10 Years Later: Iron Man's Most Important Moment Wasn't Nick Fury

Ben Affleck as Batman in Justice League

The Deconstruction Of Secret Identities Hurt DC

The lack of secret identities is, thus, one of many aspects that have led to Marvel's unprecedented success, and probably one of its most undervalued; the fact Iron Man's ending is remembered more for Nick Fury says it all. Still, we have seen it co-opted by other franchises; Fantastic Four was never as focused on this aspect, but the 2015 reboot barely glanced with assumed names; Logan exists in a world where X-Men are in the past; Deadpool is all about confronting the villain's real identity.

Read More: The Biggest (And Best) Change The MCU Has Made To Spider-Man

But it isn't always immediately an aware move, and this can be best seen in the impact it had on DC. Already in Man of Steel, the DCEU had a distance from the concept, with Superman equal parts Kal-El and Clark Kent before him taking on the thick glasses at the very end. That fit the story's themes of identity and addressed in part one of the longest-standing jokes about Supes. The problems came when applying this approached to Batman. Bruce Wayne not revealing himself as the Caped Crusader is important two-fold; it keeps his interests safe, but more importantly fuels the unknowing fear of The Bat. To know who it is, even a mentally unstable billionaire, removes his key attack.

However, in part seemingly influenced by the popular consciousnesses' shift away from alter egos, it's a background concern for Batfleck - both in the writing and as a character. In Batman v Superman, it was made clear the secret wasn't sacred to the writers; Lex Luthor - among several others - finds out Bruce Wayne is the Dark Knight, yet uses it as a minor part of an elaborate plan. Then, in Justice League, Bruce comes to share the flippancy, telling anybody who'll listen he's Batman: a pre-signup Barry Allen, an entire Icelandic village, and by the end just about the entire world when he makes Wayne Manor the Hall of Justice. Through all this, the scripts just assumed the identity was still secret. It pushes credulity, taking the character away from the source seemingly only because that's the done thing elsewhere.

Related: A Complete History Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe

This is a root of Justice League's problem; it had none of the finesse in the conception of all its characters, and that's felt in the team's interactions (no doubt hampered by having two directors' input). In stark contrast to the clear lines of The Avengers, it felt confused and stilted - and appears to be down to a lack of awareness of the trope. You can ditch a secret identity, but you need to be aware of what that pragmatically means; as Feige said, writers must rise to the challenge.


Marvel's move away from secret identities may seem innocuous enough on a case-by-case basis, but as the fundamental grounding for a soon-to-be-nineteen-movie behemoth, it's one of the most important story choices in the genre - and probably the reason the so-called formula has proven so hard to break. No matter if Thanos really does snap his fingers in Avengers: Infinity War, it's unlikely he'll be able to do anything as seismic as Tony Stark simply saying "I am Iron Man".

Next: Avengers Theory: Why Thanos Is Only Attacking NOW

Key Release Dates
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
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