You don’t have a Batman without Bruce Wayne. Batman is the edge or scary image for Bruce to use – Paul Dini
Where does Bruce Wayne end and Batman begin? Is Batman merely an extension of Bruce Wayne’s psyche, the dark avatar that has become his primary weapon in his one-man against crime, or is Bruce Wayne merely the mask that Batman wears to move through the society that he was born into?
Are they one and the same or is the interaction between the dual personalities that occupy the same mind far more complex than either comic book canon or movie mythology has, so far at least, been able to explore?
Whatever the truth of the relationship between Wayne and the Dark Knight is, the only thing that has always remained unchanged throughout the character’s eighty-decade history is that Bruce Wayne makes the money that Batman spends.
At least that was the way things used to be until Batman became inextricably caught up in the Joker War.
The Heir To The Wayne Fortune
We know what you’re going to say, you’re going to point out that as the heir to the Wayne fortune, Bruce doesn’t actually earn any money as his wealth is inherited, and to a certain degree, that’s true.
But as he also owns Wayne Enterprises, technically he’s paid by the company that belongs to his family, and even though the “position” allows him to adopt his secret identity at will and become the thing that criminals of Gotham fear the most, his “day job” still makes regular deposits in his bank account.
How Much Money Is Bruce Wayne Sitting on Top Of?
Fandom always used to assume that Gotham’s favorite son was the richest character in four color history, and while it’s a nice story to share while ordering a latte at Starbucks, it isn’t true.
Bruce Wayne was never the wealthiest of the masked playboys, and neither was his Marvel rival Tony Stark, who also owns (or more accurately, used to own) a corporation that bears his name.
So who is the richest superhero in comic book history?
That would be the King of Wakanda, Black Panther, whose country owns the world’s largest (and only if we adhere to the chronology established in the MCU rather than the existing comic book lore) deposits of Vibranium.
The abundance of the universe’s strongest material within his nation’s borders means that T’Challa is worth somewhere in the region of ninety to one hundred trillion dollars, a figure that makes the wealth of one-time billionaires like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark seem like chicken feed in comparison.
At his richest, when the idea that it could (and would) all disappear one day was merely an idle fantasy and the sort of nightmare that the deepest darkest reaches of his imagination would play to him a couple of times a year in order to encourage him to give more to charitable foundations, Bruce Wayne was worth somewhere in the region of eighty billion dollars.
It was a sum that remained largely unchanged for the majority of his secret crime-fighting career, as the more interest that he earned, the more Batman would spend on all of his, as Jack Napier so eloquently put in Tim Burton’s Batman, “wonderful toys”.
The thing about comic books is that even though they rarely, if ever, change an established character’s backstory and mythology, they do like to throw caution to the wind and confront those heroes with the things that they fear the most.
And the thing that terrifies rich people, Bruce Wayne included, the most is the thought and the prospect of being poor, which is the curse that finally came home to roost, and rest its green-haired head on the soft furnishings of Wayne Manor in Joker War
So Batman Is Poor Now?
He is, and it’s all thanks to his oldest and most deadly enemy, the Joker.
At the beginning of the saga that he lent his name to (Joker War), the Clown Prince of Crime stole every cent that Bruce Wayne had and paid it into his own bank account, which for a while made him Gotham’s richest resident.
Until Catwoman stole it all back at the conclusion of Joker War. Normally, that would have been that, and the long-established status quo would have returned to Detective Comics and Batman would carry on as he always had.
This time though, things were different.
When he stole Bruce’s money, the Joker showed the world what the head of Wayne Enterprises had been doing with his money and proved that he’d been secretly funding Batman’s ongoing campaign, which became a publicity nightmare for Wayne Enterprises and resulted in Bruce Wayne being caught in the headlights of the IRS and every oversight committee established by the government.
Whichever angle the Dark Knight attempted to examine it from, the result was exactly the same. Bruce Wayne was broke and there was no more money for Batman.
Even if he could find some way of channeling funds to Batman, doing so would mean that he would almost inevitably end up in the one place that Bruce Wayne never imagined he’d be invited to spend any time in, a federal penitentiary.
Does That Mean It’s Game Over For Batman And Bruce Wayne?
Of course, it doesn’t. While Bruce Wayne is no longer a member of the board of Wayne Enterprises, thanks to his old friend Lucius Fox’s intervention in Batman #101, he is at least going to receive a “modest” (which is the word rich people always use when they mean a lot) yearly stipend, as long as he walks away and never returns, which Bruce agrees to do for the good of the company.
Where does that leave Batman? If we’re honest, in an incredibly interesting place. It puts him back on the streets, dealing with the same level of criminality that he was fighting at the start of his career, armed with only his intelligence, strength, and courage.
But, the one thing about comics that has always been true, is that nothing ever lasts forever, and as easily as Batman lost his funding, somewhere down the line, sooner rather than later, an immeasurably clever writer will find a way to restore everything that the Dark Knight lost.