I'm curious, Dr. Universe. Why didn't you remove my mask when I was unconscious? Aren't you curious who I really am? Dr. Universe:
I know exactly who you are. You're Spinnerette
In most cases, a villain's standard plot is to try and figure out the hero's Secret Identity
, usually so he can capture the hero's family for blackmail and so on.
Sometimes, however, the villain doesn't care. To him, his enemy is
the superhero; any civilian identity is irrelevant to their contest. The extreme end of this involves the villain actually discovering the hero's identity, and either ignoring it completely or even actively helping cover it up.
Heroes who try to bring masked criminals to justice are sometimes faced with a Dramatic Unmask
moment, as well. They should
, according to law, share the information they've learned with the police. But even the heroes can find a Worthy Opponent
, or begin Dating Catwoman
, and find themselves unable to betray their enemy's secret. The hero must still dismiss the possibility of sharing the revelation of their foe's Secret Identity
for it to qualify as an example.
See also Secret Identity Identity
, for when the hero starts confusing which is the "real" them.
Related to Dramatic Unmask
. This trope tends to defy Anti-Climactic Unmasking
. Can also be related to The Only One Allowed to Defeat You
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- Batman/The Joker:
- In post-Crisis continuity, Lex Luthor refuses to believe Superman even has a secret identity. The idea that someone with all that power would pretend to be a normal person just doesn't make sense!
- An interesting variant happens in several different SilverAge issues of Amazing Spider-Man, where the police consistently refuse to unmask a captured or unconscious Spider-Man regardless of the public's demands...well, J. Jonah Jameson's demands, anyway.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, Deadpool doesn't want to unmask Spider-Man when he's kidnapped the young hero, since he respects masks.
- In The Dark Knight, the Joker starts out demanding Batman remove his mask, but eventually decides that would be boring, and puts a hit out on a man who threatens to reveal Bruce's identity.
- In Spider-Man, Norman Osborn (AKA the Green Goblin) honestly doesn't care that much about Spidey's secret identity. At first he just wants to work with him. He isn't even trying to find him when he accidentally learns his identity and then only goes after him because his son's feelings were hurt.
- Phanthro in Relativity. He knows all of the heroes' identities, he just doesn't care. He's from the distant future, he's read their biographies. Where he comes from, their identities are already public knowledge. Revealing them in the past (our present) would certainly muck things up for them, but he doesn't see any reason to.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who. The conclusion of the classic serial "Silver Nemesis" has Lady Peinforte (who has managed to divine "Who" the Doctor really is) try and blackmail him by threatening to reveal that info to recurring villains the Cybermen. But the Cybermen say they simply do not care about that.
- In The Batman, Joker drives Wrath and Scorn insane with Joker gas when they threaten to reveal Batman's identity to Gotham's criminal community, because if anyone's going to bring about Batsy's downfall, it's got to be Joker.
- In Danny Phantom, most of Danny's villains already know his secret identity from the start; he's well-known in the Ghost Zone for being half-ghost. However, in the episode Flirting With Disaster, Technus warns Danny against transforming and battling him in the open by motioning to a security camera, saying that Danny has a secret identity to protect. Technus is already taking advantage of Danny's civilian identity in this episode, so his reasons for stopping Danny from fighting is to screw with him and his new girlfriend Valerie.
- In Dragon Booster, near the season 3 finale Artha and his racing rival Moordryd both discover each other's super identity as the Dragon Booster and Shadow Booster, respectively, but both agree to keep it a secret between them (and their respective companions, of course) since that knowledge could get them kicked out of a racing competition for the city's prestigious racing academy, and each of them have made enemies in their super identities.
- Another Joker example. In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Joker has gained reality warping powers and has Batman at his mercy. Harley asks him if he's going to take off his mask, but Joker refuses, saying that he doesn't want to "reduce [his] primal enemy to a mere man".