by Alan Kistler
Born and raised in England, Alfred Pennyworth was born into a family that had a tradition of serving as butlers to the wealthy Gotham lineage of the Waynes. But Alfred chose instead not to become a butler. He spent some time experimenting in different fields of interest, auto-mechanics, medicine, cooking, until he finally decided his passion rested in acting. Alfred became an accomplished stage actor, and was known as a master of make-up and mimicry.
When he was in his early thirties, Alfred fell in love with an actress named Joanna Clark. The two eventually became engaged. But on the wedding day, Alfred was assaulted by a massive shock. Just as the couple was one the alter to exchange their vows, a friend named Johnny Forsythe stormed into the chapel to announce that he'd been having an affair with Joanna for several months. Heartbroken and enraged, Alfred knocked down Johnny with one punch and then stormed out of the ceremony.
That night, after spending several hours drunk, Alfred decided to retreat to his father's life and go to America. He would put this life behind him and go on to start a new one with the Waynes.
Alfred arrive at Wayne Manor a few days later, ready to take the position his father had left open years ago. Upon his arrival, he immediately impressed six-year-old Bruce Wayne, who was taken by the Alfred's "funny way of talking."
Alfred found a great joy working at Wayne Manor. He found Martha and Thomas Wayne to be very admirable people and he began to grow a fatherly sort of love with young Bruce. Bruce was ostracized at school for being the "rich kid" and so spent most of him time at the Manor rather than out playing with any friends. Thus, he and Alfred spent much time together, though Alfred would sometimes refer to the rambunctious lad as a "foolish young terror."
Two years after his arrival, Alfred was shocked when police came to the Manor to tell him that Martha and Thomas had been murdered by a mugger. Young Bruce had been left alive, though horribly traumatized from having to witness his parents being killed in front of him.
Along with the police had come Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a physician who'd found Bruce alongside his parents' bodies. Leslie expressed to Alfred a wish to make sure the boy was taken care of. She stayed at the Manor for a few days, eventually explaining to Bruce that the state wanted to take him away and that there would be several families who would wish to adopt him because of the fortune he would inherit. Young Bruce found this unacceptable. He wanted to continue living in his family home, with his best friend Alfred watching over him. Bruce learned all he could from Leslie and Alfred about the specifics of the state's case to take Bruce in and, more importantly, how it was possible to clog up this process. Using bribes and false paperwork, Alfred and Bruce were able to clog up the state with so much paperwork that Bruce was simply lost in the system. He was thus allowed to stay at Wayne Manor, with Alfred and Leslie acting as his surrogate guardians.
Bruce soon decided that he would dedicate his life to ensuring that no one else would suffer as he did. He would become a master crime-fighter. Whether he would work within or outside the law, he didn't know yet. But one thing was certain. He needed to become a master at everything that could possibly aid him. Some of the skills he deemed necessary were the arts of disguise and deception. Thus, Alfred did his best to train him in his former theatrical field. Alfred taught him mimicry, ventriloquism, stage presence, impov acting. Alfred also helped Bruce hone his talents at make-up and disguise.
Years later, Bruce would decide that he would work as a vigilante and that he would inspire fear by assuming the guise of a giant bat-like creature. Working together, he and Alfred designed and created an outfit which was both utilitarian and visibly striking. Bruce donned this outfit and soon the newspapers were speaking of a mysterious "Batman" who haunted Gotham City's streets.
Alfred continued in his capacity of the Batman's aide and confidant for the next several years. This extended to Batman's later partners Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake, all of whom adopted the identity of "Robin." After leaving Wayne's company, Grayson adopted the new identity of "Nightwing". As leader of the Teen Titans, his teammates were aware of his true identity and on one or two occasions Dick's relationship with Alfred would involve the butler giving aid to the Titans themselves.
Although Alfred would always be concerned about Bruce's safety, he understood that the man was driven in this career of his and that there was no way of talking him out of it.
Years later, the villain known as Bane broke the Batman's back. Although Bruce's life was saved by the efforts of Alfred, Tim Drake and the vigilante Azrael, he was left nearly a paraplegic. No longer of any use, the mantle of the bat was passed on to Azrael.
Bruce had little time to adjust to his new weakened condition when his friends Jack Drake and Shondra Kinsolving were kidnapped by foreign terrorists. Under the alternate identities of Sir Hemmingford Gray and his butler Charles, Bruce and Alfred journeyed to Santa Prisca to save their friends. But Alfred grew more and more concerned that Bruce was pushing himself to the point that he would permanently damage his body. At one point, Bruce wound up in the hospital. Despite the doctor's orders, he was fully ready to get out of bed and continue his efforts. At this point, Alfred said he'd had the last straw. He could no longer sit by and simply watch as his best friend and surrogate son went out to get himself killed. With a heavy heart, Alfred quit.
Leaving Gotham City, Alfred first went to Antartica. When asked why, he simply responded "I like penguins." A few weeks later, he returned to London. On a whim, he decided to look up his old love, known now as Joanna Forsythe. Not wishing to hold a grudge, Alfred simply wished to rekindle an old friendship. But his ambitions grew when he discovered that a year after they'd married, Johnny had died in a car accident and left Joanna a widow. Joanna expressed a wish to rekindle a relationship with Alfred but was also concerned about the safety of her son Derek. Derek owed money to a criminal organization and she knew Alfred could pay off the debts. To add to the urgency, Joanna then revealed that Derek was actually Alfred's son, not Derek's.
With this new knowledge, Alfred set about to help young Derek, the son he'd never known. But things were not to be solved so easily. Derek had gotten involved with an organization that was planning on overthrowing the British government and Alfred was getting too close to their operation. Fortunately, he would have help.
Soon after Alfred had retired, Bruce had regained the use of his back and a couple weeks later had reclaimed the mantle of the bat. Another couple of weeks after this, Nightwing went on a quest to search out Alfred. He eventually tracked him down to London and found him in the middle of this situation with Derek. Wishing to help his old friend, Nightwing helped Alfred take down the criminal organization. But the victory was hollow, as Derek ended up killed in the process. Alfred grieved with Joanna over the loss of their son, but was then in for another shock. Joanna had lied. Derek had been Johnny's son all along. She'd misled Alfred merely to ensure that he would help. Distraught, Alfred left Joanna once again.
Upon meeting up with Nightwing later, Alfred decided that he was no longer capable of living with "ordinary people" who were shallow in their understandings of each other and themselves. He was more at home with people such as Bruce, people who knew exactly who they were and were in complete control of themselves and their lives. Deciding that perhaps he still had something to offer to Gotham's resident super-hero, Alfred returned to Wayne Manor. Bruce couldn't have been happier.
A couple years later, a massive quake hit Gotham. Eventually, Congress decided that the city would be abandoned and deemed a "No Man's Land." Although Bruce decided to leave for a short while, Alfred stayed in No Man's Land, making efforts to collect whatever information Batman would need upon his return. He mapped out the territories that were being made and kept track of who was allied with whom. When Batman returned three months later, Alfred resumed his role as squire to the Dark Knight.
Aside from helping Batman, Alfred also spends his time helping whomever he can in No Man's Land and offering assistance to Leslie Thompkins, who's restarted her clinic to help those who didn't or couldn't leave their city.
Alfred is an excellent mechanic, having maintained the Batman's vehicles for years. He is a four-star chef. Alfred is skilled in first aid and has general knowledge in the field of medicine. In recent years, he has familiarized himself as a better-than-average computer hacker. And after ten years of being the Batman's aide, Alfred has proved to be a skilled detective, with general knowledge in forensics, pathology and criminal psychology.
Alfred is moderately skilled in the use of firearms and is a better than average hand-to-hand combatant. He has basic knowledge in a few martial arts.
Alfred is an accomplished actor, skilled in improv, make-up, mimicry, stage presence, and ventriloquism. He has even mastered the ability of mimicking Bruce Wayne's voice with pin-point accuracy. Thus, he's often been able to cement the illusion that Bruce Wayne and the Batman are two separate entities.
This article is © 1999 Alan Kistler.
All characters are © DC Comics