If any hero rivals the Super-Spider in fame and impact in the world stage, it is the Iron-Bat. Much like his colleague, there is more to the story of the Iron-Bat than meets the eye. As the main financial backer of the League of Avengers he is critical to the team’s functioning, and even beyond his super-hero status, his technological innovations, particularly Wayne International’s exploitation of the Lazarus pits, make the Iron-Bat one of the most important figures of the last century.
Anthony Wayne was born in 1916 to Howard and Martha Wayne, a wealthy couple living in Westchester New York. Howard was a brilliant scientist, who used his scientific know how to turn the modest Wayne family fortune into a gigantic global enterprise. Weapons technology, biology, aviation, no field was off-limits to Howard’s genius, and thus no field was off-limits to Wayne Industries (now Wayne International). By the time Anthony was 13 years old his father was one of the richest men in America, and it was already becoming apparent that the precocious Anthony would follow in his footsteps. A charmed life seemed to lie ahead for young Anthony, when tragedy struck. A disgruntled recently laid-off employee of Wayne Industries (even geniuses get hit by the Great Depression) named Joe Stane murdered both Howard and Martha right in front of Anthony, before running off into the night clutching Martha’s pearls, horrified at having let his robbery and payback get so out of hand.
Anthony’s life was transformed. He spent the rest of his childhood mostly under the care of the family butler, Alfred Jarvis. Despite Alfred’s best efforts Anthony was an unhappy young man. Despite all the wild parties at the Wayne mansion, he never really accepted his parent’s death, and left home at the age of 17 to travel the world. Anthony wandered the planet, drowning his sadness in women, drink, and a constant tendency to tinker with any technology he found around him that won him both friends and enemies, depending on whether what he built turned into a revolutionary improvement in productivity or blew up in everyone’s faces (more common when he’d been drinking). Anthony might have continued this socialite existence indefinitely, but fate had other plans.
In 1937 the winds blew Anthony to Spain. Several of his more socially active friends had volunteered to fight for the Spanish Republic, so Anthony and a few similarly rootless young friends traveled to Barcelona to see what all the fuss was about. At first bored, and disgusted by the city and the conflict, Anthony happened to run into Eric Blair, who was recovering there from injuries sustained on the front line. Fascinated by Blair’s stories of life on the front, Anthony left his more cautious friends to get a closer look. Upon nearing the front lines Anthony was ambushed by a fascist patrol, who had been told to look out for the young American by their spies in the Barcelona. Anthony was severely injured, and was barely kept alive by the ministrations of a friendly medic, and a primitive pacemaker of his own design to keep his damaged heart going. The local nationalist commander had heard of the Wayne family’s great wealth, as well as it’s technological genius. A number of the fascist soldiers were using Wayne Industries weapons, and while they discussed how best to collect a ransom they set Anthony to work repairing what they had and building new weapons from what scraps they had.
Unfortunately for the fascists, Wayne was not content to sit and wait for ransom or death. He had some combat training from his old butler (a British special forces veteran), and had gained a little more in one of many temporary passions during his travels. Still, one man could not expect to defeat a whole armed camp alone. Instead, Anthony was forced to put his technological genius to work as he never had before. Beneath the noses of his captors he built a suit of armor thick enough to withstand bullets, and with servos allowing him to not only move with it on, but to increase his strength many-fold. On a quiet evening the fascist base was blasted by an improvised explosive, and then confronted by a vision in black iron. The soldiers who did not immediately run terrified into the forest found their weapons ineffective and were mowed down by the advancing creature. Later they would describe it as ‘a great iron bat,’ a description that was only strengthened when the beast rocketed into the air and deployed what seemed to be enormous wings, before strafing the camp one last time and flying into the night. Later they would find pieces of the creature lying all over the camp (the hang glider wouldn’t work for long if it had to carry all that weight after all), but no sign of their erstwhile prisoner.
Anthony made his way back to Barcelona, and quickly out of Spain altogether as the Republic collapsed, reinvigorated and full of purpose. Using his genius to fight the The Force of Evil (TM) had felt amazing. He returned to New York for the first time in years, and began to make plans. Within months he had a variety of suits of armor – from what was essentially just stiff leather and a toolbelt for operations requiring a bit of stealth, to full fledged war machines. Amused by the reactions of his first enemies he adopted the bat as his symbol, and soon the criminals of New York had something to fear when they went out at night.
Meanwhile, in his public persona, Anthony Wayne began to involve himself in the military’s preparations for potential American involvement with the wars that were just starting to sweep the globe. He was aided in his management of Wayne Industries by Lucius “Rhodie” Rhodes, an African-American employee of Wayne Industries who had been a favorite of the liberal Howard Wayne, but whose career had stalled after Howard’s death. Lucius proved too competent to fire, but was languishing in an obscure R&D division when Howard found him and elevated him to be his second in command at Wayne Industries, who essentially ran the company for much of the time when Anthony was at what they called ‘his other job.’
Once America entered the war, these efforts would be redoubled. Anthony, and Wayne Industries, would make substantial contributions to the creation of American Wonder, the Manhattan Project, and the secret war against the Nazi Wunderwaffen being produced by Hydra. Using his high level of clearance and the need to examine Nazi technologies firsthand as an excuse to travel the world, the Iron-Bat played a devastating if secretive part in the Allied war effort. The Iron-Bat also met Super-Spider in this period, and while they were suspicious of each other in their first encounters – with Super-Spider as the ostensibly All-American guy with no secrets and the Iron-Bat operating in the shadows, they ultimately formed a strong working relationship, that over the ensuing decades would turn into an enduring friendship.
In 1945, soon after the end of the war in Europe, Anthony began another of his most important relationships. While touring a captured Hydra base, he came upon records of a family known as “The Flying Graysons.” They had been a part of a circus touring Europe for many years, and apparently had a unique act. The extended Grayson family would begin a seemingly normal trapeze act, but midway through they would seem to stop using the ropes at all, instead unfolding wings and flying around the circus tent. Circus-goers were amused by the illusion, but the agents of Hydra assigned to finding potential soldiers and research subjects with mutant abilities discovered that the Graysons were not mere illusionists. The family had a mutant gene that manifested as angelic wings growing from their shoulder blades, giving them the ability to fly. The Hydra operatives had captured the family, and when none had been willing to collaborate with the Nazis, they were ‘tested to destruction,’ with the sole exception of a single small child, Warren, who was to be raised by an adoptive family to be loyal to the Third Reich. Anthony, knowing that few families would be interested in raising an obvious mutant, adopted the child himself, and Warren Grayson-Wayne came to America. In a move controversial with his fellow super-heroes, Anthony began allowing Warren to join him in his adventures at the age of 12, under the code-name Angel. A few years later Warren would become one of the founding members of Justice X. Some say the traumas of these too early adventures were reflected in Warren’s involvement with the Apocalypse cult later in life, but Anthony always maintained that the only thing that would have been worse for Warren than letting him help fight against the kind of forces that killed his parents would have been not letting him do so.
After the war Anthony remained a study in contrasts. His roles as a grim guardian of the night, loving father to Warren, visionary futurist, and carefree socialite seemed impossible to connect, and yet even those closest to him couldn’t say which, if any, was the mask, and which was the true man.