Beard: Secret IDs no longer standard for superheroesWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After over 75 years of maintaining the tropes and traditions of superhero fiction, at least one major comic company’s abandoned a major one — the secret identity — to modernize another of its headlining characters: soon-to-be Netflix TV star Daredevil.
In a recent storyline, the “Man Without Fear” surrendered to entropy and outed himself in a public courtroom as lawyer Matt Murdock, despite 50 years of playing the game. Why? For the man who writes him, it’s all about an internal drive for consistent characterization.
“I’m a big fan of the secret identity as a superhero storytelling device,” said veteran writer Mark Waid in an exclusive interview for Toledo Free Press. “A big fan — and I would have been happy to let Matt Murdock keep his dual identity forever, but since being ‘soft outed’ a few years back, it sat wrong with me when he would actually go on the attack and sue anyone who tried to claim he was Daredevil. For a lawyer particularly, that breach of ethics always seemed a bit sketchy to me, and having Matt come clean to the public made me like him more.”
Unlike rival DC Comics, Marvel’s dispensed with secret identities for almost all its major characters over the past several years. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk no longer manage an alterego unknown to the world at large, leaving Spider-Man as the only Marvel superstar still on the secret identity wagon. Comparatively, Superman and Batman, as well as a few of their Justice League buddies over at DC, keep their true names and identities veiled. One may wonder how the once-popular cliché became a thing of the past.
“There are two reasons,” Waid explained. “The real-world reason is that, in this day and age of NSA surveillance and CCTV cameras everywhere, it’s increasingly impossible to imagine how anyone could keep a secret identity. The more philosophical reason is that as readers have become more sophisticated that, even for the best of reasons, a hero keeping such a big secret from his friends and loved ones — particularly significant others — seems increasingly unsettling. When I was a kid, watching Superman pretend to be someone else around Lois Lane seemed innocent and charming. Today, given their professed love for one another, it would seem morally dodgy.”