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Alfred Pennyworth Comics to Read to learn more about Batman’s loyal butler

It takes a special man to stand next to Batman and be able to snark at him or tell him, in a very British way, that he is wrong. That man is Alfred Pennyworth, the Ultimate Supporting Character.

Introduced in Batman #16 in 1943, under the name Alfred Beagle, Pennyworth is known as Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler and trusted confidant. The world of Bruce Wayne/Batman feels a little bit incomplete when Alfred’s not here to help, guide, and reason with Bruce.

Because Alfred is more than a butler. This former British agent is the surrogate father of Bruce Wayne and other members of the Bat Family. The man doesn’t just look after the Manor and the Batcave, he also takes care of everyone, showing them love, cooking for them, making snarky remarks, and using his military medical skills when needed.

While Alfred generally stands in the shadow of Batman, we choose today to put him in the spotlight with a selection of comic book stories highlighting the greatness of the character.

Detective Comics Vol. 2 #37 (Darwyn Cooke Variant Cover)

Alfred and Bruce’s relationship

While Alfred was originally conceived as a comedic foil for Batman and Robin, the character gains a different place in Batman’s mythos throughout the years. If his deadpan remark would often assure the presence of some humor if necessary, Alfred has proved more often than not to be the soul of Wayne Manor, a caretaker before anything else, capable of defending himself as much as protecting those he loves, by combat or with words.

Coming from Kevin Dooley and Malcolm Jones III, the story “Waiting in the Wings” (in Batman Annual #13, 1989) shows the events of Year One from Alfred’s perspective. Illustrating the emotional toil it can have to be by Bruce’s side, it also encapsulates Alfred’s role in Bruce’s life as a man present to help him keep up the facade and patch the many wounds.

Being Bruce Wayne’s loving fatherly figure doesn’t come without challenges. This is one of the ideas explored by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque in All-Star Batman: First Ally (#10-14, 2017). Narrated by Alfred, this story takes us on an overseas adventure where Bruce Wayne infiltrates an operation by pretending to be another villain who looks like him while Alfred’s past returns to exact revenge. Many parallels (too much sometimes) between Alfred and Bruce are built to examine their relationship, with an emphasis on the father figure role.

For more touchy-feely, look no further than Batman Annual #3: Father’s Day (2018) by Tom Taylor and Otto Schmidt. Once again, this story puts the accent on what Alfred goes through while Bruce is putting on the cape and fighting crime. Capturing with sensitivity the dynamic between the two characters, the story delivers some good combat scenes while making the human drama the real action of the story.

Alfred in Batman: Secret Files and Origins #1

The Many Faces of Alfred

While being Batman’s caretaker is Alfred’s primary role, some issues go on exploring Alfred’s past and his life outside of Wayne Manor. This is such a case with Detective Comics #501-502 (1981), a pre-Crisis story written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Don Newton. While it is presented as a classic murder mystery with Batman on the cover asking how one of his allies, Alfred or Lucius, could be a murderer, this investigation taking us on a trip to France is actually an opportunity to dive into Alfred’s history with the first appearance of a certain Julia Remarque, known today as Julia Pennyworth.

More than ten years later, Alan Grant and Dick Giordano take a peek at another part of Alfred’s past in Nightwing: Alfred’s Return #1 (1995). Set after the events of Knightfall, Alfred has left Bruce Wayne’s employ to find himself in London reconnecting with an old flame who informs him he may have a son. While evidently predictable, Alfred is offered the possibility to show us again the badass he truly is and offers some good moments for those who also cherish the relationship between Alfred and Dick Grayson.

Truth be told, Alfred is a character who shines brightly in those little stories that show us his talent for action and his heart of gold. For that, the short but endearing story Guide Tour: The Batcave, in Batman: Secret Files and Origins #1 (1997). Written by Graham Nolan, it follows Alfred and Tim trying to capture an animal in the Batcave, with a conclusion that puts a smile on the reader’s face. 

Talking of animals, Ace the Bat-Hound stars with Alfred in the story “Good Boy” from Batman Annual (2017) #1 by Tom King and David Finch – who won the Eisner Award for short story. Originally raised to be an attack dog, Alfred adopted Ace and retrained him to stir him away from the violence he had been taught to use in the past. This cute story perfectly shows one of Alfred’s best talents: nurturing the wounded to put them back in shape.

Finally, let’s never forget that Alfred has taken down a Predator in the first Batman Versus Predator crossover comic!

What’s going on with Alfred? The butler has fallen for Catwoman in Batman #22!

Alfred Pennyworth in the Golden Age

As we already said, Alfred wasn’t the full-fledged version that we know today when he was introduced in 1943. If you want to go back and discover more about Alfred’s Golden Age era in the comics, we naturally invite you to start with his debut in Batman #16 (1943), by Don C. Cameron and Bob Kane to have a first sight at Alfred Beagle, and overweight and clean shaved man!

Less than a year after his introduction, Bruce Wayne’s butler would undergo a physical transformation following the release of the 1943 Batman serial. DC editors wanted the comic Alfred to look like the one played by William Austin. So Alfred took a vacation at a health resort in Detective Comics #83 (January 1944) and came back slimmer and with a mustache!

It was soon followed by the first Alfred story in Batman #22 (1944), a reminder that Alfred wasn’t treated as a serious character at that time. Coming from Alvin Schwartz and Bob Kane, this is a silly story with our famous butler falling in love with Catwoman and creating a few problems for our dynamic duo.

Young Bruce and Alfred the Butler in Batman: Earth One

Great Out-of Continuity stories with Alfred

There is no Batman without Alfred, whatever the continuity! For this reason, our favorite butler was offered some great moments outside DC’s main continuity, starting with Batman Gotham Adventures #16: Captive Audience. Set in The New Batman Adventures continuity, Alfred has been kidnapped but Batman doesn’t worry too much about his butler. He knows him well and this story is a great reminder of how Alfred can handle himself in the face of danger!

For those who like to explore the rugged man side of Alfred Pennyworth, the most famous representation of this side of the character is in Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. This is a physically more James Bond-like and emotionally colder character that puts more emphasis on Alfred’s skills from his time in the Secret Service.

This version influenced his portrayal in the television series Pennyworth which has a tie-in comic from Scott Bryan Wilson and Juan Gedeon. Consisting of seven issues, this spy thriller is set during Pennyworth’s time as a member of British Intelligence. 

Though those out-of-continuity stories focused more on Alfred as a man of action, Tom Taylor’s Injustice offers some good balance between the badass part and the most touching and human part of the character.

Several stories listed in this article have been collected in Batman Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, a DC paperback collecting some of the character’s best stories.

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