Fanfare for the Common Man: My secret identity

  • Wednesday, September 4, 2013

 
I’ve been thinking lately about the problems we have with comic book super hero movies.
It’s a serious logistical problem presented to producers and directors – what do you do about the super hero’s secret identity?
In comic books the answer is simple: Hide him behind a mask.
Except for Superman, Thor and Hulk, the rest of Marvel and DC’s super heroes are hidden behind a mask – or helmet.
This favorite part of comic books for me presents a serious logistical problem for guys like Robert Downey Jr., Christian Bale and Chris Evans.
These are major stars that command face time, especially Robert Downey Jr. at $57 million to play Iron Man. Iron Man wears a helmet. Any idiot can play Iron Man once the helmet comes on – just ask Darth Vader – and while we want to see Iron Man in action, producers didn’t fork out $57 million to have Downey sitting in a sound booth doing voice overs as some third rate stunt man runs around wearing a garbage can.
Same problem existed for Christian Bale and we spent the better part of two hours seeing Bruce Wayne and NOT Batman. Or they run around a lot not entirely dressed in their super hero attire.
For me, most of the excitement involving super heroes and comics was the hero’s secret identity and the trouble he always seemed to get in keeping his identity secret. It’s the secret identity that makes the story for me.
That said, can’t comic book writers come up with something a little more inventive in keeping one’s identity secret?
First, there’s the whole Superman/Clark Kent dilemma of late. Let me say this about that, it’s not a SECRET IDENTITY if you can’t keep it SECRET.
In the CW series Smallville, everybody in town knew Clark was Superman or would become Superman one day. Then suddenly he is Superman and slips on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, and – oh my goodness – nobody recognizes him. The most dynamic man on the planet has suddenly become a droll, boring, weak-voiced sissy.
In Smallville everybody knew about Clark. He was the worst kept secret in town. In the movies, Lex Luthor doesn’t have the first clue about Superman’s secret identity.
Neither does Lois Lane. The super genius and the crack investigative reporter are stymied in their efforts by a pair of $4.99 Walmart glasses.
The best part of these movies is when peril becomes evident – “Great Scott! Lois is in trouble!” – and Clark takes off down the back hallway of the Daily Planet to find a remote storage closet. He pauses, does a quick look around, and jerks off the glasses, yanks the tie knot askew and ducks into the closet. Seconds later Superman emerges and he jumps out the window to fanfare music that even today inspires me to grab a bath towel and a safety pin and run around the backyard.
I remember during my first couple of weeks working at a daily newspaper. Back then we wore coats and ties to work. I’m heading to the restroom down the back hall and to my surprise I come across a closed door that says “STORAGE.”
Newspapers really do have storage closets.
Imagine that.
So I do a quick look around and utter the magic words, “Great Scott! Lois is in trouble!”
I pull off my glasses and jerk my tie knot askew.
Then I say, “This is a job for Superman,” and turn to open the storage room door.
It was locked.

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