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It's 2016. A great evil threatens the world, and a great good--you--arises to stop it. Twitter and Instagram are set ablaze with stories of this heroic battle before the news media even has a chance to get on the scene. Collateral damage and casualties are high, but would have been much worse if not for your history-changing intervention.

Later on, some tinfoil-hat schmuck on 4chan with too much time on his hands connects the dots, enlists the help of /b/, and then somehow doxxes you for laughs (and they would do it). Turns out the masked hero is really a graphic designer in Boston who supposedly moonlights as an EMT. Oops.

Now your parents are being held hostage (the ransom: your death), you're being sued by half the city for property damage, and there are two mobs outside your home; one with cameras and microphones, one with pitchforks and torches. Oh, and the police and the military are on their way to ask you a lot of questions (possibly at gunpoint).

And, of course, TMZ is having a field day. Harvey Levin pisses himself with joy as ratings reach unprecedented highs.

Given today's world, how could a superhero--subject to the following constraints--maintain a secret identity in this day and age, if at all? Would s/he event want to?

  • You do not have powers, skills, or gadgetry that make concealing your identity effortless. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • No psychic powers that erase or modify people's memories of you.
    • No shapeshifting powers to look like someone else.
    • No technomancy that can be used to destroy video or photo evidence of your activity en masse. You'll have to do this the old-fashioned way.
    • No omniscience that magically tells you if the coast is clear to change or not.
  • Costumes are okay, but must be practical (e.g. you have to be able to see through a mask, and ensure it doesn't fall off if you can fly).
  • You are more or less human. Maybe the alien/cyborg/mutant/uncannily-deformed parts of you can be concealed with clothing and makeup typical of a warm spring day.
  • You are not a recluse; you have a civilian life, a day job, and maybe even a Facebook profile you use to stay in touch with friends and family.
  • You might not even have super powers at all, but instead super skills like those of Batman or Captain America Hawkeye.
  • Supervillains are also subject to these limitations, with the possible exception of the desire to maintain another identity.

Also, assume the following about the world:

  • Superheroes are a part of our culture; the Marvel movies still make a buttload of money, and the Big Bang Theory still does the same product placement.
  • The battle I hinted at is the first confirmed instance of super-powered humans. It will not likely be the last, however. How they come about is not relevant.
    • It's possible that other people do have superpowers already, but don't use or know of them (or are a lot better at concealing them than you were).
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    $\begingroup$ Um, you know Captain America has super powers, right? He is super strong, fast, and has a degree of invulnerability. Instead I suggest Green Arrow, Hawkeye, Black Widow... $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 10 '16 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ With the magic of CSI and social networks, I highly doubt one superhero can remain anonymous. Eventually, somebody will figure out that Bruce Wayne always leaves before Batman arrives, or GPD will analyze blood samples and find a match, or they'll just record you on Periscope in the background or something. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 10 '16 at 9:08
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    $\begingroup$ Classic Captain America had no super powers. I don't know exactly when they decided "top end human" wasn't enough, but it was in the last 2-3 decades. $\endgroup$ – The Nate Apr 11 '16 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ Prevent being daxxed by the guy on 4chan by destroying 4chan. You'll be much more popular after that. $\endgroup$ – EvilSnack Sep 24 '16 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ @EvilSnack Shortly after destroying 4chan, the people who suddenly have no place to troll will destroy you. Or worse, Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Dec 18 '16 at 19:04

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There is only one way: The cooperation of your national government, and/or, a transnational body like the United Nations.

As other posters have answered, surveillance is prevalent in our world. I'm not talking about clandestine/illicit surveillance either, instead its all the phone cameras that will record, stream, and post your super fight against your super enemies.

When that happens, I guarantee you that the government will want to talk to you for a very simple reason: Until proven otherwise, you're a threat. Sure you may save a city. Sure you may have stopped an alien invasion. But you're a powerful being among humans. Nothing can stop you. IF you decide that you don't like your city, state, or even national government, you can make life very hard for them on your own. This is an unacceptable state of affairs for any government.

So they'll track you down. No matter what you do, what mask you wear, what costume you have, they will find you. Its not even that hard. All those social media posts can be traced. Maybe as you fly away you're caught on radar or satellite heading to your hideout. Maybe someone sees you enter a manhole when you're escaping and they'll follow you there, finding tracks, fingerprints, etc.

They'll find you and study you and figure out how to kill you. Then they'll give you 2 options:

  1. You work for them. They'll protect your identity. They'll protect your family. But you do their missions. You may, one day, select your own target sets, but you need to get them approved by the President or Prime Minister or whoever is the highest Executive in the land. And don't get me wrong: Other countries will notice too. Your country's allies will want to know what/who you are, and depending how close the relationship is, your host country may share your identity with them (think an American superhero being shared by the British), and allow them to also give you target sets in pursuit of their national interests (which has to be aligned with your country's). Your country's enemies will fear you because you're an asset to your country that they cannot counter. They will seek you out, try their best to neutralize you. They will set up an entire directorate in their Intelligence service to study you. This will ruin the balance of power in the world, with your nation now has something that gives them a massive edge. Sure you may not be able to take over the world by yourself, and you're just one person. There's only so many places you can be in a reasonable amount of time. However, your country can be assured that they will win any battle you're involved in. Eventually, the United Nations will request that you'd be placed under their authority, in order to preserve the balance of power. And your country will agree to it, in exchange of some major, major concessions (trade, political, you name it.
  2. You retire. Permanently. If you're unwilling to work for them, you're not going to do that superhero crap ever again. Remember, by this time, they know everything there is to know about you. They have a lot of leverage. They may not arrest you, they may not try to kill you, but they will not allow you to do anymore superhero stuff. They will hide you away, give you a stipend, make sure you and your family is comfortable, and watch you for the rest of your natural life. They do not want you to fall into an enemy's hands either. They don't even want you to fall into an ally's hands, so they will never allow you to emigrate or even leave the country. And if you try to defect, well, your wife isn't super is she? Your kids? Your parents? You know how it goes.

So, in conclusion, the only way you can keep your identity secret is for the government to keep it secret for you. They do this all the time. How many CIA paramilitary guys do you know? How many Tier 1 unit members do you know? The government has a lot of experience keeping people's identities secret. And it is in their interest to keep your identity secret from the public. But never from them.

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Follow the lead of Gerry Anderson's "UFO" series.

Here we have an entire globe spanning organization (complete with a moon base) hiding in plain sight, since everyone "works" at a movie studio. Strange vehicles pulling up to the gate or being towed around on trailers? Special effects for the new TV series being filmed. Guys in strange looking costumes? Extras for a movie being filmed on lot "B". Soundstage 13 is closed off? Superproductions inc. is working on a pilot for a new show.

Your superhero can move in and out of the studio complex, get mixed in with crowds of extras, hide his super gear in the prop room with stuff from other shows and disappear in a maze of change rooms, sound stages, offices and workshop spaces. With a little planning, lots of extras with similar physical characteristics can be hired, duplicate props made and even fake publicity to mask what is really going on can be generated. That battle in New York? Wow, a live event for Superduperguy 16! Coming out next May! Premier in Hong Kong (get your advance screening pass by signing up at www.superduperguy16.net/hongkong_premier).

Most people will "see" what they are being shown, and anyone who tries to dig deeper can always be dismissed as cranks, or even have their theories cooped by the "publicity department" of the "movie studio". If you are convinced that Clark Ghent is Superduperguy and have proof, you might suddenly discover the "Studio" is running a contest asking the public to decide between you and about a dozen other theories (some by real researchers and some put up by the "Studio" itself through cutouts and sock puppets).

The "Studio" even has a few secret weapons of its own. You as a superhero can be "cancelled" and you will be recreated by studio magic as someone else (Coming next spring! The Green Blue Cheese Guy!), or brought back as a sequel or reboot a few years later.

Hiding out in popular culture even gives you lots of extra mobility. Evildude is planing something in Paris, Texas? Superduperguy is attending "Pariscon" and signing autographs for the 12 people in attendance! Publicity tours can be arranged to follow the bad guys, and the superhero's exploits can be explained as more publicity for upcoming episodes of the series. Eventually the bad guys might become tired of this and simply sign contracts with the studio, reducing and limiting mayhem to the sound stages of the world.

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    $\begingroup$ Seems like a good idea, but what about when actual damage occurs or when people actually die? $\endgroup$ – JesseTG Apr 10 '16 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ Some merit here. Stargate had a great episode where they get a TV studio to make a Stargate TV show. So now if anyone comes forward saying they have evidence about this secret Stargate, everyone will say, "Oh, another wacko fan of that TV show who's convinced that it's real." $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 11 '16 at 4:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay I do like the idea, but this will fall apart the moment someone (who cannot reasonably said to be on the production crew) actually dies. $\endgroup$ – JesseTG Apr 11 '16 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ @JesseTG I see your point, but not necessarily. If someone dies you have a cover story ready, you say, "What? Superduperguy? But he's just a TV character. No, this person was simply a mugging victim. Tragic death, but nothing to do with Superduperguy ..." Of course at some point the cover stories could wear thin. If too many people see too much, etc. $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 11 '16 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ Death is only one form of destruction in play and average schmucks aren't the primary reason to have the secret identities. Bad guy blows up a bank: Super duper saves the day. Studio sweeps in with a cover up. You still have bank executives who know nothing was scheduled, bystanders who didn't choose to get involved, and, of course, the criminals... not to mention the hordes on payroll. $\endgroup$ – The Nate Dec 22 '16 at 7:36
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On the one hand, I think it would not be that hard. You wear a mask, like Batman et al. So people could take pictures of you, analyze them, and say, "Ah, he must be 6'1" and weigh about 190 pounds. Even though he wears a mask we can see some skin around his eyes and mouth so we know that he's white." Maybe a few other clues. But there would be millions of people in the world who would fit such a general description.

Presumably a super hero doesn't show a driver's license or his passport when he's running around doing super hero things. In that sense it would be easier for a super hero than for an illegal alien -- he wouldn't need any fake IDs.

What would make it hard, though, is, sooner or later someone will try to follow you. It can't be all that tough to follow the Batmobile back to the Batcave. Now you know where Batman's secret lair is. What stops someone from waiting an hour or two and then breaking in? Or if the entrance is too secure for that, scout around and find where that might be other entrances. If the Batcave is directly beneath Wayne Manor, how tough can it be to think of the possibility that there may be a connection? Now you're not looking for anyone in the world with the same general height, weight, and build of Batman, but whether Bruce Wayne or someone else in his household fits this description. When you notice that, yes, Bruce Wayne is about the same size and build as Batman, and what a coincidence, his ward Dick Grayson is the same size and build as Robin, you have grounds for real suspicion.

I'm not a big fan of super hero stories, but I've always wondered that no one seems to make a serious effort to track down the hero's secret identity. In real life, wouldn't reporters and curiosity seekers follow him back to his lair? Wouldn't there be a crowd waiting every time he came out the "secret" entrance, taking his picture and trying to get autographs?

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    $\begingroup$ It would make things easier if you had some power that let you evade followers. No matter how good you think you are at evading pursuit, if the government is tracking you by satellite you're going to have a hard time keeping them from noticing a pattern. If you can turn invisible or teleport you could manage, otherwise... The best place for a base might be a large, heavily-forested area, one where many hikers go in and out of so a person walking out after the hero goes in wouldn't be noticed by satellite. $\endgroup$ – IndigoFenix Apr 10 '16 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay Bane's storyline is more or less what you mentioned. He systematically tracks down Batman's lair by causing crimes at various points in the city and then analyzing Batman's movements over months. Heroes like classic Batman going about in their Batmobils are impossible to hide for long. $\endgroup$ – Achilles Sep 23 '16 at 21:26
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Wear a full head/face helmet. One with a voice changer. With cameras that feed into a HUD on the inside of a tinted visor, so even if the tech is knocked out, you can still see, just not as well.

Wear a full bodied, armored suit. One that the not only partially conceals your body shape, also exaggerates it. It adds five inches to your height and makes your shoulders wider. Or, depending on your build, that makes you look like a member of the opposite sex.

Of course, the question is hard to answer without knowing your hero's exact powers. A high-tech hero like Iron Man or Steel has a lot more options. Like robot duplicates, better versions of the above suggestions, phone redirects, etc.

And don't forget, despite all the jokes, Superman doesn't just wear glasses. Clark slouches and wears baggy clothes to hide his height and physique. He talks in a higher register as Clark than as Superman. And Superman always vibrates his face at a high speed so people/pictures don't get a clear look at his face. Assuming they aren't looking somewhere else....

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    $\begingroup$ You're saying modern superheroes should dress up as Power Rangers? $\endgroup$ – JesseTG Apr 10 '16 at 3:10
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    $\begingroup$ Within the vast array of limitations your question stipulated, pretty much. But the first movie versions, with some actual armor, not just spandex. $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Apr 10 '16 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ More specifically, like the yellow ranger. She transformed to look like a dude. $\endgroup$ – The Nate Apr 11 '16 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @The Nate that is because it the original Japanese version Yellow Ranger IS a dude. $\endgroup$ – 絢瀬絵里 Dec 18 '16 at 4:07
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I thought I would expand on my comment, because why not, so here are things to consider in our wonderful time and age:

Law and order, and also justice. And maybe the people a little bit.

Think CSI. You'll leave fingerprints, DNA or any identifiable marker at some point. If the police is looking for you (and unless you're on their payroll they should be looking for you). It would take time, but should be able find you eventually. I mean, they find terrorists, murderers and other criminals, what makes you think you can hide from them?

Now, you may be wondering "why would the police chase ?". Because the police upholds the law. Fighting in public is most likely against the law. Breaking the law was the right thing to do to save the world? That's a concern for your trial, not the police.

You can debate whether police officers will put much effort into arresting Goodman, or whether a court of justice would sentence him to anything non-symbolic or non-public-service-y. Because if Goodman does good and has public opinion on his side, then he'll probably have some latitude to operate. However, Goodman is not mandated by the powers that be (as opposed to Goodcity PD) and that's probably an offence you can pin on them if you want to.

Obviously, if there is property or personal damage, then you have something an angry mob will put your head on a spike for. And then the police will come after you.

Security cameras, and other forms of cameras

A British superhero will get recorded all the time. They wouldn't even need British Disney to make superhero movies. Western civilization in general is just full of cameras ready to record you.

You have public security cams (operated by the civilian government or by people mandated by them), private security cams (operated by private security companies, or companies that handle their own security) and smartphones.

You may know someone who constantly take pictures and videos of every aspect of their boring life. We all have a smartphone with a camera that's better than what science-fiction ever imagined. I mean, look at Star Trek's idea of a mobile phone. If everybody carries pocket computers with high-definition slo-mo cameras, you'll never not get recorded.

Social media and the internet mob

Say one word as a superhero, it will be hashtagged, retweeted, and find its way onto the wall of that one friend who only posts quotes of other people. Throw enough material out there, 4chan will piece everything together somehow. They'll do it. They can get cat abusers arrested and they can harass women out of their home out of pure hate. Don't think they won't hunt you for sport.

Moreover, you only need one unsubstantiated tweet, for instance "Like, Wruce Bayne is tots Batdude, lol #BayneIsBatdudeForPresident2016", for a rumor to spiral out of control. Once that's out there, good luck convincing people that no, your aren't Batdude.

If it's not social media, it's the regular media

Okay, I've thrown all of it in the title. See the Panama Papers, Swiss Leaks, Wiki Leaks, and so on. What the internet mob doesn't have access to, maybe the press has. I mean, if even one person knows, you aren't sure that the information won't find its way to an Edward Snowden.

And if it's not them, it's the NSA

Seriously, these people have invented global surveillance before the internet.

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  • $\begingroup$ I wish I could accept two answers, because I like both this one and this one. $\endgroup$ – JesseTG Apr 10 '16 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not really offering solutions to the problems I point, though I could do that later. What Xavon_Wrentaile suggest in his answer would be a good start. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 11 '16 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ 'Defense of another' as a justification of violence is a principle of law. In fact, in some cases, it becomes a responsibility. So, while it's likely that government/law enforcement will disparage the efforts as vigilantism, the fact is that at least the US legal systems assume such of the populace; It's part of that government of and by the people schtick people reference from time to time. $\endgroup$ – The Nate Apr 11 '16 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @TheNate Self-defence is a justification, not an excuse. That means you can use self-defence as a defence to justify your actions in a court of law. It only justifies the use of reasonable force in case someone is directly and undoubtedly physically threatened. It doesn't automatically exonerates you of all responsibilities. The people you beat up may have family that will sue your ass in the aftermath, even if you are cleared of assault charges. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 11 '16 at 20:19
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As I beleve what N2D2 was trying to say, the number one way normal people figure out a hero's secret identity is that there are never around when the hero is; Clark Kent is never there where Superman shows up. If there were two or more people with the same power/skill set who took turns wearing the mask and saving the world the normal identies could be seen with the super ones. Or on a larger scale more like Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul in the “Dark Knight Trilogy” as soon as one is outed or killed the title and mask are passed to someone else for generations.

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  • $\begingroup$ zyzyx159 Welcome to WB Stack Exchange! Your answer is really comment on another answer. When you have sufficient standing, you should post this as a comment instead of an answer. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Apr 10 '16 at 2:46
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    $\begingroup$ I've never been seen in the same place as Hillary Clinton; does this mean I might be the former Secretary of State? $\endgroup$ – JesseTG Apr 10 '16 at 3:17
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    $\begingroup$ @JesseTG Agree. I've occasionally mused that I almost never see people I know from one place in another place, like I almost never see people I work with at the grocery store, etc. If there was a masked hero saving my city, the fact that I never saw him in the same room with Bob from accounting ... odds are I'd never see him in the same room with ANYONE at my job. Of course none of this proves that you AREN'T secretly the secretary of state. $\endgroup$ – Jay Apr 10 '16 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ "Never seen in the same place" was only a problem because Clark Kent was (a) never around when Superboy was frequently rescuing his classmates in a small rural town, or (b) an never on the spot when Superman was frequently rescuing his investigative reporter colleges. The lesson is, apparently: don't hang around danger-prone people. $\endgroup$ – Graham Kemp Dec 17 '16 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ Or cultivate a stone cold attitude about protecting that identity: You could save them, but if it would blow cover, that just sucks to be them. $\endgroup$ – The Nate Dec 21 '16 at 16:28
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If the hero/ine trains a trusted group of copycats, so they act as a collective under one name from different locations (micro-Anonymus, or Mr.Robot with more than 2 iterations). those who act in the "offline world" don't act in www and vice versa. And the intel exchange works as a chain (like Eco's Foucault Pendulum secret society through the ages).

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    $\begingroup$ Wait, what does your answer even mean? I don't understand, cold you expand and clarify? $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 10 '16 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ He's saying "Imagine Anonymous, except instead of hackers they're superheroes". $\endgroup$ – JesseTG Apr 10 '16 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ If anonymous was super, it would be a super villain. A terrorist/supervilliam. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 10 '16 at 4:36
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How would they hide their identity?

By being really, ridiculously paranoid, tons of misdirection and outright lies, having lots of help - either a network of superheroes or allies (or both) who can cover, substitute, and pool resources to prevent anyone from getting caught, and a lot of luck. And probably access to some kind of advantage of the kind the question thinks too much and which won't qualify as 'effortless' identity concealment anyway unless you've got all of them, and everything already mentioned, and a couple layers of misdirection to hide my hero-self from my civilian-self, and a couple different layers for the reverse...

So, let's start with shape-shifting. I can look entirely unlike myself when I'm super-heroing, which nicely conceals my identity...until someone spots me changing back into my own form. Shape-shifting around people ups the chance I'm seen, or get caught on camera, or make some mistake with who knows what about which face. Going somewhere isolated to change my shape makes it more likely for someone to play elimination (how many people seen leaving that bathroom/ camera blind spot, and correlate!). Maybe one of my forms looks a bit too much like someone else - and given the persistence of rumor (as AmiralPatate suggested) and the dangers involved, like imprisonment or experimentation - that's a serious ethical "no" unless I would like to take up villainy. Maybe I thought of that, and picked up a transient form or twelve - but someone can persistently follow me through little changes and will definitely notice big ones, especially if they're looking for a shape-shifter.

And what about the DNA left behind from an injury - maybe I can get someone from those associates/fellow superheroes (in exchange for a shape-shifting alibi) to physically find the sample and hack in to corrupt the file, unless they the cops etc. notice the sabotage and back things up, and/or be really super careful in my private life to never get DNA or prints on file. Maybe I can use my power in unusual ways, either to mimic super durable, strong, flexible, which a shape-shifter should be able to be, or perhaps some kind of matter conversion, like the kind of shape-shifter who can do or fake inanimate objects. Maybe I can pass myself off as a skilled gadget user, or several people working as a group instead of one who shifts so they're looking for the wrong clues on the wrong people. I would have to remember all that, and limit myself a lot, and actually obtain those skills, but it might work.

But it would still be no guarantee. I would have to think of all that, and live with it, and this is with a power that the original question disliked as too much of a loophole. And the same kinds of limitations would be true of any of those 'shortcuts' - after all, your psychic powers and memory modification didn't stop that camera, or facial recognition. The technomancy didn't stop someone from physically following you back to your base, and finding your allies. The omniscience didn't stop DNA testing. Maybe a group that has collective access to all of them can cover for each other, (and maybe they still need to buy influence or favors sometimes) but it really isn't effortless.

(disclaimer - the original questions disallowed shape-shifting, I went with it anyway because it's a personal favorite, I'd already thought about it, and because I don't think it's as effortless as the question suggests. Sorry?)

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When you consider that crimes go unsolved all the time, including major crimes like murder, it is not hard to imagine a masked hero or villain escaping identification for a while, provided that their behavior is not flamboyant.

If you do not operate on a consistent schedule, avoid areas with lots of eyewitnesses and cameras, wear a good disguise, clean up after yourself, pay for your gear with cash through a variety of different vendors (or make it yourself), employ safe houses far away from your home to store your equipment and change in/out of costume, you can keep people guessing. But the most important factor is to minimize the frequency of your appearance in public. You'd have to be proactive instead of reactive (read: striking your enemies before they're prepared and not arriving to stop them at the scene of a crime already in progress) and be willing to lay low and disappear for weeks or even months at a time, until the heat dies down. Could you carry this on for years or decades? Probably not. But if you want a relatively short run as a superhero, I think it's reasonable.

If, on the other hand, you make a habit of having knock-down, drag-out fights in the middle of main street during rush hour, if your fingerprints and biometrics are a matter of public record, if you're a public figure or celebrity, if you have a flashy outfit that people can spot from far off, and like to leave around a lot of 'calling cards,' then forget about it.

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There are really only 3 conditions that can make a superhero impossible to detect -

  1. Ability to travel in a way that avoids detection - The only real way for the government etc to uncover the hero's secret identity is by pinpointing his home base. If Superman is tracked by satellites to always be flying out from the daily planet building, it's just a matter of time before they track each employee and figure out its Clark Kent. Same goes for Batmobile or Spider-Man etc. But if Superman could somehow teleport, then no one will be able to figure out the point of origin. Teleportation is the ideal superpower for this but invisibility etc would work too.

  2. A day job that doesn't require being at desk in an office setting - This is the biggest problem with superheroes that are also not super rich. The coworkers are bound to notice frequent absences that occur right when a super fight is in progress. But the good news is that there are plenty of jobs that make things easier. The superhero could have a work-from-home job (any freelance computer software related job will do) or a job that requires daily travel (any low level salesman or TMZ/Nightcrawler type of reporter job will do). As long as the job doesn't require him to be physically visible all day long, he's all set. Any absences during the super fight can be attributed to the super fight itself ("do you expect me to be making sales calls when half of the city is on fire"...). An added benefit of wfh is that no one ever sees him teleport or go invisible or shapeshift etc. Or if he's likely to fight crime only during nights (like Batman), he could get away even with a regular enough day job as long as he's very careful, but I prefer freelance from home even then.

  3. Avoid leaving DNA or other physical evidence behind - A fingerprint or hair or a drop of blood etc will eventually be traced back to the superhero. But if he's invulnerable enough that he doesn't bleed or leaves hair etc behind, he'll be ok. Or he could always have a full body suit on that can contain everything. Or, in the worst case scenario, be able to fully and consistently destroy such evidence by heat vision etc.

If the above conditions are met, then it's just a matter of wearing a good helmet and bodysuit/armor. People can take a million pictures or government can track him via drones and satellites, there's simply no way they'll be able to trace him back to anything other then a general region (which can be further mitigated by crime fighting all over the world and never speaking).

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There are three main ways I can think about that superX hides his/her secret identity in superhero fiction.

  1. Hero is super enough to use super power to stay hidden. (Superman, Spider-man)
  2. Hero's civilian persona is super rich and can conceal any suspicious activity behind a Corporate facade. (Batman, Arrow, Iron Man)
  3. Hero is somehow in alliance with the government or similar body. (Cant think of any good example right now. Captain America's identity is known in-universe, right?)

The first option is ruled out by your constraints. The second one is not really plausible 2016. Ok, it never was, really, but with todays tech it's too unlikely to be a story element. Bruce Wayne might fool the Gotham PD, but never the combined force of internet activists and spy satelites, drones and electronic surveillance.

Which leaves option number three. Your hero must have allies with real political power to stay hidden. Power to tamper with surveillance cameras, public records et cetera.

Perhaps the best way (which demands official help) is to create false tracks? Enough to make the pitchfork mob confused and super villain dude uncertain.

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It all depends on what kind of power you have. For example, Kamen Rider Kabuto won't have this problem. Whenever he needs to transform, go to nearest toilet, call the Kabuto Zecter, henshin, Clock Up, beat the evil guys, return to the toilet booth, Clock Over, un-henshin. No one will notice because not even a second has passed. If someone do notice call Hyper Zecter and do Hyper Clock Up to go back into the past.

Kamen Rider Ryuuki would also be impossible to track. He can just henshin at home, enter the Mirror World and came out from any mirror near the target location. All the government can know is that the hero came out of a mirror (actually anything that can reflect, pool of water can also work). The only way they can know it is you is to knock you out or deal enough damage that your henshin undo itself.

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