When all the dust has settled, when the fights are over, and when the villains are apprehended, a superhero can go home knowing that their job is done and their identity safe. Right? A superhero’s job is to protect the city they serve and those who are close to them. Protecting both requires that their identity remain as guarded as Fort Knox. Imagine being a superhero and having the whole world know who you are. Imagine if your greatest enemies knew who you were. More importantly, imagine if your greatest enemies knew who your closest friends and family were.
Comics have done an admirable job of keeping their hero’s identities secret…for the most part. On rare occasions, some of the most famous heroes have had their identities exposed. And here they are, here are the top 10 superheroes who had their identities publicly revealed!
10. Iron Man
In the comics and no matter how hard he tried, the world always found out that Tony Stark was Iron Man. For a while, he even claimed that he wasn’t Iron Man and that the superhero was actually his bodyguard. The comic book version, of course, is a long way from his depiction in the MCU. The MCU version of the character proudly proclaimed that he was Iron Man.
Iron Man is credited with getting the MCU off the ground. After all, it 1) was the first highly successful movie they had, 2) showed that the world wanted superhero movies, and 3) laid the groundwork for a multi-billion dollar industry. All this because he wasn’t afraid to tell people who he was.
9. Green Arrow
Being a Green Lantern is a great honor. As a Green Lantern, you’re charged with protecting your Sector of the Galaxy and keeping peace and order throughout it. Earth, for example, is Sector 2814, and within Sector 2814 there have been a number of Lanterns to watch over it. Hal Jordan. Guy Gardner. John Stewart.
And it’s John Stewart I’m most interested in. Unlike Hal, who wears a mask over his eyes, John wears nothing. This means that John flies around as a Lantern with everyone fully aware of who he is. As someone hated by every piece of scum in the galaxy, think about how dangerous this is. I tip my hat to you, John. I can’t say as though I’d be that brave.
8. Vance Astrovik
Vance Astrovik has had a long history of doing great things. Of them, all, being able to wield Captain America’s shield ranks right at the top. Although he’s gone on to do some incredible things, his path to get there wasn’t always easy.
In an early issue of The New Mutants, the young Astrovik, then called Marvel Boy, was just learning how to use his telekinetic powers. Due to his lack of understanding, he inadvertently let loose a telekinetic blast against his abusive father. The blast killed him and Astrovik was taken into custody. At the corresponding trial, he joined this list of superheroes who had their identities publicly revealed.
Different from other characters, Batgirl hasn’t come out and said who she is, nor have many figured it out. Some, however, have and of those who have figured it out, none are more important than her father.
Just before the famed Crisis on Infinite Earths event, Commissioner Gordon had correctly figured out who Batgirl was. Of course, Crisis reverted everything back to square one so it was all for not but that’s not the point. James Gordon, her father, knew who she was. As one of Batman’s closest friends, imagine the problems it would’ve created had things not been reset…
During the “Forever Evil” crossover event, the Justice Leagues’ criminal counterpart from Earth-3, the Crime Syndicate, invaded the mainstream DC Universe. Upon invading, they took Nightwing hostage and publicly unmasked him on television.
All wasn’t lost Nightwing. After the event, he took the mantle of Grayson while simultaneously undoing his unmasking. Once the world was none the wiser as to who he was, he resumed his role as Nightwing and remained so ever since. For a hero who simply wears a mask that covers his eyes, it’s amazing that Nightwing hasn’t been unmasked more.
You may not believe it but none other than Lois Lane has revealed Superman’s identity to the world. After the New 52s Superman learned that he was dying, he asked Lois Lane to write a story detailing the entirety of his life.
Once dead, an older Superman appeared and took his place. To create confusion and mystery, this Superman publicly appeared alongside what was an imposter posing as Clark Kent. The world, seeing the two side-by-side, had no choice but to believe that Clark and Superman were not one and the same. As a result, Superman’s identity was once again cleverly hidden behind a simple set of glasses.
4. Professor X
I don’t know about you but sometimes I think the best way to keep a secret is to put the secret out in plain sight. Point in case, Professor Xavier. Xavier is arguably the most powerful mutant in existence, runs a school that teaches others like him to harness and use their powers for good, and does both in the eye of the public.
Few would ever suspect a man as giving as Xavier of being more than he is…and few do. This doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been ousted before. In 2001, his sister Cassandra Nova took control of his body and publicly announced who he was and what he did. Of course, this is comic books and eventually, the world was none the wiser to his charade.
3. The Flash
Even Barry Allen can’t run fast enough to escape an unmasking. In one of the most bizarre Flash comics of all time, The Flash #275, Iris West-Allen was unceremoniously murdered by Reverse Flash. Furious, Barry exacted his revenge by banishing Reverse Flash to another dimension.
Fast-forward to The Flash issue #323 and Barry has found a new love in Fiona Webb. For the first time in years, Barry found happiness. However, nobody foresaw that Reverse Flash had somehow escaped his dimensional prison. Upon his escape, he located The Flash and planned to kill Fiona. In an act of desperation, Barry grabbed his enemy and accidentally snapped his neck. The subsequent, “Trial of The Flash” saw Barry Allen become one of the superheroes who had their identity publicly revealed.
Spider-Man has had his identity exposed more times than can be humanly counted. Through them all, however, he has always managed to reverse the exposure. One of the latest exposures happened during the original Civil War event.
For any who doesn’t know, Civil War saw Iron Man and Captain America come to blows over their different ideals. While Iron Man wanted superheroes to register and expose their identities, Captain America didn’t. Their differences led to an all-out war that culminated in Captain America’s death and Spider-Man revealing that he was Peter Parker.
If you ever want to read a really interesting comic book character, read Daredevil. More specifically, read Frank Miller’s Daredevil run.
The run saw Karen Page leave New York, become a porn star and drug addict, and, in a desperate attempt to get more drugs, sell the identity of Daredevil to Kingpin. Born Again, as it’s called, is one of the most gripping and intense Daredevil stories that you will ever read. Heck, it’s one of the most gripping and intense comic book stories that you will ever read. To quickly sum it up, Born Again is exactly what happens when a man is pushed into a corner and has no choice but to fight his way out of it.