Plenty of digital ink has been spilled debating who truly deserves the title of the Dark Knight’s greatest enemy - is it Joker, Bane, Riddler, maybe Kite Man? - but an equally deserving discussion is the much more wholesome question of “Who is Batman’s best friend?” It’s not as easy to answer as one might think.
Of the many words that could be used to describe Bruce Wayne, “friendly” is not one of them. Typically, Gotham’s Caped Crusader keeps his emotions locked away a lot tighter than the inmates at Arkham Asylum. Every now and then, though, someone will manage to form a real connection with the Batman against all odds.
The top candidates for the job of Batman’s best friend are obvious - Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson, and even his frequent frenemy Superman - but they’re not the only ones with a claim to the title of No. 1 Bat-Pal. Maybe there is a big heart hiding under that cowl, after all.
How He Knows Batman: Bruce Wayne has never not known Alfred Pennyworth. The Wayne family’s most loyal employee was there when Bruce was born, helped rear him as an infant, and then raised him almost entirely on his own after Thomas and Martha Wayne's passing. He’s been there for every step of the way on Bruce’s journey to becoming the Batman.
What They Have In Common: Alfred has been Bruce’s main parental figure for the vast majority of his life, but their relationship goes far beyond a father/son dynamic. The Dark Knight guards his emotions around his closest allies, but he’s never been able to hide them from Alfred. Over the years, they’ve become true partners, with Alfred providing his crimefighting ward with everything he could possibly need, from technological know-how to medical care to the occasional reprimand. Bruce Wayne can focus entirely on being the Batman because he has Alfred around to run the rest of his life for him, and that's something he trusts the butler implicitly to do. It's no surprise that when it came time to pick a best man for his impending nuptials to Selina Kyle, Bruce chose Alfred over several other promising candidates.
What Still Stands Between Them: Bruce and Alfred have had their differences over the decades, usually in the form of secrets kept from one another. That’s all in the past, and there isn’t much left unsaid between them. The biggest thing standing in the way of their relationship is Alfred’s recent demise at the hands of Bane - a loss that the Dark Knight might never get over.24731The Bat's best bud?
How He Knows Batman: Bruce Wayne met Dick Grayson on the worst night of the young acrobat's life, shortly after his parents perished in a malicious trapeze accident. Adopting him as his ward, Wayne raised Grayson first as his son and then as his crimefighting partner until Grayson had grown enough to go out on his own as one of the Batman’s peers.
What They Have In Common: The dynamic between Wayne and Grayson has always been that of a father and son, but as the first Robin has grown, it has also developed into a genuine friendship. It hasn’t always been easy for Batman to let go of his parental duties and allow Grayson to branch out on his own as Nightwing, but since then, there hasn’t been a single ally that Bruce trusts more in the field. After the Battle for the Cowl, Grayson stepped into the role of Batman after his mentor was struck down by Darkseid's Omega beams. As the ultimate mark of respect, Batman’s even gone as far as to say he considers Dick to be a better man than himself.
What Still Stands Between Them: As Dick Grayson has grown up, he’s distinguished himself from the man who raised him in several ways, including his approach to vigilantism. The two heroes often disagree about the best way to tackle Gotham City’s problems, and in particular, they are known to clash about how Bruce treats the rest of the Bat-Family. Grayson doesn’t like it when the Dark Knight keeps secrets from his closest friends - especially when he’s one of them.22527The Bat's best bud?
How He Knows Batman: Commissioner Jim Gordon is actually the Dark Knight’s oldest on-page ally, having made his debut in the very same comic as Batman, 1939’s Detective Comics #27. Modern retellings of their origins have revealed that the two met long before Bruce Wayne was a costumed crimefighter, with Gordon comforting the young orphan after his parents were shot in Crime Alley.
What They Have In Common: The Batman and the commissioner have maintained a fruitful professional relationship over the years, but "friends from work" hardly captures their history. Early on in his vigilante career, Batman saved the life of Gordon’s son, and the cop has more or less trusted the Caped Crusader ever since. Without that trust and Gordon’s influence on the rest of the GCPD, Batman would never be able to operate freely in Gotham. Heck, it was Gordon himself who constructed the Bat-Signal! It eventually became clear that Gordon knew almost immediately that Bruce Wayne and Batman were the same individual, which is another important testament to his trust - after all, Gordon must have been okay with his own daughter, Barbara, joining the Bat-Family. And that trust is mostly mutual, too, as Batman is naturally distrusting of law enforcement, but truly believes in Jim Gordon.
What Still Stands Between Them: Both Batman and Commissioner Gordon take their roles in Gotham City very seriously, and that has led to a number of disagreements over the years. Gordon is obviously willing to let the Dark Knight bend the rules, but sometimes he goes too far and Gordon is forced to act against his friend. Because he respects Gordon’s integrity, Batman can be selective in how much information he shares with the commissioner, and the hero's secrets have brought the two to blows on some occasions.12850The Bat's best bud?
How He Knows Batman: As two of DC Comics’ oldest heroes, Batman and Superman have been teaming up on-page since 1941. They officially joined forces as founding members of the Justice League, and their history has even been rewritten to suggest that Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent knew each other as children.
What They Have In Common: Aside from an upstanding moral code and core belief in justice, the most important thing that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel share is mutual respect - in fact, they’ve each admitted that the other is their personal hero. Their mutual faith has paid off, with each saving the other’s life on too many occasions to list, and they now consider themselves to be practically family. The Caped Crusader doesn’t ask for help very often, but when he does, the Last Son of Krypton is often first in line.
What Still Stands Between Them: Just because Batman has faith in Superman doesn’t mean that he trusts him implicitly. Wayne can’t help but prepare for the possibility of Kal-El turning to the dark side, which the chunk of Kryptonite he always carries around in his pocket will attest to. Usually, the two are able to work through Batman’s paranoid inclinations, but in out-of-continuity tales, this aspect of their relationship has put the duo on the path to conflict.14061The Bat's best bud?