Marvel Already Admitted It’s Done With Secret Identities

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a distinct lack of secret identities for the many superheroes within the franchise, but Marvel Comics began phasing out the trope years ago. Secret identities are as emblematic of the genre as capes and cowls; their history goes back to before Marvel fought DC for dominance in the comics industry. But in Ultron Forever, a 2014 miniseries written by Al Ewing with art by Alan Davis and colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, a choice exchange between two Avengers suggest Marvel will eventually do away with secret identities for good.

In Ultron Forever, Doctor Doom gathers Avengers from various time periods to defeat an all-powerful version of Ultron from the future. Among others, he takes Jane Foster from the mid-2010s (while she wielded Mjolnir and thus the power of Thor), the Incredible Hulk from the early 60s (while he possessed a more ape-like gait and was still able to speak in full sentences), and - most notably - James Rhodes from a time in which he wore the Iron Man armor instead of Tony Stark. Bringing Avengers together from multiple periods of time is a perfect moment to show discrepancies between different eras of comics - which is exactly what happens between Rhodes and Vision.

Related: The New Superman Missed a Genius Way To Keep His Secret Identity

During battle against Ultron drones, as Iron Man lets loose a mighty blast from his chest repulsor (the Unibeam), Vision complements Rhodes - by name, something Rhodes isn't used to (especially since he only recently took over Iron Man duties from Tony). Rhodes, who originates from the late 70s - a time in which Iron Man's identity wasn't yet public knowledge - corrects him, but admits "I guess secret identities aren't a thing in the future, huh?" Rhodes has no idea just how correct he is at the moment - for Marvel has all but done away with the concept.

In the 60s, Marvel's Fantastic Four were popular in part because they did away with a majority of superhero genre conventions - among them, secret identities. T'Challa, the Black Panther, was another subversion: although he wore a mask, everyone still knew the King of Wakanda's true identity. Iron Man, Captain America, and nearly all the Avengers eventually became public figures as well. Today, some of the only major superheroes who still maintain a secret identity are younger heroes like Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man (and with the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home set to tell a story about Peter's identity becoming exposed, there's a chance the comics may emulate the film sooner than later).

The admission in Ultron Forever only serves to tell Marvel's readers what they have already learned for themselves: secret identities, much like animal sidekicks and shoulder pads on costumes, are a passing fad. With the public desiring more superheroes, they might have a better attitude toward the faces behind the masks. Perhaps the day may come when Peter Parker and Kamala Khan unmask in front of the world, be it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the wider world of Marvel Comics. 

Next: Marvel Teases The New Sorcerer Supreme's Secret Identity

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