Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth (or simply Alfred) is a fictional character that appears in comic books published by DC Comics. The character first appears in Batman #16 (April-May 1943), and was created by writer Bob Kane and artist Jerry Robinson. Alfred serves as Batman’s (and Bruce Wayne's) tireless butler, assistant, confidante and surrogate father figure. He has sometimes been called "Batman's batman. Alfred also provides comic relief, as his sometimes sarcastic and cynical attitude often adds humor to dialogue occurring between himself and the obsessed Batman. Alfred is a vital part of the Batman mythos, and appears in most other media adaptations of the character.
The character of Alfred 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.
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, and the feature lasted ten issues. 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.
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 collected 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.
Meanwhile another version of Alfred's Post-Crisis life was slightly more closely linked 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 apparently allowed Stephanie Brown to 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.
In Batman #677, agents of Batman's mysterious enemy the Black Glove attack and beat Alfred, severely injuring him at least, in front of Bruce and Jezebel Jet. In the same issue, a reporter from The Gotham Gazette suggests to Commissioner Gordon that Alfred may be Bruce's biological father, and that this may be a reason for the murder of Martha Wayne.
Alfred appears in the Elseworlds series Superman & Batman: Generations. He serves the Wayne family before dying in 1967, but his spirit remains around to give Bruce advice. In Generations 2, he makes his final appearance in 1975, when he convinces the ghost of Dick Grayson not to kill the Joker. He manages to convince Dick to pass over, but in the process his own soul crosses over, meaning he cannot come back. Alfred also plays a prominent role in the "Vampire Batman" trilogy where Batman is turned into a vampire to fight Dracula, forging Batman's weapons to use against the remaining members of Dracula's 'family' and subsequently working with Commissioner Gordon after Batman succumbs to his vampiric instincts and begins to kill his old enemies. At the conclusion of the trilogy, with Gordon being hunted by Two-Face and Killer Croc, Alfred sacrifices his life to allow Batman to drink his blood, giving his old master the strength to save Gordon and Gotham itself one last time before he is killed.
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).
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). 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 1960s 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 rose breeding (even creating his own, the "Pennyworth Blue"), 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.