Secret Identity Crisis: 10 Superheroes In Disguise1 of 12One of the classic tenets of being a superhero is having a secret identity. Everyone knows the names Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker. But what about when a superhero needs a new secret identity? We’re not talking about Jim Gordon donning the batsuit – we’re talking about what happens when Hawkeye secretly operates as Ronin after coming back from the dead.
Recently, a high profile example hit TV screens when it was revealed that Supergirl’s Hank Henshaw is actually J’Onn J’Onzz, the Martian Manhunter, in disguise. It’s not that out of left field – J’Onn operated as Bloodwynd for several years while hiding his Manhunter identity.
So here are ten examples of superheroes who hid their superheroic identities behind new masks, creating new identities that sometimes lived on even after the heroes that created them no longer needed the disguise.
ERIC THE RED2 of 12Before killing his mentor Professor X and becoming a vigilante – a path that eventually lead him to some terrible act that was presumably responsible for his death - Scott Summers just pretended to be a lawbreaker.
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 X-Men #51-52 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.
NIGHTWING3 of 12Another 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 third identity for when he visited the bottle city of Kandor: Nightwing!
Years before Dick Grayson thought about ditching the Boy Wonder gig and going solo -- in 1963's Superman #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.
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 New Krypton story-arc that ran through the Superman titles a few years back.
THE SHROUD4 of 12Following the chaos that was Ultimatum, it wasn't just the creators of Marvel's Ultimate line that wanted to try new things.
Ultimate Spider-Man found himself having to deal with a mysterious new crime fighter called "The Shroud" who bore little resemblance to the regular Marvel Universe version. 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).
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 kept Kitty more than a little busy and far away from picking the hooded cloak before the Ultimate Universe was destroyed.
Now, in the mainstream Marvel Universe, Kitty Pryde has taken on the identity of Star-Lord, traveling with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
PENANCE5 of 12And then, there's Penance.
Even if the self-harm concept and the bondage aesthetic behind the character were a little too on-the-nose, the motivation for Speedball to adopt a new costumed identity remained strong and believable throughout his career as Penance. 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 you want the chance to start over?
Sure, calling yourself "penance" might be a slight 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.
BATMAN6 of 12Whether or not Dick Grayson's stint as Gotham's other caped crusader actually counts as an example of hiding his traditional superhero identity behind another superheroic identity is open to question.
On the one hand, yes, he was pretending to be someone else altogether and not wanting people to make the connection between Nightwing and Batman (well, any more of a connection, that is), but on the other hand, unlike everyone else on this list, he inherited his triple identity instead of created it, and was 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...
WINGMAN7 of 12Really, who saw it coming that the mysterious Wingman, the Hero with the hidden identity who was hanging around Incorporated for months 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?
The revelation came as such a surprise that some fans believed that all was not as it seemed, and Wingman's secret identity revelation would itself be a double bluff with another character revealed to be the helmeted hero before all was said and done. But in the end, Todd was indeed Wingman – at least until the "New 52" put him back under the Red Hood.
RONIN8 of 12On a meta level, Hawkeye's decision to quit being Hawkeye and take on the Ronin identity when he returned to the Marvel Universe following Civil War made a certain amount of sense – after all, there was a new Hawkeye as part of the then-new Young Avengers, and no-one was really using the Ronin identity after the original Daredevil plan fell apart, and Echo abandoned it fairly early on.
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 so much of a mentor that he considered himself a ronin in the classical sense when Cap was believed dead? Really?).
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.
GANGBUSTER9 of 12Proving that super-speed leads to super-boredom and strange ways to alleviate it, DC's Man of Steel took on yet another 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 didn't even have a cape to demonstrate how much of an antihero he really was.
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.
NOMAD10 of 12If 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 several times now, with only one of them due to his untimely "demise."
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 Easy Rider-style to rediscover his connection to America.
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 journey, man.
THE SLINGERS11 of 12And then, there's the time that Spider-Man took on not one, not two, but four 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.
As part of the 1998 Identity Crisis storyline that ran through the various Spider-Man titles, Peter Parker created new costumes and names of four brand-new superheroes - Hornet, Prodigy, Dusk, and Ricochet.
Later four other heroes took on the identities for a brief time, collectively calling themselves The Slingers, though their careers were almost universally short-lived.
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