I know that Marvel Comics, the company, exists within the Marvel universe, and that they publish authorized biographical comics about the "real" superheroes that live in that universe. But the comics we read in our universe contain a lot of information that's not public knowledge. How do those in-universe comics handle that?

I started wondering this after watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, in which there's a Spider-Man comic book about Spider-Man, sans costume, discovering his powers. Except... Spider-Man's secret identity is still a secret in that universe.

Has there ever been any canonical explanation for how that would work? Would the Spider-Man comics in the main Marvel universe only contain his superhero antics, avoiding any mention of what he does when he takes off the mask? Would they give him a false, fictionalized secret identity for the sake of telling a good story? Or something else entirely?

  • 3
    Back in 2000, Marvel actually published an issue each of what several of their books would look like in the Marvel universe. These were titled Marvels Comics, with issues for Captain America, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor, and the X-Men. However, I cannot recall the details of how these handled the characters' IDs, and don't have ready access to the comics themselves at this point.
    – RDFozz
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 22:31

2 Answers 2


This is going to get a bit meta.

The Marvels Comics (not Marvel Comics) in the 616 (main Marvel Comics universe) continuity do print comics about real world (616 real world that is) superheroes, but they are not always authorized or biographical.

Where the superheroes were public figures and their identities known, like the Fantastic Four, these comics are authorized and the FF get money for them. It was never mentioned in the comics mentioned by RDFozz in comment section that these were actual events in the 616 universe though.

The Marvels Comics' Captain America comic was (in 616 universe) written by Rick Jones (caps former sidekick) and is apparently covers actual 616 events (well according to Rick), but Captain America's identity is never revealed.

Characters with secret identities are written with a lot of artistic licence (e.g. Marvels Comics make up most of the details). Like Daredevil actually being a devil/demon, X-Men being secret government agents and Spider-Man's secret identity being completely made up.


This answer was based on the Marvels Comic Group series from 2000.

  • is there any evidence for the claims made in this answer?
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 18:21
  • @NKCampbell admittedly the reference included in the answer was not explicit, so I've included a link at the bottom to the comics mentioned.
    – K Mo
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 19:10

This question has several levels, so i'm just going to look at two: the practical aspect, and the legal aspect.

There were two really well done videos from Nerdsync concerning these topics, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll just link them here. The first was concerning the practical issue. As you pointed out, secret identities are "sensitive information", so they are often kept very close to the chest by most heroes. In truth, this was part of what the whole Civil War issue was about; registering heroes to make them accountable for damages and problems which arise from their actions. While good in theory, the practical issue is that for many heroes, working behind a mask allows them to protect their civilian life, and not be subject to the influence of those with a possible negative agenda. There are other reasons for it, but those are the two biggest discussed:

It's my educated guess that in dealing with the "fictional" comics of the Marvel-in house publishing company, this is taken into account; it is either put out with a disclaimer, citing "these events are fictional, and any resemblance to the actual living heroes are not meant to be reflective of their actual deeds" or something similar. Or, in the case of "public heroes" [the Fantastic 4, for instance] they may be given "final say" for the use of their images and stories, meaning they get approval before any books go out.

Thinking about it, this would be both a benefit and a hassle to some heroes; whereas the 4 and the Avengers could "licence" their images and make a profit, I doubt Spiderman was ever properly compensated for his images in use. This is supposition on my part based on the fact that Peter always had cash issues before Parker Industries became a thing, but if anyone has any canonical proof otherwise, please feel free to share.

This then brings us seamlessly to the legal issues, which would be abundant all things considered. Nerdsynch had a video on that as well, but dealing only with one core aspect: the legality of superheroes testifying in court. Apparently, the DC universe has a law that actually allows for costumed heroes to testify in given conditions, as well as to protect their identities if they are being suspected of a crime. the Marvel 616 Universe has a device that can allow Avengers toi be identified in court without their identities being made public knowledge, because the IDs are kept in a federal database. More details about that can be seen here:

I'm not a legal expert, so I don't know how binding this is, but if its "on the books" in the 616 universe, it shows a level of thought that went into that world's powers that be putting things in place because of the "reality" of super beings. So it does make sense.

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