Alfred Through The Ages
September 28th, 2015 | by Ryan Mayer
Batman v. Superman is edging ever closer and our Ryan Mayer is here with a look at one of the supporting cast, as we dive into the historical portrayals of Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler – Alfred.
As the days slowly pass, many DC Comics fans are anxiously awaiting a time when we will being to see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice merchandise hit the shelves. Soon we will be able to see the start of the new DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which will feature most of the Justice League for the first time on the big screen. Recently, we are beginning to get a better idea of the shape the DCEU will be taking; especially the differences between its more famous characters and the ways each has been portrayed in the past.
When Jeremy Irons was announced to be the brand new Alfred Pennyworth for the DCEU, fans began to wonder what kind of Alfred, Irons would play. In the past, Alfred’s portrayal in the movies was one of an noble but aging British man, who acted as a father figure to young Bruce Wayne and continued to do so as his charge grew up and became Batman.
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Within the Christopher Nolan Batman films, legendary actor Michael Caine was playing Alfred. Many consider him to be the best Alfred to ever to play the character on screen.
Alfred has always been a staple when it comes to Batman and every Batman fan knows about him. However, in the first Batman comics series Alfred was not first seen until Batman #16. Throughout the history of comics, Alfred has been one of the only members of the Bat-family that Bruce Wayne allows to carry a gun. He has also gone through man changes as comics have evolved and has gone from a regular butler to a character that often gets far more involved in the action.
The pre-crisis Alfred was a retired secret intelligence agent who, on his father’s deathbed, followed the dying wishes that Alfred continue watching over the Wayne family. After making that promise, he went to Wayne Manor and met Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, and asked that he be allowed to become their butler. Bruce and Dick wanted to decline Alfred’s proposal, because they did not want to jeopardize their secret identities and didn’t necessarily want a butler. However, they reluctantly agreed because they didn’t have the heart to turn Alfred away. That night, Alfred awoke to hear sounds coming from down stairs and followed them to the secret entrance to the Bat cave, where he discovered his new employers dressed as Batman and Robin; with Batman injured from their night out on patrol.
Alfred patched Batman up, which convinced the Dynamic Duo that Alfred was trustworthy.
The post-crisis Alfred saw a few more changes come to his character, after DC Comics reset their universe. Alfred was the Wayne family butler all of Bruce’s life, and was integral in the creation and rise of the Batman identity. There a several other versions of Alfred throughout the post-crisis history that do much to combine both the post-crisis and pre-crisis origins.
In today’s comics, Alfred is known to be able to handle his own in a fight and was Bruce’s legal guardian after his parents were killed.
In the past, Alfred has been portrayed as a dignified butler that helped Bruce Wayne with his Batman persona, but who rarely would involve himself and get his hands dirty; similar to Michael Caine’s portrayal in the Nolan Batman trilogy.
In a recent interview concerning the new Alfred fans will se as part of the DCEU, Jeremy Irons stated that fans will be getting a “completely different” Alfred in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In the interview with the Toronto Sun, Irons states that:
Zack Snyder, the director, wanted to create a completely different Alfred. So I felt I didn’t have to carry any baggage from previous ones. It’s sort of a reincarnation if you’d like. I had a feeling I was creating my own Alfred, more of a man who can actually do anything if he has to.
This is definitely alluding to a more physical and involved Alfred, which is something new that fans can really get excited for. Fans already had a feeling that Alfred would be different from the character we are used to on television and in the Nolan trilogy, after seeing just two small clips of him in the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer.
It will be very interesting to watch how this Alfred interacts with Bruce Wayne and tries to lead him in the right direction. In the trailer, you can hear Alfred (Jeremy Irons) stating “He is not our enemy.” to Bruce, showing that Alfred’s steadying presence is still alive and well in the DCEU.
Only time will tell if this Alfred will become a favourite among fans.
We will all just have to wait until March 2015 to see how we feel about the new Alfred Pennyworth.
Ryan Mayer is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @RMayer94