Thursday, July 16, 2009

How Does Two-Face Fund His Crime Sprees (Revisited)?

Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo (2008)

Remember when we asked how Two-Face made the money to afford a headquarters, armored cars, henchmen, weapons, ammunition, tools, and all the other useful things he uses in his heists and plots to destroy Batman? Well, Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo put forth a bit of an explanation in their recent graphic novel, Joker. Apparently, "Harvey Dent was the rackets in Gotham. From fruit stands to oyster bars, he got a taste. The price of doing business was doing it with him."

This makes sense to the extent that I believe that Two-Face would play the role of Gotham's eminent mobster. If any one of Gotham's "freaks" would be most capable of taking over the Falcone and Maroni businesses, it would be Two-Face. He would have dealings with most of the crooks in the underground and he would skim some off the top for it.

And I imagine that all or most of these businesses involves some drug smuggling, human trafficking, or whatever other shady businesses come to mind when thinking of mobsters. Drug trafficking alone is a lucrative enterprise. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New York City police seized 1,481.1 kgs of cocaine, 279.3 kgs of heroin, 7.1 kgs of methamphetamines, 2,820.7 kgs of marijuana, 79.3 kgs of hasish, 0.6 kgs of MDMA, and 9 meth labs in 2008 alone. In 2007, a man was found guilty of helping to import more than $100 million worth of cocaine into the United States between 1998 and 2003. If Two-Face is at the very top of this game in Gotham City, one of the notoriously corrupt cities in the world, and has his hands in most of these exchanges, I am sure that he is making quite a bit for his villain game.

However, one thing still remains a mystery to me (which I mentioned in the earlier post): Batman. If Two-Face is really running Gotham the way that his predecessor thugs did, then why has Batman not stopped him and seized his assets? While the police in Gotham may be lackadaisical in rooting out these smuggling rings, or simply not have the legal basis or evidence with which to halt these illegal activities, Batman is not bound by such constraints. In fact, that was one of the main issues raised in Batman Begins. The police could not touch Falcone, despite his infractions, but Batman almost immediately was able to stop his smuggling operation and bring him to justice. So why is Two-Face capable of making so much money in Gotham City that he is actually living in a mansion?

Actually, Batman seems to be pretty slow overall in this novel. SPOILER ALERT. It took the entire novel for him to so much as make an appearance to stop the Joker. Before he showed up, the Joker was released from Arkham, skinned a man alive, blew up a building, killed a whole bunch of mobsters, and performed many others lude and violents acts that I will not mention. And Batman didn't even discover it for himself! Two-Face had to actually call him and alert him of what the Joker was up to. What is going on?

Perhaps Two-Face immediately sends his money to offshore bank accounts where Batman cannot touch it. This way in between committing crimes, going to Arkham, and coming out, he has some sort of a reserve from which he can draw funds. Though I'm not quite sure how this would work.

What do you all think? Any theories??


Joshua Macy said...

How about this:

Two-Face, as everyone knows, is not a profit-maximizer. He employs a random strategy even when it will yield worse payoffs. When mobsters deal with Two-Face, half the time they wind up betrayed and in jail, dead, or with fake product. While Two-Face is in charge not only are the illicit markets constantly being disrupted, but large amounts of criminal effort are diverted from expanding the enterprise or defeating Batman into trying to get rid of Two-Face. This has a terrible effect on the profitability of crime in Gotham, and while Two-Face's cut of the rest is more than adequate for his own operations the overall trend is downward.

Batman, of course, recognizes this and prefers to use his resources first against criminals who are not inadvertently thwarting crime, only directly going after Two-Face when his plots are aimed against civilians.

professor74 said...

jamused made a good comment. I also think because of Harvey's relationship with Batman before the Two-Face incident, Batman will always be slow to take down Two-Face.

Tom said...

Agreed. Batman prefers Two-Face to run the show
(1) because Batman knows Dent's habits and practices, making the crimes worth stopping easier to stop
(2) because Two-Face does nice things like call Batman with helpful information
(3) Two-Face is inefficient, mostly due to his coin gimmick (as discussed previously on ecocomics)

Two-Face can control most of the mob-related crime at less than maximum efficiency, or other craftier, smarter, competitors will take over sectors of the mob-related criminal activity and be harder for Batman to handle, combined. Imagine perfectly run and independent sectors: extortion ring, drug operation, arms and ammo operation, blackmail/political corruption gang, human trafficking ring, goods smuggling, and music pirates.

or, all of these operations run by, or through, a non-optimized intermediary, namely, Two-Face, which un-optimizes the aggregate.

Better a sometime-helpful, inefficient, devil-you-know than an unknown crime boss or bosses who may be better at crime, better at maximizing pain and suffering, etc.

[Or, it's just that Wayne has a soft-spot for his old pal Harvey.]

Anonymous said...

I think Tom's hit the nail on the head as to how Two-Face goes without as much opposition from Batman as other villians. As to how he funds his crimes, I think it's a blend of inherited wealth/legitimate investments (like his old pal Bruce Wayne), profits from his own non-supervillainous criminal enterprise (drugs, human trafficking, guns, extortion, etc), and lastly from the Joker.

I base this last part of my theory on the Joker's remark in Batman RIP that he's thrown away more money than the collective net worth of the Black Glove. Where does all the money go? Dynamite, gasoline, gunpowder, neurotoxins, imported hyenas, playing cards, assorted props for his more theatrical stunts. Who has just enough respectability to get this stuff without raising eyebrows and pass it on to the Joker? Harvey Dent.

David Johnston said...

It's not necessarily that easy. Real life major organized crime figures remain at large by the simple expedient of rarely doing their own dirty work. Mostly they operate simply by collecting a slice of the more hands-on operators proceeds in return for permission to continue controlling their territory and breathing. It helps if you have a larger-than-life reputation so the actual need to enforce your edicts is minimal. At that point catching the criminal in question is more of a job for a tax accountant than a superhero.

Anonymous said...

Let's not leave out the possibility that Two-Face has had a Black Swan moment on or a few times in his life.
He got his face burnt off, because he was just plain unlucky. But he could have made millions of billions somewhere along the way by sheer luck, also. Perhaps he invested in WayneCorp years ago?

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