Henchmen Assets: A Look Into the Fortress of Destitution

by Johnny Debacle

Whether you are a Sangalese warlord, the head of Hydra or a Bond villain, the base of your operation is your henchmen, the nameless legion who are willing to die in order to execute your bold plans for a new world order, global destruction or real ultimate power. Despite being integral as an aggregate, on an individual level, henchmen are completely fungible. They can expect to be beaten to a pulp, or thoughtlessly killed by either their boss’s heroic enemies or, as is often the case, their employer himself. Note that the latter situation is in violation of labor laws in most jurisdictions, which is only the beginning of what looks like a raw deal for henchmen. What economic rationale do these henchmen have to seek this line of work?

Based on their number, and the low income generated by most criminal enterprises for anyone but those at the top, henchmen can’t be compensated monetarily in a way that is commensurate with their shortened expected lifespan and overall reduced quality of life. Generous healthcare plans would at best allow them to offset the debilitating injuries they receive. Other fringe benefits such as company flying cars and teleportation belts sound great…until you realize that those are really just expensive high-tech tethers used to guarantee that the hench are available to their masters at all times and from all places. Maybe really great daycare and good local schools? Probably not.

Will hench for money

And the trim is not impressive. The average arch-villain is swimming in spectacular exotic strange, but that is due to their ample riches and their alpha male status. Henchmen are a dime a dozen commodity. They are indisguishable and unexceptional to such an extent that they often sport garb which is identical to their colleagues and rarely ever even have actual names. Attraction issues aside, there is also an female asset supply shortage. Our research indicates that super-hotties list mountain lairs, sewer bases, and submarines lower than Miami, Los Angeles and London as desirable places to live.

Doing something you love only goes so far, and it’s unlike they actually love what they do that much. It’s hard work, if frequently mindless. Go here. Engage Batman in hand to hand combat (Good luck with that btw). Steal this mystical ruby crystal. Test this unstable mutagenic growth formula I’m developing. Delay Jack Bauer while I try and break into the White House’s panic room. Kidnap Sally-Sue. Invest in this pool of 2007 vintage MBS and see what happens to our investors’ money. Et cetera, et cetera.

Even if you are wiling to assume that they do it for the love of the hench, consider that there are a lot of passionate employees out there in other professions, but none willing to risk death, imprisonment or debilitation at anywhere near the rates that the typical henchmen face. Per this 2006 survey from CNN, the mortality rates are the highest for fisherman at 118 out of 100,000, or about 0.1%. Henchmen die or are seriously wounded at a rate 500 times as high as that. It’s tenuous at best to think they love being bad enough not only to die for it but also to be dramatically undercompensated as well.

A fair amount of henchmen were at one point incarcerated, and find gainful employment at unavailable to them. But surely there are alternatives that don’t involve a 50% mortality rate??? Venture Criminalism (VC) has a lack of ethical prerequisites, similar financial upside, but lower risk to life and limb. Practically anyone can sell stuff on eBay, even those with no helpful skills; I know this because I have seen a wealthy baby boomer perform a successful eBay auction sale. And Piratery is still open to highly-motivated nautically inclined go-getters.

Recommendation: There seems to be no economic rationale for the typical henchmen volunteer, and this will correct itself over time. But markets, especially ones involving evil organizations seeking world destruction, may be able to stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, so shorting typical henchmen assets is an untenable risk. We do see an opportunity to start nibbling at brainwashing assets, mystical loyalty curse assets, and zombie making assets. All beneft from solid fundamentals, and stand to gain long term from henchmen markets becoming more rational, as the labor supply dries up and evil firms seek to find ways to effect impressment.

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  1. ajay
    March 4th, 2009 | 1:01 pm

    Maybe, in the same way that corner drug dealers accept low pay in the hope of promotion to a more lucrative role as gang lieutenant (see Venkatesh), the henchmen are enduring these admittedly unpleasant working conditions in the hope that soon they will be promoted to a cushier job as “acolyte”, “sidekick” or “Number 3”?

    Though “number 3” in AQ seems an equally dangerous position…

    A second point: men were quite willing to volunteer by the thousand for the British Army up to 1916, despite the life of a soldier in the trenches being very a) short and b) grim. Henchmen at least get dry clothing, comfortable quarters and regular changes of socks.

    There’s also serious observational bias. By definition, a successful archcriminal enterprise goes undetected – the henchman mortality figures you are using are based on a sample (Fleming, Broccoli et al, 1963) gathered entirely from unsuccessful archcriminal enterprises. We don’t know how many arch villains go undetected by MI6, CTU, or the JLA, and therefore we don’t know how many henchmen live peaceful lives and eventually retire on a pension (to become, presumably, penchmen). Methodologically, what you’ve done is the equivalent of deciding that all marriages are unhappy, based on a sample of husbands who murder their wives.

  2. Pleb
    March 4th, 2009 | 1:03 pm

    Given that we’re about to plunder the top 20% or more of earners in the U.S., I think the outlook for henching is particularly bright right now.

    Long single color golf shirts, short shorts, and thin cotton coveralls as well as cheap plastic hard hats and used (never fired) guns. (Comparable to the Used French Army Weapons market). Also long bandaids, ace bandages, Ben Gay, and Aramark’s uniform business if you can find shares OTC.

    Short life insurance, health insurance, and yourself.

  3. samhill
    March 4th, 2009 | 1:03 pm

    I had some henchmen experience as a summer intern and there are two characteristics that I found to be common among henchmen:

    1) meglomania – this may be surprising considering how utterly indistinguishable henchmen seem to outsiders, but no henchman seems himself as a dispensable cog (although he sees all of his peers this way). Henchmen generally want to be Big Boss (preferably level 3 or higher) and see their henchman status as a stepping stone on their way up the criminal ladder. this explains the high turnover/mortality rate, it is imperative to their own survival that Big Bosses routinely kill/sacrifice henchmen as they begin to exhibit disillusionment with their station in life.

    2) an insatiable urge to make the world “better”. Also contrary to their seemingly mindless devotion, henchmen are deep thinkers and deep feelers. They see the world as imperfect and wish to make it better. Many pollsters were surprised to find that “change” was a theme that resonated strongly among henchmen in 2008, especially when contrasted with the theme of “loyalty”. Go figure.

  4. March 4th, 2009 | 6:54 pm

    First of all Johnny I just love you. (Insert absurdly wet sloppy kiss here)

    Moving right along, everything one ever needs to learn about what the motivations of a henchman can be learned from Shantaram.


    a) Henchmen suck up the conditions because, as former convicts, they simply aren’t desirable employees elsewhere.

    b) Henchman are paid in intagible goods, such as the filling of emotional Daddy-voids by the head of the gang. If you looked at the demographics of henchmen i think you’d notice alot of them come from single parent households with absentee fathers.

  5. The Monarch
    March 4th, 2009 | 7:38 pm

    “Why do you always send 21 and 24?”

    “They’re that rare combination of expendable and invulnerable that makes them great Henchmen.”

  6. March 4th, 2009 | 9:37 pm

    @ Samhill

    I never realized how henchman-like I am, apparently.

    Also, gents, consider the tons of ex-Wall Streeters who, by necessity, are likely to now cross over to the dark side, i.e. regulation and enforcement.

    These are the New Hench Over-class, or as I call them, HOBOS.

  7. still_employed
    March 4th, 2009 | 11:03 pm

    That death rate is “about 1%” in the same way a run-of-the-mill associate’s annual comp is “about a million”.

  8. RichL
    March 7th, 2009 | 10:49 pm

    “Other fringe benefits such as company flying cars and teleportation belts sound great until you realize that those are really expensive high-tech tethers used to guarantee the henchmen are available to their masters at all times and from all places.”

    On the Street, Blackberries are used for this purpose. Not nearly as cool..