Their alter egos have alter egos
Sometimes one alter ego just isn’t enough.
Superheroes have been known to take on an additional costumed persona (or four) in an effort to fight the good fight, protect their identity or deal with a mental breakdown.
Bruce Wayne, of course, spends most of his nights dressed like a bat, beating and scaring various bodily substances out of criminals. But some investigations call for a little more subtlety, so Batman has been known to go undercover as low-level criminal Matches Malone. In “Batman” #588-590, writer Brian K. Vaughan revealed Malone was a real guy whose identity Batman assumed after his death, which turned out to have been faked.
During “Batman R.I.P.,” the hero donned a red, yellow and purple costume when a backup persona, the “Batman of Zur-En-Arrh” activated in response to a mental attack. It was one of writer Grant Morrison’s many nods to the trippy stories of the 1950s, including one featuring an alien Batman on the planet Zur-En-Arrh.
In addition to being Superman, Clark Kent moonlighted as the vigilante Gangbuster in the late’80s. When fellow hero Guardian unmasked the violent crimefighter in “Adventures of Superman” #450, it came as a surprise to the Man of Steel too, who had unknowingly developed the alternate personality as a result of recent trauma.
Spider-Man presumably knew what he was doing when he adopted four new costumes and power sets – Dusk, Hornet, Prodigy and Ricochet – while wanted for murder in the 1998 storyline “Identity Crisis.” He discarded those aliases after clearing his name, but the costumes were later used by four youths who formed a short-lived team called the Slingers.
In the early issues of the recent “Mighty Avengers,” a mysterious figure in a knockoff Spider-Man costume joined the battle against Thanos’ forces on Earth. Still wanting to hide his real identity, he ditched the “Spider-Hero” outfit for the garb of Ronin, which had been used by previous Avengers Echo and Hawkeye. This new Ronin was later revealed to be Blade, as the monster hunter had been trying to keep a low profile while preparing to take on the Deathwalkers.
Ronin was the third heroic identity adopted by Hawkeye, who long ago utilized Giant-Man’s Pym particles to give himself size-changing powers, apparently believing the hype that bows and arrows alone weren’t enough to hang with the rest of the Avengers. Echo originated the identity when assisting the New Avengers against the Hand, though many fans assumed it was actually Daredevil behind the mask.
Bruce Banner often tried to keep his alter ego as the Hulk a secret, but after he was presumed dead in a gamma bomb explosion, the then-gray Hulk resurfaced in Las Vegas as Mr. Fixit, an enforcer for casino owner Michael Berengetti, during Peter David’s legendary run.
During that time, the Hulk crossed paths with Wolverine, who was hiding out in Madripoor under the alias Patch. He did Superman’s Clark Kent disguise one better by wearing an eyepatch.
Iron Fist wasn’t trying to protect his identity when he put on Daredevil’s costume in 2006; he was hired by Matt Murdock’s law partner Foggy Nelson to play the part while Murdock was in prison after his identity was revealed to the world. Iron Fist maintained the role through “Civil War.”
Booster Gold faked his own death in the weekly “52” series and operated as the new hero Supernova while trying to figure out what caused his robot sidekick Skeets to go rogue. The ruse helped him avert a multiverse-threatening plot by the villain Mr. Mind, and his present-day ancestor took over the Supernova costume.
Perhaps the greatest case of additional alter egos happened in the late ’90s when a new team called the Thunderbolts stepped in to fill the void left when the Avengers and Fantastic Four apparently died fighting the villain Onslaught. In a twist that likely wouldn’t have survived beyond its initial release date (if it made it that long) today, thanks to Internet spoilers, the new heroes were revealed at the end of their first issue to be members of the Masters of Evil. Most ended up preferring the heroic lifestyle and eventually remained on the side of the angels, more or less.
Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn riffed on this idea after rebranding himself a hero during “Secret Invasion.” He debuted his own team in “Dark Avengers,” featuring Moonstone as Ms. Marvel, Wolverine’s son Daken standing in for his dad, the Mac Gargan iteration of Venom as Spider-Man and Osborn himself as the red, white and blue Iron Patriot. Most of those guys stayed bad.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group” and has only the one identity. That we know of.