They Can’t All Be Matches
While metahumans, mutants, and demigods certainly outperform actual police officers in terms of apocalypse prevention and supervillain apprehension, they are more often than not sorely lacking in another important aspect of crime fighting; Undercover work.
Take a guy like Daredevil, for instance. Daredevil can sit on a rooftop enjoying a cup of coffee (if someone who can taste each and every individual fecal coliform can ever truly enjoy anything) and listen to entire blocks of the city at a time, pinpointing crimes and swooping in to save the day. And all without the use of his eyes! However, when it comes to getting his hands dirty and doing some deep cover reconnaissance, he sticks out like a sore thumb.
I mean, maybe he doesn’t know that wearing sunglasses indoors is a fairly uncommon? He’s sitting in a bar in Manhattan in the early 1980s, I’d say we’re probably talking about a dimly lit joint. The gang here at Josie’s Bar know that this stranger is either a blind person or a serious douchebag. Like a Guy Fieri level douchebag. He has to let them know that he’s just a tough customer! A rough and tumble street smart fella who doesn’t take any guff from any tuff, and what better way to demonstrate than to toss a few guys through a window.
Hey, “Shades”…. you know who throws people through that window all of the time? Daredevil. If you want to hide the fact that you’re Daredevil, try acting a bit less like Daredevil.
Okay, perhaps he wasn’t being literal in saying that he can “smell a winner”, because that would be awfully telling. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one. Still, it’s awfully ballsy to spend your first evening in your criminal persona auditioning for hitman under the biggest criminal presence in the city. You might want to ease into that role a bit.
Or you always hotdog it a bit and toss a ballpoint down the barrel of a Beretta. You see that satisfied grin on Big Willy Fisk’s face? “Shades” doesn’t. So Daredevil makes his way into Kingpin’s crew for like two minutes before they realize what’s up and try to kill him. Daredevil escapes leaving his disguise to be found. Now, when Kingpin encounters Matt Murdock (as he occasionally does) won’t he notice a striking resemblance to the assassin known as “Shades”? You know, the one who sure seemed to end up having been Daredevil in disguise?
That’s why you don’t just decide to one day infiltrate a gang with no prior knowledge of your criminal reputation, and you don’t do it LOOKING JUST LIKE YOURSELF. You know who had the right idea? Batman had the right idea.
Matches Malone was an arsonist specializing in insurance fraud. He and equally scummy brother Carver ran afoul of the Batman and when Carver met with an accident, as arsonists so often do, a distraught Matches took his own life (or so it would seem). Matches was later revealed to have been faking his death, but that didn’t stop Bruce Wayne from using the identity of the presumed dead criminal as a cover for information gathering.
One thing he could have done better, though? Ease up on the Batman talk. Even if people think you hate Batman, they’ll still notice if he’s the only subject you’ve got any interest in discussing. Also, Chimp Manners? What a ridiculous name.
But where Batman really shines with this disguise is the fact that it’s… you know… a disguise. He wears a wig, a mustache, dark glasses, gaudy attire, and even affects a quirky character trait – nonstop toying with matches. At least he didn’t just make a quick stop at the pharmacy on the way to the villain-infested dive bar, like Wolverine.
Excuse me, I mean “like Patch”. Now, if you had what was arguable the most distinct haircut in the realm of comics, perhaps of fiction, don’t you think that would be a wise thing to change when going undercover? Maybe wear a fake beard over those sideburns or slick your hair back to hide those wacky wings? Or you could actually shave your head and grow out your beard if you were, say, moving to another country and adopting a new persona like Wolverine did in his 1988 solo series. Or fuck it, you could just rummage through the Halloween bins in the attic and find part of last year’s pirate costume! That’d be cheap and you’ve got shit to do, you’re in like 8 books per month.
So let’s so you go with the easy and inexpensive route of wearing an eyepatch and changing absolutely nothing else about your look. When you run into people whom you know, are they more likely to say “Who is this dude with the eyepatch?” or “Hey, Wolverine! What happened to your eye?”. It’s the second one, right? Not in the funny books, kids.
Like, immediately after adopting his “Patch” persona, Wolverine bumps into Lindsay McCabe, an old friend of the X-Men from their first stay in San Francisco. Now, I should mention that Lindsay is a private investigator. It’s part of the storyline in the issue, but that’s not why I mention it. I mention it because she doesn’t recognize Wolverine as a man she has met on numerous occasions, so she must not be a very good one. As Wolverine says, though, he’s “changed a lot… …since last <they> met.”
I’ll be kind enough to point out to the reader that the fellow on the bottom right corner of the above image is Wolverine. I know he’s barely recognizable as the guy with the eyepatch, so don’t be ashamed if you’re having trouble spotting him. He’s the snarling fella with the enormous mutton chops, widow’s peak, and point spots on his head. He’s got an orange shirt on, if that helps. Now, Wolverine had no trouble recognizing Lindsay (the blonde above) despite the fact that she actually has changed a lot since they last met. Anyway, he runs into her later in the story and saves her from some assailants.
And SHE FUCKING RECOGNIZES HIM FROM THEIR TOTALLY FORGETTABLE ENCOUNTER AT THE AIRPORT. She still hasn’t figured out that he’s the man who used to live with her, but she does remember his face from the time they bumped into one another (literally) at a crowded airport. She has a very impressive memory, but eye patches toss a spanner in the works. And it’s not just her, either. Jessica Drew, formerly known as Spider-Woman, is her partner in their private investigation business and she also ends up in Madripoor. And while, to her credit, she is acting very strange thanks to the Black Blade, she also fails to recognize her good friend Wolverine.
I mean, they aren’t exactly *close* friends…
I think the reasoning behind Wolverine’s ability to hide in plain sight was the fact that he was believed dead at the time. But if I bumped into my grandmother at the airport, I’d say something… eyepatch or no. It’s not polite to tell someone that you remind them of a dead friend, but when the resemblance extends to the claws protruding from their wrists it simply must be mentioned. Another guy who was able to avoid a big costume investment due to his supposed death is our next subject. The Schwarzenegger to Wolverine’s DeVito – Bruce Banner himself.
So, as you probably know, the Hulk started out grey (in the comics) and was very quickly changed to green. He did most of his smashing whilst green, so it’s conceivable that someone in the Marvel Universe might not have been familiar with him back in his grey days, he didn’t do much crossing over after all. However, in the late 80s Hulk reverted to his original (and more drab) coloring after another gamma radiation mishap. And then in yet another gamma radiation mishap a few months later he was seemingly killed. Naturally, since he was the star of the comic book the reader didn’t think him dead for long, but the residents of his fictional world had coped with his passing and moved on.
So naturally when an enormous grey mob enforcer showed up in the Las Vegas crime world, no one even looked twice. This hulking presence was grey, after all, and that other dude was green. Plus, this guy talked and was more asshole than idiot, so maybe you wouldn’t necessarily peg him as the Hulk. But you’d definitely know something was up, and you’d probably be very hesitant to, for example, have sex with him?
But hey, Las Vegas brings out the worst in some people, and what happens there stays there. Even if what happens there is having sex with what amounts to a bipedal elephant.
And it wasn’t just strangers who were totally cool with this enormous grey thug, either. Hulk encountered a lot of other heroes during his time in Sin City and they were (at least initially) not bothered by the presence of some superhuman monster in old timey gangster clothes on the strip.
Although, a lot of them were going through their own weird transformations, so it’s understandable. Anyway, the Hulk eventually turned back Green and no one had trouble recognizing him after that. He seriously downgraded his wardrobe though, and I can’t bring myself to forgive him.
As sad as some of these examples have been, nothing is as bad as the time that Spider-Man tried his hand at the game. The first rule of going incognito? Don’t give the other criminals your real name.
When you join a gang under an alias, you can can subsequently tell the authorities that you did it to infiltrate their ranks. However, when you straight up tell them your name and your disguise is nothing more than the Matt Murdock Special, you’re probably going to jail along with them. I mean, is “Kid Parker” a better disguise than Carey Mahoney’s “Jughead” from Police Academy 2?
That was a trick question. There is no better disguise than this.
Martian Luthor Kang is a bitter, jaded man. His cantankerous behavior belies his youth. He currently resides in an apartment with a remarkably tolerant woman and upwards of a thousand DVDs, most of which are owned ironically.
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Posted on April 21, 2015, in COMICS!, Geekology and tagged Batman, chris claremont, COMICS!, Daredevil, DC, Frank Miller, Hulk, Jessica Drew, John Byrne, Kingpin, Madripoor, Marvel, Patch, spider-man, Wolverine. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.