"It is also possible to have a mask behind the mask."
Why settle for a secret identity or wearing a mask, when you can let your secret identity have a secret identity and wear a mask under your mask?
This can be done by individuals or organizations, and it can be done in a physical, social or metaphorical sense. Easily combined with a Gambit Pileup
. Popular in the world of Ancient Conspiracy
Contrast Secret Identity Identity
, where there's only one secret identity but it's becoming the person's real identity. Compare Second Super-Identity
, when someone has more than one costumed identities
A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma
and Infraction Distraction
. If pretending to be the opposite sex in one layer is part of the deception it may involve Recursive Crossdressing
As a Reveal Trope, expect unmarked SPOILERS!
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Anime & Manga
- Kakashi in Naruto is a literal case — he wears another mask under his mask.
- In Code Geass, Lelouch has three or four identities: Lelouch Vi Britannia, Lelouch Lamperouge, Zero, and the king of geass. The second series adds another identity, since there are two different Lelouch Lamperouge identities depending on who he says his real sibling is. People who are close to him, like Nunnally, Suzaku, and Milly might know two of the identities, but C.C. is the only other person who knows all of them. In the last five episodes, he complicates it further by pretending that Lelouch Vi Britannia is a monster. And like the Naruto example above, he wears a second, ninja-like mask underneath his iconic Zero helmet. Doesn't stop Shirley from seeing right through it, though.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, Melvin Voyager, the escaped convict from Central Prison, reveals that he is actually Ashleigh Crichton, the long-lost brother of movie protagonist Julia Crichton. Except that he actually isn't; he is Julia and Ashleigh's family's old bodyguard Atlas, with Ashleigh's face grafted over his own as part of his Batman Gambit.
- Medabots: Hikaru Agata (Henry) with his two alter egos, the Phantom Renegade and Space Medafighter X. At one point Space Medafighter X's golden mask is cracked which reveals the white mask of Phantom Renegade. Note that Space Medafighter X's mask is EXACTLY THE SAME as the Phantom Renegades' mask, just with gold plating and different colored eyes. Yet nobody suspects a thing.
- In Fairy Tail's Galuna Island arc, there is an Enigmatic Minion named Zolty, a middle-aged man always wearing a mask. At the end of the arc, after he'd revealed he was trying to take control of the Sealed Evil in a Can the rest of Lyon's team were trying to kill, Zolty takes off his mask in private. This face, which is neither out of the ordinary nor anyone we've seen before, is inconsequential because seconds later it turns out his entire appearance was a magical disguise used by someone who looks completely different—namely, Ultear, the young-adult woman we had seen was part of the Magic Council.
- In History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi the fight between Diego Carlo and Ma Kensei thoroughly parodies this trope. "Laughing Iron Fist" Diego has the fighting style of a luchador and so constantly wears a mask. During his fight with with Kensei he gets mad and rips off his mask to reveal another mask, that of the "Angry Iron Fist". When he is finally defeated by Kensei he takes off this mask in surrender, revealing that he is still wearing a domino mask underneath to protect his modesty. Kenichi's reaction at this point is along the lines of "... seriously?"
- In The Phantom, the secret leader of the jungle patrol is The Phantom itself - the masked superhero identity, rather than its mundane counterpart "Mr Walker".
- Daredevil did this for a while - Matt Murdock pretended to also be his non-blind twin brother Mike, who everyone suspected was secretly Daredevil.
- Moon Knight sometimes did this. His original identity is Marc Spector, a onetime soldier of fortune trying to make amends. He also took on the Bruce Wayne-ish identity of financier Steven Grant and - to catch up with street level gossip - cab driver Jake Lockley. As part of his multiple personality psychopathy sometimes even he didn't know who the "real" person was under all the double- and triple-personalities.
- Twice in the Intercontinuity Crossover Batman vs. the Incredible Hulk Batman wears a Latex Perfection mask over his Batman cowl. Here's◊ one of them - he even manages to keep his extra long pointy bat-ears under the disguise. Batman has also used the same trick in older comics.
- In Superboy #107, Red Kryptonite makes Clark jealous of himself as Superboy. He proceeds to reveal his superpowers and starts doing his fantastic feats openly. Some out-of-town criminals who arrived in Smallville to kill Superboy with Green Kryptonite learn of this and make plans to strike Clark at his home. Eventually the Red K's effect wears off and Clark proceeds to extricate himself from the crisis via the trope◊. He makes up a story explaining that he knew that the criminals wanted to kill Superboy but didn't know when they'd strike, so he posed as Clark in cooperation with the Kents to force their hand.
- More indirect than most examples, Oracle has set up false identities for each of the Bat Clan in case someone takes their fingerprints or obtains their DNA.
- One issue of Young Justice had the team playing Truth Or Dare, with Impulse daring Robin to take off his mask. He did... only to reveal that he had put on another mask, figuring that the game would come up.
- In one of the earliest team ups between Spider-Man and The Punisher, Frank gave Spider-Man some make up in case he was caught and unmasked by the bad guys.
- The Vertigo Comics Human Target series featured 2 characters who would layer on so many disguises and so frequently lose track of who they really were that it quickly became a Mind Screw.
- Paperinik (a superhero alter-ego of Donald Duck) had to involuntarily do this in one story. At one point he decided to demonstrate (for no reason and to no one in particular) how his masks work, and too late realized that he's out of the spray that would let him take the sticky mask off. Since the mask he was trying on was one of a caricatural alien, he was forced to wear a new mask on top of this one. (Later on, however, he manages to avoid having his secret identity exposed because he was wearing this additional mask.)
- An early Spider-Man comic has Spidey caught unmasked by Alistair Smythe's surveillance camera. His solution was to make a latex Peter Parker mask (which averts Latex Perfection, as it's noticeably not quite right), return to the camera, and take off his Peter mask to reveal the Spider-Man mask underneath. It works: Smythe concludes Spidey was probably screwing with him, and doesn't follow up on trying to put a name to the face.
Live Action TV
- In LOST, Ben pretend to be the victim of a group of savages. He's actually the leader of this group of savages, which doesn't exist except as a front for an Ancient Conspiracy. However, Ben is not in control: Indeed he is the leader of this Ancient Conspiracy, but the conspiracy itself is also a front for something else, something which Ben cannot even reach, much less control.
- Parodied on Police Squad! when Frank pulls off a woman's wig and reveals he knows who she really is. He then does it several more times, describing different identities she's apparently lived under, while pulling off multiple wigs.
- In Jack-of-All-Trades, under the mask of the Daring Dragoon is... another identical mask!
- In CMLL, The second El Bronco (or at least the second El Bronco to work in CMLL as there have been many) was unmasked by Black Warrior to reveal another mask underneath. That's right, El Bronco was Spider-man! Further confusing things, a third Bronco later debuted in CMLL and has been seen at the same time as Spider-man
- Kent Allard, better known as The Shadow, has several of these — most famously Lamont Cranston.
- Xenogears. Hoo boy. The mysterious masked man called "Wiseman" who fights in Fei's style, the mysterious Darth Vader Clone Grahf who hunts him, and Fei's own father are all actually the same person. And to make things even more complicated, said person is actually the remnants of one of Fei's past lives, who is currently possessing his father.
- In Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships, Jamaican Johnny Rolle is revealed to be Australian John Poole, who later is revealed to be Dwayne Powers, a previous culprit who wants to prove he still has acting skills. And get back at Nancy for ruining his life.
- In the ending of Halo, there is a scene where the Master Chief takes off his helmet, but part of the ship obscures his head. If you move the camera so that you can get a good look, you can see that under his helmet is another helmet.
- This variant on the trope is actually very common in video games, since it takes a lot less effort for the art team to simply cut out a character's helmet for use as a prop and then hide their head with clever camera angles than it does to make a new model for the uncovered version of that character. For other examples, see Tali in Mass Effect 2 or Vanitas in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.
- The third Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game has the following line: "I'm afraid you are neither a proud thief, nor an Ace Detective. You're a blackmailer and a murderer." This happens after Magnificent Bastard Luke Atmey says he's an Ace Detective who had a fight with the thief Mask DeMasque. When you prove that this is false, he says that Mask DeMasque attacked him from behind. When you prove that false, he says that he's Mask Demasque. The truth is that he's been blackmailing Mask DeMasque into letting him pretend to be an Ace Detective, and that he then decided to falsely confess to being Mask DeMasque in an attempt to hide the fact that he's a murderer.
- Done quite literally in the fifth game with the Phantom, an international assassin who can perfectly mimic anyone. He wears mask upon mask to the point that he's forgotten his own identity. His list of fake identities include Detective Bobby Fulbright, when you initially catch him, as well as every other culprit in the game, several witnesses and defendants, Prosecutor Blackquill, and most disturbingly, Phoenix Wright himself!
- From Umineko no Naku Koro ni we have Beatrice, who not only has several different versions of her from different arcs and different time periods (her mother and grandmother also had the name Beatrice) but she, Shannon and Kanon are also the same person. And to top that off, the three of them are just idealized personas created by Yasu. Flowcharts has been made in order to explain it.
- In Blip, the Adversary uses in-universe Pixellation to hide his face, and wears a mask underneath that.
- The Order of the Stick: Tarquin disguises himself as Thog by wearing a face-concealing helmet and copying Thog's style of Hulk Speak. Roy quickly figures out that he isn't fighting Thog and yanks the helmet off to see who's underneath... only to reveal that Tarquin is also wearing a purple balaclava with "Nope!" written across the forehead. Ironically, the complexity of the facade pretty much confirms their genre-savy suspicion that it was Tarquin after all.
- Parodied in a Sluggy Freelance guest-penned filler arc here.
- In El Goonish Shive, Elliot's superheroine spell has not one but three alternate civilian alter ego forms (each with distinctive personalities and clothes) in addition to the super one. This allows him to avoid having to reveal either his true identity or his most discreet alter ego form to those he doesn't trust fully while still having a form with a largely normal appearance to fall back on. Unfortunately for him, this form is the least discreet in terms of personality as this and the following pages demonstrate.
- Happens in the flash video Mega Man and the Pompous Robots, during a fight between Tenguman and Bass. At one point, Bass says something amongst the line of "Let's see who's under that mask", pulls off Tenguman's mask... to reveal another one. This then gets repeated for a ludicrous number of masks which were all stacked on Tenguman's face.
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
- With Draco:
Just pretend to be pretending to be a scientist. Draco didn't have words to describe exactly what was wrong with Harry's mind (since Draco had never heard the term depth of recursion).
- Which leads to:
Draco had heard the word 'recursion' by this point, and he knew a Harry Potter plot when he saw one. (Unfortunately Draco had not heard of autoimmune disorders, and the thought did not readily occur to him that a clever virus would begin its attack by creating symptoms of an autoimmune disorder so as to get the body to distrust its own immune system...)
- Then there's Harry and Snape:
Snape: I cannot help but wonder if that is the Cloak of Invisibility.
Harry: Oh, possibly. I trust you realize the implications, if it is?
Snape: You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you, Potter? A rather clumsy try at fishing.
Either Severus was in fact modeling Harry as a one-level player, which made Severus himself two-level, and Harry's three-level move had been successful; or Severus was a four-level player and wanted Harry to think the deception had been successful.
- Comes up in relation to Quirrell's true identity.
Harry: The obvious next thought is that this 'David Monroe' person died in the war after all, and this is just someone else pretending to be David Monroe pretending to be Quirinus Quirrell.
McGonagall: That's obvious? Dear Merlin...
Moody: Really, boy? I'd say that's a little... paranoid. Not paranoid enough!
- In Terrain Of Magical Expertise, d-buggers is revealed to be Tigerlilly, who is revealed to be the Mysterious Red Cat, who is revealed to be Kizuna.
- In Noob, Tenshirock at some point gives Gaea his Cool Shades, on which he had transferred data she wanted from him. By the time Gaea looks at his face, presumably to see what he looks like without them, he's wearing entirely new Cool Shades.