by Dave Barnowski
“What happened that caused Philip Wayne to have a rift with my grandfather?” asked Helena Wayne’s newly adopted daughter, Sonia.
Helena smiled at her daughter, and it warmed her heart for Sonia to refer to Bruce Wayne as her grandfather. “Because they kept secrets from one another,” replied Helena.
“Secrets?” said Sonia Wayne.
“Yes,” said Dick Grayson. “You see, Bruce didn’t know about his uncle’s homosexuality until one day when he unexpectedly came home from college and caught Philip in bed with another man. Bruce was a very free thinker for his day, but you must remember that this was the 1930s, when merely having a gay relationship could land you in jail. That started the rift, as neither man was willing to talk about the matter.”
“Silly reason, if you ask me,” said Kara Zor-L. “Such things were considered to be private matters on Krypton, not something to be regulated by law.”
“Perhaps. I don’t think Bruce had a real problem with Philip’s sexuality so much as the fact that Philip never told him,” said Dick in defense of the man who raised him.
“That sounds more like the man I knew, although I only knew him briefly,” said Kara.
“It was Dad’s secret that really came between them,” said Helena, “or, rather, the things Dad did to maintain his secret of being the Batman.”
That perked up the ears of a somewhat bored and chastised Jason Todd, who asked, “How so, Helena?”
Dick smiled at the youngster, as he had already forgiven Jason’s previous indiscretion. “Bruce Wayne had been a driven man. He excelled at all of his studies in school and in many sports as well, but once he graduated college, he seemed to just be content playing the life of an idle rich man.”
Jason Todd smiled as he said, “Oh, yeah, the rich playboy.”
“No, not in those days. You see, Bruce became engaged to Julie Madison back when he was in college.”
Bat Lash turned to Helena and said, “You mean your pappy was engaged to another woman before he married your ma?”
“Yes. Dad often said that it was his love for Julie that kept him from becoming a cold, cruel agent of vengeance against criminals — her and later Dick.”
“Whatever happened to her?” asked Rachel.
“His pose as an idle rich man of leisure infuriated her,” Dick said. “Bruce could never tell her about his being Batman. Her own career as an actress grew, first on Broadway and later in Hollywood. She finally dumped him when she became a star.”
“That’s not really fair, Dick. She was an heiress in her own right,” said Helena.
Dick nodded in agreement. He had never really forgiven Julie, because he remembered how much the breakup had hurt Bruce, even though the older man put on a brave face in his presence.
“Wait a minute. I love old movies from that period, and I’ve never heard of no Julie Madison,” said Bat Lash.
“You’d know her by her stage name — Portia Storme,” replied Helena.
“Portia Storme? Oh, yeah, the queen of the old horror movies and later film noir,” said Bat Lash as he recognized the name. “So she was engaged to Bruce Wayne? Wow!”
“I take it, then, that Philip was as upset as Bruce’s fianceé was with the image Bruce Wayne was presenting,” said Kara.
“Exactly,” said Alfred. “At least until he discovered that Master Bruce was the Batman.”
“How did he do that?” asked Jason. “I thought the Batman was able to keep his identity secret from everyone, even the JSA.”
Helena said, “Uncle Philip found out that Daddy was the Batman in 1939, because he happened to be in New York City on the same night that the Batman flew his Bat-Gyro against a monstrous creation of Professor Hugo Strange that was on top of the Empire State Building.”
“Just like the original King Kong movie, huh?” asked Bat.
“Just like the movie, Bat,” said Dick Grayson. “Philip Wayne recognized the designs of the Bat-Gyro from plans he saw at Wayne Aviation. The only difference were the scalloped bat-wings Bruce had put on the autogyro. Then he saw the Batman do an aerial maneuver that he had invented himself. Philip knew it wasn’t being taught in the Army Air Corps because it was considered too dangerous, but he had taught Bruce the maneuver. That led Philip to take a close look at Bruce’s finances, something he could do because Bruce had given him power of attorney as part of his act as a man who didn’t want to be bothered by anything. Philip buried any trace of Bruce’s double identity even deeper than Bruce himself had.”
“Did Philip tell Bruce that he knew his secret?” asked Rachel Levine.
“Uncle Philip let Daddy keep his secret for well over a year,” said Helena.
“Why?” queried Rachel.
“Philip had always honored secrets, probably because of his own secret,” said Dick. “Remember that homosexual activity is even to this day outlawed in some states. Back then it was worse, and that, I suppose, led to Philip keeping Bruce’s secret.”
“When did he tell Bruce Wayne that he knew he was the Batman?” asked Jason Todd.
“Only a few months after I had been made Bruce’s ward,” said Dick Grayson. Changing the subject, the former Boy Wonder said, “Philip’s the reason I became a lawyer, you know.”
“Really?” said a truly surprised Rachel Levine.
“Yes,” said Dick. “I remember the day I met Philip. He came to the manor to see Bruce; I answered the door when it rang, and there was Philip Wayne. He was a handsome man at an even six feet tall, with black hair. His hair was beginning to recede from his forehead even then, which made his widow’s peak even more pronounced. He was still a physically fit man at a hundred and eighty pounds or so at age forty-seven. He was smoking a cigarette, something I later found out he did near continuously.
“He said to me, ‘You must be Mr. Richard Grayson. I’m Philip Wayne,’ and he put his hand out and gave me a firm handshake. He then asked if Bruce was home. I said yes, but that Bruce was still sleeping. Philip said told me to wake him up, saying, ‘I haven’t got all day.’
“I ran upstairs and told Bruce that a Philip Wayne was here. I had never seen him move so fast when not in costume. He was downstairs in less than a minute. I remember Bruce asking why he had come to the manor, and Philip nodded toward me and said, ‘We have to talk over some legal matters, Bruce — privately.’
“Bruce and Philip excused themselves and came into this very room. I remember going over to a vent upstairs so I could hear their conversation.” Looking over to Jason Todd, Dick said, “I fixed that flaw years ago, Jason.”
Jason gave his mentor a frown, crossed his arms and stuck out his tongue, to which everyone laughed.
“Anyway, what they were talking about was me. It had only been a week since my parents were murdered. Bruce had revealed to me that he was the Batman and was starting to train me to be Robin, but it would be weeks before I went into action. In the meantime, Bruce decided to make me his ward. Unfortunately, the social worker assigned to my case didn’t think it was a good idea. Philip as Bruce’s lawyer had learned that piece of information. He then proceeded to grill Bruce on why he wanted to become my guardian.”
Helena looked at Dick with wide eyes after this statement, as she couldn’t imagine anyone subjecting her father to a grilling. “You’re joking!” she said
Dick smiled at Helena’s reaction to his statement, musing that if he didn’t know the two men’s relationship back then, that he would also have doubted the veracity of his statement. “No, Helena, I’m not joking. Philip took Bruce into this very room and grilled him. He did this out of concern for Bruce and me, a boy he did not know. I remember the conversation that took place between them like it was yesterday.”
Times past, 1940:
Philip Philip took out a cigarette, lit it, and said, “Bruce, the social worker doesn’t think you’re fit to be the boy’s guardian, and frankly, I’m not sure I am, either.”
Bruce Wayne was surprised at the news. “Why, Uncle Philip, I can provide Dick with everything he needs.”
“Financially, yes, Bruce. There’s no question about that. But what about emotionally? God knows I did a horrible job at that.” Philip raised his hand as Bruce started to object and blew out some smoke. “It’s the truth, Bruce, and we both know it. It tore me apart to watch you suffer, and I couldn’t help you. I’m afraid I’m not able to reach out to people and see to their emotional needs. You’re much the same way, and I’m not about to see that young boy hurt in the same way I hurt you.”
Bruce was both taken aback and touched by Philip’s statement. “You couldn’t have helped me, Uncle, even if you tried. The void, the pain, the darkness that was in my soul when I saw my parents murdered would have been with me no matter what. I can help Dick with that more than anybody else, because I’ve been there.”
Philip looked hard at his nephew. “I hope this isn’t a whim or just a lark, Bruce. The boy still has to go through the formative years of adolescence. He’s going to need a father figure, a man who’s going to be there for him in ways that I wasn’t for you.”
Bruce put his hand on the older man’s shoulder as he said, “Uncle Philip, you did as well as you could. Parenthood was not something that you ever expected, but I think I turned out OK.”
“That’s debatable,” said Philip. “Have you told Julie about this? She’s your fiancée, and she should be told that she’s going to become a surrogate mother to a teenager when the two of you get married.”
Bruce looked hard at his uncle as he said, “To tell the truth, no, I hadn’t even thought of it.”
Philip shook his head at that piece of news. “Bruce, you have to tell her things like this and get her approval when you make life-changing decisions like this if you’re going to marry the girl.”
Bruce nodded grimly. “I’ll call her tonight, Uncle.”
“Good.” Philip put out his cigarette and then said, “Now, about your lifestyle. It’s going to have to change. These late nights and staying in bed until after ten so that the boy has to fend for himself is not going to impress any judge. Neither is having the two of you living in this house by yourselves. You should get some domestic help.”
Bruce shook his head at the last piece of advice, as he didn’t want any help — that could obviously lead to the discovery by an outsider of his double life as Batman. “Dick and I can manage just fine, Uncle. As for the first part, I agree with you, and I won’t let it happen again.”
“I’m serious, Bruce. You’re going to have to curb your leisurely ways and take up some activity to show the judge that you’re a mature young man. To that end, I’ve drawn up papers to put you on the board of directors at the Wayne Conglomerate. You don’t have to work every day, but you will have some substantial responsibility — responsibility you should have taken up when you graduated college. You are somewhat young to be on the board, but you are also a Wayne, a Wayne who owns twenty-five percent of the company, and you’re a genius, besides.”
“Oh, I don’t know about being a genius, Uncle.”
“I do, Bruce. Stop being modest; it’s unbecoming. I know you like to hide it for whatever reason, but you are. Please don’t pretend to be anything else with me,” chided Philip. He then smiled as he said, “I remember reading all those report cards from Hudson Academy, Bruce.”
The younger man knew he was caught and said, “Point taken, Uncle.” Bruce then read the papers Philip had drawn up as his lawyer and signed them. “Here you are, sir.”
Philip smiled as took the papers and put them back into his briefcase, because he had kept something from Bruce that he had wanted for over the past three years. “The court date is in a month. Not much time, and the social welfare office is going to be watching you like a hawk. I have no doubt that they’ll continue to do so for the next several months after we win.”
“Are you certain we’re going to win, Uncle?”
“Absolutely, Bruce. I am personally going to represent you in court. The Wayne Family is the first family in Gotham City, Bruce. We have power and influence here. Personally, I have even more throughout the state and country, and I’m not afraid to use it when I want to. There’s no way any judge in this city will decide a case against me.”
“That’s not right, Uncle. We should win on the merits of the case.”
Philip laughed derisively as he sadly said, “I’m afraid you’d lose, Bruce, if we left this to the merits of the case.”
“Yes, really. You need to stop being afraid of using your influence, Bruce. You can do a lot of good with it. You have to temper it so you don’t abuse it. Use it to help others and not yourself, lest you become a lesser man. I sorry if embarrassed you, Bruce, in asking these questions, but I had to make sure that this is the best for both you and the boy.”
Bruce was silent for a moment and then said, “So what you’re saying is that if you didn’t think that this was for the best, you wouldn’t help?”
Philip’s lips thinned, and he lit another cigarette. “That’s right, Bruce. Even if it meant the end of our relationship.”
Dick Grayson finished relating the conversation, saying that the two were quiet for a few minutes. “Then they called me in and told me the court date. Philip said he wanted to talk to me before he left. He asked Bruce to leave and then questioned me. It’s funny, because I don’t really remember what was asked all that well, but the conversation lasted only a couple of minutes. What Philip really wanted to know was if I wanted to stay with Bruce. When he was satisfied that I did, he said I would.”
“I can’t believe he had that kind of power,” said Kara Zor-L, the woman with the code name of Power Girl.
Rachel Levine said, “It was a different country back then. The wealthy had too much power. They still do.”
“Amen to that,” said the beautiful Helena Wayne, who had inherited both Philip’s and her father’s wealth and was likely one of the wealthiest women in America. She looked at Bat Lash and her assembled family as she said, “Fortunately, neither Richard nor I have that kind of influence. Even though we’re both lawyers, we have to win our cases on their merits. Philip’s day has come and gone, but I am grateful that he used his power to bring Dick into the family.” Helena went over to the man who she considered a big brother and gave him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.