Monday, October 5, 2009

The Broker and Gotham City Crime

Streets of Gotham #4 by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen (2009)

Earlier, we had written about an interesting character that writer Paul Dini had created. A new, shadowy figure lurking around the streets of Gotham. Someone so sinister and cunning that he easily ranks among the most dangerous of Batman's rogues gallery.

I, of course, am referring to The Broker.

As a refresher, The Broker is an independent real estate agent that caters exclusively to supervillains and criminals. Whenever the Joker needs a new amusement park or abandoned toy store, he calls up The Broker. Whenever Two Face needs a new Double Mint Gum factory, he gives The Broker a ring. Whenever Clayface needs a new...um...where does Clayface take residence anyway? The point is that The Broker is the go-to guy for villain hideouts and lairs.

With the latest issue of Streets of Gotham, Dini and Nguyen develop a rich and elaborate back story for Gotham's new entrepreneur. We learn a good deal about the character's day-to-day operations, his history, and his motivations. And we get a pretty decent sense of the economics of the whole thing as well. Here are a few things that we have learned to expand upon our previous study of The Broker (and crime in Gotham):

First thing is sort of an obvious one: Gotham City has a lot of poor people and the recession isn't exactly helping. More importantly, however, is that in light of all the small businesses suspending operations and families being displaced from their homes, there are lots of abandoned buildings throughout the city. Because of this, it actually seems that The Broker's business is relatively recession-proof. In fact, the economic downturn is actually helping him with his venture. The number of supervillains doesn't exactly drop during a recession--it actually might be increasing. Further, these villains are only going to increase their number of financially-motivated crimes. As such, they're gonna needs hideouts, especially those new villains who need to make names for themselves (i.e. BoneBlaster).

One minor nitpick, however: I don't think "Bruce Wayne" is giving money to keep the "fat cats" happy. We've seen that Hush's deviously charitable plan was to donate funds each month to seeminly poor businesses and organizations that could use the money to stay open, such as the Monarch Card and Novelty Company. Sure, this isn't equivalent to investing money in organizations that help the poor, but I'd hardly call them fat cats.

Second thing we've learned: The Broker is a total badass. This is important since one of my suspicions in the previous entry was that The Broker would have to charge extremely high fees to his clients to compensate for any risks associated with his occupational hazards. That is, the guy is working with major supervillains here and he operates notably outside of the law. He risks being sought out by the police for the illegal trading of abandoned property, he risks being sought out by Batman for information on the villains he sells to (which actually does happen in the issue), and he risks being low-balled and harmed by the very villains with whom he is dealing. As such, he needs to charge a higher price for his time, energy and variable costs. Of course, the problem with that is once you start charging really high prices, it gives the villains even more of an incentive not to pay. The risk factor thus increases.

The good news is that The Broker makes it work in two ways. One is that he seems to have already built a significant reputation, which makes use of the economic concept of signaling. The other, more important quality is being a badass. Look at what happened when The Great White Shark (yep, a real villain) tried to skip out on paying a commission and a finder's fee. The Shark's henchmen get shot in the head by one of The Broker's snipers, forcing the Shark to pay up or...wait for it...sleep with the fishes.

By the way, just to give you an idea of how high these prices are, after the incident above with The Shark, The Broker ended up receiving a finder's fee of $3 million. It is extremely tough to persuade villains to pay you $3 million for simply finding a boat. The Shark actually had to go through the trouble himself to dispose of the yacht's previous owner. All The Broker did, literally, was find him the place. For that, he charges $3 million. The only way this plan could work consistently enough such that he could continue to maintain his business would be if he was an extreme badass. More badass than you or I could imagine, and more badass than is depicted in this comic. By the way, for more on badass, see Mark's post on the effect of bad-assity on the success of comic superheroes.

The third piece of information we learn involves a bit of Gotham City history. Ever wonder just why there are so many abandoned amusement parks throughout the city? I mean, it seems like every day The Joker or The Scarecrow gets a new one to play with. Turns out, there's a reason!

Apparently, right around World War I and then subsequently during the Great Depression, Gotham was a bleak and dark place plagued by rampant crime and depression. Indeed, it doesn't seem all that different now, does it? However, the one form of escapism that proved even more effective than drugs and alcohol was amusement parks. An early string of amusement entrepreneurs started a chain of successful parks, which eventually bred more competition and led to the creation of even more parks for cheaper admissions fees. According to Dini, "By the mid fifties, Gotham boasted no less than three zoos, five amusement parks, and I don't know how many wax museums and reptile farms." People came in droves and used the amusement industry to essentially drown their sorrows. This continued to be the case for the next several decades as the industry continued to expand.

At some point, however, it looks like there was another economic downturn which had led to massive factory closures and unemployment. As a result, people were no longer able to afford coming to amusement parks and began turning more to crime. One by one, these parks closed down.

Dini does not really go into the specifics as to the cause of these factories being closed, so I cannot really elaborate further (unless I missed something). Suffice it to say that this is where the abandoned factories, toy shops, amusement parks, wax museums, and all the other popular villainous hideouts come from. Likewise, this is where the source of The Broker's income also comes from.

So now we know a little more about The Broker and Gotham City history. Although in this context The Broker's operations make more sense, I am still a little bit skeptical on how he manages to sustain them. My intuition is that the villains most likely and most in need of his services would be the low-grade, up-and-coming ones. These are the guys that likely don't know Gotham well enough to find a hideout on their own, need one desperately (especially in times of recession), and don't exactly have time to waste on seeking out abandoned reptile museums. On the other hand, the big-time villains like Joker and Two-Face seem to already have the means to find these lairs easily. They have henchmen who they already pay to do things just like this. They've been around for a while and know both the layout of the city and common police patrol routes. Finally, it is much easier to conduct business with the small guys than the big guys.

At the same time, your smaller villains don't have the means to pay The Broker his extremely high fees. Indeed, if he dealt more with small-time villains, I imagine there would be less risk and his fees would be lower. Still, I doubt he would be making enough money to keep this business going without the big-time villains.

Furthermore, if he is dealing with enough big-timers such that he is able to keep his venture running, I can't imagine that any amount of badass short of being Batman himself would be enough to be able to handle it for so long. As shrewd and keen-witted a businessman as he is, my sense is that The Broker would eventually fall.

36 comments:

Rick said...

A thought occurs to me:

It is possible that The Broker acts like a gatekeeper, setting rates so as to favour the established villains.

So when The Joker needs a new place, he chats with The Broker and drops a few hundred thou to save himself the time and trouble of finding just the right lair. Meanwhile, Ima Newguy has to pay millions for someplace that will do.

Operating this way gives the established villains a reason to want to have The Broker around.

jamused said...

They lost me at a market in abandoned buildings. Why the hell do you need a pricey middleman to find you an abandoned property when they're all over the city? If you're the Joker you drive over to any one of the many abandoned amusement parks and kick out the squatters and you have a base. If the Broker actually got his hands dirty renovating it and installing the vats of acid and tanks of sharks with frickin' laser beams on their foreheads, maybe...

Erik said...

The business definitely isn't recession-proof. More abandoned buildings, means it easier to find a hideout, and the Broker's service's are less valuable. Even in the best of times though, there's no way it could be worth $3 mil.

Think about the transaction from the villain's side. Paying the money might save some time, but that money has to come from somewhere and for most super-villains that means extra crime, and a greater chance of getting caught. Where is Great White Shark hiding out while he does the job that gets him the 3 million, his apartment? Can the hideout the Broker finds really be that much better than the one he's found himself?

Another important factor is paying someone else to find you a hideout, means someone outside your organization knows where your hideout is. Maybe a part of that price is silence, but you have to trust that he and his employees won't squeal if they are arrested, or worse, questioned by batman. And who's to say he won't sell your hideout to another villain, while you occupy it. Then you need to survive a costly ambush as the new tenets attempt to evict you.

The only way The Broker's business is works at all is if he's routinely robbing super villains at gunpoint (as he does in the comic you've shown) using the abandoned real estate angle as a pretext. A new twist on the classic protection racket.

ShadowBanker said...

Rick - That's an interesting thought, but how could the new guys possibly afford millions for this service? I mean, I question how The Great White Shark has so much money to pay the guy.

Jamused and Erik - Very good points. I think it might be that the job is actually a bit more than finding the place. Yes it's true that Ima Newguy can just drive down the block and camp out in one of the many abandoned row houses or factories, etc., but The Broker is hired to find places that cater to the often insanely specific needs of these villains, which they often either don't have time to find themselves (big villains) or simply don't know where to find (smaller villains). If you read the full issue, you see a pretty interesting transaction between The Broker and Mr. Zsasz and you can perhaps see why The Broker actually does have some talents that villains would be willing to pay for.

Now as far as the recession goes, it could definitely mean that villains might just be more willing to find the places for themselves rather than shelling out cash (given the abundance of new hideouts). Yet a bunch of these places will likely be duds and many smaller villains still don't know how to navigate between them. On a whole, villains might still be willing to pay The Broker, especially given the new influx of villains and rise in crime.

Though again, like you guys, I think the business would ultimately fail.

jamused said...

The other goofy thing about this alleged business is that getting your hideout from a central broker has got to be equivalent to publicly posting your change-of-address for Batman. If criminals like the Great White Shark and his henchmen know about the Broker, Batman must know. And if Batman knows, then either he's monitoring the Broker, or whenever he wants to know the criminal's new hideout he pays the Broker a visit. The Broker can't possibly credibly commit to not revealing the information to Batman, or for that matter prove that he didn't give it up when Batman shows up at the hideout. So his business model consists of convincing the likes of The Joker that "dead men tell no tales" is a short-sighted policy?

Rick said...

That's an interesting thought, but how could the new guys possibly afford millions for this service? I mean, I question how The Great White Shark has so much money to pay the guy.

That would be the whole 'gatekeeper' bit, most of the would-be new guys can't afford it.

One big advantage that using The Broker has over just grabbing an abandoned whatever is: He not only knows about the three empty bobblehead factories, but he knows that BumbleBobbles is a trap with only one real exit, while Wibble's has an easy way into the sewers.

Viewing his activities as a protection racket also works: Pay him his fee and he finds you a place, don't and he makes sure the Bat is told where you are.

Tom said...

Has anyone floated the thought that the Broker is Batman? The Batman routinely disguises himself to penetrate the underworld. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out Bruce Wayne has a comprehensive list of blueprints, ex-tenants, permits, liens, etc for the entirety of Gotham, right?I'm sure Oracle has the whole thing available to him at the press of a hotkey. I haven't read the issue, but, have we seen any successful heists pulled by any of the villains thus far served by the Broker? Have we actually seen any one killed by him or his associates (and not just squibbed with some ketchup?) The Bat could be playing both sides, and that could be one of the big reasons the Broker can operate. As far as I can tell, it's all upside for Batman: he's getting paid (handsomely) to recon villainous haunts, freely access hideouts, plant bugs, cameras, etc with impunity, and knows where everyone is all the time.

I bet the guy with the sniper rifle is Alfred.

-t

ShadowBanker said...

Jamused - Read the issue (Streets of Gotham #4). Dini goes into that.

Rick - I don't think that Broker is trying to extort these villains, i.e. you pay me for a place or I tell Batman where you are. What would selling a place even have to do with it? He could just take their money. And I agree, the advantage of using his services is that he doesn't just find you a hideout, he finds you an appropriate one.

Tom - Interesting theory! However, we do see Batman and The Broker meet during the issue (although Batman is not Bruce Wayne here).

dspitzle said...

Any chance the $3 million is the "you tried to screw me, you know I've got a sniper rifle trained on you, and I've aided and abetted dozens of guys who could eat you for lunch, so I'm unilaterally renogiating" price? I could see a few hundred thou being manageable under normal circumstances.

123 123 said...

Great blog as for me. I'd like to read a bit more concerning that topic. Thank you for giving that material.
Sexy Lady
English escorts

Generic Cialis said...

The Broker has to be one of the most well-thought characters to have been developed in Batman for years now. I mean he works in a kind of legal way and all to keep the other villains up and working. pretty clever.

viagra online said...

Paul Dini is a writer that knows very well how to express everything he has in his mind. In fact, his new character is an evidence of his amazing imagination

Penis Enlargement Pills said...

I am thoroughly convinced in this said post. I am currently searching for ways in which I could enhance my knowledge in this said topic you have posted here. It does help me a lot knowing that you have shared this information here freely. I love the way the people here interact and shared their opinions too. I would love to track your future posts pertaining to the said topic we are able to read.

Online Generic Viagra said...

its amazing post.
really its awesome.......
Broke the city crime.
where is our legend Bring back to them CITY.

linkwheel said...

Thank you for the wise critique. Me & my neighbour have been getting ready to do a little analysis about that. We received an excellent guide on that matter from our local library and most books where not as influensive as your information. I am very glad to see such information which I used to be searching for a protracted time.This made very glad! Anyway, in my language, there aren't a lot good source like this.

sim so dep said...

Incredible post! This could help numerous people discover out about this matter. Do you wish to incorporate video clips along with these? It could undoubtedly assist out. Your cause was spot on and owing to you; I in all probability won't have to describe all the things to my pals. I can merely direct them here. Anyway, in my language, there are usually not a lot good supply like this.

link wheel said...

Can I make a suggestion? I feel youve acquired one thing good here. However what if you happen to added a pair links to a web page that backs up what youre saying? Or perhaps you possibly can give us something to take a look at, something that would join what youre saying to one thing tangible? Only a suggestion. Anyway, in my language, there will not be a lot good supply like this.

quality backlinks said...

Hi, i learn your blog occasionally and i personal the same one and i used to be just wondering for those who get plenty of spam feedback? If that's the case how do you prevent it, any plugin or something you possibly can recommend? I'm getting so much these days it is driving me mad so any help could be very much appreciated. Anyway, in my language, there are not a lot good source like this.

bp claims process said...

I've to say, I dont know bp claims process if its the clashing colours bp claims process or the unhealthy grammar, but this blog is bp claims process hideous! I imply, I dont want to bp claims process sound like a know-it-all or something, however bp claims process may you will have possibly put slightly bit more effort into bp claims process this subject. Its really interesting, however you dont bp claims process characterize it properly in any respect, man. Anyway, in my language, there aren't much good source like this.

Inversiones en petroleo said...

hello, i think that this post is the best that i have read.

Invertir en oro said...

hello, i would like to read more information about this topic.

A.J. Jacksoon said...

Uncover absent how with the aim of carry out a reverse phone lookup cellular phone search before a telephone lookup or yet a mobile phone number lookup lookup so once to hit upon away from home who is bringing up the rear to person with the purpose of has been calling you this entire moment ok.

Anonymous said...

Reorder cell phone lookup web pages resembling this single willpower give you both kinds of telephone lookup details so with the intention of you can eventually stumble on absent their name, address, where they exist, reverse phone lookup their current age in addition to a lot added. So whilst you want to facilitate run through a cell phone number search now, no extra than make in no doubt that throw away this beneficial tool with the intention of hit upon not at home both kinds of swap telephone search information bringing up the rear to facilitate character in the present day.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy this nice turn around mobile phone lookup or else phone search before mobile phone number lookup spot. I be able to gain education of greatly of cell phone lookup matter a propos invalidate cell phone lookup here at the moment once I check not by the side of home this guide here.

sex shop said...

It will not succeed as a matter of fact, that is what I consider.

negocios rentables said...

hello, i would like to read more about this interesting topic beacuase
it is really interesting.

charlesdusty10 said...

Most of the times i visit a blog Leather Jacket I see that the construction is poor and the writing bad. On the contrary,I have to say that you have done a good job here.

cheap vintage leather bags said...

A very good looking site and very informative too.

stevendusty said...

Great loved it, body jewelery shop will be waiting for your future posts

halloween fancy dress said...

This blog Is very informative , I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog . It helped me with ocean of knowledge so I really belive you will do much better in the future . Good job web master .

halloween fancy dress said...

This blog Is very informative , I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog . It helped me with ocean of knowledge so I really belive you will do much better in the future . Good job web master .

Anonymous said...

phone number lookup

dr who jacket said...

Thank you for such a fantastic blog. Where else could anyone get that kind of info written in such a perfect way? I have a presentation that I am presently working on, and I have been on the look out for such information...

viagra without prescription said...

Thanks for the nice blog. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.

Anonymous said...

cheap goose coats sale online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
goose trillium parka jackets online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
Canada goose freestyle vest online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber sale online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
Canada Goose Mens Citadel jackets online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
cheap Goose Expedition Parka coats online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
canada goose snow mantra parka online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
Canada Goose Yorkville Parka Jackets online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
womens Goose Chilliwack Parka online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
womens Goose Expedition Parka online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
womens Goose Kensington Parka Jackets online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
womens Goose Montebello Parka jackets online sale Denmark Canada, UK,
Canada Goose Womens Solaris Parka online sale Denmark Canada, UK.

winter long jacket said...

its interesting post to read,well nice blog post