by Dave Barnowski
Thirteen-year-old Sonia Wayne then asked her newly adopted mother, “What kind of relationship did Uncle Philip have with your mom?”
“My mom and Uncle Philip were the best of friends, Sonia,” said Helena Wayne.
Rachel Levine shook her head as she thought that the rich, pompous Philip Wayne probably got along like cat and dogs with the infamous Catwoman. Then Rachel realized that the reality of Philip Wayne — the man she had been hearing about — was very different from the one she read about in college. She put away her preconceived notions and instead listened to what Helena had to say.
“Well,” added Dick Grayson, “except during election season.”
“Yes,” agreed Alfred Beagle. “Mistress Selina was a dedicated Democrat, and Master Philip was a lifelong Republican. Master Philip avoided the manor from Labor Day to Election Day every year.” This brought titters from Dick and Helena as they remembered the arguments the two would have about politics, as well as some of the rare times when they agreed. “The sole exception was the year you were born, Miss Helena. Poor Master Bruce; he was a political pragmatist and voted for whomever he thought was the best candidate. I remember some elections when politics weren’t discussed in the house at all. It would be discussed only if Master Bruce broached the subject and if he and his wife agreed on the candidate; otherwise Mistress Selina wouldn’t talk about politics with her husband.”
Bat Lash then said, “I’m a bit surprised that they got along at all, ‘Lena. I’ve met a few of your relatives at Dick and Karen’s wedding, and they seemed to be having a difficult time accepting Karen. No disrespect, Kara.”
“None taken, Bat,” said a smiling Karen Starr-Grayson, alias Kara Zor-L of Krypton and Power Girl.
Dick laughed as he said, “You know, Bat, Bruce worried a bit about Philip’s reaction, too.” Looking at Helena, he added, “Not that it would have changed anything. Bruce asked Selina to marry him after a case involving Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow. During the course of that case, Bruce had revealed to her that he was the Batman and told her how much he loved her. Bruce had made up his mind and had listened to his heart, and nothing would have changed his mind.”
“I was there when he told Master Philip,” said Alfred. “Master Bruce asked his uncle to come to the manor because he had some legal matters to discuss. When Master Philip arrived, Master Bruce told him that he wanted Master Philip to take over as Miss Selina’s lawyer. After the Scarecrow matter, she had to return to prison. She was still serving a long sentence, and Master Bruce wanted his uncle to take the case and exert his influence to either have her pardoned or her sentence commuted.”
All eyes turned to the family’s faithful butler and dearest friend as he described the meeting.
Times Past, 1955:
The room became exceedingly quiet for some moments before Philip Wayne asked his nephew, “Why?”
“Because I’ve asked her to marry me,” said Bruce Wayne.
Philip stared long and hard at his nephew before saying, “Only if you answer one question satisfactorily.”
Bruce cut off his uncle, as he knew what he to know and said, “I’ve already told her that I’m the Batman, Uncle Philip.”
Philip rose from his seat and shook his nephew’s hand as he said, “Congratulations, Bruce. Of course I’ll take her case, if she’ll have me for her lawyer. We have to ask her, you know.” The older man had tears in his eyes and was positively buoyant at his nephew’s news. “My God, Bruce, I was so worried that you’d never find the right woman.”
Bruce raised an inquisitive eye at his uncle and said, “Aren’t you at all disappointed that I’m marrying the infamous Catwoman?”
Philip looked in the younger man’s eyes and said, “No, not when I can see that look of happiness in your eyes, happiness that I haven’t seen since before your parents were alive. Besides, I know you well enough to know it wouldn’t matter if I was. What matters is your happiness, Bruce. You never told your old fiancée, Julie Madison, or any of the later women you were seriously involved with — Linda Page or that reporter Vicki Vale. That you’re willing to reveal your secret to–” Philip looked down at the legal papers on the desk to remind him of the Catwoman’s real name. “–Selina Kyle, well, that tells me all I need to know.”
Alfred Beagle smiled as he finished his tale with the fondness of the memory.
Rachel Levine incredulously shook her head, saying, “I know you’re telling me the truth, Alfred, but it’s hard to believe that Philip Wayne wasn’t upset about his nephew and heir marrying a costumed super-villainess.”
“Not when you realize that Bruce’s happiness was forever the most important thing to him, Rachel,” said her father, Dick Grayson. “Philip always felt guilty for the way he raised Bruce after his brother and wife were killed. Thomas and Martha put the welfare of their son Bruce in his hands, and Philip always felt he let them down. Bruce wasn’t a happy child or teenager. Julie Madison eased his pain somewhat. When Bruce became the Batman and started taking an active hand against crime, his unhappiness lessened even more. I suppose when I came into his life, the pain eased a bit more, but it was only when he admitted his deep and abiding love for Selina Kyle that his pain was erased, and he truly became happy. Philip knew that — anyone who knew Bruce well knew that — because you could see it in his eyes.”
Helena Wayne walked over to her parent’s portrait. Looking up at the loving deceased couple, she said, “Mom didn’t want a pardon, because she admitted to the crimes she was being punished for, but she did agree to let Philip work to commute the sentences.”
“I remember driving your father to the prison on the happy day she was released,” said Alfred. “They wanted to have a small, simple wedding that very day, but Master Philip convinced them otherwise.”
“Why did he do that?” asked Sonia.
“It was a matter of class,” said Alfred. “As Master Bat noted, some of the relations and people in the Wayne social and economic circles found Mistress Kara objectionable. Thirty years ago, the snobbery was worse, and Mistress Selina was a reformed criminal, albeit a well-known villainess, but a criminal. Worse in some eyes, she was also a divorcée.”
“You’re kidding, right, Alf?” asked Jason.
“Sadly, no, Master Jason, I’m not,” replied the English gentleman’s gentleman.
Jason just shook his head as Sonia asked, “So what did my grandparents do?”
“They had the wedding of the century,” said Dick. “President Eisenhower was there, as well as a virtual who’s who of the world at the time — all bankrolled by Philip Wayne as a wedding present. He made it known that he heartily approved of the marriage, and that in turn led to Selina becoming the belle of Gotham society.”
“Mom didn’t really enjoy that role, but it allowed her to do all sorts of charitable and political work,” said Helena.
“You should amend that comment about everyone being at the wedding, Master Dick,” said Alfred. “None of the congressmen on that House Un-American Activities Committee were there.”
Rachel smiled as she said, “I bet there was an argument between Selina and Philip over that one.”
“Actually, no, Rachel,” said Dick. “Philip couldn’t stand HUAC back when they first began their anti-communist witch-hunt in the early 1950s any more than Selina could. It’s funny, but we refer to that era as McCarthyism, even though Senator Joseph McCarthy was never a member of HUAC, and he died in ’51 just as anti-communism was picking up steam. (*) Senator John O’Fallon followed in Joe McCarthy’s footsteps soon afterward, however — he was the guy who forced the JSA into retirement. Anyway, Philip and the Senator had a fight back in the previous year. O’Fallon called Lucius Fox, who was Philip Wayne’s protégé…”
[(*) Editor’s note: Earth-2’s history differs somewhat from real history, since Joseph McCarthy was killed in a car crash in 1951 instead of dying in 1957 from acute hepatitis brought on by alcoholism.]
Rachel’s eyes widened as she heard that piece of information and interrupted, “You mean to say America’s first and foremost African-American head of a Fortune 100 company was Philip Wayne’s protégé? Wasn’t he appointed to the position of CEO by Bruce Wayne?”
“We’re getting ahead of ourselves, but yes, Philip and not Bruce appointed him as his successor,” said Helena. “That reminds me, Dick. I received a note from Lucius that he’s retiring next June. We’ll need to discuss that and who his successor should be next week when we discuss releasing Uncle Philip’s papers so the world can get to know the man we knew.”
Dick looked at Helena and said, “Right. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, Lucius Fox had been called on the carpet before Senator O’Fallon’s Senate Committee on Government Operations because Lucius supposedly had been a member of a Communist-leaning civil rights organization back in the ’40s. O’Fallon insisted that Wayne Industries fire him and several other employees.
“I was still pursuing my undergraduate degree in 1954 and was actually thinking about becoming a reporter like Clark Kent, when Philip took me under his wing. He took me with him to Washington to meet with the committee staff prior to Philip being called for public testimony. I never saw him so furious in all my life. He was on a slow burn, and those senators never knew what hit them when ‘Hurricane’ Wayne came to town. And it was at that critical moment in my life that I knew that I wanted to be like him — I decided to study law instead of journalism.”
“Wait a minute — I thought you said Philip was a lifelong Republican, and I know enough history to know that those committees were run by Republicans. How could he go against the very politicians he voted for?” asked Rachel.
“Philip Wayne was a Liberal East Coast Republican who thought civil rights and freedom were more important than party, Rachel. He was a man of principle before party. It was the reason he smuggled gays, Gypsies, and Jews out of Occupied Europe and a decade later became a silent financial backer for the Civil Rights movement.”
“So what happened in Washington?” asked Bat Lash.
“We didn’t meet with any members of the actual Senate; instead we met with the lead investigator. He made his accusations against Wayne employees and said that they had even more unsavory information on Philip. I thought the old man was going to buckle right there. I knew his secret by that time, and I knew how much he feared it coming out. Instead, he just lit a cigarette and blew the smoke in the SOB’s face.”
Dick had the room’s full attention as he recounted the tale.
Times Past, 1954:
The Senate Committee’s lead investigator, Frank Paine, coughed as smoke filled his nostrils, and Philip Wayne said, “Tell me, Frank, do you have facts and evidence of unsavory activity or just rumor and innuendo?”
Frank finished coughing and said, “Well, Phil–”
“Frank, you can call me Mr. Wayne and only Mr. Wayne, or this interview’s over.”
“Fine, Mr. Wayne, you can call me Mr. Paine. Now, we have several witnesses–”
“All you have then, Frank, is rumor and innuendo, and therefore the discussion about the matter is closed. If you or anyone else brings it up in open committee, I’ll sue your sorry ass for slander and make sure you never get a job with any — I repeat — any respectable law firm in the country. I’ll also make certain that the Congress fires your sorry ass. Do we understand each other, Frank?”
“You can’t threaten me, sir. I have proof.”
“Bull. If you had it, you’d be taking it out even as we speak. Now, you listen to me, you SOB — I’ll make certain that each and every Republican senator on that committee of yours loses every single donation from each and every large donor I know if you go ahead with this. Lucius Fox — you remember him, don’t you? You grilled him last month.”
Frank Paine nodded yes.
“Good. He’s calling each senator right now; he and my nephew Bruce are telling each one that if I have to so much as appear at your damn committee, their precious money sources are going to dry up, because if you bastards can come after me, you’ll come after anybody. You don’t bite the hand of the man who feeds you.
“Furthermore, I’m not firing Lucius or anyone else at the Wayne Conglomerate,” continued Philip Wayne. “As well, we won’t be putting in any more bids for government contracts when our current ones expire. Good day, Frank.”
“With that, Philip Wayne and I left,” said Dick Grayson. “I hadn’t said a word as I marveled with admiration when Philip Wayne took on John O’Fallon. We got up and left. We never heard from them again.”
“He called their bluff!” said Bat Lash, laughing. “Ha! He knew they knew his secret, and he dared them to prove it. Man, what a gamble. What a gambler. He called their bluff, and he was sitting there with maybe a ten-high. Man, I would have like to have played a game of poker against him. I can see why he won all he won all the Valonia Invitational Poker Tournaments.”
“I didn’t know that story, Dick,” said Helena. “Of course there’s a lot about Uncle Philip I didn’t know, as the dear old man died when I was twelve. He was the closest thing I ever had to a grandfather, and I must admit he spoiled me rotten.”
“He doted on you, Miss Helena,” said Alfred. “I believe it was a way to make up for the way he wasn’t able to reach out for your father.”
“Age mellowed him, Helena,” said Dick. “By the time you were born in 1957, he was getting to be an old man. Then, in 1963, he came down with lung cancer. He had to hand day-to-day operations of Wayne Industries over to Lucius Fox. Bruce then took a more active hand and became semi-retired as Batman as the company took so much of his time.”
“Huh. I thought it was because he was old or because of his family,” said Jason Todd.
“It was because of his family, Jason; just not only for Mom and me,” said Helena. “He did it for his beloved uncle Philip. And he knew Robin could take care of his beloved Gotham City.”
“Well, I had help, Helena,” said Dick. “Green Lantern, Johnny Thunder, and Black Canary were all based in Gotham City.”
“You’re being modest, Dick,” said Kara.
“Maybe, but most of the foes Bruce and I fought were getting long in the tooth or were otherwise in jail by then, while I was still physically a young man, but a young man with over twenty years’ experience at the caped crusader thing. They didn’t stand a chance,” said Dick, as everyone present laughed.
“I think by the time I was six I was spending close to every other weekend at Uncle Philip’s townhouse,” said Helena. “He had two wonderful men who lived there as his servants. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were a couple — Anthony the chauffeur and Julius, his ever-faithful butler. They doted on me almost as much as Uncle Philip did. That stopped in the middle of 1969. Philip’s cancer returned, and he was too weak to have a budding teenager at his house over the weekends.”
“He wouldn’t tell Bruce or Selina about the cancer, though. He merely said that he was getting too old to look after you properly and that it wasn’t your fault,” said a smiling Dick Grayson.
“You knew, though, didn’t you, Dick?” asked Helena.
“Yes, and not telling Bruce that his uncle was dying was one of the hardest things I ever had to do,” said Dick as his face grew somber at the memory. “I was Philip’s attorney by then and he finalized his will in those months and confided in me his condition, but he forbade my telling anyone.”
“I remember that last Thanksgiving that he was here,” said Helena. “He and Daddy talked privately right in this very room for quite a while, and I remember that my father was sad, but was trying to hide it. I was sad myself when Uncle Philip broke the news to me that he wasn’t spending Christmas with us that year.”
“No, Philip wanted to die where he was the happiest,” said Dick. “He went to Paris, taking Anthony and Julius with him. They stayed there after Philip died; they still write me occasionally.”
“I remember them,” said Kara suddenly. “You introduced me at our wedding reception; they seemed like a couple of sweet old men.”
“They are both sweet dears,” confirmed Helena. “You’re a good judge of character, Kara.”
While the conversation was winding toward the end of Philip Wayne’s life, Alfred Beagle silently gathered glasses of eggnog. Bat spiked his and Rachel’s with a splash of whiskey that he carried with him.
Alfred handed each one a glass and said, “I am told that, back in the First World War — Philip Wayne’s war — the aviators of the RAF would raise a glass and give a toast to absent friends. It was a tradition we did here, too, until Mistress Selina’s death. It was too painful after that, but I think it’s time that we should toast our absent family and friends again.”
“Here, here,” said Dick as he raised his glass to the portrait of Thomas and Martha Wayne, then to the portrait of a solitary Philip Wayne, and finally to the almost lifelike picture of Bruce and Selina Wayne.
The glasses clinked, and the drink was gulped down. Dick smiled mischievously at the others and then turned and threw his glass into the fireplace. The others laughed and followed suit.