I’ve been thinking a lot about secret identities recently. In my novel the main character is a guy who is a cross dresser and develops a female alter ego who slowly starts to take over. In a recently written scene where my character is having a bit of a crisis about who he is and who he wants to be he has a dream which ends with him reviling he/she is Supergirl. The dream as I wrote it is meant to represent my character embracing who they really are. It symbolises the two identities in his life.
Now this is a novel I started years ago in university as part of my course (I took a novel writing module in my third year.) It was to write a first chapter and I got a B grade and was pleased with the piece. I always felt it was worth finishing so after a bit of a break, both in time and relationship I returned to writing early last year. Currently I’m on chapter eighteen which is where I wrote the dream sequence. Now I have a rough plan in my head where the novel is going but not specifics and the dream sequence was thought up yesterday on the spot. That said it felt that there was something familiar about it that stuck in the back of my head until suddenly at 3am this morning I remembered why. Part of the module all those years ago in uni had been to write chapter one of the novel. The other assignment had revolved around a 500 word essay about the influences on the novel. And it was in part of that assignment where I mentioned Batman as an influence. I had ‘forgotten’ it until now although the theme was still in my head.
It also got me re thinking about secret identities, something that has always fascinated me. After all the first two heroes in the role model blogs both have secret identities. There is always the thrill when I see Adam turn to He-man, something as a kid I acted out numerous times. He goes from the weak Prince Adam to the strongest man in the universe, hero of Eternal. An actual physical change. There is the whole underlying masturbation metaphor of a boy turning into a man, secret powers that were revealed when he held aloft his magic sword but we won’t got into that right now. (err just how many of my heroes actually weld swords?)
Then there is Spider-man. Of course his costume, like other costumed heroes, is to protect his secret identity and therefore keep him and their his family safe but we also notice that often Peter Parker feels freer as Spider-man swinging about town. He is metaphorically raising above his troubles. He can appear to be more confident as spider-man then Parker especially in his early high school days. So like my character the alter ego in the ‘costume’ allows them to have more freedom and to be whom they’d like to be. However in the movie Spider-man 2 we see how there is a struggle with the duel identities.
But of course earlier I mentioned Batman. Batman is a fascinating case because even though it is Bruce Wayne starting out as Batman it can be a bit confusing to who the secret identity is. After his parents die young Bruce embarks upon a mission to train himself to fight crime. He learns martial arts, the sciences. He trains himself to be the world’s best detective. He uses his wealth to build the various gadgets and vehicles he’ll need. The only reason he uses a costume is that he needed something that would help install fear in his enemies. In the meantime he portrays Bruce Wayne as a carefree party animal. It raises the question which is really the secret identity. Batman or Bruce Wayne. There is a case to be made that the real person here is the one who goes out dressed up as a bat. It was this blurred line that I wanted to install in my novel with the male and female alter egos being blurred to who was the real person and who was the lie. Which identity hid the real person? Like in Spider-man 2 I wanted this to be a struggle between the two identities.
I’m going to side step a minute to talk about Batman. There is something fascinating about him so much so that I had thought about doing a blog just on him. I think as kids many of us have a superhero we’d like to be mainly because they have some great power. But with Batman he becomes a hero though hard work, determination and discipline. He is (if rather unlikely) a hero that anyone could become. After all anyone could train in martial arts. Others can train their minds to solve complex crimes or become a forensic expert. And with money you could use technology to build gadgets. Batman represents the pinnacle of what mankind could achieve without the added benefits of some supernatural ability. Obviously there are many other heroes that fall into this category and Batman is simply an example of one. The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the earliest. But there is a realism to these types of hero even if the feats they perform are not and today there are some people out there that do go out as costumed heroes.
Anyway returning to the themes of my novel for a moment while the Batman/Bruce Wayne theme runs through it the dream sequence has Supergirl. Why? Well when you think about it Supergirl (and for that matter Superman) is the secret identity. It is in fact Kara (and Clark) who is the mask with which she hide behind. For my character it is telling him to discard the secret identity he is hiding under and emerge as the more powerful true alter ego.
There are I’m guessing many people out there that have secret identities or wish they had. Some may want to be heroes. Some just may want to be a different version of themselves. And some may want to be the person they would love to be but are too scared to be that person. They have to go into the real world hiding their real selves away. For those brave enough to dare take their alter ego out into the world there is of course the real fear that their secret identity may be found out. And to those who have had their Supergirl/Superman moment I say well done even if tinted with more than a hint of jealousy.
Of course it is lucky that for my character that he can pass easily for a woman even though he carries the fear of being found out. There is of course a bit of myself woven throughout the novel. Well they say to write about what you know. For myself I’ve been pushing my boundaries a little bit. Kind of testing my abilities. Little trials hidden in darkness. No great launch of my alter ego into the world. (Although I really would like a supergirl fancy dress outfit) Rather like Bruce Wayne I would have to put in a lot of disciplined hard work first. No magical way to transform myself in a blaze of energy into someone different and I’m still not sure who I really am yet anyway. I’ll carry on for the moment living in my secret identity. Maybe one day one of the pics on here will be ‘me’.