The Real Wayne Enterprises
Towards the end of last month- March 30th to be precise- the world celebrated the 80th birthday of a true superhero, icon and billionaire. Who is this person of mystery? Why it’s none other than the Dark Knight a.k.a. Batman (spoiler alert) a.k.a. Bruce Wayne! While other articles might walk you readers down the bat-memory lane and talk about the history of the comic book character, I want to focus on something Mr. Wayne himself never does. Let’s take a look at his business.
It comes as no surprise to anyone in the modern world (provided you haven’t been living under a rock) that Batman has made many appearances outside of your typical comic book. He has appeared in no less than a dozen films (live-action and animated), multiple TV series, many video games, several books, and what seems like an ocean’s worth of merchandise. For the most part, DC Comics and Warner Brothers take the bat’s share of the rights to the character (pardon my bat-puns, they will of course be throughout this piece). Interestingly enough, the motion picture rights belong to one man now, Michael Uslan, who purchased the rights from DC Comics back in 1979. Ever since, he has been an executive producer of Batman movies and has reportedly recouped his investment many times over.
And how could he not? Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies grossed over $1 billion at the box office and featured incredible character portrayals such as Heath Ledger’s Joker. More recently, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice grossed a total of over $800 million. And while the most recent Hollywood rendition of Batman might not be as great of a critical or box office success as his main competitors from Marvel Studios, his character continues to stand out as one of the most preeminent superheroes of our time. Besides the obvious box office earnings, the Batman films have led to a slew of toys, video games, apparel, and other merchandise that have made additional untold millions.
Speaking of toys, Batman is ubiquitous at stores around the world. Most commonly seen as an action figure, he has been made across the decades in a variety of forms by toy company giants like Kenner, Hasbro, Mattel, and LEGO. The LEGO portrayal particularly stands out as one of the company’s most popular toy line themes and has even resulted in an animated film starring the character (earning a tidy sum of $300 million worldwide). Clearly, the synergistic effect of the character’s portrayal in movies and TV shows drumming up interest in the toy market and vice versa has helped propel Batman into millions of households around the globe. So just as the Dark Knight never rests, companies never seem to rest when it comes to pumping out a never-ending stream of bat-content.
Obviously, Batman makes a ton of money. And even if the age of the Hollywood superhero comes to an (unlikely) end, the character will almost certainly appear in a variety of media, continuing to rake in the dough. Innovative and talented portrayals of the character go a long way to making him so unforgettable, but it seems hard to believe that after his successes, he could ever fade from the public conscious should those stop. Afterall, for the last few decades, anyone would be hard pressed to point to another superhero so grounded and gritty as Batman. It is this spirit of Batman that makes him a part of our culture and lends him popularity regardless of the media he appears in. So happy birthday Batman! The fans love you, and the studio executives and Batman rights holders love you several billions of dollars worth to boot!