In “All Star Batman” #2, a character thought to be long-dead — the KGBeast, who died as part of the “Face the Face” storyline that kicked off the Batman titles during the “One Year Later” era post-“Infinite Crisis” — made his triumphant and dangerous return. It’s apt, then, that “All Star Batman” #3 evens the scales by bringing back another character, as one of Batman’s more trusted allies of the 1990s returns following his death in a high-profile storyline.
The KGBeast (now simply the Beast) continues his vicious attack on both Batman and Two-Face in “All Star Batman” #3, embedding two Chinese throwing stars around Two-Face’s damaged eye, and nearly killing our unlikely dynamic duo. It’s not until Duke Thomas saves the pair from the Beast that we discover one of Batman’s secrets hidden hundreds of miles outside of Gotham. In desperate need of medical assistance, Duke is told to “follow the road signs” to a tourist attraction promising a “Famous Bat-Cave: Live Bats,” and then from there to the signs for an “All-Nut House.” At the end of this trail? Harold Allnut.
The Silent Partner
Harold Allnut was originally introduced in “The Question” #33 as a man who was ejected from his parents’ Gotham City home on account of being mute, and having kyphosis, the same condition that disfigured the character of Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” He traveled to Hub City and ended up saving the life of the Question’s closest ally Myra Fermin and her daughter Jackie, thanks to his amazing technical abilities. He soon returned to his home of Gotham City, though, where he appeared in issues of “Batman.” Those technical skills were initially put to use by the Penguin, convincing Harold to create dangerous contraptions as part of the villain’s then-current plans, and it was almost a year after his first appearance in “Batman” that Harold becomes more than just a henchman. After being saved from an angry mob (echoing poor Quasimodo’s own story), he’s taken in by Batman, who allows Harold to live within the Batcave.
After becoming an ally of Batman, he quickly headed up the technological inventions the Dark Knight used both in the field and in the Batcave, as well as providing maintenance for the Batmobile and anything else Batman managed to damage in his exploits. Due to his lack of speech, though, the character was often little more than a background character, or a convenient person to pin new creations upon. The character got a bit more of a spotlight during the Knightfall storyline in the ’90s, when Bruce Wayne’s Batman replacement, Jean-Paul Valley, first served as an enemy of Harold; the madness that afflicted Jean-Paul during his brief tenure under the cowl had him ban Harold from the Batcave (along with any other ally of Bruce Wayne), although Harold and his closest friend Ace the Bat-Hound (no, really) continued to hide in the cave, eventually assisting Batman, Nightwing and Robin in taking back the cave and stopping the insane Jean-Paul. Later, still, he briefly assisted Jean-Paul Valley in the character’s attempt for redemption as the avenging Azrael.
Hush, Hush, Harold
Harold probably would have continued to be just a background character if it wasn’t for the bestselling “Hush” storyline by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee that ran through “Batman” #608-619. In it, Batman is besieged by numerous familiar foes, many whom are acting out of character. His investigation leads him, among other places, to discovering a device hidden in the Batcave that was affecting Batman’s mind. The culprit was none other than Harold, whose hunchback appearance was gone and whose voice had been restored; both, as it turned out, payment for helping the villain known as Hush. That was a short-lived gift, though; when Harold tried to tell Batman the villain’s true identity, Hush promptly shot and killed Harold. Ever since that storyline, the role of technological wizard has been largely taken up by WayneTech’s R&D department, an idea further built upon by Christopher Nolan’s films.
With the rebooting of the DC Universe in “Flashpoint,” some characters’ histories were initially more untouched than others, with Batman being one whose stories initially seemed to continue unabated. Batman’s backstory soon began to change radically from what we’d seen before, though, most notably in the “Zero Year” storyline that gave readers a quite different origin for Batman’s earliest days as a hero. Doing so has definitely opened up the possibility for restoring characters that had been killed off pre-“Flashpoint,” and that’s certainly the case with Harold Allnut. Here, he still has his hunched back, though he’s now speaking through a computerized voice. It’s a logical solution for the mute nature of a brilliant inventor, and doing so gives Harold a chance to become more of a character and less of a deus ex machina in future stories. If that isn’t enough, he’s also a bit of a surgeon now, able to stabilize Two-Face and keep him from dying from the Beast’s attack. Harold’s safehouse is also above an underground aquaduct named the Pipeline, which comes within 10 miles of Wayne Manor; a convenient way for Batman to make a return visit down the line.
Now that both the Beast and Harold are restored into the DC Universe, the biggest question is: who’s next? There have been a fair number of Batman supporting characters (heroes and villains) who died prior to the start of the New 52. If these past two months are any indication, Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr. aren’t afraid to bring some of them back, either. Get out your Batman character scorecards: it’s a whole new ballgame in terms of who might appear next.