Comic book fans, if you have not already, do yourselves a favor and read Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes. Published in 1965, Feiffer took a look at comics not just as throw away children’s books, but as culturally and critically significant. Particularly interesting, at least to me, is the impact of WWII on comics. Another element discussed in the text turns up in Quintin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol 2. As Bill waits for his truth serum to take effect, he discusses the anomaly of Superman’s secret identity–that Superman must wear a mask of mediocrity to hide his true identity. It is the transverse of most heroes who wear a mask in their super form to hide their real identity. Superman must don the lesser Clark Kent, his human costume, to hide who he really is.
That speech is what actually led me to Feiffer’s book. I make no attempt to mask my love of Tarantino, but that speech in particular has such resonance with me. How often do we pretend to be less than we are, to be unaware of our gifts, or to wear a mask of mediocrity to avoid attention? In short, what lengths do we go to blend in?