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- Occupation: Butler; formerly actor
- Marital Status: Single
- Known Relatives: Wilfred (brother); Daphne (niece)
- Height: 6'
- Weight: 160 lbs.
- Eyes: Blue
- Hair: Black
- First Appearance: (Original): Batman #16 (April-May 1943)
- (Modern): Batman #401 (November 1986)
Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth is a supporting character in the DC Comics' Batman series. Created by writer Bob Kane and artist Jerry Robinson, he first appeared in Batman #16 (April-May 1943). Alfred serves as Batman’s tireless butler, assistant, confidante, somewhat of a father figure and has been called "Batman's batman." In the current DC Comics continuity, Alfred looked after Bruce Wayne after the death of his parents. Alfred also provides comic relief, as his sometimes sarcastic cynical character often adds humour to dialog occurring between himself and the obsessed Batman.
An important part of the Batman mythos, Alfred has appeared in most other media adaptations of the character.
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 mustache. 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 moustache. This look has remained with the character ever since, even surviving his deathDetective Comics #328 in 1964 and resurrection.' Detective Comics #356 in 1966
Alfred was originally conceived as a comedic foil for Batman and Robin. In most early tales, he made bumbling attempts to be a detective on a par with the young masters. He was given a four-page feature of his own, Batman #22 (April-May 1944) and the feature lasted ten issues. Batman #32 (December 1945-January 1946) 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 (i.e., comics 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. This was revised in Batman #110 (September 1957). His first night at Wayne Manor, Alfred awoke to moaning and followed the sound to the secret door to the staircase to the Batcave and met his would be employers in their superhero identities (Batman had been injured while out in the field). 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 put together in Showcase presents: Batman Volumes 1 & 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 the Second World War.
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. Alfred's history has been retconned 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 virtually raised him after they were murdered.
Meanwhile another version of Alfred's Post-Crisis life was slightly more linked closely 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 and 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. However, due to his rather cold personality, Bruce Wayne makes sure that at least some degree of the business relationship between the two always exists. 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 let Stephanie Brown die from neglect. He also developed feelings for Tim Drake's stepmother, but again, nothing came of it.
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.
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. His name was later given officially as Alfred Beagle.Detective Comics #96 (February 1945) This name was subsequently given to the an alternate version of the character from the world of Earth-Two, and Pennyworth became Alfred's accepted surname in the mainstream continuity.Batman #216 (1969) Alfred has also used the alias “Thaddeus Crane”, which is derived from his middle names.Batman #92 (June 1955) 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 wasn't even worth a penny (in reference to a cyanide pill concealed within a fake penny).
Skills, resources and abilities
Alfred primarily keeps-up day-to-day operations of Batman’s home of Wayne Manor and maintains much of the equipment of the Batcave beneath it. A former actor, he can use his acting 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.
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).Batman: Gotham Adventures #16 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.
In the 1960's TV series Batman Alfred was skilled in swordsmanship and archery.
Current issues of the various Batman comics seem to indicate that Alfred is a pioneer in and has also mastered several fields of computer programming, computer engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, nanotechnology, and biotechnology as he single-handedly builds, programs, and maintains much of the Batman's next-generational technology such as the Batcomputer.Batman Confidential #08 (October 2007)
In other media
- William Austin was the first actor to portray Alfred, in the 1943 Batman serial. 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 Batman film starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
- Michael Gough portrayed Alfred in the movies Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman and Robin (1997). In Batman & Robin, he was visited by his niece, Barbara Wilson, who becomes Batgirl. He is also a skilled technologist, as he programs his brain algorithms into the Batcomputer. Gough also portrayed Alfred in the BBC radio-drama presentation of the "Knightfall" story arc from the Batman comics, in a series of Onstar commercials featuring Batman, and a Diet Coke commercial from 1989.
- Michael Caine portrays Alfred in the movie Batman Begins and its sequel The Dark Knight. Despite Bruce Wayne's lifelong rebellion and frequent departure from home as shown in the film, Alfred never loses faith in his master. He also has a flair for both sarcasm and fatherly banter, a frequent source for comic relief in the film.
- Alan Napier portrayed Alfred on the 1960s TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
- Ian Abercrombie portrayed Alfred on the short-lived TV series Birds of Prey.
- Olan Soule provided the voice of Alfred in The Batman/Superman Hour.
- Alfred also appeared in the Super Friends series. Bill Callaway provided the voice of Alfred in the Challenge of the Super Friends, while presumably another voice actor (likely Andre Stojka) provided his voice in The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians episode "The Fear," which is widely regarded as the best episode of the series.
- Clive Revill provided Alfred's voice on Batman: The Animated Series for the character's first three appearances in the first season before he had to leave due to a previous commitment.
- Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. provided Alfred's voice on Batman: The Animated Series (replacing Revill), Justice League and Static Shock. 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 provides Alfred's voice on the animated TV series The Batman. In this incarnation, Alfred's grandfather served Penguin's family in England, but was mistreated and then fired. 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.
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. He was also nominated for the Wizard Fan Award for Favorite Supporting Male Character in 1994.Comic Book Awards Almanac