DC Comics' Alfred Pennyworth is one of the most beloved non-superpowered characters in all of comic books, and he’s far more than just “Batman’s butler.” For evidence of just how many people consider themselves fans of Pennyworth, one need look no further than the reaction to Alfred’s passing in 2019’s Batman #77 - and the massive outpouring of grief and rage that resulted.
Unfortunately for the notoriously witty Alfred Pennyworth, his passing was just the latest in a long string of moments that would be considered bizarre for anyone to go through, even the best friend of a superhero. Before his untimely demise, Alfred had to deal with failed weddings, long-lost children, and a severed hand, so one might go as far as to say that his passing came as a relief. Of course, this being comic books, it’s probably not a reprieve that will last very long, so Alfred better enjoy the afterlife while he can.
Circa 2010, the Batman was believed to have perished in the DC Comics world, though in reality, he was just gallivanting through time as a result of Darkseid’s most convoluted evil plot yet. In his absence, the faithful Alfred Pennyworth oversaw the passing of the cowl to Dick Grayson - and he was more than ready to resume his butler’s duties, and then some, when Bruce Wayne returned to “life.”
No longer content to fight bad guys from the shadows, Wayne founded Batman Inc. and outed himself to the world - not as the Dark Knight, but as the money behind the Bat-Family’s never-ending campaign of justice. When he did, Pennyworth was there standing beside him, revealed publicly for the first time as one of Batman’s staunchest supporters.
Unfortunately, that revelation would come to have some rather dire consequences for poor ol’ Alfred.
When Bruce Wayne tangled with the Court of Owls following DC Comics’ continuity reboot in 2011, his investigation rewrote the history of Gotham City, including that of the Pennyworths. Alfred had taken over the job of running the Wayne household from his father Jarvis, but he never realized that he was also continuing his dad’s legacy of getting involved in dangerous misadventures.
In a letter to Alfred that was never delivered, Jarvis told the story of being blackmailed by the Court of Owls to attack the pregnant Martha Wayne, but refusing. He instead quit his job and attempted to flee Wayne Manor, only to be taken out by a Court assassin. The last words of his letter warned Alfred to stay away from the “cursed” Waynes - though that’s obviously a warning that Alfred never received.
During the events of Batman Eternal, Alfred Pennyworth reunited with his long-lost daughter Julia - and learned that her apple didn’t fall far from his tree. The result of a tryst from his days as an intelligence agent, Julia went on to have her own career as a super-spy, which provided her with a set of skills that would easily apply to her father’s career as a vigilante’s caretaker.
Before she discovered Bruce Wayne’s secret, Julia expressed great disappointment that her father had turned away from military life to serve as a butler to a debutante, but her opinion changed quickly when she found the Batcave underneath Wayne Manor. From there on out, she became an honorary member of the Bat-Family before her job necessitated a return back to England.
The lengthy saga of Batman Eternal featured a number of supervillains involved in yet another scheme to rule Gotham City, and one of them, Hush, found themselves held captive in the Batcave as a result. Hush thought he had turned the tables by escaping his cell and locking Alfred Pennyworth inside - but it didn’t take long for the crafty butler to turn the tables right back.
Having known Tommy Elliott since he was a young boy, Alfred played the baddie like a fiddle, allowing him to think he had won the day by gaining access to the Batcomputer. Just when Hush thought he was in control, Alfred emerged from his cell and knocked him out cold, quipping that he was certainly not going to be locked up in his own home.