Crazy Ideas: Superman’s Secret Identity To Everyone
Superman maintains a secret identity as Clark Kent. Everyone knows about it and the lengths that he goes to maintain it. However, what if his story was written from the beginning to be a mystery to even the reader? How long could this mystery be maintained by the writers of Superman’s adventures?
It’s been sometimes explained that since Superman doesn’t wear a mask, the general public doesn’t assume he has a secret identity. This has a tendency to make more sense than some of the measures Superman goes through to protect a secret identity. The most successful methods have always been the more subtle ones. As Clark Kent, he slumps to disguise his true height. In the motion picture Superman 2, we see Christopher Reeve stand up straighter as he prepares to reveal his secret identity to Lois Lane. Unfortunately, there are too many artists that don’t explore this. Clark Kent is often drawn as Superman with glasses.
There was a series in the mid-1990s that explored this. The original Valiant Comics published a series about a mysterious hero called the Visitor. Unfortunately, the entire premise was that the Visitor’s identity was one that readers would recognize. The limited scope of the Valiant Universe meant that it had to be one of only a few people, and the reveal, coupled with the collapse of the company, never was much of a surprise. It was never handled as the Visitor had no other identity. It totally could have been, for at least a few issues.
That suggestion brings a question to mind. What if the premise that Superman has a secret identity was never even brought up to the reader? It’s a little hard to imagine. The secret identity was established from the very beginning. It also gets hard to imagine because we’ve all grown up with the concept that super-heroes have secret identities. Presenting the first few issues with a Superman that doesn’t talk about his secret identity. With only minor alterations, Superman and Clark Kent could be re-written in Action Comics #1 to lead the reader to think that they are two separate people. No think about how long this could have gone on without the readers knowing that Superman had an identity outside of his vigilante persona.
The secret identity was there almost at the moment the character evolved into anything resembling what first saw publication. The concept of a timid secret identity was only new to super-heroes, as those were a relatively new concept. Adventurers such as Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel had similar, timid alter egos. Therefore, it is doubtful that we would see the secret kept into the modern day. It’s also unlikely that without the readers in on Superman’s secret identity, the character may not have endured. Perhaps the super-hero genre itself may not have survived into the present day.
How long do you think it would be before the DC Comics of yesterday would reveal his identity? Could a new hero ever debut with a secret identity that only the authors are aware of? Could a writer or a publisher resist the urge to tease that the hero has a secret? I think it’s a crazy idea that could use some discussion.