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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – How Did Alfred First Meet Batman?

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the changing story of how Alfred first met Bruce Wayne (and discovered that Bruce Wayne was Batman)…

Alfred first showed up in 1943′s Batman #16 (written by Don Cameron with art by Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos)…

Years later, though, in 1957′s Batman #110 by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Stan Kaye, give a completely different origin for Alfred…

Years later, in 1980′s the Untold Legend of Batman, Len Wein and Jim Aparo mix the two origins together to get…

After Crisis, Frank Miller made it so that Alfred was the Wayne butler ever since Bruce was a boy and that’s been the way ever since (Crisis doesn’t count for abandoning and forsaking, though, since it was a company-wide reboot).

As an aside, just in case you were curious, here are the first appearances of Alfred’s first last name, Alfred Beagle, from Detective Comics #96…

And here is when he became Pennyworth in 1969′s Batman #216…

58 Comments

The Beagle/Pennyworth pages seem to be repeats of his first appearance there, Brian. :)

And looking at the pages make me appreciate all over again what a wonderful job Len Wein in The Untold Legend of the Batman in weaving together all those various continuity threads. Well done, sir! Shame so much of it was wiped away by Crisis…

*wiped away by New 52…

Was Batman 110 the first “skinny” Alfred, then?

I’m curious, were the different depictions of Alfred based on any actors or anything like that? The original Alfred seems to be the cliched English buttler, and I wondered if it was based on a particular movie butler or anything like that.

I think the original works better, because you’ve got Alfred coming in unasked for, and in the second one, it doesn’t make sense that Batman and Robin would advertise for a butler, since the whole SECRET ID thing, y’know. Len Wein does the combo origin quite nicely.

Did Miller make Alfred the butler from Bruce’s youth in Year One, or did he mention it first in DKR? And if he did in DKR first, do you know why it was decided to keep that in continuity? And where was it first mentioned outside of Miller’s stuff?

I know it’s outside the parameters of this feature, but I do want to mention that Batman Shadow of the Bat 31 (I think) had a lovely bittersweet tale of “fat Alfred” (hey hey hey!), appearing and disappearing in the midst of the Zero Hour stuff.

And it’s tangential to this conversation, but Neil Gaiman used Alfred nicely in the “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” 2 parter he did a few years ago. What a neat story that was!

And I know I misspelled “butler” at least once in the post, for which I blame our pal Buttler. Darn you!

Of all the origins presented here, I like Miller’s retconning of Alfred back to Bruce’s childhood the best. It made him more of a surrogate father for Bruce, solidifying his loyalty to the Waynes and in turn, to the extended Batman family.

His WWII service provided an interesting backstory, more so than the earlier detective angle. I also liked the Julia Remarque character that was the daughter of Alfred and Frank Rock’s old flame, the French Resistance fighter Mademoiselle Marie. Too bad they got rid of Julia after Crisis happened.

Those Jim Aparo pages are golden, btw. Good ol’ Jim always drew one mean Alfred!

Alfred being Bruce’s boyhood butler first mentioned it in Dark Knight Returns, and then mentioned in Year One, along with Selina Kyle as a hooker and the Commissioner Gordon being married to Sarah (presumably Sarah Essen). I get the sense that Miller was told to use DKR as a means of rebooting Batman, which Miller then put into Year One.. I remember John Byrne saying in an interview the estranged relationship between Batman and Superman in Man of Steel was influenced by Dark Knight Returns (indeed I think Byrne and Miller collaborated on that point), so certainly the creative community at DC saw it that way.

@Graeme Jim Gordon was married to Barbara in Year One. Met Sarah Essen and they had an affair. They’d only get married years later.

Was Batman 110 the first “skinny” Alfred, then?

Alfred went to a health farm in Detective Comics #83, and has stayed skinny and moustachioed ever since.

I’m curious, were the different depictions of Alfred based on any actors or anything like that? The original Alfred seems to be the cliched English buttler, and I wondered if it was based on a particular movie butler or anything like that.

No idea as to the first depiction, but the second, skinny, Alfred was based on William Austin, who played the character in the 1943 serial Batman.

@Graeme Jim Gordon was married to Barbara in Year One. Met Sarah Essen and they had an affair. They’d only get married years later

I think you misunderstand me. In Dark Knight Returns, Gordon is married to someone named Sarah. (We don’t know her last name, nor do we actually see her face). In Batman Year One, we meet Sarah Essen, whom Gordon has the affair with. It’s heavily implied that that Sarah Essen is Sarah in Dark Knight Returns.

Also, I forgot. the uniformed cop loyal to Gordon, Merkel, is in both Year One and Dark Knight Returns.

The Batman serial also gave us the “bat cave.” It’s not bad as serials go, though typically racist in handling the Japanese villain, Dr. Daka.
Untold Legend of the Batman was a great little series. But did Julia Remarque get crisised out or abandoned and forsaken–my memory is that she was dropped because of the age issues brought up by Alfred having a child in WW II (either he was no longer that old or Julia was too young or something).
Even though I’ve read Alfred’s origin more than once, I’d completely forgotten that “Alfred there from childhood” wasn’t originally canon. Good job, Brian.

I’m curious, were the different depictions of Alfred based on any actors or anything like that? The original Alfred seems to be the cliched English buttler, and I wondered if it was based on a particular movie butler or anything like that.

As noted above, Alfred’s appearance was changed to make him resemble William Austin, who played the character in the first Batman serial. Alfred was played as the same sort of bumbling comic relief character that he was in the comics. I seem to remember one scene where he’s frantically telephoning for help during a fight, “Get me Scotland Yard! Get me the police! Get me ANYBODY!!”

His WWII service provided an interesting backstory, more so than the earlier detective angle. I also liked the Julia Remarque character that was the daughter of Alfred and Frank Rock’s old flame, the French Resistance fighter Mademoiselle Marie. Too bad they got rid of Julia after Crisis happened.

I think Julia’s basically just a casualty of sliding timelines. Even in the 80s, having Julia running around being the 20 or 30-something daughter of a WWII romance between Alfred and M. Marie was pushing it.

I think the original works better, because you’ve got Alfred coming in unasked for, and in the second one, it doesn’t make sense that Batman and Robin would advertise for a butler, since the whole SECRET ID thing, y’know. Len Wein does the combo origin quite nicely.

Yeah, he really did take the best parts of each story and meld them together into an integrated whole. Again, I’m really impressed by the craft Wein displayed throughout the whole Untold Legend of the Batman series. He took unrelated flashback stories that had been written over the previous 30+ years and made them all seem logical and fit together, making the whole series basically “Pre-Crisis Batman 101″. Remember when comic book writers actually USED previous continuity instead of just rewriting it to suit their current stories? :)

Chris Sims takes a good look at the series here: http://www.the-isb.com/?p=389

Did Miller make Alfred the butler from Bruce’s youth in Year One, or did he mention it first in DKR? And if he did in DKR first, do you know why it was decided to keep that in continuity? And where was it first mentioned outside of Miller’s stuff?

I thought the Alfred-as-childhood-butler-thing was first mentioned in BYO, but it’s been a while since I’ve reread DKR. John Byrne has said on his forum that Miller didn’t really make changes like this consciously, but because he didn’t know what the ACTUAL continuity, and no one said no because he was FRANK MILLER, But that’s coming from Byrne, so I’m not sure how accurate that might be.

It is pretty obvious that Miller based his version of Alfred off of John Gielgud’s butler character in the movie ARTHUR. Alfred was NEVER sarcastic to Bruce before Miller.

I thought the Alfred-as-childhood-butler-thing was first mentioned in BYO, but it’s been a while since I’ve reread DKR.

It’s definitely in Dark Knight Returns. Alfred recalls being with the Waynes when Bruce was a child at a couple of points. I remember it was a huge surprise when I read it in ’87, because I knew it was a deviation from the character’s origin.

It is pretty obvious that Miller based his version of Alfred off of John Gielgud’s butler character in the movie ARTHUR. Alfred was NEVER sarcastic to Bruce before Miller.

Miller even commented on that himself in interviews leading up to Dark Knight Returns. I always loved that particular innovation.

Oh yeah, DKR is definitely where Miller first introduced the concept.

I love that when John Byrne redraw the original arrival of Alfred, he no longer had Bruce and Dick swanning around in their pyjamas. And that Len Wein subtly tweaked Alfred’s dialogue on the ghost angle – assumption vs possibility.

But boo on old Jarvis for stomping on Alfred’s dreams because he couldn’t imagine his family without a member being In indentured servitude.

Alfred fancies himself a solid detective, yet when he hears a voice at night, his first thought is that its a ghost. LOL! I miss the way comics used to be.

That was Jim Aparo doing the Untold Legend art, not Byrne (and doing it wonderfully well too).
Bill “fancies” is the operative word–Alfred was quite nitwitted as a detective back when he began. Later in the story, Batman and Robin are tied up in an abandoned theater so when Alfred enters, he misses seeing them and starts indulging in a few speeches from his theater days instead.

Any link between the name “Jarvis” (Alfred’s father) and the Avengers’ butler? Was the name for the Avengers’ butler inspired by the origin of Alfred?

Chuck Melville

July 29, 2012 at 9:36 am

‘Jarvis’ is something of a stereotypical name for butlers, going back years before either Batman or the Avengers.

And those Untold Legend Of The Batman might just be John Byrne after all, inked by Jim Aparo. I don’t recall which issue this sequence comes from, but Byrne penciled the first issue. The layout of these pages -look- like Byrne to me.

I dimly recall they mentioned Alfred’s name as Pennyworth in the Batman TV series. If there’s anyone out there that can confirm / refute that, I’d appreciate it!

And those Untold Legend Of The Batman might just be John Byrne after all, inked by Jim Aparo. I don’t recall which issue this sequence comes from, but Byrne penciled the first issue. The layout of these pages -look- like Byrne to me.

As I note in the piece, it is Jim Aparo art. Byrne did #1 (with inks by Aparo) and Aparo did the next two issues. These pages are from #2.

I dimly recall they mentioned Alfred’s name as Pennyworth in the Batman TV series. If there’s anyone out there that can confirm / refute that, I’d appreciate it!

They never mentioned his surname on the show.

Funny, I never imagined Hamlet as bald with a pencil-thin mustache.

When did Alfred start becoming intelligent and competent?

Alfred does in fact mention his full name in one episode of the 1966 TV series, but I never caught what it was, as it was always indistinct to me. It was however, neither Beagle or Pennyworth.

What’s funniest about the whole “Alfred at his father’s deathbed” scene in the “Untold Legend” story (something I didn’t even really notice until now) is how Alfred was pressed by the old man to be the “Pennyworth in domestic service” for his “generation” and NOT the older brother who got to carry on doing what *he* wanted to do, rather than carrying on the “family business.” (Usually, it was the *younger* brother who had the freedom to pursue whatever interest/s he had while the older brother was expected to continue the father’s profession.)

^ That’s true. I remember when William S. Baring-Gould wrote his fictional biography of Sherlock Holmes, he invented an unmentioned older brother, Sherringford Holmes, to take over the family estate, freeing Mycroft and Sherlock to find their own vocations.

not only did alfred seem to have different origins of how he came to be batmans faithful butler. till frank miller changed it to him being there since bruce was born. but also alfred look over the years seemed to change also.

Brian,

Actually, I wrote a more recent update of Alfred BEAGLE’s “origin” for a back-up feature in DETECTIVE COMICS #806-807. The two-parter was called “Regnum Defende” and chronicles Alfred’s days as both a thespian and British secret service agent before being employed by the Waynes, for reasons revealed in the story. I had pitched a more full-blown ALFRED: YEAR ONE that was ultimately pared down to the tale published in ‘TEC.

Best,

Scott Beatty

And I should add that it was illustrated quite lovingly by Jeff Parker!

The funny thing about skinny Alfred with a mustache was how immediate that change was. The movie serial was popular, so boom, Alfred goes off, loses weight and grows a mustache so he can look like the onscreen version.

But yeah, for all that the serial gave us (skinny Alfred, the Batcave, the grandfather clock entrance), the casual racism in it is pretty striking, particularly the stuff the narrator says.

“What’s funniest about the whole “Alfred at his father’s deathbed” scene in the “Untold Legend” story (something I didn’t even really notice until now) is how Alfred was pressed by the old man to be the “Pennyworth in domestic service” for his “generation” and NOT the older brother who got to carry on doing what *he* wanted to do…”

Maybe Jarvis had a good idea which son would obey him, and which would tell him to get stuffed.

Ethan Shuster

July 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm

As an aside, remember that both the Batman and Superman serials and radio shows made long-lasting additions and changes to the comics. As far as I recall, for example, both Perry White and Jimmy Olsen first appeared in the Superman radio show (or maybe HIS serials?).

No, you got it right the first time. Jimmy & Perry both debuted on the radio show (as did Kryptonite, if I recall correctly). They then came to the comics and ultimately to the serial (which was made in 1948, I believe).

Thanks to everyone who answered my queries. It was a subtle way to get a conversation going. Yeah, that’s it!

As much as I like Alfred as Wayne butler from Bruce’s younger years, it does seem to make him quite a bit older, so that the whole neat bits of his earlier life seem like they would have taken place long long ago.

I did not know that Miller introduced Snarky Alfred, either. Cool.

Another Alfred meeting Bruce thing is the new Batman Earth One GN that just came out, I guess. I only read the preview, but it appears that Alfred knew Thomas Wayne in some war zone. And Alfred got a limp and a cane out of it!!! I assume that Alfred is the one helping to train and push Bruce to become Batman, then?

I can just see a scene:

Alfred: “So you want vengeance, then?”

Bruce: “No, I want JUSTICE!”

If that dialogue is in that book, y’all owe me 5 bucks.

The post-Dini/Timm ‘toon had the idea that the Pennyworths originally worked for the Cobblepots (who were a former upper echelon family fallen on hard times) so that the Penguin sees Alfred working for Bruce as a symbol of everything he thinks has been taken from him.
Kryptonite did debut on the radio, though Siegel had proposed a “k metal” story for the comics a few years earlier (it got shelved).
The racism in the Batman serial isn’t out of line for the WW II era, but that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant.

Educational read! The Miller version is such canon, I had forgotten the previous stuff.

“Catwoman was a prostitute (or was she?)” would make a good Abandoned an’ Foresaken!

I had forgotten originally that Alfred didn’t work for Bruce till after he was Batman. So does anyone know/remember in early origins who raised Bruce after he was an orphan? We know what he did in college, but I’m guessing as a kid he didn’t just live in the big mansion by himself.

And if it didn’t happen before, Alfred was definitely there for young Bruce in DKR. Alfred tells the story of reading a Poe tale to child Bruce, and Bruce insisting the villains were caught. (The Purloined Letter?)

If I remember correctly (most of my stuff is packed for the move), Bruce had an uncle who took him in but being business traveler, left him in the care of his housekeeper … who was secretly the mother of Joe Chill.
That was a Silver Age story, IIRC (most of my reference material is unavailable at the moment) but I don’t recall an earlier version.

Chuck Melville

July 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

I don’t believe that the matter of who raised Bruce after his parents were killed was ever addressed in the comics before Alfred’s original arrival in the 40′s. (I could be wrong, but I don’t recall seeing it in the Archive editions I have.) It was just sort of glossed over.

I do remember the housekeeper story — it was published in a Batman Annual in the late 60′s or very early 70′s, was written by E Nelson Bridwell and drawn (if I remember correctly) by Gil Kane. The fact that Chill even had a brother had only been recently revealed in a Brave & Bold story (the first team-up with Deadman).

I agree it was Gil Kane–I have the image of the housekeeper as unmistakeably drawn by Kane emblazoned in my brain.

Of course the last name was generally ignored to the point that when Alfred was thought dead, Bruce Wayne created the “Alfred Foundation.”

Alfred’s father was named Jarvis?

“Catwoman was a prostitute (or was she?)” would make a good Abandoned an’ Foresaken!

Check the archives, I’m pretty sure Brian did that already.

Commander Benson

July 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm

With regard to who raised the orphaned Bruce Wayne in the pre-Crisis history, both Fraser and Mr. Melville recall it correctly. It was Bruce’s uncle, businessman Philip Wayne.

Philip Wayne has to be the most ephermeral character in the Batman mythos. He doesn’t appear until late in the series—in Batman (Giant Annual) # 208 (Jan.-Feb., 1969).

Unlike most of DC’s Giant Annuals at the time, the reprinted material in Batman# 208 is introduced within the framing device of a new story, titled “The Women in Batman’s Life”. As the story describes, after Dr. and Mrs. Wayne were murdered, young Bruce went to live with his uncle Philip, whose business dealings required him to travel frequently. That left the boy’s day-to-day care and feeding to Philip Wayne’s housekeeper. Mrs. Chilton. The reprinted parts of the issue are presented as memories evoked by a scrapbook kept by Mrs. Chilton, commemorating the various women who had been part of the Batman’s life.

The story concludes with Mrs. Chilton reflecting on the fact that she long ago deduced that Bruce Wayne had grown up to be come the Masked Manhunter. Then the readers are jolted to discover that “Chilton” is an adaptation of the lady’s actual surname—Chill. And that she is the mother of both Joe Chill, the killer of Bruce’s parents, and Max Chill, who had also turned to crime and died trying to escape from the Batman in The Brave and the Bold # 79 (Aug.-Sep., 1968).

Philip Wayne makes only two more appearances and they are a long time in coming. He shows up again in The Untold Legend of the Batman # 1 (Jul., 1980), in a flashback to the aftermath of the Wayne murders. Mrs. Chilton appears in a flashback, as well—part of Alfred’s reverie, as he has somehow become privy to the otherwise-secret knowledge that Mrs. Chilton was Joe Chill’s mother.

Philip Wayne’s last appearance is a bit awkward to fit into pre-Crisis. It came in Secret Origins # 6 (Sep., 1986), which is technically post-Crisis. But the post-Crisis Secret Origins series did two tribute stories, one for the Golden-Age Superman and one for the Golden-Age Batman—these were set on Earth-Two, despite the fact that the Crisis had eliminated the parallel-Earth concept (at least, for awhile).

What this did was establish that the Bruce Waynes of both Earth-One and Earth-Two fell under the guardianship of Philip Wayne.

One last note on the subject. In Adventure Comics # 275 (Aug., 1960) DC published the story “The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team”. It was a Superboy story which purported to tell of the Boy of Steel’s first meeting with Bruce Wayne, a teen-ager at the time. There is a knotty inconsistancy in this tale, in that Bruce’s parents are shown to be still alive at the time. This contradicts virtually all tellings of the Waynes’ deaths, which were shown to occur before Bruce reached his teens.

At least one site—DarkMark’s Comics Indexing Domain—has attempted to reconcile the discrepancy by suggesting that the “parents” of Bruce Wayne in the Adventure Comics story were actually Philip Wayne and his wife, thus actually, Bruce’s foster-parents. This solution, while adept, impairs the stated history of Batman # 208—if Philip Wayne had been married, then why, during Philip’s frequent business trips, was it left up to Mrs. Chilton, and not Mrs. Wayne, to care for Bruce? It can be worked around, but it’s not quite an elegant solution.

Other than that, I don’t know too much about it. Hope this helps.

If I remember correctly (most of my stuff is packed for the move), Bruce had an uncle who took him in but being business traveler, left him in the care of his housekeeper … who was secretly the mother of Joe Chill.
That was a Silver Age story, IIRC (most of my reference material is unavailable at the moment) but I don’t recall an earlier version.

Yes, his Uncle Philip. And Uncle Philip was recently used by Steve Englehart in the DARK DETECTIVE mni series he did with Marshall Rogers.. Englehart tends to reference the original published continuity wherever possible.

“Catwoman was a prostitute (or was she?)” would make a good Abandoned an’ Foresaken!

I think the basic rule is that if Frank Miller or Ed Brubaker is writing it, she was. If anyone else is writing it, she wasn’t. :)

Oh, and I should mention that Bruce’s Uncle Philip and Mrs. Chilton (Joe Chill’s mother) were also both referenced in Untold Legend of the Batman #1 (Yep, Wein used EVERYTHING!).

I will have to reread Untold Legend soon.

Travis Pelkie

July 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Thanks to the Commander for all the cool knowledge.

Maybe if Philip Wayne was married, it was a Mary and Richard Parker situation — they wuz spies!

Much better, though, to have Alfred be Bruce’s caretaker.

Also, post-Crisis (I suppose…), Leslie Thompkins also sorta kinda helped raise Bruce, right?

Y’know, Mrs Chilton did have two bad seed sons (lucky that she didn’t also turn Bruce to a life of crime, huh?), but her son Alex helped make up for things with “The Letter”.

Actually, the first appearance of Alfred as young Bruce Wayne’s caregiver when his parents died was in October 1985, in the “Super Powers Team” episode “The Fear”. See http://youtu.be/Mlzrp4ASMxs at 8:16 to 8:48.

Would the 28-year-old Frank Miller have seen this and recalled it as the “correct” version when writing DKR, because he’d never read the obscure Uncle Phillip stories? I don’t know. It nicely streamlines the back story and intensifies Bruce and Alfred’s relationship, though.

Travis Pelkie

July 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Hmm, Mr Wallen throws something interesting into the mix. Given the long time to do a TV cartoon episode, this would have been in production probably at least as far ahead as DKR would have been.

So would the animation arm and the comics have been working together in any way in ’85? Or is this some amazing synchronicity.

Hm, imdb says Alan Burnett wrote that ep, and we all know that all that is good and decent in the DCAU comes from him (it’s true, I tells ya!), so maybe it’s just a case of great minds think alike?

Great find Mr. Wallen! I watched that show, but looking back I’m surprised they got away with it being quite that dark. They don’t show anything, but cartoons were pretty tame back then, and even hinting at a kid losing his parents is surprising.

And re: Travis, did anyone other than Barr use Leslie Thompkins extensively? Other than to later turn her into a traitor, of course. (sigh)

Not only is this one of the more interesting “Abandoned and Forsaked” entries Brian has done, this has got to be one of the most interesting comments sections I’ve read on CSBG (or anywhere, for that matter). Thanks for all the great info and conversations, guys. We really do have a great group of commenters here.

I just reread Untold Legend and it holds up well. But the reference to Bruce Gordon having been the cop on the Wayne murder case (which shows up in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS too)–was that the first time that idea was used?

[...] Comics Should Be Good) Bob Kane criou o Batman em 1939, herói que é o mais popular da DC Comics há décadas. Bruce [...]

How about Aunt Harriet? Couldn’t DC have made her the one who took care of young Bruce?

After all she did appear in the comics but was her relationship to the Waynes ever explained?

@clark – That wouldn’t make sense, as she was the aunt of Dick, who Bruce didn’t know until many years later.

Didn’t Leslie Thompkins keep an eye on him, occasionally?

And looking at the pages make me appreciate all over again what a wonderful job Len Wein in The Untold Legend of the Batman in weaving together all those various continuity threads. Well done, sir! Shame so much of it was wiped away by Crisis…

I honestly don’t see how you can say that. That combined origin was ridiculous; Alfred’s pushy behavior when arriving at Wayne Manor doesn’t fit his post-GA character. Len should have let the second origin remain as the canon one. And even then, Miller’s post-Crisis origin beats all other.

Well, that’s your opinion. I quite like the UNTOLD LEGEND version, as I think it’s an interesting story, and it gives Alfred a life outside of Bruce Wayne.

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