The Criminal Economy
The Criminal Economy(pop culture)
“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” asks the Joker in director Tim Burton's blockbuster Batman (1989). Batman might ask the same of the Joker; his numerous Ha-Haciendas indicate the existence of a network of professional services—a criminal economy—available to the supervillain community, either exclusively criminal or corrupt enough to be willing to work with wellknown villains. Evidence of this network is indirect for the most part, but over the years a small portion of the criminal economy has come to light, enough to supply the needs of any supervillain, whether for simple robbery or world conquest. For the various high-tech murder machines of the trade, turn to Phineas Mason, the Tinkerer, who has supplied the Scorpion's tail, Whirlwind's armor, and even the giant armed-and-armored metal wheel that let Big Wheel crush his enemies. Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) is an excellent second choice. Although originally the weaponsdesign division of Hydra, it broke off on its own to sell advanced weaponry to anyone who could pay the bill, whether supervillain or subversive organization. Check out the trade show A.I.M. stages on its Caribbean island base. Next a villain needs a spiffy outfit. The bestknown tailor to the supervillain set is Paul Gambi, outfitter of the Flash's Rogues' Gallery including the Top, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave. Another possibility is Leo Zelinsky, who has supplied costumes to the Blob, Dr. Doom, and Killshot, as well as the Thing, Spider-Man, and Thor. Be sure to observe his strict policy of seeing heroes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and villains on Tuesdays and Thursdays to avoid a confrontation with one's arch-nemesis. Next come henchmen. For professionals trained in everything from picking pockets to cracking safes, check out graduates of “Pockets” Crime School for Boys (Batman #3, 1940). For specialists, like an expert dynamiter, a cracksman, or a machine-gunner, see Ivan Kraft for an “artist in villainy” (Detective Comics #84, 1944). For combat thugs, there's no better place than one of the Taskmaster's criminal academies. His “photographic reflexes” let him copy the fighting styles of masters like Captain America and Daredevil, and he puts that knowledge to work in training up the best thugs money can buy. A lair is a must-have. Unfortunately, builders of hideouts and secret island bases don't advertise in the Yellow Pages. The only lead for a contractor capable of constructing a secret island base—including submarine facilities—is one Mr. Hardin (“The Dreadful Doll,” Jonny Quest, 1964) last seen in the hands of the authorities thanks to those meddling kids Jonny Quest and Hadji. Need a consultant? Check in with Metawise, a multinational criminal organization that collects data on superheroes, to get the scoop on your enemies. For a mere 25 percent of the take, Dr. Matthew Thorne's Crime Clinic (Detective Comics #77, 1943) will diagnose the weak spots in your scheme and prescribe a fix; for 50 percent, he'll make an outcall and go on the job himself. Need real-time feedback and information? The Calculator does for supervillains what Oracle does for superheroes, brokers information, and he's with you all the way, at least until your credit cards max out. And then it's time to relax. After fencing with The Shadow, visit the Pink Rat, the Black Ship, or the Club Cadilly—while these places are open to the public, they are patronized almost exclusively by criminals so you'll feel right at home. If you've got a secret identity and you want to relax and network with other supervillains, head to one of the many franchises of the Bar With No Name. But be careful: the Scourge of the Underworld, a vigilante disguise artist, once staged a massacre of eighteen B-list Marvel supervillains at the Bar in Medina County, Ohio, including the Ringer, the Vamp, Cyclone, Rapier, and Steeple Jack II. On the lam? Hide out in the Shacks, a “crooked row of weather-beaten old houses that serve as a criminal hideout on the edge of the waterfront” (Detective Comics #58, 1941), or settle for a cot in a bunker under a gas station from Dick Tracy's villain the Mole in exchange for every bit of cash you have. Caught? Use your one phone call to retain Wolfram & Hart, the law firm that specializes in representing evil. In prison? Make sure your escape insurance is all paid up to the Spook, who built secret escape passages into the Gotham penitentiary while working as an architectural draftsman, although he can help you escape no matter where you're incarcerated.