The Butler of the Wayne Family has been an important role in the Batman stories over the years, originally adding an element of comedy with his sarcastic British humor, and later becoming a pivotal member of the Batman team.
The name of Batman’s butler was Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth. Alfred, as he is typically known, was a major influence in Batman’s you, serving as a father figure for the orphaned Bruce Wayne. Alfred is a British character who has been rewritten several times over the years, at various times being a former actor and a member of the British Secret Service or SAS Regiment.
There have been four main periods in DC history, in each period Alfred was slightly different.
Here is a summary of the character during each of the eras.
Batman’s Butler In Pre-Crisis (a term used to describe events before the 1985-86 crisis)
The original Alfred was overweight and clean-shaven.
However, when the TV Serial was launched, the actor playing Alfred had a small mustache and was much leaner.
To get the comic book and TV characters into sync the comic book Alfred was sent to a health resort and he came back looking very much like his TV counterpart.
This is the look that has remained ever since.
In the original stories Alfred was a retired classically trained actor, and former member of the British intelligence services.
He became butler to the Wayne family to honor the dying wish of his father, Jarvis.
The original surname was Beagle and Beagle insisted on becoming Butler although Batman and Robin did not want one, for fear of discovering their true identity.
In 1945 they did a small rewrite and Beagle became Pennyworth.
Alfred found out the secret identities of Bruse Wayne and Robin by accident, while he was tackling a burglar at the Waynes home.
He accidentally hit a button that revealed the secret sliding panel.
Alfred was later reunited with Julia Remarque, his long-lost daughter.
She was the child of Mademoiselle Marie, a war heroine, that Alfred had met while serving as an intelligence officer in occupied France.
Batman’s Butler In Post Crisis (The event where most DC Characters were reset with a modern take)
In this reality, Alfred has been in the employ of the Waynes for most of Bruce Wayne’s life.
He has also helped Bruce Wayne is establishing himself as Batman from the beginning.
He not only is the butler but also Bruce Wayne’s legal guardian.
Alfred was lured away from previous employment with the British Royal Family.
In another version during this time Alfred was a classical actor who joined the Wayne family when Bruce was a child.
He was instrumental in building the character of Bruce Wayne.
In later years Alfred, together with Bruce, raises the three characters who later played the part of Robin.
These characters were Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake.
Alfred was romantically involved with a friend of the Wayne family, Dr. Leslie Thompkins.
She also knew the secret of Bruce Wayne, but when she allowed Stephanie Brown (aka 4th Robin, and Batgirl) to die of neglect.
Stephanie Brown was also a superhero herself, called the Spoiler.
We see the “death” of Batman in this era, with Batman emotionally saying goodbye to Alfred and saying he regarded Alfred as his father.
Later Alfred discovers that Batman is not dead but simply lost in time, and Alfred tries to find him.
Eventually, Alfred returns to the present and takes on a full-time role raising his biological son, Damien.
The New 52 (2011 revamp of all DC Comic Books. A partial revamp of characters)
In this reality, Alfred succeeded his father as the butler, when his father Jarvis resigned following a scandal.
Jarvis tried to stop Alfred from taking over but failed, as he was murdered before he could send a letter to Alfred.
There are two main stories in this period that have an impact on Alfred.
Batman finds an injured Julia Pennyworth (member of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment) in Hong Kong.
He takes her back to Wayne Manor, where Alfred is reunited with his daughter.
She is quite annoyed with him as she fails to understand that Alfred is more than a butler, and she feels he left a good career as a soldier for nothing.
However, when Alfred is injured after an attack by Hush, she finds the Batcave and is enlightened about her father.
With Alfred injured she takes on his role in helping to coordinate the activities of Batman.
Alfred is briefly transferred to Arkham Asylum for treatment, but during his stay, the place is attacked.
Alfred survives an explosion and manages to reach a secret cave Batman had installed under the facility and can call for help.
For a while, Hush is kept locked up in the Batcave but he escapes his cell and locks Alfred in it.
Alfred manages to get free and knock out Hush
During the endgame storyline, the Joker broke into the Bat Cave.
In a fight with Alfred, he cut off Alfred’s right hand.
Alfred survives and is stable.
Julia reassures him that they can reattach the hand but Bruce Wayne has died so he says he no longer needs his hand with nobody to serve.
Even though Batman is dead Alred continues to work for the Batman family, with the assistance of his daughter Julia.
Later when it is discovered that Batman had not died, but with no memories, it is Alfred that fills in the memories up until Bruce became Batman, at which point Bruce asked him to stop.
Life goes on with a new Batman having replaced bruce Wayne, until that new Batman, Jim Gordon, is killed by Mr.Bloom.
Bruce Wayns has by now pieced enough data together to realize that he used to be Batman and convinces Alfred to use a machine that can download his full memory of being Batman.
Bruce Waynes is once again Batman, and Alfred agrees to have his hand sewn back on.
DC Rebirth (In 2016 DC Did A Major Reboot Of Characters)
Alfred did not change much in this reboot and continued to serve Batman. In one story, Alfred is among several Gotham City residents who are blackmailed by “Two-Face”.
In another story, an alternate Thomas Wayne from another dimension invades Gotham and defeats Batman.
They use Alfred as a hostage to force the rest of the Bat-Family from intervening.
Alfred’s neck is broken which allows Batman to eventually stop Thomas.
We can see that Alfred has been a major DC character for many decades, and although not a superhero himself, he has gained a substantial following.