ByBrad Barnes, writer at
Brad Barnes

Lois Lane doesn't really have a secret identity, but in "A Monster Named Lois Lane!" by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Bob Oksner, she "Hulks out" and manages to get Superman into a serious headlock.I guess all those years of being "Superman's Girlfriend" finally got on her last nerve!

Secret identities are our window into how super heroes really feel, they show us who the super hero is when their guard is down: what a super hero does in their secret identity is who that hero really is!

Secret identities have gone out of fashion in the current crop of comic books, most markedly in the Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev run on DAREDEVIL.

But secrets and super heroes don't separate quite that easily!

We live in an America when the Three Stooges of Secrets; Julian Asange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning; are celebrated in some districts for revealing Top Secret information.

But super heroes were created by the Greatest Generation (born between 1901-1924), when Loose Lips Sank Ships, before there was a Middle Class, and they knew the value of playing it close to the vest. They had been through the Great Depression, they had won the Good War and, darn it, they had ended segregation, so they had paid their dues like nobody's business. These were the folks who created the super hero out of thin air!

We might live in an age where it is expected to let your Freak Flag fly, to let it all hang out, to bring out your Free Willie and to love the one you're with, but that's not where super heroes come from, son!

Even though Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four without their having secret identities, Lee knew that if everybody realized that blind attorney Matthew Murdock was also Daredevil, that Murdock would not have a successful law practice, that Daredevil would be broke.

Because Lee understood that being a super hero did not pay the bills!

However, in this age of celebrity, our culture believes that anything can be monetized, and maybe that's true enough. Maybe it is asking too much to expect super heroes not to capitalize on their notoriety, to sell out and to get naked with supermodels. We live in a promiscuous, decadent and permissive age, after all! Super heroes just want to have fun! But it wasn't always that way.

America did not enter WWII until 1942, and the first wave of great super heroes; Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman; already were wildly popular.

When the Fantastic Four were created in 1961, the Korean War was winding down and the Vietnam War had yet to heat up: it was a break between wars. The Playboy Philosophy had yet to be articulated, James Bond 007 had yet to hit the silver screen and the British Invasion had yet to reignite Rock'n Roll.

But Pop Psychology, recreational drug use and the Generation Gap was a whisper away, and Lee tapped into that cultural unease like a surgeon, creating an urgency in his super heroes that Golden Age heroes simply could not relate to.

Lee created super heroes who carried their problems on their sleeves, who fundamentally had no secrets! This was the super hero revolution that Lee was the general of, that made Marvel the comic book company of choice.

But for all of Marvel's success, DC remained in the game! This is because, at their foundation, DC super heroes still have secrets, and secrets are what built the super hero in America!

Without secret identities, there are no super heroes, just celebrities in long underwear!

Esquire Magazine recently had an article about how much sex is contained in super hero movies going back to SUPERMAN in 1976, and the guy getting the most seductive action is Wolverine. How a 5'4" hairy Canadian like Wolverine ended up the sexiest super hero on the silver screen points out that there's something rotten in Denmark!

For the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie to have the proper amount of Sexy Time, secret identities are an absolute must!

When Gil Kane rebooted The Atom in the 1980s, he threw Ray Palmer into a pint-sized culture where he didn't know the language, where hawks were used like horses and where he was reduced to Robinson Crusoe with a broadsword. Sword of the Atom showed us what Ray Palmer is made of!

When Green Arrow injured his arm and accidentally killed a sniper, it was Oliver Queen who had to forgive himself for breaking his code against killing in this story by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. Coming back from this most personal crisis became Green Arrow's finest hour!

Even though Superman and Wonder Woman have hooked up in the New 52, I'm still Team Lois. In "Wonder Woman: Mrs. Superman!" by Cary Bates, John Rosenberger and Vince Colletta, we see Lois fighting to get her man back from that Amazon, and the three of them have never been more fascinating!

Batman is completely exhausted and takes a vacation to recuperate in "Red Water, Crimson Death!" by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. But Bruce Wayne comes across a young boy in trouble and finds himself drawn into a House Of Mystery which forces him to become Batman and do the right thing. Because heroism never takes a vacation, baby!

Wonder Woman lost her Amazon powers and fought crime as Diana Prince for awhile. Diana was captured by her mortal foe Doctor Cyber, whose face was destroyed and who wanted to do a face transplant using Wonder Woman's face! In "The Beauty Hater!" by Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano (featuring a classic cover by the great Jeff Jones!), we get under the skin of the Amazing Amazon!

The JUSTICE LEAGUE movie has to have secrets between lovers, between colleagues, between the super hero and the larger society, because the secret identity is central to the concept of the super hero!


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