This wasn’t what I was going to end on but the universe kind of worked against my plans this week. So let’s end on something fun.
One of the best Batman running gags is when people turn around and he’s vanished. Part of Batman’s training is ninja level stealth tactics (perhaps even by actual ninjas) so if you don’t get bogged down in “realism” too far there is some logic to it. Meanwhile, Superman’s Clark Kent disguise is still a topic of ridicule, though we’ve covered that topic more than once. And yet Kyle Hill won’t shut up in his videos about how lame he thinks the glasses guise is. Once again IT ISN’T JUST THE @#$%$#% GLASSES!
The Corridor Crew at Corridor Digital decided to look at these two tropes to see if it’s actually possible to hide in plain sight like Batman or if a disguise can fool people when it’s very simple. To answer this question, producer Jake Watson didn’t use special effects but actually learned how the “pros” do it. This is the results of his two tests.
Let’s start with Batman. Can you vanish without people noticing you?
Have you ever started talking to someone without realizing they left the room? They weren’t even trying to trick someone, they just wanted a soda or something. That happens with me and my dad. They think you’re in the room but you’re not. The thing is Batman (and sometimes the rest of the Bat-Family) isn’t hiding, he’s heading off to get back to the investigation. I’m not sure if he’s taking advantage of the distraction or if he’s choosing that moment Commissioner Gordon turns around to head off. It’s part of Batman’s mystique. If Jake had simply left the room (not that there’s a lot of room on that loft level and going down stairs makes more noise than jumping off of a roof) that would have been more accurate. Then again there are times even Batman can’t pull that off. So Jake is close but sometimes you just have to enjoy the gag and not be such a “no-fun boy”.
So what about his second experiment? Off the success of this test Jake then tackles whether or not he can fool the others like Clark Kent does. Is he successful? Is he accurate? Let’s find out.
This one has an issue that Clark doesn’t. A lot of what Jake finds out does make sense. He misses a couple of things though. First off, nobody suspects…in fact, they can’t even fathom the possibility that someone as powerful as Superman would take on the identity of a mild-mannered Kansas farmboy turned investigative journalist. Why would you want to not be Superman all the time? People on the internet say this, and that’s led to some recent writers killing off the Clark identity in both the New 52 and in Bendis’s hack job run. Lex Luthor builds a computer just to figure out Superman’s identity and he rejects the idea when it computes this…somehow. There’s that moment in Kill Bill I’ve seen a clip from where David Carradine’s character rambles on about how “Clark” is clearly a result of Kal-El looking down on us mere mortals. And this is just jerks and evil people. Even average people would find that hard to believe.
Additionally Superman is only around for a few minutes while Clark is the type of person who tends to blend into the background. I don’t think a lot of people get a really good look at either. There were Silver Age stories where Lois suspected but for the most part she only sees Superman when she gets in over her head and only sees Clark when they’re vying for the byline. It’s only as she gets closer to both that she starts to suspect but there’s the parts Jake got right.
Jake is not Clark Kent. Personality-wise we would be closer to Superman. As producer and promoter for Corridor Digital, he’s the spokesperson for most of the ads. He sets up some of the topics for the Corridor Crew channel. He gets more screentime than either Superman or Clark, outside of that time in the Bronze Age that he was turned into a TV reporter for some reason, and even then who was looking at Clark for very long? The point is Jake had to go through a few more hoops. Just putting on different clothes and glasses weren’t going to work, as Jake learned in his first test.
“Clark” has a different personality, a different style of dress–for example baggier clothes to hide his muscles but if people somehow feel them he has weights in his apartment and he did grow up on a farm where he did heavy lifting chores and still travels out there to help out from time to time. Clark has to be fit at least. While Jake did need the mask because they’ve seen his face up close too often, the clothes, the voice, the mannerisms, and blending into the background because while they’re working on various shows for their website now and the occasional VFX comedy short they really aren’t paying attention to the air conditioner maintenance man. That’s why this particular disguise worked. Like Batman, Clark uses psychology to hide his identity. It’s also why the Bruce Wayne identity works. At best you can believe he funds or co-funds Batman, which he admitted to with Batman Incorporated, but a lay about playboy who only pays attention for special circumstances? Hard to believe he would be the Dark Knight.
We the audience expect to see Clark as Superman with the same actor. That’s why the “Clark Kent Factor” exists when I discuss actors both in voice and in live-action. There have been videos where a famous actor, who people haven’t met in person, pulled off a disguise with little make-up and using their acting skills to fool people. This is how you know that sunglasses bit isn’t supposed to fool the paparazzi. They want to be photographed on the street for their reputation or just their own ego. If they really try to blend in, which actually happened to my mom when we owned a store many years ago and Susan St. James walked in, they do. You aren’t expecting to walk into a famous person when you aren’t in New York City or Hollywood (we live in Connecticut) and even then most people haven’t. So please stop acting like it’s just something on your face. I once got the owner of my favorite comic store to not recognize because I wasn’t wearing a hat like usual and I wasn’t even trying to fool him but that’s shadow over my face and a hat on my head. Clark sometimes wear a hat too.
Will this stop people from insisting these things aren’t real? Probably not, because they enjoy being cynical and not thinking things through. Intentional or not there is some truth to these tropes, but even if it wasn’t if you can’t suspend even that level of disbelief how do accept a rich man running around learning every martial art and language known to man despite the limitations of the human brain, or a man who flies without any visible propulsion even if you can explain floating in the air? Your “realism” is rather subjective. It’s superheroes. Just have some fun with it. It’s not the most important part of their stories…and you don’t care when they get that stuff wrong.