For over a decade now Forbes Magazine has published an annual rich-list of a different kind; the tongue in cheek ‘Fictional 15’. Since its first appearance in 2001 the list has featured a mix of fictional characters taken from animated, literary or cinematic worlds ranging from Willy Wonka to Lex Luthor. Candidates for this list must be ‘an authored fictional creation’ who stars in a specific work or series of works, meaning that mythological characters such as Zeus and Father Christmas are disregarded.
Because of the fictional status of each of these characters, an estimate of each individual’s wealth is made by comparisons within the real world. Portfolios are assembled and valued using ‘real world commodities and share prices’. With characters like Jay Gatsby and the Monopoly Man who have shadowy or indeterminate resources, attempts are made ‘to identify comparable fictional public companies.’ What’s the story behind the money? Read on…
15. Jay Gatsby: $1bn
Born and raised in North Dakota as the son of a dust bowl farming family, Jay Gatsby (born Jimmy Gatz) was always aware of his poverty. At the age of 17 he dropped out of a Minnesota college, having grown tired of being forced to pay his way by working as a janitor.
Gatsby spent the rest of his youth touring the world by yacht with millionaire Dan Cody, acquiring the mannerisms and tastes of the wealthy. After Cody’s death, at the start of WWI Gatsby joined the infantry and first met the love of his life, Daisy.
From this moment on Gatsby spent his life building a fortune for himself as an enterprising bootlegger during the prohibition era in an effort to shake off any trace of his humble beginnings and make himself worthy of Daisy’s love. Notable possessions include a 22 bedroom house on Long Island, and a custom made canary yellow Rolls Royce.
14. Mary Crawley: $1.1bn
Born a year after Jay Gatsby in late 19th century England, Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary Crawley suffers from the antiquated inheritance laws of the time. Both her title and the two sizeable estates which she has inherited from her parents must pass to a male heir. Crawley’s scheme to obtain the fortune was undone by the death of her would-be husband, but she now works with her brother-in-law to maintain and modernise the Downton Estate.
13. Mr Monopoly: $1.2bn
Mr Monopoly, otherwise known as Rich Uncle Pennybags, has featured in the great game of Monopoly since 1936. He has diversified since then and is also associated with a range of less successful related games such as Don’t Go to Jail, Monopoly City, Monopoly Junior, and Monopoly Deal.
Forbes 15 identifies his source of wealth as ‘Real Estate’ which seems fair given that Mr Monopoly features in each modern version of monopoly and appears to be involved in the housing markets of most of the world’s major cities, and some fictional cities too!
12. Lara Croft: $1.3bn
The English adventurer-archaeologist first appeared in 1996, in the original Tomb Raider video game. Since then she has been voiced by six different women and portrayed onscreen by two different actresses – most famously, of course, Angelina Jolie. The daughter of Lord Henshingly, Croft lives in Wimbledon, London but spends much of her leisure time travelling to places as far flung as Central America, Cambodia, and the Himalayas.
11. Walden Schmidt: $1.3bn
Walden Schmidt, played by Ashton Kutcher, was introduced at the beginning of season 9 of Two and a Half men following Charlie Sheen’s departure from the show. The suicidal divorcee made his billion dollars through a quick sale of his internet start up, and decides to buy Charlie Harper’s house after attempting to kill himself in the ocean.
Despite having made his first million before the age of 19, Schmidt is described as ‘needy’ and ‘having the emotional maturity of a 12 year-old’ by his girlfriend and ex-wife respectively.
10. Mr Burns: $1.5bn
As with so many aspects of The Simpsons, Charles Montgomery “Monty” Burns’ wealth varies from episode to episode. He places at No. 10 on the Forbes 15 Rich List, N0. 45 on Wizard Magazine’s Greatest Villains of all time and No. 2 on TV Guide’s Nastiest Villain list.
As a Yale Graduate and World War II veteran Mr Burns was deemed trustworthy by President Truman, and was chosen to carry a Trillion Dollar Note to Europe as part of American’s contribution to the reconstruction. This trust was however misplaced, as the note eventually made its way into the hands of Fidel Castro.
9. Tywin Lannister: $1.8bn
As it currently stands, Tywin of Game of Thrones fame is positioned as the head of House Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Warden of the West, Lord Paramount of the Westerlands and, for the moment, the Hand of the King to his grandson, King Joffrey Baratheon. Much of his wealth has recently been poured into combatting the wide range of enemies which face the family who ‘always pay their debts’, and as a result the future of his fortune currently lies in the balance.
8. Christian Grey: $2.5bn
Although this list is about fictional wealth, it seems relevant to note that the series of novels featuring Christian Grey made the writer E.L. James the fastest selling author in history, netting her a huge $95m in the year following the summer of 2012.
This said, the male protagonist of her novels isn’t doing too badly for himself either; after dropping out of college he took up a job as a landscape gardener for a woman who eventually seduced him, taught him the ways of BDSM and gave him $100,000 with which to start the business which would eventually become Grey Enterprise Holdings Inc.
7. Richie Rich: $5.8bn
Richie Rich, the only child of industrialist Mr Richard Rich Sr, currently resides in Richville, where he lives the life of a poor little rich kid. His activities include occasionally attending school, spending time with his robotic cleaner Irona and Butler Cadbury, and more recently (in the modern revamp of the comic) spending his money on philanthropic causes.
6. Bruce Wayne: $9.2bn
Gotham’s billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his various Lamborghinis get almost as much face-time in the Nolan franchise as his masked alter ego, spending his time attending elite social functions, and ‘buying things which aren’t for sale.’ Parallels have been drawn between Wayne, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Zorro, each of whom disguise their heroic nature behind a the mask of a vapid socialite.
5. Charles Foster Kane: $11.2bn
Citizen Kane is generally understood to be a depiction of William Randolph Hearst, the American media mogul of the 1890s, so his fictional wealth is easily estimated by a comparison to reality. There are a number of parallels between the two men, (the line “You provide the prose poems; I’ll provide the war,” echoes a quote attributed to Hearst) and at one point Hearst’s actual ranch is shown in the 1941 film.
Like Gatsby, Kane was born into great poverty, but received a lucky break when his family was given a mine in lieu of payment – which turned out to be full of gold. There is potentially something to be read into the fact that very few of the characters on this list earned their wealth themselves or even entirely through legitimate means.
4. Tony Stark: $12.4bn
Self proclaimed genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Ironman Tony Stark built on his father’s success by expanding Stark Industries and developing the Iron Man suit. In the later films Stark is increasingly portrayed as a philanthropist, who works to develop methods for the production of clean energy and moves away from the armament industries. Despite this change of heart Stark never seems to lose his insufferable rich kid edge.
3. Carlisle Cullen: $46bn
Despite his lifespan of over three centuries, it is difficult to believe that Carlisle Cullen would have amassed a fortune of $46bn from the ‘compound interest’ which Forbes identifies as his main source of wealth.
This said, aside from the cost of minimalist homes, Volvos, and constantly keeping his children in high school, Cullen Sr would appear to have a fairly low cost of living, so it is possible that a few wise investments back in the 1660s would’ve carried him through.
2. Smaug: $53.1bn
Smaug first appeared on the Forbes 15 list in 2011, a year before he featured in The Hobbit, with an estimated worth of under $9bn. Since then his riches have been reassessed, and he has risen to the position of second richest fictional character. Although his horde remains intact for the moment, this is likely to change later this year upon the release of the final film in the trilogy.
1. Scrooge McDuck: $65.4bn
Scrooge McDuck first made his appearance 67 years ago, when he appeared in the Donald Duck story ‘Christmas on Bear Mountain.’ His name and character link McDuck to the original Dickensian Scrooge, and it is for his thriftiness that he is best known. Due to the convoluted logic of the world of Disney, McDuck has a somewhat stranger appearance than his nephew Donald; in addition to being an anthropomorphised duck, Scrooge wears spats, pince-nez, and a top hat.
At the age of 13 McDuck left Glasgow for the US, where he ended up in 1898. From here he built his fortune, quickly earning his first million. In the years that followed he continued to amass money, which he stored in enormous ‘Money Bins’. His relationship with Donald is mixed following an episode during which he forces Donald to polish his money for 5 cents an hour. In 2007, Forbes estimated his wealth at $28.8 billion, which has since increased greatly due to the rise in the price of gold.