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If I remember correctly, an important plot device in the He-Man animated series was that no one knew He-Man and Prince Adam were the same person (except for Man-At-Arms, Sorceress, Orko and Cringer).

Is there any explanation for why He-Man’s identity is a secret?

More importantly, is there any explanation for how He Man's identity is a secret? Adam and He-Man look practically same, except may be He-Man has less clothes.

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    see also: What makes the world so oblivious to Clark Kent's secret? - which one could almost argue as a dupe as the logic holds true for both sets of characters. – phantom42 Feb 4 '15 at 13:58
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    @Zibbobz: links? – user13267 Feb 4 '15 at 14:48
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    Definitely the fake tan. – Valorum Feb 4 '15 at 15:26
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    Clark Kent works because no one really has a reason to suspect he's Superman. He's one of millions of citizens of Metropolis. He also wears baggy suits, slouches, and most importantly, acts nothing like Supes. Lois Lane might not have an excuse, but everyone else does. Adam and He-Man on the other hand look the same and they travel in the same small circles. – Fadecomic Feb 4 '15 at 17:21
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    Obviously be looks so good half-naked no one ever bothers to look up at his face. – Misha R Feb 6 '16 at 17:33
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No explanation is ever given in canon.

One popular explanation, however, relies on the act that the hero (He-Man, in this case) puts up as the civilian (Prince Adam). In the minds of those around him, He-Man is defined by strength, both in the literal sense and in the sense of his character. He's reliable, he plans carefully (and knows when he needs to consult better minds than his), he's brave, he's strong and fit, and so on.

Prince Adam isn't evil, but in the minds of those around him, he is defined by weakness. He's irresponsible and careless. Cringer helps the act along, by playing at weakness in areas that Adam cannot: he's notoriously cowardly and lazy, and because he is Adam's constant companion, Adam becomes associated with those weaknesses even though he doesn't necessarily have them himself.

In the face of such contrast, it becomes hard to believe that these people are one and the same. Of course they look similar, but come on; He-Man is strong. Prince Adam is weak. Everyone knows you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and you only have to look a couple of pages in to see how different they are, so why bother finishing Adam's book? It's not very likeable anyway.

And that's exactly what the act is designed to make people think. In some ways, you could argue that this subverts some of the lessons that the story aims to teach, because if people tried to judge them by looking, it would be clear that they were the same person. Or you could argue that this illustrates the need to look deeper: sure, people could stumble across the truth just by looking, but that's only a coincidence. People don't figure out that Adam is He-Man because they don't like Adam, and so even if they look past the surface, they stop looking before getting very far past it. And that's why they wind up not seeing the truth.

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    An excellent reasoning process, especially with the consideration of the psychological aspects of Adam and Cringer's interactions. – Thaddeus Howze Feb 4 '15 at 16:42
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    It's kind of the same reason why nobody realises Clark Kent is Superman. – evilcandybag Feb 4 '15 at 22:56
  • Very similar to Superman and Clark Kent scifi.stackexchange.com/a/2211/41452 – Engineer Toast Feb 5 '15 at 14:47
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    The greatest trick He-Man ever pulled was convincing Eternia that he didn’t exist. – Paul D. Waite Mar 22 '17 at 16:15
  • Is Adam really not liked? He doesn't seem unpopular, and having the exact same physique and face as He-man he wouldn't be regarded as unattractive or weak either. I mean just look at him, his neck is bigger than his head. – user Jun 25 at 16:00
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It is true that in the original show, Prince Adam looks almost identical to He-Man, save for the costume change that happens during his hero-transition. Similar to how in the old Super-Man show, Clark Kent looks almost identical to Super-Man, leading one to think that people in the 80's must have been very easy to fool.

This is mostly due to a low-budget production, and the assumption that kids won't get things that arent' spelled out for them - the characters are clearly supposed to not be able to recognize the two are the same, but no attention is ever drawn to how alike they look.

In the 2002 TV series, the artists make more of an attempt to distinguish Prince Adam from He-Man. Their body size for one is drastically different, and despite both having short blonde hair, it's in a different style depending on which persona they're taking on at the time.

Prince Adam is ready for his run on American Gladiators

And before you ask, He-Man essentially looks the same as he did in the original run.

"Couldn't they at least have given me some pants?"

Nobody could mistake the scrawny kid with slightly messy blonde hair for the buff adonis with wavey blonde hair below.

As for WHY Adam poses as He-Man...

  1. He has to protect the royal family, who would be even more of a direct target, and possibly used for emotional leverage, of Skeletor knew the truth. Not to mention how Skeletor could use his alternate-persona-transformation knowledge to his advantage.
  2. He isn't respected by his family as Prince Adam. His father doesn't trust him as a warrior, and the guards, most notably the guard captain's daughter, think of him as a fool. When he's He-Man, both of them trust and respect him as a leader and warrior.
  3. He doesn't really have a choice. Once he says "I have the power!" his form changes completely, and it's either treat himself as a different person, or try to awkwardly explain that he's Prince Adam.

I don't know the original series well enough to say, but I'd hazard his reason for keeping it secret is the same both in the original and in the 2002 remake.

TLDR

The fact that there's no visual difference between He-Man and Prince Adam in the original series is a product of the time, and was differently portrayed in later versions of the character, but the reasons for the secret remains the same.

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    I'm not aware of any sisters (your item no. 2). You might be referring to Teela, daughter of the Captain of the Guard. And yes, she does think of him as a coward, and a fool. – zack_falcon Feb 5 '15 at 8:46
  • He Man did have a sister called She-Ra I think, but it has nothing to do this question – user13267 Feb 5 '15 at 10:24
  • @zack_falcon It's been awhile, but yes that is who I was thinking of. – Zibbobz Feb 5 '15 at 14:20
  • She-Ra - Princess of Power. She happens to have her own show (that my daughters loved to watch). They were separated at birth, and briefly were antagonistic until they realized that they were siblings and actually fighting for good. They actually live in separate universes (each defending their own), from what I can tell just listening to those episodes my kids are watching. – Wayne Werner Feb 5 '15 at 15:44
  • @user13267 That is correct. – maguirenumber6 Mar 17 '17 at 9:22
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I don't think it is ever properly explained as to why his secret identity is kept a secret. In most cases, a superhero keeps their identity a secret in order to protect their loved ones, it's probably the same here.

If Skeletor and the lads knew who he really was, no doubt they would go after his friends and family.

As Adam, He-Man lacks the power and freedom from his royal responsibilities to effectively serve as Eternia's champion, and he is forbidden to transform when it might expose his secret. Thus, He-Man's greatest liability is the possibility that he will be trapped as Prince Adam during a crisis. Additionally, Adam must act irresponsible and careless to dissuade anyone from suspecting his dual identity, causing his friends and family to express disappointment in him. source

UPDATE

There is an interesting trope called Clark Kenting which covers this exact issue. He-Man is directly referenced under the Western Animation section.

He-Man looked exactly like Adam with less clothes and a tan.

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    why any superhero would want to keep his identity a secret might have an obvious answer, but I really wanted to know about how his identity is a secret, when Adam and He Man look practically same, except may be He Man has less clothes – user13267 Feb 4 '15 at 12:47
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    @user13267 well just looks at Superman and Clark Kent... it's the same situation there. People just don't notice. – Daft Feb 4 '15 at 12:48
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    At least Superman had glasses – user13267 Feb 4 '15 at 12:49
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    @user13267 He-man is almost completely naked, that could have the same effect as Clark's glasses... – Daft Feb 4 '15 at 12:52
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    What would happen if Adam went to the beach and got a tan, would they recognize him then? – user16696 Feb 4 '15 at 21:52
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This could be a possible reason.

There are many times where one of Skeletor's minions, especially triclops' machines, infiltrates the castle for espionage purposes. If Skeletor and his minions knew Adam was He-Man, he would never be able to leave the castle without them knowing, going to castle grey skull wouldn't an option, basically their goal would to always single him out trying to catch him off guard before he could turn to He-Man and never letting him leave. When Adam leaves the castle no one cares, but if they knew He-Man was leaving the castle they could always follow him to figure out what he might be doing.

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    How does this answer the question? It seems more like this answer confirms the premise without providing the explanation asked for. Yes, He-Man may disguise himself as Prince Adam to fool his adversaries, but the question is not why he does it, but why he is successful with it. – O. R. Mapper Feb 4 '15 at 15:10
  • @O.R.Mapper: the original question actually did ask why he does it: see scifi.stackexchange.com/revisions/80906/1 and scifi.stackexchange.com/posts/80906/revisions. The OP then clarified that he/she really wanted to know how. The current question actually still does include the “why” bit though. – Paul D. Waite Feb 4 '15 at 15:26
  • But then the question would be, why doesn't he just stay as he man all the time – user16696 Feb 4 '15 at 21:54
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Queen Marlena knew. She tells Adam that a mother always knows his son, and she untied Adam in "Rainbow Warrior".

Princess Janice from 'A trip to Morainia' saw him transform into He-man to defeat the spider, and later tells Adam what a great thing he did. Luckily no one listens to their sister, which was a theme for the episode, so Prince Adam's secret was safe with her.

In "A Friend in Need" we can see Adam fall out of a flying skycar in the middle of downtown Eternia, and no one one seemed to notice it; no one must have been looking out of their window that day.

Attack trak must have known, he changes in front of his talking trak all the time.

The animation shows He-man always changing in front of the castle, so it could be argued that no one sees the transformation, because he is sent to Greyskull and sent back as He-man, but this is wrong, because the cartoon shows the lightning traveling great distances to get to him.

In at least one She-ra episode ("Swifty's Baby"), another character from the ones that knew the secret (in the opening credits) knew that to get the sword to do something, one must say " for the honor of gray skull".

0

The magic of Grayskull is so powerful that when Adam calls upon it to transform into He-Man, it covers him with it such that nobody can see that He-Man and Adam are in fact the same person. The power of Grayskull makes people see someone else, not Adam.

  • Let go back look how billy batson say Shazam he become captain marvel and when Adam say the Magic words he become he man all about the magic . – Maurice Cook May 2 '17 at 1:14
  • I completely cannot parse that comment ^ But if you have something to add to your answer, you can edit it in instead of commenting. – Rand al'Thor May 2 '17 at 1:33
  • It seems to be along the line of “why doesn’t anyone recognize Clark Kent is Superman? It’s one of those because...plot things. – user76329 Oct 26 at 18:54

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