was revealed that Goblin was actually Norman Osborn. That said, something changed after that reveal. Norman himself changed.
Before the revelation that he was the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn was a competent businessman and innovator. He might’ve had slight hints of his insanity, but for the most part, he hid it well. After he came out to the audience, it was like he came out to the people of New York City too. He became extremely creepy and lacked a lot of the finesse that he had during his earlier years.
14. THE MANDARIN
Holding a secret from the public in order to keep a plot twist moving is fine. But heavily setting up something that gives fans what they want and then pulling the rug out from under them is one of the worst forms of deception. We love Marvel and the MCU, but what they did to the Mandarin is still fairly unforgivable.
Ben Kingsley portrayed a modern version of the Iron Man archvillain. He was terrifying, threatening and commanded a presence in whatever room he was in. But when Tony finally went to face him, it was revealed that Mandarin wasn’t real — he was just a simple actor who had no part in this battle. Aldrich Killian later stated that he was the Mandarin, but it never felt earned.
13. GREEN ARROW
When the Green Arrow first debuted in the DC Universe, nobody knew who he was or how he even came to be. It wasn’t until later that we were told the story of billionaire Oliver Queen getting shipwrecked on a deserted island and honing his survival skills to return to Star City as a vigilante bent on bringing criminals to justice.
That said, that origin forever changed Queen’s personality. The Green Arrow became more of a Bruce Wayne knock-off than an interesting take on the Robin Hood mythos. On top of that, it added many details that didn’t bring much to the story. It’s nice that, later on, DC decided to focus on him becoming Star City’s mayor as well as focusing on his life as a businessman.
12. RED HOOD
Jason Todd’s death shook up the DC Universe, but his resurrection changed things up even more. Once he returned to Gotham as the Red Hood, his war with Batman lasted quite a long time. Eventually, the Dark Knight found out who he really was, and their dynamic was forever altered.
From that point on, Red Hood went away from being the confident mercenary and instead became the disrupted anti-hero who was edgy for the sake of being edgy. Some of his stories are great, but he’s a far cry from the Red Hood he was when he first came to Gotham as well as the Robin that he once served as. There are ways to keep him emotionally interesting while maintaining the persona he originally carried.
11. CRIMSON COWL
The tales of the Crimson Cowl were fascinating to read. First appearing as a silent villain working with the Masters of Evil, the Crimson Cowl was a great foe for the Avengers. Not only did he manage to hypnotize Edwin Jarvis, but also challenged Earth’s Mightiest Heroes unlike ever before. He wasn’t given a name for a long time.
Then it came to the point where he finally took off his cowl and revealed himself as the murderous robot known as Ultron. From then on, Crimson Cowl was no more. The more schematic plans were out the door in favor of a villain who was much more genocidal. We like Ultron very much, but in terms of what was established with the Crimson Cowl, there was nothing left.
10. SCARLET SPIDER
When Peter Parker got cloned, things didn’t work out for the best. He was soon in a battle with a Spider-Man that looked exactly like him. This turned out to be a clone developed by the Jackal. After realizing that he was the clone, Ben Reilly took a unique name and tried to live a unique life.
Since he was outed as the clone, Ben Reilly became tortured and depressed for the rest of his days. Then Marvel tried to make us believe that he was the original Peter Parker, so he became Scarlet Spider and Peter hung up the webs. It gets all confusing from there, but the point is that Ben’s personality constantly changed to suit whatever story was being told. We missed it when he was just a tortured clone.
Hush was a mentally challenging Batman villain in the debatably classic “Hush” storyline. In it, a new villain comes to town and convinces several of the Dark Knight’s rogues to fight him, wanting to get revenge on Bruce Wayne. He eventually makes his way to the Batman and reveals himself as Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend, Thomas Elliot.
From that point on, Hush became less about being precise and methodical, and more about exercising his right to kill Batman. This is in stark contrast to him not caring if Bruce got his comeuppance from another source, so long as he was the one that got it. Needless to say, Hush became less interesting during his later appearances, and his best story will remain the one he debuted in.
In Armageddon 2001, the DC heroes are faced with a new villain known as Monarch — a powerful dictator who came from the future. As they tried to investigate who he was, it was revealed that he had once been a hero who turned to the dark side to become a brutal villain. After killing Monarch, the heroes removed his mask to figure out that it was Teen Titans member Hawk (after fans properly guessed it was Captain Atom and DC flipped the script).
Seeing his future self, Hawk then decided at that point to don the suit himself. From that point on, his personality completely changed and he even tried to reshape time to fit his own desires in Zero Hour. Hawk was never the same after that, and it felt very contrived.
While many people thought Dr. Alchemy would be the big bad for The Flash season 3, a speedster god soon came into the picture to throw our expectations out the window. Taking the name Savitar, this villain nearly destroyed Barry for the rest of his life by trying to kill Iris West.
For the remainder of the season, everyone was frantically trying to guess who this diabolical monster was. Then he came out of his suit and outed himself as Barry Allen from the future. Once that happened, though, Savitar became a bit too melodramatic for our tastes and lost the fear he instilled whenever he was on screen. On top of that, Grant Gustin’s performance could’ve used a lot of work, as he couldn’t carry the role all the way to the end.
6. RONIN (ECHO)
Echo was once a metahuman who had lost her father to the operations of the Kingpin. When she was finally old enough to fight, she went to him, and he simply told her that Daredevil was responsible. After a misunderstanding, Echo learned to use her power of copying any kind of movement to take the fight back to the Kingpin and see justice done.
After a little while, Echo eventually joined the Avengers, but went under the guise of Ronin out of nowhere. She ditched her Native American roots to become a ninja, and her character was never the same after that. The cultured backstory no longer held any significance, and she just became another hero along the lines of Black Widow. If Echo is ever brought into the MCU, we hope that she stays in her classic garb.
5. XORN (MAGNETO)
Let’s just revel in the concept of Xorn for a moment. He was a special mutant who’s brain had been replaced with a tiny sun. This resulted in powers that were so amazing he had to wear a mysterious helmet to keep them in check. He had reached a new level of enlightenment and decided to share his findings with the rest of the X-Men.
Then he finally took off his helmet. It was revealed that Xorn was actually just Magneto in disguise, and things changed from that point on. The conflict shifted to the X-Men versus Magneto once more, and everything that Xorn established was quickly thrown out the window. If only they had kept him an original character, that would’ve been much more intense.
4. KILLER CROC
Killer Croc has always been a monstrous foe. Never the subject of further study, he is merely a terrifying villain for the Dark Knight to battle. It was a showcase of just how dark the villains of Gotham could become as well as a testament to Batman’s skills under pressure.
It was later revealed that Killer Croc was a man named Waylon Jones, who had a bad skin condition. He was outed as a freak and even joined the circus. After this knowledge, Killer Croc later became much more sympathetic and depressed at his actual state. In the Gotham Academy storyline, he was presented as a misunderstood creature who wasn’t a villain by nature. Needless to say, it got rid of a lot of the fear factor Killer Croc was known for.
3. DOCTOR FATE
When Doctor Fate first appeared, there was a lot of wonder as to who he was behind that helmet. His powers were legendary and he served as one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe. After all, his living quarters exist outside of time and in a reality all his own.
Later on, it was discovered that Doctor Fate existed within a helmet. Whoever wore the helmet would become the new host for Doctor Fate. This not only got rid of a lot of the mystery surrounding the character but made it a little less interesting. We would’ve preferred to let our imaginations run wild and imagine him as an all-powerful being who simply existed throughout time and chose to help out the Justice League all on his own without having to have a host body.
While the Avengers were doing their thing on Earth, the Mad Titan known as Thanos was slowly gathering the six Infinity Gems to form the Infinity Gauntlet and wipe out all life just for the fun of it. This led to one of the biggest conflicts of all time in the “Infinity Gauntlet” story, which will be adapted in Avengers: Infinity War.
Thanos was revealed to be in love with Lady Death, which was the purpose for him trying to destroy the universe several times. However, the more we learned about Thanos, the less threatening he became. He slowly turned into a more philosophical villain who actually helped the Avengers at times. Hopefully, Infinity War will see him return to one of the most threatening bad guys.
We all knew who Spider-Man was when he was first introduced, but it took a while for the public to ever find out. In the “Civil War” event, Peter Parker joined Iron Man’s side and went in line with the Superhero Registration Act. Part of that agreement was that he would reveal his identity to the public, and he did so confidently.
However, after that, things changed for Peter Parker. He was changed enough that he decided to eventually make a deal with the devil Mephisto in Spider-Man: One More Day. What did this deal entail? Well, it was essentially a retcon of the character that robbed him of all of his development and put him back at square one; no more marriage to Mary Jane and all.
Which of these secret identity reveals did the most damage? Let us know in the comments!
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