Sunday, March 4, 2018

Tales From The Quarter Bin--Not Just A Super-Hero Trope!

The following two stories appeared back-to-back in Super DC Giant #S-22 (1971).

First up--the adventures of Johnny Thunder, originally from All-Star Western #97 (1957):

Next reprint in the book--The Nighthawk, from Western Comics #59 (1956):

Yowsa!! Secret identity games, and virtually identical thought balloons (thought balloons!!) for the last panels!!

It's trendy to discount or disparage secret identities as a lame, overused trope of the super-hero genre. And hey, legitimate arguments can be made either way about the value of the idea.

But people tend to forget--the secret identity trope started before super-heroes were ever created.

The Lone Ranger and Zorro were playing that game long before Lois Lane ever tried to figure out who Superman really was.

Westerns didn't originate the "secret identity"--that's largely credited to The Scarlet Pimpernel--and it didn't take long before pulps and radio programs gave us the Shadow and many, many others.

But Westerns, as one of the most popular genres in all media prior to the 1970s, helped to popularize the idea. And, it can be argued, the trope works better with the cowboy opera than many other forms. Smaller populations in the sparsely settled Olde Weste meant a greater chance of an individual being recognized (after all in a city of 8 million, who's going to recognize one nerdy high school student?). The quasi-anarchy as law & order were slow to establish meant that one man had to stand up to powerful forces who could easily take revenge if they knew who he was--or the heo could be jailed and killed by the corrupt justice of the era.

So yeah, rail against super-hero secret identity games if you like. But at least acknowledge that the capes didn't invent the idea--they're just carrying on an older tradition. Hi-Yo, Silver!!

1 comment:

George Chambers said...

Yeah, Outlaw Kid, I'd be worried less about you losing your mask than about the massive cranial trauma the bullet will have caused at the same time...