The Mask: Comics and Secret Identities Part 2

Welcome back. This is a continuation of a previous post. I suggest that you read the first part before this one, just so you know where I’m going with it.

Superman and Clark Kent as an Anomaly

Superman poses an interesting contrast to the traditional mask in that he doesn’t wear one. It’s a constant joke among fans that no one recognizes him. I mean, how can anyone be that stupid? I’ll explain below, but first I want to talk about what makes Superman unique.

Both Clark Kent and Superman can be called his “true persona.” He was raised Clark, and until his powers manifested, he was an ordinary boy and unaware of his lineage. This parallels the classic stories of Hercules, Moses, Harry Potter, Jesus, etc. But when he comes into his power, Superman leaves Clark Kent behind. He still carries much of his personality and morality, but they are not the same. He smashed that shell like the many buildings he’ll smash in the future. When you can look at the Earth from a dozen miles up, you never look at it the same way again.

I want to find who said this, but the writer is wearing a mask.

But Supes wants to be Clark Kent again. He doesn’t have to lead a human life, but he chooses to. The “new” Clark Kent is Supes fantasy of what his life would’ve been like if he was a human, not a Kryptonian. In the movie Kill Bill, Bill claims that Clark is an example of how Supes see humans: weak, bumbling, and awkward. I say that it’s a mask, but the one Supes wears to experience some of his old life. Through his upbringing, he is neither human or Kryptonian, but a little of both.

I wish they focused more on this in the recent movie, or at least the next one.

As for nobody recognizing him, it’s because people don’t see the man, they see the mask (or uniform). Last year, Jimmy Fallon did a bit where he had Mets pitcher Matt Harvey ask people questions about what they thought of Matt Harvey. No one recognized him out of his uniform, and hilarity (sorta) ensued.

People didn’t recognize Harvey–even though he was the hottest thing in New York–because he was out of uniform. It makes perfect sense to me that they wouldn’t associate Clark with a red and blue blur (Smallville reference).

Masks and Identity in The Watchmage of Old New York

watchmage small

In my serial (and forthcoming novels) The Watchmage of Old New York, masks and disguises play an important part of the setting. The Dwellers–mythical creatures drawn into our world through people’s dreams and beliefs–all wear magical disguises in order to survive in the city. They know the cruelty of humans, and they understand the danger if they were discovered.

When I devised that, I drew on a few scenes from Maus, where the jewish mice wear (polish) pig masks to move around the ghetto. Maus always had a strong effect on me. Most of my family immigrated before the Holocuast, but still.

If you haven’t read Maus, start.

I know that in real history, some Jews were able to hide their ethnicity, and even do it in America. Here, Jewishness (and all ethnicities) is in danger of being assimilated by the larger culture. They’re–if you will–being thrown into the melting pot. It’s tragic to immigrate and save your life, only to lose your identity.

The Watchmage has to hide his identity as well. At the time the serial begins, he’s already 150 years old, and has lived several lives. Each time he has to build a new identity, but he doesn’t have the luxury of leaving and starting again elsewhere. He will spend all of eternity taking new identities, living many lives that are never his.

Everybody Wears a Mask: It’s Called The Internet

I’m not the first person to point this out, but we all wear masks. You are not the same person at work as you are at the bar. You’re not the same around children as you are around the elderly. That’s normal. A person is not a piece of paper. A person is a gem with a thousand facets, and each facet shines with its own light. People are way too quick to judge another as “fake” when they see a facet they’ve never seen before.

If we were to approach the world as a simple paper, it would surely tear us apart. The masks that we wear protect us from the world. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world is not a pleasant place.

I’m wearing a mask right now. So are you. You’re reading this through an interface, where you can use any avatar you want and reply as any persona you want to be. Hell, you can be Batman for all I know. We live in a world of masks now: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, they’re all masks that let you deal with the world around you.

Don’t be sad. Don’t be ashamed. When Spiderman or Batman dons the mask, they become something greater than what they were. There’s no reason why you can’t too.


Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist).


The Mask: Comics and Secret Identities Part 1

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” –Oscar Wilde

It’s a long-standing tradition in comic books for the heroes and villains to wear masks. Everyone from lone rangers (but not Tonto, for some reason) to secret squirrels (But not Morocco Mole) don the mask. The mask is the symbol of the genre. But why?

Different Secret Squirrel

The logical reason is that they need to protect their true identities from the public. They give rationale like “protecting their loved ones,” and there’ve been enough “women in refrigerator” incidents to give this validity.

Less spoken of is the less virtuous “freedom from repercussions.” They act in anonymity, not unlike the horrible comments at the end of every internet article (but that’s a different issue).

I think there’s more. There’s a psychological aspect to it, where the small and helpless can take on a new identity, free of their former self. Like the Oscar Wilde quote above, once inside the mask, they can be their true selves, or at least the self they want to be.

Which One’s Real, The Man or the Mask (Spiderman and Batman)

I’m going to use Spiderman and Batman as examples, because 1) everybody knows them (who would get it if I talked about Atom Smasher and Moon Knight?) and 2) they are great representations of what I’m talking about. Both heroes are one man with the mask on, and one off. The difference is which one is the true self (or is either?)

My friend, Dr. Osvaldo Oyola, (whose website The Middle Spaces has just about the best comic analysis on the Net) recently wrote an article that talked about Spidey, responsibility, and identity (among other things). Part of the article was born from a conversation we had about The Superior Spiderman storyline and a post I wrote. He noted how when Peter Parker regained his body from Doc Ock, Green Goblin noticed it right away from Pete’s wisecracks.

What Osvaldo notes is that Spiderman is a joking, obnoxious, free spirited hero, but Pete is not. Peter Parker is quiet and shy, always picked on by guys like Flash Thompson and ignored by girls. He grows out of this somewhat over the years, but there’s no doubt that they’re two separate personalities.

Stupid Sexy Spidey…

In this case, the Spiderman mask gives Peter the strength and confidence to be the person that he always wanted to be. He went from a shadow in the back of a classroom to a bright red and blue dynamo that won’t be ignored. Remember, when he first got his powers, the first thing he did was try his hand at Pro Wrestling. He wears a loud costume of primary colors. He wants people to SEE him. He wants to be noticed.

As Spidey says on the cover of his very first appearance, Amazing Fantasy #15: “Though the world may mock Peter Parker the timid teenager, It will soon marvel at the awesome might of Spider-Man.” He couldn’t state it any plainer than that. The mask makes him the man he wants to be.

Batman is a bit more complex. He underwent a psyche-ripping trauma as a kid. He’s obviously insane (people seem to gloss over that). I would say that unlike Spiderman, who affects a strong persona to hide a weak one, Batman is the strong persona that wears a weak mask.

Bruce Wayne is the mask. Batman is the real person. Bruce Wayne is a role that Batman made up so that he can interact in society. His real psyche is so destroyed that he can’t handle the real world without some buffer. He can only handle the world of madmen criminals and two-bit thugs.

Sad Batman is Sad

This damage even bleeds in under the mask. Look at how he treats his Robins, or how he acts around other Justice League members. Hell, he devised methods to kill every one of his friends in case he needed to. No sane man would do that.

But Bruce Wayne would never act that way. He’s just a rich playboy with not a care in the world. There’s no way Bruce Wayne could be Batman, right?

Maybe Bruce Wayne is the man Young Bruce wanted to be before Joe Chill shattered his world. Batman is living out a fantasy through his alter-ego. It’s the fantasy of a normal life, one that he’ll never have.

Read Part 2.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist).

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and What DC Doesn’t Understand

Comic-Con season is the geekiest time of the year. Every day there’s a new thing to go nuts over. This time it’s Wonder Woman’s costume in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (the worst name ever).

I like it, and Gal Gadot looks great in it (what doesn’t she look great in?). I picture Wonder Woman as more muscular, but it’s not my movie, I’m not the casting director. Gadot brings star power, if a lack of acting chops (the awful Fast and the Furious Series doesn’t count) and star power brings in the Muggles who wouldn’t normally see a comic book movie. Gal Gadot is a model, not an actress, and that concerns me with how they’re going to write and direct Wonder Woman.

Dark WW is dark

Dark WW is dark

Notice that her costume has muted colors, similar to Superman and Batman in the previous movies. Does this mean that Batman v. Superman is going to be as dark and morally ambiguous as its predecessors? Probably, and that’s the problem. It’s like Snyder played DC: Injustice and suddenly thinks he understands what’s going on.

DC keeps going for these dark movies, and that’s not true to the characters. Yes, it worked for Batman (to an extent), but that’s because Batman is meant to be dark. Most comic heroes aren’t. Superman is not dark. He’s the paragon of all that’s good in the world (next to Captain Marvel). On an aside, I always thought it poetic that an alien is the best example for humanity.

This is not 300, and this is not Watchmen. Snyder does not understand the characters that he is trying to portray.

The Trollvengers

I love Wonder Woman. Not in a pervy fanboy kind of way, but as a character. She is one of the most complex characters in fiction, a blend of divine warrior, compassionate human, uncomfortable diplomat, and lonely, stoic outsider. She is impossible to portray correctly as a supporting character in this movie. I doubt that anyone could even get her right in her own movie, which is a shame, because someone should try.

I suggest that Snyder look to the old Justice League cartoon from the early 2000s. They had a firm grasp on the characters, mostly because it was actual comic book writers doing it. Dark movies do not equate to good movies. You only have to look at what Marvel is doing right to see what DC is doing wrong.

Like my blog? Check out my debut novel Song of Simon, from Damnation Books, or check out my free, completed webserial, The Watchmage of Old New York. Or just come back here again. I’m pretty damn awesome.

Oh, Batman, you wacky crime fighter, you

I inherited all of Valerie’s action figures.  She had many of them, and she would pose them in compromising positions, because what else do you do with action figures. (Besides Gay Action Figure Theater)
my shelf is now filled with action figures, and yes, they are all doing naughty naughty things.  My favorite combo is Obi-wan Kenobi fisting Harry Potter, but equally entertaining is Batman and Bane taggin up on The Joker.

This, of course, reminds me of The Dark Knight Rises, which pissed me off to no end.

I could go on forever about how terrible the movie was, but that’s not what this is about.  This is about Val.

We saw that awful movie together, and afterwards, we talked about it.  I was much more critical of it than Val, who was generally nonjudgemental.  We decided to go home and write stories based on what happened to Batman after the movie.  I wrote “Masked Man Works at Shop-Rite,” which was eventually published.

Valerie wrote this work of brilliance, “The Dark Knight Upsells.”  I’ll let it speak for itself 🙂

Val loved to write fan fiction.  I’ve been looking at fanfic sites on line, and she has stuff on all of them.  She wrote for the sheer joy of writing.  I wish that I could be like that, but I can so caught up in trying to make a living as a writer that I only write things that I can sell.  She never worried about that.  I mean, yes, she was a professor too and I am not, but even then, she didn’t have the drive to publish and promote that I do.  This is just one of a million reason why she was a better person than me.  Not that I’m a bad guy, she’s just better.

Speaking of only writing things that I can sell, Chapter 6 of “The Watchmage of New York” is ready at Jukepop Serials, and it’s still on the Editor’s Picks list.  If you haven’t checked out my serial yet, you really should.  It’s good, one of the best things that I’ve ever written (and I’ve written some very good stuff).  You have to register to get beyond chapter 1, but its free registration.  If you love webfiction, fantasy, mysteries, and demand historical accuracy next to your trolls and pixies, Watchmage is the way to go.

If you do go to read it, please VOTE for it (at the bottom) and share it with other people (on facebook, twitter, your blog, etc).  I hate to ask all the time, but this is my job, and if you don’t promote, you perish.  You have to be shameless.

Also, if you want to add me on facebook or twitter (CraigASanders), you can do that too.  (Just message me when you add me on facebook, so I know that you’re not a scam).