A Tribute to the of

Another anniversary nearly escaped my notice. Would you believe that this very month marks the 75th year since the appearance of everyone’s favorite butler, Alfred Pennyworth? It’s true. He showed up in the pages of Batman #16 from April of 1943 and is the tease on the Jerry Robinson rendered cover. Here Comes Alfred! was written by Don Cameron, penciled by Bob Kane and inked by Jerry with George “Inky” Roussos on backgrounds and letters. Whitney Ellsworth was in the editor’s chair.

This story is by turns action and comedy relief. The veddy British gentleman who gets off the ship in Gotham City is a more rotund version of the Alfred we know and he’s sailed from England by way of the Indian Ocean, over 2 years at sea, just to get here to Gotham.

While going through customs it’s noted he has a book on being a detective and fancies himself an amateur sleuth. In fact, he’s curious about one of his fellow passengers, Gaston Leduc. Apparently, the debarking passengers are also of interest to three underworld figures who are in turn being observed by Batman and Robin, who recognize the international crook Manuel Stiletti.

The hoodlums try to jump Alfred to take his valise, but he fights with them and then the Caped Crusaders dive in and they beat a hasty retreat. Alfred recognizes Batman and Robin, thanks them for their assistance and offers his own gifts as a criminologist to them in his spare time, but they gently decline. He offers to visit them later, which they agree to and once back at Wayne Manor chuckle to themselves that he would expect to find them.

Then the doorbell rings…and it’s him! Fortunately, they soon realize that the butler is there to see Bruce Wayne and to offer his services as he is the son of the former Wayne butler, Jarvis. He’d promised his father on his deathbed that he’d give up acting and go into the family business back at Wayne Manor.

Not knowing what else to do, they let Alfred stay for the time being, but things are afoot elsewhere as the criminals are bound and determined to get the valise, though Alfred has already told Batman and Robin that it has no value.

They are now breaking into Wayne Manor, but Bruce’s alarm system has alerted him and soon he and Dick are in their battle togs as Batman and Robin. Alfred, meanwhile has noted a recent newspaper headline about the Duke of Dorian fleeing the Nazis and he recognizes Leduc. Just then, the crooks confront Alfred, but then the Dynamic Duo arrive and after a couple of fisticuffs, give chase, but first instructing Alfred to tie up one knocked out gangster.

Being the dutiful manservant, however, Alfred first goes in search of Bruce and Dick to make sure they’ve not been disturbed, but of course, they’re nowhere to be found. Completing his search, he finds that the crook has regained consciousness and is on the attack. Alfred fights back, dislodging a decorative shield from a coat of arms that kayos the criminal and simultaneously reveals a secret passageway that the butler simply must investigate. It doesn’t take long for him to discover the lab and batplane of the occupants and he is pleased with his deductive capabilities.

Our heroes, meanwhile, have followed the crooks to an abandoned theater and before they know it, they’ve been trussed up in the curtain ropes and weights and gagged to boot. Hanging helplessly from beside the catwalk, they don’t know how they’ll get out of this one.

Soon the other henchman shows up, but he didn’t know he was being followed by an Englishman in a bowler. When Alfred cannot find Batman and Robin, he is overtaken by nostalgia at being on stage again and begins to rehearse old roles, oblivious to the caped crime-fighters dangling above him. Batman devises a strategy and starts some momentum until he swings closely enough to a rope to dislodge it and strike that bowler hat and get Alfred’s attention.

Elsewhere the thugs have located Leduc and are stealing his suitcase, which contains valuable jewels from his home country. They then return to the theater with Leduc and plan to burn the theater to the ground with their victims trapped inside, but Batman and Robin surprise them by swinging down from their feigned bonds and cleaning house. Alfred even gets into the act, dropping a heavy curtain on cue to disarm the gunman who was about to blast Batman.

So, justice is served and Bruce and Dick are enjoying watching Alfred bask in his success in untangling the mystery and helping them close the case when he walks in with their uniforms as he’d spotted the bat-signal. Flummoxed that they’ve been found out, but feeling they can trust their new butler, the crime-fighters are soon on their way and a new career is born for Alfred Pennyworth.

At some point, Alfred slimmed down and the cheesy British accent was throttled back, but he became an important member of the Batman family and has appeared in many Batman stories, the small screen as portrayed by Alan Napier in the original 60s series and more recently by Sean Pertwee in Gotham along with silver screen appearances that have come courtesy of Michael Caine, Jeremy Irons and Michael Gough and he’s been voiced in animated form by Alastair Duncan in The Batman, among others.

A salute to 75 years of Alfred!

May 1st will herald the arrival of the latest installment of this ongoing feature, so be sure to come on by. In the interim, reach out and touch us for your comments or questions. I can always be reached at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

We’ll be waiting for you and...

Long live the Silver Age!

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