They say crime doesn’t pay. But, in the world of comic books, crimefighters often earn much less than their villainous archenemies. While some of our favorite superheroes are billionaires who run massive companies, some struggle to makes ends meet or even to keep a roof over their heads.
Not every superhero hero has as much money as Iron Man or Batman. Batman and Iron Man, in fact, don’t have any innate or gifted biological ‘superpowers’, but they can afford to fight crime thanks to a combined net worth of nearly $200 billion, which allows them gadgets, crime fighting vehicles and a vast collection of armor suits. The richest superhero in the comic book universe is the Black Panther; he’s a king who rules over a mineral rich country called Wakanda.
Even some of the richest superheroes have had severe financial problems from time to time. At one point Oliver Queen, AKA Green Arrow, lost everything after his company, Queen Industries, was forced into bankruptcy. The cause? One of Green Arrow’s business rivals faked documents, which lead Oliver Queen to be suspected of misappropriating Star City municipal bonds for personal use. Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil, has a high income thanks to his day job as a public defender, but at one point he went broke and became homeless, too. He was disbarred, his finances fell into ruin, he had his offices ransacked and his home was burned to the ground by a crime boss called Mr. Essex (who would become known as X-Men villain, Mr. Sinister).
However, some superheroes don’t own much, and never have. Some superheroes have day jobs on the lower-end on the pay scale, and some heroes even live in squalor well below the poverty line. In stark contrast to the glamourous high-powered world of heroes like Bruce Wayne, these are the ten poorest superheroes and superhero teams. Data is based on each hero’s yearly salary, according to Payscale, as per these heroes’ day jobs.
10. Green Lantern, yearly salary $51,000
Some of the members of the Green Lantern Corps. have plenty of money. As a struggling freelance graphic artist Kyle Rayner cannot boast the same level of wealth as some of his fellow Green Lanterns who have held jobs like Air Force pilot (Hal Jordan) and architect (John Stewart). Freelance graphic designers make an average of $51,000 a year, but Rayner has lived in both New York and L.A., two of the most expensive cities in the U.S., which means that his expenses are high and his savings low.
9. Spider-Man, Yearly Salary $41,000
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has held a number of jobs throughout his life, and none of them were particularly high paying. Peter Parker is such a relatable character because he’s an everyman with everyday problems, including financial problems. Peter Parker is most well known as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle; photographers in the United States make an average of just under $41,000. However, working freelance for a notoriously ruthless and stingy editor like J. Jonah Jameson means that Peter Parker would likely make much less than the average pay for a photographer.
Parker later became a high school science teacher, but the average salary of $55,000 is just a modest improvement. The real financial struggle for Spider-Man is his mounting expenses. Spider-Man has to take care of his elderly Aunt May, which means he doesn’t have a lot of money left over for frivolity.
8. Superman, Yearly Salary $37,000
He may have a secret hideout in the arctic that’s filled with rare artifacts and creatures from around the universe, but to keep his secret identity hidden he works a day job as a mild-mannered reporter. Print journalism is a dying medium and reporters tend to earn very little – that’s probably why Clark Kent lives in a small apartment. Journalists earn an average salary of just under $37,000 in the United States. Clark Kent spent his childhood growing up on a small, struggling farm, so he is accustomed to financial hardship. He’s much more concerned about protecting the human race than he is with his finances.
7. Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Yearly Salary $34,00 each
Luke Cage, AKA Power Man, and Danny Rand, AKA Iron Fist, got the bright idea to forgo the typical secret identity and day job of most superheroes and just make crime fighting their full time job. As the “Heroes for Hire” this duo charged for their crime fighting services. However, with a city full of heroes who do the job for free the business never really became particularly successful. Small business owners in the U.S. make an average salary of $68,000 annually, but a study by American Express showed that nearly 15% need to take an extra job to make ends meet. Private investigators make an average of $46,000 a year in the United States.
6. Kick-Ass, yearly Salary $19,000
Eventually Kick-Ass and his crime-fighting partner Hit-girl were able to fund their escapades thanks to the massive estate of Hit Girl’s father and Kick-Ass’s mentor Big Daddy. However, before Kick-Ass teamed up with Hit Girl he worked menial jobs as a comic book store clerk and fast food worker; the average salary of a retail clerk in the United States is $19,000 a year. This hero’s father was also saddled with mounting hospital bills when Kick-Ass first donned his homemade costume and was nearly beaten to death in his first attempt to fight crime.
5. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Yearly Salary $0
The Turtles have adapted fairly well to living in the sewers of New York and, technically, being homeless. Their ingenuity has allowed them to build weapons and gadgets out of trash, and they do manage to find money to buy pizza. Jewelry, gold and money have all been found in sewer systems around the world, so the Turtles likely fund their pizza habit with found cash – or perhaps through pawning?
4. The Morlocks, Yearly Salary $0
Most of the X-men never have to worry about money. Thanks to scientific backgrounds and working as teachers in a prestigious private school, the Xavier Institute, most of them are extremely wealthy. However, not all mutants are so lucky. The Morlocks live in the sewer and struggle to even stay alive.
3. Swamp Thing and Man-Thing, Yearly Salary $0
The DC Comics character Swamp Thing and Marvel Comics character Man-Thing are identical in many ways, and that includes being broke. Neither could function in normal society and hold a job. Before he became Swamp Thing, Alec Holland was a highly paid biochemist. Before he became Man-Thing, Ted Sallis was also a biochemist. Unlike the Hulk, Man-Thing and Swamp Thing are stuck in their monstrous form, living in swamps. At least Bruce Banner can earn some money doing scientific research when he’s not drifting around the world trying to prevent a Hulk transformation.
2. Spawn, Yearly Salary $0
Before he was killed and sent to hell, Al Simmons was a top CIA agent and Assassin. When he struck a deal with the devil he returned to earth and became Spawn. When not fending off supernatural forces, Spawn is the king of Rat City, which is a grouping of alleys where the homeless live in this fictional version of Detroit.
1. The Maxx, Yearly salary $0
Created by Sam Kieth, the Maxx is a cult comic book character, who once featured on its own animated show on MTV. In the series, the Maxx is the hero and protector of a fantastical world called “the Outback,” but this is an alternate reality. In the comic book, the real-world version of the Maxx is actually a homeless, mentally ill vagrant and his super heroic exploits only exist in his mind.