Yes, Alfred Pennyworth most definitely can fight. He may be considered the greatest butler in all of comics history, not only in DC comics (sorry, Edwin Jarvis – you’re good, but you can’t hold a candle to the one and only Penny-One), but there’s more to Alfred than being an assistant to the Dark Knight.
Apart from being an amazing butler, Alfred is a man of many talents, and unbeknownst to some, he can fend for himself really well if caught in a brawl. In this post, we’re gonna find out exactly why as we explore his history, background, and abilities.
Was Alfred Pennyworth A Soldier?
Yes, Alfred Pennyworth was a soldier. As a matter of fact, he is a former soldier of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces (aka the British Armed Forces), serving as an army medic on the battlefield.
After retiring from military service, Alfred pursued his original love, stage acting, where he was able to hone his thespian skills for several years. Because of his army background and theater skills, he was soon recruited by MI5, the United Kingdom’s Security Service Bureau.
He was originally recruited by MI5 to function as a trainer for the Bureau’s field agents, but he was so good that he would be given covert missions himself by the government.
What Is Alfred Pennyworth's Background?
As we mentioned earlier, Alfred had experience fighting as a soldier and performing as a stage actor. This combination made him the ideal guy to not only train British spies but also go on missions as a secret agent as well.
After completing a special mission for MI5, Alfred was ordered to retire from the Bureau. For his safety, Alfred was forced to change his original surname from Beagle to Pennyworth. For good measure, he also moved to the United States, eventually coming to work for the wealthy Wayne household.
Was Alfred Pennyworth Married?
Alfred has never married. Although as told in DC comics pages, he did have more than one romantic relationship.
The first significant relationship he had was with the French heroine Mademoiselle Marie. This is the same Marie who first appeared in DC comics’ Star Spangled War Stories comic book anthology in the late 1950s. For those not familiar with the character, she is a French farm girl who fought with the French Resistance in World War II. She is instantly recognizable because of the red beret she always wears when fighting.
As it turned out, Alfred was a spy working for British Intelligence during the Second World War. One of his assignments involved providing assistance to the French Resistance fighting against the invading German forces. That’s how he met Marie.
Their romance would produce a daughter, Julia Remarque (aka Julia Pennyworth), who would grow up to be an investigative journalist (after the New 52 restart, her occupation would be changed to a special forces soldier). In later years, she would become an important ally of Batman as well as the whole Batman Family.
The other important romantic partner in Alfred’s life is Dr. Leslie Thompkins. One a colleague of Bruce Wayne’s dad (Dr. Thomas Wayne), Dr. Thompkins runs a clinic for drug addicts and criminals in Crime Alley (formerly Park Row, the site where Bruce’s parents were shot and killed by Joe Chill in the comics).
After the fateful night that orphaned Bruce, Dr. Thompkins and Alfred were the first people to comfort the boy who would later become Gotham City’s caped crusader. Eventually, Dr. Thompkins would discover Batman’s secret identity years later.
By serving as one of Bruce’s unofficial guardians, she would grow closer to Alfred in the process. The two would become close friends and inevitably, fall in love with each other.
Why Did Alfred Become A Butler?
In DC comics, there have been multiple versions of Alfred’s butler origins. In Pre-Crisis comics (they refer to all comic books published by DC from 1938 to 1984 right before the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover saga happened), he becomes a butler to honor his father’s dying wish.
Alfred's father and descendants had served the Waynes for many years and it had become a tradition, one that he had hoped his son Alfred to continue.
In Post-Crisis comics, however, Alfred is portrayed as somebody who has been a long-time butler for the Wayne family, or at least since before or shortly after Bruce was born.
Despite working for the rich Waynes, Alfred had hoped to return to the United Kingdom to continue working as a stage actor. But after Bruce’s parents were murdered, he stayed and became the orphan’s legal guardian.
Of course, as every Batman fan knows, Alfred is more than just a butler. He’s been the greatest and closest ally of the world’s greatest detective since, like, forever. Outside of his butler skills, he has been an indispensable boon to Batman’s crime-fighting efforts, mostly because of his experience in combat, espionage, military medicine, and theater.
And his skills have not only boosted Batman’s capabilities, but also that of Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and various Robins (including Jason Todd and Tim Drake). He is also an important ally of Barbara Gordon (the former Batgirl) and Cassandra Cain.
Does Alfred Pennyworth Have Powers?
No, Alfred doesn’t have any powers. But as various Batman comic book story arcs have proven, he’s a super dependable guy to have around, especially if you happen to be a good guy fighting against corruption and injustice in a crime-infested metropolitan area such as Gotham City.
So what abilities does Alfred have besides being an amazing butler? For one, he is an excellent field medic. Batman may be the most fearsome anti-crime one-man army in all of Gotham, but he’s far from being invulnerable. Whenever he needs any medical assistance, he can always trust Alfred to always be ready to stitch any cut, bandage any wound, and even perform minor surgery.
The years he spent being a British secret agent also means he’s not a guy who will fold under immense pressure. A Predator (the alien hunter from the movies) once followed Batman to the Batcave. Never rattled for a second, Alfred bails out his Master Bruce by shooting the Predator with a blunderbuss musket (because why not) point-blank while never losing his legendary politeness (“That’s quite enough, thank you,” he says to the fiercest hunter in the galaxy).
It's sometimes easy to label Alfred as just a housekeeper for both Wayne Manor and the Batcave. But just imagine how organized and competent you would have to be to maintain all of Batman’s equipment, to make sure all of Bruce’s gadgets are working in fine order, to check if all of the Caped Crusader’s batsuits are washed and patched up – and still find the time to make a sandwich for his master.
His outstanding housekeeping skills notwithstanding, Alfred actually knows his way around a fight. He may not look like it but Alfred did have martial arts training in his younger years. He has been shown in the comics sparring with Nightwing using wooden sticks.
On top of that, his experience in the army and intelligence bureau makes him quite knowledgeable about military and infiltration tactics. Yes, he’s not out in the city at night beating criminals with his bare hands as his master does on a regular basis, but he still provides key tactical support whenever Batman needs it.
He also uses his acting skills to great effect in helping the Dark Knight. When you’re a popular playboy like Bruce Wayne, you’re sure to get a lot of phone calls, even at night. Of course, Bruce always prefers to fight crime after dark so presumably, he won’t be there at home to pick up the phone. It’s a good thing Alfred can perfectly imitate Bruce’s voice so that he can serve as a stand-in on the phone.
And we haven’t mentioned yet the times wherein Alfred had to work undercover to help solve cases for Batman. He once impersonated Two-Face and succeeded. Eat your heart out, Clayface.