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75 Greatest Friends and Foes of Batman: Allies #5-1

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2. Robin/Nightwing/Batman (Dick Grayson)

Created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, Dick Grayson made his debut in Detective Comics #38, just eleven issues after Batman first appeared. His origin was about as succinct as you would like…

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He served as Batman’s partner for nearly four decades before their relationship began to deteriorate a bit, mostly over Robin’s role with the Teen Titans…

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Eventually, Dick decided to give up the Robin identity entirely and debut a brand-new one, based in both his history with Batman as well as his history with other superheroes, spotlighting Dick’s rare (at the time) role in having one foot in both worlds…

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Man, they couldn’t even give Nightwing’s debut his own freakin’ page? Seriously?

After time, though, Dick decided to give up on the world of over-the-top superheroing and became a part of the Bat-books once again, with a new costume reflecting his darker role…

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He took up residence in a town near Gotham where he could make his own way, while still being close by if Batman needed any help. He solidified himself as Nightwing, but when Bruce Wayne was seemingly killed, Dick had to step up and take over the Batman mantle…

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He even remained Batman for a time when Bruce Wayne returned, but eventually he decided to return to being Nightwing in the new 52…

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Recently, his identity was revealed to the whole world. He is now thought to be killed, but instead he will use the fact that everyone thinks he is dead to work as a secret agent for Batman. That is certainly going to be the status quo going forward and will never change at any point in the future.

1. Alfred Pennyworth

Introduced by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, Alfred initially was a rotund goofy little man…

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Then, as I noted in a Comic Book Legends Revealed, they decided to make Alfred thin to match the then-current portrayal of Alfred in the Batman film serials…

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Eventually, we learned of Alfred’s last name (he originally called himself Alfred Beagle on the rare occasions when he used a last name at all)…

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Up until the 1980s, though, Alfred was someone that did not come into Bruce Wayne’s life until much later. It was first the Super Powers cartoon but then most notably Frank Miller’s Year One that changed this, and it was Miller who established Alfred’s new sarcastic wit, which Miller patterned after the butler in the film Arthur. Up until this point, Alfred was very much just the loyal servant, offering criticism only when asked. Now he served as a dissenting voice to Batman’s crusade. His role as Batman’s field doctor also expanded.

In his last regular issue of Batman (before moving on to Batman and Robin and then Batman Incorporated), Grant Morrison has Alfred explain his role in the life of Batman beautifully…

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67 Comments

I do like how you get more bitter about Batman and his entire universe the further we got in the countdown. That was a nice bonus.

Commissioner Gordon: Worst police commissioner ever? “Hey, private citizen! How’d you like to come to the crime scene with me?”

It’s a typo, but I like to think that Tim Drake was raised by either a web site forum moderator or a really suave Dave Gibbons creation who was then killed off.

Commissioner Gordon: Worst police commissioner ever? “Hey, private citizen! How’d you like to come to the crime scene with me?”

Yeah, his friendship with Bruce Wayne was really weird. I’m glad they cut that out pretty quickly.

It’s a typo, but I like to think that Tim Drake was raised by either a web site forum moderator or a really suave Dave Gibbons creation who was then killed off.

Even after you mentioned it, I couldn’t find the typo right away. But then I did. Thanks, fixed it!

I was hoping for Alfred as #1. He’s like the ultimate definition of the superhero supporting character.

What about The Outsider!?!?!?

Just because the official worst issue of Detective Comics ever (#364) had the Outsider is no reason to ignore that whole debacle.

Also, Alfred had his own series in the pages of Batman for a few months n the 1940s. I’ve only read a couple of them but they are very entertaining.

The only Alfred I liked was the one from Earth-One. Freaking badass.

In case it slipped people by, we lost the best Alfred this past weekend.

R.I.P. Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

How could I have forgotten Harold the Mechanic as an ally? We need to do this all over again!

The Christopher Yost/ Fabian Nicieza Red Robin miseries was really awesome.

I don’t remember Alfred in the Super Powers ‘toon. Did you cover that in some of your past posts about Alfred’s changing history?

Superman McGee

May 7, 2014 at 12:47 pm

This was my top 10. I also voted for Bat-Mite on my villain list.

TEN GREATEST BATMAN ALLIES
1. Batman Jones
2. Fatman (from Batman #113)
3. Ace the Bat-Hound
4. Batman of Zur En Arrh (aka Tlano, also from Batman #113)
5. Alfred
6. Commissioner Gordon
7. Superman
8. Carrie Kelly (Robin from The Dark Knight Returns)
9. Aunt Harriet Cooper
10. Dick Grayson / the original Robin

Truly, nothing describes Nightwing’s 90s look better than “way awesome.”

was going to be surprised if either nightwing or alfred did not turn out to be number one for both have been with batman from the very start. mostly aflred in his own way as a surrogate parent to bruce. com gordon and oracle expected to be in the top five. plus glad to read that babs did call out batman for killing joke.

Bill Williamson

May 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Efrem Zimbalist Jr died a few days ago.

Having Alfred at number one is probably the best tribute that I can think of.

I bought a reprint comic with the debuts of both Batgirl and Supergirl.

It’s surreal how Carmine Infantino could make his superheroines so very sexy. I think his Batgirl is hotter than any big-boobed 1990s bad girl.

Too bad The New 52 took away so much of what made these characters historically so special. Why does it feel like DC wants everyone to think they just opened their doors September 2011?

Great job with the list!

While I was never a huge fan of Infantino’s Bat-work, yes, Batgirl was eye-popping cute to me when I was a kid. Ditto his Poison Ivy and Catwoman.

Omar Karindu

May 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Try as I might, I can’t make sense of Batgirl’s debut line: “Killer Moth — no wonder you picked that name!” I get she’s really upset that he just apparently killed someone, but that doesn’t explain the “moth” part of the name at all. But in that case, why is she outraged that guy named Killer Moth is, well, a killer? Like, isn’t that exactly what you’d expect him to do?

Omar – That line by Robin: “Besides–she makes terrible puns!” is so good I can forgive anything else.

This countdown has been great. Thanks, Brian. Bittersweet too, as a reminder of everything the New 52 has f—ed up. The Tim entry was particularly painful, as he was my entry character for comics in general.

I never really liked Dick Grayson. I can’t tell you why, but I think it’s the same thing I never liked about Scott Summers.

On the bright side, Alfred was my number 1. Jim Gordon was my number 2. I’ve always believed that if a writer can get these two right then a good Batman story is pretty much guaranteed.

When Robin calls you out on your terrible puns, you gotta take a long hard look at your banter and one-liners.

Omar Karindu

May 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm

T: That’s a good one, and so too is the narrator’s bit about how, now that someone’s actually dead, “all the pleasure has gone out of” being Batgirl; now it’s serious business. It’s rather effective characterization, especially for Silver Age DC.

In those early Batman comics, I got the impression that Commissioner Gordon knew very well that Bruce Wayne was Batman, and was just playing along. “Interesting crime today, Bruce. I’ll just put the file on my desk here, and then leave the room.”

Thanks for the countdown.

The top five given here is exactly right I think. I think Oracle was a much more important as a Batman ally than Batgirl II ever was.

Also, like Greg Burgas, I enjoyed the increased bitterness. Besides being entertaining I think it helps alleviate mine.

I do like how you get more bitter about Batman and his entire universe the further we got in the countdown. That was a nice bonus.

I have to admit I’m enjoying that too. Especially after the WTF moment I had in the comics shop this afternoon with the new Batman hardcover with its special acetate dead-skin Jokerface gimmick cover, it’s nice to know i’m not the only one wondering what in God’s name is the thinking in the Bat-office behind some of this stuff. It stinks of desperation….I’m just baffled by DC editorial freaking out about how to sell BATMAN comics for Chrissake.

Brian Cronin

May 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I wouldn’t say that I’m even particularly bitter about the new 52 Bat-books. It’s just more fun to joke about this stuff than to take it all so seriously. I did the same thing when I did a Top 50 X-Men countdown for CBR a while back.

Travis Pelkie

May 7, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Oh, that top 50 X-Men countdown was so wonderful. Hilarious stuff. Can you link to that again sometime?

What was the typo Burgas was talking about?

I was joking about Harold the Mechanic earlier but now that I’m thinking about it…when did that guy show up in the comics? I know in BTAS, Batman had a mechanic that didn’t know who Batman was but Harold seems to be right there in the inner circle as Alfred.
But thank goodness for Harold, Batman would look rather silly running out of his cave and hitchhiking to Gotham. Grappling hooks don’t work too well on trees, though it would be funny to see Batman swinging only 20 feet at a time all the way to town.

Brian Cronin

May 7, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Harold showed up earlier on the countdown, Nicole! His back story is there.

Travis: Brian wrote that Tim’s “mod” was killed by the Obeah Man. I just thought it was funny and kind of awesome.

scarletspeed7

May 7, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Not a bad countdown; I expected Alfred to top the list and even though I never really loved the character, I respect his role and still like him.

I stand by Plastic Man deserving a spot on this list though.

These characters were used to make some key allies for Iron Bat for the New Amalgam comics project:
-Tim Drake was mixed with Michael O’Brien to make Mike Drake, the third Red Guard (Robin/Guardsman).
-Barbara Gordon was mixed with ‘Pepper’ Potts to make Virginia Gordon, paraplegic secretary to Tony Wayne, info-broker and Ladybirds leader Perachorda (Oracle/Hera), and pilot of the armor codenamed Battalion (Batgirl/Rescue).
-Jim Gordon was mixed with Victor Martinelli to make Vic Gordon, Tony Wayne’s chief of security and later director of the FBI branch in Gothton, MA.
-Dick Grayson was mixed with Jim Rhodes to make Dick Rhodes, formerly the first Red Guard and currently Warwing (Nightwing/War Machine), leader of the East Coast branch of the Teen Avengers (Teen Titans/Young Avengers).
-Alfred was mixed with Edwin Jarvis to make Alfred Jarvis, who took Tony in to keep him from falling into foster care.

Harold’s first appearance was in a Penguin story back in the Breyfogle days in the 1990s. It was Detective Comics #610? #612? Somewhere around there.

Hoosier X: Harold’s first appearance was in The Question by O’Neil and Cowan. He showed up in Batman #448, but yes, it was part of The Penguin Affair that went into ‘Tec #615.

Pretty amazed Alfred beat both Gordon AND Grayson…thought for sure those two would be neck and neck for the top spot.

Gordon would be my number one pick, mainly for the Year One stuff (that scene shown here is 90% of the reason why) but also since then he’s just seemed like a real cool sort of conscience for the Bat (like that scene in Killing Joke and a similar one in Hush). I figured Grayson would probably also be number one for being, pretty much, the original sidekick, and Batman’s other half for 40-odd years.

In any case, this was a very cool list! Thanks for posting them.

Thanks Brian…for some reason I completely missed it. Wow, I figured his first appearance would have been back in the Silver Age.

Interesting to see what patronizing schmucks batman and Robin were in those early Batgirl appearances. I don’t read the New 52 era DC Comics. Is there an Oracle still now that they’ve made Barbara Gordon Batgirl again?

Who drew those Birds of Prey pages in the Batgirl/Oracle entry? They have a Brian Bolland vibe to them.

It is depressing how the New 52 has stripped away so much of what made these various characters interesting. Luckily with Batman we have 75 years and thousands of comics worth of stories out there. So you can just ignore the new stuff and read some of the old stuff you haven’t read before. And with how much is out there there’s bound to be plenty that you haven’t read.

Jazzbo – Gary Frank. You can tell from the close-ups of the faces.

Glad to see Tim Drake so high on the list! The first comic book I read as a kid was Robin # 7, the last crossover issue of Knightquest. I was super confused by the story (at the time) but I thought that Robin guy was pretty cool haha

Bill Williamson

May 7, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Tim Drake is probably my favourite Robin. For one thing, he had the best Robin costume. For another, he’s the only Robin that could match Batman in intellect. It’s a shame that when B:TAS decided to go with Tim Drake they chose to make him some kind of weird Dick/Jason/Tim Drake hybrid instead of pure Tim Drake.

It’s a shame that he got shafted in favour of Jason MK II. It’s even more of a shame that they’ve basically ruined him in the New 52 (although I suppose that’s to be expected).

Superman McGee:

Batman Jones was also at the top of my list!

Everybody else on my allies list actually made the greater list, except Squire, which I’m actually kind of surprised about.

I had Tim #7, Barbara Gordon one place lower. I had Gordon in the same place as the countdown and the top two but reversed. Dick Grayson got my top spot. I’m particularly fond of his tenure as Batman with Damian Wayen’s Robin.

I’d be interested to see how many people voted for Babs as Batgirl and how many did it as Oracle.

It was strictly Oracle for me. As Batgirl she’d never have made my top ten.

I think the de-aging of Gordon is one of the only things The New 52 got right.

The Year One / Nolan version of Gordon is by far the best interpretation of the character and it’s a wise move to bring him closer to that in the comics.

Gordon / Oldman was the real star of the Nolan movies (at least the first two, he was under-used in Rises and the movie was worse for it)

I’m sure this is going to be an inane and not-very-original comment.

But the way Tim Drake gives off these huge gay vibes… it always made me want to see him out of the closet already. Yes, I know, I know, he isn’t really gay. But he is one of those characters that make so much sense as a closeted gay, a lot more than other characters that are stereotypically suspected of being such, like Jericho and the first Dove, who get this reputation just because they are emotional and wear somewhat effeminate costumes.

By the way, the younger Green Arrow also gave off such vibes. It must be a Chuck Dixon thing. Ironic, with him being a conservative and all.

It’s very much a post-Crisis, post-DKR listing at the very top. You’d have to think Dick Grayson would’ve scored #1 on almost any similar poll taken before 1980 or so, with maybe only Superman having a good shot at dislodging him.

Dick Grayson wasn’t served well by the Crisis either. The original switch to Nightwing was a growing-up thing, his own decision, the post-Crisis version was a response to Batman telling him not to be Robin, and that didn’t work as well for me.
As far as the New 52, it amazes me that Didio thinks Dick Grayson brings nothing to the table if he’s not Robin but also thinks Babs brings more to the table if she’s not Oracle.

Andrew Breneman

May 8, 2014 at 5:58 am

Oracle. Hands down. It is unfortunate that they belittled her character by making her Batgirl again.

I would have guessed Dick Grayson personally but then Alfred has been more loyal(not a surprise since he is a butler) and nowadays more helpful to his crime fighting persona.

AverageJoeEveryman

May 8, 2014 at 8:57 am

If it ever comes down to a vote about which Alfred to put on a postage stamp, I am totally voting for Fat Alfred.

Er… Tim Drake created by Wolfman and Neal Adams? Isn’t that Jim Aparo, or am I missing something?

BTW, nobody seems to remember the FIRST time Dick became Batman after Knightfall/Knightquest/Knightwhatever. That’s what he and Alfred are talking about in the first panel of the ponytail costume sequence (good costume, horrible hairdo)

“Then the new 52 happened and Tim is basically an entirely different character now, so why bother discussing it? ”

I really hate this. Such a great character completely screwed over!

Frankie Addiego

May 8, 2014 at 10:14 am

I’m going to assume that the other members of the Justice League were off the table because it would have been too obvious.

Can’t say I agree with the 1 and 2 spots. Dick should be 1. Hell, the Alfred character was created after Dick had already been around for a while.

I’m going to assume that the other members of the Justice League were off the table because it would have been too obvious.

That would be an incorrect assumption. The master list is up now, so you can see where his Justice League teammates ranked!

Can’t say I agree with the 1 and 2 spots. Dick should be 1. Hell, the Alfred character was created after Dick had already been around for a while.

And Gordon was around for a while before Dick Grayson, so should Gordon be ahead of both of them?

Er… Tim Drake created by Wolfman and Neal Adams? Isn’t that Jim Aparo, or am I missing something?

Tim first showed up in an issue drawn by Pat Broderick. Neal Adams designed the Robin costume, so I figured I’d throw him a creator credit. Jim Apart didn’t have any involvement in the creation of Tim Drake.

Bill Williamson

May 8, 2014 at 10:48 am

Rick: I know that Neal Adams was the one who designed Tim Drake’s Robin costume. Perhaps he had more to do with him behind the scenes.

Alfred won?!? Alfred? I felt certain Grayson and Gordon would be the top two, with Alfred third(possibly fourth). I was shocked to see Gordon in third, then seeing Dick as second…

I did give the butler a few points, but I’m not a fan of the newer members of the Bat-family.

Wow, first time ever for one of these things, the top 4 matched my top 4 exactly. I did vote for Tim too, just at 10, because he’s always a bit…boring to me. Though this post helps illustrate what went wrong with KGBeast and fast. Well, if Robin can beat him….. And Red Robin was one of many weak “we have to force everything in Kingdom Come into the regular continuity…”

I Like Batgirl; I like Oracle. And who doesn’t love Yvonne Craig?? But really, did the Nu52 costume decision come down to “boy, we don’t have enough things to remind us of the movie Batman and Robin….”

Speaking of costumes, Nightwing has had some good ones, but there always seems to be one thing missing preventing it from hitting classic stature. First it was yellow feathers and big collars, then the outfit became almost too ninja plain. Maybe that’s why people liked Red Robin. Great ID, great character advancement, and there’s a really strong idea for a costume in there that just hasn’t been fully realized yet.

And while I did too vote for Alfred #1, figuring he’s the only one that has always been at Batman’s side (and has become way interesting over the years), as Bill K points out, who would have thunk this not so long ago? I mean, it was always “Batman and Robin.” Not “….and his trusty butler, Alfred.” He was about as important as Jarvis. (Though if you go back to the tv show times Commissioner Gordon was just a guy with a cool red phone). So these characters were developing later, just as Robin was moving away from Batman (though it dates me, 40 to 80 was 40 years, and we’re pushing 35 years since the 80’s began….so it’s now half their existence). And it doesn’t help that this list helps illustrate there have now be 36 different Robins. (give or take). It’s amazing what some snark will do for a character.

“No, I’m not asking why Joseph is wearing a uniform, I’m asking why he’s wearing *that* uniform. I mean, I just put on a giant disco collar, and his outfit still makes mine look restrained.”

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@Brian & Bill

Thanks! Had no idea Adams was involved in the costume/character design.

What/when’s the next Batman poll, Brian?

What/when’s the next Batman poll, Brian?

I realized that my original timing would have me ending a full two weeks before the “official” celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary, which seemed like a bad idea (when I began the series of polls I didn’t know which day DC was planning on using), so I’m pushing the start of the next poll back to later this month. Not much later. Probably three-four days.

Thanks, Brian!

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