|First appearance||Batman #16 (April–May 1943)|
|Created by||Bob Kane|
|Full name||Alfred Pennyworth|
|Team affiliations||Batman Family|
Secret Intelligence Service
|Supporting character of||Batman|
|Notable aliases||Thaddeus Crane|
|“||We soldier on undaunted, you and I, Master Bruce. And if I may say so, sir... I couldn't beg, borrow or steal a finer way to live my life.||”|
Alfred Pennyworth is a fictional character that appears throughout the DC Comics franchise. The character first appears in Batman #16 (April–May 1943), and was created by writer Bob Kane and artist Jerry Robinson. Alfred serves as Batman’s (and Bruce Wayne's) tireless butler, assistant, confidant, 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." 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.
In non-comics media, the character has been portrayed by noted actors Michael Gough, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and Sir Michael Caine.
Fictional character biography
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" and resurrection.
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, and the feature lasted thirteen issues, skipping Batman #35, with the last story in Batman #36. 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.
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, 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 butler. 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 (Batman had been injured out in a field) 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.
In the Post-Crisis comics' continuity, Alfred has been the Wayne family butler 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 stays, 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 failsafe 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 seeking clues of his whereabout. Eventually, Bruce finds his way to the present. After Batman successfully expands his mission globally with Batman Inc., Bruce assumes full responsibly as a father and Alfred assists him in raising Damian.
In the absence of Batman, the Outsiders will be led by a new Owlman. A Trick or Treat tease from the Oct. 2008 of DC Nation hints that it will be Alfred Pennyworth behind the mask. In Origins & Omens: Outsiders #15, however, Alfred takes the role of leader of the Outsiders unmasked (directing them remotely). Owlman is revealed to be Roy Raymond Jr., a former television mystery show host, who was hand-selected by Batman prior to his death.
In Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder Alfred is a much tougher individual with a different back-story. 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".
Alfred appears in the Elseworlds series Superman & Batman: Generations. He serves the Wayne family before dying in 1967, but his spirit remains around to give Bruce advice. In Generations 2, he makes his final appearance in 1975, when he convinces the ghost of Dick Grayson not to kill the Joker. He manages to convince Dick to pass over, but in the process his own soul crosses over, meaning he cannot come back.
Alfred plays a prominent role in the "Vampire Batman" trilogy where Batman is turned into a vampire to fight Dracula, forging Batman's weapons to use against the remaining members of Dracula's 'family' and subsequently working with Commissioner Gordon after Batman succumbs to his vampiric instincts and begins to kill his old enemies. At the conclusion of the trilogy, with Gordon being hunted by Two-Face and Killer Croc in the remains of the Batcave, Alfred sacrifices his life to allow Batman to drink his blood, giving his old master the strength to save Gordon and Gotham itself one last time before he allows himself to die to end the threat that he has become.
Alfred introduced himself as the son of a butler named Jarvis in one of his early appearances, 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. 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. Alfred has also used the alias “Thaddeus Crane”, which is derived from his middle names. His full name of Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth was depicted on his tombstone in Superman/Batman: Generations.
Grant Morrison's run has referred to the Beagle surname as a possible stage name.
- Jarvis: Alfred's father in pre-Crisis continuity.
- Mademoiselle Marie: A war heroine with whom Alfred has a daughter in pre-Crisis continuity.
- Julia Remarque: Alfred's daughter by Mademoiselle Marie.
- Wilfred Pennyworth: Alfred's brother, Wilfred is referenced in the late 1960s and early 1970s and is mentioned in the 1997 film Batman & Robin.
- Daphne Pennyworth: Niece of Alfred Pennyworth and daughter of Wilfred Pennyworth, Daphne briefly appeared in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
Skills, resources, and abilities
Alfred is quite a brilliant man. He primarily keeps up day-to-day operations of Bruce Wayne's home 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. With time, he has increased his surgical skills, and he's now 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 (although professional medical treatment was still required when Bruce's back was broken by Bane (Batman: Knightfall) and when he sustained a skull fracture due to the machinations of Hush (Batman: Hush), Alfred noting that his own skills were inadequate for the current tasks).
While not as skilled at hand-to-hand combat as Bruce Wayne, Alfred is still nearly as resourceful. During a time at which he was 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). During Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul, Ubu, Ra's massively muscled bodyguard and henchman, 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 was skilled in swordsmanship and archery. He also impersonated Batman in scenes where Batman and Bruce Wayne had 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.
In the Christopher Nolan film series Alfred served time in the SAS (which explains his tactical prowess) and allegedly had a mission in Burma.
In other media
- Alan Napier portrayed Alfred in the live-action TV series Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
- Ian Abercrombie portrayed Alfred in the short-lived live-action TV series Birds of Prey.
- Olan Soule voice-played Alfred in the cartoon The Batman/Superman Hour.
- William Callaway voice-played Alfred in the Challenge of the Super Friends episode "Wanted: The Superfriends". He is among the male humans that get turned into a Bizzaro.
- Clive Revill voice-played Alfred in the first three episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, before he had to leave due to a previous commitment. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. voice-played Alfred throughout the rest of Batman: The Animated Series as well as for the character's appearances in the various other series of the DC Animated Universe. This version of Alfred combines elements from pre-Crisis and post-Crisis continuities; Alfred has been serving the Wayne family since before Thomas Wayne's death and helped his young charge assume the Batman identity, but was also revealed to be a former agent for the British intelligence agency MI-6.
- Alastair Duncan voice-played Alfred in the animated TV series The Batman. In this incarnation, Alfred's grandfather served Penguin's obnoxious family in England, but was mistreated and then fired. He sometimes likes to watch television while dusting. As in other media, Alfred is portrayed as being far from being weak or feeble as he's able to fight, use the Bat Computer or even impersonate Batman when he needs to. While recent incarnations of the Batman franchise have depicted Alfred as elderly, The Batman presents a younger version of the character, presumably in his late-40s or early-50s.
- Alfred Pennyworth is featured in Batman: The Brave and the Bold voiced by James Garrett. In "Invasion of the Secret Santas", Alfred appears in a non-speaking cameo in Batman's flashbacks. Alfred appears again in a non-speaking cameo in "Chill of the Night". In "The Knights of Tomorrow", Alfred works on a book about the events depicted in the episode when Batman enters and mentions that Catwoman is on a crime spree. Alfred comments that Catwoman may one day be a good match for Batman. A robot likeness of Alfred Pennyworth named Alpha-Red appeared 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.
- Alfred Pennyworth appears in the Young Justice episode "Downtime", voiced by Jeff Bennett. He comes out to check up on Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson who are playing a game of basketball.
- William Austin portrayed Alfred in the 1943 serial Batman. Austin's appearance influenced the change of Alfred's design from the original fat, clean shaven Alfred.
- Eric Wilton portrayed Alfred in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin.
- Alan Napier portrayed Alfred in the 1966 live-action film Batman, based on the 1960s TV series.
- Michael Gough portrayed Alfred in director Tim Burton's live-action films Batman and Batman Returns, as well as Joel Schumacher's films Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. In Batman & Robin, he has a niece named Barbara Wilson who becomes Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone). Gough also portrayed Alfred in a 1989 Diet Coke commercial, in the BBC radio-drama presentation of the Knightfall story arc from the Batman comics, and in a series of OnStar commercials featuring Batman.
- Michael Caine portrayed Alfred in Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy.
- Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. voiced Alfred in the animated films Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, based on Batman: The Animated Series.
- Alastair Duncan voiced Alfred in the animated film The Batman vs. Dracula, based on The Batman.
- David McCallum voiced Alfred in Batman: Gotham Knight.
- Alan Oppenheimer voiced Alfred in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
- Jim Piddock voiced Alfred in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
He appears in LEGO Batman for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii.
An Easter egg in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King shows a character named Alfred Copperworth, an homage to Alfred Pennyworth, located in the Purple Parlor in the city of Dalaran (a copper is the lowest form of currency in the game, equivalent almost to a penny, and was the metal used to make the original U.S. penny).
Alfred's biography can be unlocked in Batman: Arkham Asylum. The player must scan a plaque describing one of Bruce Wayne's donations to the Arkham Medical Center.
Alfred will be appearing in Batman: Arkham City, serving as Batman's primary information source through radio communication - much in the same vein as Oracle in Arkham Asylum.
|Shared codenames: Batman • Robin • Batwoman • Batgirl • Huntress • Nightwing|
Villains: 2-Face-2 • Bane • Black Mask • Calender Man • Catwoman • Clayface
Character names: Ace the Bat-Hound • Bat-Mite • Helena Bertinelli • Stephanie Brown • Cassandra Cain • Tim Drake • Barbara Gordon • Dick Grayson • Betty Kane