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The many roles of Alfred Pennyworth, Batman's loyal butler

Alfred Pennyworth
(Image credit: DC)

Everyone knows Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's loyal butler and Batman's closest ally. 

If you don't keep up with DC comic books, you may not know Alfred is currently dead, but we say "currently" because comic book characters have a knack for coming back from the dead and there are indications plans are being considered for him to return.

But before that, he seems like he'll play his standard role in DC and Webtoon's brand new webcomic Wayne Family Adventures that occurs in its own continuity, which debuted September 8. 

Fans will welcome any version of the beloved character wherever they can find him, but beyond his life as Bruce's right-hand man, how much do you really know about dear old Alfred?

Over his history, he's lived an eclectic life and does so much more for Batman than simply greet guests at Wayne Manor and supervise the household. 

Newsarama takes a look at the many skills and careers of the dearly departed (for now) Mr. Pennyworth.

Detective Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

In his early Detective Comics appearances, Alfred was more of a comic relief for Batman and Robin than a trusted ally and confidant. In fact, he was actually something of a bumbling detective, trying to hone his skills in order to help Batman solve crimes.

Alfred even had his own four-page back-up feature that ran through 13 issues of Detective Comics (collected in Batman Allies: Alfred Pennyworth) in which he attempted to solve crimes. His career never really took off - most of his cases wound up being solved by accident or through dumb luck.

Royal Air Force officer Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

One thing that's almost always true of Alfred Pennyworth's origin is that he was in the British military, usually as a member of the Royal Air Force. In older stories, he had an extensive career in World War II before becoming a butler.

Though the timeframe has changed over the years, this aspect of Alfred's past has been addressed in various media, including in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, and in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice when he remotely pilots the Batplane.

Alfred's specific job in the RAF is rarely consistent, however – sometimes he was a medic, or a commando, or even in the special forces – separate skills that have often come into play in other aspects of Alfred's various careers.

In at least one version of his military career, he served as something of a personal butler to a high-ranking officer - a position the British military refers to as, get this, a 'batman.'

Surgeon Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

Alfred’s life with Bruce Wayne thrusts him into many roles, especially when he's serving as Batman's man-at-arms and most trusted associate. One of the most common is that of a surgeon, stitching up Batman's many wounds and tending to the aftermath of his crimefighting adventures.

Of course, Alfred isn't without some training in the field. He may not be a doctor, but in some versions of his history, he was a field medic with the RAF, giving him unique insight into how to treat wounds sustained in combat.

Spy Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

In addition to sometimes being depicted as having had a career in the British special forces, in at least one incarnation Alfred was a full-on intelligence operative - in other words, a spy.

Back when it made sense for Alfred's career to have taken place in World War II, he was part of an intelligence group that worked alongside resistance fighters in occupied France. He even had a special relationship with another DC World War II hero, Mademoiselle Marie.

This aspect of Alfred's comic book life (the spy part anyway) is a key element of Epix's TV series Pennyworth.

Father Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

Alfred is Bruce Wayne's ersatz father figure, having raised him since his parents died while he was still a boy. Bruce has often made subtle and overt references to considering Alfred his 'dad;' a relationship he also shares to a somewhat lesser degree with Dick Grayson and even Tim Drake.

But he's also got some biological kids in different versions of his stories. In the same tale that portrayed him as fighting alongside the French resistance in WWII, he and fellow resistance fighter Mademoiselle Marie had a daughter named Julia Remarque.

Though that all took place pre-Crisis, recent stories also gave him a daughter in the 'New 52,' who followed in Alfred's footsteps, becoming a British special forces officer named Julia Pennyworth.

Actor Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

In one version of Alfred's origin as the Wayne family butler, Alfred was a young stage actor who quit his craft at the behest of his dying father to serve the aristocratic family.

Alfred almost left the Waynes' employ after only a short time but decided to stay on after bonding with a young Bruce, who he summarily raised when Bruce's parents were killed.

This idea was touched on in the out-of-continuity story 'Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?,' in which it's revealed that many of Batman's chief nemeses were actually Alfred dressing up to feed his master's psychosis.

Mechanic Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

Among Alfred's many jobs in the Batcave is occasionally fixing the Batmobile and Batman's other vehicles when they get wrecked up.

Though this isn't a major role that often gets touched upon, Alfred has been depicted as being an expert in Batman's hi-tech motorcade.

Supervillain Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

Way back in the '50s, Alfred died while pushing Batman out of the way of a falling boulder. Proving that even simple butlers aren't safe from the rigors of comic book science, Alfred's body was "regenerated" by a scientist named Brandon Crawford who... didn't exactly put everything back together right.

Rather than resurrecting as a regular old Gentleman's Gentleman, Alfred came back as a kind of living psychic corpse. Calling himself "The Outsider," Alfred menaced Batman as a villain for a number of years with the help of minions like the "Grasshopper Gang" and even the Batmobile itself before this change was summarily ignored.

In the 'New 52,' the comics event Forever Evil included something of a callback to this idea, with the Alfred of Earth-3 being a villainous mastermind.

Batman Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

In Rebirth's Batman #5, Alfred put on the cape and cowl as part of a mission for the real Batman, but that's not the first time Alfred briefly filled in for Bruce Wayne as the Caped Crusader.

Though he's never had to actually operate as Batman in the way Commissioner Gordon or Dick Grayson have, Alfred has occasionally masqueraded as the Dark Knight, usually as part of a ruse or cover-up to hide Bruce Wayne's identity.

Fans of the '60s Batman television series will also remember Alfred actor Alan Napier famously donning the unforgiving Batman costume a few times in season 2 when Batman and Bruce Wayne had to be seen together. And in the spirit of the goofy series, no one was seemingly the wiser. 

Butler Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth jobs

(Image credit: DC)

Okay, this one’s pretty obvious. Almost everyone knows Alfred as Bruce Wayne's surrogate father figure, his right-hand man, and his personal aide. But among the many different versions of how Alfred came into the employ of the Wayne family, there's actually at least one story in which he was already a butler.

In some versions of Alfred's post-Crisis origin (yes, even in DC's various timelines there are multiple versions of some characters), Alfred was a manservant to the British royal family whom the Waynes hired away – in other words, the best of the best, just like his master, Batman.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)