Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Give Them Back Their Masks

Why can't Hollywood handle a superhero's secret identity?

As a dedicated comic book reader for these many years, I've come to respect the man and woman hiding behind the mask, or even the pair of glasses. Yet, Hollywood can't handle it. Maybe it's a corporate thing. Perhaps it concerns the bankers and bill collectors that someone can slip on and off the radar with a swish of a cape.

Consider Spider-Man. Since he showed up onscreen it seemed everyone knew who he was without the mask, and that includes both Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy. The only one who seemed clueless was Aunt May, but that didn't surprise anyone.

Batman? Christopher Nolan sort of kept him secret, but somehow Bruce Wayne felt compelled to drop hints to those around him. "Hey, Commissioner, remember that kid you comforted years ago? The one with the coat? The one from the alley. You know, the kid who lost his parents? Come on. The kid with the initials B.W.? Last name rhymes with 'pain?'"

In the recent Man of Steel, one gets the feeling everyone knows who Clark Kent is. Lois managed to track him down with little trouble. And Kal-El, like Bruce Wayne, feels compelled to give hints, this time to the military. "Hey, you can trust me, I grew up in Kansas."

The worst offenders of the code of secret identity are the recent incarnations of Marvel superheroes forming the Avengers. In the comic books, Tony Stark plays his identity close to the vest, passing off his alter-ego as a hired bodyguard. In the movie? He announces who he is at a press conference. "I'm Iron Man!"

And what about Thor? The filmmakers didn't even let him have his mortal personae of Donald Blake, physician. Hulk? Well, the world knows who Hulk is in both the comic book and the film world, but let's face it, no one wants to pull the mask of the old Lone Ranger, and no one wants to mess around with Hulk, whether he's Lou Ferrigno in bad wig and bad makeup, or a CGI version of Eric Bana, or even Mark Ruffalo.


Charles Gramlich said...

Absolutely. The new Spiderman spent half the show without his mask. It irritates the heck out of me.

skarab said...

Agreed. The movies are so ambivalent about superhero masks I don't really understand it. Like, why do Captain America and Spidey have a mask at all when it's off half the time?
Ironically, back when Stan Lee was creating the Fanrastic Four, he very much wanted to have a superhero team with no costumes or masks. I guess fans demanded the costumes, but he did successfully create a team with no secret identites, a novelty at the time.
The circle is now complete!