To know the secret identity of a superhero is to have their utmost trust. To help them in their time of need is to have their utmost gratitude. To defend them in their darkest hour is to have their utmost respect. For Batman, Alfred Pennyworth has been more than just butler to the Wayne Family; he has been a confidant, a defender, a mentor, and a friend.
Alfred has been by Batman’s side, and though he has grown and changed over the years (both in appearance and abilities), he has always remained one of the only people to know Batman’s true identity. With that knowledge comes a great many responsibilities. From cleaning the manor to performing maintenance on the Batmobile, and from starching Master Wayne’s suits to programming the Batsuit’s voice modulator, Alfred has proven himself time and time again as an indispensable part of the Bat Family.
10 HIS REAL NAME IS ALFRED BEAGLE
In many of his backstories, Alfred was a spy, so it makes sense that his name might not have always been "Pennyworth". During the Golden Age, Alfred’s surname was Beagle, a nod to the fact that he was a detective. He kept the name Beagle until his character underwent massive physical changes in the ‘40s.
Alfred has gone by Beagle occasionally, most notably in the adventures of Earth-2 Batman, and his current origin story explains he changed his name to protect his identity when he emigrated to the United States.
9 HE USED TO LOOK LIKE SHERLOCK HOLMES
During the Golden Age, Alfred was somewhat of a detective, albeit an inept one. To compare to similar ‘30s fictional characters, he was one part Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, and another part Nigel Bruce’s bumbling Watson.
He had a deerstalker cap, smoked a pipe, and tried to help Batman in his detective work, but ended up bungling up more cases than he solved. When he appeared on film for the first time in 1943, he was depicted as tall and thin, with a mustache and a dry wit, and so Alfred’s appearance changed to match that depiction and has remained since.
8 HE USED TO BE AN ACTOR AND MAKEUP ARTIST
One interesting aspect of Alfred’s multi-faceted backstory is that he was an actor and makeup artist in his post military years. Having been a part of some of the most famous productions to ever grace London playhouses, he learned how to deftly become a chameleon.
This has become invaluable as he adopts different disguises, or helps Bruce Wayne/Batman infiltrate various dens of ill repute in the criminal underworld. He has had to come up with a myriad of alibis for Bruce Wayne over the years, and he’s even been known to do a very convincing impression of him on the phone.
7 HE BREEDS ROSES
With everything he does for the Bat Family, it’s amazing that he finds time out of his daily routine of being a butler and a sidekick to do something as intensive as breeding roses. But Alfred is quite the horticulturalist, and has even bred one of the rarest roses in existence: the Pennyworth Blue.
These special blossoms have come in handy on a few occasions when Bruce Wayne has wanted to impress a ladyfriend by giving her a truly unique bouquet. Of course, they bring Alfred just as much enjoyment by simply growing them.
6 HE FEEDS THE WAYNE MANOR BATS
Apart from his many duties around Wayne Manor, Alfred also has one peculiar duty that is no less one he takes great pride in; feeding the Wayne Family Bats. The bats reside under the manor in the Batcave, and have occupied varying parts of the cave depending on the iteration.
Alfred is in charge of the entire cave system, as well as putting out their preferred gourmet edibles; free-range corn-fed chicken goujons fried in olive oil. Oh, and a sprinkle of chives.
5 HE HAS A DAUGHTER
While Barbara Wilson is often considered the most famous of Alfred’s extended family, he did come to discover later in life that he had a daughter, Julia Remarque, as the result of a brief relationship he had with Mademoiselle Marie.
Julia was raised by friends of the family, and when she finally tracked Alfred down in Batman Eternal, she had been harboring a grudge against her absentee father for quite some time. She didn’t take well to learning he was the butler for a wealthy playboy.
4 HE’S IMPERSONATED BATMAN
Batman wouldn’t allow just anyone to don the cape and cowl, but Alfred has been given the distinction on more than one occasion because of his trustworthiness, his mental faculties, and his physical fighting prowess. As far back as the ‘60s television series, Alfred has impersonated Batman, often using microphones to disguise his voice.
When Lex Luthor was suited up with Power Armor and the real Batman wasn’t nearby, Alfred had to wear the suit so that he could distract him long enough. Most recently, he wore the suit once again and hopped into the Batmobile.
3 HE CAN BEAT UP SUPERMAN
Even the most powerful supervillains have had a hard time besting the Man of Steel, but Alfred laid down the super smackdown in Injustice: Gods Among Us. It was a time when Batman and Superman were enemies, and Superman (for the betterment of humanity) thought he should take over the world and rule it.
After Batman is taken out by the Man of Steel, Alfred downs a nanotech pill and proceeds to beat him senseless. When it comes to the Bat Family, Alfred is as merciless in his vengefulness as the Dark Knight himself.
2 HE’S HAD SUPERPOWERS
Alfred has the distinction of being one of the only members of the Bat Family to acquire superpowers during the Silver Age. During a particularly harrowing moment of heroics, he sacrificed himself to save Batman and Robin.
He was later resurrected by Dr. Brandon Crawford, and granted superspeed, strength, and agility. He also acquired a rock-like skin texture and telekinetic powers, which he unfortunately used for evil purposes. Batman had to be the one to reverse the process after they fought, with the regeneration machine used to give him life also being used to return him to his normal self.
1 HE’S HAD SEVERAL BACKSTORIES
Considering Batman had a revamp of his origin story after the cheeky ‘60s Adam West televised version gave way to the dark Frank Miller version in The Dark Knight Returns, Alfred garnered even more backstory changes.
Alfred went from being a bumbling detective, to being an ex-spy, to being an actor, to even being a previous butler to the Royal Family who came from a long line of butlers. The current incarnation is an ex-spy, with military and acting experience, which seems to be a happy mixture of all previous versions of the character.