One of my old sketches. 🙂

Superman finds time to fill his KRAs for the Daily Planet. Spider-Man clicks his own candid photographs for a living. And the Flash manages to very quickly avoid annoying colleagues while working with the police.

Hypothetically speaking, why do all these amazing superheroes choose to have a secret identity? Once they get their powers, why don’t they just be superheroes ALL the time? Well here are some of my thoughts on this topic.

The Scripting Perspective

First, let us look at this from the perspective of a person who writes a superhero story. Here’s why they might have knowingly or unknowingly chosen to give the hero a secret identity.

The human desire to be more

When I started making comics not everyone knew that I did this. So while to the world I was an engineering student, in my heart I was someone who loved telling stories.

In many ways we all carry a secret identity of this sort – The difference between who we are and who we want to be. A superhero and his regular day self reflect a similar sentiment.

Making the character relatable

If Superman was flying over cities all the time, you’d still think he was cool. But when you see Clark sit at his desk, fumble while speaking with Lois or visit his parents on a farm, then he suddenly becomes someone you’ll remember. Because all those little moments of human existence make a superhero so much more relatable.

Increases the scope of the story

How many times can you have a radioactive gorilla attack a city? Not as many times as comic writers wish they could. Those quieter moments in a story that can sometimes come from the superhero’s normal life really help in giving the story more varied beats. Otherwise all we’d have is lots more of radioactive gorillas.

The Character’s Perspective

Now if I were a superhero, I would not wear a red underwear. But here’s why I might choose to keep a secret identity.

Protecting the family

You don’t want a super villain to follow you or your family on Facebook. They might do something a lot worse than sending you a candy crush request.

Roti, Kapda, Makaan

Everyone has to pay bills. Except for Thor perhaps.

Learn from the other identity

Superman’s job as a reporter helps him understand the social and political scenario of the planet (besides letting him flirt with Lois). So these jobs do help improve the skill set of a superhero.

Time out

Sometimes you just need to have that drink while not worrying about running into the Joker. You can’t do that if you walk into a pub as Batman.

The superhero’s need to belong

While a common man might dream of being more, someone who has it all can feel disconnected from the masses. In a way, a secret identity helps the superhero feel that he really does belong to his/her city and people.

So there it is. And yes, maybe Robert Downey Jr. really is Iron Man.