Superman’s secret identity is the opposite of convention

This has probably been discussed here before, but for some reason I started thinking about this.

Bruce Wayne becomes Batman to fight crime. Likewise, Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man. For most superheroes, their civilian identity is who they “really” are, and the hero is an alter-ego.

But Superman turns the trope upside down. Superman (or Kal-El) is his true identity, and Clark Kent is the alter-ego, a persona he uses to disguise himself in the civilian world.

Are there any other superhero identities that are structured like this instead of the other way around? Wonder Woman might fit the bill, but I’m not well-versed in her backstory. Was she known as Diana Prince before she became WW?

Thor is just Thor, right? He doesn’t have any other identities as far as I know.

Any other examples?

Martian Manhunter, aka John Jones(which is a reworking of his real name “J’onn J’onzz”).

You’ve got it backwards. Superman’s close friends, those who know his alter ego, address him as “Clark”, not as “Superman”, or “Kal”. The name that he, personally, identifies with is Clark Kent, and if you ask him who his parents are, he’ll say John and Martha.

Batman, however, everything in his life is directed to him being Batman. While “Bruce Wayne” is the name he was called in childhood, nowadays, it’s just another mask he wears when it’s convenient.

Katar “Hawkman” Hol, space cop from Thanagar, started putting on a “Carter Hall” act while innocuously looking like a regular guy holding down a museum job instead of only ever presenting himself as The Flying Crimefighter Keen On Learning About Earth Police Methods.

Wonder Woman’s origin story has varied, but the basic one is that she is an Amazon (or perhaps demigod, her father being Zeus.) Diana Prince is a disguise.she originally assumed during WWII.

Thor was always Thor. However, he originally appeared on Earth incarnated in the form of a disabled medical student, Donald Blake. From Wiki:

I always found Thor confusing when I read the comics in the 1960s, trying to figure out who he “really” was.

I don’t think he’s used a human identity for a long time, but I haven’t followed the comics.

Many of the members of the Legion of Superheroes didn’t have a real separate identity and were legionnaires full time. Mon-el didn’t have a separate identity and I don’t recall any reference to their civilian life other than calling each other by their real names.

Plastic Man pretty much gave up his Eel O’Brian identity and lived as Plastic Man only. He had incentive, since Eel was a wanted criminal. He’d only go back to go undercover.

The Homelander in the The Boys doesn’t have any other identity as far as I know.

Black Condor — basically, think Tarzan, but with birds — “failed to save the life of Senator Thomas Wright, but did bring the miscreants who killed him to justice and successfully covered up the fact that Wright was dead. Since they looked precisely alike, the Condor simply took his place, and thus got himself a secret identity. Apparently, being raised in the Gobi Desert, with no human contact until adulthood, was no obstacle to fitting in, completely unsuspected, with Washington society.”

“‘Superman’ is what I can do. ‘Clark’ is who I am.”

That’s from the 90s TV show, Lois and Clark, which was fairly silly. But that quote is very accurate to the modern conception of Superman. It was different in the Silver Age.

The company’s cover story for the Homelander is that he is an alien who landed in the United States as an infant; in reality, he was grown in a secret VA laboratory, the progeny of genetic material taken from Stormfront, who was injected with Compound V while still a member of the Hitler Youth.

No name in the comics, supposedly “John” in the tv series.

Aquaman’s origin has varied also, but he basically is Aquaman. His powers were either given to him by his human scientist father, or are due to the fact that he is the son of a lighthouse keeper and an outcast of an aquatic race from Atlantis. I don’t think he used his human identity of Arthur Curry very much.

Bob Crane (the other one) “is a scientist whose brain was placed inside a robotic body after he had been fatally shot. Since Crane had to be legally dead for his assailants to be charged with murder, he created a civilian identity as Paul Dennis, accomplished with lifelike face mask and gloves. As Robotman, he was a member of the World War II-era team, the All-Star Squadron. He also fought crime solo with help from his canine sidekick, Robbie the Robot Dog.”

As far as I know, The Tick is always The Tick, and always has been.

He should try some Underarmour.

Absolutely. “Superman” allows Clark to use his powers to fight evil without giving up what is really important to him - his life as a reporter, his relationship with Lois, etc. “Bruce Wayne” allows Batman to finance his gadgets and to infiltrate areas of society that he can’t sneak into - just like Batman’s other secret identity (“Matches Malone”) allows him to infiltrate other areas of society. When Batman goes to a party as “Bruce Wayne,” he’s there to collect information for Batman, not to enjoy himself. When Superman has to leave a party that Clark is attending, it interrupts Clark’s real life.

Supe’s cousin Kara Zor-El disguises herself on Earth. Most recently as Kara Danvers (no relation to Carol).

The idea is, it’s not that wealthy man-about-town Lamont Cranston guns down crooks as The Shadow; it’s that Kent Allard, AKA The Shadow, passes himself off as Lamont Cranston while the real Cranston is, well, constantly vacationing.

P.S. If you asked Batman, he’d say that Bruce Wayne died years ago, either in Crime Alley or when Batman swore an oath on the grave of his parents.

Jules Feiffer wrote an essay on this, back in the 60s or 70s. (If anyone can find a link to it, I’d love to re-read it!) He noted how damaging to Clark’s self-esteem it must be to present himself as a cowardly, weak, milksop of a man, demeaning himself in the eyes of his boss, his best friend, and the woman he loves. “Clark Kent” wasn’t a real man, just a suit that Superman put on.

Give John Byrne credit (and he’s done a lot of harm, too) for his re-design of Superman in 1986, making it clear that Clark Kent is the real man, and Superman is just a suit he puts on to fight crime and save the world. Kent is a fully realized person, not just a cardboard persona.