Alfred the Butler
aka Alfred Pennyworth (Earth-One) + Alfred Beagle (Earth-Two) + The Outsider
Alfred created by Gardner Fox, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson
The Outsider created by Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff, and Joe Giella
Written by Aaron Severson
Alfred Pennyworth (Earth-One)
NAME + ALIASES:
Alfred Pennyworth, alias the Eagle, the Outsider
Jarvis Pennyworth (father, deceased); Wilfred Pennyworth (brother); Daphne Pennyworth (niece); Julia Remarque (daughter)
Earth-One (speculative): Batman #110 (Sept. 1957)
As the Eagle: Batman #127 (Oct. 1959)
As the Outsider: Detective Comics #334 (Dec. 1964)
Alfred Beagle (Earth-Two)
NAME + ALIASES:
Jarvis Beagle (father, deceased); Valerie Beagle (niece)
Batman #16 (April/May 1943)
Bruce Wayne's loyal butler Alfred has been an integral feature of the Batman mythos since 1943. Although he usually plays only a minor role, sometimes as comic relief, Alfred's pre-Crisis career also saw him receive super-powers on several occasions — most frequently as one of Batman's bitterest enemies, the Outsider!
This profile begins by describing the Earth-Two (original Golden Age) version of Alfred, named Alfred Beagle (though not given that surname until Detective Comics #96, Feb. 1945), followed by his Earth-One (Silver Age) counterpart, whose was Alfred Pennyworth.
As with Batman, there is no clear dividing line between the two continuities because details changed incrementally before the concept of "Earth-Two" was introduced. The name "Pennyworth" did not appear until Batman #216 (Nov. 1969), so that landmark is not a proper breakpoint either. For more about this, read Batman: Earth-One vs. Earth-Two.
Alfred Beagle was the son of Jarvis, the former butler to the Wayne family in Gotham City. Alfred had a stage career before following in his father's footsteps. However, he was already a middle-aged man by the start of World War II and his only known relative was a niece, Valerie, who lived in Australia. Note: Alfred's last name is not mentioned in his earliest appearances. Detective Comics #96 (Feb. 1945) gives him the surname "Beagle," which Superman Family #211 (Oct. 1981) later confirmed as the name of Earth-Two's Alfred.
Beagle was an aspiring amateur detective when he came to work for Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson in 1943. Shortly after joining the Wayne household, he stumbled onto the secret entrance to the Batcave while his masters were out, although he later told them he had deduced their secret identities. (Batman #16) In 1945, Alfred even became a licensed private detective, briefly setting up an office in a small town outside Gotham. (Detective #96)
The same year Alfred was introduced, the Batman film serial premiered. In it, Alfred was portrayed by the slender, mustachioed William Austin. In the comics, Alfred was bald, clean-shaven, and somewhat heavyset. But in late 1943, he went to a health farm, where he lost a significant amount of weight and grew a mustache. (Detective #83)
Alfred had always aspired to be a crimefighter, even going so far as to borrow Batman's costume early on and masquerade as the Dark Knight. (Batman #22) Batman somewhat supported such activities by sometimes asking his trusted friend to impersonate him on multiple occasions. (Batman #55, 87, 94, 117, 120)
The Bronze Age
In original DC tales, Alfred's continuity proceeded with no demarcation between the "Earth-Two" Alfred Beagle and that of Earth-One. See below for the continuation of Alfred's story on Earth-One.
After Earth-One was firmly established as DC's mainstream Earth, Alfred Beagle did not appear again as such until 1981, attending the 1955 wedding of Earth-Two's Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. (Superman Family #211) He outlived Bruce Wayne, who died in 1979. (Adventure Comics #462) After his master's death, Alfred opened the New Stratford Repertory Theatre in a little town upstate, but he periodically returned to tend to Wayne Manor.
Late in his life, Alfred nearly died when he was poisoned at the orders of an enemy of the Huntress, who had discovered that the heroine was Helena Wayne, Bruce's daughter. (Wonder Woman #294) Fortunately, Helena managed to synthesize an antidote in time to save her old friend. (#295) Later, Alfred briefly cared for Robin while Dick Grayson was under the malign influence of the Stream of Ruthlessness. (Infinity, Inc. #9)
Alfred Beagle ceased to exist during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but he, or at least a version of his younger self, briefly appeared in the Batcave amid the time fluctuations caused by the " Zero Hour." (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31)
Actor and Resistance Hero
Born in England, probably sometime prior to World War I, Alfred Pennyworth and his older brother Wilfred were the sons of Jarvis Pennyworth, a butler from a long line of "gentleman's gentlemen." In their youth, Alfred and Wilfred were more interested in becoming Shakespearian actors, establishing their own theatrical company, the Old Avon Players. (Batman #216) Notes: A tale in Batman #677 (July 2006; post-Crisis) asserted that he used the stage name "Alfred Beagle."
During World War II, Alfred served with British intelligence, operating behind Axis lines to disrupt Nazi activity and help exfiltrate refugees. (Untold Legend of the Batman #2) In 1944, he met and fell in love with the famous guerrilla fighter Mademoiselle Marie. Shortly after the liberation of Paris, however, she was shot by a treacherous comrade and presumed dead. Neither Alfred nor their mutual friend, resistance organizer Jacques Remarque, knew that she had survived — or that she was pregnant.
In January 1945, Marie gave birth to a daughter, Julia. Soon after, Marie was apparently slain by the same enemy who had tried to shoot her months earlier. Jacques Remarque took custody of the girl, naming her Julia Remarque. It was not until some years after the war that he was able to contact Alfred and tell him of Julia's existence. Alfred decided it would be less disruptive to leave Julia in the Remarques' custody, but supported her financially by anonymously sending money via Jacques. (Detective Comics #501–502)
To Wayne Manor
Alfred returned to the stage after the war, but Jarvis remained frustrated that neither of his sons had chosen to follow in his footsteps. On his deathbed, years after the murders of Jarvis's former employers, Thomas and Martha Wayne, Jarvis browbeat Alfred into renouncing his stage career to become a gentleman's gentleman. (Untold Legend of the Batman #2)
Traveling to Gotham, Alfred presented himself at Wayne Manor and offered his services to Bruce Wayne and his young ward, Dick Grayson. After a surreptitious test of Alfred's loyalty, Bruce agreed to hire him as the Wayne butler.
Not long afterward, Alfred was awakened one night by a voice that seemed to be coming from the grandfather clock in Bruce's study. There, he encountered his new masters — costumed but unmasked — and learned that they were Batman and Robin. He vowed to keep their secret. (Batman #110)
From then on, Alfred became his masters' staunchest allies, not only maintaining their various equipment, but helping to preserve their secret identities. He sometimes used his acting talents to impersonate either Bruce or Batman, although the latter role required a good deal of padding to disguise Alfred's unprepossessing physique.
Alfred got another taste of costumed heroism when a freak accident involving several Batcave trophies briefly endowed him with super-strength and invulnerability. Adopting an elaborate feathered costume with sharpened claws, he called himself the Eagle. Alfred helped Batman and Robin battle the Joker, but his powers faded before he could continue his heroic career. (Batman #127)
Enter the Outsider
Several years later, Alfred seemingly sacrificed his life in order to save Batman and Robin from the Tri-State Gang. (Detective #328) He was laid to rest in the Wayne family's mausoleum in Gotham Cemetery, in a special refrigerated coffin. (#356) Afterward, Bruce Wayne established a charitable foundation in Alfred's name, the Alfred Foundation, based in a new tower in downtown Gotham. (#328)
In fact, Alfred was not dead at all. Crackpot scientist and "radical individualist" Brandon Crawford had detected a very faint heartbeat from the mausoleum and discovered that Alfred was still barely clinging to life. Crawford removed Alfred to Crawford's own basement laboratory, where he used an experimental "cell regeneration machine" of his own design to revive the unconscious Englishman.
This untested device transformed Alfred into a grotesque humanoid creature with strange superhuman powers. Alfred's devotion to his masters was similarly distorted, as this transformed being, calling himself the Outsider, vowed to destroy Batman and Robin. (#356)
The Outsider began his reign of terror by hiring the so-called Grasshopper Gang to steal Batman's equipment and kidnap Robin. (#334) Next, the Outsider seized mental control of Zatanna, providing her with a special magical broom that augmented her normal magical abilities (without the need of her usual backward spells) and pitting her against the Dynamic Duo. (#336) He also used his powers to attack Batman and Robin with their own devices. (#340) and drove Mark Desmond, Blockbuster (I), into a violent frenzy that overcame Desmond's previous trust of Bruce Wayne. (#349)
Finally, the Outsider sent Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson a mocking message revealing that he knew their secret identities. Realizing who the Outsider must be, Batman and Robin tracked the fiend to his lair, where Batman fortuitously reactivated Crawford's cell regeneration machine, restoring the villain to his normal self. After a brief flash of awareness, Alfred fainted, retaining no memory of what had just transpired.
Bruce and Dick decided it would be too traumatic for Alfred to learn the truth, so they and their friends invented a cover story to explain Alfred's absence, concealing the facts of his apparent death and subsequent transformation. Bruce quietly arranged for the Alfred Foundation to be renamed the Wayne Foundation. Batman and Robin also rescued Crawford from the Wayne mausoleum and got him a job with the Foundation. (#356)
Although Alfred had been restored to normal, the specter of the Outsider was not gone. Months later, the malevolent personality began seizing control of Alfred in his sleep, although the Outsider persona became dormant again after failing to kill Batman and Robin. (#364)
When Wilfred Pennyworth's acting company (Ye Olde Avon Players) came to Gotham City, Alfred was hurt that his brother did not call on him. In truth, Wilfred and his daughter, Daphne, were being strong-armed by men in their company. They had learned that Alfred's employer possessed the original manuscript to Romeo and Juliet, and Daphne was forced to try to steal it. (Batman #216)
After Dick Grayson departed for Hudson University, Alfred and Bruce relocated to the penthouse apartment of the Wayne Foundation building in Gotham City. (Batman #217) During several brief return visits to Wayne Manor, Alfred suffered a series of injuries, first when he was attacked by Ubu, a servant of Ra's al Ghul (Detective #438), and later when he suffered a blow to the had while preparing a surprise birthday party for Bruce Wayne. (Batman Family #11)
These injuries allowed the Outsider personality to once more manifest, this time also restoring the Outsider's grotesque form and supernatural powers. Recruiting a new gang, he set out to wage war on Batman's allies, including Man-Bat, Robin, and Batgirl. Using a bizarre device created by the fiend himself, Robin was able to temporarily split Alfred and the Outsider into separate physical entities. Alfred defeated his evil self and again passed out with no memory of what had happened. (Batman Family #12–13).
Alfred was later transformed a final time thanks to the machinations of the villain I.Q. This time, the Outsider set out to destroy Batman and the Outsiders, but was again defeated, this time with the help of Superman, who managed to break I.Q.'s influence over Alfred's evil persona. (Brave and the Bold #83)
In between these two resurgences of his evil personality, Alfred was reunited with his daughter, Julia Remarque. Initially, Julia, still unaware that Alfred was her real father, attempted to kill him and Lucius Fox in the mistaken belief that one of them had killed her mother. (Detective #501–502) It was not until after Jacques Remarque was murdered sometime later that Julia learned the truth and reconciled with Alfred. (Batman #368–369, Detective #535–536)
Afterward, Julia moved to Gotham and went to work with Vicki Vale at Picture News. (Batman #373) Alfred tried unsuccessfully to convince his daughter to date Bruce Wayne (Batman #375, 383), but neither was ever very interested in the other.
When Bruce Wayne left the Wayne Foundation penthouse to return to Wayne Manor, Alfred went with him. (Batman #348) By this time, Alfred was in increasingly poor health, leading him to suffer a stroke when Hugo Strange temporarily wrested control of the Wayne Foundation and most of Bruce's fortune. (Batman Annual #10)
In his last appearance, Alfred captured by Killer Croc, acting under the orders of Ra's al Ghul, although the faithful butler was rescued by Batman, Robin, Catwoman, and Talia. (Batman #400) His history was subsequently overwritten by that of his post-Crisis counterpart.
Alfred never married and had no children other than Julia.
Alfred's apparent death in Detective Comics #328 was originally intended to be permanent, part of a makeover of the Batman titles under new editor Julius Schwartz that saw the introduction of Dick Grayson's aunt, Harriet Cooper, to the previously all-male Wayne household. However, when producer William Dozier and writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. began development of the live-action Batman TV series about a year later, their desire to include Alfred (played in the series by actor Alan Napier) demanded the character's resurrection in the comics. Since the mysterious Outsider had already been introduced, though not seen except as a shadow, the revelation that he was really Alfred provided a convenient, if absurd, solution to both problems.
The story in Detective Comics #336 gives no indication that the witch is actually Zatanna in disguise. (In fact, the Outsider claims to be the source of the witch's powers, insisting that there is no such thing as magic.) The subsequent revelation in Justice League of America #51 of the witch's true identity, was almost certainly an afterthought, much like the origin of the Outsider himself.
The Outsider's entry in Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #17 attempted to cast doubt on Julia Remarque's parentage, insisting that she was not old enough to be the daughter of Alfred and Mademoiselle Marie, although Julia's previous appearances had indicated unequivocally that she was. Soon after, Julia was dropped entirely when Denny O'Neil replaced Len Wein as editor of the Batman titles. Alfred's Who's Who entry in Batman Annual #13 makes no mention of Julia among Alfred's known relatives and she was not seen again. However, in 2014, a new version of Julia Pennyworth was introduced in the New 52 continuity; she debuted in Batman Eternal #8.
In most post-Crisis continuities, Alfred, not his father, was the Waynes' butler at the time of Thomas and Martha's deaths and subsequently took on a quasi-parental role for Bruce Wayne.
It's not clear if the Outsider's existence is canonical post-Crisis, but while Batman was a captive of Mokkari and Mister Simyan during Final Crisis, the Alfred doppelgänger in the hallucinations created by the Lump refers to Alfred's "unlikely death and resurrection" (Batman #682), suggesting that something similar may have occurred in that timeline.
The Outsider (post-Crisis)
The concept of the Outsider was revived by James Robinson in the DC event called "Flashpoint." In it, DC continuity was rewritten. This version of the character shared some resemblance to Alfred's original, but he was Michael Desai, an Indian metahuman with alabaster skin, who rose to power. Desai first appeared in Flashpoint: The Outsider #1 (June 2011).
"Flashpoint" gave way to an entirely new DC continuity, the "New 52." Writer Geoff Johns played on Alfred's history by introducing a similar version of the Outsider in Justice League v.2, #6 (Apr. 2012). He was ultimately revealed to be the Alfred of Earth-3 (an Earth that is home to evil versions of familiar heroes). This Outsider crossed over to the "Prime Earth" during the Justice League's battle with Darkseid and became the founder of a new Secret Society of Super Villains. He was ultimately killed by Black Manta. (Forever Evil #6)
In his normal form, Alfred Pennyworth displayed no superhuman powers, and age had atrophied whatever combat skills he retained from his military service.
As the Eagle, Alfred briefly possessed superhuman strength and invulnerability. He could not fly, but could "leap hundreds of feet" at a time. As the Outsider, he possessed not only a fiendishly clever scientific mind, but also formidable psionic powers, allowing him to control or even transmute physical objects with the power of his mind. It is possible that at least some of the effects the Outsider created were psychic illusions rather than true physical effects. During the Outsider's second physical manifestation (Batman Family #13), he briefly transformed the skyline of Manhattan into giant candles, which is a feat worthy of the Spectre; the effect immediately reversed as soon as the villain was defeated.
- Batman v.1 #16, 110, 127, 216, 217, 368–369, 373, 375, 383, 348, 400, 677, 682, Annual #10, 13
- Batman Eternal #8
- Batman Family #11–13
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31
- The Brave and the Bold #83
- Detective Comics #83, 96, 328, 334, 336, 340, 349, 356, 364, 438, 501–502, 535–536)
- Infinity, Inc. #9
- Superman Family #211
- Untold Legend of the Batman #2
- Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #17
- Wonder Woman v.1 #294-295