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I’ve been trying to figure out why I like My So-Called Secret Identity so much.
I think the reasons are similar to why I like the movie Galaxy Quest.
Galaxy Quest is a really fun movie. You can go see it without knowing a thing about Star Trek and enjoy it just fine. But if you have at least a passing familiarity with the Star Trek universe, it’s even better – because the movie is packed with references, asides, and wonderful in-jokes that will make the die-hard Trek fan smile.
This is what it’s like reading My So-Called Secret Identity. You don’t have to have read a single superhero comic to like it. It’s an excellent comic that anyone can enjoy. But if you have at least a passing familiarity with comics – especially the mythos surrounding the Batman universe – it’s even better.
My So-Called Secret Identity, or MSCSI, stars a young woman, “Catherine”, or “Cat” for short, who is, “really, really godamned smart.” She loves her city, Gloria, and she’s tired of certain people using it as a stage for their “theater” – people like the Urbanite, who has declared “War Without End” on his arch-nemesis, Carnival.
Cat’s smart. She figures things out, makes connections, remembers everything she reads. But no one takes her seriously. No one listens to her.
Finally, fed up, she decides that if she can’t beat them, she’ll have to join them. She’ll take her place on the stage among the larger-than-life heroes and villains. She’ll force them to listen to her.
Of course, it’s not that easy.
Catherine’s one of the most relatable characters I’ve ever read. No, I’m not a super genius who remembers everything I read. But I remember what it was like to be one of the smartest people in my class and to be ostracized for that. And I know very, very well what it’s like not to be taken seriously. Not to be listened to. To be brushed off and made light of. Not made fun of – made light of. Which, when you’re an adult, is even worse.
I think most geeky kids and geeky adults know that feeling. And that’s one of many reasons why I think this comic has the potential to be hugely popular, especially in communities that self-identify as geeks and nerds. If Brooker, Zaidan and Shore can maintain momentum, this comic could be the next Girl Genius.
Add to Cat’s relatability a mystery that is, so far, genuinely clever and then add another layer on top of that, just for fans of the Batman mythos, and you’ve got a story that’s sure as heck hooked me. I love seeing the way they’ve twisted around familiar comicbook tropes and turned them into something new and different.
No, the characters are not the same as the characters in Batman, just like Galaxy Quest‘s Tech Sergeant Chen is not Scotty. Cat’s father was a police officer, but she’s not Barbara Gordon. The Urbanite and his sidekick are not Batman and Robin; nor are they Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.
But Batman fans will nevertheless giggle when they learn the real name of Urbanite’s sidekick, grin at the Urbanite’s solution the the problem of keeping a secret identity (which differs from Batman’s method of doing so in a couple of significant ways), and get a kick out of the city’s cat-themed female character.
At the same time, I’m intrigued by the plotline. Who are ‘The Fleet’? Why does the Urbanite’s sidekick seem like he’s trapped in his role? What in the heck is “Meta” prescribed for?
My only concern is the really dark turn the story took in the most recent issue. DC’s got the market on ‘unremittingly grim and gritty’ cornered these days; it was nice in the first few issues to see something that wasn’t.
Still, that’s not going to stop me from supporting My So-Called Secret Identity’s Kickstarter campaign! I’m hoping the story won’t turn out to be quite as dark as it appears. But the only way I’ll find out is if Brooker, Zaidan and Shore can keep making new issues!
The Final Squeak: