I'd never want to be a superhero—for one, I'd have to fight the bumbling egomaniacs who never get the whole "conquer the world" thing right. Then I'd return home, throw off my dusty tights after a day of bullshit and be forced to do it again the next day. Over time, I'd see the same arch enemy for the upteenth time and cue in eyeroll; rinse and repeat.
This is what nerds like me think about, and I've thought about it a lot; that pain of being the good-guy saver of the DC and Marvel universe. But I've also thought about what they don't do: solve the problems of the little guy—hunger, equality, poverty you name it. If I was a money bags vigilante like Bruce Wayne for instance, I could probably think of better things to do with my money than buy another batmobile.
Yes, I'm in full cynical mode here over some fictional-ass characters, but we gotta admit the truth about our superheroes: most of them are short sighted, especially with their wallets.
In a graphic novel, The World's Greatest Heroes, DC tried its best to combat this scenario, particularly when billionaire Bruce Wayne realizes that his wealth can never pull every single child out of poverty. It was an honest take on a very real problem, but the obvious question always comes back, shouldn't you still try? We're talking about a moneybags protagonist, worth billions, who spends most of his cash on bat-toys.
In the end, I don't write the stories, I only read them, so in regular Forbes list style, I wanted to paint a quick picture of what the Tony Starks and Bruce Waynes of the world could/would do to fix humanity's real problems.
Tony Stark, AKA. IRON MAN
Net Worth: $12.4 billion
Iron Man - Some say his superpower is being rich enough to afford all the pretty suits he flies around in. As the head of Stark Industries , later re-named as Stark International, he leads a company that develops and manufactures advanced weapons and defense technologies.
What he could be doing: Build technology for the disabled
A person who is this brilliant of an inventor, with all this industrial weight seated in mechanics, you'd think he would have eliminated the term "disabled" by now. Instead of being selfish with those Iron Man suits, Tony can easily spend his time developing advanced prosthetic limbs at low costs through his accumulated wealth. Instead he'd rather profit from selling weapons, aka war profiteering.
Bruce Wayne aka Batman
Net Worth: $9.2 billion
Another white guy that inherited huge sums of money, Bruce Wayne is known around many circles to be pretty damn loaded. Wayne's net worth is estimated to be around $9.2 billion, and Wayne Enterprises, also known as Wayne Corp with its many divisions: Wayne Technologies, Wayne Biotech, Wayne Foods, Wayne Shipping and so on and so forth add to that revenue by $12.4 billion.
What he could be doing: Provide more economic opportunities for youth
Bruce Wayne with all his high morality is genuinely crazy. There's no reason to become a man-bat to fix the problems of Gotham City. If he would just let go of the whole vigilante thing for a few, he'd understand the power in his wealth. Think of the economic opportunities he could provide in Gotham City. If he played the game right, he'd pay off lobbyists and the right influencers that can impact legislative policy within government sectors to improve conditions that foster crime in the first place. Imagine what Gotham City would look like if their were more rehabilitative programs for juvenile criminals, giving them opportunities to learn new skills to become something other than future henchmen.
But credit still goes to the Bruce Wayne Foundation's financial commitment to to orphans which started with his mother, Martha Wayne. Bruce Wayne even went on to transform half of his old home, the Wayne Manor, into an orphanage. Irregardless of these successes, Bruce has to realise that he's in need of a good therapist...bat costume and all. He should acknowledge that and utilize a good portion of his cash towards providing proper mental health care in Gotham across the board, particularly for the Jokers of the city that need help beyond simple jail time. With his celebrity Mr. Wayne would also be an excellent spokesperson for how PTSD affected him following the deaths of his parents and could counsel young men to speak openly about their problems rather than resorting to brooding in their personal batcaves.
Charles Xavier aka Professor X
Net Worth: $3.5 Billion
I imagine that running a school can get pretty expensive, especially with accident prone mutants breaking things every day. Estimates, as revealed by an enemy named Fantomex that aimed high in ransoming Xavier for a billion dollars, puts Xavier at $3.5 billion.
As far as where that money came from, we see a familiar trend; inheritance. Charles Xavier managed to score large sums of money from his father (Brian Xavier) who was a wealthy nuclear scientist. With that, he funded the Xavier institute and X-Men using the same riches.
What he could be doing: Help end racial discrimination
If anyone can identify with the black, brown or minority struggle, it's the X-Men. They've been discriminated against for their differences in society and there's no reason why Charles can't have the same compassion. Through his wealth, he could be helping to support the NAACP, #blacklivesmatter, along with similar Muslim, Indigenous (Native American), and Jewish organizations that help to combat hate crime and prejudice on a social and federal level.
Peter Parker - Spiderman
Net Worth: $55,000
Before meeting Iron-man, Peter Parker was broke like a joke. He first began as a pizza boy and took on a number of jobs. From there he became a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle, taking photos of...himself. Pretty sure my editor would call that ethically dubious but it is what it is. He later became a high school science teacher (journalism and teaching, smh) which bumped up his salary to a modest $55,000.
What he could be doing: Help Aunt May with her medical bills
Parker doesn't have the clout hang with the multi-billionaires. The most I expect from him is a steeper paycheque towards helping out his Aunt May. It would be nice of him to slide some cash at a few great science-based organizations while he's saving folks, but just keep on living Parker.
T'Challa - Black Panther
Net Worth: $90.7 Trillion
Forget companies, T'Challa runs an entire country called Wakanda set in Africa. It's the only place that contains deposits of the metal called Vibranium, which stands as the strongest metal on earth that costs $10,000 per gram to purchase. T'Challa himself, according to estimates is worth a ridiculous $90.7 Trillion because he frankly owns it all by right.
What he could be doing: Ending World Hunger
T'Challa being the black leader that he is should almost be obligated to tackle the racial prejudices that affect those beyond Wakanda. He has the funds to fully fund organizations like #blacklivesmatter which can allow for far greater levels of outreach. In addition to that, he can also end a plague that continues to be a blight on his people and the entire world: hunger. According to the UN, the food crisis around the globe would have cost $30 billion a year to solve, T'Challa can easily do this if he wasn't busy being a complete isolationist.
Stephen Strange - Dr. Strange
Net Worth: Infinity
Dr. Strange isn't about companies or countries, he's a magician with a fly mustache. His abilities are drawn from other mystical beings that exist outside of our world. The man can manifest gold at will which he has used in the past to pay off a few debts.
What he could be doing: Funding cancer and AIDS research
Dr. Strange can channel a virtual unlimited amount of manifestations (gold) from omnipotent beings. I don't understand what he's waiting for, when he can easily contribute to ending world hunger, fund a cure for cancer, and pretty much remove the concept of class through his deep, gold producing pockets. In addition to that, he has the power to speak things into existence, so as a doctor, you'd think he'd speak some cures onto AIDS or cancer himself.
Clark Kent - Superman
Net Worth: $72 Billion
On the surface, Clark Kent is a regular veteran journalist for the Daily Planet , a top newspaper in a fictional Metropolis. Given that it stands as one of the wealthiest cities in the DC world, Clark Kent likely makes somewhere between $70,000 to $120,000, similar to what top reporters at the New York Times make. Apart from his alter ego, Clark is an alien after all, and because of that privilege he's come in contact with more than a few alien artifacts that are priceless by earth standards. Let's also not forget that Superman can make diamonds out of coal.
What he could be doing: Hand deliver money to the world's poor
If Clark wasn't so stingy with his relics or his powers, with all that diamond producing breath, he could have produced enough cold hard cash to help the most poverty stricken areas in the world. Match that with his super speed and he could hand-deliver the goods like a super-santa every pay-day. If he thought about the bigger picture for once, he'd get that more than half of the villains he comes across with are in it for the riches. He should eliminate the need.
Reed Richards - Mister Fantastic
Net Worth: $12 Billion
Reed Richards isn't about the dollar, his income is simply a product of his work. Between exploring the multiverse through his scientific genius, battling giant world eaters, or patenting his endless number of inventions, himself along with his team, the Fantastic 4 , have amassed a fortune. Richards is a mastery of mechanical and electrical engineering, aerospace and chemistry, and stands as one of the top five most intelligent heroes in the Marvel Universe.
What he could be doing: Every. Damn. Thing.
Everything. This man can save the life of a demi-god but can't duplicate that same dedication towards the ills of mankind. He has the brain, connections and funds to cure just about any of the world's most pressing problems but seems damn comfortable with the status quo. The man can practically invent anything for every situation but spends his time hanging out with an invisible woman and a guy who is on fire.
Follow Noel Ransome on Twitter.