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Buttercup: You can't just buy superpowers!

Princess: Oh yeah? Tell that to Batman.

Sometimes a character doesn't have to be bitten by a radioactive spider or shot to earth from an alien planet to be a superhero. Instead, the hero needs only one thing: a lot of money (from just a millionaire to Fiction 500 levels).

Superheroes who don't live an "everyman" life often happen to be millionaire playboys by inheritance to explain where they get their neverending supply of gadgets, hideouts, vehicles, and Sidekicks. Instead of donating money to charity, they've decided to give back to society by dressing themselves in spandex and buying lasers and boomerangs with which to kick the ass of ne'er do wells. If they're a super-genius as well, this will be the result of patenting their brilliant inventions. But not anything that will effect lasting social change in the world, like a cure for cancer or an endless supply of food, because then writers couldn't do very special issues to address political/social problems of the week.

Super teams will often have at least one member who is a Crimefighter With Cash to explain how the team gets their Cool Ship and other assorted goodies.

Frequently, but not always, overlaps with Badass Normal. See also Rich Idiot With No Day Job. Might include simply bribing the bad guys to stop, see Cut Lex Luthor a Check.

Examples of Crimefighting with Cash include:


Anime & Manga

  • While they don't fight crime per se (please, don't give Haruhi ideas), the Espers in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya have such limited situational powers that their real impact is how they're organized and can apparently pay for any event they want to happen.
  • Sylia Stingray, founder and leader of Bubblegum Crisis' Knight Sabers. They never have to worry about money.
  • In an anime example, one of the filler episodes of Naruto featured Naruto having to bodyguard/babysit a rich and spoiled little boy with a fascination with the ninja lifestyle. But rather than be interested in the traditional means of becoming one (training, skill, etc.), he uses money to humorously duplicate other jutsus by way of a large group of greedy henchmen. He would even use made-up hand seals before throwing the cash to achieve the desired effect. For example, after seeing Naruto's shadow clone jutsu, the kid throws a handful of bills into the air for his cash clone jutsu, resulting in several men leaping into action, grabbing the money while dressed in the same clothes and wearing a mask of the kid's face. The Aesop of the episode comes when the kid eventually runs out of cash on hand while being kidnapped, causing his mercenary henchmen to betray him.
  • Parodied in Hayate the Combat Butler: Nagi's alter ego Mask the Money fights crime by bribing the Very Nice People.
  • This is the main plot point of Eden of the East; each one of the Seleção gets a fancy cellphone with 10 billion yen and a "concierge" who can use this money to do whatever they (the Seleção) want, including assassinating people, bribing the prime minister, subtly disposing of corpses or buying a hotel. They are supposed to use this to "save the country".
  • Used in an astoundingly direct manner by Near in Death Note. Kira and Misa have him trapped in a building. The only way to escape is out the front door where he will be seen by Misa. In order to avoid being seen he unleashes what appears to be a ton of cash from the top of the building. As the pedestrians go nuts trying to grab the money Near escapes unseen.
  • Parodied in one Excel Saga episode, where a rich girl who is being targeted for assassination, solves all of her problems with cash. In the end she even attempts to bribe some monster animal, who unfortunately ignores the money and eats her instead.
  • Much of Daitarn 3's operating cost and Banjo's actions in general are self-financed. In the Super Robot Wars, he's often the benefactor for the entire team.
    • In games without Daitarn, Roger Smith takes up this role.
  • At one point Black Jack buys a hospital with the spare cash he's got lying around, just so he can get to a dying patient to whom he owes a great debt of gratitude. (He later sells it back, though.)
  • An interesting case with Rinne Rokudo. He is at least a quarter shinigami, meaning that he has to pay for tools that normal shinigami naturally possess to do his job of guiding spirits to the afterlife. Unfortunately, unlike most examples on this page...he's dirt poor. A more literal example of this trope is that attack known as "Stream of a Thousand Winds" in which yen bills are gathered around the caster before bombarding the target.
  • This is the entire purpose of the Heroe's association in One punch man. All superheroes registered with them are bankrolled, promoted and given a stipend to live on so that their crime fighting won't interfere with inconvenient things like paying bills.


Comics -- DC

  • Batman is the Ur Example.
    • In a humorous variation, Batman has also used his fortune to simply bribe the villains to stop whatever it is they're doing. Arguably the best moment came in an episode of Justice League, when the Ultra-Humanite agreed to betray the rest of the villains after Batman offered to make a huge donation to American public broadcasting. Unlike the rest of the villains, who were all shown to be in a bad mood in jail at the end of the episode, the Ultra-Humanite was happy and content as classical music was piped into his cell.
      • In an issue of Justice League of America he managed to get mercenary villain-team-member Mirror Master over to his side simply by offering him a raise over what Lex Luthor was paying.
      • Bruce is also a subversion as it is shown numerous times that he also uses his cash to give to charity a lot, and when he's not crimefighting, training, or bonding with other crimefighters, he's doing charity work through his Wayne Foundation, which has Lucius Fox handling the details. It is amazing to note that he built up a reputation for being somewhat of a reclusive lazy playboy despite the fact that he is arguably the worst workaholic on the planet. Then again, this is wholly intentional on Bruce's part.
      • Marvel did something similar in an issue of Excalibur--Captain Britain proved that the only thing that could stop the Juggernaut...was a check bigger than the one he was expecting from his "client".
    • Bruce isn't alone with this. At one point in Nightwing, Dick convinced Deathstroke to drop an assassination contract by paying his fee plus a dollar. Deathstroke dropped it just because of Nightwing's balls.
      • Dick Grayson has enough money to finance his crimefighting career, buy out the circus he used to perform in, save it from financial ruin, and tweak the formula enough to turn it into a success. He also takes on various real-world jobs from time-to time, not because he has to, but because he has enough money that is doesn't matter what he does during the day and so he does whatever the hell he feels like.
    • If Robin is to be believed, just the "Batarang budget" is large enough that he can hide the costs of secretly shipping a Batmobile across the country within it. And probably pay for the car itself as well.
  • Green Arrow often fits into this too. His fortune is mostly limited to developing new Trick Arrows. And even then, he's regularly just using the normal pointy kind.
    • His origin story revolves around being rich enough to have fallen off a yacht (though apparently, not rich enough to have anyone come looking for him for months).
      • Another advantage to wealth: In one story from the forties, a bankrupt Green Arrow had to find a job and restrict his crime-fighting to lunch breaks.
    • To make the character fit the mold of a social crusader he wanted in the 1970s, Denny O'Neil wrote a story where the person charged with running Oliver Queen's corporation embezzled the money from it, leaving Arrow penniless. He spent most of the rest of his tenure middle class or worse until he was killed in the mid 90s. There's no evidence he left anything to his son Connor, though he had enough to have The Shade cover his tracks after his death.
    • After being resurrected, Green Arrow was left a house and a tidy sum of money at the end of the "Quiver" storyline by Kevin Smith.
    • Currently, it appears that Arrow's civilian identity (Oliver Queen) is a well-respected philanthropist. He had enough money to run for mayor of his city, and financial resources to rebuild his home/headquarters after it was blown up around the time of Infinite Crisis.
      • Before Cry for Justice at least Oliver Queen was established to have taken the "millions" of dollars he got from Stanley Dover's will and through investment, especially his market manipulations, to have become significantly wealthier, hundreds of millions to low billions range is probably what we should assume Ollie has access to.
  • Most Excellent Superbat, leader of the Super Young Team (who first appeared in Grant Morrison's Final Crisis), takes this trope quite literally, as seen in the picture above. To quote Superbat himself, "Let me show you what money unleashed can do!". In the conclusion of his team's mini (Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance), he repaired the damage Final Crisis did to Japan by BUYING the country!
    • And of course the Super Young Team as a whole gets by mainly on his extremely ridiculous wealth.
  • The second Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, was occasionally rich enough to fall into this trope.
  • Princess Projectra was this in the "threeboot" of the Legion of Super-Heroes until her planet blew up and she got her parents' illusion powers.
  • Steve Dayton, aka Mento, of the Doom Patrol.
  • Nite Owl II from Watchmen is a deconstruction of this trope, at one point openly admitting how spending millions on dollars on crimebusting equipment to fight purse-snatchers and prostitutes isn't exactly the most economically sound thing to do.
    • Which is why Ozymandias decides to take it to the next level by actually deciding to save the world with all the money he has. Sort of.


Comics -- Marvel

  • Iron Man is the poster child for this in the Marvel Universe.
  • Kate Bishop of Young Avengers. At the end of the first arc, she sets the team up in a run-down building owned by her family's business and uses a few connections in the fashion industry to replace their ruined costumes (or, in her case, just make one).
  • To a lesser extent, the Fantastic Four are a rare superpowered example, living in a penthouse apartment and funded by the proceeds from Reed Richards's patents. It's debatable whether they count or not as they primarily use their super powers to fight crime, and their money to support charities and advance science. They do use some expensive gear like the Fantasticar, and dimensional teleporters. Oh and they have a robot.
  • Professor Xavier, founder and mentor of the X-Men, can't always directly fight crime (paraplegia is a bitch that way), but he still uses his mountains of cash to help his students do so. Well, that and his absolutely immense amount of Psychic Powers, anyway.
    • One such student, Angel/Archangel, has enough money that he wouldn't need the Professor's, though he's seldom seen to use his resources to create gadgets, etc. However, when he was a solo hero, he did have that stun pellet gun.
    • He once solved the problem of a villain developing and selling a dangerous drug by simply buying out his company.
  • The Punisher fits into this in a way. While he doesn't really have any huge reserves of cash, he doesn't mind appropriating any loose change from the criminals he kills and using it to finance his continuing war on them. Since some of the criminals in question are wealthy mob bosses and the like, this sometimes comes to a significant haul.
    • In addition to their money, he also appropriates their weapons, vehicles, and any other portable goods that might be of any value to him, which cuts down significantly on his overhead costs.
  • Danny Rand, Marvel's Iron Fist, is a glorious aversion. He's a billionaire superhero whose crimefighting has almost nothing to do with his being a billionaire: he's the heir to the Iron Fist, a set of martial arts based abilities. Not only do these require no financial resources whatsoever, he's best known as being, along with Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, one of the core Heroes for Hire. Why is he a mercenary if he's already a billionaire? Well, he's a comic book character from the seventies.
    • He's not a mercenary, that's just a scheme to attract clients who deserve his help (he only helps good causes.)
    • Similar to Batman, Danny gives huge amounts of money to charity. A recent development in his book is that he's converted Rand International solely into a charitable organization, which he intends to run until he's "Able to die poor."
  • The civilian identity (well, one of them, at any rate) of the B-list Marvel hero Moon Knight is that of a wealthy businessman who owns and operates his own corporation, the money from which he uses to pay for all the fancy weapons and other devices he uses in his war on crime. Unfortunately, he is what you call "cash poor," he has wealth but getting a significant portion in cash on short notice is harder than he anticipated when he was facing a ransom demand.
  • The only reason that the Great Lakes Avengers were able to survive (up until their official status) as a superteam was via Big Bertha's superpowers: her ability to control her body shape. Crimefighting, she grows huge and strong enough to bounce bullets and semis. Day job? Supermodel.
  • Kyle Richmond, also known as the superhero Nighthawk, uses his vast fortune to sponsor The Defenders, a second-tier team of heroes. As just one example, when Luke Cage complains that his helping the Defenders is taking away time from his paying work, Richmond offers to put him on retainer and pay him a salary to stay with the team, an offer which Cage cheerfully accepts.
  • Black Panther may have inherited his powers, but his incredible wealth and political power are some of his greatest advantage in crime fighting.


Comics -- Other

  • The Revenant is the Batman analog with a heavy dose of Genre Savvy in the comic PS238. At one point he muses "I sometimes think access to cash is the greatest superpower of all".
  • Manticore of City of Heroes. The "charities" part was lampshaded in one of the comics, where he notes that he feels guilty every time one of his Trick Arrows misses and a couple thousand bucks that "could have fed and clothed a whole village in Ethiopia" goes down the drain.
    • Though to be fair, in that same comic arc, he mentions that he donates a very large portion (assumed to be about fifty percent or so based on the evidence) to charity...he just feels guilty that he's not donating more.
    • This goes into overdrive with Wyvern and Longbow, large armies funded by Manticore and other major heroes and hero groups. There are a few magical or mutated superpowers spread throughout them, but the majority are just normal people.
    • Black Scorpion and most Arachnos Crab Spiders are the villainous version of this; they have no normal powers, but what money and equipment they get access to. They're less about crimefighting, though.
  • Richie Rich (although usually, in his titles, trouble comes to him, rather than him looking for trouble).


Films -- Live-Action

  • In Mystery Men (1999), a deliberate parody of superhero tropes, Lance Hunt pretends to be the millionaire benefactor of Captain Amazing when he is actually himself Captain Amazing. This character also fits the Corrupt Corporate Executive trope.
    • It's implied that he made a lot of his money with advertising. Basically, imagine a Nascar racer fighting crime.
  • In Kick Ass, Red Mist is essentially this - his Cool Car and so forth are paid for by his father. Hit Girl and Big Daddy aren't independently rich, but they supplement their income with stolen mob money, which is extensive enough to have a Wall of Weapons in their safehouse (including a bazooka) and offshore accounts with millions of dollars in reserve.


Literature

  • The spoof guidebook How to Be a Superhero features an example of a character who literally crimefights with cash; he offers the Big Bad's Mooks higher wages, paid vacations, and a health plan, then orders them to beat up their former boss.
  • Older Than They Think example: in Dracula, while tracking down the Count, the private fortunes of the Harkers, Dr. Seward, Quincey Morris, and especially Arthur Holmwood (being, respectively, a partner of a law firm and sole inheritor of the estate of the other partner, a physician and sole owner of a mansion which he converted to an insane asylum, an American entrepreneur who regularly travels the world, and a British lord) are used to rapidly equip the entire party with whatever tools they need nearly instantaneously, as well as fund several necessary bribes both in England and abroad. At one point in the novel, Mina lampshades the incredible utility of cold, hard cash.
  • Another old example could be found in The Count of Monte Cristo. After spending years in prison for crimes he never committed the hero escapes and, soon afterward finds a vast hidden treasure. He then uses this treasure to finance an intricate plan of revenge on those who framed him.


Live-Action TV

  • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive was formed by billionaire Andrew Hartford, who originally planned to take the role of the Red Ranger. While unsaid, he obviously spent his own money building the tech needed.
    • But since several teams had theirs built on the cheap, and at one point a cybercafe owner is shown to be able to fund the construction and maintenance of morphers, zords, bikes, and other assorted doodads, it's unlikely that Andrew spent a vast sum on his ops center.
      • Hayley (the aforementioned cybercafe owner) was a rocket scientist ("among other things") who built them herself. Hartford would have had to hire rocket scientists. Also, the base in Operation Overdrive was a lot more elaborate than Dr. Oliver's basement in Dino Thunder, and the zords in Dino Thunder were found and tamed, not built.
  • Matt Houston starred a wealthy mustachioed Texas oil tycoon, named Matlock "Matt" Houston. With plenty of cars, a helicopter, and lots of millionaire toys to choose from, Matt Houston finds plenty of time for his PI hobby in Los Angeles.
  • In the Christmas Episode of Misfits, the gang come across a lot of money, and the episode ends with them using that money to buy completely new powers. It makes sense in context.
  • MANTIS was a short lived prime time crime fighter show on FOX centring around a wealthy robotics engineer who was left paraplegic after stopping a stray bullet when an armed robbery ended in a shootout with the police. He designed and prototyped a powered exoskeleton to restore his mobility, apparently in his free time, then realised the inherent potential for awesome that this represented and turned it into a suit of full-on Powered Armour.
  • Declan Rand does this in Psych. He uses his cash and time to pretend to be a criminal profiler in two episodes to help the cops and stave off boredom.


Tabletop Games

  • In White Wolf Game Studios' Mage: The Ascension tabletop RPG, one group of mages (called "The Syndicate") use the symbolic value of money to guide (and hide) magical power. Given the kinds of results that every entry on this page can generate, it's very difficult to argue with that philosophy... except for the fact that this group is a member of the supposed "bad guys", the Technocracy.
    • This tradition was carried on in Unknown Armies with the plutomancers, whose magic is fueled by having money.
  • Mutants and Masterminds. Load up on Equipment feats and Benefit (Wealth) and you can buy anything you don't come into the game possessing. The best part? Even Equipment 10, Benefit (Wealth) 5 (which puts your personal funds about on par with Bill Gates and gives you a ton of equipment) takes only 10% of your starting character points.
    • Which fits the genre perfectly well, mind you. Unimaginable riches are something many superheroes have just "because", to make them more awesome, even if it has nothing to do with any other superpowers they may or may not have.
  • The average high-level Dungeons and Dragons character has elements of this.
    • Of course, pretty much any high level D&D character will be absolutely loaded down with magic items. It's all they ever really buy. In universe the party rogue might be a greedy hedonist, but you can bet his player isn't saving up for a mansion and a retinue of servants when there are more pluses to add to his gear. This is lampshaded (like most gaming tropes) in The Order of the Stick, when Roy explains that they can't stay in a fancy inn, because it would look suspicious; everyone knows that adventurers never splurge on luxuries, even when carrying around huge sacks of gold. You save it all for magic items.
    • The best example may be the 3.5E Artificer. With all but one core item crafting feat, the "craft reserve" (a supply of special experience points that can only be used for item crafting), and the ability to "cull essence" (drain experience out of unneeded magic items into the craft reserve), they have unprecedented and unmatched ability to multiply wealth. Combined with class abilities related to using magic items more effectively or efficiently, the class's unofficial motto among optimizers is, "Anything you can do, I can do better."
    • The 2nd Edition Al-Qadim supplement The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook introduces the Clockwork Mage. A very versatile class for an imaginative player, although one that needs lots of cash to build All Those Wonderful Toys.


Video Games

  • Mention must be made of Colin in Advance Wars, whose main powers are 1) getting all his troops at a 20% discount, albeit with reduced power 2) increasing his money by 50% with basic power and 3) displaying so much money his men suddenly gain the ability to rip Neotanks in half bare-handed.
    • His sister Sasha can use the family economic influence to crash her foes' CO Power bars. Between the two, they're total Game Breakers.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 lets you operate a keep which needs to be financed. You can either wait for its revenues to build up or spend your own money. Additionally, you can recruit one of your lieutenants by offering him double what he's being paid to attack you.
  • In Mass Effect even as a Spectre or Cerberus Operative, Sheperd pays for all his Weapons and Equipment to defeat the Reapers. Although subverted with the Latter as Cerberus pays him for a job well done and sometimes gives him powerful equipment for free.
  • In most RPGs this is one of the ways to get powerful. Want that uber-awesome gun? Buy it.
    • Especially 'free' games with micro transactions where you can buy (with real money) the best armor and weapons in the game if you fork over 50 bucks.
  • Ezio Auditore of Assassin's Creed. Granted, he's on a pretty standard Roaring Rampage of Revenge. But using his sister as his accountant, he can renovate the family villa back in Monteriggioni. This results in it generating loads and loads of cash, with which one can buy weapons and armor, paintings to decorate said villa (making it more valuable and able to generate even more money), hire allies for various missions, or literally throw at people. He appears to have no day job, outside of Murder, Inc..
    • In Brotherhood, Monteriggioni is destroyed, so Ezio moves to Rome and does the exact same thing on a larger scale.
    • And after that in Revelations, he continues this trend owning Constantinople, Istanbul, or whatever name you might give the city, based on your affiliation.
  • Mega Man Star Force 2: while you might have super-powers by default of The Power of Friendship, if you want to go from "badass" to "really badass", you need to fork over some Zennys. Board-sweeping landmines, HP increases, and even Giga Cards are available to those who equip the Zenny Finder weapon, track down a repeatable Bonus Boss like Kung Foo Kyd or Cancer Bubble who's weak to their chosen element, and then kick them around many, many times.


Web Comics

  • All superheroes so far in The List. Powers bought include augmented senses, augmented muscles, exoskeleton armor, nanotechnology weaponry and armor, telepathy, telekinesis, and a sound barrier breaking guitar, just to name a few.


Web Original

  • Phase, of the Whateley Universe, is only fourteen, still a freshman at Whateley Academy, and already doing this. She's paying Whateley inventors to build weapons for her, including a utility belt that has nearly zero external volume but is chock full of Hammerspace, a specialized throwing dart made out of depleted uranium, and the latest thing is a collapsing tactical baton. Made out of adamantium. With osmium for weight in the tip. It cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
    • And Splendor of the Cadet Crusaders, a Rich Bitch who used daddy's money to buy herself power gems so she could be a superheroine. Yes, she hates She-Beast just that much.
  • The Red Panda
  • The Rocket was bequeathed 11 million dollars earmarked for 'Fighting Evil' in Legion of Nothing. He makes good use of it.
  • While not actually a super hero game, Spirit of the Century allows characters with high Resources to buy awesome gadgets (though not so easily as a high Engineering character can make them) and anything else they desire (the upper end of the scale includes zeppelins and private islands, and character can reach it reliably on a given roll with a careful selection of stunts, or expenditure of FATE Points).


Western Animation

  • Xander Crews (a.k.a. Awesome X) of Frisky Dingo is a decided sendup of this type of hero.
    • When someone points argues that he's not a superhero because he doesn't have any powers, Crews claims that being able to manage his team of super-mercenaries (the Xtacles) counts as a power.
  • Non-superhero example: Daphne of Scooby Doo, who funded most of their activities with her family's money.
    • Ah, so that's why she's there.
  • Darkwing Duck tries this when he discovers a money tree. It doesn't turn out well. Odd in that he isn't portrayed as horribly rich, yet fights crime similarly to Batman.
  • As evidenced by the quote above, Princess from The Powerpuff Girls can be a challenge for the girls due to being super rich.
    • Some fans also believe that the Professor is sufficiently wealthy from patenting his own inventions, to the point that he doesn't appear to have a day job and instead just works in his basement lab all the time, as and whenever he likes.
    • Except when they had to move to Citiesville because of his new job.
  • Done literally by Plastic Man in an episode of Batman the Brave And The Bold. After having swallowed a large amount of cash and valuables, he uses it to shoot down Gorilla Grodd by hitting himself in the stomach.
  • In the animated version of Wild CATS, when the team itself was temporarily unavailable and with no evidence strong enough to bring the government in to stop the Daemonites, their corporate sponsor, Jacob Marlowe crippled the villain's plan by figuring out what highway the enemies were going to have to travel down, buying it, and turning it into a toll road (somehow managing to do this in one night). When the Daemonite transport runs the tollbooth without paying, this provides him with the evidence he needs to bring the government down on them.


Real Life

  • In particularly lawless areas, some companies (including the U.S. government) will hire mercenaries to keep crime under control.
  • A handful of wealthy philanthropists, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are trying to really address major problems like cancer and famine by pouring money into research. They're actually getting somewhere...
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