The Fine Art of Blowing a Secret Identity
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that Spider-Man has revealed his secret identity to the world in a recent issue of Marvel’s Civil War mega-event.
However, back before it was cool to unmask on international television, a superhero’s secret identity was guarded with the utmost care and vigilance. Ostensibly, the importance of heroes hiding their identity was to protect their loved ones from an enemy’s retribution, but for those of us reading their adventures, the true appeal of the secret identity was….well…that is was a secret.
Secrets have a powerful kind of currency in the world of children, so the concept and sanctity of a hero’s secret identity was easily grasped and solemnly supported. It naturally followed that whenever we spied a comic book cover depicting a secret identity threatened or even (gasp!) exposed, we’d snatch ‘em up, no questions asked. After all, a secret I.D. in jeopardy was some heavy drama, pal!
The fine art of blowing a secret identity often fell into three distinct categories: (1) The “What?--Is he CRAZY?” self-reveal, (2) The betrayal of a trusted friend or family member, or (3) discovery by their enemies.
The first, and in some ways, most disturbing category is when the hero apparently loses his mind and reveals his own secret identity.
The cover of Flash #149 (1964) shows Barry Allen doing just that, earning a “jumpin’ jets” exclamation from freaked-out sidekick Wally (Kid Flash) West.