Super Heroes, Secret Identities, and Identity Changes

It’s becoming a trend in the realm of super-heroes to trade identities. Whereas twenty years ago, it was an interesting story, and only lasted a short time (Batman/Azrael, etc.), now it seems to be a long term move meant to shock (for lack of a better term) and draw in readers. From the All New Captain America, to the gender-bent Thor, it seems like comic books are trying to appeal to new audiences. But how long can this trend last?

1. Hulk – With the upcoming title, “The Totally Awesome Hulk”, Marvel is not only changing the title of the book, but also the identity of the jade giant. This won’t be the first time the Hulk books focus on a new Hulk (from Banner and Hulk being separate entities, to General Ross Hulking out as the Red Hulk, it’s been done over and over again for decades), but it is shaping up to be the most drastic, and possibly lasting. There are a few possible identities to the new Hulk, but we won’t know for sure until the book drops. Who can it be? Let’s discuss.

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Amadeus Cho? Could the super genius teenager take Hulk’s burden? Perhaps someone without an anger issue could truly harness the Hulk’s abilities to the fullest. Could he choose to lift Banner’s burden? Or does he steal it? That’d be an interesting turn of events. But what about Rick Jones? The longtime Hulk supporting character could take the mantle. Long-time friend of Banner, perhaps Jones decided it’s his turn to take the mantle, and relieve Bruce of his curse. That would be a great story as well, with Jones having a hard time controlling the Hulk, and Banner training him to be the Hulk the world needs… But that’s all speculation. It could be anyone from Amadeus Cho, to Rick Jones, but why is the arm blacked out? Perhaps it’s someone who has lost an arm in recent years…

Maybe not.

When will Hulk go back to being Bruce Banner? 3 months tops. Sales will dip, the new Hulk will get cancelled… This isn’t as compelling a change as Thor’s, so here’s hoping it doesn’t last. They’ll probably force it a year until next summer’s event, but let’s hope things go back to normal sooner.

2. Thor – With the new identity of the female Thor finally revealed, I thought it was about time we talked about it. Most people were bothered by the gender-bent Thor, although over the years Thor has been a frog, a horse faced alien, and more recently with the Thor Corps, well, everyone. But now that Jane Foster has been officially revealed as Thor, could this be something we’ll see tying into a third film? Who knows, but I like what they did here. Jane is suffering from cancer, and with every transformation, her condition worsens… I like that. There are consequences to being Thor, and finally they made the character interesting again. In forty years, the character have gone through minimal changes. It’s about time they made the God of Thunder interesting again.
When will Thor go back to being… Thor? Hopefully never. Jane Foster is an interesting Thor, and with cancer being her reason for wielding the hammer, I’d love to see her keep the mantle for as long as possible. Thor (the man) is still around as the unworthy Odinson, utilizing a badass ax that is cool enough to slice through the armor of Celestials, like Galactus.

3. Captain America – If you thought Thor being a woman caused outrage, imagine what happened when they made Captain America black! If you’ve been living under a rock for a while, let me tell you what happened. Steve Rogers lost the infinity formula/super soldier serum that gave him his age defying abilities, and at a whopping 80+ years old, Cap couldn’t wield the shield as readily as he used to. He passed on the shield and name to long time friend, and sometimes partner Sam Wilson, also known as the Falcon. Giving Cap the ability to fly and defend America is cool and all, but it’s getting a little over-played. They’re slowly taking every characters identity away from them, and passing it off to a sidekick. This isn’t the first time this is happened, when Bucky took the mantle a few years ago, and in the 80s and 90s when Cap retired. Several soldiers have taken the name over the years, so it’s only a matter of time before Mr. Rogers takes the name back.

How long until Steve Rogers returns? 6 months to a year. Marvel is making more and more of their decisions long-term, so this one will be around a while, but not permanent. Next years summer event will have to top this years, so what would make more sense then seeing everyone return back to their old selves, to top this year’s ‘everyone loses their names/powers/ teams/etc.’

4. Batman – This month’s Batman 41 saw Jim Gordon take up the mantle of the Bat (after Azrael, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and many others have all taken it up, Bruce approved or not), after Bruce’s death at the end of the ‘Endgame’ story arc. Both Joker and Batman died together, but with this year being the Joker’s 75th Anniversary, how long can he possibly stay dead? And with a possible Bruce Wayne sighting at the end of the first issue with Jim Gordon, it seems like it is just a sales grab.

How long will Gordon be the Bat? Two or three months, tops. Bruce might already be making his way back, so let’s hope this is a single story-arc.
5. Spider-Man – Another post-Secret Wars announcement from Marvel will see Miles Morales (The Ultimate Spider-Man) will have a title in the main lineup of Marvel books. Secret Wars is a segue between the collapse of both universes and the “new” Marvel Universe, which will be mainly an amalgamation. But with Miles Morales being announced as the new Spider-Man, what does this mean for Peter Parker? I doubt he will die (although, like everyone on this list, it would not be the first time), but if he does, it will be very short lived. With Marvel’s obsession with the multiverse and alternate versions of characters, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Spider-Men/Spider-Verse ongoing title gets announced, featuring Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker, Miguel O’Hara, etc. It would be great to have a few different/related Spider-Man books on the shelves each month.

But how long will Miles be the main man in the Spider-Man mask? Odds are he won’t. He probably will be one of many Spider-Men swinging around the Marvel Universe. Peter Parker is one of the most popular comic book characters Marvel has, and they would be foolish to take him out longterm.

What does this mean for identities in the Comics? With DC’s changes with Batman, We Are Robin, and a few others, and Marvel’s constant changes with characters all the time, it’s hard to see the trend stopping anytime soon. These characters have all been the same for decades, and changes are usually temporary. Sometimes change is good (Thor), but sometimes it can be an annoyance (Hulk, Batman). These days with film versions doing away with secret identities, and the identities of heroes constantly changing, are identities a more fluid concept? Constantly changing, never staying in one state for too long, what message does that send?

Well, secret identities are more important than ever, and with heroes constantly switching it up, it’s putting their personal lives more and more at risk, which leads to great stories. Furthermore, the more identities change, the more the writers have an opportunity to tell new, exciting, and unique stories. Secret identities are antiquated concepts in comics, and the truth is, characters are at their best when they have nothing left to lose. The most compelling stories are the ones where their loved ones are in danger, and their lives are on the line. When Peter Parker gave up his identity to support the Superhuman Registration Act in Civil War, Aunt May was shot by a sniper, and Peter was driven to a place we have rarely seen him; a place of anger. A place where vengeance is all he can think of, and the Kingpin was in his sights.

Superman is another character whose identity has recently been revealed to the world, and his powers are broken, and he’s on the run. Where will this take him? Probably one of the most exciting places he has ever been and I’ve been bored with him for years.