Where do they get those wonderful toys?: 18 obscenely wealthy comic-book and cartoon characters
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- Heroes on trial: 16 superhero court cases
- Over there: 30 foreign series that need immediate legal import to the U.S.
1. Bruce Wayne
The "gentlemen adventurer" has been a staple of pulp fiction since the penny-dreadful tales of Spring-Heeled Jack, but the introduction of Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne in 1939 helped codify the concept of the crime-fighting billionaire. A tragic figure, Wayne battles the denizens of the underworld as a way of exacting revenge for the murder of his parents when he was just a boy. He's also a playboy and a philanthropist, wooing glamour girls under the guise of a grinning dim-bulb, and giving away millions to the needy under the auspices of the Wayne Foundation. And yes, he dedicates a good portion of his fortune to weapons, vehicles, costumes, and the banks of computers in his underground lair. In the 1989 movie Batman, The Joker asks, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?" Answer: He pays for them, jack.
2. Danny Rand
Another crime-fighter scarred by tragedy and financed by piles of dough, Danny Rand (a.k.a. Iron Fist) spends his days running a gigantic corporation and his nights kung-fu fighting, sometimes in partnership with Luke "Power Man" Cage. Rand inherited his wealth after his parents died when his father's business partner betrayed them all during a trip to the mystical city of K'un L'un. Fortunately, K'un L'un also happens to be the world's premier source for the iron-fist abilities that allow Rand to focus his chi on ass-kicking, a skill upon which no one can place a price.
3. Hunter Rose
The portrait of prodigy Hunter Rose that writer-artist Matt Wagner draws in Grendel: Devil By The Deed is one of the insufferably cultured, urbane socialite—a wealthy novelist sipping wine in the plush study of his mansion. Who just so happens to moonlight as the kingpin of a criminal empire. It's all a front for Rose's true identity, of course: The archetypal, eternally reincarnated antihero known as Grendel. With so many guises-within-guises, however, the smug, sly, vicious Rose is almost a subversion of the Bruce Wayne-style millionaire-turned-superhero.
4. Scrooge McDuck
You don't become the richest duck in Duckburg by spending lavishly, and indeed, what sets Donald Duck's rich Uncle Scrooge apart from nearly every other cartoon fat cat is his miserliness. McDuck's property is dominated by an enormous money bin, with various gauges to determine just how full or (relatively) depleted his coffers are. When the pile starts to shrink, McDuck grabs Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie and goes adventuring, looking for gold, oil, or whatever commodity will coax his fellow ducks to quack, "Put it on my bill!" No pun intended.
5. Veronica Lodge
It seems like a no-brainer for Archie Andrews. His sometime-girlfriend Betty Cooper is generous, athletic, smart, skilled in the kitchen, drop-dead gorgeous, and totally devoted to him. So why does he spend so much time pining for the vain, selfish, clumsy, clueless Veronica Lodge? Could it be that she's the richest girl in town? When you're a middle-class jerk with barely enough scratch to keep your jalopy street-legal, and you meet a gal with so much green that she wears a new outfit practically every hour, you can't help but think, "I want in." You'll even let her peck away at the organ in your crummy garage band, provided that she and her irascible pop keep ponying up for ski vacations and catered pool parties. We aren't saying Archie is a gold digger, but well, maybe we are.
6. Lex Luthor
Over the first five decades of Superman stories, Lex Luthor was a run-of-the-mill criminal mastermind who spent most of his time in prison, coming up with elaborate schemes to make money, destroy his arch-nemesis, and conquer the world. In 1986, when writer-artist John Byrne helped revamp the Superman line of comics, he reconceived Luthor as more of a white-collar criminal, using his genius to amass wealth (and, ahem, to try and destroy Superman) rather than resorting to out-and-out theft. This version of Luthor has remained the dominant one in the DC Universe ever since, in spite of episodes of cloning, presidential runs, and the occasional farcical trial. Though he's the featured player in Superman's gallery of rogues, Luthor is really a lot like Bruce Wayne: another filthy-rich orphan who buys the technology he needs to live out his obsessive power fantasies.
7. Charles Montgomery Burns
Speaking of obsessive power fantasies, The Simpsons' ultra-rich Monty Burns sometimes seems to exist just so the show's writers can come up with fun new ways for him to take evil advantage of his billions. Whether it's releasing his attack hounds on anyone who bores or irritates him, ordering The Rolling Stones killed, breeding flying attack monkeys, or building a huge device to block out the sun so more residents of Springfield will use the electricity generated by his nuclear power plant, he's all about abusing the power that comes with wealth. Homer Simpson, trying to prove a point about greed: "Let me ask you something. Does your money make you happy?" Burns: "Yes!" Homer: "Okay, bad example."
8. Steve Dayton
Most billionaire superheroes consider costumed adventuring a higher calling, and think of their fortunes as just a convenient way to finance their mission. Not so Steve Dayton, the fifth richest man in the DC Universe. Obsessed with winning the hand of Rita Farr—The Doom Patrol's Elasti-Girl—Dayton used his wealth to construct a helmet that boosted his brainpower, turning him into the psychokinetic do-gooder Mento. He then married Farr, adopted teenage Doom Patroller Beast Boy, and ensconced them both in a mega-mansion roughly the size of a Las Vegas casino. Later, Elasti-Girl died, Dayton went nuts, Beast Boy changed his name a couple of times, Dayton became a crime lord for a while, a new Elasti-Girl arrived from a parallel dimension, and so on and so on. All of which proves that no matter how much money you have, if you're a minor DC character, nothing can buy your way out of convoluted continuity reboots.
9. Tony Stark
How many $100 million suits of armor has Tony Stark totaled during his tenure as Iron Man? How many has he built for his pal Rhodey? What does the upkeep cost on Avengers Mansion? How many times has that particular piece of property been destroyed and rebuilt? If little boys and girls all over the country see the Iron Man movie this summer and want to grow up to be weapons manufacturers, who can blame them? That's a gig that apparently pays handsomely.
10. Daddy Warbucks
As the life and legacy of Tony Stark has proven, it's okay to be a war profiteer if you use that money to do good. Oliver Warbucks operates on a smaller scale—he's used his cash to help bail out one trouble-prone little girl over and over again. After taking in (but not adopting) Little Orphan Annie, Warbucks served as the deus ex machina in her stories for decades, swooping in at the last minute to spread some dough around and save the day. Never one for playboy idleness, Warbucks worked hard for his war-bucks, traveling the world and burning the midnight oil to make sure his munitions plants were cranking out enough bombs to meet the demand. His long absences left Annie plenty of time and space to screw things up royally, but his dedication also assured that there'd be plenty of blood money left in the till to patch everything up.
11. Rollo/Wilbur Van Snobbe
Call it Veronica's Law: Every benign, youth-oriented comic book or comic strip requires at least one resident rich kid. Nancy has Rollo, a cheerful little bow-tied boy who considers the business angle of every decision he makes, right down to picking an afternoon snack. Little Lulu has Wilbur Van Snobbe, a mean-spirited little prick who uses his money and servants to play tricks on the neighborhood kids. Do you have an idea for a cartoon starring a cute little kid character? Don't forget to throw in a junior moneybags. In fact, that isn't a bad idea for a name: Junior Moneybags. Quick! Trademark it!
12. Richie Rich
In the Casper/Wendy/Little Dot universe, the requisite miniature swell is Richie Rich, who proved so popular after his early guest appearances that he became the leading man of his own Harvey Comics magazine and cartoon series. Though he's basically heroic, Richie's shtick is that he's so loaded, he can't properly comprehend what it's like not to have money to burn—literally. Richie drives cars shaped like money, lives in a house packed with money, and even walks on carpets patterned after money. Unlike with other comically wealthy, kid-friendly characters, money for Richie Rich isn't just a resource, it's a theme.
13. Wilson Fisk
Better known as the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk is a walking vision of wealth's ability to corrupt. A man who's used his tremendous intelligence only to serve himself, Fisk has long bedeviled New York's superheroes, particularly Spider-Man and Daredevil. Wealthy beyond measure, and surprisingly agile for a man of his, um, carriage, Fisk uses money as a superpower. If a thing—or, just as often, a person—can be bought, he can use it for his own ends. His greatest weakness: Integrity, whether in heroes or journalists unwilling to grant him his fig leaf of respectability. His other weakness: his frequently ailing wife Vanessa, a reminder of more innocent times, even if she's no angel when able to leave her sickbed.
14. Adrian Veidt
Authentic superpowers are all but impossible to come by in Alan Moore's gritty "superheroes in real life" series Watchmen, so his costumed and caped crusaders have to base their shticks around entirely mundane abilities: Nite Owl is a talented tinkerer, Rorschach and The Comedian are exceptionally mean sons of bitches, the Silk Spectre looks good in tights and a leotard, and Ozymandius—a.k.a. Adrian Veidt, is a genius. ("The smartest man on the cinder," The Comedian calls him, when predicting the imminent nuclear catastrophe that will render his intelligence moot.) Turns out that being smart trumps being mean, pretty, or mechanically gifted—while his fellow hero wannabes are living in run-down apartments and saving people from tenement fires, Ozymandius is giving away his parents' vast fortune and earning one of his own, to prove himself. In short order, he founds an Alexander The Great-like financial mega-empire, builds himself a polar Fortress Of Solitude full of high-tech gear, hires the world's greatest artists and scientists for creepy secret projects, and buys himself a bevy of disposable servants. Some might say he's just trying to live out the last days of Earth in style, but Ozymandius is more the type to buy his way out of Armageddon.
15. H.R. Costigan
Even though Jaime Hernandez's contributions to his and his brothers' Love And Rockets series lean toward naturalistic stories about ex-punkers struggling with the onset of middle age, he's also strongly influenced by adventure comics and kiddie comics, and elements of both have crept into his work from time to time. When Hernandez's heroine Maggie was jetting around the world as a high-tech mechanic, she frequently got embroiled in the nefarious business schemes of H.R. Costigan, a devil-horned magnate who owns multiple mansions and has his fingers in many pies. Eventually, Costigan married Maggie's delusional friend Beatriz (a.k.a. Penny Century), and promised to make her into a superhero. Alas, he failed and eventually died, leaving Penny plenty of cash to allay her disappointment.
16. Darcy Parker
Terry Moore's long-running indie series Strangers In Paradise started out as a sort of domestic comedy centering on good-girl art and a lot of yelling, but it quickly morphed into a thriller pitting one of the protagonists against a figure from her past: Darcy Parker, a scheming, powerful, seductive woman rich enough to own her very own crime syndicate. (Her character page on Moore's SIP website sums it up neatly: "Occupation: Billionaire.") It was sometimes hard to believe how a couple of relatively ordinary starcrossed lovers managed to evade or escape a woman with a pocketful of politicians, a stable full of highly trained prostitute-spies, and half of America's economy in her ample purse, but Darcy's schemes did manage to provide a constant distraction from the overplayed will-they-or-won't-they central romance.
17. Charles Xavier
For a rich kid, Charles Xavier turned out pretty good: After inheriting a mansion and a sprawling estate from his wealthy scientist father, Xavier—no slouch in the egghead department himself—devoted his smarts, superpowers, and considerable resources to helping his fellow mutants. Under the guise of a prep school named The Xavier Institute For Higher Learning, Xavier's X-Mansion became the training ground and home base for the X-Men. Still, high-tech home improvements like Cerebro and The Danger Room must have put a large dent in Xavier's hefty inheritance. Wonder what he charges for tuition?
18. Oliver Queen
DC's bow-wielding vigilante Green Arrow—secret identity: Oliver Queen—always seemed to have roots in the Robin Hood mythos. But in the early '70s, the writer-artist team of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams decided to get a bit more literal with the influence. The pair took Queen's fortune away, and the former billionaire playboy was suddenly shafted by all the social and economic ills of the Nixon era. Scruffy, streetwise, and even a bit leftist, Queen teamed up with the straitlaced Green Lantern for a short run that helped revolutionize superhero comics in the '70s—and made it, for the first time, kind of disgusting for a superhero to be rich.