Secret Identity Crisis: 10 Superheroes In Disguise

Sure, you’re hip to superheroes. You know that they have secret identities. But sometimes, they have <i>secret</i> secret identities. Take Dick Grayson, who will be ditching the Nightwing ID for something new in July, while pretending to be dead. Or look to Marvel’s <b>Mighty Avengers</b>, where Blade recently donned the Ronin ID in order to fight evil in secret (but more on that later). <p>But this kind of thing isn't entirely unknown in superhero comics, which has a long history of costumed super-powered characters having secret identities that are <em>also</em> costumed super-powered characters. Here are just 10 examples.

ERIC THE RED

Before he was a rabble-rousing mutant that sought to illustrate <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDi-Pph6UK4>Grant Morrison impersonator Bobby Gillespie's assertion that "one man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist"</a>, Scott Summers just pretended to be a lawbreaker. <p>In order to infiltrate Mesmero's headquarters, Cyclops temporarily assumed the identity of (fictional) super villain Eric The Red for a couple of issues back in <em>X-Men #51-52</em> back in the 1960s with surprising success. Identity crises weren't really a thing back then. Neither was the idea of super villains being a little less trusting with who they let into their secret lairs, apparently.

NIGHTWING

Another Silver Age classic, the dual identities of Clark Kent and Superman weren't enough for Kal-El back in the day, so he fashioned an entirely separate <em>third</em> identity for when he visited the bottle city of Kandor: Nightwing! <p>Years before Dick Grayson thought about ditching the Boy Wonder gig and going solo in 1963's <em>Superman</em> #158, in fact Superman was adopting the Batman-esque identity to fight crime in the shrunken Kryptonian city alongside a visiting Jimmy Olsen as the Robin-alike Flamebird. <p>Decades later, the Dynamic Duo of Nightwing and Flamebird would rise again when Chris Kent and Thara Ak-Var claimed the identities as their own during the <em>New Krypton</em> story-arc that ran through the Superman titles a few years back.

THE SHROUD

Following the chaos that was <em>Ultimatum</em>, it wasn't just the creators of Marvel's Ultimate line that wanted to try new things. <p><em>Ultimate Spider-Man</em> found himself having to deal with a mysterious new crime fighter called "The Shroud" who bore little resemblance to <a href=http://www.comicvine.com/shroud/29-13844/>the regular Marvel Universe version</a>. Instead, it turned out that Kitty Pryde had ditched her Shadowcat identity to fight crime in a new, no-nonsense manner (and with some new super-powers, too). <p>Eventually surrendering the Shroud identity when Peter Parker discovered who was under the hood, the political changes resulting from the post-Death of Spider-Man Ultimate U have kept Kitty more than a little busy and far away from picking the hooded cloak back up any time soon.

PENANCE

And then, there's Penance. <p>Even if the self-harm concept and the bondage aesthetic behind the character are a little too on-the-nose, the motivation for Speedball to adopt a new costumed identity remain strong and believable. After all, being blamed for blowing up a town even if you really weren't as much to blame as everyone seemed to think you were wouldn't <em>you</em> want the chance to start over? <p>Sure, calling yourself "penance" might be a <em>slight</em> giveaway that, just maybe, you're someone with something to hide that's worth looking into, but hey. Considering that Penance was hanging out with the Thunderbolts for most of his career, that might've been taken as a given no matter what he'd called himself.

BATMAN

Whether or not Dick Grayson's stint as Gotham's <em>other</em> caped crusader actually counts as an example of hiding his traditional superhero identity behind another superheroic identity is open to question. <p>On the one hand, yes, he's pretending to be someone else altogether and not wanting people to make the connection between Nightwing and Batman (well, any <em>more</em> of a connection, that is), but on the other hand, unlike everyone else on this list, he's inherited his triple identity instead of created it, and is trying to live up to someone else's legacy as opposed to escaping his own. But that's OK, because there's another Bat-character who very much fits the bill...

WINGMAN

Really, who saw it coming that the mysterious Wingman, the Hero with the hidden identity who's been hanging around <em>Incorporated</em> for months now would turn out to be Jason Todd, earning his way back into the good graces of Batman and also seeking to be an unknown wild card in the struggle between the Dark Knight and Talia Al Ghul's Leviathan? <p>The revelation came as such a surprise that some fans seem to believe that all is not as it seems, and Wingman's secret identity revelation will itself be a double bluff with <em>another</em> character revealed to be the helmeted hero before all is said and done. How many secret identities can one character have?

RONIN

On a meta level, Hawkeye's decision to quit being Hawkeye and take on the Ronin identity when he returned to the Marvel Universe following <em>Civil War</em> made a certain amount of sense – after all, there was a new Hawkeye as part of the then-new <em>Young Avengers</em>, and no-one was really using the Ronin identity after the original Daredevil plan fell apart, and Echo abandoned it fairly early on. <p>On a story level, though, it was always kind of an awkward fit that you really had to reach to truly make work (Seriously, Clint considered Cap <em>so</em> much of a mentor that he considered himself a <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C5%8Dnin>ronin in the classical sense</a> when Cap was believed dead? <em>Really</em>?). <p>Still, nice costume. So nice that when Blade needed a temporary costume (specifically with a full-face mask), he donned the Ronin look in what was meant to be a surprise. Unfortunately, it was leaked via a talent submission form long before the reveal came in print.

GANGBUSTER

Proving that super-speed leads to super-boredom and strange ways to alleviate it, DC's Man of Steel took on <em>yet another</em> costumed identity in the late 1980s as his subconsciousness responded to criticisms that he was out of touch with the grittier crime of the time by creating the harder-edged Gangbuster identity a hero who wasn't afraid to punch crimes in the gut and <em>didn't even have a cape</em> to demonstrate how much of an antihero he really was. <p>That Gangbuster was also the result of a nervous breakdown that meant that Clark wasn't actually aware that he was running around in leather and beating up bad guys at night just added an extra level of WTF to the whole thing. Superman, we expect better from you... but maybe that's the problem.

NOMAD

If there's one thing America should know about its favorite super-soldier, it's that sometimes, he needs a little break. Steve Rogers has been replaced as Captain America no less than three times now, with only one of them due to his untimely "demise." <p>The other times, instead of going on vacation and maybe catching up on his reading, Steve has adopted new superheroic identities to keep fighting the good fight. In the 1980s, he called himself "The Captain," and wore a variation on his regular costume, but he tried a lot harder in the 1970s when he became Nomad, the "hero without a country," driving around <em>Easy Rider</em>-style to rediscover his connection to America. <p>He always ends up back in the familiar Cap costume, of course, but that's not the point. After all, no-one who'd willingly call themselves Nomad would argue with the idea that, sometimes, it's all about the <em>journey</em>, man.

HORNET/PRODIGY/DUSK/RICOCHET

And then, there's the time that Spider-Man took on not one, not two, but <em>four</em> different costumed identities to try and disguise the fact that he was still saving the day even though Spider-Man was supposed to be laying low. <p>As part of the 1998 <em>Identity Crisis</em> storyline that ran through the various Spider-Man titles, Peter Parker created new costumes and names of four brand-new superheroes, all of whom went on to be adopted by other characters when he went back to his more traditional Friendly Neighborhood ID. <p>The IDs took on a new life in the recently released <i>The Amazing Spider-Man 2</i> video game as alternate costumes (and even a poster, and a couple of comic book covers), letting you play out your <i>own</i> Identity Crisis.

Secret Identity Crisis: 10 Superheroes In Disguise

Date: 05 May 2014 Time: 06:00 PM ET