Mr. Furious: That's because Lance Hunt is Captain Amazing.Clark Kenting is the process by which a Secret Identity and/or cover story is maintained over a long period of time by asking the audience to go along with a Paper-Thin Disguise. This is also asked of the other characters in the story, with no excuses, basically asking everyone to “just go with it.” For the most part, it’s a way to make it clear to the audience that the two identities are the same person, but people in-story can’t tell them apart. The trope is named after Clark Kent, Superman's alter ego, who basically looks like Superman in a suit and glasses. However, Superman can actually pull it off to great effect, leading to the idea that sometimes the best way to maintain a Secret Identity is to hide it in plain sight. Compare Paper-Thin Disguise. See also Cassandra Truth, Clark Kent Outfit, Cover-Blowing Superpower, Master of Delusion, Secret Identity Vocal Shift and Sarcastic Confession.
The Shoveller: Don't start that again. Lance Hunt wears glasses. Captain Amazing doesn't wear glasses.
Mr. Furious: He takes them off when he transforms.
The Shoveller: That doesn't make any sense. He wouldn't be able to see!
The Shoveller: Don't start that again. Lance Hunt wears glasses. Captain Amazing doesn't wear glasses.
Mr. Furious: He takes them off when he transforms.
The Shoveller: That doesn't make any sense. He wouldn't be able to see!
open/close all folders
Superman is the Trope Namer, but his use of the trope has evolved over the years and picked up a number of nuances.
- The earliest Superman comics portrayed Superman as more shadowy and mysterious (and morally ambiguous); as such, he's only ever seen very briefly as Superman. Then, as Superman started to interact more with the outside world, writers started to realize that people who interact with both Superman and Clark Kent on a regular basis might put two and two together (Lois Lane in particular). That couldn't happen, as the Anthropic Principle essentially requires Lois never to make the connection to preserve the Love Triangle. Silver Age comics tried to get around this by giving him minor shapeshifting powers (or "super facial muscle control"), or at least having him move so quickly that nobody could get a good look at him.
- But at the same time, they were also moving Superman to the radio and the big screen, and producers discovered that if you had a really good actor, it was entirely possible — and believable — to make Superman and Clark Kent totally different people. Voice actor Bud Collyer surprised everyone by doing both Clark and Superman, bot on the radio (The Adventures of Superman) and in cartoons (Superman Theatrical Cartoons and The New Adventures of Superman). The radio producers originally wanted different voice actors for Clark and Superman before Collyer proved it could be done. Christopher Reeve also portrayed Clark and Superman completely differently for the film series, and audiences had no trouble accepting the disguise; this clip is a good example.
- Since the 1970s, the Clark Kent disguise has solidified as working for a number of reasons, most of which you can’t really see on a comic page, as described in a number of different Superman works:
- Superman generally uses utterly different body language, mannerisms, and tone of voice as Clark Kent. Acquaintances might notice that Clark kind of looks like Superman, but they would never believe they were actually the same guy. All-Star Superman runs with this to great effect; he even once pulls off “Superman disguised as Clark”.
- Some comics claimed that as Clark Kent, Superman would unconsciously use a mild form of super-hypnosis with his glasses to make him look like a different person. This explanation would be dropped when it turned out to raise more questions than it answered.
- Several works suggest that his costume stood out so much that people tended to ignore his face and focus on the costume, like the big letter S. Superman: Birthright proposed that his eyes were literally blazing and the Clark Kent glasses blurred them significantly. And Lois and Clark cheekily suggested that people were more drawn to Superman’s tight shorts. It also helps that he’s The Nondescript, so even if anybody did look at his face, there was nothing very memorable about him anyway.
- Most Post-Crisis comics suggest that nobody even knows Superman has a civilian Secret Identity to begin with (as opposed to in the Silver Age, when everyone assumed he did). People just accept that Superman is an alien named Kal-El who escaped his planet’s destruction and lives in his Fortress of Solitude. And since he doesn’t wear a mask, nobody suspects he has anything to hide (Batman even gave him kudos for that one).
- Superman: Earth One implies that Superman and Clark use different accents, with Superman affecting an East Coast accent as if he were from Metropolis (assuming it is on the East Coast), and Clark using his natural Midwestern accent he picked up growing up in Kansas.
- The Supergirl From Krypton shows Superman’s cousin Kara’s theory: Clark explains the importance of a secret identity, and Kara asks how a pair of glasses can fool everybody. Then she sees a Superman statue and realizes that nobody recognizes her cousin because they see him as a quasi-mythical bigger-than-life figure.
Kara: This is how they see you.
Clark: I guess... It's very flattering, but I don't really think about it.
Kara: You're their champion. Bigger than life. No wonder the eyeglasses work — Nobody would look for you dressed like them!
- Superman has been known to be in the same place as Clark Kent. In the Silver Age, he could find all sorts of lookalikes to stand in for him, from his Kandorian cousin to a film actor to robots in his likeness. Post-Crisis stories would have shapeshifters do the work for them.
- A recent development suggests that nobody really knows who Clark Kent is anyway; if they did, they would only know him as a byline. In New 52, Superman turns down a TV job because that would reveal to many more people what he looks like. (This is in contrast to Lois and Clark, where by Season 3 Clark was the Daily Planet’s star reporter with posters of him all over the city, and nobody makes the connection).
- The villains naturally have an incentive to try to see who Superman really is, but they tend not to suspect that he could disguise himself as such an unremarkable civilian. An early John Byrne story had Lex Luthor hiring a computer expert to try to find the link between Clark and Superman (his original theory that they’re closely linked somehow); when the computer concludes that Superman and Clark were the same person, Luthor couldn’t fathom that and fired the analyst for believing it so quickly. All-Star Superman also had a scene where Clark interviews Luthor, and Luthor never suspects that he’s talking to his arch-nemesis, even as Clark is surreptitiously using his powers to control a nearby riot.
- Some people might know the identities but say nothing, perhaps to protect Superman from his enemies. In Batman Hush, Batman suspects Perry White is too good a reporter not to know who Clark is, but doesn't say anything for this reason.
- Discussed by Clark and Lois in Superman: Brainiac:
Clark: I don't need X-Ray Vision to tell me when someone's hiding behind a disguise.
Lois: Me either.
Clark: Only if it's not right in front of your face.
Lois: I would've figured it out. Eventually.
Clark: You keep believing that.
- In one '90s storyline where Jimmy Olsen thought he'd discovered Superman's secret identity, but backed out of revealing it on TV at the last minute, Cat Grant and another reporter dismissed the idea it was any of the three people he'd proposed in the lead-up.
Cat: Clark's been photographed with Superman, and besides...
Ralph: He's Clark Kent.
- And, naturally, it's all been lampshaded before:
- A retrospective on Superman's fiftieth birthday revealed that one fellow in Metropolis did catch on — Superman's drycleaner.
Suffice it to say, I’ve never seen them come in here together.
- A Justice League of America book had a parody of Spy Magazine's "Separated at Birth?' feature comparing Clark Kent and Superman.
- One Silver Age Villain of the Week was a Kandorian criminal who used a "face-changing machine" to resemble Superman. At one point, he tries to disguise himself as a civilian with a business suit, fedora, and glasses. Needless to say, Superman found him quickly anyway.
- The animated Superman: Doomsday subverts the trope; Lois knows full well that Clark is Superman, and she's annoyed with Clark for refusing to admit it to her.
- In this clip from Superman: The Animated Series, Clark admits to being Superman to Lois, but claims he only does it to scoop stories from her. He even lowers his glasses!
- Smallville had a scene where Clark meets his future self and is taken aback by the glasses and slicked-back hair.
- Lampshaded in this comic◊, where Superman finally reveals his identity to Lana and Lois — and dumps them both for being too dumb to see through the disguise.
- Clark ran into a problem when he came back from the dead (it's a long story) and had to explain why he disappeared for so long. He and Lois brainstorm a lot of ideas before deciding that Clark was trapped under a fallen building for a month (which had happened for real to other people). But some of the weirder suggestions were wandering the country with Easy Amnesia, or alien abduction, to which Lois says:
Lois: No offense, honey, but who would fall for such stupid stories?
Clark: Um, you did, Lois. All the time.
- In Blackest Night Flash and Green Lantern are talking of how Lantern has only a small mask rather than a cowl like Flash.
Green Lantern: Clark doesn't wear a mask.
Flash: Clark slouches, drops his voice an octave and wears suits two sizes too large.
- Saturday Night Live poked fun at the trope by having Superman (played by big Superman fan Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) being so bad at his disguise that you could see his Superman suit sticking out of his Clark Kent disguise. His friends all know his secret identity, but they decide to screw with him and claim that Superman is gay.
- In the popular Elseworlds series Justice League: The Nail, Kal-El was found not by Jonathan and Martha Kent (whose car got a flat tire from running over a nail) but by an Amish family. After his adoptive parents were killed by the book's big villain, Kal took on the identity of Superman and joined the Justice League. In the sequel, "Another Nail", Kal is encouraged to take some time off. The Kents put together a disguise so he could blend in with the public. Their costume included a false beard and mustache that made him look rather creepy. Lois Lane then helped Kal with his disguise, suggesting a "less is more" approach; glasses, loose fitting clothes and a slight stoop to the shoulders. The disguise was essentially the classic Clark Kent look, prompting Kal to say, "You don't seriously think this is going to fool anyone?"
- In one pre-Crisis story, Superman is to be featured on a postage stamp. He goes to great lengths to make sure that a side shot of him is chosen, rather than a full-face view, because if the stamp was postmarked in a town with a double-O in its name, the letters might land on his face in such a way that they resemble a pair of glasses, which might give away his secret identity. Presumably kids in the DC universe never doodle glasses and mustaches on newspaper photos, which might also be a bit of a clue.
- MAD did several parodies:
- In a strip by Don Martin, Clark replaces his glasses with contact lenses, causing a receptionist at the Daily Planet to suddenly realize he was Superman all along.
- Clark is depicted as having Superman's muscles nearly bursting out of his suit, and his cape sticking out of the back a little, commenting on what a Paper-Thin Disguise it was.
- The Captain Ersatz Superduperman eventually reveals to "Lois Pain" that he's really "Clark Bent", who behaves almost exactly opposite of the obnoxiously self-confident muscleman Superduperman. Lois responds by walking over him and saying "Big deal. You're still a creep."
- Superman: Secret Identity, an Elseworld story set in the real world where a man named after the fictional Clark Kent gets similar powers, takes great pains to avert this. When out saving people, Clark makes sure to never let anyone see his face. He wears the Superman costume to make the witness accounts all the more ridiculous and unbelievable. Halfway through the series, he does take to wearing fake glasses in his civilian identity, but only because he was temporarily captured and doesn't want whoever did it recognizing him while passing him on the street (and he gets a lot of jokes about it at work). He's not trying to prevent people who know him personally from recognizing him, he's trying to prevent people who saw him unconscious and imprisoned from recognizing him if he has the bad luck to bump into them on the street. When he does meet people face-to-face in costume, he uses makeup and forms to alter his features enough to be unrecognizable and burns his fingerprints off of anything he handles in front of them. Despite all this, Agent Malloy still figures out his real identity.
- This text conversation between Lex Luthor and Metallo suggests that Superman's Rogues Gallery at large knows about his secret identity, but they don't think there's any way to take advantage of it; after all, if he’s busy with his day job, that’s more helpful to them than anything.
- Discussed in Superman: Secret Origin. Lois, after analyzing Clark thoroughly, quickly realizes that this mild-mannered reporter may simply be putting on an act. The bad suit, the slouching, the meek persona, the fumbling around, the large glasses that obstruct his face. She then flat-out asks him, "You want to be underestimated, don't you?"
- A retrospective on Superman's fiftieth birthday revealed that one fellow in Metropolis did catch on — Superman's drycleaner.
- But sometimes, it’s lampshaded so hard or ineptly that it’s a wonder nobody ever figured it out:
- Lois and Clark liked to mine the resemblance for jokes without the characters really behaving realistically. Lois tries to describe Superman to a sketch artist only to create a dead ringer for Clark, but she never makes the connection. Superman is thrown to Earth naked by an asteroid he’s trying to divert from the planet by force, and once he gets a pair of glasses (in a contrived way), everyone thinks they’ve found Clark instead of the now-absent Superman. It tried to explain things with shapeshifters and Alternate Universe counterparts, making things weirder, although Dean Cain generally did a good job making Superman and Clark distinct.
- A Silver Age comic has Clark scouted to play Superman in a movie. Everyone on set notices the resemblance, but nobody suspects anything. A full summary is available here.
- And different Superman stories might have their own constraints:
- Smallville is defined by its “No Tights, No Flights” rule, so strictly speaking, there’s no “Superman” identity. In the appropriately-named “Identity”, Jimmy Olsen accidentally catches Clark saving him and Lois on camera, but Clark is moving too quickly to be seen clearly. Chloe encourages him to adopt a superhero identity, the “Red-Blue Blur” (as that’s all anyone could see). Clark uses this strategy to protect his identity. By “Masquerade”, he has also adopted his “bespectacled wimp” persona.
- Man of Steel deconstructed and reconstructed the trope. Clark goes through a number of different disguises and identities, including copious facial hair, slouching, many a Nice Hat, and different names. This doesn’t prevent Lois from tracking him down anyway. By the time Clark starts working at the Daily Planet and adopting the classic Clark Kent glasses-and-bad-suit disguise, he’s keeping it a secret from everyone except Lois, who won’t tell anyone anyway.
- "The Pursuit", a commercial for the Lenovo Yoga, features this. Pay close attention.
Anime and Manga
- Spoofed in Sekirei. Homuras mouth cover would be moderately effective to hide his identity from people he only meets in the middle of battle once or twice, can’t really get a close look at him and have little or no chance to encounter him in his Kagari persona. He’s nevertheless absolutely baffled by the fact that Tsukiumi and Musubi, both of whom he lives with and have seen him very close-up in and out of disguise, can’t seem to figure it out. Musubi briefly wonders if she has seen Homura somewhere else, but being… well, a moron, she dismisses the thought because “Kagari doesn’t wear a mask”.
- Subverted in Busou Renkin. During the attack to the school, Kazuki tries to disguise himself with a scarf covering his face but it doesn't work. Why? Turns out his friends have known him so long they can recognize him as Kazuki from afar just by the way he walks and don't even need to see his face.
- In Harlem Beat, Shu of Three Men is the alter ego of Sakurai Shuuji. Their only differences are the shades and attitude.
- Spoofed at the end of the Pretty Sammy TV series, where the entire class reveals that they knew that Sasami was Sammy, but figured they weren't supposed to talk about it.
- Played straight in the Pretty Sammy OVA series - this was one of the main reasons why Sasami didn't want to be Pretty Sammy (the other was that the costume is ridiculous). However, when she goes on her first fight, no one recognizes her, so she takes it as a good sign. However, there were only three OVAs made, so it's not known if they would have went the TV route.
- In fact, most Magical Girls look similar to their civilian counterparts, and before the 2000s, they usually looked exactly the same. Modern series like Tokyo Mew Mew, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch and Futari wa Pretty Cure tend to change the characters' hair colour, eye colour and hairstyle to something extravagant enough that it would certainly distract any onlooker enough not to notice the magical girl's identical face. Maybe it wouldn't matter much if they did, anyway.
- Tokyo Mew Mew is a particularly odd case, considering that, in their Mew Mew forms, the Mew Mews only add a "Mew" to their first name (e.g. Mew Ichigo) and somehow that prevents people from figuring it out — granted, in the manga (the original Japanese version anyway), the names aren't written the same, but this doesn't matter when it's shouted across the street. Though, in both versions, Ichigo's crush Masaya nearly recognizes her in her transformed form, and later figures out her identity. Another exception is that Minto was able to recognize the mysterious Mew Mew as her idol/crush Zakuro.
- Futari wa Pretty Cure subverts the trope because regardless of their hair changes in color and style the enemy quickly figure out who the Pretty Cure are. As early as episode 3 Pisard simply follows some girls he sees wearing the same school uniforms as the cures and picks them out in a crowd. From then on they are attacked personally whether in civilian form or not. This continues up through Heartcatch with the only people unaware of who the Pretty Cures are are their family and friends. The enemy knows who they are from the start.
- And Smile Pretty Cure! averts this big time - everyone who's snapped out of the Bad End spell easily recognizes the Cures. It doesn't help that Miyuki can't keep her big mouth shut.
- The Pretty Cure All Stars movies also avert this through different means. The first movie have the girls figure out who was who after realizing they were going to places the others usually hung out at in their series. The second through fourth movies, their secrets are blown by their fairy companions, particularly DX 3 and New Stage, where Hummy's actions lead to them putting two and two together.
- It was pointed out, though, in Yes! Pretty Cure 5, that their costumes did absolutely nothing to hide who they were, and panicked when they spotted the school reporter around. However, Natts usually steps in and uses his charm to woo her and get her to forget about capturing the girls on film.
- HeartCatch Pretty Cure! has this with the fairies: whenever they need to be around the girls and not raise suspicious, they tend to just go limp and act like dolls and no one really questions why three teenaged girls are toting around strange dolls (though Itsuki does get a pass somewhat - around that time, she was starting to really loosen up). The only time the fairies don't act like this is around little kids.
- In Suite Pretty Cure ♪, they are three people who tries Clark Kenting. The first one is Ako Shirabe/Cure Muse/Princess of Major Land would make Clark Kent green with envy — switch her personality to a Deadpan Snarker. It work like the charm.
- As long as her airheadedness doesn't get in the way, the second one — Hammy, the Cat-Fairy — can Clark Kenting as a originally Earth cat.
- Averted with the third one — Ellen/Siren — in the first episode.
- Happiness Charge Pretty Cure manages to break the land speed record here, with Megumi and Hime having their identities uncovered by a civilian within the first three episodes.
- This trope applies mostly to Magical Girl Warriors, though. Non-Sentai Magical Girls of the transforming variety such as Creamy Mami, Magical Emi and Minky Momo look radically different in their transformed state.
- Justified in Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, an Affectionate Parody of Magical Girls (with boys): the alien technology that makes them Magical Boys also makes it so that people see their faces blurred out and their voices altered. Their villainous counterparts have similar abilities.
- Every disguise put on by Team Rocket for the main characters, ever. In fact, the only "disguise" the main characters didn't fall for was "invisible suits" consisting of black suits with veils over their faces, and those managed to fool James's parents (the joke is somewhat Lost in Translation, as said "invisible suits" are actually outfits worn by bunraku puppeteers, who by tradition are ignored by the audience as they perform). Except when they're using a disguise for something wholly nonthreatening, like Pokémon contests. During contests, Ash and Brock occasionally speculate that Jessilina is actually Jessie, then hand wave it (mostly because Jessie only ever has two useful Pokémon at a time and the heroes recognize them when used).
- In-universe celebrities Diantha and Aria of the Kalos arc don low-key outfits in public. One of the openings has a scene where a disguised Diantha passes the group looking at one of her movie posters unnoticed.◊
- Himouto! Umaru-chan multiple times:
- When it looks like Kirie has discovered her double life, Umaru is able to fool her into thinking that her home self is actually her little sister "Komaru".
- Umaru hides her identity for a game tournament by pulling on a domino mask and tucking her long hair into a cap, becoming "U.M.R." It convinces Sylphin, who recruits her to... help her beat Umaru.
- Kirie fools her own brother during a trip to an aquarium by wearing a straw hat.
- Spoofed in Mai-HiME. Akira tries Clark Kenting as the "Secret Ninja of the School", but is immediately recognized by Takumi and proceeds to deny her true identity.
- In Detective Conan, after being shrunk to a grade-school kid, the title character does the same thing as Clark Kent: wears a pair of glasses to hide his identity. It usually works well, until he slips up and says information he shouldn't have known unless he was really Shinichi Kudo, who was supposed to be a distant relative. This leads to his girlfriend, Ran, becoming suspicious of him several times, but she always ends up discrediting her own finds because the evidence doesn't quite match up, due to some outside interference (usually planned by the protagonist himself). In one scene, when the character Ai Haibara returns to her original age, Conan offers her his glasses as disguise, saying that they work well enough for Clark Kent. The response from Ai is, "So are you saying you're Superman now?"
- Parodied in Dragon Half: A giant, winged demon tries to disguise himself by putting on a pair of glasses. Nobody is fooled for a moment.
- Subverted in Dragon Ball Z. Not only does Gohan's future girlfriend/wife Videl figure out that he is the "Great Saiyaman" in about 2 minutes (slightly longer in the anime version), she also figures out that he's the son of the last winner of the "Strongest Under the Heavens" tourney before her dad. His classmates take a little longer, but only just.
- Played straight with Master Roshi as Jackie Chun, though — he removes his usual shades and puts on a wig. The disguise is completed by his demeanor: Roshi walks with a hunch and usually has a goofy grin on his face, whereas Chun is serious and straight-backed, with a Reverse Arm-Fold most of the time. He also has much narrower eyes than would befit a comedic character.
- However, Yamcha figures that one out easily enough, though he can't convince anyone because Roshi superglued the wig to his head and called in a favor to have someone stand in the audiance dressed as him, and Goku, who is not noted for his ability to read people, figures out that Jackie Chun is related to Master Roshi.
- Played straight with Master Roshi as Jackie Chun, though — he removes his usual shades and puts on a wig. The disguise is completed by his demeanor: Roshi walks with a hunch and usually has a goofy grin on his face, whereas Chun is serious and straight-backed, with a Reverse Arm-Fold most of the time. He also has much narrower eyes than would befit a comedic character.
- Gintama's Katsura Kotaro does this frequently. He most often dresses up in a pirate costume and calls himself "Space Captain Katsura" (yes, he actually uses his real name), though he has also also used "Katsuo" on an occasion (as in, Mario from Super Mario Bros.) with his pet/companion Elizabeth taking on the role of Luigi. With the exception of the the three main characters, no one else ever recognizes him. He even spoils his own disguises sometimes, whenever other characters call him by whatever name the disguise is supposed to represent, he reacts with his Catch Phrase "It's not X, it's Katsura."
- Exception: When he briefly disguises himself as Elizabeth in order to infiltrate Takasugi's ship and actually succeeds in hiding his true identity during the Benizakura Arc. Ironically enough, Elizabeth also briefly dresses up as Katsura during this Story Arc by putting on a wig.
- In Moetan (a parody of magical girl anime featuring a protagonist who tutors students in English), the magical girl of the show almost blows her own cover. One of her first lessons to her classmate/crush is, in Japanese and English, "Don't you think that magical girls look the same even after they transform?"
- Exception: In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the only reason the characters aren't recognized on sight is the fact they tend to fight slightly out of phase with reality — on the one occasion a non-mage saw them, they proceeded to spend the remaining two episodes of the season raving about how nothing made any sense any more. The Wolkenritter also had to avoid being with Hayate whenever Nanoha and Fate came to visit her lest they figure out that Hayate was the master of the Book of Darkness (Shamal even noted that they probably should have used disguise magic).
- Ranma ½: Ranma is able to trick Ryōga into thinking that female Ranma is his sister, just by putting on fake fangs and a head band (and despite the fact that Ryōga has no sister). This is neither the first, nor the last time Ryōga falls for such a disguise. However, it only works on Ryōga. Akane can still tell she's Ranma, though in the above case she is temporarily confused by Ryōga introducing "Yoiko" as his sister, not having realized how thick the Lost Boy could be.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- Subverted during the badge collection game, Yuna tries to trick Nodoka and Yue out of their badges, disguising herself with a mask during a festival. However, the two quickly realize who it is, as her distinctive side ponytail is quite clearly visible.
- Later on, several people (Jack, Asuna, and Nodoka) disguise themselves in a busy place by putting on Clark Kent glasses... which are specifically labeled in author's notes as being a magical item with the effect of making the wearer blend into the background. Unfortunately, direct contact with other people tends to break the effect.
- Justified in Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z, as anyone wearing the clothes one of the girls gets during her Transformation Sequence will appear to be that girl implying that the clothes have some kind of disguising power.
- However only six girls in the entire series wear that style of belt buckle.
- Subverted in Moldiver, when, once he has a hint of it, Professor Akagi only needs a few minutes to match the body shape of Hiroshi and the full-body-costumed Moldiver to confirm that they're the same person.
- Puni Puni Poemi and Poemi Wantanabe look different enough for this to possibly work, except that they sound the same, have the same way of talking, both refer to themselves by the name of their voice actress, and the first time Poemi transforms into Puni Puni Poemi, she does it right in front of the Aasu sisters. Oh yeah, and they have the same name! And yet the Aasus are still surprised that Poemi is a Magical Girl.
- Minami-ke has Makoto dressing up as a girl so that he can keep visiting Haruka. His entire (very convincing) disguise consists of a hairclip and skirt.
- After the successful hijacking of a plane with Yutaka Takenouchi headed towards the US, one of the hijackers tries to avoid arrest by going to Cromartie High School and disguising as Takenouchi himself. The hijacker's disguise is actually his own mask with the kanji for 'Take' in 'Takenouchi' imprinted on it, but it somehow fools everybody in Cromartie into thinking he is Takenouchi. His disguise is a setup for some crazy situations, one in which Masked Takenouchi tells a story that gives the impression that Takenouchi has changed his character for the better, as if he had a rough life and a big criminal record. (The imposter is in his 30's.) Hayashida finally figures out at the beginning of Cromartie Volume 4 that there are TWO Takenouchis, as the real one has finally come back to the US... on a bullet train with Cromartie's students on it. It doesn't help at all, then, that Masked Takenouchi suffers from motion sickness as well.
- Princess Tutu is another Magical Girl anime that uses this trope.
- Ahiru doesn't really look all that different from Princess Tutu at first glance — even her Idiot Hair is still there, although the rest of her hairstyle seems to be cut shorter. However, Fakir is actively looking for Tutu and never notices the resemblance until Ahiru behaves so suspiciously (while wearing the necklace that Fakir knows Tutu needs to transform) that Fakir CAN'T deny it anymore. However, the trope is justified similarly to Christopher Reeve's Superman — while Ahiru is klutzy, an awkward dancer and scatterbrained, Princess Tutu is graceful, poised, and expresses herself easily. Also, Tutu looks like an older version of Ahiru, including gaining a few inches of height and a more womanly figure. Plus, to most people, Princess Tutu appears to be an enormous swan.
- This trope applies to Dark Magical Girl Princess Kraehe as well. The only difference between her and Rue is a different hairstyle, slightly narrower eyes, and heavy makeup, yet none of the characters seem to make the connection until Rue reveals herself.
- Not only doesn't anyone deduce any main character's secret identity in Sailor Moon (despite them using no disguise at all, with the exception of Tuxedo Mask and Sailor V), but most of the time the villains don't even bother to try.
- Notable exceptions are Nephrite and Zoisite: The former tried to find Sailor Moon by sending fake love letters from Tuxedo Mask, but eventually followed a false trail in the form of Naru; the latter discovered Tuxedo Mask's identity by pulling off his mask, proving that Clark Kenting seems to work on everyone but him. Most other adaptations don't seem to use the trope explicitly, although there they tend not to meet people they know while in costume anyway.
- Usagi herself is the worst, surpassing even Superman. Her costume is identical to her school uniform, just cut a bit differently. She does not act differently in and out of suit (for want of a better way to refer to it, because again, it's a very very very minimal costume change.) Yet people who see both of them repeatedly never connect them, and yes, villains trying to find her identity did believe it was Naru (who looks, talks, and acts nothing like her) and not Usagi. Nothing less than directly witnessing her transforming can make someone connect the two.
- The manga dodged this trope completely — many people do recognize the Senshi out of costume, most notably Mamoru when he meets Usagi again after having seen her as Sailor Moon, Haruka and Michiru, who deliberately keep their distance, and numerous villains that target the Senshi one by one outside of battle without ever having met them before. A few minor characters also recognized the girls if they knew them as civilians and then later saw them as Senshi. Yet oddly Zoicite even notices that Usagi has the same hair-style as Sailor Moon, yet shrugs it off as the current fad. Also, most of the later villains could sense the Senshi by their energy, rendering the whole secret identity thing pointless.
- The manga scene referenced above has both Mamoru and Usagi recognizing each other as Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon while in civilian clothes — or at least noticing the similarity. The key difference is that Usagi denies the possibility of Mamoru being her Mysterious Protector, while Mamoru actually takes the fact into account, suggesting that the ability to recognize the characters in disguise really depends on the person. (In contrast to the anime version, where Mamoru seemingly fails to draw a parallel between the Moon Princess, Usagi and Sailor Moon almost until she actually transformed in front of him.)
- In the Live-Action Adaptation Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, the Sailor Senshi have black or brown hair and more or less plausible hairstyles in civilian forms, but the Transformation Sequence changes their hair to resemble the the styles and colors seen in the anime. It never explains why, but it's a lot more plausible as a disguise. And with such a radical change in appearance, Ami still recognizes Usagi at first glance. Then again, she is a genius. And the best part? Even when they're transformed, they address each other by their civilian names. In front of everyone. Go figure. This was possibly carried over from the original edition of the manga, where they do call each other by their real names, although with some of the manga villains being able to recognize them anyway, this was at least excusable. Additionally Minako recognises Rei as Sailor Mars instantly when the two accidentally bump into each other in their civvies.
- This goes both ways, as many recurring villains are never recognised from one flimsy disguise to the next. In fact, most of the villains "diguises" are just a change of clothes and nothing else. Jadeite was probably one of the worst, frequently appearing in public without even so much as a mask or glasses. The DiC English dub created an even more hilarious example - his name had been changed to "Jedite" and he was disguising himself as a priest named "Jed." Serena, who knows his name and his face, doesn't recognize him simply because he's changed his clothes.
- The Abridged Series points this out:
Jadeite: This plan will surely work this time, because my glasses to disguise myself are much better than last episode's.
- Also in the anime the Senshi themselves can't even see through each other's Clark Kenting without being clued in. They only recognized civilian!Minako because Artemis was with her despite meeting her as Venus in the previous episode. The first few appearances of Haruka and Michiru had them appear as shadows while in civilian form, then once their civilian form was introduced this stopped and it still took a number episodes for Moon and the Guardian Senshi to discover they were the same people (As well as the reverse) even thought it's blatantly clear to the viewers. Setsuna also has to tell Usagi who she is though she seemed to had guessed at it.
- An interesting occurrence in the S season - Usagi and co. defeat Kaolinite and assume her to be dead. Some ten episodes later, Usagi visits Dr. Tomoe and sees Kaolinite there; and yes, she does go all "OMG the villain is alive!". But then Tomoe says it's just his assistant, Kaori, so Usagi assumes it's just two people with the exact same face and almost the same name. The dub (in which Kaolinite is called Kaori Night) takes it one step further - the "Kaori" alias was changed to... Kaori Night. So now, Serena assumes that they're just two people with the exact same face and the exact same name. Usagi was also thrown off by the fact that Kaolinite was actually being nice and seemed normal. And she probably had to wonder why Kaolinite would be in a seemingly nice house and have stopped trying to extract pure hearts. But still, you'd think she'd keep a close eye on her (especially with Hotaru's behavior toward "Kaori") and have told the others about it.
- The behavior difference is also likely what keeps Usagi and co. from recognizing Uranus and Neptune as Haruka and Michiru. When in their civilian forms, the two are very nice to them, in contrast to their Senshi identities. But, you'd think that the more experienced Haruka and Michiru could figure out that Usagi is Sailor Moon — unless you support the theory that no one in their sane mind would suspect a clumsy crybaby of being a "soldier of love and justice" (as Lampshaded once by a badly disguised Sailor Venus trying -and succeeding- to convince them and Kaolinite that Usagi wasn't Sailor Moon. In fact, Uranus seemed rather surprised when Kaolinite said that Usagi was Sailor Moon...).
- The Abridged Series, as such series like to do, points out the many flaws in their disguises
Serena: Look, Luna, I got a letter from Tuxedo Mask!
Luna: How the hell did he find you?
Serena: His love led him to me!
Luna: It was probably that your hair is pretty... unique. And you you don't wear a mask.
- In one manga chapter of the first dramatic arc, Usagi tells her father that she is Sailor Moon, despite the fact that clear photos of her senshi form has appeared all over the news, he doesn't believe her.
- Fanon often explains that◊ the Senshi's transformations incorporate a "disguise field" preventing anyone from recognizing them, unless that person sees them transform or is close to their civilian identity and has a reason to put two and two together. It's as good an explanation as any.
- Justified in one occasion in the anime for Sailor Moon: Kaolinite had guessed that Usagi was Sailor Moon, but as soon as she shouted it Sailor Venus (whose job description in the manga and live action includes being Sailor Moon's Body Double) showed up in disguise and fooled everyone. It wasn't really a good disguise, but Sailor Venus hammed it up enough that Kaolinite and the Outers fell for it anyway. There is also a season 1 episode where Zoicite is disguised as a fake Sailor Moon - and saves an innocent. Usagi is among the crowd of people that sees this, which could throw Naru off the scent... At least until R, when she all but admits to Usagi she guessed it.
- Also Justified in an incident in Codename: Sailor V: police inspector Wakagi sees Minako and does associate her to Sailor V, but immediately chastize himself for it because lately he's grown so obsessed on Sailor V he mistakes for her every single girl who wears a ribbon in her hair.
- Another justification in the manga is that most people don't want to believe that ditzy Usagi, crazy Minako, shy Ami, stoic and cynical Rei and (alleged) bully Makoto are a group of hammy superheroes. The only one who could be discovered is Minako, who is incredibly hammy even as a civilian... Except the one time her childhood friend Hikaru met Sailor V she acted meeker than usual, throwing her off course.
- In the manga Minako's disguise is also helped by the fact everyone knows that Sailor V works with the police (actually false for most of her career, a youma simply assumed and sent her challenge letter for V to the police and the public fell for it), thus she couldn't be known cop-hater Minako Aino.
- The Samurai Pizza Cats. People don't recognize them, even though they're fired out of a cannon built into the pizza parlor, they have the same names as their alter-egos, and their combat forms are largely their civilian forms with some extra armor and weapons bolted on. In one episode, the narrator remarks "No one recognizes our samurai heroes in their secret identities! Don't ask why, just one of the quirks of the show."
- Seishoujo Senshi Saint Valkyrie skewers this — everyone recognizes that Ai Hayama is Valkyrie Ai, despite her frantic protestations to the contrary.
- In Wedding Peach, The Power of Friendship actually acts as a shield to keep the devils from seeing who the love angels are. So this is justified... sort of.
- In Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Char Aznable adopts the pseudonym "Quattro Bajeena", but his true identity is something of an open secret. The fact that he still uses a mobile suit in his signature color of bright red doesn't help.
- This is more of a subversion - since most of the AEUG had never actually seen the infamous Red Comet, they wouldn't of known that this shade-wearing man was actually a Zeon Ace Pilot. It isn't until the heroes from Mobile Suit Gundam step in that Char's identity is revealed. It's later shown that the founder of the AEUG knew all along, and unsuccessfully attempted to get Char to reveal himself publicly and become the new leader.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, Athrun Zala pulls the same stunt Char did, disguising himself as "Alex Dino", Cagalli Yula Atha's bodyguard. People see through his disguise rather easily.
- Kenshiro Kasumi in Fist of the Blue Sky disguises his true identity as "Yan-Wang" in public by giving himself a nerdy hairstyle and glasses.
- One Piece: Usopp when disguised as Sogeking. The mask still reveals his long nose and he still wears his everyday clothes under his cape. The only two people fooled by this are Chopper and Luffy. Usopp eventually develops a split personality that talks and acts differently when wearing the mask.
- In Urusei Yatsura, the Kunoichi character Kaede uses a pair of glasses to disguise herself. Everyone sees through it except the ninjas chasing after her, whose disguises are just as minimalistic. (One is wearing a surgical mask, the other just painted two stripes on her eyepatch, and the ancient clan leader is also wearing glasses.)
- In Eyeshield 21, Sena is the eponymous Eyeshield 21, a running back with unbeatable speed. Sena is the only one with a build and height even remotely close to his "secret" identity. Most of the time he doesn't even bother coming up with a good excuse for not being there when Eyeshield 21 is. Mamori, his childhood friend and the team's manager, really takes a while to figure things out, given the clues she has on hand.
- In Persona 4: The Animation, Rise Kujikawa tries this, but it doesn't work.
- In Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, the title character often uses a variety of different disguises that can be easily seen through by the audience, but Tsuna is the only in-universe character that shares this view.
- Subverted in Bamboo Blade. When Kojiro asks Tamaki to dress up as a new freshman named "Bureiba" in order to fulfill his kendo team's five-member quota, his old mentor (who coaches Machido High School's all-girls team) isn't fooled, and notices during a friendly match with Kojiro's team that Tamaki's and "Bureiba"'s fighting styles are similar. After challenging "Bureiba" to an impromptu match (and losing handily), he states that he knew all along, but lets it slide because it was just for practice
- On the first glance, Lelouch from Code Geass doesn't clark-kent, the full face mask and all. But on the other hand, if you remember that Nunnally is blind and tells people apart by their voices... Yes he does.
- There's a voice changer installed in his helmet. It doesn't make a lot of difference, but...
- Lelouch also changes the demeanor considerably; as himself he's a soft-spoken, kindly big brother as far as Nunnally is concerned, while as Zero he is a megalomaniac Large Ham.
- A straighter example would be Euphemia li Britannia, who disguises herself amidst hostages under a pair of Clark Kent glasses. Nobody, not even the perpetrators know it's her until she takes them off and says who she is.
- It helps that nobody knew that there would be Britannian princess present at all, so they weren't looking for her. Also, at this point Euphemia is not very important, as far as the Britannian royalty goes, and not that many people know how she looks.
- Lelouch and Nunnally are also exiled Britannian royalty, and they hide in plain sight under their real first names but using the made-up last name Lamperouge. Granted, they were somewhat obscure, were only kids when they were exiled, and the world at large thinks they died when they were kids, though one wonders what would have happened if one of their siblings looked at a phone book.
- There's a voice changer installed in his helmet. It doesn't make a lot of difference, but...
- Subverted in Ryuusei no Rockman and Ryuusei no Rockman Tribe. Subaru Hoshikawa saves Luna Shirogane's life (several times!), but she does not know it is him. She has a crush on Rockman, and ironically, he is the same kid who goes to school with her and at whose house she tries to bake food for Rockman. Kizamaro Saishoin was one of the first to suspect that Subaru's real identity was Rockman, and by Ryuusei no Rockman Tribe, it's common knowledge to both him and Gonta Ushijima. Paradoxically, Luna refuses to admit this, and for the most part no one (even Subaru!) points out any of the many flaws in her logic. Eventually, however, as the series moves on, she seems to start like Subaru as well as Rockman, and in a touching moment before Rockman enters the Denpa-wave zone, she calls him 'Subaru' and tells him she is supporting him.
- Subverted in Hayate the Combat Butler, when Hayate instantly sees through Nagi's disguise as "Mask the Money." But then played hilariously straight when Maria puts on sunglasses and claims to be a superhero maid — Nagi, her employer, fails to recognize her and wants to get her autograph.
- Could be considered a Running Gag in the anime, whenever Maria tries to make herself incognito, she always chooses a pair of spectacles which has the effect of attracting gazes/confessions from guys AND being identified almost immediately from those she's trying to disguise from.
- Subverted by Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne in which several people comment that Maron and Jeanne resemble each other. In fact Miyako's whole reason for trying to capture Jeanne is so that she can prove Maron's innocence. Made even more ironic in that Jeanne has not only a different hairstyle but also a completely different hair color than Maron.
- Used in an episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu where Kaname disguises herself by putting on a kimono and makeup and putting her hair up. Between this and her very different behavior, nobody - not even Kaname's devoted bodyguard Sosuke - connects the attractive blue-haired teenage girl who'd left previously to the attractive blue-haired woman who's just arrived.
- In Dr. Slump, Suppaman (an inept Superman parody) disguises himself as a reporter named Kuraaku Kenta. Naturally, Penguin Village being a Cloud Cuckoo Land, nobody ever recognizes him.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has Lieutenant Hawkeye disguise herself by putting on glasses and letting down her hair. Ed and Al are dumbfounded upon the (rather quick) realisation that the young, blonde, gun-wielding woman who has rushed to their aid is young, blonde, gun-wielding Hawkeye.◊
- This does not fool Fuhrer Bradley for a second, with his Perfect Eye and all.
- Zorro's usual costume plays this trope already quite straight, but in Kaiketsu Zorro, all Diego does is put on a cape, a hat and a less covering than usual mask that doesn't hide his friggin' hair!
- If anything, Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (AKA Wild Tiger) of Tiger & Bunny is an even more over-the-top example of Clark Kenting than Superman, possibly in reference to him-his design has a lot of nods to Western superheroes, anyway. As it'd be cumbersome for him to wear his costume in public at company-sponsored parties, especially now that it's Powered Armor, Kotetsu has to act as his Wild Tiger superhero identity outside of his Powered Armor. It might have worked in his traditional costume, which looked a little like Batman's costume, as it made it harder to compare his alter ego's face to his actual face in the same way that Clark and Superman have the same face-but now that he's wearing Powered Armor, a skilled observer could easily tell that Wild Tiger and Kotetsu are one and the same. How obvious is the Clark Kenting, you ask? He goes about doing this by dressing exactly as he always does - same waistcoat, same Nice Hat, and same goatee - but with a Domino Mask. On public television.
- At one point, Kotetsu tries to prove to an Apollon Media security guard that he's Wild Tiger after he's been Unpersoned by putting on his mask in front of him. The guard points out that most people (including him) don't really pay attention to what Wild Tiger actually looks like beyond a few easily replicated Distinguishing Marks, and that he could easily be a reasonably convincing cosplayer trying to sneak in — something the guard deals with all the time.
- Somehow, it even manages to fool his own daughter.
- Karina Lyle (Blue Rose) and Pao-lin (Dragon Kid) are also examples as they go unmasked all the time, using only colored wigs and, in Karina's case, makeup and colored contact lenses, to disguise their identities.
- In Penguin Revolution, actor Ayaori Mashiba conceals his identity from the public by using the stage name "Makoto Ayaori," and by wearing Nerd Glasses and leaving his hair in a disordered mess when he's not on the job. The only person shown to ever see through this is the heroine, Yukari, who recognizes him only thanks to her unique ability to perceive star talent in the form of visible wings. The trope is justified in that Ayaori is an incredibly talented actor (although you'd think someone would at least notice the name).
- The iDOLM@STER - Haruka puts on glasses (and a hat) to avoid being recognized in public.
- Subverted in the Magical Girl series Kaitou Saint Tail: while the only differences in look between Meimi and Saint Tail are the clothes and the ponytail, Meimi acts completely different as Saint Tail (most evident part, Meimi is quite shy but becomes a showoff as Saint Tail), takes great care at not using her magic tricks as Meimi (even before becoming Saint Tail, as she planned to become a professional illusionist and her father had told her to not show them in public until then) and goes to extreme lenghts to not show her face as Saint Tail. In spite of this, she was nearly found out a number of times, both by her rival in love Rina (a few stories were dedicated to Meimi's attempts at convincing Rina that Meimi wasn't Saint Tail, ending when Rina was traumatized into thinking that Saint Tail was a moustached adult man) and her Love Interest and Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist Asuka Jr. (who in the end concluded that Meimi and St. Tail are merely lookalikes).
- Played straight and subverted in Samurai Flamenco. Masayoshi is initially the prime suspect when rumors about the title vigilante's identity begin forming, and he's only acquitted because an impostor steps in and claims to be the real Samumenco. Played straight with the Flamenco Girls, who are all popular Idol Singers in their civilian identities, and yet somehow effectively disguise themselves with little more than wigs and Domino Masks.
- In Rolling Girls, Masami moonlights as a costumed Super Sentai-like hero known as Maccha Green. Nobody but the protagonist, Nozomi, is actually fooled by this, and it later turns out that everyone just humors Masami because they don't want her to be embarrassed.
- Uchi No Musume Ni Te O Dasu Na: Clara's superhero costume doesn't even come with a mask, and she's constantly seen on news broadcasts everywhere. So you'd think all of Tokyo would know Clara Haruko is the Eighth Wonder. Nope. The only ones who do are her mom, Clara's secret crush Mei, and her friends at N.U.D.E. HQ.
- Superman, naturally. See top folder for details.
- Supergirl: Several incarnations of Superman's cousin have tried her hand at Clark Kenting. In order from bad to better:
- New 52's Kara didn't use any extras (but only half-heartedly attempted to have a secret identity in one story).
- Pre-Flashpoint Kara and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade Kara versions followed her cousin's example by using glasses.
- For most of her Pre-Crisis life, Kara used a brown wig to hide her blonde hair.
- In the original The Supergirl From Krypton story, Clark buys a brown wig, a blouse and a long skirt to create his cousin's secret identity.
Superman: There! That wig of pigtails makes you look like a different girl entirely who was born on Earth!
- Reversing this, when the naturally brunette Post-Crisis Linda Danvers lost the ability to transform into Supergirl, she started wearing a blonde wig in her heroic persona.
- The animated Supergirl of the DCAU uses both wig and glasses.
- Supergirl (Rebirth) Kara wears loose clothes, glasses, dyes her hair brown and braids it into a ponytail, and behaves like a insecure, quiet, geeky girl (as opposite to her hot-blooded, fiery and determined real self).
Director Chase: "Kara Danvers" is a tool for you to walk amongst the people you protect.
- Identity Crisis. Deconstructed, as villains discovered the secret identities all the time. The answer: a little mind wiping by Zatanna.
- In the Comic series Batman: Year One, Batman pulls off Clark Kenting in his first attempt at doing vigilante work by using make-up to make a distinguishing fake scar on his face. People focus on the scar so much they don't notice any other real details. Nobody recognizes that it's Bruce Wayne. However a pimp sees through the disguise in that he knows Bruce is up to no good. He thinks Bruce is an undercover vice cop, however. Bruce hadn't yet mastered his ability to hide in an undercover role.
- Further lampshaded in an issue of Batman Adventures. To infiltrate the underworld, Batman assumes the identity of "Matches Malone", by wearing a false mustache and carrying a match in his mouth. When Alfred expresses concern over whether it will be effective, Bruce simply tells him that "I know a guy who does this with just a pair of glasses."
- In Issue #0 of the Batwoman series, Batman has been surveilling Katherine "Kate" Kane to determine if she is the person behind the Batwoman mask. He knows she has the skill to be Batwoman, she is the daughter of two career soldiers and she earned the position of Cadet Captain at the Military Academy at West Point, and she also has the motivation: her mother and twin sister were murdered when they and she were kidnapped in her childhood, but he does not know if she has the drive to be Batwoman. To test her he decides to "mug" her and see how she reacts, and he disguises himself with a black wig. Only a black wig. In the narration, he muses how "Clark" always said the simple disguises were the best. Batwoman herself averts the trope; not only does she wear a face-concealing mask, but her long red hair is actually a wig that covers her much shorter (albeit still red) hair.
- In an interesting twist, when Nightwing took over as Batman following the latter's death, he had to work hard at convincing people that he was the original. The average citizen, unaware of the situation and obviously not too familiar with Batman, bought it instantly. Renee Montoya, on the other hand, saw through it instantly. Meanwhile, a story arc was made out of Two-Face figuring out it wasn't the same man he'd fought for so long and coming gunning for the new "fake" to try and deduce who it was.
- This happened earlier, back during the Knightfall storyline. Jean-Paul Valley had to work just a bit to convince everyone that Batman was back after his crushing defeat at the hands of Bane. Bane wasn't fooled for a second and dismissed him as a pretender. When JP armed himself with the armor, Harvey Bullock just mentioned that "the kid gloves came off". However, Commissioner Gordon just wasn't convinced that the Batman running around in armor was his Batman. Superman noticed it, too, but because he just recently came back from the dead, he really didn't have much time to investigate. The Joker noticed it, too, by his actions, as did Catwoman by his reactions around her. Though, with the exceptions of Bane and Superman, they didn't know that it wasn't Bruce Wayne under the mask, they knew it wasn't their Batman.
- Wonder Woman:
- Wonder Woman also uses glasses as a disguise, although she changes her hairstyle as well. The fact that her abilities are magic-based may also help.
- The original version stated Wonder Woman co-opted the identity of an actual Diana Prince (who, miraculously, looked exactly like her). This Diana then took off for South America to get married. She later returned and asked for her identity back.
- Super Friends once did a segment on Wonder Woman's origin. She put on a tiny little eye-mask and yet no-one knew her, despite both being a princess and the fact she's lived around the same people so much that they should be able to tell it's her.
- George Perez did away with her secret identity when he revamped the character following Crisis on Infinite Earths. As he saw it, Diana would feel no need to hide who she was, and since she was entering the modern world for the first time she would never have been able to pull it off anyway.
- Revisited in The New 52 with Clark and Diana begin dating. Even though Wonder Woman maintains no civilian ID, she is able to go out on a date with Clark in relative anonymity simply by putting on glasses and changing her hairstyle.
- Young Avengers: Patriot started out with a full face-mask, but switched to a domino mask early on (his grandfather figured it out quickly). Stature also wears a domino mask, while Kate limits herself to some Cool Shades, if that. Wiccan wears a headband and cloak, leaving his face completely open to see. However, he is a Witch...
- Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, was an odd case. In his early adventures, he didn't seem to put any effort into keeping his identity secret whatsoever, and routinely did stuff like trying out for the Olympics under his own name, running at super speed. And in any event, his "Mercury" style helmet left his face uncovered. Later stories did have him use his secret identity (and everybody else just forgot it, apparently). His secret was supposedly maintained by subtly vibrating his face at super speed while in public. Then in 1978, the semi-retired Garrick went "back" to having a public identity.
- Viciously parodied in the 1980s-vintage independent comic book Megaton Man, in which the title character is a grotesquely over-muscled hulk, whose attempts to hide behind a Kent-like blue suit and glasses fool no-one but himself.
- Parodied in The Tick, in which the title character attempts to adopt a secret identity by donning thick glasses, a tie and a flowered purse — while still wearing his antennaed blue spandex super-suit.◊
- This is parodied constantly in The Tick, because the characters never appear outside their costumes. One episode featured him and American Maid posing as normal hotel guests, taking on assumed names, and the hotel concierge (working for the villain) only suspects something is up because the Tick picks an obviously made up name ("Nick Soapdish") and not because he's got two completely undisguised superheroes standing in front of him.
- And Clark Oppenheimer is a Captain Ersatz parody of the Trope Namer himself. Much of his onscreen time is used to mock this trope mercilessly. The Tick both isn't fooled and doesn't understand Clark's need to maintain an identity.
- Subverted in Green Arrow, in one issue a cop that had been working with the hero turns up unexpectedly at Oliver Queen's home. Oliver asks in surprise "How did you know who I was?" The cop replied "Was it supposed to be a secret?" After that Oliver stopped even wearing a mask.
- He was also instantly recognized by Mia Dearden, who pointed out that he uses a tiny little mask, has a one-in-a-million beard, and doesn't even bother to alter his voice when in costume.
- Played straight later on, when Oliver Queen was elected Mayor of his home city without anyone noticing the similar taste in goatees.
- In a much older issue, Clark Freakin' Kent of all people tried to convince Ollie not to run for office, since being in the spotlight would make it much easier for people to realize he looked a hell of a lot like Green Arrow.
- Lampshaded during Morrison's JLA run, where the team got chewed out by a random citizen of Star City who just happened to have a blond goatee. Maybe blond goatees are just perpetually in-fashion in Star City!
- Captain Marvel stories usually play this trope straight:
- Captain Marvel Jr. is somehow able to keep a secret identity as Freddie Freeman despite the fact that his Marvel form looks exactly the same as his normal form. On the other hand, the fact that Freddie is legitimately disabled likely helps divert suspicion.
- Likewise, Mary Marvel looks just like her alter ego Mary Batson, though Depending on the Writer, her superhero identity may be a "grown-up" version of her ordinary self. A bigger problem might be the fact that both identities share the same first namenote , though this was avoided in the 1990s "Power of Shazam" series. In that version, "Captain Marvel" was treated (like, e.g., Green Lantern) more as a title than a unique name. Third parties would usually distinguish Mary from her brother by referring to her as "the lady Captain Marvel" or something similar.
- Young Justice tried its hand at mitigating this—while the character never actually got to appear, there were plans for an appearance from "Lieutenant Marvel."
- In the Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam series, Mary has no excuse—she uses the "Mary Marvel" name and is a little girl in both forms. At least until near the end of the series, when she also gets an Older Alter Ego.
- Captain Marvel himself is normally an example of Older Alter Ego, but in Kingdom Come, the grown-up Billy Batson looks exactly like Marvel, which becomes an important plot point.
- Golden-Age Fawcett comics suggested that it was a combination of factors. The bright flash of light and loud noise disoriented bystanders, so even people who were looking right at Billy as he changed often didn't realize what happened. Reactions to Freddy and Junior, or Mary and Mary, suggest that the two identities don't look exactly the same, even though they're drawn that way. Then again, it was also uncertain how "secret" their identity was supposed to be in those days. Their biggest foes already knew who they were, and they had no qualms about transforming in the middle of a group of people (and introducing themselves afterwards).
- Golden Age superhero Captain Battle stretched the trope to the breaking point. In his civilian identity, he was William Battle, a World War I veteran who used to be a captain in the army. It didn't help that he didn't wear any disguise whatsoever while operating as a superhero. It doesn't help that he wears an eyepatch in both identities. One wonders how the intros for those stories went. "In his civilian guise, he is William Battle, the retired Captain! But when crime rears its ugly head, he puts on no disguise and becomes Captain Battle, man of mystery!"
- Subverted in Invincible; best friend William figures out who Invincible is the first time Mark (Invincible) tries this in front of him.
- His girlfriend, Amber, figures it out as well. When Mark's mom scolds him for letting so many people in on his identity, he protests that it's a lot harder fooling people in "real life" than in the movies.
- It is however played straight with Atom Eve and Omni-Man. Especially when you realize that Omni-Man is both the world's most famous hero and, in his secret identity of Nolan Grayson, a popular and celebrated author.
- Mark and Eve are instantly recognized by their teacher when the confront him about turning popular students into living bombs. He remarks the Eve isn't even wearing a mask.
- Most of the people who recognize Mark as Invincible are people who have actually spoken to Mark, and are probably recognizing him by his voice.
- Like the Superman example above Omni-Man/Nolan Grayson has fairly generic features to begin with. Furthermore as an author and writer (not a reporter) he can choose to keep a much lower profile than other celebrities and come off as a bit reclusive and eccentric. How many Calvin and Hobbes fans actually know what Bill Watterson looks like?
- Subverted in The Authority. At one point, Apollo and Midnighter attempt to settle down in San Francisco, in order to give their daughter, Jenny Quantum, a vaguely normal childhood. As Apollo (a Superman Expy, who for this scene wears glasses) attempts to explain the concept of secret identities to Jenny, Midnighter ruins the whole charade by throwing the real estate agent 500 feet into a lake when he upped the asking price of the house they were looking at.
- Parodied in an issue of The Avengers. Quasar, a member of the team, shows up at the mansion in his civilian identity and wearing a pair of glasses; every Avenger he meets thinks "I hope Quasar doesn't think those glasses are disguising anything."
- Parodied in Gold Digger in the school days of one of the main characters. When some of the school staff turn out to be evil and try and conduct mind control experiments on the student body, Brittany "Cheetah" Digger's best friend convinces her to join her as a superhero as "Pink Avenger and the Cheets". Despite the fact that Brittany is the ''only werecheetah in the world'', and the only non-human student in the school and probably city, the evil villains never saw through the disguise during their entire school stay. The rest of the student body, on the other hand... figured it out in about five seconds making it a big Everybody Knew Already to them, but keeping quiet out of approval.
- Spider-Man is generally not an example due to his costume fully covering his body, but sometimes it still happens:
- Perfectly demolished in a story in which Ben Urich places a call to Peter Parker's cell phone, implies that he knows Peter's secret, and requests a meeting. Once on the roof of the Daily Bugle, Spider-Man asks how Urich could have figured this out. Ben's response goes on for several panels. Some of the highlights: "Peter, I'm an award-winning investigative journalist at a major metropolitan newspaper. We've been working out of the same offices, and frequently assigned to the same stories, for something like eleven years now. I'm honestly insulted you thought I was never going to figure this out." "You frequently smelled like smoke. You know who else always smelled like smoke? Matt Murdock. You told me once that you knew Daredevil was Matt Murdock. Now, how could a substitute science teacher and part-time photojournalist possibly know that Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer in Hell's Kitchen, was the vigilante Daredevil. Oh, right."
- This trope was further spoofed in another Spider-Man comic where Spider-Man briefly meets another hero, who is clearly a Marvel Comics parody of Superman. When this hero shows up without a mask on his face, Peter Parker asks how he disguises himself. The man's response is to pull out a pair of glasses and put them on. It fails.
- Touched on in yet another issue where one of Spider-Man's contacts offhandedly refers to him as a New Yorker. When Peter responds with "How do you know I live in the city?" the man just smirks and replies "Ask me again with that Queens accent how I know where you're from."
- In one issue of The Uncanny X-Men the beaten up father of Bobby Drake/Iceman, while lying in a hospital, asks Gambit a few questions. Bobby's father doesn't understand why some people engage in the X-Men although some of them are perfectly fine looking, just like Gambit, seeming to ignore his pretty unusual eyes. One can't blame him for that, even many colorists forget that Gambit doesn't have normal eyes, or make them blue instead of red. Gambit's eyes are also hypnotic. It's possible that people just don't notice them.
- Played for laughs in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Doreen's efforts to hide her secret identity often manifest as a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
- Doreen: I'm Doreen, and I'm actually a totally regular person.
- Like everything else about Superman, this was parodied/deconstructed in Supreme Power. Mark Milton tells his government handlers he can disguise himself — and puts on a pair of glasses. The agents just shoot him that look. The fact that Hyperion has no secret identity and thus no real human contact is one of the reasons he becomes so unhinged later. Goddammit, they should've let him wear the glasses... His original Squadron Supreme counterpart wore a tiny domino mask as Hyperion that covered no more than glasses would, and when the Squadron "went public", he removed it on television as if it were a dramatic Reveal.
- Samaritan's civilian disguise in Astro City is just a pair of glasses and change of hair colour, but it's actually quite convincing, even to the reader. There is the fact that his civilian name is Asa Martin, an anagram of Samaritan.
- In the early Silver Age Human Torch, "everybody knows that Sue Storm is the Invisible Girl, but no-one knows her brother Johnny is the Human Torch." After the writers realized how stupid this plot point was, they retconned it into everyone knowing, but since they were aware of Johnny's attempts at hiding it, they respected that he didn't want them to talk about it. An earlier story where the brilliant Wizard tries, and fails, to learn Johnny's identity is quietly ignored, and he knows perfectly well who the Torch is in his next appearance. To be fair, Johnny Storm was the second Human Torch, the first being a sapient combat android.
- Parodied in The Inferior Five, where even though only Awkwardman wears a mask, nobody knows their true identities. Even Awkwardman is pretty obvious. "Nobody suspects clumsy, oafish Leander Brent is really clumsy, oafish Awkwardman!... I wonder how come?"
- More subtly parodied in The Intimates. The teacher of the Secret Identity class is Mr. Hyde (referring to the dual identities), who greatly resembles Superman and wears glasses. Lampshaded by one of the series' signature infoscrolls in the final issue after he finally uses one of his powers: "Can anyone guess what kind of 'vision' does Mr. Hyde have? (Hint: It's temperature based, as well as being the complete opposite of 'cold')"
- Lampshaded in The Trouble with Girls. In one storyline, Lester Girls decides to try disguising himself using a pair of glasses and the pseudonym Leroy Gals. Though his internal dialog also mentions that he's also subtly altering his posture, voice, etc. He promptly meets and begins a romance with his reocuring foil who's disguised herself by wearing a brunette wig.
- Connor Kent, the second Superboy, is one of the more ridiculous examples. He uses glasses like Clark Kent does, but he doesn't wear a freaking costume. His "costume" as Superboy is a black S-symbol t-shirt, jeans and work boots. That's right, he takes off his glasses and changes shirts, and no one recognizes him. At least the comics incarnation of Connor tends to wear different civilian clothes when he's not active as Superboy, unlike his animated counterpart in Young Justice (see Western Animation, below).
- Cassie Sandsmark, the second Wonder Girl, wears a similar ensemble, but as of the most recent version of Teen Titans starting in 2003, she does not have a secret identity, which caused problems finding a school that would take her. Originally she had the ingenuity to wear a black wig and goggles, though even then her costume was mainly thrown together from what was already in her closet. She ditched them after a situation where she had to chose between maintaining disguise and saving the day.
- Power Girl carries on the Kryptonian tradition in her own series, simply wearing a slightly different hairstyle as Karen Starr. Although (especially as drawn by Amanda Conner) she is unusually good at dressing in layers, it's still hard to believe people don't make a connection. Indeed, several people do figure it out, which is lampshaded by Atlee, the latest Terra, who points out that Power Girl and Karen Starr look exactly the same. This was also lampshaded by Superman himself, who recommended against making Karen Starr the public face of her company, noting that she's not very good at maintaining an effective secret identity.note Of course, the obvious answer (joke, that is) is that most people aren't looking at her face. This is even parodied in her team-up with Harley Quinn (yes, really).
- Black Canary doesn't wear a mask, but the original Black Canary, Dinah Drake, wore a blonde wig, as did her daughter Dinah Laurel Lance, originally. It worked well as when wig-less they looked nothing like their costumed selves. The younger Canary now grew out her hair and simply dyes her hair blonde, however, and while her secret identity was acknowledged to be a relatively thin one, it was made public by villains in a 2010 Birds of Prey storyline.
- Red Arrow has one of the tiniest masks in comics. Seriously, it conceals about as much of his face as a pair of sunglasses would. Earlier in his career, as Arsenal, Roy Harper used sunglasses as his only mask. Even earlier, as Speedy, Roy wore a more traditional Robin-style domino mask.
- Disney comics (Disney Ducks Comic Universe, Mickey Mouse Comic Universe) about superheroes both play it straight and justify it.
- Super Goof (a 1960s parody of Superman) is Goofy in long-johns with a cape and his ridiculous hat with Superman's power set, yet no one could ever figure out why they never saw Goofy and Super Goof in the same place (this was carried over into animation through an episode of House of Mouse; at the end, Clarabell thought that Super Goof's secret identity was Dumbo). It's apparently because nobody WANTS to believe Goofy is Super Goof: the one time the Beagle Boys tried to use the police new supercomputer to find out his secret identity, everybody thought the supercomputer was still damaged by Super Goof's earlier sabotage when the computer actually told them it's Goofy. Some stories have Mickey Mouse know Super Goof's secret identity, the implication being that either Mickey is that good as a detective or was just open-minded enough to consider and check.
- In Italian Donald Duck comics, Donald has a superhero / Anti-Hero alter ego called Paperinik, who is Donald with a costume based on Fantomius with a domino mask and Donald's signature hat, yet nobody noticed in spite of people knowing their resemblance. It's explained, as in the previous case, due a combination of people not wanting to believe the lazy Donald is the city's idol and scariest person, Donald and Paperinik having appeared before people at the same time (due either robots taking Donald's place or volunteers replacing Paperinik), and Paperinik being a Master of Disguise who has disguised himself as Donald multiple times (or, in one memorable occasion, as a monster disguised as Paperinik disguised as John Rockerduck disguised as Paperinik). The rather obscure video game adaptation, PK: Out of the Shadows, reinforces the difference by adding the fact that, as Paperinik, Donald uses a voice modulator to disguise his voice (while Donald is still voiced by Tony Anselmo, Paperinik's voice is done by Rob Paulsen).
- The only people who saw through Paperinik's disguise and couldn't be fooled into thinking it was an error are Everett Ducklair, Lyla Lay and the Griffin, all from Paperinik New Adventures, and bypass Paperinik's usual tricks: Everett has Psychic Power and read it out of Paperinik's mind, while Lyla and the Griffin have technology that allows to see through Latex Perfection, and saw that Paperinik doesn't wear a Donald mask with a domino mask on it but only the domino mask (at which point it was easy).
- In the first story it was even worse, as Paperinik only wore Fantomius' costume with his trademark hat and no kind of mask. It was actually a colouring error, as Paperinik was supposed to wear Fantomius whole costume (that includes a blue silk mask covering the whole face except the beak), but the colourist missed it and depicted Paperinik's face white (the novelization of the story Retcons it away as showing that Donald had considered wearing Fantomius' mask but in the end opted for the domino mask). Due the second story having Paperinik acting disguised as Fantomius (he had to infiltrate a costume party in Gladstone's place, with Gladstone planning to enter disguised as Fantomius), it wouldn't be until the third story that the domino mask debuted, by which time Paperinik was already The Dreaded.
- Speaking of the third story... Most of Duckburg actually suspected Donald to be Paperinik, but after the police inspected Donald's car (that doubled as Paperinik's one) and failed to find Paperinik's devices (that had been removed beforehand in expectation of this inspection), the issue was dropped. The story ended with the first instance of Donald being seen in public at the same time as Paperinik (with Paperinik actually being a flying robot).
- The greatest example of people being fooled into believing Donald isn't Paperinik is the 2014 story "Raceworld", in which, due the peculiar circumstances, Donald's heroic side takes Paperinik's form... And Mickey, who in Italian stories is shown as a great detective, quips that, until then, he had believed that Donald was Paperinik. Apparently he had guessed the bots and replacements, and it took the real Paperinik appearing at the same time as the real Donald to fool him.
- Daisy has her own superhero alter ego, Paperinika, who is a female and Straw Feminist counterpart to Paperinik. Despite this, the two don't actually like to work together and neither knows the other's secret identity. Which is fine... except that in the American translations, Paperinika is renamed "Super Daisy", but the stories are otherwise translated straight. This has the effect of making Donald look like a complete moron since he can't figure out who she really is, unless you've read Paperinika's original story: Donald's reaction to seeing Paperinika the first time was to ask Daisy why she was dressed that ridiculous way, and only got convinced it's not Daisy due to her acting much coldly and keeping a cool head in situations where Daisy would usually lose it (she was really pissed at the time. She later became an actress good enough to pull Paperinika's personality on purpose).
- It's also implied that Donald is the reason Paperinika's disguise works: if Daisy's fiancee, who is known to be able to recognize identical triplets from near-invisible details, says she's not Paperinika and has a very vocal dislike for the latter, most people capable of recognizing Daisy through her costume will think it's just a casual resemblance.
- Another example is when Paperoga (Fethry Duck) becoming the debatably useful superhero Bat-Paperoga (or "Red Bat" in other countries). It's an obvious spoof of Batman and it doesn't even try to hide the actual identity. It's Played for Laughs, and the identity is kept by a combination of the Red Bat's outfit giving actual cover and the Red Bat being seen as Crazy Awesome (in his first story he humiliated the Beagle Boys with the help of a headless gorilla) instead that the lucky Fake Ultimate Hero he is.
- And taken even further with José Carioca's alter-ego Morcego Verde (Green Bat), another Batman spoof:note His costume is less concealing than Fethry's (despite him wearing a beat-up Batman cowl/cape combination) and while he's wearing it his friends still call him "Zé" or, at their most secretive, "Hey Zé... I mean, Morcego!" In this case there's no justification, only Rule of Funny.
- The Beagle Boys once robbed a jewelry shop and avoided recognition by not wearing their masks despite being otherwise dressed in full Beagle Boy regalia.
- Also played straight by Don Rosa in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: when Scrooge first met them in his youth, the Beagle Boys (the original outfit composed by Grampa Beagle and his sons) were wanted criminals who couldn't show their faces in public, and started wearing the masks to hide their identities on suggestion of their employer Porker Hogg. It worked: they were even tricking the river police into leaving when Scrooge unmasked one of them, at which point the police recognized them and proceeded to arrest them.
- Vixen from the Justice League is another maskless DC hero, although the rest of her costume may be enough of a distraction - or maybe she just has a public ID, since she's a supermodel in her civilian identity.
- While Vixen did wear a mask at the beginning of her career, her identity is definitely public knowledge by now. In Grant Morrison's Animal Man run, she showed up at the title hero's house in-costume, and Animal Man's wife was shown Fangirling over the fact that a popular supermodel was in her living room.
- Spoofed in The Mighty Thor, when after losing the ability to turn into his mortal alter-ego Donald Blake, Thor has to come up with a new human disguise that will distract people from the fact that he's still almost seven feet tall with long blond hair and the physique of a god. Nick Fury hands him a pair of eyeglasses, noting that "they always worked for that other guy!" As if that wasn't enough, Thor then walks out the door and runs straight into a clumsy, oversized newspaper reporter named Clark, who thinks, "Gee, that looked like... I could have sworn... naaaah." It gets even more ridiculous when Thor grows a beard and maintains it in his civilian identity. In later years he just stopped caring.
- Later on, Thor's boss deduces that "Sigurd Jarlson" is far too athletic to be anything other than a superhero — clearly he is none other than Captain America.
- Spoofed harder by Beta Ray Bill, who on one occasion reverted to his pre-Super Soldier form and toured New York City with an overcoat and a set of false glasses with rubber nose and mustache. The alien race Bill was born to, although roughly humanoid, are all hairless, lack external noses or ears, and are bright orange. The narration chalks this up to "New York being what it is".
- Subverted with Eric Masterson when he wielded Mjolnir in Thor's stead (before he became Thunderstrike), and actually grew a full blond beard whenever he transformed. It's even subverted by the Absorbing Man when he gets a good look at Masterson's face and realizes that Masterson isn't the same Thor that he's been fighting for so many years.
- There was also the time Thor, in his later, more typical Clark Kent-ian alter ego Sigurd Jarlson, told a story to a friend's children about Thor and had to dodge accusations that he was really Thor himself afterwards. The children later discover the truth when they snoop in Jarlson's bag and find Mjolnir, although they promise to be good Secret Keepers and not tell anyone.
- In various incarnations of the Teen Titans, Beast Boy puts Raven's attempt at a secret identity through its paces by frequently going to see her at school. None of her classmates seem to find it odd that she's constantly talking to green animals, though. The 2003 animation even lampshades it.
Raven: What secret identity? You're green!
- Kyle Rayner's first appearance as the new Green Lantern, before he chose the mask that covers most of his face, suggests that some people will be fooled and others won't. A woman rushes up to him proclaiming that he saved her years ago and asks if he remembers her, while a man comments on the new Green Lantern's different hair. Later stories suggested that no-one who knew him was fooled; the mask may have covered his face, but to anyone familiar with his artwork it was recognisably a Kyle Rayner design. Although Hal Jordan plays this straight where even his boss and love interest Carol Ferris doesn't recognize him past that little domino mask he has. You'd think that she would recognize the facial structure of somebody that keeps ask her out on dates.
- Supreme does it exactly the same way as Superman. As a kid he used to dye his hair, while changing into Kid Supreme, but he stopped when he realized nobody recognizes him anyway. At some point in a story Diana Dane realizes that Supreme and Ethan Crane look alike, but quickly dismisses it and points out some differences, like Ethan being shorter. She later suddenly realizes that Ethan IS Supreme. Supreme actually wonders why even Evil Genius Darius Dax gets fooled by it.
- Greyshirt is a pastiche of The Spirit, and as such he doesn't have a dual identity... but news sources have widely speculated him to be former gangster Franklin Lafayette. Again, not that this matters because Franklin Lafayette is officially missing and presumed dead and Greyshirt doesn't keep a secret identity, but the point (and subversion) is that people are almost certain about who is under that mask.
- Iron Man:
- For a brief time in , Tony Stark decided to become a normal 9-to-5 worker and so he shaved off his facial hair and put on a pair of glasses.
- There's also the Iron Man secret identity itself. The armor covers his whole body so it's not a straight example of this trope, but for years in the comic book Tony maintained the pretense that Iron Man was a separate person from Tony himself, a bodyguard with a secret identity. Having Tony and Iron Man appear together was easy enough thanks to stand-ins and robots, but such occasions were still so rare, and Tony was so rarely seen when Iron Man was busy being a superhero, that it's surprising so few people figured it out.
- Somewhat mocked in Empowered, where while stalling for time, the titular heroine tells her captors that she's actually a guy and is wearing a highly convincing "gynocamoflauge" suit to appear female, as nobody would suspect a hero's secret identity to be the opposite sex. When they buy it (because everyone knows superheroes are messed up), she goes on to claim that one of her male teammates is a woman in a male-looking armored suit which she originally built to control her hot flashes, a female one is really a guy with very nice legs, and a third is actually a mutated cocker spaniel. Said teammates are not happy about this when the "truth" hits the headlines.
- Phantom Lady lampshaded this as early as 1942. She looks identical to Sandra Knight. Sometimes she had to go tremendous effort so people didn't see both of them. sometime her boyfriend and her father didn't notice it-which she always wondered why.
- The Marvel Comics Avenger hero Echo utilized the perfect disguise to escape legions of ninja warriors. A man-suit. Being a slender female, bulky fake muscle/armor hid her curves well. Those without super-senses were fooled.
- Fables has the Witching Cloak which can disguise the wearer in many ways and means. The Big Bad knows this and instructs his soldiers to question anyone with a funny backstory. A new soldier's transfer story is torn apart and he is slain. The wearer of the Witching Cloak had been a cleaning lady all along.
- Played straight for a while in Wolverine, with Logan creating himself the secret identity of "Patch" in Southeast Asia, which consisted of putting on an Eyepatch of Power and not popping his claws. This was later subverted: apparently everyone realized there aren't a lot of short hairy men with wingtip hair, but decided it was safer to just humor The Berserker who stores knives up his wrists.
- For a while, Starfire of the Teen Titans managed to keep a secret identity as a model by simply covering her glowing green eyes with a pair of sunglasses. Apparently no one noticed her orange skin. Apparently people just thought it was fake and a celebrity gimmick, but have you seen her body? Or her hair?
- A tie-in to Crisis Crossover Fear Itself shows that Speedball has been working at a volunteer organization devoted to helping survivors of the Samford Disaster. Since he's blamed for said disaster (rather than the villain who actually did the killing), he's been disguising himself with a pair of glasses. Being the Marvel Universe, people are smart enough to see through it. Being the Marvel Universe, people are also stupid enough to try and beat up the indestructible guy whose powers are fueled by pain.
- Perhaps the most over-the-top parody of this trope ever can be found in Elseworlds 80 Page Giant. It features a title page from a fictional Silver Age story where Batman's secret identity is Adam, as in "Garden of Eden" Adam. Despite the fact that he is the only man in the world, Eve still can't figure out that Batman and Adam are the same person.
- In Irredeemable, flashbacks reveal that The Plutonian's secret identity was limited to Clark Kenting, plus changing his hair color and style (but not using a wig, apparently). Just like the trope namer, he worked in journalism, but seemed to do something more behind-the-scenes than actual reporting. And the fact that it's later revealed that the Plutonian is a Reality Warper neatly justifies any implausibility in the disguise.
- PS238 uses an interesting variation — Tyler is given a secret identity as part of his training as a Badass Normal. Metahumans, even those who go to school with him, can not recognise him once he changes into the costume. Only outright telling them to their face convinces them otherwise. Normal people who know him recognise him instantly and wonder why he's wearing a costume. Tyler wants to know how and why this works, because it doesn't make any sense.
- In Big Bang Comics, Ultiman (the Captain Ersatz of Superman) doesn't wear a mask, and his identity as astronaut Chris Kelly is well known to the public. However, he keeps another identity — that of Carl Kelly, Ultiman's mustachioed black sheep twin brother. 'Carl' and 'Ultiman' are technically co-workers, as Carl is assistant to Ultiman's military superior Gen. Black. Those who know them both think Carl avoids Ultiman because he can't relate to or feels inferior to him, and because Carl's considered something of a bum nobody thinks anything of him leaving work in the middle of the day only to come back as if nothing happened.
- Double Subverted in Marshal Law. The titular Marshal is at the airport, on the lookout for murderous Superman expy Public Spirit, when someone looking like Public Spirit in a business suit and glasses walks by. The twist: they're a decoy, deliberately meant to distract Marshal Law. In the mean time, the real Public Spirit has nearly made it though airport security and escaped, thanks to his clever disguise of... a business suit and glasses.
- Superlópez: Being a Superman parody, it's a given. However, as the series went on, he stopped wearing glasses when he's in civilian clothes, elevating the trope Up to Eleven, since there's literally no physical difference whatsoever between the two personas and people still don't recognize him.
- The Robins, especially Dick and Tim, generally only use a simple Domino Mask as their only concealing feature (though, as Red Robin, Tim did employ a Batman-like cowl). Possible justification, however, lies in the fact that, at least Post-Crisis, the Robins, like Batman, generally operate at night, where recognizing their faces would be difficult thanks to the darkness of the night and their speedy acrobatic combat style.
- Played for laughs in one issue of Impulse : Bart gets pointed out that his near-Shonen Hair tier hairdo is really distinctive... so in his usual style he promptly shaves his head. He ends up having to wear a wig as a civilian for a good bunch of following issues so people don't notice the hyperactive teen of the neighbourhood went bald at the same time as the masked hyperactive teen with Super Speed.
- Taken fairly far in Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, given that two of the team's members are No Celebrities Were Harmed Funny Animal counterparts of Eighties celebrities Burt Reynolds and Rona Barrett (a gossip columnist). Despite wearing little more than a Domino Mask over their faces, they're not only able to give exclusive interviews with each other, but continue their respective careers with no one the wiser! Even Alley-Kat-Abra, who started as an unknown martial arts instructor, apparently manages to make her social debut just after the superheroine who looks exactly like her in a leotard shows up.
- Parodied in the Bizarro strip for April 19th, 2013. Batman wears glasses in an attempt to hide his secret identity, but fails because he forgets to take off his Batman costume.
- Garfield parodies the trope. As an excuse not to chase a mouse, Garfield claimed he "didn't recognize him in those glasses".
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Progress, Princess Luna wants to learn more about modern life, having spent a millenium as Sealed Evil in a Can, so she disguises herself as the mortal pony Miss Selene. To avoid being recognized, she uses a magic amulet that causes onlookers to not register the fact she is who she is. The shape of the amulet? A pair of glasses.
- Last Child of Krypton: In this story Shinji is ''Superman' so the trope is expected. Semi-justified, as it is mentioned that Shinji vibrates at a high rate in order to blur his facial features.
- Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Subverted. Asuka takes an effort into masking her Supergirl identity, including using a blonde wig and a mask when she's in her superhero persona. However most of her face remains visible. And Misato and Rei may have figured things out, though.
- Subverted in the Tangled fanfic Super: a pair of glasses doesn't stop Rapunzel from immediately recognizing Eugene as the Gentleman Thief Flynn Rider she's been pursuing/flirting with in her superheroine guise as Blondie. Furthermore, Rapunzel is genuinely baffled by how Eugene doesn't seem to recognize her in turn because they've interacted with each other in costume frequently enough that he should be able to notice the similarities between her and Blondie even with her shorter brunette hair and meeker disposition out of costume. It turns out that Eugene did know who she was all along, but kept quiet about it because he had fallen in love with her and wanted to pursue a real relationship with her.
- Parodied for all its worth in Hiding in Plain Sight. After Harry defeated Voldemort, he ended up having lasik surgery performed. And since then, every pureblood that looks at him without the lensless glasses he carries around mistakes him for someone completely different. Deciding to play with it, he introduces himself as Clark Kent, even explaining "Clark is another bloke who no-one recognizes when he takes his glasses off. I'm guessing he won't mind if I borrow his name." But he isn't the only one in on the action. After mistaking 21 Jump Street for a documentary, Amelia Bones (head of the aurors) decides to try it herself by sending, among others, Alastor Moody in disguise. And to make things even worse, their disguises work on the purebloods as well, so none of them can figure out why they have a bunch of six-foot-tall first-year students.
- In the Dead or Alive fic Kunoichis Like Us, Kasumi disguises herself as an Ordinary High-School Student named Sakura Misaka by wearing glasses and braiding her hair. Though Kasumi and the other DOA fighters are Famed In-Story by the tournaments, the closest the public gets to any connection between Kasumi and Sakura is that Sakura looks like Kasumi. It's taken Up to Eleven when her school friends have "Sakura" cosplay as Kasumi and remain none the wiser.
- In Suzumiya Haruhi No Index, Haruhi can disguise herself with a pair of sunglasses. Kyon comments that she still looks the same, but since Haruhi genuinely believes it will work, her unknowing Reality Warper powers cause the public to not recognize her.
- In Past Lives a spell which makes you relive previous incarnations gives Harry and Hermione the personalities of Godric Gryffindor and Helga Hufflepuff. After they exit and came back again Harry, now sporting a goatee, claims to be "Salazar Slytherin" while Hermione, in glasses, announces herself as "Rowena Ravenclaw." When a Muggleborn first year is the only one to recognize them, "Rowena" and "Salazar" comment that they needed four teachers for the school and that "Wizards and witches may have a lot of power, but they don't have a lot of common sense."
- All over the place in Justice Society of Japan.
- Shinji's costume might be cheap, but at least it hides his face.
- Shirley's costume barely obscures her face at all. In fact, she actually has to wear a Nice Hat in her civilian identity, since otherwise people would notice her "Robot Ears". Yet somehow not even Hatsune Miku (who in this continuity is Shirley's robotic "sister") recognizes her unless explicitly told so.
- Sayaka's costume also makes it pretty obvious who she is, yet Hitomi is fooled completely. Kyosuke, on the other hand, is not fooled.
- Played straight in The Institute Saga where Clark Kent is a part-time teacher at Bayville High, until someone outs him to the world as part of a political attack that backfires spectacularly.
- Toward the end of Origin Story, after Alex Harris decides to take act as a superhero under the name Superwoman, her partner Louise insists that she keep a Secret Identity. To do that, she starts wearing a pair of glasses and a dark colored wig as Alex Harris. Even she admits, though, that she mostly relies on the fact that people are too busy staring at her Cleavage Window to notice her face when she's in costume.
- In Pony POV Series, Prince Blueblood is able to disguise himself by removing his trademark suit and messing up his mane. It works mostly because hardly anyone is aware he's no longer a vain, self-centered jerk, so they would never associate a dirty, unregal looking pony with him.
- In Batmare Beyond, Rarity realises she runs the risk of being identified as the new "Batman" if she lets herself be seen, as she's the only known unicorn on Earth, and plans to avert this using magical illusions. However, when she does get photographed in costume and printed in the newspaper, no one makes the connection despite Rarity being in another photo (from a Wayne funded charity auction) on the same page, in more or less the same pose and with the same facial expression. This leads her to declare that, "The entire population of Earth are morons!"
"Magic...several ancient cultures had beliefs, rituals, and ceremonies surrounding masks. The idea of the use of the masks was that, in donning it, you became the entity the mask represented, leaving your normal identity behind. My own experience has since revealed that those ancient cultures had a great deal of powerful magic at their disposal. It could very well be that there's some sort of magic behind that concept of masks suppressing your true self, bound in the very weft of Earth's magical field...one that protects those who don masks - metaphorical or otherwise - to protect people."
- Ironically Bruce gives a surprisingly sound explanation for why this is possible, quoted below (part of the omitted portion of the text referencing the Trope Namer).
- Subverted in The Last Daughter. In addition to changing her outfit and lowering her voice, Taylor vibrates her face fast enough that it just looks like a blur. Once the PRT and Protectorate get a picture with a good enough camera, they have no trouble figuring out who she is.
- In The Dark Side Of The Mirror Verse, the Mirror Universe version of Discord is a superhero called Captain Goodguy, just like in the IDW Comics. His secret identity consists of wearing a tench coat and glasses, without making any attempt to hide the fact he's a Draconequus. This at least works on some ponies, including Mirror Fluttershy. In part because she assumes Sir Discord is Blind Without Them, so taking his glasses off to fight crime makes no sense. That and she can't imagine a Reality Warper would purposefully masquerade as a powerless person.
- It's also shown earlier that Mirror!Ahuizotl/Bravery Blue pulls the same trick as prime Daring Do. Except while her disguise is more complete and she's a pony, Ahuizotl is still an...well, Ahuizotl.
- In The Senshi Files: Silver Warden, the Senshi transformation explicitly comes with a disguise effect that magically prevents people from linking the two identities despite obvious likenesses and all, similar to how veils and compulsions already work in the Dresdenverse. It's good enough to leave even the Japanese Wardens looking for them on behalf of the White Council clueless, and the main reason Harry himself manages to make any more progress than they when he arrives in Japan is that the orphaned girl he adopted in the prequel turns out to be the missing Sailor Jupiter.
- Parodied in a CollegeHumor skit of a meeting between Superman and Batman.
Gordon: Um, news flash, it takes a little more than a hat and/or glasses to fool people.
Gordon: Check this out. [removes glasses] Hey look, I'm someone else! Are you fooled? I'm not Commissioner Gordon, he's gone and...
Batman: [looks over at Gordon] Who are you?! Where's Commissioner Gordon?! [Gordon puts on glasses] Oh, you're back.
Films — Animation
- Lilo & Stitch. Have you ever seen a blue dog, or a tourist with four eyes? Stitch, however, does get questioned by Nani and the petstore owner. Myrtle also doesn't seem to quite buy the "dog" story, either. It's Jamba and Pleakly who follow this trope.
- In Rio 2, Pedro and Nico don't seem to realize the very talented cockatoo with the leaf over his face is Nigel, the antagonist from the first film. Rafael is at the very least suspicious.
- Both Jafar and Jasmine fail to recognize "Prince Ali" as Aladdin, in spite of the fact that he's done nothing to alter his appearance or voice (other than clean up). Both catch on, though Jafar only when he sees that Aladdin has the lamp and Jasmine when she remembers his Catch Phrase. In the latter's defence she did think he was dead and did sense something familiar about him when she got a good look at him.
- In Barbie in Princess Power, as Super Sparkle, Kara wears a domino mask to hide her identity.
- Nobody recognizes Cinderella at the ball as the stepdaughter/servant of the Tremaines. It might be justified by having been kept in her Wicked Stepmother' house since she was a young girl. But neither her stepsisters or stepmother recognize her, though it's not clear how good of a look they got.
Films — Live-Action
- In the live-action 2015 remake of Cinderella, her family not recognizing her is justified; the Fairy Godmother casts a spell on her that keeps her identity secret from them, though not on the Prince, who does recognize her as the woman he met earlier in the forest. And after the ball, Lady Tremaine manages to put the clues together.
- In the Mike Mitchell adventure film Sky High (2005):
- Parodied with Mr. and Mrs. Stronghold, who both wear thick glasses. While Mr. Stronghold accessories with vaguely 50s-style clothing, Mrs. Stronghold just dresses like a normal mom, but she too wears glasses.
- The character Royal Pain serves as a meta-example. Her yearbook picture is Mary Elizabeth Winstead—who plays Gwen—in glasses and poorly done hair. Given that Gwen being Royal Pain is meant to be The Reveal, the movie seems to assume that the audience will not recognize Winstead in this picture.
- Subverted in the classic Richard Donner Superman films, whose take on this trope has migrated to canon in at least some comic continuities. Christopher Reeve's vastly differing portrayals of Clark Kent and Superman really made you feel that he could get away with the disguise. To play the role of Clark Kent, he wore the glasses and slicked his hair back, sure, but he also slouched, stammered, and raised his voice by an octave so that there was a tangible difference between Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent and Christopher Reeve as Superman. This is most obvious in this scene from Superman where he's about to tell Lois the truth (but doesn't), and in Superman II where she figures it out on her own. All Reeve does is stand up straight and speak in his normal voice and suddenly he's another person. Superman II, 3, and 4 also throw in a form of Obfuscating Stupidity to the mix by making Clark The Klutz to add to the disguise.
- In an interview given after Reeve's death, Margot Kidder (Lois) says that Reeve was adamant that Clark Kent behave nothing like Superman. To paraphrase Kidder, "Clark moves differently, his shoulders are held differently... he's a completely different person."
- A similar good example comes in Superman Returns, where Lois explains Superman's height to Richard. Richard then says: "How tall would you say Clark is?" Clark draws their attention by clumsily knocking something over, then waves at them with a silly/embarrassed grin on his face, looking for all the world like a complete ditz, and Lois and Richard both burst out laughing.
- Ditto for the Supergirl film as well. Kara's civilian identity involves giving herself a completely different hairstyle (brown, shorter and curlier). Linkara also points out a few minor differences in Helen Slater's performance, that help make it believable that they are two different people. It probably also helps that nobody has any idea who Supergirl is for the first half of the movie.
- Parodied in Mystery Men, as one of the character realizes that Captain Amazing looks identical to his "benefactor", but without glasses. (He disguises himself the exact same way Superman does.) The theory gets shouted down, as without glasses, he couldn't see anything.
- Semi-Film, Semi-Real Life Example: Albert Walker of The Agony Booth has twice admitted that he was fooled by the disguises of characters in some of the bad movies he's reviewed, which is shameful given the otherwise low quality of everything else in the given films. Specifically: Gene Simmons in Never Too Young To Die, who dresses up as a friendly agent despite his character being a flagrantly over-the-top transvestite, and Paul Freeman in Shanghai Surprise, supposedly dead and disguised, again, as an ally.
- Count Olaf (played by Jim Carrey) in the film version of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events disguises himself as a scientist named Stephano (false mustache and a shaved eyebrow) and a sea captain called Captain Sham (wooden leg, and a beard). Although in the books Olaf can easily be recognised when in disguise because he has a tattoo of an eye on his ankle, his disguises are still comically inept.
- Lampshaded in the Bill Murray movie Quick Change where even the police were unable to give a good description of the robbers, as they were distracted by the unusual nature of the crime ( bank robbery by a clown).
- Lampshaded in the movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi: total nerd Suri disguises himself as fashion victim Raj by shaving his moustache, changing haircut and putting other clothes on. He later explains to a friend that if he managed to fool his wife with the disguise, it's only because God decided to help him. The trope is also slightly subverted because, like in Donner's Superman movies, it's not just the clothes that change but the character's whole behaviour. Suri and Raj talk, move and behave differently, which later leads Suri to become jealous of Raj because he wonders if people do not prefer him (why hello there, Split Personality!).
- In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939), Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) disguises himself as a singer at a party. His disguise is so good that he feels audacious enough to get on stage in front of everyone and sing a tune. His disguise? Nothing more than a fake mustache. It's all in his facial contortions and mannerisms, and it comes across as plausible that nobody would recognize him.
- In It Happened One Night, Peter and Ellie fool the detectives who are sent by Ellie's father with acting like a low-class married couple.
- In The Phantom, the Phantom's body language hardly changes when he's being Kit Walker, and his voice not at all; despite this, nobody seems to realise that they're the same person even after encountering both of them in quick succession, though Diana does eventually admit to having figured it out. Diana figuring out the Phantom's secret identity is foreshadowed in the scene at the newspaper office where Kit talks and poses exactly like the Phantom did just a few scenes earlier, before realizing what he's doing and breaking the pose.
- Mocked by MAD in their spoof of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. April: "Why do you wear a mask?" Raphael: "So no-one knows I'm a turtle, of course!" The turtles' masks are doubly silly because they don't have a secret civilian identity: if anything, their masks exist to reveal their identity, not to conceal it.
- Cillian Murphy's character in Peacock is a quiet wage-slave who keeps to himself. Cillian Murphy's other character in Peacock is a woman who lives in the same house, looks curiously similar, and often appears right after Cillian has gone upstairs (you know, plus the time it would take to put a wig and some eyeliner on). Nobody ever gives any sign of knowing, the only possible rationalization being that maybe in small-town 1950s Nebraska, maybe it just didn't occur to them that Cillian Murphy would probably wear a dress given half a chance.
- In Sugar & Spice, the cheerleading squad robs the supermarket bank branch, dressed as...cheerleaders. In Betty doll masks. Arguably Fridge Brilliance as: 1)Who would suspect actual cheerleaders of robbing banks, and: 2)The number of cheerleading groups in a general area.
- Subverted hilariously in Green Lantern. Hal Jordan tries to disguise his voice while speaking to Carol Ferris. It works for about a minute, but as soon as she gets a good look at him she knows who he is. This is made even funnier by the fact that the scene is a direct homage (location, camera angles, entrance, music, etc) to the famous balcony scene from Superman.
Carol: I've known you my whole life! I've seen you NAKED! You don't think I would recognize you because I can't see your cheekbones?!
- Jason puts on a fake mustache to imitate his father to fool the principal in Mystery Team. It doesn't work.
- Played with in Steel where the armor covers almost all the protagonist's body. Unfortunately, the title character is 7 feet tall, so it's completely obvious to anyone who sees him in both identities. The cop witness recognizes him, not the least because John has a scar in the exact same spot where Steel had a bleeding wound. The cop feigns ignorance because Steel saved his life earlier. Lampshaded by the Big Bad:
Burke: [upon seeing Steel for the first time] Now I wonder who that is.
- Briefly used in The Room:
Johnny: [removing his sunglasses] Hi, can I have a dozen red roses please?
Shop Clerk: Ohai Johnny, I didn't know it was you.
- Played with in The Prestige. Borden (Christian Bale) and Angier (Hugh Jackman) often adopt disguises to sneak into each other shows, but they tend to just be false beards that don't fool anyone who knows them. Then at the end of the movie, it turns out Borden's identical twin (also played by Christian Bale) had been disguising himself as the assistant Fallon the whole movie, and concealed it by wearing big glasses, a hat, a false beard, not speaking, and makeup to make his face look chubbier. In fact, they'd been swapping off; a Rewatch Bonus is detecting the subtle differences in Borden.
- The Rebel Set, a 1950s B-movie crime caper, had ringleader Ed Platt disguising himself to evade detection from his own gang by wearing a clergyman's collar - this was called out mercilessly on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The episode guide book notes that on their first viewing of the film, it took everyone quite a while to realize he was even supposed to be in disguise.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Several times in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- At the Smithsonian, Steve hides his identity by wearing a big jacket and a baseball cap. Only one awestruck kid recognizes him, but is convinced to keep it secret. May help that Captain America hasn't been in the public eye much for over 70 years in-universe, and his costume usually covered half his face and deliberately drew attention to his chest.
- Steve uses this again when he's on the run, wearing a hoodie and thick-rimmed glasses with thick lenses. An Apple employee gives him a querying stare, but it turns out he just recognized that they own the same kind of glasses.
- Natasha just relies on a hoodie. She shows her experience with this trope by giving advice to Steve on how to remain nondescript, including not running and pretending to be conversing (and kissing).
- In the second end-credits stringer, Winter Soldier/Bucky visits the Smithsonian disguised, wearing a jacket to cover his metal arm. Of course 99% of those who have seen the Winter Soldier's face are likely dead, so it's just some random person to the general public... at least until they walk right up to the display about his life complete with giant portrait headshot. At the least, the portrait has him clean shaven and in a military buzzcut not his Winter Soldier permastubble and long hair. Also, he's officially dead.
- They're at it again in Captain America: Civil War, living anonymously in Europe, speaking all the local languages fluently and wearing two or three layers of sleeves and a left glove at all times of year. Even when he's framed for bombing the UN and(a very blurry photo of) his face is all over the news, exactly two people seem to notice (the magazine-stand owner and whoever called in the tip).
- Several times in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Zig zagged in Catwoman. It takes quite a while for the male lead to figure out that Patience is Catwoman. The first thing that tips him off is that they both have similar handwriting - he gets both samples analysed and the expert says that it's obviously two very different people. For the record, Patience's mask really doesn't hide that much of her face.
- In the Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy her character wears several different disguises that are all Paper Thin (wearing various wigs and ugly touristy clothing, or wearing very stylish outfits like ball gowns and leather). Several times she is seen by a few of the same people but they don't realize that she is the same person each time. But parts of that may be her quick thinking nature.
- In The Blackbird, Dan the criminal and thief disguises himself as his fictional twin brother, "the Bishop", supposedly the operator of a charity mission in the Limehouse slums. All he does is put a pillow on his back to make himself look like a hunchback, and draw his leg up to his hip as if it is withered. Everyone buys this disguise—his criminal associates, Scotland Yard, his ex-wife.
- Averted in Judge Dredd, where the titular Judge is almost immediately recognized by his chin. All someone has to do is cover up the top half of his face. Anyone who has seen Dredd up close in his helmet knows that chin.
- The villains in A Series of Unfortunate Events seem to be quite good at this, possibly because most of them are identified by a few distinguishing features — such as a monobrow, baldness, or very pale faces.
- Cleverly averted in The Shadow Pulp Magazine, where readers are first led to believe his secret identity is Lamont Cranston (as he is in the radio show) but the very next novel has the real Lamont Cranston wake up to The Shadow, Master of Disguise, in his room, quite perfectly borrowing his face. The Shadow also commonly goes by five other identities, some borrowed, some invented, as well as single-use identities in many stories. Readers had to wait seven years to find out his real backstory in "The Shadow Unmasks," which involved Faking the Dead twelve years beforehand and arranging to be miraculously "found" when he needed a new primary identity.
- Ripliad: Tom Ripley pulls this off very successfully in the first novel: blonde hair and a big smile, and he's Dickie Greenleaf. Slightly darker hair, a meek slouch and non-prescription horn-rimmed glasses, and he's Tom Ripley. Subverted twice because (a) the novel goes into extreme detail about Tom's preparations and his fear of being caught, and (b) Tom is so completely batshit insane, he almost believes he's two different people.
- In Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, Lisbeth Salander had insisted on her punk rocker girl appearance so heavily, even comically exaggerated it during her trial, that she could adopt any other persona and nobody would recognize her, as they were not expecting that. She disguised as a blonde and carried a fake passport by the name 'Irene Nesser' and nobody, policeman, border guard or airport security man cared to look closer.
- In David Eddings' The Malloreon, 'Zakath takes advantage of this after he's more or less shanghaied into joining the companions on their quest. Despite being the Emperor of nearly half the world, all he has to do is grow a beard and change clothes to go unrecognized; he explains that most of his subjects have only ever "seen" the Emperor as an image on coins, and of the minority that have seen him in person, most saw only the guards, attendants, and trappings around him. No-one would expect to see the Emperor riding through the backcountry unattended, unshaven and in ordinary clothes.
- in Tales of an Mazing Girl Sarah Wears Glasses. It works she admits simply beacuse its verys awkward to go up to someone and say hey are you "'Mazing Girl" and if she denies it well that's not much of a conversation starter.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe gives us Corran Horn, who hides as one "Kieran Halcyon", with some dye to make himself a blonde. Everywhere. He also grows a beard.
- Hallis Saper, for the first half of Starfighters of Adumar, wears a pair of eye-concealing goggles over her eyes and a 3PO droid head ("Whitecap", which houses her recording equipment) on her shoulder. This outfit turns out to have been created for just this purpose: when she wants to be more circumspect, she simply removes the goggles and tucks Whitecap under her cloak. After Whitecap malfunctions, she's forced to abandon this outfit, to the point that it becomes a minor Running Gag that people don't recognize her (since, after all, they're expecting the two-headed lady).
- This phenomenon is mentioned in a few Discworld books, but Moist Von Lipwig of Going Postal and Making Money turns Clark Kenting into a lifestyle and an artform. He has very in-distinctive looks normally, so he adds accessories like beards and moustaches, a spot of makeup, a Verbal Tic in order to give any eyewitness report something to latch on. In his official duties, he wears very distinctive clothing to distract from his face, and when the newly formed newspaper reporters come to interview him, he fights tooth and nail to avoid being clearly photographed.
- Subverted in Maskerade when two "undercover" Watchmen (Nobby and Detritus) do a terrible job of disguising themselves...but that's intentional, as Vimes sent the two most distinctive officers available so that the real undercover cop would go unnoticed.
- In Beyond The Blue Moon, Rupert and Julia return to the Forest Kingdom as Hawk and Fisher, and count on their both having aged to conceal their real identities. With the masses, it seems to work, mostly because their official portraits are so idealized as to look nothing like they'd looked even when they were younger; at the end it's subverted, as everyone who'd actually known them admits that they'd recognized them both immediately, but kept quiet about it for reasons of politics and/or to respect their wish for anonymity.
- In the earliest version of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty is visited in her dreams by a prince who begs her to save him and she fails to realize that he and the Beast are one and the same until his transformation. This normally wouldn't qualify as an example of this trope due to the handsome prince and the hideous Beast looking nothing like each other, except that the prince wants Beauty to realize his real-life identity and does everything short of telling her outright, including telling her that she's made him unhappy right after she refuses to marry the Beast and changing places repeatedly with an image of the Beast when she asks how she can help him. Which makes Beauty look like an even bigger dumbass than Lois Lane; at least Superman actively sought to throw Lois off his scent, whereas the prince CONSTANTLY tells Beauty to look past appearances and find him "no matter how I may be disguised"!
- In Les Misérables Jean Valjean has many disguises, which are not picked up on by anyone. Visual adaptations emphasize that going from rags to well-dressed makes even Javert, specifically searching for Valjean, doubt himself.
- Played With in The Scarlet Pimpernel, possibly the Ur-Example, where no one connects the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney with the Scarlet Pimpernel. This is justified partially because no one knows what the Pimpernel actually looks like, as well as thanks to Sir Percy's Obfuscating Stupidity.
- Smallville — see Trope Namer.
- On Arrow, Oliver's disguise as the Hood is paper-thin. It literally consists of covering his hair with a hood, a little dark makeup around his eyes (and later, a mask made for him by Barry Allen) and a voice modulator. Given that he is a very distinctive, handsome, man (with carefully maintained facial hair that's a toned-down version of his comic counterpart's) who is very famous in his city, even seeing two-thirds of his face should be enough to guess who he is.
- Granted, even though Oliver initially doesn't bother wearing a mask, the disguise is not as paper-thin as it appears. He initiates conversations or combat by taking out the lights first. The shadows cast by the hood conceal his face.
- Witnesses who talk to Detective Lance often say they only remember 'a guy with a bow' - similar to a real effect called 'Weapon Focus Phenomenon', where witnesses to crimes remember seeing weapons but not faces.
- Not to mention Sara Lance, A.K.A. The Canary (this universe's version of Black Canary), who only hides her identity behind a domino mask and blonde wig (not as effective as you'd think as Sara is already a blonde!). In fact, Sara might even be worse about this than Oliver. Her actress, Caity Lotz, has a very distinct way of speaking and chin, and in one particularly Face Palm worthy scene, she's talking, less than two feet away, to her own sister, who didn't notice a thing. Yes, she's facing away. Yes, it's a Hollywood Darkness scene. Yes, her costume is designed to draw attention to her boobs. It's still pretty ridiculous.
- Subverted and lampshaded in one of the flashbacks, when Oliver returns to Starling City and wears a hoodie to hide his face, much like his original Hood disguise. He's instantly recognized by the first person to get a good look at him.
Maseo: That disguise would not work even if you covered your face in grease paint.
- Quite cleverly averted on the spinoff The Flash (2014). Whenever he's talking to someone who'd recognize him and doesn't already know his secret, Barry vibrates both his face and vocal chords to make himself unrecognizable. Barry does wear a mask, but it doesn't leave his face completely unrecognizable. His arch-nemesis Reverse-Flash vibrates his entire body, makes his voice even less recognizable, and somehow gets his eyes to glow. His second arch-nemesis Zoom wears a face-concealing mask, disguises his voice to sound like Tony Todd, and turns his eyes black. Averted with Jay Garrick, who doesn't wear any disguise.
- Speaking of Zoom, Hunter Zolomon is another example. He was an extremely infamous serial killer whose distinctive appearance had Wild Hair (including a huge beard). Once he escapes from jail, he shaves and cuts his hair and takes a new name. Given that this second persona is also a major celebrity figure (as "The Flash") just like his true serial killer self, you'd think someone would have made the connection.
- The Atom, who appears in both series, wears a clear visor in his helmet, with an open chin. The helmet is even lit on the inside...with lights that drastically change the contours of his face, at least when viewed at night, and leave his eyes heavily shadowed.
- LazyTown villain Robbie Rotten wears at least one Paper-Thin Disguise in all but a few episodes, yet is never recognised even by the adult characters until he is 'unmasked', usually due to his hat falling off. In one episode, he removes all but the headpiece of his costume, yet is not recognised until the headpiece comes off, and in another episode (The Laziest Town) serves free ice cream to the townschildren unquestioned while wearing just a false moustache and a food service hat.
- Subverted later in the same episode, when Robbie walks into Mayor Meanswell's office still wearing the moustache. The Mayor had this to say:
Mayor: Hi Mr. Rotten. Did you grow a moustache?
- Subverted later in the same episode, when Robbie walks into Mayor Meanswell's office still wearing the moustache. The Mayor had this to say:
- Teri Hatcher, appearing on Saturday Night Live during the run of Lois and Clark, got the opportunity to mock this during her opening monologue. She starts by telling the audience about the teasing she gets for playing the clueless Lois Lane, but explains that it's just part of the show and nobody is really that dumb. Then Will Ferrell comes on and asks if he can make an announcement. He puts on a pair of reading glasses... and Teri starts panicking, asking "Oh my God, who are you?! Where's Will?!"
Lois: How can they not know? They see me every single day! How can they not look past a simple mask and see...(notices Clark smirking at her with an "oh, really?" expression)
- While Cain isn't quite the master of dual roles that Reeve was, he still did a fairly good job of making Clark and Superman two very different characters. Clark is cheeky, casual, and aggressive when he has to be. Superman is stiff and authoritative.
- In terms of the secret identity even being an issue, Lex Luthor's realization that Superman has a secret identity and "walks among us" is a key turning point for Luthor's antagonism toward Superman partway through Lois and Clark's first season.
- In another episode, Lois gets Supes' powers and dons a costume as "Ultrawoman". Just before facing Jimmy and the Chief, she panics: "They'll recognize me." "No they won't," Clark calmly assures her — and they don't!
- In another famous scene in Lois and Clark, Tempus, a man from the future, comes back in time and tells Lois that she's famous... for being "the most galactically stupid woman who ever lived", demonstrating by putting on and taking off a pair of glasses over and over saying "I'm Clark Kent! No, I'm Superman!" Turn that light down, would you?
- The assassin Deathstroke (no, not ''that'' one; this guy had magnetic powers) donned a pair of glasses when he and his wife socialized with Lois and Clark in their civilian identities and neither he nor Superman recognized each-other, despite having given the Man of Steel a serious beating earlier, which proves even Superman can be fooled by a pair of specs.
- Some episodes indicated that Clark did a lot to maintain his cover offscreen, for instance, even though the lenses in his glasses are fake, he regularly visits an optometrist, just in case anyone wondered why a man who wears glasses never gets a checkup.
- A few people have noticed how much Superman looks like Clark Kent without glasses. They're either dying in Superman's arms or, in the case of Lois, waved it off as being under the influence of a Love Potion and idealizing the object of her affection (Clark) as looking like Superman.
- At one point, when Clark is about to be outed as Superman, Jimmy Olsen comments "I always thought that Clark looked a lot like Superman, but I never thought he was Superman." To which Perry White replies "I've been told I look a lot like Elvis, but I've never been to the White House."
- With the love potion, Superman pretended to be influenced by it when he had had it applied to him in his disguise, so Lois did have a situation where Superman and Clark seemed to react to the potion differently, making potion reaction a theoretical difference. Why this does not cause an unrelenting investigative reporter like Lois Lane to want to know why Clark can resist something that overcomes even superman probably raises more questions than it answers.
- Jack Styles from Jack-of-All-Trades wears a hat and mask to obscure his identity as the Daring Dragoon, but doesn't do anything to hide the fact that he's the only one on the island with an American accent, that he has the same style of ridicule toward the captain, and showed up the same day Jack did.
- This was lampshaded in the old Batman series, where The Green Hornet guest stars in a crossover. The villain's Perky Female Minion comes very, very close to figuring out the identities of both heroes, but gets them mixed up (thinking Reid is Batman and Wayne is the Hornet). When Batman proves otherwise by phoning her while she's having dinner with Reid, her suspicion - as close as it was - falls apart.
- Hilariously referenced in the live-action Tick series, where a Superman-like hero dons a pair of glasses (still wearing his costume), and The Tick immediately mistakes him for someone else.
- At the end of the episode, the hero was taking off and putting on his glasses every few seconds right in front of everyone, and The Tick forgot who he was each and every time.
- Stephen Colbert has been known to drop hints. Mild-mannered reporter, hmm? The hair does look familiar...
- Regularly parodied in 'Allo 'Allo! with LeClerc. Whenever he arrives in one of his pathetic disguises, he pulls Rene aside and says "It is I- LeClerc!". He confirms this by raising his glasses, which is a bit absurd since he normally wears glasses anyway. On occasion, he has revealed himself by removing a false moustache... exposing the nearly identical real mustache he always has. Naturally this exasperates Rene no end.
- The Power Rangers. You'd think with face-concealing helmets they'd have it made, but their idea of keeping their identities secret is to always hang out together and wear clothes that, in some way, correspond to which Ranger color they are. The original Rangers seemed to own nothing that wasn't their Ranger color (to some actors leaving the series with an "I don't wanna see anything pink again as long as I live!" attitude toward their colors.)
- Somewhat justified by the full face helmets and the fact that the color clothes are a subtle clue.
- Even more justified for young Justin in Power Rangers Turbo as Bulk and Skull point out he's too short to be a Power Ranger.
- There are also some episodes wherein people try to find out the Rangers' secret identities, but once the truth glares them in the face they ignore it. Then what was the point of trying!?
- Many is the time the team members call one another by name in front of civilians with nary a consequence. Hilariously subverted in Power Rangers RPM, where the "Ranger (Color)" designation is often used in combat when they are one of the teams whose identities are NOT secret.
- It gets worse in VR Troopers. They don't have designations, and the suits don't have a dominating color; until Ryan gets his upgrade, which is blue, they'd all equally qualify for "the red one." Their official morphed designations are VR [Real Name Here] according to The Merch. Nobody ever figures out who they are.
- Wild Force is one several seasons where the Rangers simply don't have secret identities, or simply don't bother to maintain them (others being Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, SPD, Operation Overdrive, and RPM). They seem to dish out the information on a need-to-know basis, but don't actively try to keep the secret.
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder villainess Elsa manages to spend most of the season working as the principal of the Rangers' high school. Her disguise is limited to a business suit, glasses, and eventually, a haircut. It's even lampshaded practically by name when her identity is revealed.
- This one is especially bizarre as with the way the reveal is played, it seems the producers seriously thought the audience wouldn't recognize her either.
- Hannah Montana. All the girl does is put on a wig and sparkly clothing and she is instantly unrecognizable.
- Miley Stewart does tend to act a bit more "small town country girl" when she isn't Hannah. Maybe not Christopher Reeve level, but still a possible example of personality making a difference.
- Her best friend and sidekick disguises herself by wearing multi-colored wigs and dressing up in punk(ish) clothes. Her father disguises himself by wearing a fake mustache. When Miley's male friend was let on the secret, he adopted his own on-stage disguise, wearing a fake goatee and dressing in sports/stereotypical rap clothes. And amazingly enough, no one is the wiser.
- Her father's disguise is the weakest of all of them. He doesn't even wear the mustache all the time. Does he even care if anyone figures out that Hannah and Miley are the same person?
- The show did lampshade this in one episode where Jackson calls out the Trope Namer himself while Miley and Robbie are getting in costume.
- Played straight in Battlestar Galactica with Gina, the Number Six Cylon who assassinates Admiral Cain and later hides out on Cloud Nine, hidden only by a wardrobe change and glasses. RDM admitted in the podcast that it wasn't one of their best moments.
- There are no critical plot points hinging on Gina not being recognized by someone who already knows a Six well.
- There is also The Plan where two Sixes, Shelly Godfrey and "Tough Six" appear side by side, yet don't seem to be noticed. Somewhat justified in that they do look and act different. Godfrey wears a suit, glasses, has blonde, fluffy hair and an insecure demeanor. Tough Six was wearing leather, chains, had brown, straight hair with blonde streaks and acted far more aggressively. Cavil lampshades it, noting the effort Sixes take to differentiate themselves. Also, this was before it became public knowledge that humanoid Cylons (a) existed and (b) had copies. A human observer would think they were normal twins.
- Far more noticeable was the Doral copy, after another Doral had been on the ship as public relations officer. He thought it would be enough that his suit was teal and the other's had been burgundy. This is why Cavil had him blow himself up.
- Mentioned in Whose Line Is It Anyway?. The scene from the hat is "The inner thoughts of super heroes."
Colin (as Superman/Clark): Now they recognize me... (mimes taking off glasses) Now they don't... (removes glasses) And now they recognize me...
- In Unhappily Ever After, Tiffany tests the theory that guys only like dumb girls by chatting up the same guy in the school library as though she were two different people, one smart and one stupid. The only visual difference between her two personae is a pair of glasses; she doesn't change her clothing or even her hair. It still fools the guy.
- The Cape at least has a mask, but somehow no one recognizes him from seeing the lower half of his face and hearing his voice. This includes his archenemy, his old partner, and his wife and son.
- Slightly justified in that he's supposed to be dead, and no one expects a dead guy to be a masked hero.
- In a Super Hero Episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch when Harvey becomes "Mighty Teen" through magic he starts to wear thick glasses when he's in civilian mode.
- Dark Justice: Judge Marshall goes unrecognized when he lets his hair down and takes off his glasses, allowing him to become a Vigilante.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Humorously referenced by the Initiative guys in season four, though their full body and face mask suits are far more convincing than Superman's disguise.
Forrest: This is the burden we bear, brother. We have a gig that would inevitably cause any girl living to think we are cool upon cool, yet we must Clark Kent our way through the dating scene, never to use our unfair advantage. Thank God we're pretty.
- But played straight when Buffy infiltrates the Initiative disguised as a scientist in Nerd Glasses and a Labcoat of Science and Medicine. As an attractive female teenager working in an all-male military unit, Buffy must have gotten a lot of covert checking out — it's surprising none of the guards recognize her.
- Humorously referenced by the Initiative guys in season four, though their full body and face mask suits are far more convincing than Superman's disguise.
- Kamen Rider Fourze:
- Nobody at Amanogawa High School ever seems to connect Kamen Rider Fourze to Gentaro Kisaragi. This might not look like an example since Kamen Riders wear full-body costumes and helmets, but Fourze and Gentaro are both boisterous goofballs and Gentaro's friends can be seen at every one of Fourze's battles giving him advice (and calling him by name). And it's not a visibility issue, since Gentaro is actively trying to befriend every single person at AmaGaku and is therefore known all over the place. It might help that civilians rarely hang around Fourze's battles and he doesn't get any press. He doesn't even try to hide his identity, so it may not be an issue (the Power Rangers and Super Sentai teams who don't hide their identities don't seem to get mobbed in the streets for autographs and such either.)
- The same series has Kamen Rider Meteor, who even Gentaro and friends don't recognize as their friend Ryusei Sakuta. In this case, Ryusei does have to hide his identity, as a condition of being able to continue being Meteor. He actually does try to act completely different, being quiet, friendly and cowardly normally while being brash, arrogant, and a competent fighter as Meteor. Interestingly, in his debut episode, Gentaro sees right through the Clark Kent act, saying that he won't befriend someone who's lying about who he is. Later in the episode when a frustrated Ryusei punches Gentaro in the face, Gentaro says that they're cool now because he got a glimpse of the real Ryusei in that punch.
- Just to compound things, "ryusei" is the Japanese word for meteor, but none of the cast seems to know/remember this. Occasionally when Meteor appears, Yuki announces it by shouting "The meteor's here!", but every single time she does this she uses the synonym "inseki".
- Kamen Rider in general usually doesn't have this problem, as their suits are full-body covering, complete with large helmet (they are Masked Riders, after all), but an issue comes up for quite a few of them: their cool, Toyetic vehicles, which most of them drive in both identities. No one seems to connect Kamen Rider Double to the fairly well-known Private Detective going around on the half-green-half-black bike covered in W motifs, or notice that police officer Shinnosuke Tomari's one of a kind Cool Car looks exactly like Kamen Rider Drive's Tridoron with the police's logo pasted on it. The worst is probably Kamen Rider Kuuga, who on one hand has the good idea to use his powers to change the paint job of his Cool Bike when transforming... but on the other, random Nice Guy Yuusuke Godai now drives around a unique prototype bike Kuuga stole from the police. And in fact regularly makes visits to the police station, still on said bike. Drive and Kuuga do eventually lose their Secret Identity, but on their own accord rather than getting found out.
- Wonder Woman: While this trope was played straight in all the series, it was notably averted at "Mind Stealers from Outer Space (Part 1)" when the Skrills, an alien race who steals minds to sell them into slavery, discovers easily Diana Prince's secret with only a slide projector:
"Unquestionably, the same human."
- Subverted, amazingly, in the Disney Zorro series. Despite Diego wearing a full costume and mask and pretending to be an unathletic coward in his own persona, Capitan Monestario still deduces his identity from noticing that Diego was always in the same vicinity whenever Zorro appears but the two were never seen together. Diego's servant Bernardo has to crash Diego's trial dressed as Zorro to ruin Monestario's plan to expose him. Also during the episode, it's shown that many people in the Pueblo can look like Zorro while wearing his costume, even one of Monestario's own men.
- An interesting example in the BBC Series Good Cop. John-Paul realises that Someone saw him walk out of the house where he murdered a criminal, when the witness is placed in a cell (For a different reason) John-Paul asks him if he saw a man last night and keeps telling the witness "Keep looking at me." so the witness in question doesn't think that he really saw John-Paul at all and that he's just gotten his face stuck in his head.
- 1970s Saturday morning series Electra Woman And Dyna Girl. These female versions of Batman and Robin wore no masks, but merely wore their hair differently as super heroes.
- Practically inverted in Merlin. Merlin's Older Alter Ego looks, sounds, and acts nothing like him and yet everyone says his "eyes are familiar". And it's not like he has an unusual eye color or anything, they're standard blue eyes in a cast of blue eyes that everyone picks up on. Even when he disguised himself as an old woman (very convincingly at that), Arthur kept wondering if he'd met "her" before. Although, given that Arthur is extremely stupid, whatever guess he had had to be miles off.
- In Orphan Black, Sarah and Allison sometimes pass for each other just by covering their hair and adopting each others' accents. Of course, it helps that they're clones.
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Daemons," the Master dons a pair of Clark Kent-like glasses as Rev. Magister.
- In the 2016 Christmas episode "The Return of Doctor Mysterio", Grant Gordon assumes a civilian disguise, complete with glasses, when he's not being the superhero known as the Ghost. Lampshaded in the first sequence when the Doctor giddily discovers that Clark and Superman are the same person (he draws glasses on Superman's face to prove it). When Grant scoffs that everyone knows that already, the Doctor defensively points out that Lois Lane, an investigative reporter, hasn't caught on yet (foreshadowing Lucy Fletcher's cluelessness later on).
- In Jekyll, even with the terrific acting on the part of James Nesbitt and some very subtle make up, the only difference in appearance between Jackman and Hyde are that Hyde is "a little bit taller, a little bit thinner, a little bit younger" and that his eyes are a bit darker, with a different hairline and slightly different jawline. Despite the minor differences, nobody can tell that they are technically the same person, and children literally see Hyde as a separate person from Jackman. Hyde even lampshades it by calling Jackman's wife, who has seen them both, "Stupid Lois Lane" for not noticing. Even after seeing the transformation she still can't believe that they are the same person.
- Parodied in an episode where the sisters are transformed into superheroes. The mask is said to protect their identities — but what it really does is remove their caution and logic. For what it's worth, Cole recognizes Phoebe instantly.
- Also subverted in an episode where Paige gets turned into a wood nymph. She dances on stage at Piper's club and Piper tells her to get down before someone recognizes her. The only thing that's different is that her hair is now waist-length. Sure enough, someone is heard saying "Paige, you rock!" to her. Though technically an in-universe example when Phoebe's boyfriend runs an article about the nymphs but doesn't mention Paige's name, referring to the nymphs as "identities unknown". The resemblance one of them has to his girlfriend's sister probably came up once or twice.
- Used to great effect in Healer (and heavily lampshaded) when titular character goes undercover as wimpy, cowardly, nerdy reporter Park Bong Soo. His doing so in the first place is justified in that no one has ever seen the Healer, the mission is supposed to take only a few days, and as far as he knows, this particular mission is completely and utterly separate from any other mission he's taken recently and no one has reason to suspect him. The Two-Person Love Triangle that results is just icing on the cake.
- Mocked in Arrested Development with the character of Gene Parmesan, a private eye. In one scene, Gene appears wearing a fake nose that looks just like his real nose; in another, wearing a fake mustache over his more or less identical real mustache.
Maggie: Plus, the glasses don't help.
- Addressed early when Kara wonders how she'll conduct an interview (as Supergirl) with her boss Cat Grant without being recognized. Ironically, what causes Cat to eventually figure it out is the precise thing that James said would protect Kara: Cat could never see her mousey assistant as a hero. After Kara saved Cat's job following a computer hack, Cat could see Kara as a hero and was able to put the pieces together. The best part? Even though Kara is Supergirl, Kara looks nothing like Supergirl. When Cat demands Kara remove her glasses, she still looks far different than her superhero identity, so much so that the audience will think Cat is an idiot for thinking the two are the same even though they are. J'onn J'onnz shapeshifting as Supergirl convinces Cat they're two different people, and she mutters, "And by the way, you were right. You look nothing like Supergirl!"
- Cat also quickly realizes that Barry is the Flash in the crossover episode, although that has more to do with Barry's behavior than appearance.
- Detective Maggie Sawyer figures out Supergirl's identity after seeing how worried Alex (her foster sister) gets for her sake.
Alex: I always said that, too. It's kinda ridiculous.
- Parodied on Jimmy Kimmel Live in a "deleted scene" for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where Kimmel's character immediately recognizes Clark Kent as Superman (and, when seeing the top of his face covered, Bruce Wayne as Batman). He then points this out to Lex Luthor, who doesn't see it at first but then feels like an idiot when Jimmy's character pulls Clark's glasses off. He gets hurled to Mars for his trouble (and for being a dick about it) and has to spend his remaining minutes avoiding Matt Damon.
- Deconstructed in Birds of Prey. Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl, points out to her protege Helena "Huntress" Kyle in a late episode that she ought to wear a mask. Because she doesn't, anybody who meets her as both Huntress and Helena easily realizes they're the same woman. This isn't so much a problem with her Love Interest Detective Jesse Reese. It's a huge problem with her psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a.k.a. Harley Quinn.
- Done for laughs on the third-rate variety show ("Second-rate variety show!") The Muppet Show by Mark Hamill. He first appears in full Skywalker costume, and gets pegged as Hamill right off the bat — only to run out the door to get his "cousin" and reappear seconds later dressed casually as Mark Hamill. At the end of the episode, both appear onscreen just to mess with Kermit's mind.
- Mocked in the French satiric show Les Guignols de l'info with Super Menteur ("Super Liar"), the "superheroic" alter-ego of Jacques Chirac. Even Only Sane Man PPDA keeps wondering "Who could be Super Menteur?" On the other hand, his "superpower" is to make everybody believe his Blatant Lies, including "Jacques Chirac isn't Super Menteur!"
- Justified in Princess: The Hopeful; Princesses have a power known as Dual Identity, which causes people to perceive their mundane and transformed forms as two separate people, even if they have exactly the same face with no mask whatsoever. And even if someone somehow gets enough clues to suspect the truth, the Princess can influence their mind to cause them to shrug it off as coincidence.
- This is Older Than Steam: in William Shakespeare's play King Lear, the Earl of Kent(!) returns from banishment in a fairly flimsy disguise to help the king. Even before he goes mad, Lear fails to recognize him along with everyone else, despite having known him for years. Later in the play, after Edgar is accused of plotting against his father the Earl of Gloucester, he tears at his clothes and covers himself with mud to disguise himself as a "Bedlam beggar". The disguise is good enough to fool his father, his godfather King Lear, the Earl of Kent (who is also in disguise and who Edgar fails to recognize) and the King's fool (easily the smartest person in the whole cast). In the final scene of the play, Edgar dons another disguise that fools his half-brother Edmund, though the stage directions imply that he may be masked.
- In fact, many of Shakespeare's plays use this, including most of the comedies. In Measure for Measure, the Duke, who rules the city, wanders around speaking to all the main characters with no attempt at disguise other than a priest's robe. In Twelfth Night and As You Like It women dress as men with little effort other than wearing men's clothing. Rosalind (the protagonist of As You Like It) remarks, in short, that no one will pay attention so long as she wears breeches and carries a sword. Orlando, the man in love with her, doesn't recognize her, even when she "pretends" to be Rosalind so he can practice courting. Most scholars agree these disguises would have been useless and flimsy, so the audience could easily see through them. This, mostly, is the joke, because women were not allowed to act in Shakespearian times; you would have a man who was playing a woman who pretended to be a man imitating a woman and so on. Also, until roughly the 1950s, clothing was how you told who was a man and who was a woman. People just went with the gender suggested by the clothing.
- Played with in Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, where Elzam's disguise as Rätsel Feinschmecker is utterly transparent, and he knows it. But because it gives the rest of the group Plausible Deniability about the fact that an ex-Dragon is working with them, everybody goes along with it. This mostly consists of substituting "Rätsel" for "Elzam", even when talking about something that was officially done by Elzam.
- He even gets away with just ditching the disguise when he has to go to a funeral. It would be tacky to wear the disguise to the funeral, after all.
- A minor one in the original Valkyrie Profile: This happens during a chance encounter with the princess Jelanda and the mercenary Arngrim (the first two party members Lenneth picks up); Jelanda is able to hide her prim and girlish appearance with thick glasses and a babushka; both effectively make her look like an older woman.
- In the video intro to Rayman: Raving Rabbids 2, Rayman infiltrates the Rabbids' ranks by donning a disguise consisting of a pair of Rabbid-style googly eyes on a headband, a sink-plunger loaded into his gun, and a lungful of helium. One of the senior Rabbids is on the lookout for Rayman, carrying the CD slip-case for the previous game as a reference image, and comes close to rumbling him — until Rayman lets loose a Rabbid-like manic "BWAAAHHH!", which dispels the Rabbids' remaining doubts.
- In Mega Man Star Force, nobody seems to figure out that Geo Stelar is Mega Man unless he's explicitly transformed (Or changed back) in front of them. Combine the hairstyle, the voice, the eyes and the fact that Geo is close to the scene every time before and/or after something goes wrong would kinda make people think. In the anime, Bob Copper actually puts two and two together... and, in a moment of unbelievable stupidity, actually asks if Geo is one of Mega Man's groupies (Much to Geo's own surprise). In the same anime, when Luna finds out, she goes into a state of complete denial, despite the insistence of Bud and Zack and Omega-Xis showing up in front of them at times. Granted, her denial faded in the final episode of Tribe, but still.
- City of Heroes features a mission in which your character has to infiltrate a Freakshow base. In order to facilitate this mission, you're given a disguise. What is the disguise? A rusty, spiky chestpiece (worn over your regular costume) and a bright red mohawk (ditto).
- Early on in Final Fantasy VII, the characters disguise themselves as enemy troops to steal passage aboard a boat. For the most part, this works quite well, as Shinra troops are covered in head to toe with armor and baggy combat jumpsuits, but there are two major exceptions: Barret, the big black dude with a gun for an arm dressed as a sailor, and Red XIII, a cat/wolf-like creature who can't walk very well on two legs and whose tail sticks out of his uniform!
- They actually play with it some in this case. Upon Arrival, one conversation option results in Mr. Gun Arm being described as looking like 'a bear wearing a marshmallow suit', and he ends up hogging up the bathroom looking at himself in the mirror, wearing said sailor suit, if he's not in your party. As for Red XIII... he dances back and forth from foot to foot, obviously having issues standing on two legs, but comments that he 'makes a pretty good human being' when you talk to him... after which he turns to the side, allowing you to see the tail (flaming tip and all) sticking out of his pants.
- Played with in Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis. The resident superhero, "The Flay", fights crime in the school, alongside his sidekick, who is The Hero in the main story. Their costume? It's a mask that covers only their eyes, while still wearing their Custom Uniform. And everyone is fooled...
- Done both ways in Team Fortress 2, depending on the team. Spies wear a mask that consists of the face of the class they're disguised as. If you're on their team, you can see them as a spy. If not, well, it's a perfect disguise (until the shooting starts).
- Or even before it starts, if you're alone with one and they happen to be standing right behind you...
- Maria in Silent Hill 2. Although more intricate than "standard" Clark Kenting (clothes, hair, cosmetics, vastly different personality) James once mentions that she looks a lot like Mary then never mentions the resemblance again. Heavily justified though in that not only is James completely batshit insane but it isn't really Mary at all, merely a construct James has invented due to among other things his refusal to accept her death. Yes, it is a very strange game.
- Yeager in Tales of Vesperia does this when he disguises himself as Regaey. Granted, the name was a dead giveaway, but his demeanor as Regaey was very meek compared to his actual personality.
- The trope is an essential part of the Hitman series of games. Walk calm, wear the right uniform and carry the right gun in the right way (ie. out-of-sight or in off-hand). Otherwise, trouble.
- Silent Assassin actually subverts the trope: disguises consist of a simple uniform and sometimes (Russian levels) a hat. It doesn't matter if someone sees your face, getting out of sight and changing uniform will fool that guy, even though your face is clearly visible. There's one exception: the Japanese levels. Guard uniforms here include a balaclava and NV goggles but despite these and the fact that it's night, the snipers scattered around the level WILL recognize you.
- Zigzagged in Absolution: disguises will fool regular people but if you run into anyone who is wearing the same clothes as you, they will immediately notice you're not one of them, even at believability stretchingly large distances. The only way to avoid this is to use an "instinct" draining special move that causes 47 to...keep his head down.
- In Alundra 2, it is obvious to the player that the Pirate Queen's bodyguard is Flint's father, but Flint and everyone else can't see it. His outfit and hairstyle are unchanged from the last time Flint saw him, the only difference being the addition of a mask.
- Raphael aka Phantom R of Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure. His diguise is wearing a suit and a fedora. Bonus points for wearing glasses in civilian mode.
- In True Love Junai Monogatari, the famous Idol Singer Sonoko Takahashi, who has her face plastered all over posters and CDs around town, is able to pass herself off as an ordinary New Transfer Student to the PC's high school by simply putting her hair up, wearing glasses, and going by the alias of "Ryoko Shimazaki"...which happens to be her actual birth name. She comes under no suspicion by any of the students she interacts with other than the PC, and the PC only begins putting two and two together when he sees her without her glasses on.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, Elise Deauxnim is (as you can probably guess from the name) another, previously mentioned character in disguise. Said disguise consisted of changing her name, wardrobe and hairstyle. She does nothing to conceal her face, and she hasn't aged very much since she was last seen. What makes this curious is that her own daughter, Maya was able to recognize her face from a photo earlier in the series, but doesn't do so now.
- Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist: To hide his true identity, Freddy makes a false ear for himself (his real ear having been shot off in the prologue). No one seems to recognize him until Penelope removes his ear and is shocked to discover that it's Freddy!
- Parodied in Shantae and the Pirate's Curse with He-Man Expy Bran-Son. Not only does Shantae point out that his magical disguise was just his alter-ego Brandon with a jazzy halter-top, but he also transforms in front of an audience who already knew about his secret identity before-hand due to his In-Universe popularity. Despite all this, based on his dramatic speech, his identity still manages to be a secret to most of his allies and enemies.
- Homestar Runner: Coach Z actually tries to convince everyone that he is both Damp Towel Man and his creatively-named secret identity, Dan Towelman. As usual, nobody cares.
- Splendid from Happy Tree Friends is a Superman parody, so naturally he indulges in this in one episode. His disguise consists solely of a tie and a pair of glasses. He doesn't even remove his mask.
- In SwordCat Princess, Kathryn "disguises" herself as Artemis by wearing symmetrical stylized streaks of red paint over each eye. Despite the fact that her recently "deceased" alter ego Kathryn Kennedy looks exactly like Artemis without war paint, no one seems to notice that they are, in fact, the same person — until Erica finally notices and steals a red marker to draw the "disguise" over a newspaper photo of Kennedy. (The "paint" is actually the blood of her deceased first lover, Etienne.)
- Played mostly straight in Sidekicks. Most superheroes and sidekicks make no attempt to conceal their face, merely changing into their costume, yet their secret identities are never compromised. Lampshaded in season 2 by an employee from Lamia's workplace when she walks into the office late after having defeating a villain as Nightmare.
- Parodied in the "Punyverse" arc of Sluggy Freelance. As a Running Gag, characters keep noting, "Who would have thought that Princess-Princess is the secret identity of Secret Angel Princess Princess-Princess? Boy, that sounds stupid when I say it out loud."
- Lampshaded in Smithson. Micki has met both the local superhero and his alter ego, Chuck, but hasn't figured it out yet, despite having seen Chuck without his glasses. Chuck is astonished at that.
- Happens in El Goonish Shive, to the point where Tedd can fool Will and Gill without even meaning it — they call him an impostor when they see him without his glasses. To be fair, though, those are really big glasses and they seem not to know what glasses are.
- Also massively parodied with an incredibly lame (but apparently successful) government campaign to hide the presence of aliens on earth by such methods as having them wear T-shirts that say "Homo Sapiens".
- More recently, Rhoda used this to hide from people harassing her following her appearance on the TV News the day Pandora appeared. It worked, both on fellow students and on at least a few readers.
- Another example that's more like the trope namer is Elliot, whose Gender Bender abilities let him invoke The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body to hide the fact that he's also Cheerleadra.
- Parodied in the "superhero fantasy" arc of Boy Meets Boy: one character points out that Foxman's roommate Collin looks identical to his nemesis His Mind Kills, but wholeheartedly accepts Foxman's explanation that they can't be the same because His Mind Kills wears goggles.
- Parodied and lampshaded in Polish webcomic "KOPS". During his cameo, Superman is disguised by wearing glasses... AND his superhero costume. Resident snarker notes that "Superman is weird", whereas resident idiot completely fails to see through the disguise.
- Played straight in Girl Genius when Agatha, Wooster, Zeetha, and Krosp ride right in through the gate of Mechanicsburg just after a giant hologram of Agatha has been seen and discussed from as far away as China with Agatha wearing no disguise of any kind, instead relying on the cover story they came up with. Only von Mekkan figures it out and because the Castle rather blatantly points her out, even the fake Hetereodyne doesn't notice. In Mechanicsburg's defense, there's a big difference between "discussed" and "discussed accurately". And Agatha wasn't wearing that dress...
- In Lost in Space, a (fat, smoking) cherub tries to infiltrate a group of Super Soldiers loyal to the Chaos God of Disease and Decay, which he succeeds in by coughing.
- Bad Guy High has SuperDan, whose costume is him putting on a cape.
- Parodied and subverted in Fans! when one of the main characters notices the obvious similarity between new superhero Hyperman and up-and-coming reporter Lance Clarkson. When she confronts Clarkson about it, it turns out that they aren't the same person, and that Clarkson has been playing it up to make people think that they are.
- Parodied and subverted in PvP. Two characters are speculating on the identity of LOLBAT, when one suggests it's Rex Roffle and another says that's obviously silly. Besides the obvious Meaningful Name, he looks and acts just like LOLBAT, complete with the mask. Then, the next day, we find out that LOLBAT is actually Butler, so unless he's keeping up three identities, Rex Roffle is just a random Identical Stranger.
- Everyday Heroes has Uma and her father (aliens stranded on Earth) disguise themselves by wearing glasses and doing their best to blend in with humans... despite the fact that they resemble cows. Though the glasses are heavily implied to be some kind of Applied Phlebotinum.
- Parodied in Captain Excelsior, where everybody except superheroes and supervillains can see through the disguises. And we're not even talking about Paper-Thin Disguise here: even a hint of a mustache on a superhero who usually doesn't have one makes him invisible to other supers.
- Parodied in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, where the Doctor attempts to disguise himself as a different doctor by... pinning his name tag on his coat. While still wearing his ninja mask. Nobody is fooled.
- Captain Broadband keeps a Secret Identity Costume on him at all times (plus a Sidekick Gimp costume for his sidekick). He's yet to use it though.
- 'Shortpacked!'' examples:
- Robin cannot for the life of her figure out that Amber is Amazi-Girl, in spite of the fact that it's not even a secret. She is, instead, convinced that Ultra-Car — who is exactly what they sound like — is Amazi-Girl. The insane lack of sense this makes is lampshaded regularly.
- She also thinks that Spider-Car (a family minivan wearing a Spider-Man costume) might be Amber, but definitely not Ultra-Car (who at that time was a artifically intelligent minivan)
- Meanwhile, in the Alternate Universe of Dumbing of Age, Amber does keep her identity a secret, with Danny in the Lois Lane position. She begins to ruffle her hair and lower her voice as Amazi-Girl to maintain the secret. This isn't an issue for the other characters, though — those actively pursuing Amazi-Girl's secret identity have no idea who Amber is, and Amber's closest friends don't seem to be aware of the masked vigilante on campus. It works out pretty well, as it turns out, as photos of Amazi-Girl show up in the student newspaper and the idea that she is Amber is discarded because people can't imagine Amber being able to do what Amazi-Girl does.
- Kiwi Blitz. Averted. The media quickly begins to theorize that Steffi is Blitz, pointing out they physically resemble each other and that Kiwibot is similar to other mechs built by her father.
- In Evil Plan, Kinesis states, "A change of clothing and hair, and anyone can be a new person."
- Invoked in one Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip: "What would you say your greatest weakness is?"
- In Rhapsodies Kate tries to keep her "literary career" mostly secret by wearing fashionable glasses in public hoping she'll be mistaken for "some generic blonde" the rest of the time. "Dedicated to fighting for truth and justice.''
- Subverted in Princess Chroma. The main character's magical girl costume is a poor disguise and absolutely nobody is fooled by it no matter how much she insists she and "Princess Chroma" aren't the same person.
- Rip Haywire manages to be unidentifiable to his long-time girlfriend Cobra simply by wearing an eyepatch... acceptable as it's an Affectionate Parody of action-adventure comics.
- Parodied and exaggerated in Kong Tower, in which coworkers are introduced to a new employee named Greg T. Notaroach, who is very clearly a giant cockroach wearing business casual, Groucho glasses, and a toupee. They notice the toupee. Also played straight with a few other characters.
- Mike in Something*Positive tries to make up for years as a huge Jerk Ass by becoming a costumed hero (a Good Samaritan dressed up to bring attention to problems, not an actual vigilante). Mike is very distinctive with a giant schnoz and bug-out eyes. It's Zig-Zagged as there's a long arc about a local blogger trying and failing to unmask him despite Mike's obvious Muppet-like appearance, and even Davan completely fails to see through the costume; but then other people Mike's known for a while can still tell without too much trouble.
- Justified in Sailor Nothing — one of the Magical Girl powers they possess is an inability to be recognized unless someone thinks about it really hard.
- Played straight and subverted with Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, in which, while Penny apparently does not recognize Villain Protagonist Dr. Horrible as her laundromat buddy Billy, his Arch-Nemesis Captain Hammer does, likely from having seen his video blog, and uses this opportunity to ruin Billy's life even further by trying to steal Penny, the girl that he loves. Penny finally "mistakes" Dr Horrible for Billy the end when she is delirious and near-death, leading her to reassure him with the painfully ironic line, "Captain Hammer will save us".
- Shadow Hawk of Epic Tales may have a full body costume, but he uses his birth name as his superhero identity. His logic is that it's such an obvious connection, that people will think it's too obvious. So far everyone who has met both of his identities has been able to figure it out, as well as a few who have only met one of his identities, but know of the other.
- Subverted in the Whateley Universe stories. In the beginning of the third Phase book, on the first day of school at the Whateley Academy, the headmistress Mrs. Carson gives a speech to the new students. Before the end of the talk, Phase has figured out that the headmistress is also the superheroine Lady Astarte. By the end of the book, Phase has figured out that Mrs. Carson is also a former superheroine of the 80's, Ms. Might. By the end of the fourth book, Phase has figured out that the early-thirties-looking Mrs. Carson is actually in her mid-seventies and has had at least two other superhero identities over the decades.
- Channel Awesome:
- Linkara can't figure out Doctor Insano's true identity...even when he has a photograph of Spoony in hand when confronting Insano. His first guess is That Chick with the Goggles, who's both the wrong gender AND ethnicity.
- Kickassia treats this differently, having Insano as Spoony's Superpowered Evil Side of which everybody is aware (even Linkara, though he isn't happy since Spoony's his friend and Insano's his arch-rival). A deleted scene offered an inversion, where Insano "disguises" himself as Spoony simply by acting more normal. Of course, Noah Antwiller (Spoony's actor) has said that he loves making up wildly contradictory origin stories for Insano just to play with the fans.
- Nobody can seem to recognize The Nostalgia Chick when she has her hair down and wears messy clothes, either.
- In Leviathan!, Troy never seems to realize that the "supervillain" he constantly fights/helps and the man he's in love with are one and the same in spite of 1) their names being Leviathan and Levi respectively, 2) him coming this close to putting two and two together early on, and 3) him repeatedly commenting on how much Leviathan reminds him of Levi to the point of flirting with Leviathan in his superhero guise as Triton when Levi rebukes his advances as Troy. Even when he learns that Levi can't be human due to the Man of Steel, Man of Kleenex problem, he still doesn't connect the dots. Then again, Leviathan! is an Affectionate Parody of superhero tropes and Troy is exactly the kind of hero who'd be too lovestruck to notice the obvious.
- We Are Our Avatars: During a trip to Silver City, Marcia became Magi Magi Magician Gal, a magical girl with "magic". Some of the astute members of the group figured the relation between the two, but some of the others were stumped.
- In Noob, Tenshirock eventually turns out to have been a player before becoming The Cracker he is in the main timeframe. His reason for the change relies on someone who has seen his gamer avatar not knowing that the hacker is him. Differences between his player and hacker avatar: clothing style, moving from a mask covering his lower face to Cool Shades and getting rid of the cursor that floats on top of legitimate player avatars. Identical features: physical appearance, Online Alias and possibly voice, which would all be quite easy to change in the MMORPG setting. His own son is shown to have completely fallen for it in the finale.
- Global Guardians PBEM Universe: Tachyon, a member of the Global Guardians, maintains a secret identity when off-duty by wearing a lot of baggy clothing, pitching his voice higher, wearing glasses, using colored contacts, and even training himself to use a subtly different vocabulary when in his other identity. This works remarkably well, despite the fact that Tachyon is a sentient, talking gorilla, and there's not a lot of those roaming around.
- In Arrow And Ace, The Peacock, one of the most popular vigilantes in San Francisco, has bright blue hair. Interestingly, Andrew, the head of The Peacock Fanclub has the same blue hair, not to mention the same height and build. A number of character theorize that there is some connection between Andrew and The Peacock, but due to the different mannerisms and ticks Andrew uses while The Peacock, no one has guessed that they're the same person.
- Parodied in the College Humor video where Batman meets Superman. Commissioner Gordon and Batman mock Superman for thinking putting on glasses fools anyone, and Gordon says it's as stupid as saying that by just taking off his glasses he'd be unrecognizable. And when he takes them off...
Batman: Who are you?! Where's Commissioner Gordon?! (Gordon looks confused, puts glasses back on) Oh, there you are. There was some other guy who was just here...
- Parodied in Cow and Chicken. When anyone entertains the thought that Cow and Supercow could possibly be the same cow (being the only two sapient cows in the Universe no less) that idea is always shot down by the fact that Supercow speaks Spanish. In one episode, the Big Red Bad almost figures out that Cow is Supercow, kidnapping said bovine while she's out of costume. Chicken wears the costume to rescue her, leading Red to conclude that Cow can't be Supercow.
- Hego does this in Kim Possible. Bonus as Christopher McDonald voiced Superman in Batman Beyond with Will Fredle.
- The Hooded Claw does this routinely in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, even when Penelope should be reminded of his alter ego, Sylvester Sneekly.
- Masters of the Universe:
- In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), characters would often note how Prince Adam would run away whenever the Monster of the Week showed up, but would never take that line of thought any further even though He-Man looked exactly like Adam with less clothes and a tan.
- Averted in the 2002 revival, where He-Man looks nothing like Adam. Other characters still often notice Adam skipping battles, but instead think he's a coward who's been running off to hide.
- His sister in She-Ra: Princess of Power is pretty much the same. The only real physical difference between Adora and She-Ra is a change of clothes that is barely a disguise at all. And seeing as Adora was an Action Girl in her own right even by herself, you kind of got the feeling that the Evil Horde was kind of dumb.
- Seanbaby poked fun◊ at this with this exchange.
Fisto: Hey, Mekaneck, what's Prince Adam doing fighting Modulok, all shirtless and glorious?
Mekaneck: That can't be Prince Adam, Fisto. Prince Adam's giant green cat doesn't wear a mask.
- He-Man himself noticed this in the DC Comics miniseries that preceded the cartoon; when He-Man arrives to the palace in search for a magic amulet, and then the King wants to meet the hero of Eternia, He-Man wonders what, besides his garb, could prevent his father from recognising him. Luckily, he doesn't.
- Bugs Bunny can fool anyone who was just chasing him by hiding his ears and tail, even though he's still a six-foot gray-furred rabbit. They may be distracted by other things, however.
- The Beagle Boys, who walk around with their masks still on.
- Speaking of DuckTales, there was an episode when the triplets tried to figure out Gizmo-Duck's secret indentity. Fenton was offended when they got it wrong. That didn't even tip them off.
- In another episode, Scrooge himself takes up a superhero identity, only to have a Jerkass reporter ruin it by showing apparent footage of said hero turning to crime. No-one notices that not only is this costumed duck not the same one, but it clearly is the reporter instead.
- Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Though this might be because they has no idea who Boris and Natasha are in the first place. Though sooner or later you'd think that he sees an awful lot of similar-looking short men and tall women with Pottsylvanian accents, anyway. "That voice ... where have I heard that voice?" Rocky eventually recognizes Boris and Natasha in an episode of the story arc "Bulls' Testimonial Dinner".
Rocky: Hokey smoke, it's our old nemesis!
- DC Animated Universe:
- Lampshaded in Superman: The Animated Series when Supergirl attempts to disguise herself with a pair of glasses and a wig — Superman/Clark Kent sees right through her Paper-Thin Disguise despite the fact that it's a more elaborate disguise than Superman himself uses. Well, Superman/Clark Kent does have X-ray vision...
- Lana Lang outright averts this trope in the DCAU; one of her questions to Superman at their "first meeting" is whether Martha made his costume. Lois plays it straight as an arrow, though. (Lana had an extra clue Lois didn't; she knew Clark had superpowers because he demonstrated them to her in the pilot.)
- Transformers are sometimes guilty of this. Not only do some robots have parts of their alternate modes easily identifiable in robot mode, but often their faction symbol is visible even in their alternate mode, and this doesn't seem to be a dead giveaway, even to those who know what the symbols mean.
- Sources indicate that at least some of the fiction-writers (comics, cartoons) would like to have the disguises actually be disguises, but Hasbro demands that faction symbols be visible in both modes as a form of "brand recognition". In fact, the only Transformers toys that didn't have blatantly obvious faction logos in alternate mode were those from the Alternators toyline, which was based on licensed cars (and most of them still sported faction logos on their license plates anyway). Imagine if DC Comics would insist on having Clark Kent wear a Superman "S" somewhere on his clothes so he could be easily recognized by readers/viewers/buyers (in the case of action figures)...
- Interestingly, in the Generation 1 episode "Making Tracks", Tracks disguised himself as a regular car by making his Autobot symbol invisible. Makes you wonder why none of the others ever thought to do that.
- In the fourteenth issue of the original American Marvel comic book, it is discovered that the Autobots use "facsimile circutry", which not only covers up their Autobot symbols, but it also provides them with mannequin dummy drivers (Seriously, here's Bumblebee paying for gas◊ with his automatronic driver).
- In the third episode of the original series, the Autobots decide to set up an ambush for the deceptions. Hound uses his holographic projector to make a fake "rocket base" and the Autobots will be in it, under disguise, to attack the Decepticons when they show up to raid the base. What disguise do the Autobots go for? If you guessed "In their car mode in the base's parking lot." Congratulation, you're smarter then an Autobot. They decide to don labcoats and pass for the human scientists. Despite the fact that even the smallest of them is twice as tall as a human and about 3 times as wide. And made of metal. With shoulder-mounted guns. Yes, that plan failed.
- With all this talk about symbols, it's easy to forget that many of the vehicle modes themselves are obvious giveaways. On the reasonable side of things, Prowl and Streetwise become the only Japanese highway patrol cars in the United States. At the opposite extreme, Blast Off is a ludicrously undersized undersized purple and olive green space shuttle orbiter, a disguise that can only be made worse by the addition of Decepticon symbols.
- And it gets better/worse. In an episode of a Japanese version of Transformers, Optimus Prime tried to disguise himself as a Budha statue.
- Undercover Elephant on CB Bears wore disguises that primarily relied on a single prop (a chef's hat, a pink tutu, etc.) and a thin ribbon-mask. They nonetheless worked, at least until his sidekick Loudmouse "blew his cover"... despite being, well, an elephant.
- Mercilessly parodied in the shorts of Chicken Boo. Despite his ability to masquerade as anything from a rocket scientist to an idolized leading man movie star with a pair of glasses or a wig and appropriate clothing, he is a 6-foot-tall not-anthropomorphic-at-all rooster that talks only in clucks. Attempting to blend in with humans in this fashion, he succeeds perfectly (with the exception of one derided outcast in each cartoon that keeps saying he's just a giant chicken), until his disguise falls off, at which point he is driven away by screaming mobs.
- One of the few segments that altered the scenario ever so slightly was a crossover between "Chicken Boo" and "Katie Ka-boom", a girl who has very violent moodswings. In this episode EVERYONE except Katie herself is able to see that her boyfriend is actually a giant chicken. This results in her turning monstrous when her parents tell her this, not believing them until the end where Boo's disguise is removed... at which point she turns monstrous again and destroys the entire house, sending Boo flying because he didn't tell her he was just a chicken.
- The penguin Feathers McGraw in the Wallace & Gromit short "The Wrong Trousers" disguises himself as a chicken by wearing a large red rubber glove on his head.
- Despite wearing her Jem Star Earrings in both of her identities, no-one expects the mysterious Jem to be Jerrica Benton — must be because of the pink-colored '80s Hair she gives her rock-star identity. Or because of Synergy's ability to use holograms to show Jem and Jerrica in the same place at the same time. Beyond the hair, the two still look nothing alike, Jerrica's face is rather simple and plain looking, while Jem's is much more detailed. Although they have the exact same voice.
- Eponymous Invader Zim has a disguise consisting of a pair of contacts and a wig (which is completely solid and doesn't move at all) that manages to fool everyone but Dib. Partially justified in that in the entire series there are maybe half a dozen characters smarter than a sack of hair.
- There was an episode where he lost one of his contacts in front of a crowd of classmates, revealing his red compound eye. People were suitably shocked, until he explained it away as a very bad case of pinkeye.
- Also happened in reverse with the Irkin fry cook lord Sizz-Lor. He wore a gas mask while kidnapping Zim and then proceeded to take it off. Zim didn't recognize Sizz-Lor at first (even after he put on an apron with his name on it) until he put on his little white fry cook hat.
- There was also an episode wherein two aliens tried to abduct Zim. Their disguises were worse than his (if that's possible), and not even Zim was fooled. (Meanwhile, why did the aliens abduct him? Because they thought he was really a human.)
- Becky Botsford is WordGirl, but nobody, not even her friends and family realize this (except once or twice; still long after they should've realized it). Even though she has the same height and build, and she doesn't cover her face at all.
- The show, being an Affectionate Parody of superhero cartoons, goes out of its way to parody this, too. Becky's friends and family are constantly commenting on how Beck "just missed" seeing Word Girl, or that she sure looks a lot like her, etc. One villain, Tobey, actually even caught on right away when he was introduced to Becky and purposefully put her in a situation where she had to reveal herself—but she sent her monkey sidekick out in her costume instead, and Tobey saw him from a far enough distance that it looked convicing. In the episodes after his introduction he constantly hints to Becky that he still believes she's really Word Girl—he just has no way to prove it, considering he supposedly saw them together in the same place.
- Until the episode, "By Jove, You've Wrecked My Robots!" where Tobey outright accuses Becky of being WordGirl with plenty of evidence- thanks to, well, this snapshot◊. As Tobey said, so many other things fall into place once you have evidence like THAT (same height, same hairstyle, same ruby red lips...).
- She's constantly calling her parents 'Mom' and 'Dad' when she sees them 'as WordGirl,' then painfully acting as if she meant to say something else ("Mom! I mean, mom... Mambo!").
- Too many examples to list here, really, but my favorite is when "Exposition Guy" inadvertantly throws a newspaper featuring WordGirl at Becky, and her face pokes through- at the exact place her face would be in costume, right size, everything.
- In the Comic-Book Adaptation, Mr. Big suggests that WordGirl's secret identity would be revealed if they could only remove her hood — The same hood that doesn't even cover most of her hair.
- It reaches a point where Becky is about to sneak out as WordGirl and her father catches her, only he thinks she's just playing by dressing up as her.
- The show, being an Affectionate Parody of superhero cartoons, goes out of its way to parody this, too. Becky's friends and family are constantly commenting on how Beck "just missed" seeing Word Girl, or that she sure looks a lot like her, etc. One villain, Tobey, actually even caught on right away when he was introduced to Becky and purposefully put her in a situation where she had to reveal herself—but she sent her monkey sidekick out in her costume instead, and Tobey saw him from a far enough distance that it looked convicing. In the episodes after his introduction he constantly hints to Becky that he still believes she's really Word Girl—he just has no way to prove it, considering he supposedly saw them together in the same place.
- From Gargoyles: The Hunters wear a mask with three large red diagonal slashes across the face. The original Hunter, Gillecomgain, has three large diagonal scars across his face courtesy of Demona, which is the reason Constantine chose the symbol. Macbeth, who knows and bears grudges against both, is completely shocked by the relevation that they're the same guy, despite knowing that Gillecomgain has three scars on his face and the Hunter has three identical scars on his mask.
- Averted by later Hunters, including Jason, Robyn and Jon, as they don't have facial scars and use different accents when not masked.
- Gillecomgain didn't invent the idea behind the Hunter's Mask, either; Constantine did. (To be more precise, Constantine was so impressed by Gillecomgain's ardor in destroying gargoyles that he used Gillecomgain's face as a model for his own symbol of anti-gargoyle terror: painting his head almost entirely black, with three red stripes across the face.) It wasn't until later that Gillecomgain used the black executioner's mask with the three red stripes, which was modeled after Constantine's face paint.
- Parodied in Drawn Together. When Captain Hero adopts his "Secret Identity", Tim Tommerson, the only change he makes is to put on glasses — he doesn't even remove his costume. That said, Tim Tommerson and Captain Hero were seen in the same room and kissed each other in the two part finale.
- Parodied in the "Pie Man" episode of The Simpsons, "Simple Simpson".
Marge: I knew it was you all along.
Homer: Was it the [Spider-Man parody] kiss?
Marge: No, it was clearly you in that costume! I mean you would have to be an idiot not to see it from the start.
- Also, earlier in that episode, Lisa says "Dad, you're clearly the Pie Man. We've been getting his mail for weeks."
- There was also the episode where Homer was making up conspiracies and posting them on the internet. The homepage showed a picture of Homer with a black bag over his head with a white "X" on it. The bag and the shot of Homer are seperate pictures, and at one point Homer's face is visible for a second before the bag loads. Later when Homer tries to reveal himself at a press conference, nobody believes him until he puts the bag on in front of them so they can see the resemblance.
- Within the comics this trope is played with using the ficticious comic book hero Radioactive Man. One of the man's distinguishing features is a large lightning bolt-shaped piece of shrapnel sticking out of his head, therefore when he is in civilian clothing he must hide it by constatly wearing a hat - the other characters hardly ever acknowledge this.
- The eponymous hero of Danny Phantom, Danny Fenton. White hair, a jumpsuit, different-colored eyes, a tan, a shared first name, and a similar sounding last name do not make a good disguise, kid.
- Lampshaded twice, once with his father suggesting that it would be better to call him just "son", since there's a second boy called "Danny", and a second time by Danny's Superpowered Evil Side from the future, who points it out explicitly and laughs over his parents and friends stupidity. Also justified once, by a Guy in White, claiming that Danny was way too pre-pubescent to actually be as "dangerous" as the ghost-boy, so they decide to go after Sam's Romantic False Lead believing he is the ghost boy based solely on the fact that he has white hair.
- And his parents don't seem to catch on to the constant accidental incorporeality, or the fact that their ghost equipment works on him. Such as the ghost detector — "Ghost directly ahead. You'd have to be some sort of moron not to see the ghost directly in front of you."
- In "Memory Blank", Paulina (who has a crush on Phantom, but not Fenton) invites Danny to her party, specifically because she's noticed Phantom tends to show up wherever he is.
- There might be some justification for this, though; no one thinks its even possible for Danny Phantom to have a human form, since he's a ghost and...well, dead (supposedly). Thanks to duplication machines and shape-shifters, Danny Fenton and his ghost form have been seen together.
- Also, Danny is seen as a Straw Loser by almost everyone, not unlike some versions of Clark Kent; it's hard for them to picture him as being anything but a regular, unimpressive guy. When he's Brought Down to Normal in the Series Finale and tries to save the local Jerk Jock from ghosts, the jock derisively asks if he thinks he's Danny Phantom.
- Teacher's Pet is about a dog who dresses as a boy and goes to school, and nobody notices he's a dog.
- Mercilessly parodied, along with a bunch of other Superman-related tropes, in The Real Ghostbusters episode "Captain Steel Saves The Day".
Peter: All he did was change clothes and put on a pair of glasses! Some disguise!
Winston: Hey, don't knock it, man. It works.
Peter: Let's hope Dr. Destructo's near-sighted.
- Parodied in the Superhero Episode of Futurama where Fry, Leela, and Bender become superheroes. Somehow the public does not realise that the only one-eyed woman with purple hair in the entire city of New New York is, in fact, the one-eyed purple-haired superheroine Clobberella. Even her own parents are fooled.
- This is made even more blatant by the fact that Leela and her mother are the only purple-haired female cyclopes in the entire universe.
- Teamo Supremo's leader Captain Crandall never really changes his appearance between his superhero and civilian identities, costume aside. This makes one wonder how his own mother can't seem to put two and two together and figure out why there's some superhero running around who looks exactly like her son, though in the last episode it's revealed she's been aware of him being a superhero the whole time.
- Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels: Captain Caveman. His segments on the early 1980s The Flintstone Comedy Show, featured Cavey working alongside Wilma and Betty at the newspaper "The Daily Granite" under the guise of Chester, the copy boy. Cavey's "disguise" consisted of a pair of glasses, a bow tie, and speaking in a higher-pitched voice... and that's it. Apparently nobody suspected the only two guys in Bedrock resembling walking hairballs, Chester and Captain Caveman, of being one and the same (with Wilma and Betty criticizing Chester for his clumsiness and telling him he "should be more like Captain Caveman").
- Parodied in reverse on an episode of The Fairly OddParents!. The Tooth Fairy makes Timmy a dental themed Wonder Woman parody in order to stop an evil dentist. His only disguise is a tiara that inexplicably prevents anyone from discovering his "secret identity". It's implied that the reason no one can recognize him is because the Tiara replaces his trademark pink hat.
- The Crimson Chin does it better. He wears glasses and a hat... over his mask, and does nothing to hide his comically large Lantern Jaw of Justice.
- Said glasses are not even on his face, but sit on his huge, jutting chin.
- The show also parodies this when Timmy puts on a mask in one episode involving Catman where every time he puts it on, Catman can't recognise him as his sidekick. Despite actually watching Timmy put the glasses on. This is much to the annoyance of Timmy, with Catman going "Where did X go? X, you're back!" or something similar.
- The Crimson Chin does it better. He wears glasses and a hat... over his mask, and does nothing to hide his comically large Lantern Jaw of Justice.
- The SWAT Kats used to work for Commander Feral, but he can't figure out their identities. It's even worse when you realize that they work at a salvage yard owned by Feral and use his throwaways to save his tail.
- Possibly justified in that Feral is shown to have next to no interaction with the SWAT Kats in their civilian identities. He put a pair of pain in the butt cats in charge of making sure they're working at the salvage. Also, Feral commands many pilots, which likely include some hot shots and almost certainly include some that don't like him personally. The Kats also had to refurbish or build their jet and tools from scratch; a minimal amount of time would have to pass between Chance and Jake being railroaded to the junk heap, and T-Bone and Razor heading for the skies. Time can mean forgetfulness.
- The person who is really stupid for not figuring things out is Deputy Mayor Calico Briggs. She's the inside contact for the Kats, and they constantly save her tail. Their civilian identities run the garage where 'Callie' gets her car worked on, and she often chats with them when dropping off or picking up her car; the Kats don't even change their voices for her. Even the difference in physical appearance granted by uniforms vs coveralls doesn't explain it.
- The real kicker in Callie not figuring out their identities, is that she makes several obvious hints that she is actually attracted to Jake/Razor in both his civilian and SWAT Kat identities, yet can't seem to piece together the mechanic she likes, and the ace pilot she also likes, could be the same guy.
- In Mighty Orbots, geek inventor Rob Simmons is also the leader (and pilot) for the eponymous Combining Mecha. His costume change consists of simply removing his glasses and swapping his lab coat for a flight suit.
- Parodied on Tiny Toon Adventures in an episode where Babs became "Super Babs". At the end of the episode, the boys realize that Super Babs might be someone they know, and start trying to figure out whom; after a pause, Plucky turns to the others and says "Who do we know named 'Super'?"
- Parodied in El Tigre, where Rodolfo's civilian guise is the outfit worn by Clark Kent in the Fleisher Brothers Superman cartoons. And worn over his costume, including his mask.
- Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz cannot recognize Perry the Platypus without his Nice Hat.
Doofenshmirtz: (Perry removes his mustache) "A platypus plumber?" (Perry puts on his hat) "Perry the platypus plumber?" (Perry removes his tool belt) "*gasp!* Perry the platypus!"
- Oddly enough, he can't recognize Perry if he were wearing anything else. Like when he showed up dressed as a plumber:
- The hat also tells Doofenshmirtz it's Perry, even after he and Candace switched bodies!
- Lampshaded in the tv movie "Across the 2nd Dimension," when Doof-2 actually points out, and attempts to teach his counterpart the fact that just because the hat is removed, it's still the same platypus.
- Prehistoric Doof had the same problem with Prehistoric Perry, who wore an animal skull instead of present time Perry's hat.
- The trope is somewhat justified when it's revealed there were several platypuses, platypi, platypeople, well, you get it, in Danville and Phineas had to take a closer look at each one of them before telling if Perry was among them.
- Despite this, in the tv movie, knowing Phineas and Ferb's platypus was named Perry and seeing said Perry fighting "so good" weren't enough clues for him. An annoyed Perry had to put on the hat. Doof-2 believes this to be the reason Doof-1 never took over his Tri-State Area.
- Doof once programmed an inator to defend itself against Perry and supplied it with all his knowledge of Perry. Perry tricked the inator by removing his hat.
- A hunter once handcuffed Doof to a hatless Perry and Perry was the only one to see that as an Enemy Mine case since Doof once again failed to recognize Perry.
- Phil and Lil from Rugrats can fool anyone by just putting the ribbon on Phil's head, or removing Lil's ribbon, despite the fact Phil wears pants and Lil wears a dress.
- Inverted in episodes of The Spectacular Spider-Man:
- When the Chameleon starts impersonating Spider-Man. While most people are fooled, Captain George Stacy smells a rat, noting that the guy claiming to be Spider-Man is too tall and broad to be the legitimate web-slinger.
- Stacy also positively recognizes the real Spiderman despite his new black symbiote costume because his body type and mannerisms match those of the genuine hero. And when Venom shows up, he immediately notices it's not Spiderman due to the different body types.
- This to the point it is pretty heavily implied that he knows Spider-Man is Peter Parker.
- Hilariously though, whilst J Jonah Jameson goes along with the "Spider-Man as a criminal" idea at first, as soon as the real Spider-Man and Chameleon get put in the same room, Spidey gets Jameson to realise which one of them is the real one by getting an annoyed reaction out of Jameson with a joke.
- Played With on South Park: it's rather obvious that Professor Chaos is really just Butters wearing aluminum foil, but the only person who figures this out is Dougie. His parents and Stan have also seen him in his getup, but just don't seem to care.
- Spoofed in an episode of American Dad!, where Roger ends up with one of his personas developing into a split personality. To convince "Sidney's" girlfriend that he's Sidney, he puts on glasses and sweeps back his hair. He even does this while turned away from her, resulting in the girlfriend getting confused and asking where Sidney went.
- YMMV with Tony Stark in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, as no one seems to suspect that the guy that is smarter than all of Stark International could have had his hands in creating an advance suit of armor. Howard even come out and states that he knew his son was Iron Man because no one else could have come up with the designs.
- One of the most infamous examples of the trope in Ultimate Spider-Man: when Venom starts going around posing as a black Spider-Man in Back in Black, the only difference with his Venom form is that he is less bulky and has no visible mouth. Despite this, not only are Spidey's teammates unable to notice the similarities, but when Spidey himself points out this is obviously Venom, they dismiss his warning, mocking him for being jealous a guy is doing a better job than him. Even though they perfectly known Venom can change his shift and size according to his host.
- Young Justice has Superboy...turn his shirt inside out for his civilian identity. Not only does this hide him perfectly, but no one even wonders why Conner always has his shirt turned inside out. Since the show averts it otherwise (most of the kids don't have civilian identities, and those who do wear masks), this is probably an homage to the trope namer.
- As of Season 2, he doesn't even bother to turn the shirt inside out anymore. One of his friends teases him for wearing "Superman" shirts. So at this point he is walking around in his superhero outfit without a single person questioning it.
- Superboy may get a pass because the Team's activities are supposed to be on the down-low and not public knowledge. He's seen helping Superman in public at least once, but that's in the middle of a crisis and far from where Connor attends public school. Speaking of school, on his first day of high school a lot of the students were wearing various superhero shirts themselves, including Superman's shield. If Connor hadn't reversed his shirt he still would have fit in.
- W.I.T.C.H. solves this problem a number of ways. Most of them include fighting their foes in other worlds or, if they have to do so on Earth, fighting at night. As early as the second episode, we see that Caleb's able to realize that Will was the same girl who tried to push back Cedric from entering Earth, despite her smaller build in her normal self. Though, the series finale implies that their Final Battle with Cedric lead to some people possibly figuring out who was who.
"I didn't know Halloween costumes came with that kind of padding."
- This is also helped by the fact the girls are aged into puberty every time they transform. This is shown during their Halloween episode where they use their transformations as costumes. This is commented on by Cornelia's mother:
- Atomic Betty: Sparky wouldn't recognize The Scribe as "Milton Scrivener" until the scribe took off his mask and put on "Milton"'s glasses.
- Yogi's Space Race: Granted, "Captain Good" and "Phantom Phink" couldn't look more different unless they had different genders but, the two of them officially enter the same races and nobody finds it odd they're never seen together even when the races were about to begin. Well, they do find it odd but not enough to suspect they're one and the same.
- In one episode of Darkwing Duck, Darkwing goes to a planet filled with superheroes. Obviously, this means everyone wears a brown suit and glasses over their spandex, even though all of them know that everybody else on the planet is a superhero. They also are shown they would be Too Dumb to Live if they weren't all invulnerable.
- In the television version of Static Shock, while Static's mask does cover a fair amount of his face he does have a pretty distinctive hairdo, yet almost no one seems to make the connection, even characters like Hot Streak who bullied Virgil and later became Static's enemy, too. The only one who does is Talon who's following Richie to try to figure out who Static is. The hairstyle is justified by Ebon who points out a lot of guys wear their hair that way. Talon counters by pointing out he's the only one who does and hangs out with Richie. His own sister doesn't figure it out until she actually sees Static in her neighborhood. At one point one of his friends even goes so far as to mention (out loud, but to herself) that she never sees Virgil and Richie at the same time as Static and Gear and starts to wonder if maybe they're the same people, but quickly dismisses the thought as ridiculous.
- Averted and played straight in X-Men: Evolution. For the first two seasons, the X-Men and Brotherhood alike could show up about anywhere in costume and have open, high collateral battles in the streets and not get recognized by anyone after their costumes are off, playing it straight. With Nightcrawler and Cyclops, this makes sense (image inducer and the face obscuring visor, respectively). The rest of the team... not so much. Especially the New Mutants, whose outfits don't even have headgear. It becomes subverted, however, in that once reliable footage was caught on civilian networks, their identities were confirmed just this side of instantly. The only member of either team not to be identified immediately from the Sentinel battle was Nightcrawler, again because he did not have his image inducer on.
- Of particular note is Arcade, who sees Spyke, Rogue, and Kitty in their X-Men uniforms (which have no identity concealment) while running them through the Danger Room like a death course. But it is Played With, as Arcade believed it was a video game and thus presumed it was intentionally trying to mimic their own appearances.
- Interestingly, Spider-Man (1967) had the voice actor for Spidey do two distinct voices — a deeper, heroic voice when he was in costume and a lower voice when he was Peter Parker.
- In Season 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender the Gaang hides in plain sight by simply wearing Fire Nation garb. Despite the Avatar's known traveling companions not being well disguised no one recognized them.
- Even crazier was when they attended a play about themselves. Zuko didn't do anything to hide his appearance. He is unrecognized because many people are in costume and the actor in the play has his trademark scar on the wrong side.
- Connie in Steven Universe actively refers to this, wearing empty frames with no lenses after Steven fixes her eyesight to cover up her involvement in magic, even referring to them as her 'secret identity'. True to form, even her mother takes a year to notice that there isn't any glass in her glasses anymore, and only then because Connie actively pointed it out to her.
- Played straight in Miraculous Ladybug along with a good dose of Dramatic Irony as main heroes Ladybug/Marinette and Chat Noir/Adrien are classmates who sit back and front of one another in school, but all they have to "hide" their identities are Domino Masks. Especially glaring since when she transforms Marinette's hairstyle remains the same, and her borderline obsessive crush on Adrien- which in turn leads to an infuriating case of Loves My Alter Ego and Unrequited Love Switcheroo (infuriating both in and out-of-universe).
- In the Kaeloo episode "Let's Play Courtroom Drama", Mr. Cat wears a pair of glasses to become his own lawyer.
- In the The Batman episode "The Laughing Bat," Joker decides to dress up as Batman and fight crime ("crime" being everything from Penguin robbing a museum to school-age girls playing with sidewalk chalk). His "secret identity" just has him throwing on a blazer and glasses.
- JR Ralls, author the film adaptation of Dark Dungeons, had this happen to him and wrote an article about it appropriately titled, Clark Kenting.
- Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmell pulled this off by disguising themselves as reporters.
- Jimmy Kimmell's cousin once snuck into Super Bowl media day simply by dressing up in the uniform of Carolina Panthers Kicker John Kasay. It worked, because of all the hundreds of reporters who covered the event, none actually knew what Kasay looked like.
- A rumor spread by his detractors says that because of the controversy surrounding his election, Abraham Lincoln dressed up as an old woman for his own safety to get through Baltimore on the way to his inauguration. Maryland was a pro-slavery state where Lincoln was incredibly unpopular, and there were reliable reports warning of an assassination plot. Since he was 6'4", he had to hunch over to pull this off. In reality he did wear a slouch hat and overcoat in a failed attempt to appear less obvious, but he did not disguise himself as a woman. (In a Brick Joke, at the end of the war Northern supporters falsely claimed that Jefferson Davis was captured while disguised as a woman).
- Most of Sacha Baron Cohen's characters are this. Like Borat, which consists of a mustache and accent.
- Tom Cruise prepared for his role in Collateral by taking a job as a UPS courier, which he worked for weeks while secretly filming himself. The video shows Cruise interacting with customers, walking around in broad daylight and even having protracted conversations with people on his lunch break, and going totally unrecognised because he was wearing sunglasses and a hat.
- Harold Lloyd, an inspiration for Clark Kent, found that if he took off the stage glasses of his most famous film character, no one recognized him.
- Charlie Chaplin without his moustache and Nice Hat.
- Reportedly, he also once lost a Chaplin look-alike contest.
- That's because he showed up as himself, i.e. the film actor Charles Chaplin, without the costume or the mustache (he never actually grew such a mustache, it was always a stick-on). Everybody knew who he was and had a nice laugh.
- Another version that explains is that he got third because, while the mannerisms and looks were perfect, he didn't have a costume. (The contest was to be his Tramp Character. He was wearing his street clothes.)
- Reportedly, he also once lost a Chaplin look-alike contest.
- A documentary on spying had a section regarding disguises and how they're used, with a former CIA specialist explaining how simple disguises can work wonders if you play on observers' expectations. As a demonstration they had people assigned to trail a blonde woman dressed in jeans, a hoodie, boots and a ballcap, carrying a backpack. The woman faked drinking a lot of water and thus had a reason to duck into a bar to use the bathroom. While they were intently observing the bathroom and the back alley door, they never noticed the brunette wearing a little black dress, heels, and carrying a small purse who strolled out the front door on the arm of the man who'd been waiting for her.
- An inversion occurs with pornstar Eva Angelina in that her glasses have become so synonymous to her general appearance that she's gone to conventions without them and wasn't recognized at all.
- Comedian Groucho Marx painted on his famous mustache with grease paint for most of his career. He was surprised to find a large crowd of fans who had gathered to see him at a train station completely ignored him when he got off the train. Realizing what had happened, he ducked into his car and smeared on a grease paint mustache, and was instantly recognized. There is even a story (probably apocryphal) about Groucho house-sitting for a friend in Beverly Hills. He was taking advantage of the swimming pool and had the cops called on him by the neighbors. No one would believe he was Groucho Marx without his mustache. (He actually grew a mustache later in life, a bit before he started hosting You Bet Your Life.)
- Reportedly, Marilyn Monroe would employ this with a curly black wig, a pair of sunglasses and some loose-fitting clothes. She was also apparently very good at changing her body language in public, to the point where she was able to walk completely ignored in a crowd — until she fluffed up her hair and struck a pose, and was instantly swarmed.
"Do you want to see her?"
- Many decades ago, photographs were rare and hard to produce, and people with the artistic skill to do a composite sketch were scattered much further apart. Thus a fugitive could reasonably move to another place without notice. The "Wanted!" Poster was less effective than it is usually played to be; criminals on the run were often chased by former acquaintances, the only people who could recognize them.
- Stewart Copeland in the years 1978 - 1980; a link.
- Aviator Charles Lindbergh actually used the alias of Careu Kent when visiting his secret second family in Germany.
- Shakira went unnoticed in public for a couple of months by wearing modest clothing, going by her middle name and wearing a baseball cap.
- The use of a fake distinguishing feature such as a scar can make people focus on the scar so much they don't notice any other real details.
- Eric Morecambe, at one time half of the most famous comedy double act in Britain, used to get by in public by taking his trademark glasses off and affecting a limp. His son has stated that this worked so well he wouldn't even get recognized by people sitting next to him on trains or planes.
- Although it's possible many people did notice, but were too polite to blurt out "Hey! You look just like Eric Morecambe!" to a complete stranger who was likely well aware of the fact and heartily sick of his friends and relations making jokes about it.
- Many models can have relatively normal lives by simply wearing minimal or no makeup, pulling their hair back into a simple hairstyle like a ponytail, and wearing some reasonably conservative clothing. Since most people see them professionally made up, and often in photoshopped images, it's easy for them to be less noticeable. There are models who've walked into their agency's offices, with pictures of themselves plastered all over the walls, and not been recognized by the staff because they've been in casual clothing and not posing.
- For nude models and porn actresses, often merely wearing clothes suffices to make them unrecognizable.
- Jewel went onstage at a Karaoke bar as 'Karen', wearing a wig, glasses, and false nose, and was unrecognized. (A few people even called her 'homely'.) She sang a few of her own songs, to acclaim from the crowd. She then stripped off the disguise and went back in as herself and sang a few. No one made the connection. Admittedly, it was dimly lit.
- Murderer Ted Bundy was able to walk around in broad daylight for days while a wanted fugitive whose face was plastered all over TV. The only attempt he made at a disguise was drawing a mole on his face with a marker.
- Anybody who's ever worn glasses for years and then suddenly switched to contacts (or vice versa) knows that you can look like "a whole different person." Glasses come with a very specific set of cultural stereotypes, which are completely destroyed when you get rid of them.
- Same thing with, say, wearing a substantial amount of makeup regularly and then suddenly appearing without it.
- Anyone who loses a large amount of weight quickly (whether by diet or illness) knows the feeling of going completely unrecognised by people who knew the old overweight persona. Weight loss changes everything: body shape, posture, manner of walking, and in other subtle ways.
- Or shaving off your facial hair.
- Or shaving one's head or changing one's hair color substantially.
- PokerStars once challenged tennis star Rafael Nadal to bluff people into believing that he wasn't Rafa with only a pair of glasses and a golf receptionist's uniform as a disguise. He didn't succeed.
- This is the essence of other tropes like Clipboard of Authority. Attitude and body language matter as much as clothing or make-up. If you act like your role, then people assume you really are your role. Discussed further in articles like "How to Sneak Around."
- This is more intricate than most examples of this trope, but scientists have developed a wearable device that prevents facial recognition cameras from recognizing the wearer. It's a pair of glasses.
- One interviewer accompanied Mel Gibson to the DMV, with only a baseball cap as a disguise. He then watched Gibson visibly "turn off the charm" and become so inconspicuous that only the ID photographer noticed a vague similarity.
- While not one of the Tropes Examined By The Myth Busters on the show, they were asked to test this out at their San Diego Comic Con 2012 panel, which they actually did. Here were the results:
- Tory went with the glasses disguise and failed miserably.
- Kari noted that wearing a full costume makes a person a little too suspicious, as if you're trying to hide. Adam, a noted cosplayer who made a game of playing hide and seek by wearing full costumes at each SDCC, found this out the hard way when someone recognized him straight after just donning his cosplay and exiting an elevator.
- However, Kari then noted that wearing a cap was sufficient enough to fool everyone (she even fooled Grant and other friends when she walked the floor wearing one).
"I might be that guy from that show, but he is definitely that guy from that show."
- Adam himself told on the show that he is more recognized on the street when he is together with Jamie, because while people can recognize his features, it's Jamie's trademark dressing style that takes the spotlight.
- Tyra Banks once did this live and in person on an episode of the Today show. Without makeup or hair styling, while walking with a slump and wearing a pair of glasses, she went into the crowd outside the Today set's window as a "production assistant" to ask people about their opinions about supermodels and Tyra Banks in particular. After a couple of minutes of absolutely no one realizing it was her, Banks pulled her hair back, straightened her posture, took the glasses off and suddenly ''became" Tyra Banks, Supermodel. The crowd loved it.
- Superman goes shopping.
- Jennifer Grey, star of Dirty Dancing et al, accidentally destroyed her career by getting her nose done. Afterwards, even friends didn't recognize her.
- Bryan Cranston once successfully infiltrated the San Francisco Comic Con by cosplaying as his Breaking Bad character, Walter White. No one expected the "real" Walter White to be wandering around the convention like any other con-goer, and so they assumed he was just a look-alike in a costume.
- Perhaps more forgivably, Gene Simmons once allegedly attended a KISS concert without his makeup, and nobody looked twice at him.
- The whole concept of wearing masks can often fall into this trope, specifically masks that only cover a small portion of the face surrounding the eyes. If the person has any distinguishing facial features at all, such masks are useless at hiding a person's identity. Or so one would think; such masks (think like the ones Catwoman or the Riddler wears in the 1960s Batman TV show) have been successfully used to obscure people's identities at everything from masquerade balls and swinger's parties to bank robberies, even though by rights they shouldn't work. They still work today even though digital technology allows anyone with a computer and Photoshop the ability to erase the mask from any images of a person's face.
- Walt Disney would anonymously spend an afternoon every week at Disneyland, making sure that everything was working smoothly. Despite hosting a very popular Tv-show, all it took was an pair of sunglasses and an Hawaiian shirt to make sure that nobody recognized him.
- While filming House of Wax in Australia, Paris Hilton had to wear a brunette wig if she went out in public to do her exercises. She wasn't recognized if the making of TV spin-off is to be believed.
- Paris was also part of a hidden camera show that explored this trope. Named I Get That A Lot, it would feature various celebrities in public jobs. If a customer noted their 'resemblance' to themselves, they would say "I get that a lot". Paris pretended to be a gas station attendant.
- Hayley Atwell has twice been in places where movies with her in them are playing. She wasn't recognized either time, and all it took was a pair of glasses.
- According to Hulk Hogan's autobiography, he was able to go out in public wearing a coat, hat, and glasses and not have anyone recognize him until he took them off.
- Taken Up to Eleven when Henry Cavill wandered around Times Square and wasn't recognized, despite there being large ads for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in the area and the fact that he was wearing a Superman shirt.
- Without the trademark white-blonde wig she uses to play Daenerys Targaryen, brunette Emilia Clarke hardly ever gets recognized in the street. Even when she is out with other members of the cast.
- Studies have actually shown that wearing glasses can alter one's appearance enough that people unfamiliar with the person in question have a good chance of not recognizing them, even if seeing with and without pictures side by side. So a pair of spectacles probably would be sufficient to keep the average citizen from realizing that Clark Kent is Superman wearing glasses (but it would probably not be sufficient for the people who work with him every day at the Planet).