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Collective Identity
I Am Spartacus - as a lifestyle. The inverse of the classical Secret Identity. Rather than one character with multiple identities, sometimes authors will flip this around and have multiple people with one identity.

The common prank pulled by twins is a variation on this trope.

Warning: given the nature of this article, spoilers abound.

Contrast Secret Identity and Two Aliases, One Character. Legacy Character is a more-specific related trope, where the identity is passed on from person to person. Identity Impersonator is when a second person temporarily adopts the identity in order to have Secret Identity and Public Identity appear together. Not to be confused with The Dividual, where the multiple characters having one identity is more permanent and treated as an idiosyncrasy rather than a plot point. Also loosely related to Dead Person Impersonation.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • Zero from Code Geass ends up sort of like this towards the end. CC once dresses up as Zero so Lelouch may escape the army, and at the end of the series Lelouch wants himself to be killed as his emperor self, so Suzaku dresses as Zero and kills him in public.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex; the nature of a Stand Alone Complex permits like-minded individuals to independently function as an autonomous collective (each individual essentially mimics the rest of the collective, leaving it without a real leader), as was the case with the Laughing Mannote  and the Individual Eleven.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's has the masked Mysterious Protector, who is revealed to be the Lieze sisters using a disguise spell.
  • In Bakuman。, the Ashirogi Muto moniker is shared between Mashiro and Akito; in this case, the idea is to avoid comments from envious people at their school like it happened late in junior high.
  • Subverted with Pain from Naruto, who is actually one man called Nagato who controls six bodies at the same time.
  • Mirai Nikki has a Battle Couple who are together known as the ''7th Diary Owner".
  • In Daily Lives of High School Boys, it turns out the famed Bully Hunter "Rubber Shooter" is a collective identity that belonged to a group of kids who would go around saving other kids in trouble.

     Comic Books  

  • The Marvel Comics character The Scourge of the Underworld was an entire conspiracy collectively posing as a single vigilante killer.
  • Scrier, a player in the Spider-Man Clone Saga turned out to be played by an entire mystical cult.
  • The Shadow first takes on the identity of Lamont Cranston when he is out of the country, but when the real Lamont turns up, he and the Shadow both use his identity, allowing the Shadow to be seen in one place and Lamont in another.
  • DC Universe
    • Trident, an opponent of the New Teen Titans, was actually three separate individuals masquerading as a single villain.
    • Similarly, the Crimson Fox of Justice League Europe was actually a pair of twin sisters sharing both a single heroic and civilian identity (after having faked the death of one sister).
    • In The Killing Joke, the costumed villain Red Hood is actually just a mask which the members of a robbery gang take turns wearing, the better to confuse the police. (At least, if the flashback scenes are to be believed.)
  • Ladyhawke, ally of Spider-Girl, is actually a pair of twins masquerading as an indefatigable superheroine who seems to be in two places at once.
  • In Tangent Comics, an alternate world series, the Joker was three different people. You don't learn this until her second appearance; in her first, it was implied that the reverse was true, that the Joker is one woman with three civilian identities.
  • Eric the Red, from X-Men, is actually several characters under an alias: Cyclops the first time, an undercover Shi'ar agent the second, and Magneto the third (when it's him, he's called Erik the Red, as in Erik Magnus Lehnsherr..
  • An unusual variant is found In Marvel's Team America, in which the team would often be saved by the mysterious Black Rider, whose identity and origin were entirely unknown. Eventually, the truth was discovered in an early New Mutants story arc, to the team's considerable shock: The Black Rider was no-one, and anyone. Team America was a projecting gestalt, able to project all of their combined abilities onto a bystander (the act of doing so somehow created the Black Rider's costume and possibly motorcycle).

    Fan Works 
  • A Growing Affection has a variation on the Twin Switch, triplets who pretend to be twins, but freely switch as to which triplet is pretending to be which twin.

    Film 
  • The Ghostface killer in the Scream series was more than one person.
  • In some of the novels, Bernardo also wears the Zorro costume in order to distract and mislead pursuers.
    • Bernardo Has also been known to play the part of Zorro to divert suspicion from Diego while he has an alibi (Such as being imprisoned or questioned on suspicion of being Zorro)
      • Zorro's friend and sometimes love interest/accomplice Lolita Pulido has also donned the mask
    • In Zorro the Gay Blade Don Diego and his brother Ramon both are Zorro.
    • The Mask of Zorro, Anthony Hopkins plays the original Zorro (Don Diego de la Vega) and Anthony Banderas is his trainee and later son-in-law, Alejandro.
    • The brief Tv Series Zorro and Son was actually about an older Don Diego training his son, Don Carlos, to take his place.
    • In Isabel Allende's novel, Zorro starts as Diego's Secret Identity, but ends up as the Collective Identity of him, Bernardo (that Diego trained in swordmanship when he realized that Bernardo would not be deterred from doing this) and Isabela de Romeu (who butted in when Diego was arrested under suspicion of being Zorro while the Dangerously Genre Savvy Big Bad kept Bernardo under surveillance. Diego was unable to convince her to desist, and she would become Zorro from time to time).
  • In the Richard Pryor film, Moving, his twin sons pretend to be the same child at school.
  • The big twist in The Prestige is that Alfred Borden and his "assistant" are actually twin brothers who take turns being the public face of Alfred Borden.
  • Hot Fuzz: Turns out the local version of Neighbourhood Watch did it.
  • The Princess Bride has The Dread Pirate Roberts, who was effectively a chain of apprentices.

    Literature 

  • The Opera Ghost in Maskerade is two people. ("You recognize him because he's wearing a mask? Think about what you're saying!") There was no agreement involved, however - the villain of the book co-opts the "Ghost" persona, planning to let the original Ghost take the fall for his crimes.
  • In Ben Bova's novel The Multiple Man the President of the United States is actually a set of seven cloned siblings Each of the clones is a specialist in one area of the job; the one who specialized in how to get elected is the one most often seen in public.
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Everybody dun it.
  • Chip Livingstone in Bimbos of the Death Sun.
  • The titular outlaw in Jackaroo by Cynthia Voight is an identity used by multiple characters. Some of them actually try to live up to the Robin Hood-esque legends about the character; others...not so much.

     Live Action TV  

  • Seen in one episode of Jonathan Creek where the mention of a character being "not Superman" leads Creek to realise that there are two men with one identity, the logical inverse of Superman's identity tactic.
  • In Human Target, it turns out that Chance's name isn't Chance: the identity of Christopher Chance has been handed down for years.
  • The four brothers in Himitsu No Hanazono work together as the mangaka Yuriko Hanazono.
  • In Pretty Little Liars, the mysterious villain "A" is actually a large group of people. To date, only one member of this group has been definitively identified and she has since made a Heel-Face Turn. However, two main characters also used the identity while briefly acting as double agents and to top it all off, there is pretty strong fan theorizing that a second group is using the identity to oppose the first group. It's a confusing series.

     Professional Wrestling  

     Tabletop Games  

  • Forgotten Realms being Gambit Pileup setting, it's no wonder there were such cases as team Xulla.
    • Given the presence of Clone spells and the like, it is possible to have multiple people who are the same person with one identity in D&D.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, many members of the Alpha Legion use the name of their Primarch, Alpharius, instead of their own. Some of them even undergo surgery and psychological indoctrination to more closely resemble him.
    • In the Horus Heresy novel Legion Alpharius was revealed to be one Primarch in twin bodies. His twin's name is Omegon.

    Theater 

     Video Games  

  • Much like the above The Princess Bride reference, the Gray Fox in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is thought to be immortal, but in fact is a succession of master thieves wearing the same magical mask. Much like many other titles in the Elder Scrolls series, if you complete the Thieves' Guild quest line, you can take the cowl for yourself, becoming the Gray Fox.
  • In Ace Attorney Investigations the three legs of the vigilante thief Yatagarasu turned out to represent three different people. Calisto Yew, a defense attorney, scoped out targeted buildings. Byrne Faraday, a prosecutor, infiltrated the targeted buildings in order to steal incriminating evidence of illegal activities. Detective Tyrell Badd covered up Yatagarasu's activities by being "assigned" to investigate him. In the end though, Calisto was The Mole, working for the criminal syndicate that the latter two wanted to bring down. At the end of the game Kay speculates on finding two other young beauties to be her partners, since previously she'd taken on the name of Second Yatagarasu on her own.
  • In one of the three Special Episodes of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky Sunflora must go on a mission to capture an outlaw, a Haunter who is said to be invincible. She eventually discovers that there are actually three Haunter, and when one of them is knocked out, another replaces him while the other takes the fainted one to safety. With the help of Loudred, Sunflora manages to have all three of them arrested.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Beatrice and especially Clair have a lot of this going on ("Oh, I am one yet many"). Some of it is Legacy Character-based. Other aspects are less so. By the end of the game, there have been at least twelve or so different characters who could lay claim to being Beatrice (and Clair by extension) in some way.
    • A less complicated example is "Tooya Hachijō", the author of Episode 3 to 6: they are a woman (Ikuko Hachijō) and a man (Battler, renamed Tooya after he lost his memories).
  • In Warnings at Waverly Academy, twin sisters share an identity so they can both attend the exclusive school which only one of them could actually register for.
  • The Black Raven from Professor Layton and the Last Specter is actually all the children of the marketplace.
  • In Mass Effect 1, this is Barla Von's opinion of the mysterious Shadow Broker, the most powerful Knowledge Broker in the entire galaxy - he feels that it's simply impossible for one person to run such an operation. Mass Effect 2, however, reveals that it is just one (freakishly intelligent) guy, who's been running the show since he killed the original Broker 60 years ago. And is, in turn, killed and replaced by Liara. As there's no way of knowing if the "original" Broker really was the first, one could argue Barla Von was right all along.

    Webcomics 
  • In the world of the webcomic A Modest Destiny the superhero Crimson Blade is actually an identity that's shared by several hundred people. This discovery terrifies the vampire Lord Fluffy.

    Web Original 
  • totheark, the cryptic YouTube channel that's part of Marble Hornets, is believed by Jay and the fans to be run by Hoody and at least one more person, mostly because of the different characteristics of the videos as the series went on.

     Western Animation  
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series spin-off movie Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, the title character is actually three different people.
    • During "Almost Got 'Im", the villains swap their ideas about who Batman really is while playing poker. This is Two-Face's suggestion.
    Two-Face: The way I figure it, Gordon's got a bunch of them stashed someplace, like a SWAT team. He wants you think it's one guy, but...
    Joker: Oh, you're always seeing double.
  • In an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, Tortoise Beats Hare, Bugs is wondering how it could be possible for the Tortoise to beat the Hare in Aesop's fables. As The Other Wiki puts it, 'Bugs is left wondering if he's been tricked; then all ten turtles approach and reply, "Hmmm...eh, it's a possibility!"'
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Mysterious Mare Do-Well", the eponymous mare is in fact actually four different mares. Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and (briefly) Fluttershy. Twilight Sparkle provides her magic, Fluttershy flight, Pinkie her prophetic Pinkie Sense and Applejack her massive strength to create the impression Mare Do-Well is a super-strong, future-predicting Winged Unicorn (a fashionable one, since although Rarity never masqueraded as the Mare she did make the outfit).
    • And in "Ponyville Confidential", Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle work for the school's newspaper as its gossip columnist, "Gabby Gums".

     Real Life  

  • Andy Kaufman's lounge singer alter-ego, Tony Clifton, was often played by friend Bob Zmuda or Andy's brother if Andy and Tony had to appear together at the same time (like their Rolling Stone cover). Bob Zmuda still makes appearances as Tony.
  • The respective authors of The Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon) and Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene) are not a single person. The series are "ghostwritten," with different authors using the same House Pseudonym.
  • Fujiko Fujio, the manga artist responsible of Doraemon and similar works, is actually two people: Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motō Abiko. When the collaboration broke up in 1987, each artist continues to use the Fujiko Fujio moniker, but adds an identifier to avoid confusion — Fujiko F. Fujio (Fujimoto), and Fujiko Fujio (A) (Abiko).
  • Sci-Fi author Jack McKinney, most well-known for the Novelizations of Robotech, was a pen name for the team of James Luceno and Brian Daley. (After Daley's death, Luceno wrote a few novels solo as McKinney.)
  • They call themselves Anonymous. They are hackers on steroids, treating the web like a real-life video game. Sacking websites, invading MySpace accounts, disrupting innocent people’s lives - and if you fight back, watch out.
  • Nicolas Bourbaki, the greatest French mathematician who never existed.
  • Occasionally, the inker for a comic will be listed as M. Hands or a variant. This is a shorthand for "Many Hands", used when multiple inkers are required for a rush-job and none of them want the credit.
  • Red Dwarf is the work of Grant Naylor - that is, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.
  • The dance crew Jabbawockeez wear iconic white masks, hoodies, and all-encompassing uniform outfits to avoid one dancer standing out from the rest of the crew. The intended result is a faceless collective, allowing audiences to appreciate the performances as a whole.
  • Mangas made by "Akira Himekawa" are actually made by two women whose real names are unknown.
  • CLAMP is a group of four women who write manga together. Unlike most examples there has never really been an attempt to hide this, with most manga containing chibi depictions of the authors on the back covers.
  • Nico Tanigawa, the author of the manga No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, is a pen name for a writer and artist team.
  • The mystery writers Fred Dannay and Manfred Lee had two collective identities: Barnaby Ross and Ellery Queen. For extra amusement, they pretended the two were rivals.
  • Roderick Jaynes is credited as an editor on all of The Coen Brothers' films, and Joel and Ethan like to keep up the Running Gag of talking about him like he's a real person despite it really being a fake name to get around guild restrictions on shared editing credit.


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