Alfred Pennyworth

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Alfred Pennyworth
Cover of Batman 686 (March 2009 DC Comics). Art by Alex Ross. (Variant)
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceBatman #16 (April–May 1943)
Created byBob Kane
Bill Finger
Jerry Robinson
In-story information
Full nameAlfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth
Supporting character ofBatman
Robin
Notable aliasesThaddeus Crane, Thaddeus Middleton, The Eagle, Outsider
 
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Alfred Pennyworth
Cover of Batman 686 (March 2009 DC Comics). Art by Alex Ross. (Variant)
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceBatman #16 (April–May 1943)
Created byBob Kane
Bill Finger
Jerry Robinson
In-story information
Full nameAlfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth
Supporting character ofBatman
Robin
Notable aliasesThaddeus Crane, Thaddeus Middleton, The Eagle, Outsider

Alfred Pennyworth is a fictional character who appears throughout the DC Universe. The character first appears in Batman #16 (April–May 1943), and was created by writers Bob Kane and Bill Finger, and artist Jerry Robinson. Alfred serves as Bruce Wayne's tireless valet, assistant, butler, confidant, best friend, and surrogate father figure. In modern interpretations, this has gone to the point where Alfred was Bruce's legal guardian following the death of his parents. He has sometimes been called "Batman's batman."[1][2] Alfred also provides comic relief, as his sometimes sarcastic and cynical attitude often adds humor to dialogue occurring between himself and Batman. Alfred is a vital part of the Batman mythos, and appears in most other media adaptations of the character.

The character has been consistently popular over the years, having received a nomination for the R.A.C. Squiddy Award for Favorite Supporting Character in 1994 and for Best Character in 2001. Alfred was also nominated for the Wizard Fan Award for Favorite Supporting Male Character in 1994.[3]

In non-comics media, the character has been portrayed by noted actors William Austin, Alan Napier, Michael Gough, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Ian Abercrombie, and Michael Caine, and will next be played by Sean Pertwee and Jeremy Irons.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Alfred in his first appearance as an overweight, bumbling detective.

When Alfred first appeared, he was overweight and clean-shaven; however, when the 1943 Batman serial was released, William Austin, the actor who played Alfred, was trim and sported a thin moustache. DC editors wanted the comic Alfred to resemble his cinematic counterpart, so in Detective Comics #83 (January 1944), Alfred vacationed at a health resort, where he slimmed down and grew a mustache. This look has remained with the character ever since, even surviving his "death"[Comics 1] and resurrection.[Comics 2]

Alfred was originally conceived as a comedic foil for Batman and Robin. In most early tales, he made bungling attempts to be a detective on a par with the young masters. He was given a four-page feature of his own,[Comics 3] and the feature lasted thirteen issues, skipping Batman #35, with the last story in Batman #36.[Comics 4] The stories followed a simple formula with Alfred somehow managing to solve a crime and catch the culprits entirely by accident. After that, the comedic aspects of the character were downplayed.

Pre-Crisis[edit]

The Pre-Crisis comics (the comics that were published by DC Comics between 1938 and 1986) established Alfred as a retired actor and intelligence agent who followed the deathbed wish of his dying father Jarvis Pennyworth to carry on the tradition of serving the Wayne family. To that end, Alfred introduced himself to Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at Wayne Manor and insisted on becoming their valet. Although the pair did not want one, especially since they did not want to jeopardize their secret identities with a servant in the house, they did not have the heart to reject Alfred.

Initially, Alfred discovered their identities by accident; while fighting a burglar in Batman #16 (Alfred's first appearance), he accidentally hit a switch and opened a sliding panel leading to the Batcave. He is helpful to the duo, following them to a theatre where they are captured, bound and gagged by a criminal gang, and rescues them after Batman attracts his attention by knocking a rope down before the crooks return. This was revised in Batman #110 (September 1957); during his first night at Wayne Manor, Alfred awoke to moaning and followed the sound to the secret passage to the staircase leading to the Batcave and met his would-be employers in their superhero identities. As it turned out, the wounds were actually insignificant, but Alfred's care convinced the residents that their butler could be trusted. Since then, Alfred included the support staff duties of the Dynamic Duo on top of his regular tasks.

Ironically, Alfred's loyalty would lead him to become a member of Batman's rogue's gallery. While pushing Batman and Robin out of the way of a falling boulder, Alfred was seemingly killed in Detective #328 (June 1964). It was revealed in Detective #356 (October 1966) that he had been revived by a scientist named Brandon Crawford. His attempt at regeneration resulted in a dramatic change: Alfred awoke from his apparent death with pasty white skin with circular markings, superhuman powers, including telekinesis, and a desire to destroy Batman and Robin. Calling himself The Outsider, he indirectly battled the Dynamic Duo on a number of occasions, using others as his puppets – the Grasshopper Gang in Detective #334, Zatanna in Detective #336, and even the Batmobile itself in Detective #340 – and generally only appeared as a mocking voice over the radio. He did not physically appear in the comics until Detective #356, when he is bathed again in the rays of the regeneration machine during a struggle with Batman, and returns to normal, with no memory of his time as a supervillain. His time as the Outsider is collected in Showcase Presents: Batman Volumes 1 and 2.

Alfred was later reunited with his long-lost daughter, Julia Remarque, though this element was not included in Post-Crisis comics. Her mother was the DC war heroine Mademoiselle Marie, whom Alfred had met while working as an intelligence agent in occupied France during World War II.

Post-Crisis[edit]

In the Post-Crisis comics' continuity, Alfred has been the Wayne family valet all of Bruce's life, and had helped his master establish his superhero career from the beginning. In addition he was Bruce's legal guardian following the deaths of his parents. Alfred's history has been modified several times over the years, creating assorted versions. In one such version Alfred was hired away from the British Royal Family by Bruce's parents, and he virtually raised Bruce after they were murdered.

Meanwhile another version of Alfred's Post-Crisis life was slightly more closely linked to his pre-Crisis counterpart. In this version Alfred was an actor on the English stage, who agreed to become the Waynes' butler, only so as to honor the dying wish of his father. At the time he begins working for the Waynes, Bruce is but a young child. After several months, Alfred voices the desire to quit and return home to continue his life as an actor. However, these plans are momentarily forgotten when young Bruce returns home, after getting into a fight with a school bully. Alfred teaches Bruce to handle the bully strategically, rather than using brute force. Following Alfred's advice, Bruce manages to take care of his bully problem. Upon returning home, Bruce requests that Alfred stay, and Alfred agrees without a second thought. After the Waynes' murders, Alfred raises Bruce.

Alfred would later aid Bruce in raising Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake, all of whom would be adopted by Bruce Wayne and become his partner Robin. He also had close friendships with other members of the Bat-Clan including Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain. Alfred often acts as a father-figure to Bruce, and a grandfather to Dick, Jason, and Tim. He is also highly respected by those heroes who are aware of his existence, including Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the original Teen Titans.

Alfred has also been romantically linked to Dr. Leslie Thompkins, though his relationship with her never came to anything, particularly after she apparently allowed Stephanie Brown to die from neglect. He also developed feelings for Tim Drake's stepmother, but again, nothing came of it.

During the events of Knightquest, Alfred accompanies Wayne to England, and becomes enraged when Wayne insists on endangering his own health while paraplegic. This was the culmination of several weeks of Wayne's self-destructive behavior, and when Wayne returns to Gotham City, Alfred remains in England, tendering his resignation. He spends some time vacationing in Antarctica and The Bahamas before returning to England. Dick Grayson tracks him down several months later and convinces him to return to Wayne Manor. In that story, it was revealed he had walked out of his own wedding years earlier.

His resourcefulness came to the fore in the No Man's Land storyline, especially in Legends of the Dark Knight #118. Batman is missing for weeks, leaving Alfred alone to watch his city for him. He uses his skills as an actor, storyteller, medic, and spy to survive and collect information on the recently destroyed society. Alfred even uses hand-to-hand combat in a rare one-panel fight sequence between him and a pair of slavers that ends with his rescue by Batman.

In Batman #677, agents of Batman's mysterious enemy the Black Glove attack and beat Alfred in front of Bruce and Jezebel Jet, severely injuring him. In the same issue, a reporter from The Gotham Gazette suggests to Commissioner Gordon that Alfred may be Bruce's biological father, and that this may be a reason for the murder of Martha Wayne. Alfred later denies the entire story, agreeing with Bruce that it was a fabrication. In Batman and the Outsiders Special, Alfred is seen apologizing at the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne at the loss of Bruce, commenting that he grieves as a parent, regarding Bruce as his son. Later, a secret panel in Alfred's room opens, the result of a fail-safe planted by Bruce in the event of his death. Bruce leaves his one final task, and also gives him an emotional goodbye, telling Alfred he considered him as a father.

Alfred is left emotionally shattered, commenting more than once that, even if his biological fatherhood is a fabrication, in a deeper sense he actually was Bruce Wayne's father, having watched over him for years and feeling to have failed him in the last moments.

After the event of Final Crisis, when Batman was apparently killed in action, Alfred finds himself with the task of raising Bruce's biological son Damian with Grayson. Batman: Battle for the Cowl sees Alfred allowing Damian Wayne to take on his first mission as Robin, giving Damian a Robin tunic and calling on Squire to assist the new Boy Wonder in finding Tim Drake, who went missing hunting down Jason Todd. Alfred also assists Grayson in his role as Gotham's new Dark Knight.

After discovering that the original Batman was actually lost in time after his battle with Darkseid, Alfred immediately seeks clues of his whereabouts. Eventually, Bruce finds his way to the present. After Batman successfully expands his mission globally with Batman Inc., Bruce assumes full responsibility as a father and Alfred assists him in raising Damian.

The New 52[edit]

In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), it is revealed that Alfred's father Jarvis Pennyworth was the butler of the Wayne family before Alfred when Bruce was still a child. Jarvis was blackmailed by the Court of Owls to set a trap for the pregnant Martha Wayne. Despite declining, the Court managed to cause a car accident that caused the child to be born prematurely and eventually to have died. Jarvis attempted to resign from his services and write a letter to his son in which he describes the manor as a cursed place, and tells Alfred that he should not begin his service under the Wayne family. However, Jarvis was unable to send it as he was murdered that night.[Comics 5]

Other versions[edit]

Earth One[edit]

Alfred appears as a main character in Geoff Johns' and Gary Frank's Batman: Earth One. In this incarnation, Alfred was a member of the Royal Marines. Alfred met Thomas Wayne during a tour of duty in the Middle East and the two became good friends. During a battle, Alfred saved Thomas' life but lost his right leg in the process. It is also implied that both he and Thomas are keeping a traumatic secret. Discharged back to his home in London, Alfred received a gift from Thomas in the form of an otherwise very expensive prosthetic leg. He later traveled to Gotham City to visit his friend and found himself arriving on the night of a campaign party for Thomas' bid at the mayoral office. Afraid for his friend after hearing of the death threats on his life, Alfred tried to talk Thomas out of going to the movies with his wife and son, but Thomas refused to allow threats to keep him from enjoying his weekly movie night with Martha and Bruce.

Later that night, Alfred was called to the police station. Thomas and Martha had been killed by a mugger outside the theatre and Bruce had been orphaned. To Alfred's shock, he discovered that Thomas and Martha had named him Bruce's legal guardian some time ago. Unsure of himself, Alfred still made it his mission to look out for Bruce as he grew up.

When Bruce took on his costumed persona of Batman and began his war on crime, Alfred reluctantly took on the role of confidante and advisor, often telling Bruce to simply carry a gun instead of a belt full of untested gadgets. Alfred later saved Bruce's life by shooting Mayor Oswald Cobblepot.

Though Alfred introduced himself to the eight-year-old Bruce as his butler, it is obvious he was never serves as a manservant in the story otherwise as Bruce's guardian and mentor. He is also a skilled martial artist, and trains Bruce the combat skills he would eventually utilize as Batman. He has a daughter living in Seoul, South Korea with her mother, where Alfred had previously worked at a security firm, implying Julia Remarque's existence in this continuity.[Comics 6]

All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder[edit]

In Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Alfred is a tougher individual with a different backstory. Following Batman's assault on the corrupt Gotham City police, who are readying to beat and probably kill the pre-Robin Dick Grayson, Alfred and Vicki Vale are caught in the devastating car wreckage Batman creates (not aware of their presence) and Vale is badly hurt. Alfred is seen, shirtless and muscled, applying a tourniquet and generally taking control of the situation. The boxouts in the frame describe him as having been a medic in the RAF and as ex-British Secret Service. Later in the series he is seen working out with a punching bag, again with a muscular physique, brooding about Bruce as "my DEMON — my black-eyed, brilliant, willful ANGEL".[Comics 7]

Tangent Comics[edit]

Alfred makes a very brief appearance in the 1997 Tangent Comics One Shot Green Lantern in a story revolving around the Tangent versions of King Faraday and Roy Raymond. In this version Alfred Pennyworth is the head of a publishing empire that owned "The House Of Mystery".

Elseworlds[edit]

Earth-3[edit]

During the "Trinity War" event of The New 52, it is revealed that the leader of the Secret Society is Alfred from Earth-3 who serves Owlman of the Crime Syndicate of America.[4]

Tiny Titans[edit]

Alfred appears in Tiny Titans, and often has to make Robin stand in the corner because he has misbehaved.

Name[edit]

Alfred introduced himself as the son of a butler named Jarvis in one of his early appearances[volume & issue needed], and the convention being that British butlers are known by their surnames, it was unclear whether Jarvis was his father's first or last name, the latter case which would have made Alfred's name Alfred Jarvis. Whether by coincidence or not, the name "Jarvis" was later used for the Avengers' butler, Edwin Jarvis, a character with many similarities to Alfred.

Alfred's name was later given officially as Alfred Beagle.[Comics 9] This name was subsequently given to an alternative version of the character from the world of Earth-Two, and Pennyworth became Alfred's accepted surname in the mainstream continuity.[Comics 10] Alfred has also used the alias "Thaddeus Crane", which is derived from his middle names.[Comics 11] His full name of Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth was depicted on his tombstone in Superman/Batman: Generations.

The Beagle surname was brought back into continuity (post-Crisis on Infinite Earths but pre-Infinite Crisis) as Alfred's original name as an actor and Cold War spy. He adopted the "Pennyworth" surname after his brief intelligence career, based on a comment from his handler that his life was not even worth a penny (in reference to a cyanide pill concealed within a fake penny).[volume & issue needed]

Grant Morrison's run has referred to the Beagle surname as a possible stage name.[Comics 12]

In the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne leaves the residue of his estate to Alfred, listing him in the will as Alfred J. Pennyworth.

Family[edit]

Skills, resources, and abilities[edit]

A highly intelligent and resourceful man, Alfred runs the day-to-day operations of Wayne Manor and maintains much of the equipment of the Batcave beneath it. A former actor, he can use his acting and disguise skills to help Batman in the field when necessary, and is even capable of impersonating Bruce Wayne on the telephone convincingly. He has also provided first aid up to and including suturing wounds and removing bullets, as well as occasional tactical support. He is also able to perform arthroscopy and other advanced medical procedures, thus limiting, if not eliminating, the need for hospital medical treatment even in the face of grievous injuries. Nevertheless, Batman still requires professional medical treatment when Bane breaks his back (Batman: Knightfall) and Hush's machinations result in his suffering a skull fracture (Batman: Hush). On these occasions, Alfred admits that his own skills are inadequate for such medical procedures.

While not as skilled at martial arts as Bruce Wayne, Alfred is still nearly as resourceful. In one story in which he is kidnapped, he readily escapes and overcomes his captors without disturbing the cut of his suit. It was later mentioned that he had been kidnapped unsuccessfully 27 times (it should be noted, however, that these events take place in the Gotham Adventures comics, based on the animated adventures of Batman, and not within the standard DCU continuity).[Comics 15] During Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul, Ubu, Ra's al Ghul's musclebound bodyguard, attempts to use Alfred as a hostage, only to be disabled by a well timed sucker punch from Alfred.

Presumably due to his lack of superpowers, the advanced combat training Bruce's other associates have, and Alfred's age, Alfred is the only member of the "Batman Family" that Bruce does not mind using a firearm, in his case favoring a shotgun when dealing with direct attacks on his person.

In the 1960s TV series Batman, Alfred is portrayed as skilled in swordsmanship and archery. He also impersonates Batman in scenes where Batman and Bruce Wayne have to be seen together.

Current issues of the various Batman comics seem to indicate that Alfred is a pioneer in and has also mastered several fields of rose breeding (even creating his own, the "Pennyworth Blue"), computer programming, computer engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, nanotechnology, and biotechnology as he singlehandedly builds, programs, and maintains much of Batman's next-generational technology such as the Batcomputer.[Comics 16]

In the Christopher Nolan film series, Alfred is a veteran of the British Army's elite Special Air Service, having served in the Malayan Emergency, Oman, Aden, Burma and Northern Ireland.

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

Live action[edit]

Alan Napier as Alfred in the Batman TV series.

Animation[edit]

A robot likeness of Alfred Pennyworth named Alpha-Red appears in "The Super-Batman of Planet X", voiced by James Arnold Taylor. He serves as the robotic butler of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.

Film[edit]

Live action[edit]

Michael Gough as Alfred in the Burton/Schumacher film series.

Animation[edit]

Video games[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mackie, Rob (2005-10-21). "Batman Begins review". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  2. ^ Tilley, Steve (2005-06-13). "Michael Caine one tough butler". CANOE (Edmonton Sun). Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  3. ^ "Comic Book Awards Almanac". Users.rcn.com. Retrieved 2010-12-25. [dead link]
  4. ^ Justice League Vol. 2 #23
  5. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/foxs-batman-prequel-gotham-casts-679207
  6. ^ "Fox’s ‘Gotham’ Casts Classic ‘Batman’ Characters the Penguin, Alfred Pennyworth". Variety. 2014-02-11. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Jesse Eisenberg and Jeremy Irons Join the Cast of Warner Bros. Pictures’ Untitled Superman/Batman Film from Director Zack Snyder". Business Wire. January 31, 2014. 
  8. ^ Game Informer features a two-page gallery of the many heroes and villains who appear in the game with a picture for each character and a descriptive paragraph. See "LEGO Batman: Character Gallery," Game Informer 186 (October 2008): 92.

Plot summary citations[edit]

  1. ^ Bill Finger (w), Sheldon Moldoff (p), Joe Giella (i). "Gotham Gang Line-Up!" Detective Comics 328 (June 1964), DC Comics
  2. ^ Gardner Fox (w), Sheldon Moldoff (p), Joe Giella (i). "Inside Story of the Outsider!" Detective Comics 328 (October 1964)Detective Comics #356 in 1966
  3. ^ Mort Weisinger (w), Jerry Robinson (a). "Conversational Clue" Batman 22 (April–May 1944), DC Comics
  4. ^ Jerry Robinson (a). "Elusive London Eddie" Batman 36 (August–September 1946)
  5. ^ Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV (w), Albuquerque, Rafael (a), McCaig, Dave (col). "Fall of the House of Wayne" Batman v2, 9-11 (July–September 2012), DC Comics
  6. ^ Batman: Earth One
  7. ^ All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #6
  8. ^ Doug Moench (w), Kelley Jones (p), Malcolm Jones (i). Batman & Dracula: Red Rain (1991), DC Comics
  9. ^ Don Cameron (w), Dick Sprang (a). "Alfred, Private Detective" Detective Comics 96 (February 1945)
  10. ^ Frank Robbins (w), Irv Novick (p), Dick Giordano (i). "Angel-- or Devil!" Batman 216 (November 1969)
  11. ^ Bill Finger (w), Sheldon Moldoff (p), Stan Kaye (i). "Ace, the Bat-Hound!" Batman 92 (June 1955)
  12. ^ Grant Morrison (w), Tony Daniel (p), Sandu Florea (i). "Batman R.I.P.: Batman in the Underworld" Batman 677 (July 2008)
  13. ^ a b Detective Comics #501-502
  14. ^ Alan Burnett (w), Dustin Nguyen (p), Derek Fridolfs (i). "Torment" Superman/Batman 37-42 (Late August 2007 - Early January 2008), DC Comics
  15. ^ Scott Peterson (w), Craig Rousseau (p), Terry Beatty (i). "Captive Audience" Batman: Gotham Adventures 16 (September 1999), DC Comics
  16. ^ Michael Green (w), Denys Cowan (p), John Floyd (i). "Lovers & Madmen, Part Two: Peace in Arms" Batman Confidential 8 (October 2007), DC Comics

External links[edit]