Alfred Pennyworth: Where Do I Start?

Batman Gotham Adventures Vol 1 16Alfred Pennyworth. Beneath the guise of a mild-mannered butler lies Batman’s most trusted confidante and arguably Batman’s most essential sidekick. Originally created by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson in 1943 as a portly, bumbling foil for Batman and Robin, Alfred has grown into becoming one of the key aspects to make the mythos that is Batman work.

But as the perpetual right hand man for Batman, Alfred has rarely had a significant moment to shine on his own. A scene here, a panel there, very rarely an issue with him in the limelight. The one time he had his own story was back during his bumbling days in a back-up story inside some 1940s era Batman books, but unlike virtually all of Batman’s other confidantes he’s never had a proper series of his own. But despite that (or perhaps because of it), Alfred has been built up to be the quintessential associate of Bruce Wayne.

And in this week’s Where Do I Start?, we delve into the 70 year history of the Wayne Manor man-servant and pick through the decades of Batman stories and find the rare gems that show Alfred’s true brilliance.

Legends Of The Dark Knight 60Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight #59-61: In the absence of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Alfred raised Bruce as a mentor, servant and surrogate father — but even those tight bonds have breaking points. And in the expansive “Knightsquest” story-arc from the late 90s, we find Alfred’s breaking point when he sees Bruce push himself too far — mentally, physically and emotionally — in coming back from severe injuries to fight off Bane. Done by the excellent team of Dennis O’Neill and Eduardo Barreto, this really shows how deep Alfred and Bruce’s relationship runs.

Nightwing: Alfred’s Return: If the story about Alfred leaving is so great, then what about him inevitably coming back? Just as good, although even harder to find. Published as a one-shot epilogue to “Knightsquest,” the second man Alfred raised as his own, Nightwing, looks to bring him back into the fold and finds the former butler living a full, albeit bumpy, life on his own. This is the closest thing you’ll get to a Alfred solo comic, as it shows Alfred living in London and reminiscing about being an actor and dealing with his own romantic life while still dovetailing back into his role in the Bat-family.

Batman Earth OneBatman: Gotham Adventures #16: Another Alfred story never collected, but one of his greatest. In this, Alfred shows off his own skills dealing when villains — much to the surprise of the villains as well as Batman, Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl. All done expertly by writer Scott Peterson and a young but vibrant Craig Rousseau.

Batman: Earth One: Alfred’s been shown to have special forces experience in the past, but this recently released graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank shows a younger, more hands-on Alfred on the cusp of Bruce Wayne’s transformation to become Batman.In this, it shows Alfred as a Royal Marines colleague of Bruce’s father Thomas who comes back into his life just as Thomas and his wife are murdered. In this, Alfred acts as both Bruce’s substitute father and also Batman’s trainer.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #118: It seems its in the toughest moments that Alfred truly gets to shine, and amidst the memorable “No Man’s Land” event he just does that in this issue. With Batman no where to be found for weeks, Alfred wades into the conflict as a master spy and savant, navigating he ruins of Gotham and becoming the next best thing to Batman.And it’s done by expert Batman scribe Greg Rucka and a surprising but magnificent artist choice in Jason Pearson.

 

Comments

  1. Chris, do you know something about Snyder’s next issue that we don’t? The timing of this is really making me nervous, man.

    • Exactly. Just in time for the iFanboy crew to get their advanced review editions, they post about getting to know Alfred. Then again, it also all seems way too obvious, so I’m holding onto my shred of optimism.

    • We have received no review copies of next week’s BATMAN.

  2. What about the holiday special where he hires a prostitute!?

    • That reminds me of Alfred getting it on with Leslie Thompkins. They kinda had a great relationship until the writers totally ruined the Leslie Thompkins character with the Stephanie’s (Batgirl) faked death.

  3. Nice to see the take on Alfred in Batman: Earth One being noted. I really liked that book a lot.

    • Really what so you think Bout the ending with the book telling is guns aren’t the answer only to have the answer be Alfred shotgun blasting somebody out the window?

      Seems more like a Frank Castle ending.

    • I don’t think the message that guns aren’t the answer is lost because of that. Alfred’s actions set him up in a very different light, having a very different view on things.

      I think that opens the door to Alfred and Bruce butting heads over the issue rather than simply leaving it at “guns are bad.” If anything, I think it has the potential to elevate Bruce’s heroic stature a bit more because it would be easy to turn to guns – even more so with Alfred encouraging him to take that route. Not using guns? That’s why he’s Batman.

  4. I remember there was a great back-up Alfred story where Jim Gordon was investigating inside the Wayne Manor and Alfred diverted him from finding out the secrets within the household. (especially the grandfather clock entry.) I remember it being very clever and at the end it gave a slight hint that Gordon may know Batman’s identity. I can’t for the life of me remember how long ago that was or who wrote/drew the backup story. (Feels like it was over 10 years ago.)

    • I remember that story. When I read it, it was part of a Batman family digest.

      I liked it because it cast both Gordon and Alfred in a really good light – Alfred with his plan and that winking comment from Gordon at the end.

  5. Could You Please!!! Please do the next edition of Havok, I need to know the issues in which he was part of the starjammers and faced off Vulcan, thanks. It could also be for current continuities sake since he has been now promoted as leader of The Uncanny Avengers