Comic books have a way of surprising us like no other medium can. One part novel, another part soap opera, and usually a healthy sprinkling of science-fiction-fantasy-action adventures, comics have a special way of triggering our imagination and giving us something to be excited about. Part of that excitement is never knowing what you’re going to see the next time you turn the page. The formula for comic books practically guarantees a surprise or two by the end of every single issue.
When the concept of secret identities is part of the storytelling process, it shouldn’t be surprising when creative teams turn that concept on its head. We usually know the identity of the heroes and villains of a story; we know who they are, what they want, and who they are against.
However, in order to add a bit of surprise and excitement into a story, sometimes there can be a bit of mystery injected around the identity of the main characters. It’s this story element that became such a focal point in Secret Invasion, and it’s been the leading question for many DC Rebirth fans in regard to Mr. Oz. Here are the 15 most shocking secret identity reveals ever.
15. MONARCH IS HAWK
In the 1991 crossover Armageddon 2001, the time travelling hero Waverider visited many of the heroes of the DC Universe in order to determine who would become the evil Monarch in the future. While the final reveal of the villain’s identity was always meant to be a surprise, it became a true shock when DC editorial changed its mind midway through the event.
It was implied that Captain Atom was the evil Monarch, but the truth leaked and ruined everything. In order to maintain the surprise, DC decided to make Hawk the villain at the last second. Considering Waverider had already investigated and cleared him, it was quite the surprise when Monarch killed Dove, removed his mask to reveal Hank Hall, only to see Hawk kill him and take on the mantle.
14. ELEKTRA IS A SKRULL
During Brian Michael Bendis’ run on New Avengers, a corrupted Elektra kidnaps, kills and resurrects Maya Lopez in an attempt to turn her into the Hand’s new weapon. When the team shows up to save their friend, Maya brutally murders Elektra in revenge for everything she did to her. As issue #31 closes, everyone is shocked to discover that Elektra is actually a dirty, stinking Skrull in disguise.
This reveal changed everything for the superhero community, because it established evidence that the Skrulls were up to something, and that many of their friends were most likely compromised. It’s the single moment that set up everything for the blockbuster event series Secret Invasion, where we learned that Spider-Woman had actually been a Skrull since the beginning.
13. BARRY ALLEN IS THE REVERSE FLASH
After Barry Allen died in 1986 during Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally West took over the identity of the flash. In 1987, he debuted in his own long-running ongoing series, but by 1993 it looked like Barry Allen had somehow miraculously returned from the dead. He soon proved, however, that he was no longer the hero he once was.
Mark Waid’s story, “The Return of Barry Allen,” brought several speedsters together to fight the now villainous Barry Allen, only to discover that this Flash was actually the Reverse Flash in disguise. As it turned out, Eobard Thawne was still dead, but as a time traveler, he would never truly be gone. A younger version of him had traveled back in time and had actually believed himself to be Barry for a little while before the big reveal and final showdown.
12. STAR-SPANGLED KID IS MISS MARTIAN
The Terror Titans miniseries saw the Clock King and the eponymous team bring together teenage superheroes to fight gladiatorial battles at the Darkside Club. It’s a dark series with no hope present for our heroes to hold onto. While the story mainly focuses on Ravager and the Terror Titans, other metahumans get the spotlight as well.
One such hero seems to be a new person using the identity of Star-Spangled Kid. While Sylvester Pemberton may be dead, his legacy has lived on. Stargirl once honored his legacy, and now a new person was using it. He won all of his fights in the arena and was declared the winner of the tournament, only at the end revealing that the Star-Spangled Kid was actually Miss Martian in disguise the whole time.
11. SUPERMAN OF FUTURE’S END IS SHAZAM
The weekly series The New 52: Futures End takes place five years into the future of the present day DC Universe. Terry McGinnis travels back in time to stop Brother Eye from taking over the world, but arrives too late to stop it. In this future world, Superman has become more violent and now wears a new costume with a full face mask. It makes people wonder if he’s still the same person.
Lois Lane investigates the identity of this so-called Superman until all is revealed in issue #17. While in a fight with the monstrous Rampage, his mask is damaged and he’s nearly killed in the attack. Just as we’re about to get a glimpse of his face, the character surprises us all by shouting Shazam, calling down the lightning, and revealing himself to be Billy Batson.
10. RONIN IS BLADE
When the Mighty Avengers come together during the Infinity crossover, a mysterious character doesn’t wish to be seen, so he joins the fight while wearing a Spider-Man Halloween costume. “Spider Hero” fights alongside the team but soon takes on the identity of Ronin. It isn’t until Mighty Avengers #9 that we learn who he really is underneath the mask.
While Ronin is in his safe house, he is attacked by ninja were-snakes, who manage to blow up the building. When our mysterious hero flees, his mask is on fire, and when he removes it, we learn that it’s none other than the Daywalker himself, Blade. Eric Brooks was attempting to hide from the Deathwalkers, but it’s these enemies who manage to unmask him in the end.
9. GALACTUS IS FRANKLIN RICHARDS
Earth X tells the story of what happens to the Marvel Universe if everyone on the planet gains superpowers; basically, what makes the heroes special then? At one point during the story, a confrontation between the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom proves to be deadly. The Human Torch, Invisible Woman, and Doom himself all end up dead, and Reed Richards takes on his rival’s mantle.
Later on in the story, Celestials come to Earth in order to germinate a Celestial egg. Galactus appears and it is revealed that he devours planets to destroy these eggs. After the day is saved, Galactus is about to leave when Reed Richards confronts him. He asks Galactus to take off his helmet, revealing that he is, in fact, Franklin Richards, Reed’s own son.
8. RED HOOD IS JASON TODD
Jason Todd has a history of showing up where you least expect him. In the seminal “Hush,” it was teased that he had come back to life. A new vigilante later shows up in Gotham looking to eliminate Black Mask and the Joker in “Under the Hood.” Hints are dropped about the identity of the Red Hood, and when the mask finally comes off, we are surprised to see it is a resurrected Jason Todd.
Jason has taken on the mantle ever since, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t also shocked us with a new identity. During Grant Morrison’s run on Batman Incorporated, the Red Hood actually became the costumed hero Wingman for a time. It was also discovered in Injustice 2 that Jason Todd was a new, more violent Batman. It’s a recurring theme with him.
7. OBERON SEXTON IS THE JOKER
During Dick Grayson’s adventures as Batman in Batman and Robin, the Dynamic Duo come across the masked detective known as Oberon Sexton. He is a British author who has shown some detective skills of his own and helps Batman and Robin solve crimes. Oberon becomes the target of assassins during his investigation of a serial killer.
Damian soon realizes that Oberon Sexton isn’t actually British and at first believes he is Bruce Wayne in disguise (Bruce was supposed to be dead at this time). Dick finally figures out that all the deaths caused by the serial killer are actually jokes, and that Oberon is not only the killer himself, but actually the Joker in disguise. It’s only later that the real Oberon Sexton is discovered dead.
6. SUPERNOVA IS BOOSTER GOLD
During the series 52, Booster Gold struggles to be a superhero and a celebrity in Metropolis following the disappearance of Superman. Despite everything he tries to accomplish, a new superhero by the name of Supernova shows up in 52 #8 and seems to be one step ahead of him. Their rivalry ultimately leads to Booster’s demise when he tries to be a hero and ends up getting killed.
It’s not until issue #37 that we learn Supernova is actually Booster Gold in disguise. Rip Hunter had told Booster that his robotic sidekick Skeets was a threat and the two had concocted a time traveling plot to surprise their enemy. Booster faked his own death while masquerading as Supernova, and the two are able to defeat the world-eating Mr. Mind.
5. RED HULK IS THUNDERBOLT ROSS
In Hulk #1 from Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness’ run in 2008, the Hulk finally meets his match in the form of the mysterious Red Hulk. This new Hulk has all the abilities of the green one, but he can also generate heat and absorb energy, giving him an edge over Bruce Banner. It’s also clear that he has an agenda, but his identity is initially unknown.
It isn’t until issue #22 that we discover Red Hulk has actually been Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross the whole time. Needing a new way to combat the Hulk, Ross decides to become a Hulk himself. It’s only until his daughter, now the Red She-Hulk, comes to fight him that he reverts back to his human form and surprises us all.
4. THE TIME TRAPPER IS SUPERBOY PRIME
The Time Trapper is a powerful enemy of the Legion of Super-Heroes who has the ability to manipulate time at his will. Due to the very nature of this character, his true identity seems to vary over the years. He’s been depicted as a member of the Controllers, Cosmic Boy himself, the living embodiment of entropy in the universe, and a sentient alternate timeline.
Geoff Johns added a new and surprising wrinkle to the story in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #4, where it is discovered that the Time Trapper is actually an older version of Superboy-Prime. Of course, this doesn’t end well for him when his younger self finds out and promptly tries to attack him. The Time Trapper disappears from existence when the two touch.
3. THOR IS JANE FOSTER
When Thor is no longer deemed worthy to wield the power of Mjolnir in Original Sin, the hammer is picked up by a woman. This unknown person becomes the new Thor, and her identity is left a secret for some time. At first, Odinson tries to get his hammer back from her, but in time he finally comes to terms with his own unworthiness.
It’s not until Thor #8 in 2015 that Jason Aaron reveals the new Thor is actually Jane Foster. After being diagnosed with cancer, she came to live on Asgard as a representative of Midgard (Earth) in the Congress of Worlds. When Thor could no longer wield Mjolnir, she discovered that she could. Jane decides she will remain Thor, even though the process of becoming the superhero is actually killing her.
2. XORN IS MAGNETO
When Grant Morrison started his run on New X-Men, he introduced the mutant named Xorn. He held great power within him and became a trusted member of the Xavier Institute for a time, even leading some of the students there. In the story arc “Planet X,” it is revealed that Xorn has actually been the mutant villain Magneto the entire time.
The X-Men were caught off-guard by this reveal, and Magneto manages to destroy the school and kill Jean Grey before the end. This deception was not only surprising to fans, but also Marvel editorial as well. They disliked the idea that Xorn was Magneto the whole time so much that they had Chris Claremont and Chuck Austen retcon Xorn as a separate character.
1. MR. OZ IS JOR-EL
Since his first appearance in Superman #32, the identity of the person known only as Mr. Oz has been a secret. He has been seen watching Superman in action and manipulating events behind the scenes for several years now. As part of his mysterious plan, Mr. Oz has also been collecting and imprisoning beings of great importance, including Doomsday, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and even Tim Drake.
It has been heavily implied that his true identity could be Ozymandias from Watchmen. With Doctor Manhattan apparently manipulating the DC Universe, including Adrian Veidt in the mix would have been something. However, it was finally revealed in Action Comics #987 that Mr. Oz is actually Jor-El, the father of Superman. He apparently survived the destruction of Krypton, and he believes Earth is unworthy of his son.