Stock and Trade: Wayne Enterprises
Often when the protagonist of a speculative narrative must struggle against an unfeeling world, that world is represented by a faceless conglomerate, a near-governmental corporation which seems to control facets of society wherever the character looks.
So in Stock and Trade, our latest genre fiction feature series, we’re looking at fictional corporations. Today, we’re featuring Wayne Enterprises.
Wayne Enterprises is the huge multi-national conglomerate corporation run by Bruce Wayne, Batman’s secret identity in the DC Comics Universe. It stands starkly as one of the few truly good corporations in genre fiction. While some of the corporations we’ve discussed fall well short of Evil, none of them reach the philanthropy of Wayne Enterprises.
The company was founded as Wayne Corporation in the late 1800’s by Alan Wayne, the industrialist heir of the wealthy Wayne family, who had held a great merchant house in Gotham Town since its early days. It was created as a holding company for Wayne’s other ventures, a shipping company, a chemicals research firm, and lots of real-estate holdings. After the turn of the century, the Industrial Revolution sparked interest in new business, and Wayne Corporation built a Manufacturing plant. Among the three businesses, the corporation employed most of the citizen’s of Gotham, and had become intricately tied into the workings of the still small city.
This is the root of the Wayne philanthropy. Alan owned nearly the entire city, and thusly felt beholden to the citizens to take care of them, and to always do what was best for Gotham.
As Gotham thrived, so to did Wayne Corporation, and these values were passed on to Wayne’s sons, and financial heirs, creating a legacy of kindness and charity which continues through to the current owner and CEO, Bruce Wayne.
WayneCorp, as it came to be known in the mid 1900’s was a holder of many companies, many of which is created itself, and those which it took over from others were always under non-threatening circumstances, and never seemed to be for business reasons. For example, they took over Toole & Sons Food Merchants in the 1920’s after the owner committed suicide. Seeing that Gotham still needed tis Food company, despite it’s near failure financially, Wayne took it over, at a loss, just to preserve the heritage and necessary function the company served in Gotham. Later renamed Wayne Foods, today the company runs several successful high-end grocery stores.
In the 1980’s Bruce Wayne renamed the corporation again, and today’s Wayne Enterprises has holdings in nearly every major industry, including Aerospace, Biotechnology, Electronics, Entertainment, Medicine, Sports, and Steel. In addition, the corporation runs two fountations, named for the CEO’s murdered parents, the Thomas Wayne foundation, which gives out cash awards for scientific and medical discovers, and the Martha Wayne Foundation, which sponsors arts, and raises money for family programs.
All of these divisions and holdings, including the Foundations are also tools in the crime-fighting efforts of the Batman. Some specifically, like the toys he gets from WayneTech, and the intel he gets from Wayne Medical, while others like Wayne Foods, just provide income, which is used to finance not only Batman, but many other heroes of the DC Universe, including the entire Justice League - Wayne Enterprises built and maintains the JLA satellite base.
All the superhero stuff, of course is under the radar, and the public only known it as a huge company with a playboy CEO, who lets his Business Manager, Lucious Fox, run the real day-to-day operations.
The corporation is an obvious push against the stereotypical conglomerate, but even this great comapny has its brushes with Evil, as Wayne cannot really keep tabs on all portions of the company at once, and occasionally someone from within the company does something terrible, and Batman has to stop them. Even now, one of the subsidiaries of WayneTech is being used as a front for the Red Hood’s criminal activities. Even Wayne himself hasn’t made perfect decisions with the companies assets. At one point he partnered with - a corporation he would later buy control of - only to find that Luthor had gone behind his back and weaponized their developments.
Come back tomorrow, when we’ll be taking a look at Cyberdyne Systems. If you have an idea for a corporation we could feature in this series, let us know in the comments.