Adam West as Bruce Wayne in Batman, c. 1967. (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

There are upsides and downsides to being Bruce Wayne. Downside: An extremely dark psyche plagued by childhood tragedy. Upside: Seemingly endless wealth. His millions enable Mr. Wayne to pull off his superhero identity as Batman, complete with various vehicles and gadgets to help create this ordinary (or at least, non-superpowered) man transition into a hero. But where did all that Wayne money come from in the first place, especially since Bruce’s parents died when he was still a child? What does Wayne Enterprises actually accomplish?

A new Looper article meticulously traces the Wayne family’s financial history. It points to the origins of Batman himself, cribbed from popular pulp-fiction and radio hero The Shadow, whose alter ego Lamont Cranston was also of indiscriminate wealth.

On a purely functional level, the Wayne family fortune opens up a lot of storytelling opportunities for Batman. For one thing, if you’re going to have a character who doesn’t have superpowers… it helps if he has a nice storyline reason for all the stuff that’s going to help him fight evil. Capes and cowls don’t buy themselves, after all.

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Borrowing the playboy millionaire persona not only helped fuel Batman with the means to become a hero; it also supplied a valuable escape component for Batman fans who were struggling through the Great Depression (glamorous Astaire-Rogers musicals from that time period fulfilled the same need).

The article traces the Waynes’ wealth all the way back to “a merchant fortune that came over from Europe in colonial times, growing as Gotham City expanded to form the cornerstone of an industrial empire.” Bruce’s mother, Martha Kane (named for character co-creator Bob Kane) also came from means, further feathering the Wayne family nest. This capital led to the considerable developments of Wayne Enterprises—competing with other millionaire corporations like LexCorp—but not to be confused with the charitable works of the Wayne Foundation. It all adds up to a daytime gig that leaves Bruce Wayne free to fight crime at night using his ever-evolving technological weaponry, as it should be. Find out as much about Wayne Enterprises as any annual report could hold on Looper today.