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"Rita, a secret identity is as precious as a baby dipped in diamonds. NEVER give it out, especially to mutants."

Put simply, a character (usually a superhero) keeps their involvement in the events of the plot secret from some or all of the other characters. Usually, they do this by creating a second, separate persona for themselves, which they use while participating in the plot.

This may be done for several reasons:

  • The World Is Not Ready to know about them, or their enemy, if they have one.
  • Despite their superpowers, they still want to have a normal life during those times when they are not fighting crime or evil, and they want to keep that normal life separate from their life as a superhero. Especially if they're a vigilante and what they do is against the law.
  • They may wish to protect their loved ones from possible retaliation by their enemies.
  • Their insurance policy doesn't have a superhero clause.
  • They have been accused, or even convicted, of a crime (in either identity) and need the separation to protect them from the law.
  • Someone may go after the hero themselves, and use them for unethical experiments, probably to attempt to replicate their powers. Or just kill them in their sleep.
  • Similarly, the hero uses a special item to have powers and become the hero, both the big villains and small crooks may try to steal it, leaving them without powers, and bad people with it.
  • The hero wants to be something mysterious or even scary, to strike fear in bad guys.
  • They just enjoy the privacy.
  • They are using their secret identity as a way of keeping tabs on the world, the way Superman uses his guise as Clark Kent to learn about problems Superman may need to fix.
  • Both identities may be useful for crimefighting, if the civilian identity is someone rich, with political powers, or has a job with authorities, they may be able to do stuff in their civilian identity that the hero identity cannot.
  • Any combination of two or more of the above.

While trying to protect that secret, the superhero is often placed in the worst kind of situations that threaten to expose it. For instance, there is the Bruce Wayne Held Hostage scenario. In more mundane moments, the superhero often has to quickly come up with a Secret Identity Change Trick in order to get out of sight. They may have to cut off most relationships to prevent this necessity. Especially romantic relationships. And those that survive may have to be secret.

People who guess at the connection almost invariably guess correctly. No matter how closely two superheroes resemble each other, no one will confuse them.

In superhero stories, these are particularly vulnerable to to the superpower The Nose Knows.

This is effectively a single-person variant of the Masquerade. Sometimes a select group of people are allowed to know the hero's secret identity. If they stay largely out of the action, outside an occasional errand or trap setup, they're simply Secret Keepers. If the relationship with the hero is deeper, at least on a professional basis, then the insider may be a Battle Butler. If one or both of a hero's parents were ever heroes themselves, they'll often be overjoyed rather than shocked at the child's heroism, and reveal it as part of their Secret Legacy.

See Secret-Identity Identity for heroes where the secret identity isn't necessarily the "real" one. For the logical inverse, see Collective Identity.

One of the archetypal Secret Identities is that of the Millionaire Playboy. The family and friends of such a hero are usually at risk of having tea with the villain. Other good personas include the Ridiculously Average Guy, The Nondescript, or The Generic Guy.

It is less common, but villains may also have secret identities. These examples are easy to justify: most of these villains are wanted criminals that would be locked up in seconds if their true identity was known. It's common for this kind of villain to be famous, rich, and powerful, and to secretly use their money and political powers for their evil deeds — on the other hand, the villain may have become rich and famous thanks to their secret evil powers in the first place. The general public believes they are just another celebrity/businessman or even idolize them, while despising their evil alter ego. It's also common for these villains to have their identity hidden from even the audience, so it can be revealed later, often as a huge twist.

Experts point to The Scarlet Pimpernel, written at the turn of the 20th century by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, as one of the earliest pure examples of this trope. However, the Older Than Print Chivalric Romance Roswall and Lillian has the hero work as a servant at court and fight three times at The Tourney disguised in armor, without revealing his identity; it also appears in various Fairy Tales, though in all these it is a temporary measure, and not the perpetual double identity of the modern secret identity, and so is more of an Ur-Example.

Bob Ingersoll considers secret identities to be actually detrimental to fighting crime. Even so, it has become a staple of the Super Hero genre, to the point where it's easier to list exceptions, subversions and variations than straight examples.

While it's difficult to become a Dead Horse Trope, the rise in surveillance and forensic technology in the 21st Century has led to it becoming increasingly more difficult. On the other hand, it's Older Than Steam as a trope and unlikely to die out as new ways are found to keep it going with society constantly changing.

A Sub-Trope of Living a Double Life, Two Aliases, One Character, Invented Individual.

A Super-Trope to:

  • Angel Unaware: A mysterious character is implied to be an angel or other supernatural being.
  • Anti-Climactic Unmasking: Someone rips off a superhero's mask, expecting someone extraordinary, but they get someone ordinary.
  • Black Knight: A powerful, mysterious knight who wears black armor.
  • Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: The villain tries to draw out the hero by holding the hero's secret identity hostage.
  • Celebrity Masquerade: A superhero whose secret identity is famous in their own right — sometimes more than the hero.
  • Clark Kenting: The hero's civilian identity is basically the hero wearing a Paper-Thin Disguise.
  • Color-Coded Secret Identity: Someone's everyday civilian clothes just so happen to be the same color(s) as their superhero costume.
  • Death by Secret Identity: Someone finds out the hero's secret identity, but dies before they can do anything with the information.
  • Deducing the Secret Identity: Someone uses logic to match up the masked and civilian identities.
  • Flung Clothing: Someone changes into their costume by tossing off their disguise in one flick motion.
  • Friend of Masked Self: The hero, in their civilian identity, claims to be friends with their own alter-ego.
  • Future Self Reveal: A character is another character's future self but keeps this a secret for some time.
  • God Was My Copilot: A deity in disguise.
  • Hates My Secret Identity: A hero knows someone dislikes them in their secret identity, but likes their super identity.
  • Identity Impersonator: The hero protects their secret identity by appearing in public with someone pretending to be their alter ego.
  • King Incognito: A ruler disguises themselves as a commoner.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Someone's love interest is only attracted to their heroic identity, not their secret one.
  • Likes Clark Kent, Hates Superman: A hero with a secret identity knows someone who likes one identity, but can't stand the other.
  • Multilayer Façade: Someone wears multiple disguises over each other at once.
  • Old Beggar Test: A god or other powerful being tests someone by turning up at their doorstep posing as someone in need.
  • The Reveal Prompts Romance: The hero reveals their secret identity to their love interest, which causes them to commence a relationship.
  • Second Super-Identity: A superhero creates another super identity.
  • Secret Chaser: Someone constantly follows around the hero protecting their secret identity, trying to find it out.
  • Secret Identity Apathy: The villains aren't interested at all in learning the hero's secret identity.
  • Secret Identity Change Trick: A person with a superhero identity must improvise a way to get out of sight to change identities.
  • Secret-Identity Identity: It's called into question on whether the person regards their super identity or their secret identity as their true self.
  • Secret-Keeper: A friend the hero has allowed to be aware of their secret identity.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Someone finds out the hero's secret identity, but doesn't let the hero know that they are aware of their secret identity.
  • Secret Public Identity: Someone uses their real name instead of an alias.
  • Self-Proclaimed Knight: A character secretly becomes a knight.
  • Sexier Alter Ego: A person's costumed persona has better luck getting dates than their civilian identity.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: A woman disguises herself as a man.
  • The Unmasking: The hero reveals their secret identity to someone, willingly or by force.

Exceptions, Subversions and Variations:

    open/close all folders 

  • If you're a radio listener in Ohio or Kentucky of the United States, there's a good chance you may be familiar with the "Phantom Tire Buyer with a Secret Identity" from ads for Tire Discounters.
  • A Geico spot features a guy in an office who hears of an emergency in town. He ducks into a room to change into superhero the Green Hawk, only to find the room occupied by his fellow workers having a meeting. And they all know he's the Green Hawk.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted in Akumetsu: the titular Guile Hero doesn't really care about it as much as most of the examples on this page.
  • Several characters in Attack on Titan have secret identities. Most play it absolutely straight, maintaining them for various reasons. However, one turns out to be a deconstruction: Reiner Braun is unable to handle the guilt of his crimes as The Mole, and slowly loses focus of his true self. This causes him to suffer bouts of Trauma-Induced Amnesia, repressing his real memories while completely submerged into his false identity.
  • Lelouch Lamperouge, the morally gray revolutionary from Code Geass, takes on the masked Large Ham persona of Zero when he founds and leads the Order of the Black Knights against the Holy Empire of Britannia. His normal persona is that of an Ordinary High-School Student... which is also a false identity, since he's really Lelouch vi Britannia, an exiled son of the Britannian Emperor and therefore a prince.
  • In Death Note, Light Yagami has taken a Secret Identity known as Kira when killing criminals with the titular Artifact of Doom. After L's death, he even takes the role of Second L while maintaining his identity as Kira.
  • Conan Edogawa and Ai Haibara in Case Closed must keep secret the fact that they were youthened instead of killed by a poison used by a shadowy secret organization. The original rationale was to pretend Conan's prior identity, Shinichi Kudo, was dead, but he can't stop phoning his girlfriend using his Shinichi voice, so it seems to be a pretty open secret that he's still alive. Some people are clever enough to put two and two together and figure out who he is, too.
  • Secret Identities are a major part of the plot of Dokkoida?!. Supervillains are unleashed and given Secret Identities to test a pair of supersuits used by the heroes and promised a pardon if they can successfully unmask either one. Also, should anyone's identities become known, the whole test is null and void. Finally, due to budget constraints, everyone (heroes and villains alike) are living in the same apartment building.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, there is Gohan as the Great Saiyaman. As Gohan, he's a fairly nerdy high school student. As the Great Saiyaman, he's a Large Ham crimefighter who's fond of Sentai-spoofing poses. He's also quite bad at actually maintaining the secret identity.
  • The Eldran series both averts and plays this straight. In the first (Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh) and last (Nekketsu Saikyo Gosaurer) series, the protagonists are a class of fifth-graders, and their schools hide/are the titular robots, so it's hard to keep what they do secret anyways (that and the military tried confiscating Gosaurer in its series, but the situation turned sour when it turned out it wouldn't work for them). However, the second entry in the series — Genki Bakuhatsu Ganbaruger — plays this very straight, and with justification (kinda) in that if the heroes reveal their identities, they'll be turned into dogs.
  • Eyeshield 21 features an ace football player who hides his identity behind an eyeshield and code name. Subverted in that several cast members figure out his identity almost instantly, while others are much slower on the uptake. Further subverted in that about halfway through the series, he abandons his secret identity altogether (on live TV no less) and operates under his real name from then on, with "Eyeshield 21" remaining as a nickname.
  • In Full Moon, Mitsuki uses her shinigami's powers to turn herself into a famous singer. It's later revealed that Takuto was actually a member of Mitsuki's father's band when he was still alive.
  • Four out of five SOS Brigade members in Haruhi Suzumiya, as well as all the other Aliens, Time Travelers, and Espers out there.
  • Horimiya has Miyamura pretend to be Konoha, Hori's cousin, when his Bishounen self interacts with Yuki, Hori's best friend.
  • Kuroe Akaishi of Kaiju Girl Caramelise has a condition where strong emotion will cause cause deformations to briefly appear on her such as scaly reptilian hands and dorsal spikes. Her feelings for her crush Arata Minami cause her to fully transform into a Kaiju, which gets dubbed "Harugon" by the public. Initially, only she and her mother Rinko know that she is Harugon. The closest she gets to actively revealing anything is when she lets her Kaiju-obsessed classmate Manatsu come to the conclusion that Kuroe is Harugon's "priestess" based on her suspicious proximity to where Harugon first appeared.
  • Set in the same universe as Case Closed is Magic Kaito, which has the titular character Kaito Kuroba, who is, unknown to his friends, the Phantom Thief Kaito Kid. The shared name is never remarked upon as more than coincidence, since Kid inherited the identity from his father and Kaito's Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist is a man who's known him since he was a kid.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • All Might has to keep one up after his injury from five years ago reduced the time he could act as a hero to three hours a day to keep Japan from succumbing to chaos in his absence. Otherwise, he's working nine-to-five as his own secretary under his real name, Toshinori Yagi. After passing One for All to Izuku, All Might frequently has to push his slowly decreasing limits to keep people from seeing his emaciated, depowered form.
    • Downplayed with Hawks: he doesn't exactly hide his identity (his bright red wings would make that kind of hard anyway), but he does hide his real name, Takami Keigo. As far as the public and most heroes are concerned, he's just Hawks. He does this because his father was an infamous criminal, and it would hurt his reputation for people to learn this.
  • Nurse Angel Ririka SOS zigzags this. The Magical Girl Warrior heroine keeps her world-saving activities secret from her friends and family. But she's not really trying to hide her identity from the villains; she even transforms in front of them. For their part, the villains know where she lives, and they try to exploit her civilian identity — they just don't do it very well.
  • Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! beats this trope up for its lunch money like it does so many others. Though the alien characters will try to keep Muggles from seeing their battles with Cosmic Horrors, they do little else to maintain the Masquerade. Nyarko will gladly introduce herself as "The Crawling Chaos who creeps up on you with a smile, Nyarlathotep", and when joining Mahiro's high school gave a speech where she outright says she travels the stars and fights Malign Deities. And it's not even a case of being written off as a Cloudcuckoolander, since people always seem to believe her Blatant Lies about being pregnant with Mahiro's child.
  • Although they aren't superheroes, the talents employed by the Peacock talent agency in Penguin Revolution are obligated to maintain a secret identity, and fired if their real identity is revealed.
  • Most of the heroes in Tiger & Bunny have secret identities, the exception being Barnaby Brooks Jr. who is open with the public and simply does his heroics under that name. Whilst the other heroes are masked to the public, most of their family members usually know (with exceptions) and, as they are all examples of Corporate Sponsored Superheroes, so do their bosses/sponsors. Also, Wild Tiger/Kotetsu T. Kaburagi winds up being known to the general public when it becomes the only way to clear his civilian name to is to go public given the time frame he was working under.
  • Momomiya Ichigo and the other members of Tokyo Mew Mew keep their Magical Girl identities secret. For Ichigo, this is mainly out of fear of humiliation and rejection from her crush, Aoyama.

  • In The Firesign Theatre's parody of World War II era radio, "Forward Into the Past", we hear this about a character: "By day, Adolf Tree, a mild-mannered college professor. By night, Kiki, a mini-skirted habitué of Hollywood's starstruck Sunset Strip! But twice a year, he's Captain Equinox!"

    Comic Books 
The DCU:
  • Aztek introduces two background characters, a married superhero couple, neither of whom know the other's secret identity. Think about it.
  • Batman:
    • Batman occasionally uses the "Matches Malone" persona as an additional secret identity to infiltrate the criminal underworld.
    • Much like his mentor, Tim Drake uses the additional secret identity of Alvin Draper for infiltration. Eventually, due to the League of Assassins interfering when he was trying to borrow evidence from a museum in Germany making "Alvin" an internationally wanted art thief and Dick blurting out that he was Robin directly in front of Two-Face, this ID becomes rather dangerous to use.
  • Black Canary: Despite abandoning any attempt at a disguise years ago and having a very public wedding to another superhero (whose own Secret Identity is a Millionaire Playboy and former mayor of a major city), Dinah has apparently managed to maintain one. Dinah is outed as Black Canary in Birds of Prey Volume 2, #2. It seems that for the most part, it's a case of her secret identity being so unremarkable (a florist in a small shop) that she doesn't really need to hide who she is, and pretty much the entire hero/villain community knows that 'Dinah Lance' is her name.
  • Blue Beetle: The 1960s incarnation of Blue Beetle kept a separation between his ordinary life as Ted Kord and his heroic life as Blue Beetle, but he was an exception to the usual business about keeping things secret even from the hero's loved ones: only a couple of issues in, he decides his girlfriend deserves to know, and tells her the whole thing. In subsequent issues, she helps cover for him when he needs it.
  • Captain Atom: Deconstructed in Post-Crisis comics. Cap has a "secret non-identity": a government-written cover identity of "Cameron Scott" that exists only on paper, to hide his origins as the time-displaced product of a 1960s military experiment, and to hide that Cap is a government agent masquerading as a superhero. The deconstruction of the secret identity trope and its moral and ethical implications is one of the major themes of the series.
  • Green Arrow:
    • Oliver Queen says in The Longbow Hunters: "All those years of maintaining a secret identity, and the only reason nobody ever found out was that nobody cared!?"
    • His successor Connor Hawke never even bothers; at one point, he takes over ownership of an apartment building and is refused insurance because he's a superhero.
  • J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, originally masqueraded as a human police detective named John Jones; a later Retcon made this an impersonation of a real detective Jones whose killing he had witnessed. Stories in the Modern Age have established the idea that, as an unlimited shapeshifter, J'onn has actually created dozens of secret identities (and at least one other heroic identity, the Bronze Wraith).
  • Justice League of America:
    • One JLA (1997) storyline has an alien device accidentally split the League into two beings, one for their civilian and heroic identities each. Some of the League, especially the Martian Manhunter, hope to leave things at that. However, it turns out that the separation only makes things worse for most of them: for example, Bruce Wayne is all bottled fury with no outlet, while Batman is completely directionless. Eventually, the civilian identities have to fight the aliens who created the device, who turn out to have loosed it on purpose as a form of field test.
    • The Crimson Fox of Justice League Europe is actually a pair of twin sisters sharing both a single heroic and civilian identity (after having faked the death of one sister).
  • Superman:
    • "The Super-Steed of Steel": Even though he looks like a regular horse, Comet thinks that he should have a secret identity only because Supergirl has one, so he decides to pretend to be a normal horse.
    • According to Last Son of Krypton, supergenius Lex Luthor actually maintains dozens of identities as artists, scientists, and other highbrow society positions. He does it partly to influence affairs in those fields, partly as a source of income, but mostly to keep from being bored.
  • Teen Titans: Villain Trident was actually three separate individuals masquerading as a single villain.
  • Wonder Woman
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Diana maintains a secret identity as the prim WAC secretary assigned to Gen. Darnell named Diana Prince.
    • Wonder Woman (2006): Diana tries to hide her other identity as Wonder Woman while acting as the secret agent Diana Prince. The Post-Crisis Continuity Reboot of Wonder Woman (1987) had wiped out her previous history of living as Diana Prince, leaving her only with the public identity of Diana of Themyscira. The 2006 reboot is actually not a retcon, but rather features Wonder Woman adopting the Prince identity in the established present.

Marvel Universe:

  • For the bulk of his career, Tony Stark presented Iron Man to the public as an employee wearing the armor he invented, and serving as his bodyguard. This twist would actually seem to negate a great deal of the usual justifications for bothering to maintain a dual identity — the general public knows that Stark designed the armor, and any enemies of Iron Man are likely to become enemies of Stark by association. It sometimes seems the primary reason for this posture is to give Tony a measure of legal cover for Iron Man's activities — and indeed, on at least one occasion, Tony has publicly "fired" Iron Man in response to a scandal arising from his actions. Eventually, Tony came out as Iron Man as part of a wave of secret identity refutations (Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, did the same thing around the same time). It eventually turns out that he did have good reason for worrying about the legal cover. During the Winter Soldier debacle, he has to deny assistance to Captain America and the Falcon, since the villain's employer is one of Stark's direct business rivals. He explains that he could lose his company and end up in jail if it looked like he was using the Iron Man armor to intimidate his competitors.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Spider-Man's secret identity as Peter Parker was one of the best-kept in the business for forty real-world years. At least until the Civil War (2006), where Tony Stark coerced Peter (who did not want any legal trouble on his back, so he had sided with him) to reveal his secret identity on live television. Then Spidey defected to the Anti-Reg movement, Aunt May got shot in an attempt on his life, and Spidey struck a deal with Mephisto to keep her alive, with the plus of everyone forgetting that Spider-Man and Peter Parker are one and the same.
    • In Ultimate Spider-Man, on the other hand, Spidey's identity is the worst kept secret in superherodom. He's been unmasked by at least as many people as he's deliberately revealed his identity to. (A trend continued in the movies — he can't make it past his second film without being unmasked in front of literally dozens of people, although none of them recognize him.) The Ultimate version in particular may be a reference to the fan meme that Spider-Man was one of the last big Marvel characters to even bother with a secret identity, as his Rogues Gallery is full of people who know him personally.
    • By now, on Earth-616, only the Fantastic Four, his fellow Avengers and his clone Kaine know who Spider-Man is under the mask.
    • The Green Goblin and other Goblin characters are villainous, but there's kind of a tradition of hiding their identity from everyone (even the readers) whenever a new one debuts. This has led to more than one instance of a new Goblin character getting passed on to another writer, who completely changes the original writer's intended identity reveal.
  • The Scourge of the Underworld is an entire conspiracy collectively posing as a single vigilante killer.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Averted when the Fantastic Four were created: they intentionally avoided many genre tropes to distance themselves from their Distinguished Competition (that is, DC's Justice League of America), with the most significant of these decisions being their lack of dual identities. One popular in-story explanation implies that Reed does so to not make the others, especially Ben Grimm (for whom keeping a secret identity is basically impossible), feel ashamed of their abilities.
    • In one early storyline, Johnny "Human Torch" Storm attempts to pull off a secret identity. It lasts less than an issue, before he remembers that he's already a celebrity and thus it's pointless.
    • The Fantastic Four also deconstructs this lack of private identities at times, most notably with the public knowledge that Reed and Sue have had children. This attracts the attention of child services, who drop by to question whether or not they should remove their kids from the dangerous environment.
    • There was a Human Torch solo series in Strange Tales where he inexplicably maintained a secret identity as Johnny Storm, ordinary Glenville High student. Six issues in, this was explained as the entire town humoring him.
  • Also averted most of the time for Doctor Strange. Played with somewhat in that the public rarely takes him seriously — they tend to see him as just another bit of Greenwich Village color. For a time (after he had been attacked by proxy), he had a different appearance as "Doctor Strange" and lived under a Cosmic Retcon which gave him a civilian persona named "Stephen Sanders." He eventually stopped bothering with the double life and practiced magic openly.
  • For years, Matt Murdock hid his identity as Daredevil on the reasonable grounds that, as a lawyer, his vigilante lifestyle could get his cases overturned, and he suffered more than Spider-Man as a result. He is eventually publicly outed, so the entire world knows who he is, but no one could prove it.
  • Bruce Banner is The Incredible Hulk, which starts off as a secret but ends up as public knowledge in most continuities, in part because it's kind of a hard secret to keep under wraps. Ditto for his cousin Jennifer Walters, a.k.a. She-Hulk, albeit for somewhat different reasons. Most of the time, She-Hulk is in control of whether she appears as Walters or She-Hulk; for a while, she appeared as She-Hulk pretty much all of the time, and once became locked in that form (a development that didn't bother her in the least). Interestingly enough, there was a period/continuity where Hulk's identity was secret from himself. Banner always knew he was the Hulk, but Hulk didn't know that he was Banner... which kind of put a damper on his plans to kill Banner.
  • The Mighty Thor:
    • Thor's second identity for many years was protected by a Transformation Sequence. When Odin removed this power, Thor merely dressed normally to construct a new identity. While he worked in construction, the boss noticed his strength and his dexterity and concluded he had to be — Spider-Man. A rare subversion of the "guess is always right." (He invited him home, and one of his children looked in Thor's duffel bag; the hammer gave it away.)
    • Spoofed in Thor: The Mighty Avenger. After Brian Braddock/Captain Britain pretends to go to the bathroom so he can deal with a disgruntled Thor, the following conversation occurs between his drinking buddies.
      Celine: Do you think we should check on [Brian]? He has been in the loo for a long time, no?
      Alan: Mmm? No, it's okay. He's Captain Britain.
      Celine: What?
      Alan: He's Captain Britain. He thinks his friends don't know, but he's terrible at keeping it a secret, so we pretend we don't notice. Another one?
      Celine: Uhh...Yes. A pint, thank you.
  • The Punisher:
    • Totally averted by the Punisher, as his Frank Castle identity is public knowledge. And yet, he can still regularly just walk down the street so long as he's not openly brandishing weapons or wearing his trademark skull.
    • In The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank, Castle overhears a plot to assassinate the Punisher in a restaurant as he is sitting a few tables over from the plotters. His Paper-Thin Disguise is... a baseball cap. However, he has also hired a prostitute to pretend to be his "date", which probably does much more to throw off any idea that he's the Punisher (he also sits with his back to his target).
  • The Avengers: Subverted in one of the Black Knight's old spotlight issues. After getting arrested by some pushy jerkass police due to a mix-up (ironically, he's mistaken for a supervillain who is similarly Arthurian-knightly-themed), Whitman raises a big fuss about how it's illegal for the policemen to unmask him since he's an Avenger. Later, we find out that he freely tells everyone that Dane Whitman's address is where the Black Knight stays when he's in town. When Miss Bentley points out the flimsiness of this cover story compared to his fuss at the police station, he admits that he doesn't actually care about his secret identity, he just hates being pushed around.
  • Ms. Marvel (2014):
    • Kamala Khan is an interesting variation in that she is fiercely protective of her secret identity (early in her solo comic, she freaks out that, if anyone besides Bruno learns her true identity, they'll "sell [her] to science"), but she's more than happy to hang around with her friends in their secret identities while she's in costume. She's also told her friends that revealing their identities to her was a bad idea, and they shouldn't just assume that fellow superheroes can automatically be trusted with that information. When in-costume, she only identifies herself as Kamala when talking to an adult superhero she trusts, such as Wolverine, Medusa, Carol Danvers, and Iron Man.
    • As a member of the All-New, All-Different Avengers, she takes great pride in teasing both Miles and Sam, the two other members of the team her own age, because they both revealed their real names to her while she has kept hers secret from them. When Miles (in his own book) suggests that, since he trusted her with his identity, she should do the same, Kamala tells him that that just means that she's smarter than him. Nowadays, all three of them know each others' secret identities (Miles wordlessly figures it out in Ms. Marvel #7, and Kamala reveals herself to Sam as part of a "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight when he falls under Blackheart's Hate Plague spell in Champions Vol. 2 #9).

Other comics

  • Preacher has a villainous example with a serial killer called the Reaver Cleaver who hides behind a civilian guise, a reporter investigating the serial killer's identity.
  • Inverted in Jon Sable, Freelance in that Sable is publicly known as a mercenary. What he keeps secret is that writes children's books under the name "B.B. Flemm", and he has an elaborate disguise he wears when he has to make public appearances as Flemm. Furthermore, his publisher knows about Sable's real life, but is very persuasive in making him keep to his writing contract in that false identity.
  • Watchmen's Rorschach has an identity is so secret, even his colleagues don't know his real name or what he looks like under the mask for a long time.
  • One old comic has a one-eyed army veteran who becomes a superhero. His name is Jonathan Battle. He retired as a Captain. His superhero name? Captain Battle. No one manages to figure out who this mysterious one-eyed "Captain Battle" secretly is, not even his friends.
  • Argentinian superheroine Cyber Six disguises herself as a man in her secret identity.
  • Orient Men, originally a superhero parody, is mentioned in the first panel of the first comic to be the secret identity of a random white-collar schmuck. This never comes up again.
  • Savage Dragon doesn't even remember his real name, so his legal name is really Dragon. Obviously, even if he wanted to keep his identity a secret, it's a bit hard since he's a big green man with a fin on his head.
  • In All Fall Down, Siphon's identity is not public knowledge, but her role as the world's last superhero leaves her very little time for a double life.
  • Played with every way possible in Astro City:
    • Some supers have their identities publicly known and are treated like celebrities, such as with the First Family.
    • Others are shrouded entirely in myth and feared or shunned, like the Confessor or the Blue Knight.
    • Still others have revealed their identities to the authorities while keeping them secret from the public at large, such as the Street Angel and Quarrel.
    • Roustabout has, in reality, a public identity in the Close-Knit Community of the carnival and the towns it visits, but because he's wanted by the law, the community acts as a large-scale Secret-Keeper and even feigns Obfuscating Stupidity as if it were an Extra-Strength Masquerade.
    • In one story, a petty criminal stumbles upon Jack-in-the-Box's identity, then starts thinking about the ways he might exploit the information. The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that it will all end very badly for him. He decides to forget everything and leave town instead.
  • Jerrica from Jem and the Holograms (IDW) keeps an alter ego named "Jem" due to Stage Fright. Only her sisters and Synergy, their supercomputer, knows otherwise. She slips up several times involving her remembering she has a secret identity, though. For example, on her bands first performance she asks Rio to get her a coffee. She goes to change into Jem but when Rio calls for Jerrica, she replies. She also takes Rio coffee, which only causes Rio to think Jem is an obnoxious diva who takes others coffee and is barely around her bandmates.
  • Although Flare doesn't have a secret identity, her younger sister, Sparkplug, wears a black wig as florist Olga Guttmann. Even so, Intrepid Reporter Jimmy Dooley recognized Olga as Sparkplug the moment he first entered her flower shop, and still calls Sparkplug by her real name over her objections.
  • Plutona uses one to protect her loved ones and work a day job to make rent.
  • In Hero Cats Of Stellar City, Cassie's owner Stanley and his daughter Suzie routinely don spandex as Galaxyman and Cosmic Girl, the crime-fighting superhero duo. Hilariously, while Cassie and her friends figure it out fairly quickly, it turns out Stanley and Suzie successfully keep their secrets from each other — Stanley has no idea that his sidekick is actually his daughter, and vice versa. Cassie can hardly believe it.
  • The Tick attempts to hold down a secret identity because he believes superheroes need one to be superheroes. He does this by putting on a tie and pretending to be a crossword writer for a newspaper, despite having neither a job or wearing any other clothing beyond his body (and identity)-covering blue spandex. Averted in the cartoon and live-action incarnations, in which almost none of the superheroes are shown to have secret identities, and most don't even bother covering up their faces.
  • Vampirella has adopted a secret identity as a schoolteacher named Ella Normandy, mostly just to get away from all the supernatural madness in her life, albeit briefly. Eventually, she's outed by a jilted lover and has to give up that identity.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In the Aarne-Thompson-Uther (ATU) tale type ATU 314 "Golden Hair", known in German as Goldenermärchen and in French as Le Teigneux, the hero hides its lustrous golden hair under a cap made of pig or sheepskin, which gives the impression he has some sort of hair disease.
  • In "Iron Hans" and a fair number of its variants like "King Goldenlocks", the hero appears as a Knight in Shining Armor during the war, while working in a menial position — first a scullion, and then demoted to a gardener's boy — at the king's court.
  • In Andrew Lang's "The Golden Crab" (link), the king tries to have The Tourney to substitute a bridegroom for the crab his daughter married. Three times the crab-husband shows up in human guise to fight.

    Fan Works 
  • The Ace Savvy Extended Universe: The Full House Gang keeps their real identities secret from the general public. Usually, when someone finds out about their secret, they'll end up joining the team.
  • In A Force of Four, Wonder Woman's daughter Lyta Trevor decides to not bother with a secret identity when she starts operating as a hero.
    She didn't bother with a mask. Her mother had revealed her secret identity years ago. Lyta didn't intend to bother with one.
  • Forever Captain: Steve Rogers time travels back to the mid-20th century to marry Peggy Carter and completely retire from superheroics. To keep anyone from realizing who he is, he goes by his middle name and takes on Peggy’s last name, making him known to all only as Grant Carter.
  • In The Good Hunter, Cyril Sutherland disguises himself under the alias of Klaus Tennstedt, so as to keep himself away from any attention due to his reputation in The Fall of Lescatie.
  • I am [REDACTED] has the titular Redacted, a.k.a. Midoriya Izuku. Since secret identities are non-existent and technically illegal in the world of My Hero Academia (Izuku had to cut some sort of deal with the Japanese government to make it possible), it became all the more noticeable when Redacted showed up with one. In fact, Redacted isn't even Izuku's official hero name; his actual hero name is Nimbus, but he was Named by Democracy after researching his public records had his real name blocked out with the phrase [REDACTED], and by the start of the story, has given up correcting reporters and fans alike.
  • In The Institute Saga, Clark Kent relies on no-one thinking that a part-time teacher could be a superhero and it works, right until he gets publicly outed by a politician hoping to use his fame against him. The result? The Bayville High gets swamped by transfer requests from people wanting to be taught by a genuine super-hero!
  • "Joyeux Noelle" is essentially a Noelle/Pitch Perfect crossover based on the idea that Becca Mitchell is the name Noelle Kringle uses when she goes out in the world after becoming the "official" Santa Claus. As Becca explains it, she needs to act as Becca for the other eleven months of the year and is only Noelle for December when she has to use the Christmas magic to act as Santa.
  • In Kage, Jade is banished by Drago from her universe to another. She ends up on Meridian and due to unfortunate factors is quickly labeled as a public threat. To survive, she's forced to associate with villains. To leave as little information of herself as possible in case of a double-cross, she comes up for herself the alias "Kage".
  • In Legacy (Sekiro/Kimetsu no Yaiba), Kyoichi keeps his identity as the One-Armed Fox a secret from everyone except those closest to him. When Makomo recognizes him with his mask on, he asks her to continue to refer to him as Sekiko until he takes it off to become Kyoichi again.
  • In Negaverse Chronicles, Megavolt is the only member of the Friendly Four who actually needs one since he's the only one with any family members who might be vulnerable (and Negaduck has promised to kill anyone close to him). However, as he pointed out, "Elmo, Billy, Bud and Reginald just doesn't sound as cool as Megavolt, Quackerjack, Liquidator and Doctor Bushroot".
  • In Origin Story, Louise demands that Alex Harris start using a Secret Identity when Alex formally decides to stop running from her destiny and become a superhero.
  • Those That Carry On is stuffed full of these, with many characters adopting new identities to get away from issues in their past and famous pilots given nicknames that further obfuscate their identities - Red Comet, Crimson Lightning, White Devil...
  • The Taste of Peaches: Combine the ears of a fox, nine fox tails, and being Walking Techbane to Tinkertech, and this trope was never an option for Taylor Hebert. While she does adopt the alias of Corentine, she immediately goes public with her real name when making her debut.
  • This is played with in multiple ways across the There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton series:
    • Contrasting the series, Supergirl averts this due to using her powers in her civilian identity in full view of the public.
    • Unlike the show, Chloe actually tries to maintain her secret identity as a Miraculous holder whenever possible. However, as Ms. Bustier finding out, her having to reveal herself to both Marinette and Adrian, and Juleka suspecting her shows, she's really bad at it.
    • Lampshaded by Danielle/Ellie when Valerie crashes into the bus she's talking to Nico next to and asks for help regarding Technus.
    • Near the end of Thanatos Scowled, Nico suggests that this trope is going out of style among heroes, if the Avengers are any indication.
  • Ultimate Spider-Woman:
    • Played straight by the title character of Mary Jane Watson. She's generally very good at hiding her secret identity as Spider-Woman from the world, although some of her closest friends and family have figured it out. She does this to have a civilian life for herself and shield her loved ones from supervillain retaliation. While both Mary Jane in her civilian identity and her loved ones have been targeted by supervillains, it's usually because of the villains' vendettas against their civilian identities, not because of Mary Jane being Spider-Woman.
    • Defied by the Heroes for Hire, who are a collective Hero of Another Story. The Heroes disdain codenames and costumes to build trust and remain accountable to their clients and the people of their neighborhoods.
  • Adam averts this in Yin-Yang, unlike the canon Masters of the Universe series and more like how things were in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, with his true identity as He-Man being known to all of Eternia, much like how Adora's identity as She-Ra is known to all of Etheria.

    Films — Animation 
  • Barbie: A Fairy Secret: Fairies from Gloss Angeles co-exist with humans on earth, but they keep their identities a secret by hiding their wings.
  • Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman features three separate women taking on the Batwoman identity, one at a time, to get back at the mobsters of Gotham City (and one of these girls is the daughter of one of said mobsters).
  • The Incredibles:
    • Secret identities are a big deal to the hero community; after all, who needs that much pressure every minute of the day? The government initiates the "Superhero Relocation Program", giving the Supers new identities to protect them from the public, who are upset over all the collateral damage. Later, Elastigirl gives the kids a talk.
      "Your identity is your most precious possession; protect it."
    • Frozone, however, has his own complaints in this area.
      "Super-ladies, they're always trying to tell you their secret identity. [whispers] Think it'll strengthen the relationship or something like that. I say, 'Girl, I don't wanna know about your mild-mannered alter ego or anything like that.' I mean, you tell me you're, uh, super-mega-ultra-lightnin' babe? That's all right with me. I'm good! I'm good."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy: Deconstructed; although Bruce has a Secret Identity, it’s practically impossible for him to hide it from everyone else, even when they are not Secret Chasers actively looking to know who the Batman is. The ones who find out all decide to be Secret Keepers, or even Secret Secret Keepers:
    • Batman Begins:
      • The Big Bad immediately knows Batman is Bruce Wayne because he was his Evil Mentor.
      • Alfred, Bruce's butler, helps Batman every step of the way.
      • Lucius Fox, the Omnidisciplinary Scientist who provides Batman with his gadgets.
        "If you don't want to tell me exactly what you're doing — when I'm asked, I don't have to lie. But don't think of me as an idiot."
      • Batman reveals his identity to his love interest. She becomes another Secret-Keeper.
    • The Dark Knight: Accountant Coleman Reese discovers Where He Gets All Those Wonderful Toys and intends to Blackmail Bruce Wayne, but is dissuaded by Lucius Fox. When he tries to sell Batman's Secret Identity, he discovers that the Joker is not happy with the secret being made public. He is saved by Batman and might be ashamed enough to become a Secret-Keeper.
    • The Dark Knight Rises:
      • John Blake, another orphan, recognizes Bruce Wayne's Stepford Smiler façade, and figures out that the billionaire with the Dark and Troubled Past must be the Batman. He is a Secret Secret-Keeper.
      • The villains know exactly who Batman is because they are Avenging the Villain of the first movie, making them Secret Secret Keepers.
      • Selina Kyle, the new love interest, discovers Batman's identity during a fight.
      • Batman reveals his secret identity to Commissioner Gordon near the end of the film.
  • Played with in the DC Extended Universe:
    • In Man of Steel, Clark uses various fake identities while Walking the Earth before even becoming Superman, constantly having to move on after using his powers to help people. Even so, Lois Lane is able to track him by his past rescues right to the Kent farm.
    • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, both Clark and Bruce Wayne have secret identities. This film makes it clear that, as in the Post-Crisis comics, Clark is himself when he's Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, as opposed to putting on a mild-mannered, clumsy facade as Clark and being himself when he's Superman. The concept of a Secret Identity is deconstructed somewhat, as Clark and Bruce are easily able to discover who the other really is (Clark overhears Bruce talking to Alfred with his super-hearing, and Bruce isn't called the World's Greatest Detective for nothing) and, like Lois, Lex Luthor has been able to discover Clark is Superman, and also knows the secret identities of Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Cyborg.
    • At the end of Zack Snyder's Justice League, a free Lex Luthor hires Deathstroke and reveals to him that Batman is actually Bruce Wayne.
    • In Suicide Squad (2016), none of the Suicide Squad have secret identities, as they are all known criminals and Amanda Waller makes it pretty clear that she also knows Bruce is Batman.
    • In Wonder Woman 1984, Diana/Wonder Woman destroys security cameras during the fight at the mall with her tiara, which she uses like a boomerang, so she won't be caught on tape.
  • Usually averted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Subverted in Iron Man. S.H.I.E.L.D. forges a cover story to explain away Iron Man's identity, Stane's disappearance, and the explosion at the Stark Industries factory. What really happened was that Stane knew all along who was underneath the armor (he hired the terrorists who took Tony hostage and gave him the reason to build the first armor, after all) and took steps to eliminate him to gain control over Stark Industries until Tony and Pepper killed him by overloading the factory's arc reactor. At the press conference where the cover story is meant to be fed to the media, Tony pauses, then simply states "I am Iron Man."
    • In Iron Man 2, not only does everyone around the world know about Tony, but Justin Hammer loudly announces War Machine's identity during the armor's showcase. Justified in that the War Machine armor is an advanced military prototypenote  created by a civilian defense contractor and piloted by a United States Air Force officer, so keeping the operator's identity a secret isn't necessary.
    • Black Widow has an alias, as fitting a government spy, but there is no proper secret identity. She's not even called "Black Widow" most of the time. At the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, however, she admits that revealing all S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secrets destroyed all of her various cover identities, but she's going to work on a new one in the meantime.
    • Thor goes by his real name and never hides who he is and where he is from, which prompts most people to simply think he is insane. His friends briefly give him an alias to fool S.H.I.E.L.D. agents... but it doesn't work. By the end of his first film, it's no secret to anyone what his true nature is.
    • Even in his origin movie, the Hulk can't really keep a secret identity. Bruce Banner creates aliases only because he is a wanted man. He freely reveals the Hulk to anyone whom he believes can help. He also has no fear in forcing himself to transform in the middle of Harlem.
    • Captain America doesn't even try to have one. While the army kept the Super Soldier Program a secret for obvious reasons, Steve was still making movies and doing USO tours. Sure, it was a cover, but Steve was still walking around without his mask backstage in full view of civilians. In fact, he was maskless in his first few adventures in Captain America: The First Avenger, going so far as to face the Big Bad for the first time without hiding his identity. After all, he worked closely with both civilian scientists and drafted soldiers who would be out of the army soon and returning to civilian life. By the time Captain America: The Winter Soldier rolls around, the entire public knows who he is, thanks in part to an exhibit at the Smithsonian detailing his entire WW2 career.
    • Hawkeye is in the same category as Captain America and Black Widow. As a government agent, he doesn't need a secret identity and is more often referred to as "Barton" or "Clint" than his codename.
    • The Falcon doesn't have a secret identity in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with "Exo-7 Falcon" being the name of the winged military exoskeleton he uses. He's pretty consistently referred to by his real name, Sam Wilson, but gets called Falcon once near the end of the movie. Like the War Machine example, a secret identity is unnecessary since Sam is an ex-Air Force officer rather than a costumed vigilante.
    • The Vision has no need for a secret identity, as his creation and existence are tied to the Avengers. Plus, he's a green and red android.
    • Black Panther is publicly known to be Wakandan royalty. It surprises nobody when T'Challa takes up the mantle after his father's death. However, his identity was initially unknown at least to the people around when he first goes after Bucky in Captain America: Civil War, due to most people there not being familiar with Wakanda's policies. T'Challa immediately unmasks after that fight, though, to make use of his diplomatic immunity and to get the UN's cooperation.
    • So far, along with Daredevil, Spider-Man is one of the few characters in the setting to work at keeping his identity a secret from the public, and Tony is the only one in Captain America: Civil War to have traced it to nerdy high-schooler Peter Parker. Part of his reasoning is that he doesn't want his aunt May to be worried about him and "freak out". He's quick to web Tony's hand to his doorknob right in his own bedroom when the prospect of outing his exploits comes up, and it's implied by the end of Civil War that it's still his secret to keep. Then in Spider-Man: Homecoming, he ends up being outed to his friend Ned, the villain, and finally Aunt May herself. In Avengers: Infinity War, he introduces himself to several other superheroes, but none of them are likely to run into him in his daily life (most of them are from other planets.) In Spider-Man: Far From Home, he ends up getting publicly outed to the world thanks to Mysterio and J. Jonah Jameson, thus subverting this trope completely.
    • The Guardians of the Galaxy don't have any secret identities, as they operate more like freelance mercenaries when they aren't doing more traditional hero work. Secret identities would impede their ability to get work since it's important everyone across the galaxy know exactly who they are and what they've accomplished.
    • Captain Marvel doesn't bother with a secret identity either. She spends the majority of her time off-Earth, handling galactic affairs.
  • In Mystery Men, famous superhero Captain Amazing has Clark Kent glasses (which fool just about everyone except the protagonist), and the Mystery Men themselves. The Shoveller is open with his family, though. The Blue Rajah is initially embarrassed and doesn't want his mother to think he's weird, but when he gets caught pilfering her silverware, he comes out of the closet, and she turns out to be really proud of it. The scene is treated like a gay man coming out to his mother.

  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Brothers in Arms, Miles Vorkosigan (after being ambushed at a party) tries to distance himself from his Secret Identity Admiral Naismith by claiming Naismith is his clone. Then he finds out that he really does have a clone, who tries to impersonate him and is not spotted by Miles' friends because they think the clone story is a fabrication. Naismith's friends and men, however, believe in the story. A few years later, in Mirror Dance, Mark uses the info to pretend to be Naismith, to pursue a vendetta. By the time it's all sorted out, the situation has gone all to hell. In Miles' case, nearly literally.
  • In the novel Death Wish and its sequel Death Sentence by Brian Garfield, Paul Benjamin (given the surname Kersey in the films) went to elaborate lengths to maintain his dual identity as the vigilante. He knew quite well that the police would object to his sudden justice (the same reason that the Shadow and the Spider had dual identities). In the second novel, Benjamin buys goggles, a fake mustache, and a fur cap to disguise himself. The film series of Death Wish somewhat muddies this, since movie producers often demand that expensive name actors make their face completely visible, since they pay so much for them. However, the makers of the films did not completely ignore that Kersey had a dual identity. In the second film Paul Kersey buys an old pea coat, gloves, longshoreman's cap, and beat up pair of pants while prowling around as a vigilante. He rents a room in a flophouse to do first aid for his injuries. In the fourth film, the LAPD did not know the vigilante's identity. Also in that film, a man blackmails Paul Kersey into a meeting by announcing to him that he knew of his activities as the vigilante and would expose him.
  • The Penetrator, from a series of novels published by Pinnacle in the 1970s and 1980s, maintained a dual identity as Mark Hardin. Since he had served in the military, he quickly realized that his fingerprints remained on file and would betray. Therefore, he developed special flesh colored prosthetics to prevent them from betraying him.
  • Richard Stark's thief character Parker uses the alternate identity of Charles Willis to launder his gains from his heists, owning parking lots and gas stations for tax reporting purposes. (Stark, himself, had a "secret identity": he was a pseudonym used by Donald Westlake.)
  • Similarly, Max Allan Collins' Nolan owned various small businesses whose juggled books hid his swag and boodle.
  • The Saint's true name remained unknown to the public until the end of the book The Last Hero. As the Saint would later reminisce on page 140 of Count on the Saint (hardcover edition), the public knew of him at first as only "an avenging wraith". When Templar attempts to stop warfare in The Last Hero, the authorities become aware of him. However, in later stories such as The Sleepless Knight, The Appalling Politician, and The Melancholy Journey of Mr. Teal, the Saint and his associates wear masks as needed after the Saint makes an understanding with Inspector Teal.
  • Many paperback original series featured protagonists who operated as "mystery men" without the public knowing their true identities. These include the Hitman (Mike Ross), the Hitman (Dirk Spencer), Hawker, the Sharpshooter (Johnny Rock), the Avenger (Matthew Hawke), the Marksman (Philip Magellan), the Assassin (Peter McCurtin series), the Revenger, the Revenger (yet another series), the Protector (Alex Dartagnan), .357 Vigilante, Cross (Andrew Vachss series), the Vigilante (V.J. Santiago series) and Chant.
  • The Gray Seal, by Frank L. Packard. Jimmy Dale as the Gray Seal also used various alternate identities such as Larry the Bat, the forerunner of the Spider's second alter ego of Blinky McQuade.
  • Arthur Rosenfeld's Xenon Pearl's identity as a mob fighter remains officially unproven on police record, at least in the first novel.
  • A strange variation in the Captain Underpants series, where the Secret Identity and the superhero identity are completely unaware of each other, and both identities would most likely be horrified if they learned of the existence of the other.
  • John Mannering, the Baron, in the early novels by John Creasey.
  • In Wearing the Cape, secret identities are optional, and a lot of superheroes don't bother with them. Some have undergone physical transformations that make secret identities impossible, but many also had public breakthroughs that "outed" them from the start. One variation on traditional secret identities is a legal second identity, established with the help of the government, much like that of witnesses in the Witness Protection Program. The in-universe charity Heroes Without Borders has a light form as part of their organizational culture. Everyone who works for them, powered or not, adopts a codename.
  • In the Chivalric Romance Roswall and Lillian, Roswall magically appears as an armored knight to fight in The Tourney for three days, despite working as a menial servant in between. (Having given The Promise not to reveal his true identity, he had no other means of support.) Similar cases appear in Gowther and Robert the Devil (as the jester) — though in their cases, this is The Penance for their diabolical behavior.
  • The missing Princess Halley of A Brother's Price went by Cira to investigate the people who bombed a theater without drawing attention. When helping Jerin she did not tell him her true identity, at first because he wouldn't believe anything she had to say. They were in sketchy circumstances.
  • Codex Alera features Tavi, a boy from the rural and remote Calderon Valley, who is just a simple shepherd boy right? Wrong! He's actually Gaius Octavian, son of the dead Princeps, grandson of the First Lord and heir to the throne.
  • In Ivanhoe, the titular Wilfred Ivanhoe makes his first appearance at a tourney as "The Disinherited Knight", and his identity is not revealed until later when some knights loyal to Prince John attack him. Also at that tourney is a mysterious archer named Locksley, who is actually Robin Hood. Not to mention a mysterious black knight who turns out to be Richard the Lionhearted.
  • Zigzagged in The Dresden Files: Harry makes no secret of the fact that he's a wizard (he's in the phone book, under "Wizard"), but there are some things about the wizarding world that he's not supposed to share with mundanes. When he inevitably does, they become a Secret-Keeper. Later in the series, he establishes the Grey Council, which is more functionally a secret society, but the principle is the same.
  • There's an entire chapter devoted to this in How to Be a Superhero. The authors' recommendations for best secret identities include millionaire playboy (so you can leverage Crimefighting with Cash) and a politician (as you can disappear at any time without accountability).
    Superhero: I just gotta go out for a quick blow job and score some crack, OK?
    Aide: Sure thing, Senator!
  • In Legacy The Tale Of The American Eagle, this is a huge plot point for American Eagle aka, Nathan Wagner. He only revealed it to his closest friends, to the point where he has filed a false identity with the government's Department of Justice and Department of Metahuman Affairs (hugely illegal, and implied to both threaten the sentences of any criminals he put away, and have a team of Cape Busters come after him), to prevent them from getting tempted to stick their nose into his family's charity. Once he goes on the crusade, the government puts more than a cursory effort into checking his paperwork, and finds out that the man on their paper doesn't exist, then reveals to the world that the manager of a charitable foundation is a superhero.
  • The protagonist of Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow") is a mild-mannered 18th century country vicar by day, a ruthless masked smuggler gang leader by night.
  • Archvillain: Kyle Camden as the Blue Freak. Averted with Mike Mathews/Mighty Mike, who doesn't hide his identity.
  • In The Henchman's Survival Guide, secret identities are serious business, as there are no rules against targeting a hero or villain in their secret identity, and the social media system built into society makes it almost impossible to hide your identity once you've been outed.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, after regaining his youth, Daylen Namaran constructs a false identity as his own son. As Daylen was an outright Evil Overlord twenty years earlier, it's especially dangerous for the secret to get out, as the whole world hates him.
  • The Cat Who... Series: A mundane example. Qwill adopts the moniker of "Ronald Frobnitz" when he wants to hide his involvement in some philanthropic effort, such as making a bid in a silent auction on a horrible piece of art that no one else wants.
  • A Shadow Bright And Burning: Howard Mickelmas, one of the three people responsible for bringing the Ancients into the world, has been living under the name Jenkins Hargrove when Henrietta first meets him.
  • In Time Streams, Urza Planeswalker runs the Tolarian Academy under the alias of 'Master Malzra', with only a handful of the staff knowing his real identity. This secrecy is one of many measures meant to keep his enemies, the Phyrexians, from learning about the school and infiltrating it with their sleeper agents. He drops the pretense after sleepers infiltrate the school and destroy it, as there's no longer any point in maintaining the charade.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Slim Goodbody: Slim leads a strange double life, in that both his alter ego (Captain Halen Hearty) and Slim himself work for the same organization. Nevertheless, his co-workers never realize that Slim is the captain — not even his Robot Buddy B-1, who activates the machine that turns Halen into Slim!
  • The Boys (2019): The superheroes have them, and Starlight is outed when she's unknowingly recorded using her powers on some attempted rapists while out of costume; she's then recognized by people as the video gets posted online. Homelander on the other hand doesn't bother; he's so narcissistic that he doesn't see any need to pretend to be ordinary.
  • In Breaking Bad, high-school chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook Walter White uses the name "Heisenberg" as a secret identity. As time goes on, the name "Heisenberg" becomes legendary and feared throughout the American Southwest, and as Walter loses more and more of his humanity, "Heisenberg" starts becoming the real personality and Walter slowly disappears.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: As lampshaded below in "What's My Line, Part 2", Buffy has a slight problem with this concept, swiftly gathering a small circle of friends who know her identity as the Slayer and help Buffy in fighting evil. By the end of season three it becomes obvious that despite the Weirdness Censor, the entire school has a rough idea of what Buffy does, and they give her the Class Protector Award.
    Kendra: And those two, they also know you are the Slayer?
    Buffy: Yep.
    Kendra: Did anyone explain to you what 'secret identity' means?
    Buffy: Nope.
  • El Chapulín Colorado: He doesn't even have a civilian identity, his name really is Chapulín Colorado and he is never seen without his superhero clothes.
  • Dexter: The title character carries out his slayings of fellow, but less selective serial murderers anonymously, since he knows that his lack of normal empathy alone would land him in an asylum. Dexter's daily feigning of normal human emotions represents as careful a masquerade as Don Diego Vega and Sir Percy Blakeney's roleplaying as fops. He's so good at it, it starts to cause problems when he realizes that he isn't faking it...
  • Hannah Montana: Miley Stewart is secretly Hannah Montana, who is not a superhero, but a superstar. Eventually deconstructed; the stress of keeping up the lie, combined with a boatload of Keeping Secrets Sucks for her friends, eventually wears down on Miley to the point that she eventually decides "screw it" and throws in the wig on Leno.
  • In Help! I'm a Teenage Outlaw, the main characters Tom, Moses and Deedee are secretly The Highwayman Swiftnik and his two sidekicks. However, unknown to the other two, supposed peasant girl Deedee is actually an identity used by Lady Devereaux, a Rebellious Princess whom Tom/Swiftnik thinks of as his true love, despite being incapable of recognising her without her wig and dress.
  • Jessie: Emma Ross her own online alter ego called Kitty Couture.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil notably does have a Secret Identity, perhaps the first example in the MCU. The Defenders (2017) makes a point of how he's the odd man out in this regard — Luke Cage is well-known as Harlem's hero, Jessica Jones is a Private Detective, and Danny will tell anyone who'll listen that he's the Iron Fist. Matt Murdock is the only one who wants (or needs) to keep his two lives separate. The Defenders actually ends up reconstructioning Secret Identities: because the others never bothered with one, the Hand knows the identities of their loved ones, forcing them to gather Claire Temple, Trish Walker, and Malcolm DuCasse and hide them, with the Hand actually making attempts on Claire and Trish, which result in Colleen Wing injured and Jessica nearly killed. Matt also hides Karen Page and Foggy Nelson because he can't take the risk that the Hand have figured out who he is.
    • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the only reason that the whole world doesn't know that Robbie Reyes is Ghost Rider is because he transforms into a flaming skeleton when he hunts criminals, and doesn't leave them alive after he's done. The only reason he isn't openly declaring it is because he doesn't want his brother Gabe to learn that he's murdering criminals out in the streets. When he does, it's a huge Broken Pedestal moment.
  • Mighty Med has Skylar Storm, a humanoid female alien superhero, using a secret identity as "Connie Valentine" in order to try to live secret life as a normal teen human being in high school. However, this becomes zig-zagged when she gives up her secret identity as Connie Valentine in the spin-off show Lab Rats: Elite Force when she actually makes her identity as a superhero public, but, joins the bionic superhero Davenport Lab Rats crew, Bree and Chase, and develops a new secret identity pretending to be a bionic super-human and superhero like the Davenports, in order to disguise the fact that she's actually an alien with superpowers. She eventually gives this up too, when she finally reveals to Bree and Chase that she is an alien from another planet and when one of her former best-friends-turned-enemies kidnaps her and tries to hold her hostage on her home planet forcing the Davenports to find a way to travel to her planet to rescue her.
  • Merlin (2008): Merlin spends nearly the entirety of all five seasons keeping his magic a secret from everyone but a (very) select few. He goes to many lengths to keep it secret, including making some morally ambiguous decisions to do so.
  • Parodied in the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "Bicycle Repair Man", which is about a man in a society of Supermen who, when bicycle-related trouble arises, becomes the overalls-and-cap wearing Bicycle Repair Man. "Is it a stockbroker?" "Is it a quantity surveyor?" "Is it a church warden?"
  • Power Rangers:
    • In the first few seasons, all the heroes maintain "secret identities", even though all the villains know full well who they are (and often attack them as they go about their civilian lives). Since then, most seasons keep up the tradition, with several finales in which the group is found out or deliberately morph in public. A few seasons, however, do away with this and let themselves be publicly known, due to the Rangers also functioning as a public law enforcement or rescue service.
    • Power Rangers: Beast Morphers is the only public service Ranger team to keep their identities secret, and after 25 years of this franchise, for the first time ever we're given a reason to hide your identity when the bad guys already know it (they wouldn't be able to do their jobs if they were constantly being mobbed like the hiding celebrity who was outed earlier in the episode.)
  • Amanda Clarke from Revenge (2011) uses the alias of Emily Thorne (which she gained from exchanging identities with her juvie cellmate) in order to infiltrate the Hamptons and take down the people who destroyed her life without them recognizing her.
  • Maid Marian from Robin Hood runs around Nottingham distributing food and medicines as the Night Watchman. No one manages to figure this out.
  • Saba-dol has a similar premise to Hannah Montana, except the 17-year-old Idol Singer is secretly a 38-year-old teacher.
  • Six Feet Under has multiple minor ones. David hides that he is gay. Nate hides the fact that he was diagnosed with AVM.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Sentai rarely bothers with Secret Identities except when the Rangers are still in school such as Turboranger or Megaranger, and this is solely to prevent alienating them from their peers at school. Boukenger plays this straight in early episodes at least, but despite Bouken Pink's efforts, her teammates often relax the secret. Goseiger plays it straight as well, with the V-Cinema special revolving around their identities becoming public knowledge — it's taken very seriously, to the point that they erase memories so no one knows the Goseigers and their enemies exist at all. (One wonders what people think when reviewing video footage that happens to capture monster battles.) On the other hand, having the ability to do that means there's less care taken to avoid being seen suiting up, using powers unsuited, ducking out without a good excuse, etc. than most superheroes. The movie happens because their powers are being disrupted and the memory-erase cards are the first thing to stop working. Otherwise the teams are either military-sponsored with the members belonging to the military (Goranger, JAKQ, Changeman, Maskman, Ohranger, etc.), the teams abandon their civilian lives after becoming Rangers and live and operate solely out of the team's base (Bioman and Liveman), or the teams are not from Earth and have no civilian lives at all, and operate out of their bases (Flashman, Zyuranger and Gingaman).
    • Kyoryuger is worth special mention. After their first battle together, Daigo immediately de-transforms and gladly introduces himself, but the other four refuse to follow suit, making this a rare internal secret identity case. However, in short order, Daigo's magnetic personality inspires the others to open up to each other and start working as a real team.
    • Mahou Sentai Magiranger also has the characters keep their identities secret from the world, especially since the youngest of them is still in high school. This doesn't stop them spending a lot of time in team-colored jackets with their logos on them.
  • The Stig from Top Gear is a meta-example. His identity is a closely guarded secret by the BBC to the point that The Stig's portrayer is fired if he reveals himself. As of 2017, they're on their third Stig.
  • Human hosts in the Ultra Series often keep their Ultra identities secret for the majority of the series.
    • Why Ultras keep their human aliases secret has never really been explained well in most series since the kaiju don't care about them and the aliens usually already know them. Ultraman 80 attempts to justify this by saying that when an Ultra's human identity is exposed, they must leave Earth, but this only applies to the Showa continuity, and even then, it's very loosely applied in that timeline.
    • Subverted in a handful of series, where in the final episode(s), other characters admit to being aware of the secret identity the whole time, like Ultraman Orb and Ultraman Cosmos. In the 2011 ULTRAMAN manga, this is revealed to be the case with Science Patrol in the original series, with Ide saying Hayata would have become a government guinea pig if it was ever revealed.
    • In Ultraman Gaia and Ultraman Mebius, the attack team's captain is the only one aware of the hero's secret identity, but in the latter series' case, the rest of GUYS learns Mirai is Mebius at around the 30-episode mark. Ultraman Geed does something similar, with Riku's friends having full knowledge of his Ultra identity.
  • The Vampire Diaries: In the beginning, Stefan keeps his secret that he's a vampire from others and tries to pass himself off as an Ordinary High-School Student.
  • Zorro (1957), of course. Like the Scarlet Pimpernel and Superman (in his earlier incarnations), Zorro maintains an alter ego who behaves like a bumbling coward.

    Oral Tradition 
  • Many fictionalisations of Spring-Heeled Jack, such as written by Burrage. Note that the real sightings happened in 1886.
  • In some versions of the legend, the Prague Golem roams the city in the guise of Joseph the water carrier (in other words, a laborer who has a reason to be almost anywhere, is expected to be silent, and to whom no one pays attention). This enables him to eavesdrop on plots to harm the Jews of Prague so that his master can arrange for the golem to foil the plots.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Very common in pro wrestling. In the beginning, masks were common either due to embarrassment, especially if someone wasn't confident they could win or were being booked as a jobber, or because they were heels who were afraid of being jumped by fans angry at them for beating up the local baby face. In Mexican Lucha Libre and its derivatives, masked wrestlers have secret identities to make The Reveal when they're unmasked more special, as fans will naturally want to now know more about the barefaced luchadors. All of these and more reasons lead angles such as Charlie Brown from Outta Town.
  • A feature of the Tiger Mask and Black Tiger legacy rivals is that Tiger Mask's identity will always be secret but will always be local national(making it slightly easier to figure out) while Black Tiger will always be a foreigner. Usually this means Tiger Mask will always be Japanese, since that's where the Tiger Mask originated from but in Toryumon Mexico came the first Japanese Black Tiger.
  • WWE wrestler/parody superhero The Hurricane, true to form, maintained a secret identity as mild-mannered backstage interviewer Gregory Helms. His costume as an interviewer was even more outlandish than his superhero costume, with big thick horn-rimmed glasses and a plaid fedora with a press pass sticking out of it, and he fooled absolutely nobody... except for the occasional character given an Idiot Ball by the writers. He's since ditched the overdone getup for a simple suit and ponytail, though the Idiot Ball returned in full force. Especially notable in the fact that he's billed as Hurricane Helms and sports the sleeveless Badass Longcoat Helms wore after ditching the gimmick the first time, yet has been given two separate profiles on their website!

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The Patrol feature from City of Heroes grants a double XP bonus for time spent logged out. It's supposed to be as if the character has switched roles and is doing a civilian job. Logging out in certain locations grants other bonuses, the Train Station bonus is a speed boost, the Graveyard bonus is Debt protection, etc.
  • D4DJ, including the game D4DJ Groovy Mix, features Lumina Ichihoshi, a Virtual YouTuber with a theme of being a "space idol" from outside of Earth. When she joins UniChØrd, naturally her three unit-mates eventually learn who the actor is behind the Lumina persona. The secret is that she isn't a human at all, but an Artificial Intelligence who was developed to be a fully autonomous Virtual Idol. Out of respect for her, her three human colleagues uphold the secret, and dodge the subject when questions are asked about her real identity, which is helped by the fact that VTuber fan culture considers it very no-no to pry into a VTuber's identity or private life.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, recurring NPC ally Sheik is a disguised Princess Zelda, using a false identity to aid Link while avoiding capture by Ganondorf.
  • In Mega Man Star Force, Geo Stelar goes out of his way to avoid revealing that he's actually Mega Man. This conflicts with Mega Man's growing status and the fact that his friends have a bad habit of blabbing about it in public like it's no big deal.
  • Rokusaki Coney in Tokyo 7th Sisters is actually Nanasaki Nicole, one of the former members of the disbanded 7th Sisters.
  • Persona 5: The Phantom Thieves hide their identities, wear masks and even use Code Names, as society doesn't look particularly kindly on Heel–Face Brainwashing and the people the heroes target are in positions of power that they could use against the good guys.

    Visual Novels 
  • Double Homework has one that is very secret, in fact. The name "Dr. Mosely" is an alias, and her real name is a mystery. She is mainly known by the moniker "Zeta".
  • Halloween Otome: All the guests at the party have this, to avoid gold-diggers and keep the game from becoming political, due to their celebrity status. Emma has this so she can fit in. Especially seen with the Count, who's really Erik, the host.

  • Denma the Quanx: Hador's identity is Dike Heubing. Ham's identity is Balack. Ferdo's identity is Korah. Eldgon's identity is Haaken. Marvin's identity is Duke Gosan. Ayn's identity is Haggler.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Elliot's superheroine spell has three alternate civilian alter ego forms (each with distinctive built-in personalities and clothes) in addition to his normal form which is is his primary identity. This gives him the ability to have a Multilayer Façade.
  • Subverted in Everyday Heroes. The main character, Mr. Mighty, wears his superhero outfit all the time, even when doing yard work and chatting with the neighbors.
  • In The Handbook of Heroes, Fighter's unicorn mount, Lumberjack Explosion, secretly fights crime without the party's knowledge in the guise of the masked vigilante Horsepower.
  • In Lady Spectra & Sparky, Lady Spectra not only wears a wig and a face-concealing helmet, but her costume is also strategically padded to further alter her appearance.
  • Downplayed in The Non-Adventures of Wonderella. Wonderella has a barely disguised civilian identity, but she's not hiding it from anyone who matters; superheroes and -villains probably all know and don't care, and only uninvolved civilians don't know (and probably don't care). This might be the standard for other superheroes in the comics as well.
  • Parodied in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: "Secret Identity", in which it's revealed that Superman's Clark Kent identity was something he came up with to relax after superheroing by indulging his workplace humiliation fetish.
  • Spinnerette wears a costume all the time. Her heroine costume is a form-fitting leotard, mask and wig that depicts her as a lithe, long-haired brunette with 6 arms. Her civilian costume is a bodysuit under bulky clothes that depicts her as a chubby, bookish, short-haired blonde with 2 arms. Interestingly, her boss, friends, etc never ask about the sudden drastic weight-gain.
  • Super Rivals: Awesome Girl, under the name Becky Barns, works as an editor for a trashy tabloid that she insists on referring to as a newspaper when she's not in costume.
  • In SwordCat Princess, Kathryn has had not one civilian secret identity, but a long chain of them throughout her life (each a supposed progenitor of the next). Her "ancestor" Kathryn O'Brien was actually her, as was recent homicide victim Kathryn Kennedy, whose "death" prompts Kathryn's Intellexi supervisor to urge her to select yet another new civilian alias.
  • Tower of God: Because he is officially dead and is supposed to stay that way, Twenty-Fifth Bam (a shiny-eyed, short-haired, meek but adorable guy) goes by the name Jue Viole Grace (a silent, strong badass who looks a lot like a woman with that long hair which also hides his face).

    Web Original 
  • The web novel Captain Gamer: Digital Defender relentlessly plays around with secret identity candidates for the titular protagonist. It practically drips with Lampshade Hanging, seeing as how the candidates (so far) are the local Jerkass (who may actually just hold up a jerkass act), an Intrepid Reporter, a famous actor who also has Jerkass tendencies, the Millionaire Playboy who said actor does not like, an employee of the main institute, and an aged teacher who more fits into the Mentor Archetype. If you've read the webcomic, there's also a Rival to consider.
  • Understandably, the superhero guide in How to Hero is very big on maintaining secret identities. There's an entry on it here.
  • The four main girls of Mermaid High have to keep their mermaid identities a secret from everyone at their human world high school, or they won't be allowed to go to the surface anymore.
  • Nowhere Stars: Main character Liadain is unique among Keepers in that she tries to maintain one of these, wearing a face-concealing mask and giving a fake name to other Keepers, if for no other reason than because she wants to avoid the trouble that comes with being a Celebrity Superhero like most Keepers; she herself admits she doesn't really have much of a civilian life to protect. She also knows she can only do this temporarily, as the physical changes Keepers undergo with time (permanently ceasing to age is just the baseline, and after it gets... weird) generally makes concealing one's status as one impossible, so it's only a matter of time before the few acquaintances she does have realize what's going on.
  • Red Panda Adventures:
    • For much of the series, not even the audience knows the secret identity of the Red Panda. The opening monologue for every episode describes him simply as "one of the city's wealthiest men" and only his driver Kit Baxter, a.k.a. the Flying Squirrel, knows who's behind the mask. It's not until close to episode sixty, when the Red Panda and Kit are wed, that we learn his name is August Fenwick.
    • In-universe, the Red Panda and Flying Squirrel place a high priority on maintaining the secrecy of their identities. The Red Panda, being a master hypnotist, will frequenly use his powers to make anyone who might know forget, which has resulted in some high turnover in his household as he can't repeatedly hypnotize the same person the same way without causing damage, requiring him to find them a new job elsewhere. The heroes' masks are also booby-trapped in such a way as to electrocute anyone who tries to remove them, which has prevented The Unmasking on multiple occasions.
    • When World War II goes into full swing and the Red Panda decides to enlist in the military, he learns his commanding officer, Fitzroy, knows who he and the Flying Squirrel are and that the government has files on the two of them as well as other heroes of the "Home Team". The Red Panda and Flying Squirrel not only go to the trouble of tracking down every copy of these files they can find, but also replace them with multiple different versions, claiming the Red Panda is everything from a reformed gangster, a World War I ace pilot, a robot, and even Fitzroy himself, so that if a copy of the files ever turns up, they can track where it came from. This has the unintended side effect of getting Fitzroy killed when the Nazis launch an attack on the Home Team's superheroes using the file that said the Red Panda was Fitz, but also keeps their identities safe years later when Canada's Prime Minister and a Nazi scientist, Friedrich von Schlitz, independently try to show they know who the Red Panda is... only to call him by the wrong name.
  • Secret identities are a big deal throughout the Whateley Universe. At the Superhero School Whateley Academy, students use codenames, and for anything that might expose them (like printed campus security reports or the televised combat finals), they have to go by the codename and wear a costume. Way back when the headmistress was Ms. Might and her secret identity was blown, her husband was murdered, and her kids were terrorized. She's tough on this rule. Lots end up using their codename more than their real name. It's supposed to be to protect the kids' families.
  • Most superheroes and supervillians in Worm have one, though one group, the New Wave, attempts to go without. There's an unwritten rule not to expose someone else's identity, since someone without a secret identity has no way to retire and nothing to lose.
    • New Wave's decision to unmask was meant to spearhead a move for transparency amongst heroic Parahumans. Then Fleur was murdered, and her boyfriend Lightstar (the younger brother of the two sisters leading the team) left them in anger over this.
    • The importance of the rule is made even more obvious when Coil publishes the secret identities of the Empire 88's capes, which causes hundreds of deaths, particularly after the PRT goes after Purity to take custody of her daughter.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia starts using this two-sided in the final season when Anne and the Plantars end up on Earth.
    • For the most part, the Plantars are worried that their identities as frog people will cause them to be taken away and be experimented on, so Anne disguises them as normal citizens. The only ones who know are her parents and cat Domino.
    • Anne also tries to keep the major disasters that happened in Amphibia a secret from her parents as much as possible, specifically King Andrias' betrayal and upcoming dimensional conquest, Sasha and Marcy betraying her, and especially her "weird glowing blue powers". ("Wow... There's a lot going on...")
  • The Angry Beavers: Played for Laughs in the episode "Muscular Beaver":
    Reporter: Who are you, masked wonder beaver?
    Muscular Beaver: I cannot say, citizen. My identity is so secret... not even I know who I am.
    Reporter: Wow.
  • Parodied in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Super Hero".
    Master Shake: Look, we must keep my secret identity a secret, and that's what sucks about a secret identity. I will never get the credit that I deserve for the attention-grabbing things that I do.
  • The Atom Ant Show: Atom Ant has no secret identity. His mailbox even bears his name.
  • Joey Felt from Atomic Puppet keeps it a secret that not only is he Atomic Puppet, but the sock puppet he carries with him all the time is Mega City's former protector Captain Atomic transformed by his ex-sidekick in a failed coup. Only a few other characters know about it too: aforementioned ex-sidekick Mookie, Joey's best friend Pauline, and several other superheroes.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Prince Zuko takes up the identity of the Blue Spirit on multiple occasions. Then Katara masquerades as the pre-existing folkloric ghost known as the Painted Lady in one episode. Cue tons of Blue Spirit/Painted Lady fanart from Zutara shippers.
  • Tasha from The Backyardigans sings a song about having one in the episode "Front Page News".
  • In The Batman, Bruce Wayne's identity as the Dark Knight is a secret to anyone not outside the Bat-Family, of course, but Batgirl gets bonus points for figuring it out in less than ten seconds after she meets Bruce Wayne for three reasons: his muscled physique, his vast resources and finances and his distinctive chin. Of course, she is kinda obsessed with Batman in the first place.
  • Played with for Ben Tennyson from the Ben 10 franchise. While he does make some effort to keep his identity under wraps, he never really needs to put in that extra effort. His ability to become multiple different aliens means that most people ultimately think said alien creatures are either unrelated to each other or all part of a common team, especially since most sightings are spread out across the country. It takes until the third series of the original continuity for someone to connect the dots (thanks to the sightings now being far more concentrated around a single town) and for his identity to be publicly revealed. Completely averted in the 2016 series, in which Ben freely transforms in public, and it's treated as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight. In fact, the Denser and Wackier nature of this continuity means all the strangeness that is aliens, mecha tech, superpowered beings and monsters is taken in stride (at least until they start causing havoc).
    Ben: [after transforming] This doesn't weird you out at all?
    [other character shrugs and motions towards the goblin army taking over a miniature golf course]
    Ben: Yeah, good point.
  • The Centsables: The show's setting consists of Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!. However, the Centsables hide their identities from the general population; seemingly subverted, possibly because the heroes appear to be six well-known bank employees in costumes.
  • In Chip and Potato, to everyone other than Chip, Potato is Chip's snuggly toy Potato, a cute little stuffed toy she totes with her everywhere. Nobody but Chip knows that she's actually a real live mouse.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • The only people who know Danny's secret identity are his two best friends and his sister (along with every villain and ghost he's ever met). The show plays a lot with the idea of "what if ____ knew about his powers?", although that might be because it's heavily influenced by Spider-Man. However, one has to ask how people couldn't figure it out, as his real name sounds pretty much exactly like his secret identity name. It is given that most people don't know his name early on, so that isn't too much of an issue, although it does have the hilarious side-effect of the media making up aliases for him.
      Sam: "Inviso-bill?"
      Tucker: You need a publicist.
    • His archenemy Vlad Plasmius is a villainous example; his civilian identity is rich and powerful businessman Vlad Masters. He was already rich, but became even richer using his ghost powers to take over other companies, invest in the stock market and commit burglaries. He uses both of his identities for his evil plans — at one point, he runs for Mayor of Amity Park and wins by possessing the voters.
  • Darkwing Duck's identity is Drake Mallard.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • In Superman: The Animated Series, when Clark Kent is allegedly dead, Superman explains that he can't be Superman all the time. If he doesn't get to be Clark, he'll go insane.
    • Justice League:
      • Green Lantern/John Stewart doesn't really see the need to hide his status as a galactic cop. Even his landlady knows about it (and, in one episode, attacks Flash with a broom when she mistakes him for part of his Rogues Gallery).
      • J'onn prefers being in alien/human hybrid form and doesn't hide it, but if he wants to, he can be anyone (and eventually uses this when he takes a break from the League in "To Another Shore").
      • Shayera has wings, and would have trouble hiding her identity. A tie-in comic shows her using a backpack to hide her wings; it's not discussed how practical folding them like that is.
      • The show flip-flops on just how established Diana is, but her identity is never a secret; it's her super-persona that's a secret from her family.
      • Taken for a spin in "Starcrossed" when, pursued by the conquering Thanagarians, the Justice League members decide that the safest way to move is in their civilian identities (for the members who have them). The Flash balks at the idea, since it's, you know, his secret identity, and it's not like he doesn't trust the others, but... Impatient, Batman simply rattles off everyone's real name, finishing with his own. Of course, by that point, "everyone" is just himself, Clark and Wally (finally confirming that the Flash of this series is Wally West). None of the others have secret identities. Clark, J'onn, Shayera and Diana all know Bruce's, and Bruce, J'onn and presumably Shayera know Clark's.
      • In "Task Force X", although the members of Task Force X are villains, all of them have secret identities. The point is that none of them have a Red Right Hand, so they can do The Infiltration because without their costumes, They Look Just Like Everyone Else!. They are: Bette Sans Souci/Plastique, Floyd Lawton/Deadshot, and George "Digger" Harkness/Captain Boomerang (Temple Fugate/the Clock King stays behind as Mission Control).
      • Amusingly subverted in "The Great Brain Robbery", which features Lex Luthor switching bodies with the Flash. In what is possibly a reference to a Silver Age story in which one of The Flash's Rogues Gallery makes a similar discovery, Lex is disappointed when he tries to discover who Flash really is:
        Lex-in-Flash: [looking in a mirror] At least I can discover the Flash's secret identity... [removes mask] ...I have no idea who this is.
  • Parodied in one Justice Friends short from Dexter's Laboratory when Krunk pulls off Major Glory's mask in search of something, only to discover another mask. He pulls off a few more before Major Glory turns to Krunk and proudly boasts "When I say 'secret identity', I mean 'secret identity'!"
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • Lena has to keep her identity as Magica's shadow a secret from everyone to carry out her plot to outrule Scrooge, especially Webby. This ceases to be an issue following her Heel–Face Turn.
    • Technically speaking, Fenton being Gizmoduck is supposed to be a secret, but he's really bad at hiding it. One episode shows that he keeps a list of everyone that has found out and it somehow includes everyone on his block.
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera:
    • None of the Rivera men bother keeping a secret identity. Everyone in Miracle City, heroes, villains, and civilians alike, know that Manny is El Tigre, Rodolfo is White Pantera, and Grandpapi is Puma Loco. It sometimes poses a problem, as their enemies know where to look for them, but they're usually wily enough to get away with it.
    • Interestingly, the Aves family does keep a secret identity, especially from the Riveras. Manny knows Zoe and Black Cuervo separately, and the one time he suspected they were one and the same, she was able to mislead him and make him and Frida look like idiots at the same time.
  • Early on in the second season of Elena of Avalor, Carla disguises herself as a peasant girl named Rita so she can sneak into the castle and take a jewel from the Carnival tiara to use for Shuriki's new wand. In the process, she has to keep her true colors a secret, and in the process befriends Elena and Naomi and manages to fool them completely. The problem is, mirrors will always reflect her true form, which is why she must stay away from them. When the potion begins to wear off two episodes later, her identity begins to unravel before Naomi, and this is soon no longer needed.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • A godkid must keep their fairy godparents and the existence of fairies and their world a secret in the company of all other humans, because if someone ever sees them, they will lose them forever.
    • The Crimson Chin has the secret identity Charles Hampton Indigo. It's an obvious parody of Clark Kent.
    • In "Might Mom and Dyno Dad", when Timmy wishes for his parents to be superheroes, they adapt to these when not crime-fighting to avoid being seen. However, Timmy already knows because he was the one who made the wish.
  • Futurama: In "Less Than Hero", Leela has to keep Fry from blabbing his secret identity to a hot chick. She then turns around and tells her parents she's Clobberella, and her dad blabs.
    Leela: We have to keep our secret identities secret!
    Fry: From everybody?!
    Leela: Especially from everybody!
  • George of the Jungle: Super Chicken's identity was Henry Cabot Henhouse III (in the original pilot, he was Hunt Strongbird Jr.).
  • In Green Lantern: The Animated Series, it becomes clear early on that Hal Jordan is the only one who bothers to have one.
    Kilowog: [to Shyir Rev and Biata] That thing on his face? It's a mask. He wears it in case some Earthling sneaks onto the Interceptor — while we're in space, mind you — and goes, "Aha! The Green Lantern on my planet is Hal Jordan! I'm telling everyone!"
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) and its later sequels/remakes had Prince Adam/He-Man. One of the things that made the double identity more plausible than most in later adaptations is that He-Man has a totally different skin tone and build than Adam does (In the 2021 series He-Man's shoulders are significantly broader than Adam's), so someone who's seen both would not notice a resemblance. Adam keeps this secret to protect the Sword of Power, the Cosmic Keystone to the Power of Grayskull, from constant attack by Skeletor.
  • Hong Kong Phooey's identity was Penrod Pooch.
  • Kim Possible:
  • Princess Iris of Ephedia in Lolirock has to keep her warrior princess side a secret from everyone on earth, with the only ones who know being her bandmates, Talia and Aurianna, who are also warrior princesses themselves. Iris's grandmother is also from her home world, but she promises to keep that a secret as well.
  • Downplayed in MeteoHeroes. While the public in general (including their enemy Dr Makina) doesn't know the kids' real identities, their families are fully aware since they witnessed their powers manifest firsthand as well as the scientists and staff that work at the research institute which is used as their base (whose location is also secret).
  • The Mighty Heroes, from Terrytoons' 1966 TV series, each had a secret identity disclosed at the opening of each story. Strongman was a mechanic, Tornadoman was a meteorologist, Ropeman was a Navy tar, Cuckooman was a pet bird store owner, and Diaperman was a baby.
  • Fearless Fly (from The Milton the Monster Show) was Hiram Fly in normal life. His voice was weak and wispy; it becomes strong and assertive as Fearless Fly.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • In general, the show reconstructs this, explaining why it's important for superheroes to have secret identities. Hawk Moth's goal is having the heroes' Miraculouses, and they cannot be transformed all the time, requiring them to live normal lives. His power is brainwashing other people to turn them into supervillains to do his work instead of going after the heroes on his own, and they can reveal valuable information. Many close friends and family of the heroes were akumatized, and when an old lover of Master Fu's is akumatized, she almost reveals his identity as the guardian immediately. It was a surprise to Hawk Moth that a random victim knew him - she volunteered the information without even being asked. Even Marinette was almost akumatized at one point, which would give Hawk Moth an instant win. Chloé, who doesn't have a secret identity, becomes a target of Hawk Moth's schemes so Ladybug almost never allows her to have the Bee Miraculous again. Also, Master Fu, the keeper of the Miraculous, knows secrets about them that he doesn't tell the heroes, and no one but the two main heroes knows about him, and they didn't at first - only when Tikki was deathly ill did she tell Marinette about Master Fu, longer still before she fully understood who he was, and it was a long time before Ladybug would share the secret with Cat. Basically, the more we learn, the clearer it is that ALL involved are telling each other as little as absolutely necessary - even the Fairy Companion and The Mentor who, in other shows like this, are normally fountains of exposition and fully trusting of, and trusted by, the heroes.
    • The main two superheroes Ladybug/Marinette and Cat Noir/Adrien keep their identities a secret from each other, mostly at Ladybug's insistence. What makes it really infuriating is that they both go to the same school and are somewhat close in every guise - Marinette has a crush on Adrien, who considers her a friend, but he's in love with Ladybug, who's dismissive of Cat Noir's flirting, though still valuing him as a friend and partner. It's primarily the fuel for a Two-Person Love Square that really wants you to smack your head against the wall. Marinette has on several occasions wished she could tell the truth, but Tikki is absolutely insistent she never do so—even after Tikki herself discovers Cat Noir's true identity. On the other hand, Cat Noir's kwami Plagg doesn't see what the big deal is, and often encourages Adrien to try to figure out Ladybug's true identity. As of Season 4, their true identities are known only to The Chooser of the One Master Fu and Luka, a Secret Secret-Keeper who finds out while using the Snake Miraculous; Marinette also outs herself to her best friend Alya.
    • The main villains Hawk Moth/Gabriel and Mayura/Nathalie have secret identities since they would rather keep their criminal activities on the down-low; one episode deals with Hawk Moth devising a plan to keep his identity a secret, and it works.
    • Starting from Season 2, Ladybug temporarily drafts heroes to deal with particularly troublesome situations. Rena Rouge/Alya and Carapace/Nino are known only to Ladybug, Master Fu, each other, and Adrien; Bunnyx/Alix and Pigella/Rose are known to Ladybug and Cat Noir; Viperion is known to Ladybug, Adrien, Master Fu, and Cat Noir (separately from Adrien); Pegasus/Max is known to Ladybug, Cat Noir, Master Fu, and Markov; King Monkey is only known to Ladybug and Master Fu; Vesperia/Zoe, Mylene/Polymouse, and Purple Tigress/Juleka are known only to Ladybug.
    • Queen Bee/Chloé initially gets a Miraculous by accident and only joins the reserve squad a little later; she proudly announces her identity to the whole world at the first opportunity. This comes back to bite her when the other heroes realize her family will be in danger if she continues helping them, and refuse to allow her to participate. At the end of Season 3, she throws a snit over being snubbed one too many times and pulls a Face–Heel Turn. Empowered by Hawk Moth, she outs Rena Rouge, Carapace, Viperion, Pegasus, and King Monkey to him.
    • Ryuko/Kagami is loaned a Miraculous to subdue her akumatized mother and wastes no time blundering her secret identity away to Hawk Moth. Like Queen Bee before her, she is retired out of concern for her loved ones' safety (although Ladybug goes back on this later on). Though, even if she didn't reveal her identity herself, Hawk Moth could have easily figured it out anyway since his Monster of the Week swallowed Kagami but Ryuko came out.
    • Completely averted by the New York superheroes, whose civilian identities are all public knowledge. The exceptions being Knightowl and Sparrow, who hide their identities so that nobody knows that they aren't the originals (even though the originals would be well over 100 years old by now), but even they give it up when Sparrow becomes Eagle, with a new costume that clearly shows that she's a girl and not a boy like the original Sparrow.
  • The Owl House: Luz Noceda is a mortal who ends up in a magical world where she studies as a witch apprentice. The problem is, she has to hide her identity as a mortal to the other residents due to their hostility toward them.
  • Completely averted in The Powerpuff Girls (1998). The Powerpuffs have no secret identities, and everyone knows where they live. They could have been de facto identities in the episode "Super Zeroes", in which they assume the persona of their own pseudo-superheroes (Blossom as Liberty Belle, Bubbles as Harmony Bunny, and Buttercup as Mange).
  • The show Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja centers around the Norrisville ninja whose identity is handed down to a new ninth grader every four years; the current ninja is in fact Randy Cunningham. He keeps his identity a secret to stay safe from his enemies. He only told his best friend Howard Weinerman about his secret identity, though several others have come to know it.
  • The Propulsions from Ready Jet Go! are secretly aliens from the planet Bortron 7, and are trying to keep a low profile on Earth or else they could become celebrities, and Jet would never get to play with his friends again (as pointed out in "Visit to Mom's Office"). Their alien identities are only known to Sydney, Sean, and Mindy, while Mitchell is suspicious.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Deliberately averted, in sharp contrast with the original series. Everyone knows that Adora is She-Ra (and if they don't, she'll make sure to transform in front of them). Also averts Secret-Identity Identity — being She-Ra doesn't change her personality in any way, and she still considers herself Adora, just taller and stronger. Her friends still often call her Adora in her She-Ra form as well. The Horde is unaware that Adora is She-Ra for a while, but only because the Rebellion and the Horde don't share information. When Hordak finds out, he doesn't particularly care, and just uses it as more evidence that Shadow Weaver's obsession with recapturing Adora is a terrible idea.
  • Shimmer and Shine: Leah must keep Shimmer and Shine a secret from most other humans, or they won't be her genies anymore.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer Simpson was originally the secret identity of Krusty the Clown. This was dropped simply for being "too complicated", but this is the reason for their remarkably similar appearance and was a joke that tied together Bart's utter disrespect for his father yet love of Krusty.
  • Sofia the First:
    • Sofia doesn't tell anyone about the Amulet of Avalor's powers she receives from it, because for some reason, she feels she's not allowed to tell them, as she thinks it's just a piece of jewelry and it's much more than that. The only ones who know are her animal friends, Oona and the mermaids, and Aunt Tilly, though her family finds out the truth later on in the series.
    • Cedric the Sorcerer's Series Goal is to use the amulet's powers to take over Enchancia, but he keeps that a secret in front of everyone, especially Sofia, who is unaware of this goal since day one. The only ones in on it are Wormwood and his parents. Averted as of Season 4 once the family finds out the truth.
  • Transformers plays with it a bit, putting what was, at the time, a new twist on it... The secret identities aren't millionaire playboys or mild-mannered reporters, but cars, jets, cameras, and other everyday vehicles and objects.
  • Almost entirely averted in Teen Titans (2003); the main characters all live in a giant T-shaped tower for the express purpose of doing hero work and don't have any separation between their personal identities and their heroics. Not that this would be realistic for the Titans anyway, considering that the members of the team include an alien, a cyborg, and a boy with green skin. Beast Boy apparently played this straight while he was with the Doom Patrol, but he immediately discards it once he joins the Titans.
    Beast Boy: But what about my secret identity?
    Raven: What secret identity? You're green.
  • The Thing: Only Kelly Harkness and her father know that Benjy is the Thing. Her father is the reason he's a teenager in the first place rather than an adult.
  • Underdog's secret identity was Shoeshine Boy.
  • The titular character of Vampirina has to keep her monster life a secret in the company of most humans, as they are said to be "jumpy" and "screamy" around things that aren't familiar to them and doesn't want to scare them. The only ones who know are her friends Poppy and Bridget, and later Edgar as of the Season 2 finale.
  • Winx Club:
    • Averted in season 4, in which the Winx show themselves as fairies to the people of Earth, but don't have secret identities and they're known by everyone, especially to the likes of a game show host, an Intrepid Reporter, and Bloom's Earth rival Mitzi.
    • Played straight in the Netflix spin-off World of Winx, in which the Winx must go undercover as talent agents while hiding their identities as fairies to the others, in order to avoid being put at risk for their kind. It results in a major Continuity Snarl from the original.
  • Becky Botsford's secret identity as WordGirl is so secret that it is known only to her and to her sidekick, Bob/Captain Huggy Face. Even her adoptive family doesn't know her real identity.
  • In Young Justice (2010), almost the entire Team have secret identities for "civilian" life. The only one without one was Aqualad, who was perfectly well known as the king's protégé in Atlantis. M'gann and Conner's identities (Meghan Morse and Conner Kent) were known to the other members of the team, while Robin (Dick Grayson) and Kid Flash (Wally West) were the only one to know each other's identity. Artemis' (Artemis Crock) identity is technically unknown to her teammates, but Robin and Red Arrow (Roy Harper) both deduce it, with Robin having fun in several different episodes by toying with her story.

    Real Life 
  • Undercover Police Officers obviously cannot use their real identity (i.e. a cop) to infiltrate gangs and catch drug dealers, and so on.
    • And no, they don't have to identify themselves. Ten years of work is not going to be overturned by a technicality like that.
    • Similarly the addresses and phone-numbers of police officers and federal agents are somewhat protected.
  • Army, Airforce and Naval troops also often use codenames over the radio, and many build up reputations that earn a nickname, either for themselves (Rommel - The Desert Fox) or for their regiment.
  • Secret agents would obviously be useless without a false name or, at the very least, a code to identify themselves to their handlers. However, many agents with Non-Official Cover use their real name, they just don't say they're spies.
    • In the TV series Covert Affairs, Anne Walker, CIA Officer, is publicly known as Anne Walker, Smithsonian Employee. And it turns out the professor she went to help for in the pilot is himself a retired Officer.
  • Real life superheroes/crimefighters, people who actually patrol the streets and beat up criminals. Many are sanctioned by overworked local police forces. For example, the Chief of Police in Jackson, Michigan, has officially sanctioned 'Captain Jackson' and asked his police officers not to ask any of Jackson's costumed superheroes to give their real names.
  • Most serial killers.
  • Any author using a Pen Name could be considered this, or a performer with a closely guarded Stage Name.
    • George Orwell played it straight, never publishing his politically charged works under his real name to throw the KGB off.
  • Webhosting company reviewers/bloggers who do not wish to compromise their identity when reviewing services.
  • Similarly, restaurant reviewers, "secret shoppers" checking how store employees treat customers, and the like obviously need to avoid being identified, lest they receive special treatment that would distort the information they're getting. Special mention goes to the Michelin Guide inspectors, whose restaurant ratings are considered the greatest honor any eatery can receive. Michelin's inspectors have such well-guarded identities that not even Michelin executives know who they are beyond their names; there is a strict company policy that states inspectors must never speak to journalists; and the inspectors themselves don't even tell their families or parents about their line of work.
  • British grafitti artist Banksy, to the point he managed to be nominated for an Academy Award without revealing his identity to anyone. Lord knows how they'd have handled it if he had won.
  • Two words: Online identity. Many people who use an online identity for blogging or forum purposes don't like to reveal their real names and such.
  • Soldiers serving in NATO peacekeeping missions in Europe are heavily encouraged to use burner phones and create temporary e-mail and Facebook accounts under aliases before communicating with their loved ones back home via Social Media to prevent cyber attacks from the enemy against them and their families. Numerous soldiers who didn't reported death threats to their families back home via e-mail and telephone, and even a few cases of identity theft.
  • Scambaiters keep their identities hidden so they can trick scammers into wasting time with them and avoid vengeful harassment afterwards.

Alternative Title(s): Secret Identities