I was among the last in my class to learn to read, and my spelling was atrocious. I liked pictures, so comics were a natural home as I made my transition to becoming a reader at around seven. My friend Ajit, who lived next door to me in Neasden, was an avid reader of Marvel Comics. Much of our play was superhero themed. Skinny nine year old Ajit, brandishing a ruler, would be Thor and Abu from across the road might be Spiderman, and as the youngest I always seemed to be allotted Iron Man.
But for me the lasting legacy of those Marvel comics was the idea of the double identity. The Hulk had Dr Bruce Banner, Spiderman was Peter Parker, and Thor has had multiple alter egos, including surgeon Dr Donald Blake, labourer Sigurd Jarlson, Architect Eric Masterson, and more. While alter egos have a long pedigree, perhaps most famously The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. Interesting that a high proportion of heroes’ alter egos have PhDs. My brother has a PhD (just sayin’) and studied doubles in literature. Through him my Marvel based notion of alter egos expanded to include doubles, which were present in The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad and The Double by Dostoevsky for example. Once you get your ear in, doubles are everywhere.