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Why settle for a secret identity or wearing a mask, when you can let your secret identity have a secret identity and wear a mask under your mask?

This can be done by individuals or organizations, and it can be done in a physical, social or metaphorical sense. Easily combined with a Gambit Pileup. Popular in the world of Ancient Conspiracy.

Contrast Secret Identity Identity, where there's only one secret identity but it's becoming the persons real identity. Compare A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside An Enigma.

As a Reveal Trope, expect unmarked SPOILERS!

Examples of Multilayer Facade include:


Anime and Manga

  • Kakashi in Naruto is a literal case - he wears another mask under his mask.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch has three or four identities: Lelouch Vi Britannia, Lelouch Lamperouge, Zero, and the king of geass. The second series adds another identity, since there are two different Lelouch Lamperouge identities depending on who he says his real sibling is. People who are close to him, like Nunnally, Suzaku, and Milly might know two of the identities, but C.C. is the only other person who knows all of them. In the last five episodes, he complicates it further by pretending that Lelouch Vi Britannia is a Complete Monster.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, Melvin Voyager, the escaped convict from Central Prison, reveals that he is actually Ashleigh Crichton, the long-lost brother of movie protagonist Julia Crichton. Except that he actually isn't; he is Julia and Ashleigh's family's old bodyguard Atlas, with Ashleigh's face grafted over his own as part of his Batman Gambit.

Comic Books

  • In The Phantom, the secret leader of the jungle patrol is The Phantom itself - the masked superhero identity, rather than its mundane counterpart "Mr Walker".
  • Daredevil did this for a while - Matt Murdock pretended to also be his non-blind twin brother Mike, who everyone suspected was secretly Daredevil.
  • Moon Knight sometimes did this; as part of his multiple personality psychopathy sometimes even he didn't know who the "real" person was under all the double- and triple-personalities.
  • Twice in the Intercontinuity Crossover Batman vs. the Incredible Hulk Batman wears a Latex Perfection mask over his Batman cowl. Here's one of them - he even manages to keep his extra long pointy bat-ears under the disguise. Batman has also used the same trick in older comics.
  • In Superboy #107, Red Kryptonite makes Clark jealous of himself as Superboy. He proceeds to reveal his superpowers and starts doing his fantastic feats openly. Some out-of-town criminals who arrived in Smallville to kill Superboy with Green Kryptonite learn of this and make plans to strike Clark at his home. Eventually the Red K's effect wears off and Clark proceeds to extricate himself from the crisis via the trope. He makes up a story explaining that he knew that the criminals wanted to kill Superboy but didn't know when they'd strike, so he posed as Clark in cooperation with the Kents to force their hand.

Literature

  • In Illuminatus, every ancient secret is actually a cover-up for some other ancient secret. And yes, that same principle applies to pretty much every level, thus creating an infinite loop of The Reveal.
  • In Making Money, the protagonist Moist Von Lipwig (former Boxed Crook, now sort-of reformed) meets Topsy Lavish, who owns Ankh-Morpork's bank. Being a buisnesswoman, she immediatly sees him for what he is, decides he's the perfect person to keep the bank out of the hands of her evil relatives and proceeds to Lampshade his relationship with Adora Bell Dearheart with this trope;

 "I suspect you like her because she can see your inner self. Or at least an inner self you've left inside just in case."

Literature

Live Action TV

  • In Lost, Ben pretend to be the victim of a group of savages. He's actually the leader of this group of savages, which doesn't exist except as a front for an Ancient Conspiracy. However, Ben is not in control: Indeed he is the leader of this Ancient Conspiracy, but the conspiracy itself is also a front for something else, something which Ben cannot even reach, much less control.

Video Games

  • The third Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game has the following line: "I'm afraid you are neither a proud thief, nor an Ace Detective. You're a blackmailer and a murderer." This happens after Magnificent Bastard Luke Atmey says he's an Ace Detective who had a fight with the thief Mask DeMasque. When you prove that this is false, he says that Mask DeMasque attacked him from behind. When you prove that false, he says that he's Mask Demasque. The truth is that he's been blackmailing Mask DeMasque into letting him pretend to be an Ace Detective, and that he then decided to falsely confess to being Mask DeMasque in an attempt to hide the fact that he's a murderer.
  • Xenogears. Hoo boy. The mysterious masked man called "Wiseman" who fights in Fei's style, the mysterious Darth Vader-like guy Graf who hunts him, and Fei's own father are all actually the same person.
  • In Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships, Jamaican Johnny Rolle is revealed to be Australian John Poole, who later is revealed to be Dwayne Powers, a previous culprit who wants to prove he still has acting skills. And get back at Nancy for ruining his life.

Web Comics

  • In Blip, the Adversary uses in-universe Pixellation to hide his face, and wears a mask underneath that.
  • The Order of the Stick: Tarquin disguises himself as Thog by wearing a face-concealing helmet and copying Thog's style of Hulk Speak. Roy quickly figures out that he isn't fighting Thog and yanks the helmet off to see who's underneath... only to reveal that Tarquin is also wearing a purple balaclava with "Nope!" written across the forehead.

 Tarquin: Totally worth wearing a mask under my helmet for two days.

Web Original

  • Happens In one Megaman flash video where Tenguman and Bass get into a fight. At one point, Bass says something amongst the line of "Let's see who's under that mask", pulls off Tenguman's mask... to reveal another one. This then gets repeated for a ludricous number of masks which were all stacked on Tenguman's face.

Western Animation

  • In The Justice Friends, Krunk tries to take off the mask of Major Glory - only to reveal several layers of masks beneath it.

 Major Glory: When I say secret identity, I mean secret identity.

  • Batman: The Animated Series: "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy" had a villain hired to obtain Batman's cape and cowl. When he ultimately succeeds, Batman reveals a second mask underneath the cowl to protect his identity. The villain, bemused, leaves. And Batman was the guy who hired him in the first place.
  • Dog City had an episode about a "masked vandal". When that vandal is caught, the mask is pulled off to reveal Miss Kitty, but Ace realizes it can't be her because she's never caught. He then proceeds to pull off another mask, revealing Baron von Rottweiler, then his henchman, then more people, and ultimately Eliot Shag.
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