January 22nd, 2008

The Zombie

Follow The Money

January 21 -  Just a little more about millionaire characters in comics.  I already touched upon the Business Millionaires, so let me blab about the...

Millionaire Alter-Egos - To say, as everyone does, that Batman has no superpowers is a bit disingenuous.  True, he can't fly or punch holes in brick walls....but he can afford custom-made, black-ops aircraft and assault vehicles that do the same thing.  Being a "Bruce Wayne strength" millionaire is very much like having a superpower (money is power, after all, so LOTS of money means LOTS of power).  There isn't much that Superman can do that Batman can't match, utilizing equipment and training that his fortune provides.  And that's not even taking into account the unfettered free time, devoid of the tedium of working and earning.  I've argued before, and I think that it would make for a great "Elseworlds" storyline (if they ever revive the series), that Bruce Wayne could have done just as much, if not more, to protect the innocent had he instead applied his fortune more directly to the problem.  Think Ted Turner, but without the crazy...or just with a different kind of crazy.  I suppose, then, that the difference is the "crazy."  Whether Tony Stark, Adrian Veidt, or even Norman Osborn, it's all about each millionaire character's particular "crazy" that compels him-or-her put on a mask and costume rather than, or at least in addition to, Armani suits.  Strange.  It's almost as if we readers won't accept a happy millionaire who isn't a villain (Gar "Beast Boy" Logan being an exception...sort of).  If a character has tons of dough, it had better make him so twisted and miserable that he is certifiably, clinically, and completely insane, or else we readers aren't interested.  I suppose that's partly because a fictional life without conflict, especially inner conflict, is not very intriguing, but it seems a little too easy, and lazy, for comics creators to always fall back on that stereotype.  Name one comics character who is both insanely rich and richly sane.  OK, I'll give you Richie and the bulk of the rest of the Rich family (eccentric is acceptable, I think), but name one from "serious" comics.  There may well be such a character, or even several of them (...oops, just thought of one; Lucius Fox...), but most eventually warp into something else.  Do you really think that TV mogul Morgan Edge, once just Clark Kent's overblown, and overcombed, boss, was designed to be the mastermind behind Intergang?  No.  That came later when writers were either told to write stories using only the characters that were already available (a wicked publishers' trick that ensures that writers can't profit from a new clause that grants rights and royalties to a character's creators), or they couldn't see past their own noses.  How many story brainstorming sessions ended with "...and it turns out that it was Norman Osborn all along!" or something similar?  No wonder Steve Ditko left Spider-Man, after that all-time classic cop-out.  And that brings up another point; can't someone, anyone, "follow the money" to discover a becaped or encowled character's secret identity?  Take Iron Man.  Before "Civil War" made the Marvel Universe about as much fun as a toothache, Iron Man was a colorful, larger than life character who changed his high-tech armor's "look" even more often than his title changed artists.  Who has the money and inclination to do that?  Well, it would have to be someone with a whole lot of personal, untraceable income.  That narrows it down to about four or five hundred people world wide.  He's also a "he."  That narrows it to two-hundred (or less, since most multi-millionaires in that strata are women).  He has an American accent (which could be a red herring effect built into the armor's speakers), and, more importantly, American mannerisms, American speech patterns, American primary base of operations, and American affiliations.  So, he's an American.  That drops the number of possibles to fifty.  Remove the elderly and the handful of very young bazillionaires, and that dwindles the list to just ten or twelve.  Eliminate anyone too tall, too short, too fat, and too otherwise obviously not Iron Man, and the "list" would probably dwindle to two.  Even without Tony Stark's connections to arms sales and high-tech weapons development, his lifestyle alone would tip anyone off.  How supervillains didn't figure this out years ago is somewhat confounding.  And supervillains would probably just find a way kill that list of ten or twelve guys who were at least the right age, just to be safe.  One of them is Iron Man.  Why take chances?  Yeah, the concept of the Millionaire Alter-Ego makes a certain amount of sense, but not quite as much as the years go on.  It's the nature of people to want to know more and more about someone, especially someone so famous.  Heck, any third-rate paparazzo would sniff out Bruce Wayne's secrets in less than a month.  Still, I don't think that the Millionaire Alter-Ego is completely played out.  In light of both the current public interest in the ...ahem...affairs of millionaire heiresses and pop stars, and the fact that a million dollars isn't really a lot of money anymore, I think that there is still a lot of play left in that old stereotype.

Well, it's time to get back to my very unmillionairesque life.  More tomorrow, if the market allows (I think the crash is coming...there may be even fewer millionaires tomorrow).  Here, though, is your Millionaire Comic Book Character of The Day - Oliver Queen!