Superheroes and Their Salaries
In a recent issue of ‘The Avengers,’ new member The Thing boasts to Fantastic Four colleague Mr. Fantastic that the ‘A-Team’ pays more than the famous foursome. Fantastic was in a super trance, though, and The Thing was attacked by a foe, so the conversation never got off the ground, and a question lingered: Should superheroes get paid?
While some heroes — Batman, Iron Man or Black Panther — are independently wealthy, others are funded by deep-pocketed benefactors, such as Professor Xavier’s X-Men, or by the government, most heroes are average citizens who find the job thrust upon them, risking life and limb for their fellow man.
Superman and Spider-Man can’t be expected to keep their tights clean on their newspaper salaries, can they? And they have to eat. Well, Spider-Man does. I’m not sure about Superman. He’s solar powered.
True, some fictional heroes have used crime fighting for personal gain: Peter Milligan mined the “hero as celebrity angle” in his brief run on ‘X-Force,’ and DC’s Booster Gold made a fortune marketing himself in the 25st century. Black Widow, the character played by Scarlett Johansson in ‘Iron Man 2,’ collects two paychecks: one from the Avengers and another from the unabashedly money-driven Heroes for Hire.
Even if someone were out to make money from crime fighting, initial endeavors would have to be self-funded. You can’t just leap into the business in a single bound. You have to build some credibility before moving onto the big Justice Leagues. Once you’ve built a reputation, you get some freelance work and, if you prove your salt, enlist with a larger costumed company.
Other than an individual benefactor, there are two potential routes to bank rolling heroics: private enterprise or federal bureau.
Bruce Wayne clearly believes privatization’s the way to go: though he didn’t reveal himself to be Batman, the billionaire admitted to funding the Dark Knight, and launched a company called Batman, Inc, which will back Batmen and women across the globe.
Some people worry, however, that companies may use their privatized heroes for evil. Gorton’s Fish sticks could make a fortune using Aqua Man in their harvest of marine life.
The answer to that particular question is simple: the hero either resigns in disgust and maintains their dignity, or goes along with the nefarious plan, thus becoming a villain.
Still, if heroes were hypothetically, fantastically to come out of the shadows and accept funding of any sort, the government would no doubt want to get involved, as it does from time to time in comic books, most recently with Marvel’s Superhuman Registration Act, which actually did address heroes’ salaries. How much? A scant $1,000 a week, hardly enough compensation for battling menaces like Galactus.
So, heroes across the nation would be administering justice under the name of the State Department, or, more likely, the Department of Defense, sparking political and economic debates up the wazoo.
“How will they be funded?” “Does their collateral damage, such as destroyed buildings and lost lives, outweigh their benefits?” “To whom do they answer: the government or the public?” “What if they want a raise?” These and other questions would dominate the national discussion. You can bet the right wing would object to some superladies’ revealing costumes.
We’d also have to devise a checks-and-balances system: in addition to proving their dedication, the heroes would have to undergo extensive and expensive training, while Congressional committees would hammer out their duties and limits.
The governmental hearings too would prove a headache, because you know that if Captain Atom exploded over Russia, there would be an investigation. The public, meanwhile, would be wind up becoming repulsed by the men and women they once adored. Heroes would be vilified, shunned and spat upon.
That is, of course, until a meteor came crashing toward earth. Then everyone would be hollering, “This looks like a job for Superman!” Unfortunately for us, he’d be too busy with his night gig: delivering pizzas faster than a speeding bullet.
Money, the root of all evil, appears to win again.