The Secret Identity: How Long Would It Take Before a Hero Was Exposed?

A look into the (often crazy) history of how two famous superheroes manage to live their lives behind a mask, without ever being found out.

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By BattlinMurdock - 7/7/2012
It's an age-old joke that Superman hides behind glasses. It's a trope heavily commented on that Batman shows his secret identity to practically every woman he sleeps with. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a comic book movie thread about Spider-Man where someone doesn't bring up the fact that Peter Parker sometimes forgets that his actual face isn't made of spandex.

Secret identities. Everyone who can't afford not to have them does, so I'd like to take a look into, not the characters themselves, but the actual locations where the heroes do battle.

Gotham City
May I just say that the folks of Gotham City might be the most dimwitted of the superhero universe? If the only celebrity-status billionaire in the city left on a seven-year hiatus, came back in fantastic shape, and a mysterious vigilante started beating up criminals in the night, where would your thoughts travel to?

And if that man adopted a recently orphaned boy, whose parents were murdered in a highly-reported circus fiasco, as his ward...and then this vigilante started showing up with a young teenage boy with acrobatic skills and the same build as the newly famous Dick Grayson...wouldn't that warrant questioning?

What if this vigilante wasn't only time-convenient, but also had a multitude of gadgets, devices, and vehicles that only, say, a billionaire could afford?

But it goes further than that. As you can imagine, Bruce Wayne is Gotham's premier celebrity. Gotham City is not like Hollywood where you can supposedly snap a picture of a movie star walking down every street. When Wayne goes out, people notice. And he's not just a playboy sensation, he's the head of an enormous multibillion dollar corporation. The fact is, the paparazzi is never far from Bruce, which means that stalkers can't be beyond the realm of possibility. Someone would find some means of discovering who Batman is, if their jobs depended on it.

If a random couple can crash a White House party and get snapshots with the President...

New York City
Spider-Man's a big deal in New York. The man's celebrated more than Chuck Norris on a Texas ranch. Now, obviously, Peter Parker has it a bit easier because he is not the celebrity status Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark is. Pete's a regular guy.

...who takes professional photos of Spider-Man and sells them to a paper that exploits them and makes Spider-Man out to be a criminal. Raimi's original films get by this by saying that Spider-Man is Pete's friend. But why does Spider-Man allow a guy to take his picture for a newspaper that senselessly berates him in the press? It's not a one-time thing. Spider-Man on the front page practically keeps The Daily Bugle running. Even in the movies, Peter confronts Jameson about it, but the conversation is quickly dropped.

And why is Peter never asked to publicly talk about his friendship with Spider-Man? As far as anyone knows, Peter Parker is the only guy Spider-Man even communicates with on a level that isn't pulling someone off a bridge from a fatal plummet. If there was one person who knew a superhero in a city, the news would be falling head over foot to get a piece of that story. Couldn't people, not even the most intelligent people, put two-and-two together? It also doesn't help that Peter's friends notice that he's never there when Spider-Man is, but get a picture?

Now, how does that make sense? If every time a baddie crashed a party, and a photographer knew exactly where Spider-Man was going to enter, I would start to assume that either a) the hero is in cahoots with the villain and the attack is staged or b)the photographer is the hero.

It doesn't help that in scenes like the newest The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker falls from an enormous building and webswings away, just in time to obliterate a number of tables from what looks like the outside section of a cafe. This goes virtually unnoticed. But the new film isn't the only offender. Let's not forget how in Spider-Man 2, Parker does a rather sloppy backflip off his motor-scooter to avoid an oncoming car. He's obviously seen by people, because he even reacts to the kids who comment on the scene, telling them to "eat their vegetables."

Well, dammit, I eat my vegetables and the only time I've successfully landed that jump was after I announced my candidacy for Mars' first female octopus (I'm male, by the way. And not an octopus.)

Oh, and maybe it's just me, but superheroes never seem to lose teeth, even after they've been continuously smacked in the face with a rock the size of a...well, actually, I think a regular rock would do it enough.

Thanks for the read, folks!
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2460178 - 7/7/2012, 1:19 PM
To the credit of Spider-Man's public displays of pedestrian power, Peter is one man of many, many, many men and women in New York. If he backflips off of a motorcycle or webswings onto a table, yeah, it should arouse suspicion, but it's not as if anyone ever sees Peter do these things long enough to chase him down and say, 'LOOK, IT'S SPIDER-MAN. GETTIM.' They're brief moments. Suspicious moments, but brief ones nonetheless.
Berzerker93 - 7/7/2012, 3:10 PM
I thought it was stupid how in the first Spider-Man movie that none of Pete's classmates even suspect that he might be Spider-Man after he starts doing these crazy back flips and punches Flash so hard that he flies down the hallway. They even see his web when its attached to the food tray! Do they just suddenly forget all about that after he becomes Spidey? Wouldn't it be pretty suspicious if after this weak nerd beat up the biggest guy in school, a superhero shows up in town who is super strong, does crazy flips, and has webs that come out of his hands?
JonasWepeel - 7/7/2012, 7:54 PM
I feel like you were pretty unfair in your treatment of female Martian octopuses in this article. Bigot.
ThunderKat - 7/7/2012, 9:28 PM
I like the spirit of your editorial.

First, ever heard of serial killers? The neighbors never saw that side of them. And if it was the real world, I highly doubt that Bruce or Peter would share his secret so wantonly.

Second, willing suspension of disbelief. There is a whole of fun frustration the audience gets when Lana, Lois, Lex, Lionel, or Chloe get oh-so-close to discovering the truth about Clark. It's what makes this all so much fun while (we) kids dream of swashbuckling and landing in regular clothes with no one the wiser.
comiccow6 - 7/8/2012, 4:05 AM
Aparrently, all signs point to Harvey Dent, the man that didn't appear in Gotham until a few months after Batman did.
AC1 - 7/8/2012, 8:51 AM

I hope The Man Of Steel comes up with an explination for that.

And with the Spidey photos thing - if you watch the Raimi films at least, all of the pics of Spidey look like they were taken by a flying photographer, so how come nobody's questioned Peter on how he managed to get such impossible pictures?
2460178 - 7/8/2012, 10:09 AM
'And with the Spidey photos thing - if you watch the Raimi films at least, all of the pics of Spidey look like they were taken by a flying photographer, so how come nobody's questioned Peter on how he managed to get such impossible pictures?'

The Raimi films do address it, however briefly. The scene in the third film where Eddie Brock is introduced at the Bugle where Brock questions how Peter got such a high shot. Peter offers that he climbed a flagpole. It's not a great explanation, and Eddie doesn't seem to think so either, but there it is.
Ghostt - 7/10/2012, 5:21 AM
whoa, whoa, whoa...keep your damn logic outta my comic books you jerk. Besides in over a year no one on this site has figured out that I am truly Antonio Banderas despite my obvious accent......

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