Critical Paper Rough Draft

Superman has been long held as the original superhero. He is the first to break out into the genre and really stick. We have seen his story told over the past 80 years, and he is one of the most recognizable figures in American culture. And yet, from his conception there has been the desire to hide him, to keep him hidden. His alter ego/secret identity Clark Kent is introduced within five pages of his comic. Throughout the comics he continues to go back and fourth between these two identities. He keeps his identity as Superman secret, while living daily as Clark Kent. A complete 180 from his super identity, Clark is “a mild-mannered reporter” who can’t seem to be tough enough to impress his love interest Lois Lane (DC Comics). He is a little clumsy and seems to be very shy. In these early comics Lois cannot stand Clark, yet pines over Superman, unaware that they are the same person. Presenting himself as Clark only seems to put him at a disadvantage. It keeps him separated from the girl he likes and causes him to have to keep the secret of, what I believe is his true identity.

Before Superman becomes Clark, he begins his life as Kal-El. He was born on the planet Krypton and given that name there. Upon his arrival on Earth his super strength increases, and from infancy he is “Super”. The alias of Clark Kent is created around him to hide his identity, yet it is neither of his true identities. It is not his Kal-El given name, nor is it who he truly is as a character. He must “put on a mask” so to speak (his glasses) and hide his true self. This character does Superman a disservice, because it alienates him further than the alien he already is. There is no identity to protect, at least in the earliest comics, because there are no established villains outside of typical human issues (rich fat cats for example). The effect of Superman being known as such doesn’t seem to be very threatening. In fact, it would only help him to not be the shy and goofy Clark Kent. It is very odd that such a powerful character would take on such a wimpy persona. The true him is not a wimp by any stretch of the imagination, so why feel the need to play one? This affects his life at work as well as his love life. If he were to be revealed as Superman, he could live freely as himself, and not a made up alias so diametrically opposed to his true self.

The superhero Spider-Man, however, differs from Superman here. While Superman has always been super, making that his true identity, Spider-Man was first Peter Parker. He lived as Peter Parker for fifteen years before that fateful day when the radioactive spider bit him. Upon becoming Spider-Man he must now reconcile the two parts of him. He is both still Peter, while also adding on to his true self. This contrasts Superman, as he had always been super and created Clark Kent. Peter Parker had always been that, but then becomes a superhero, making that his alternate identity, but one that can still go with who he is as a person. It doesn’t change his personality so far from himself that he is no longer recognizable. Both Peter and Spidey flow together very nicely. They share the same morals and perspectives on life. From an audience standpoint, Spidey and Parker are reconcilable characters. Neither side has to put on an act in order to portray the other. They go hand in hand with what the other feels. Superman, however, is not like this. He has created up an alternate identity for himself that is not reconcilable with his superhero self. It must be kept very separate and consciously different. Superman and Clark do not share very many qualities.

Here I want to go more in depth about the secret identity as a convention of superheroes. Why it is important/why it isn’t. There is potential here to bring up superheroes that either lack an alias (are only known as their superhero self) or who are known as who they were before becoming super and who they are after. And example of the latter is Captain America, as his identity is publically known. He is still a successful superhero, despite people knowing who he is. Same goes for Iron Man. The convention of the secret identity seems to be outgrown at a certain point. (Possibly bring up how the convention is made fun of in The Incredibles—they only need put on an eye mask and suddenly their identities are hidden).

Works Cited/Referenced

“Captain America.” Marvel. Marvel Comics, n.d. Web. 29 April 2015.

Lee, Stan and Steve Ditko. Amazing Fantasy #15. Web.

Seigel, Jerry and Joe Shuster. Superman #53. Web.

Siegel, Jerry and Joe Shuster. The Superman Chronicles. New York: DC Comics, 2013.


“Spider-Man.” Marvel. Marvel Comics, n.d. Web. 29 April 2015.

“Superman.” DC. DC Comics, n.d. Web. 29 April 2015.

***Thank you for taking the time out to read my paper! I know this is a VERY rough draft. I still feel very uncertain about how to go about arguing my perspective with research. Professor Hatfield has directed me to some very great works from the library, but unfortunately my schedule this week has not allowed me to get over there yet. For my final draft I of course will have many more academic sources, as well as a complete paper. If you have read my paper and believe you have any sort of input or help for me, PLEASE comment below! I am looking for as much feedback and input as possible. I know that what I have written above is not a solid paper, but I am looking at it as more of a very detailed outline, or at least an outline written to look like a paper. Again, thank you for reading, and please do not hesitate to critique, give feedback, or any input for that matter!

Critical Paper Rough Draft

6 thoughts on “Critical Paper Rough Draft

  1. charleshatfield says:

    Maddy, glad to see your rough draft here. I’ll get back to you with feedback over the next week. I hope some of your classmates will too. – Prof. Hatfield


  2. Malek Al-Marayati says:


    I love the idea of comparing transformations from one identity into the other. I did not realize that Superman created Clark as a reaction to his true “super” self while, on the other hand, Peter Parker existed before Spiderman existed. If you’re looking for an argument to explore further in your paper, I would suggest considering the development of the transformed identity of the superhero. Like you mentioned briefly, Spiderman developed from Peter Parker, and Clark Kent developed from Superman. You could argue how Clark Kent develops in character since this persona was more or less created by Superman, and how Spiderman develops in character since his persona was created by Peter Parker. You could even go further and support the differences in these developments among superhero/human identities as they are transformed in origin stories.

    Looking forward to seeing the rest of it! I hope this helped 🙂


  3. Hello Maddy, so what I got out of your paper if I am reading it correctly is that your thesis appears to be how the origin of superpowers plays a part in the concept of the secret identity. Which is why some superheroes have secret identities persona that could arguably be completely inter-changeable with their super alter ego because the perosnality remains the same. An interesting approach to take might be whether having to have constantly play a role vastly different from their true self so to speak affects their level of emotional/mental stability. Interesting observations should make a fun read, Good luck.


  4. Hi Maddy! I think you have a solid start for your paper. Secret identities are definitely a topic worth discussing in further detail. I think your paper could definitely distinguish the importance or unimportance of superheroes with secret identities versus superheroes who don’t have secret identities. You could also incorporate the use of costumes in relation to secret identities and if you do the article we read in class “Secret Skin” by Michael Chabon will definitely be helpful to you. Can’t wait to read your final paper. Good luck!


  5. Hi Maddy,

    I think you have a great start! Superman is so well-known even for people who haven’t read the comics and is indeed a popular culture icon. I think the idea of secret identities can show so many possibilities from different perspectives. In Superman’s case, he does not necessarily need to keep his identity a secret in my opinion because he looks white and seems to fit in as Clark Kent so he doesn’t have it as tough as people who are marginalized. Moreover, people who are marginalized have to keep parts of their identity a secret to navigate through a society that is often cruel. I’m so glad you’re talking about Spider-Man! I think Peter Parker needs to keep his identity a secret because he is already treated as an outsider for being smarter than other kids. I think the comparison and contrast of both of these characters can show that someone who is supposed to be the other can show his identity but a person who wouldn’t be deemed as the “other” needs to hide.
    You have a promising focus and I hope these comments helped!

    Best of luck!



  6. Hey Maddy,
    First of all I think you have a very interesting topic and definitely the right ideas to starting a solid paper. From what I gathered it seems as though you are exploring the impact that secret identities have with the superheroes. I think that that your two superheroes Spiderman and Superman are great examples to use but also think you could involve more superheroes and even compare how their crime fighting ways differ from each other. Is there a specific decade or time period where secret identities start to become less prevalent? You mention that superheroes like Captain America and Iron Man are very successful despite not having a secret identity, are you also going to argue that it is more beneficial to not have a secret identity?
    I think something to keep in mind would be the importance of the secret identity and the history behind them. Personally superheroes with secret identities were always so engaging because they made their audiences want to have an alternate self. The idea that someone like Clark Kent could be Superman is fun. Maybe having a section discussing the pros and cons of having a secret identity would help frame your argument. Another interesting point to touch on would be analyzing those superheroes whose identities have been known. Captain America for instance really had no choice but to have his identity revealed. Do you think that when Kal-El came to Earth and he had to disclose who he was, he would be a better superhero?
    Another route you could explore in a pro and cons section, if you choose to do so, is the benefit of not being known as a superhero. If some criminal were to get away from the scene of a crime in Spiderman’s side of town everyone would blame Spiderman, not Peter Parker. If the same situation were to happen with Iron Man, Tony Stark would be receiving all of the blame.
    What is so important about having a secret identity that is reconcilable with your true identity?
    You ask the question “The true him is not a wimp by any stretch of the imagination, so why feel the need to play one?” but do not respond with an answer. Explain why you think he would choose to act in such a way. You also mention that being Clark Kent puts him at a disadvantage in terms of wooing Lois. Is this the only disadvantage he’s placed in? It was my understanding that Superman wanted to feel human interaction hence why he choose to work in reporting and keep his secret identity.
    Your topic is most definitely interesting and hopefully these notes help. I think you are on your way to a great paper. Keep at it.


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