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Stephen Robinson
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 12:43pm | IP Logged | 1  

I've noticed that many fans will refer to superheroes by their "civilian" names (i.e. "When Clark fought Zod" or "When Peter battled Doc Ock") even though they aren't referring to them while in their civilian identities: For example, "Clark Kent ducks into the supply room at the Planet and changes into Superman."

This strikes me as a distinct change from the way things were when I first started reading comics. As a kid, I always felt that Batman and Superman were *always* Batman and Superman -- even when not in costume. I did usually think, "Superman disguised as Clark Kent." Oddly enough, my father would do the same thing -- something I've noticed most "civilians" do. For instance, when my non-comics reading coworker described the recent FF movie, she would say, "Mr. Fantastic did this, the Thing did that, and the Invisible Woman did this." Conversely, comics fans would tend to say, "Reed did this, Ben did that, and Sue did this." Even if the casual fan didn't know their code names, he or she would more often than not refer to the character by his powers -- "Stretchy Guy" or "Rock Guy" for instance.

I'm not sure what this means, but as I said, it's something I've noticed. Do these fans feel somehow "closer" to the characters, which is why they refer to them by their "real" names? Or do the non-fans actually buy into the mythic nature of the characters more?

 

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Gregory Dickens
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 12:53pm | IP Logged | 2  

I can't remember the last times I called any of the FF by their hero names. "Ben Grimm" and "Johnny Storm" just so perfectly describe those characters. But the FF are an anomaly for hero comics because they don't act any differently our of costume. Reed is ever Reed, and Sue is always Sue.

But I never call Batman or Superman by their alter ego names when the conversation concerns their adventures.

I am affected by how often a character is called by their hero names in the comics. Jean Grey remains "Jean Grey" to me because I saw her referred by her real name more than "Marvel Girl" or "Phoenix."
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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 12:59pm | IP Logged | 3  

I am more likely to refer to the FF by their real names than their code names (whether they're in uniform or not).  The same goes for the Next Men.
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Mike Norris
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 12:59pm | IP Logged | 4  

Depends on the character. When talking about the FF Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben work just as well as Mr.Fantastic, Invisible Girl Human Torch and the Thing. This is because they dont have secret IDs and even when costume they are Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben. Characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man who's costumed identities are separate from their civilian ones are different. Spider-man fought Doc Ock. Peter Parker visited Aunt May.  The distiction should be made and maintained. (all IMO)

Yeah, I think using the "real names" maked them seem more real to some people.

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Greg Reeves
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:06pm | IP Logged | 5  

Joey da Q once said in an interview that most Marvel characters are the civilian identity first and foremost, with an alter ego.  He also said that he believes this differs from most DC characters in which the civilian identity is either secondary to the hero identity (like Batman) or is simply there just because it's necessary to have one.  I tend to agree with this for the most part.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:08pm | IP Logged | 6  

Nine times out of 10 I will call Superman "Superman" and Clark "Clark". When Frank Miller and I were chatting about some of the ideas he had for the first DARK KNIGHT mini, one of the things I noticed was that he always refered to Batman as "Bruce" and Superman as "Clark".

It has to do, I think, with the lessening of the awe factor that used to be so much a part of comicbook mythology. As more and more fans have turned pro, we have seen the introduction of such nicknames as "Supes" and "Bats", which can only be described as irreverent, at best, and in parallel we have seen the arrival of "Clark" and "Bruce" and "Peter" instead of the superhero names. The latter is, at least, still mostly respectful. I dread the day when the next "generation" transforms these into "Clarkie" and "Brucie" and "Petey".

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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:10pm | IP Logged | 7  

Joey da Q once said in an interview that most Marvel characters are the civilian identity first and foremost, with an alter ego.

***

Okay, how many here would say that is an accurate description of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, the X-Men, Iron Man, or Captain America? To name but a few.

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Eric Lund
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:20pm | IP Logged | 8  

The characters will always be referred to by their superhero name to me... I hate the use of their civilian names by "fans" Those names are not on the title of the book... Those names are not how those characters are identified...

The only time it made any sense was in the FF where the characters would refer to each other by their real name but even as a kid I still only and always think of them by their superhero names... Superman and Batman are Superman and Batman.... "Clark" and "Bruce" I feel can be used by them talking to one another but even when they are all together in the JLA I think the characters out of respect for one another should refer to each with code names... not Diana or Clark.... It makes them small... and hearing "fans" use those terms makes the characters even smaller....

Until the titles of the books change the characters should be referred to by that name and not cutesy in-the-know name for "fans" who want to feel smug
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Greg Reeves
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:22pm | IP Logged | 9  

Captain America is a good example of this not being the case, JB- Steve Rogers practically doesn't exist when you think about Captain America.  Good call on that one.  I would definitely say, however, that Peter Parker is the stronger persona over Spider-Man.  He is who he is due to his humanity rather than his powers.  I'd also say that Bruce Banner (though not as much as Peter) is the stronger persona.  Much like Stan Lee described the Hulk as a modern Jekyll/Hyde, so too does Banner's personality stick out as someone always afraid to unleash the monster within. Iron Man: hard to define this one.  I think the armored persona is less than the playboy/recovered alcoholic personality, but it's close.  The X-Men, to me, are less distinct as alter egos and more by their limitations, such as Cyclops' inability to control his blasts, Rogue's inability to touch anyone, etc.
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Roger A Ott II
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:24pm | IP Logged | 10  

There was a discussion about this in a thread a month or so ago, and I said then that I've always called them by their superhero names, and only by their civilian names when referencing said civilian name.  The exception, of which I became aware of during that discussion, was JB's own Next Men, who I've always referred to by their real names and not the code names that Danny gave them.  Perhaps that's because the characters themselves hardly (if ever) used the code names.
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Kurt Anderson
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:29pm | IP Logged | 11  

It seems that, back in the day, most of the superheroes were still "on duty" while in their civilian identities.  Clark's thought balloons didn't have much to do with his life as Clark... he was thinking about Superman's current case, or Superman's relationship with Lois.

Now we seem to spend a great deal more time watching the heroes go about their daily business.  A back-up series like the Private Life of Clark Kent that was around in the early 70's wouldn't be very useful today.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:30pm | IP Logged | 12  

...most Marvel characters are the civilian identity first and foremost, with an alter ego.

++++

an accurate descriptions of Spider-Man...?

****

It's not true of Spider-Man.

But tangentially I get the sense, and I'm referring most especially to the Lee/Ditko stories, that the character felt such an acute sense of alienation at times that not only when he was Peter Parker was he masquerading as Spider-Man, but similarly when he was Spider-Man he was masquerading as Peter Parker. I mean, especially in those early stories, just as Peter Parker was Spider-Man's secret identity, Spider-Man was also Peter Parker's secret identity. Being Spider-Men kept Peter apart from his fellow civilians. Yet, Spider-Man also never fit in with other superheroes, and it seems that the not-subsumed identity of Peter behind the mask played a part in that.

By contrast, Don Blake always seemed to me quite separate from Thor, and vice-versa. Blake was Blake, and Thor was Thor.

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Stephen Robinson
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:38pm | IP Logged | 13  

I would definitely say, however, that Peter Parker is the stronger persona over Spider-Man.  He is who he is due to his humanity rather than his powers.

*******************

Originally, Spider-Man was the ultimate wish-fulfillment character. Whereas Clark Kent, during the same period, was an "act" and Superman the "real" character, Spider-Man was in many ways an "act," and Peter Parker who he really was. Spider-Man was the "rock star persona" -- Peter's id unrestrained. Peter would always be too polite to refer to Jameson as "old Flat-Top" but Spider-Man easily would.

This is why it always seemed "off" to refer to Spider-Man and Peter interchangeably. Just as I don't like how in modern comics, Peter pretty much behaves like Spider-Man even when out of costume. In the Lee/Ditko classics, Peter was much more morose and glum than the cocky Spider-Man -- and even when Spider-Man was, while in costume, brooding, it was in Peter's internal monologue.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 1:42pm | IP Logged | 14  

The key element is "escape". With the exception of the Hulk (obviously!), and the FF, who had no "secret identities" (despite what STRANGE TALES told us!), for most of the early Marvel heroes their alter-egos presented them with an "escape" from their daily lives. For Peter Parker, an escape from the uber-nerd label, for Tony Stark an escape from the pressures of his high-octane life, for Don Blake an escape from his frail, lame human form. Even for the X-Men, their costumed identities provided them with an escape from the stigma of mutant-phobia --- mutants they were, but clearly being the good guys, right out there and in the open, rather than having always to hide their powers.
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Paul Greer
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 3:48pm | IP Logged | 15  

In the case of the FF, I always refer to Reed and Sue by their real names. But I always say The Human Torch and The Thing when refering to Johnny and Ben. I might refer to the Green Lanterns by their first names because there are so many and I'm trying to be specific on which one I'm talking about. Outside of those exceptions, I always call the characters by their superhero names when discussing their adventures in uniform.
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Aaron Smith
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 4:03pm | IP Logged | 16  

There are a few cases where I'm more likely to refer to, or think of characters by their civilian names. These include the FF members, since it just seems natural for me to think of them as Ben, Reed, etc. Also, Spider-Man gets thought of as Peter sometimes, but not always, possibly because I identified with him so much as a youngster.

   I tend to think of GLs as Hal, or Guy or Alan, but that's just for easier differentiation.

   The X-Men seem to go either way, sometimes by code names, other times by civilian names. I might say "Cyclops" but I never say "Cyclops and Marvel Girl" but rather "Scott and Jean"

    Superman is always Superman, Batman is always Batman.

     Captain America is certainly always Captain America.  

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Ray Brady
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 8:04pm | IP Logged | 17  

I'm sure part of the problem originates from the fact that the super-hero personae keep losing their uniqueness. It does me little good to say that I'm a fan of the Green Lantern or the Flash, since each could now apply to a half dozen different characters. Only by referring to Hal Jordan or Wally West will my audience know exactly who I'm talking about. Every new incarnation of Aquaman or the Atom or the Blue Beetle that comes along dilutes the super-hero identity and reinforces the notion that the civilian identities are what matter.
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Kevin Hagerman
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 8:37pm | IP Logged | 18  

I find that I use Peter Parker and Spider-Man interchangeably.  I'm not saying I should, but I definitely do.  I think it stems from all the scenes of Spider-Man webslinging his way across town, but his monologue is about Peter Parker's travails.
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Ron Chevrier
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 11:33pm | IP Logged | 19  

"Joey da Q once said in an interview that most Marvel characters are the civilian identity first and foremost, with an alter ego."


Uh, yeah, go ahead and call the Incredible Hulk  "Bruce" and let me know how that works out for ya.

I think that  most of Marvel's characters are pretty much the same person in or out of uniform. Certainly the X-Men and the Fantastic Four don't worry about maintaining a different facade whether in or out of costume. Captain America and Hawkeye have only marginal civilian I.D's, as does Wonder Man. Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man  and Daredevil were the big Marvel guns that tended to worry about keeping their civilian and heroic personas separate. Sadly, recent events have rendered all this moot anyhow.
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Rafael Guerra
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Posted: 20 December 2006 at 11:43pm | IP Logged | 20  

Overall, the characters I like the most, I call them regularly by their first names. Clark, Bruce, Hal, etc. Or at least, interchangeably.

The ones I don't, I call them strictly by their superhero names, or last names, if applicable. Spider-Man, Hulk, Richards, etc.

The only exception is Captain America, who is a character I really like and almost never refer to him as Steve. He's mostly Cap to me.

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Shaun Crowell
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Posted: 21 December 2006 at 1:18am | IP Logged | 21  

I still don't like it that Jean Grey doesn't go by Marvel Girl or Phoenix or some other code name. It just doesn't sound right to me Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Jean Grey...
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Kevin Tuma
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Posted: 21 December 2006 at 3:21am | IP Logged | 22  

Joey da Q once said in an interview that most Marvel characters are the civilian identity first and foremost, with an alter ego. 

As far as names, I agree with this for the most part...Wolverine, Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, and Spider-man are very easy to call "Logan", "Reed", "Ben", and "Peter". By contrast, Wonder Woman does not summon up "Diana" very easily, I call the Flash 'the Flash', and Superman and Batman seem to be very clearly delineated namesakes depending on whether they have the costume on, or not. 

At least in the case of Batman, I would say that Bruce Wayne is a disguise. I believe it was "Arkham Asylum" where the criminals were about to unmask him, saying "I want to see his real face"--to which the Joker aptly replied, "That is his real face, you moron!" Good scene. :-)

 

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Joakim Jahlmar
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Posted: 21 December 2006 at 7:17am | IP Logged | 23  

JB wrote:
"It has to do, I think, with the lessening of the awe factor that used to be so much a part of comicbook mythology."

You've said this before but, with the caveat that I did not see the 60s and most of the 70s as they happened, I am not at all sure what exactly you mean by the "awe factor". One of the things that has always had me more hooked on Marvel than DC, and also why your comics have appealed to me, is convincing treatment of character. Now, don't get me wrong, I find Spider-Man fighting Doctor Octopus as intriguing as the next guy, but it's the fact that it's counterposed with the everyday problems of Peter Parker that really seals the deal for me. It was so when I was a kid and it still is. Having recently read Essential Spider-Man Volume 1 (some of the material of which I've read in Swedish in my youth), I was really struck by how effectively Stan Lee actually built up this link to the readers, making them really care for the characters of Peter and his surrounding cast. I think that the sometimes derogatory commented upon "soap opera" element of superhero comics have been a very integral part of the genres success for quite sometime, although not necessarily noted by everyone.

As to what I'd call them myself, I'd probably mostly use the most appropriate name for the occasion. Spider-Man fights the supercriminals, Peter Parker is taking the pictures for Jameson and dating MJ, etc.
Although some may slip more easily, e.g. the FF since they don't really have secret identities and therefore often tend to talk inbetween themselves in familiar ways.

As for the Hulk / Banner relation... that one is complex enough so that referencing one doesn't at all necessarily reference the other. Their personalities are separated enough for that distinction.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 21 December 2006 at 10:19am | IP Logged | 24  

I am not at all sure what exactly you mean by the "awe factor".

***

When I was a kid, superheroes bestrode the universe like gods. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash --- these were larger than life characters. Mythic characters.

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko brought that down a notch, with the "street level" characters they created at the start of the "Marvel Age" -- but even if the characters worried about paying the bills or getting a zit on Prom night, they were still people in whose presence one could be sure to feel somewhat small and insignificant. Even someone like Spider-Man, who was in his own real life small and insignificant, became so much more in costume.

They were people who, if I had met them, I would always have addressed with the proper respect -- with "Mr" or "Miss" or "Doctor" or "Professor" or whatever else was appropriate,

Stan encouraged the personalization of the letter columns, with "Dear Stan and Jack" or "Dear Stan and Steve" instead of DC's colder and more distant "Dear Editor", and with this I think he may have accidentally opened the door for a similar way of thinking about the characters. So the native awe that had been so important to the superhero mythos began to slowly erode, and where we sit today was the long result.

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Joakim Jahlmar
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Posted: 21 December 2006 at 11:02am | IP Logged | 25  

Well being of a generation who never had the pre-Marvel Age to compare to, I think I can see the difference better.

That said, JB, are you sure that Stan "accidentally opened the door for a similar way of thinking about the characters"? Having recently read those early Spider-Man stories again, and seeing Stan's continuous use of for instance "Spidey" on covers, in the kind of writer-to-reader captions often used, as well as within the stories themselves (including Spider-Man's way of relating to himself), it seems to me as if he rather consciously tried to open that particular door. To really make the readers connect with their heroes rather than looking at the godlike beings from afar.
For me as someone not present from before what you perceive as an erosion of certain awe values, those very personal aspects of being able to in a way "befriend" and "imagine oneself in their place" always seemed very important elements, and most likely why I've tended to prefer Marvel over DC.

And to use your analogy, if I could ever meet some of these heroes I would most likely talk to them as well-known friends, although awed by their powers and uncanny feats. But their is an element of knowing someone like Peter Parker fairly well after reading as little as the first 20 issues of Amazing Spider-Man (and I have read more by far).

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