How wealthy is Superman?

A website called The Bitbag recently made an infographic comparing the relative assets of Superman and Batman, and is claiming that Superman’s (somehow) wealthier than Batman. The AV Club’s picked up on this infographic, as has some other sites, per the ramp-up for “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Below is the infographic in question:

Bitbag infographic comparing Batman and Superman's wealth

While I’ve written about what it’d actually cost to be Superman (or Clark Kent) before, I may as well nitpick this infographic’s Superman-related aspects, as well. To wit:

Kryptonian / Superman Robots

The Fortress robots might well be worth plenty, but since Superman hasn’t sold or capitalized on them, Batman’s still wealthier based on, well, actually pulling in billions annually from his various businesses/investments.

It’s not clear what’s meant by “Kryptonian robots,” but assuming it’s the ones like Kelex (Jor-El’s robot servant in post-Crisis stories), guess that’d be pretty advanced. However, Superman’s in the DC Universe, where robots like that are common enough that it wouldn’t be completely unique—the Metal Men, the Red Tornado, and Amazo also exist. So maybe that’d lower that $71 billion figure quoted some?

If it’s the Superman robots of classic stories (robots that replicate some of Superman’s abilities and can fill in for him), perhaps they’d be worth something. However, there’s more sophisticated robots in the DCU than Superman’s (again, the above-mentioned androids). In the Silver and Bronze Age, the robots had to be retired in the early 70s due to pollutants in Earth’s atmosphere ruining their circuits, suggesting they weren’t as good as Amazo and company? (Or the best he could make on a reporter’s salary…)

On the other hand, over in Marvel, Tony Stark’s tech is certainly worth a fortune, even with that world’s advanced super-science. So maybe not so far fetched?

Clark Kent’s income

The salary I’ll accept, given the Daily Planet is considered a New York Times-caliber newspaper, and Clark is one of its top reporters.

However, what I won’t accept is the “income” quoted for the Kent family farm in Smallville. In the Golden and Silver Age comics, Clark had sold off his family’s farm (Golden Age) or general store (Silver Age) before leaving Smallville for Metropolis. Silver Age stories show Clark keeping the Kents’ house as an adult, but he’s not making any money from it; 70s stories show now-retired Smallville police chief Parker keeping up the house. Of course, the house is lucky to be worth $149,000. (If wondering, a Silver Age story shows him donating the money left to him by his parents’ will to the Smallville Orphanage.)

Post-Crisis, Clark’s adoptive parents are alive and well, still tending to their farm. Thus, Clark would see zero income from something he doesn’t even own, unless he’s asking to borrow a few bucks from his parents. The New 52 reverts to pre-Crisis status quo, only with Clark giving his farm to a neighbor to occupy before he left Smallville.

Either way, anything in Smallville’s not a source of income for the Man of Steel. In any continuity, the Kent farm wasn’t exactly ConAgra, given the impact modern industrial farming has had on smaller farms like the Kents’.

Clark Kent’s apartment

I’ll buy this only if it’s a condominium, which is the only way one can own an “apartment.” Otherwise, he’s a renter. In the 90s and 00s stories, after he’d married Lois, it was shown their new apartment buildling was owned by Bruce Wayne, who gave them the apartment as his wedding gift!

“Property maintenance” is listed in the infographic. If he lives in an apartment that he’s renting, maintenance is his building manager’s job, so that’s not an expense. Even if he owned a condo, I doubt he’d be spending a whole grand a month on its upkeep. Clark likely has renter’s insurance, though, which given he’s in a major city with a superhero might not be cheap.

Clark Kent’s books/royalties

Clark’s shown as being a book writer in a few stories, particularly in the 90s. While I don’t recall his being on the New York Times’ best-seller list, he’s certainly making more than $1 off of his writing. Though if it’s $1 per book sold, I suppose it depends on how many have been sold.

Clark Kent’s health care

Health care would likely be covered under the Daily Planet’s own health insurance offerings, so it’s not something Clark would have to pay on his own. Thus the Obamacare penalties noted wouldn’t apply. Other than any health insurance premiums, Clark’s got the same middle-class living expenses as anyone else, plus any expenses required for his job (laptop, cell phone, etc.). I’m pretty sure his utilities (electricity, cable TV, and a cell phone) wouldn’t run at a whopping $500 a month.

I’ll note that Superman and Batman both would have Justice League connections, connections to various doctors and scientists in the superhero community, and Metropolis’ STAR Labs for any medical care that’d be, well, above Blue Cross’ level: removing Kryptonite bullets, Joker attacks, that sort of thing. So I don’t think health care costs are a concern for either of them.

First issues of Superman and Batman

I assume they’re referring merely to “Superman” #1 from 1939 and “Batman” #1 from 1940, which isn’t the first appearance of either hero, as a minute or two of Google searching would show. The first appearance for Superman (“Action Comics” #1 in 1938) sold on an eBay auction for $3.2 million in 2014. For Batman, his first appearance (“Detective Comics” #27 in 1939) sold for more than $1 million in 2010.

Conclusion

While Superman’s Kryptonian technology would certainly be valuable, the other assets the infographic asserts seem questionable. It’s also debatable what his robots would be worth even in a superhero world.

As for who’s the richest character in comics, that’d be Scrooge McDuck, of course. Meanwhile, the richest superhero is the Black Panther, thanks to Wakanda’s vibranium assets. But I’d imagine despite whatever value his Kryptonian tech would be, Clark’s only worth as much as whatever his Daily Planet 401K and savings account are worth.

(Updated 7/18/16)

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