Being a superhero is a noble but expensive profession. This isn’t a worry for those who can rely on old money, such as Bruce Wayne, or new money, such as Tony Stark, or who hold lucrative or prestigious jobs like museum curator or forensic scientist or investigative journalist.
But for other heroes, daily life is a scramble to keep the bills paid as much as it is to stop a crime, foil a villain’s plot or save the world, if not the universe. What to do if you are committed to staying on the straight and narrow but still need cash? Or just need greater professional fulfillment than punching out a henchman? Here are 15 ways heroes have solved that conundrum.
15. POP STAR
It figures that Dazzler would be a pop star in her spare time, as Dazzler the character and “Dazzler” the comic were conceived as a tie-in with Casablanca Records. Alison Blaire had a lifelong love of music and talent for singing, and they were enhanced by her mutant abilities to create light sound shows from sound, such as her voice. Not wanting to let the world know she is a mutant, Dazzler pretended the light shows were a gimmick for her stage act, having the world believe they were created by proprietary technology.
Dazzler was created principally by Tom Defalco, Roger Stern and John Romita Jr. She first appeared in “X-Men” #130 (February 1980), written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne and Terry Austin, just before headlining her own title. Along the way, however, she stopped looking like Grace Jones, the original model for the character, and started looking more like Bo Derek, who expressed interest in starring in a “Dazzler” movie that never came to pass.
14. LAS VEGAS ENFORCER
The Incredible Hulk went through several changes in appearance and abilities since he debuted in “Incredible Hulk” #1 (May 1962) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Hulk was colored gray in that first issue, but printers couldn’t make the color consistent, so he was green in following issues. The different look went unexplained for decades until Peter David wrote the title in the 1980s and played with the notion that the Hulk’s alter ego, Dr. Robert Banner, had dissociative identity disorder. Psychiatrist Doc Samson separates the Hulk from Banner in issue #315 (January 1986), written and drawn by John Byrne. Reuniting the two results in the return of the Gray Hulk, in “Incredible Hulk” #347 (September 1988), written by David, penciled by Jeff Purves and inked by Michael Gustovich and Val Gustovich.
The Gray Hulk was not as powerful as the green, savage Hulk, and was more cunning, abrasive and cruel than Banner. He took the name “Joe Fixit” and worked as an enforcer for Las Vegas casino owner Michael Berengetti. Later, in issue #377 (January 1991), Samson integrates the personalities of Banner, Gray Hulk and Green Hulk, in a story by David, Dale Keown and Bob McLeod.
13. BOUNTY HUNTER
Jennifer Walters, the She-Hulk, has spent most of her professional career as a lawyer, either in private practice or by working for bigger firms. In the 2005 “She-Hulk” series, written by Dan Slott, Walters was an associate at the law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzburg & Book. But in issue #22 (December 2007), Peter David becomes the writer, and Walters starts working for Freeman Bonding Inc., a GLK&B subsidiary that is the only bail bond firm willing to go after super-powered individuals.
Issue #28, written by David, penciled by Val Semekis and inked by Victor Olazaba, reveals why Walters stopped being a lawyer: She was goaded by a client who tells her he did commit the murder he was accused of — after she got him acquitted. Walters goes full Savage She-Hulk, attacks him, declares she will kill him and openly reveals his secrets. The client’s declaration of guilt, however, was a setup to get her disbarred.
12. CAB DRIVER
Pulling off one secret identity is difficult enough for most heroes, but some take on the challenge of doing more, like Moon Knight. He first appeared in “Werewolf by Night” #32 (August 1975), in a story written by Doug Moench, penciled by Don Perlin and inked by Howie Perlin. Moon Knight is the costumed identity of Marc Spector, a former boxer, retired Marine and ex-CIA operative who became a mercenary. On a job in Egypt, Spector and the mercenary who hired him, Raoul Bushman, come across an archaeological dig. Bushman kills the archaeologist so he can loot the treasures, and Spector confronts him. Bushman clobbers Spector, mortally wounds him and abandons him to die in the desert, but Spector makes his way to the tomb. Through mystic means, Spector is touched by the spirit of the god Khonshu and restored to life.
After that adventure, Spector moves to New York. He develops the secret identity of wealthy financier Steven Grant, but also adopts the persona of cab driver Jake Locksley, the better to cultivate street-level contacts.
As a carny, Clint Barton has been a drifter for much of his early life, having learned his archery skills from the Swordsman as the circus they were a part of traveled the U.S. After becoming the hero Hawkeye, he finally put down roots in New York as a member of the Avengers, although he lived in California for a time as leader of the West Coast Avengers.
In 2012’s “Hawkeye” #1 (Vol. 4), written by Matt Fraction and drawn by David Aja, Hawkeye chose to move to an apartment in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Unfortunately for him, building owner Ivan Banionis hired a bunch of Russian goons — whom Hawkeye dubbed “the tracksuit Mafia” — to harass the tenants in order to force them to move out so he could sell. Hawkeye intervened, buying the building and getting Banionis deported. Banionis returned to the U.S. and led the tracksuit Mafia in a siege on the building in issues #19-22. Hawkeye leads his brother Barney, protege Kate Bishop and the tenants in fighting them off.
10. MEMBER OF CONGRESS
When Barbara Gordon first appeared in “Detetective Comics” #359 (January 1967), written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene, she was the head of the Gotham City Public Library — although one who had a brown belt in judo — and soon took on the guise of Batgirl. But in “Detective Comics” #422 (April 1972), written by Frank Robbins and drawn by Don Heck, she grows frustrated with the revolving door in the criminal justice system and resolves to do something different. Her father, Police Commissioner James Gordon, has agreed to run in a special election to fill a vacant U.S. House of Representatives seat, although his heart isn’t in it. Batgirl reveals her secret identity to her father — not knowing that he already had figured it out — and demands to run in his place.
Running on an anti-crime platform, Gordon wins the election in #424 (June 1972). However, spending time being a superhero makes her re-election bid suffer. She loses in “Detective Comics” #488 (February-March 1980) in a story written by Jack C. Harris and drawn by Jose Delbo and Frank Chiarmonte.
9. KIDS’ SHOW PERFORMER
Life in the Avengers isn’t a never-ending battle; every once in a while, superheroes do enjoy downtime. “Avengers” #201 (November 1980), written by David Michelinie and drawn by George Perez and Dan Green, is a slice-of-life issue, taking a look at team members in the aftermath of battles in previous issues.
Wonder Man, who was then getting a tentative start in show business, took the opportunity to visit his other job with his buddy The Beast. And what does Wonder Man do in his spare time? He’s “Mr. Muscles” on a kid’s show! Dressed in a leopard skin and gladiator sandals that lace around his calves, but still wearing his trademark sunglasses, Wonder Man lifts a whole “whirl-a-round” — a carousel powered by his own strength, bearing eight screaming children. Unfortunately, things go awry and Wonder Man gets fired, but at least it was a stepping stone to better gigs as a Hollywood stuntman.
8. TOY SALESMAN
Hal Jordan was a test pilot for Ferris Aircraft when he was chosen for the Green Lantern Corps by the dying Abin Sur, in “Showcase” #22 (October 1959). He also soon engaged in a romance with top executive Carol Ferris, but she kept Jordan at arm’s length — because of being attracted to him in his Green Lantern guise. This triangle proved unsustainable, especially after Ferris tells him she’s engaged to someone else, so Jordan quits his job and leaves Coast City for the Pacific Northwest.
He becomes an insurance adjuster in “Green Lantern” #53 and later an insurance salesman. In “Green Lantern” #70 (July 1969), written by John Broome and drawn by Gil Kane and Vince Colletta, Jordan becomes a traveling salesman for Merlin Toy Co. He finds himself competing against Olivia Reynolds, his new love interest. This gig lasts until issue #75; in issue #76, he dumps the job to join best bud Green Arrow and his partner Black Canary on the “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” road trip across America.
7. TRUCK DRIVER
The “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” stories, all written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams, with a few different inkers, spanned “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” #76 (April 1979) to #89 (April/May 1972), with their final tale presented as backup stories in “The Flash” #217 (August/September 1972) to #219 (December 1972/January 1973). “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” was off the newsstands until 1976, brought back with O’Neil again as the writer, but with Mike Grell now on the art. The revived series steered way from the social relevance tales, focusing more on adventure and space opera.
In another stretch where Hal Jordan walks away from Ferris Aircraft, he becomes an interstate truck driver, sometimes carrying dangerous loads like explosives. When he gets called away for space missions as Green Lantern, he would park his tractor-trailer in orbit around the Earth. But Jordan goes back to Ferris Aircraft in “Green Lantern” #121 (October 1979), written by Dennis O’Neil, penciled by Don Heck and inked by Frank McLaughlin, after his rig is destroyed in a hurricane.
6. HOMELESS DRIFTER
Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, sprung on the scene in “Special Marvel Edition” #15 (December 1973), as Marvel’s answer to the then-hot kung-fu movie trend. He was created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin, with inks by Al Milgrom. The title was renamed “Master of Kung Fu” with issue #17. Marvel initially tried to adapt the TV series “Kung Fu” to comics, but couldn’t reach a deal with producers. Instead, it got the rights to Dr. Fu Manchu, the villain in a series of pulp novels, and established original character Shang-Chi as his son. Shang-Chi was raised from infancy to assassinate Fu Manchu’s enemy, Dr. James Petrie. After doing so, he meets his mother, who tells him of his father’s villainous ambitions. He then becomes an ally of Petrie’s associate, Sir Denis Nayland-Smith.
No longer under Fu Manchu’s thrall, Shang-Chi is now homeless, so he simply becomes a squatter in Central Park, living on weeds and fighting off the occasional mugger dumb enough to challenge him between battles with Fu Manchu’s minions. Finally, Nayland-Smith offers Shang-Chi a job as an MI-6 agent in issue #29 (June 1975), written by Doug Moench and drawn by Paul Gulacy.
5. FAST-FOOD WORKER
After a mission in space in “Wonder Woman” #66 (September 1992) that began as a rescue attempt but turned into an extended journey, Wonder Woman returned to Earth in issue #71 (February 1993). She learns that while she was gone, the Amazons have left and she is cut off from Themyscira. Not only that, but also she was presumed dead, so she has no access to her funds, and her mentor Julia Kapatelis has rented out her room. In issue #73 (April 1993), new art team Lee Moder and Ande Parks join writer William Messner-Loebs in telling what Diana does next.
Needing a way to support herself, Wonder Woman pounds the pavement looking for work, dressed smartly in a business suit, although she still wears her tiara. Despite a career history that includes being a nurse, a military intelligence officer, and a crisis agent for the United Nations, all she can get is a job at her friendly neighborhood Taco Whiz. Diana pours herself into her work, practicing how to make the meals faster, making friends with supervisor Hoppy Greene, and even almost quitting because a superhero emergency caused her to miss a shift. Taco Whiz is out of her life after issue #81.
4. CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR
Mike Grell’s “Jon Sable, Freelance” launched in 1983, following the adventures of a soldier of fortune who nonetheless had a tender side. Sable, his wife Elise and their two young children lived in Rhodesia, where he led safaris and was a game warden. His family was murdered by poachers, so he went after the killers for revenge. After that, he moved to New York.
As a doting father, Sable would entertain his kids with tales of magical beings in Central Park. Literary agent Eden Kendall connected him with artist and illustrator Myke Blackmon to turn the stories into a line of children’s books, written under the pen name “B.B. Flemm.” The books were so successful that there was demand for “Flemm” to promote them in interviews, personal appearances and bookstore signings. Of course, Sable could hardly go in public wearing his own face, so he wore a dorky disguise: eyeglasses, a curly blonde wig and matching mustache. In issue #33 (February 1986), readers got to see what one of Flemm’s books are like, thanks to “MAD” cartoonist Sergio Aragones.
3. UNLIMITED CLASS WRESTLER
The Thing of the Fantastic Four was popular enough to headline the long-running team-up title “Marvel Two-in-One” from 1974 to 1983, as well as his own solo title from 1983 to 1986. In the 1980s, “Wrestlemania” was big, so Marvel introduced its four-color counterpart, the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, in “The Thing” #28 (October 1985), written by Mike Carlin, penciled by Ron Wilson and inked by Brett Breeding.
At the time, The Thing was estranged from the Fantastic Four and seeking adventure. He had been in the Thunderiders motorcycle stunt show, but found it unsatisfying and was released from his contract. He learned of the start-up Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, launched by promoter Ed Garner, who wanted to up the excitement with ultra-strong competitors (the two to 10-ton weight class was phased out for being insufficiently “spectactular”). The Thing handles all challengers in the tryouts, wins the inaugural match, and goes on to become UCW champion.
TV’s “The Flash” tries very hard to make you forget about Cisco Ramone’s origins as the hero Vibe from the comics. Vibe was created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Chuck Patton, and first appeared in “Justice League of America Annual” #2 (December 1987). This was a drastic revamping of the League to keep up with the then-popular “X-Men,” “Teen Titans” and “Legion of Super-Heroes,” which were full of teen and 20-something characters, most of which were not being shared with other titles.
To establish the new status quo, the League beats back a Martian invasion without the big guns normally associated with the team. In the aftermath, an angry team leader, Aquaman, dissolves the League to reconstitute it with people and beings who could serve full time — in Detroit, as their satellite headquarters was destroyed. An early recruit was Vibe, a street gang leader who also was a breakdancer. Vibe had the metahuman power to create earthquakes, and decided, with the League in town, they should join forces.
1. ORGAN TRANSPLANT COURIER
Wally West, the former Kid Flash, inherited the mantle of The Flash after Barry Allen nobly sacrificed his life in “Crisis On Infinite Earths” #7. Soon after, he headlined his own title, “The Flash,” written by Mike Baron and drawn by Jackson Guice with inks by Larry Mahlstedt (June 1987). Because of an attack West withstood by the Anti-Monitor in “Crisis,” West was slower than in his Kid Flash days, limited to about the speed of sound. The concept of the Speed Force as the source of speedsters’ power had yet to be introduced, so he had yet to learn how to reach the speed of light as he used to be able to do. Also, West’s metabolism burned thousands of calories daily, requiring him to eat huge quantities of food.
In issue #1, West is asked to deliver a heart from New York to Seattle for a transplant. He agrees, but sets conditions: the hospital can call him at any time, but must provide him with health insurance, which he needs when he breaks his wrist fighting off villains trying to stop him from making the delivery.
What’s the weirdest job a you’ve seen a superhero’s secret identity hold? Tell us in the comments!
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