The character of Alfred is such an intricate part of the Batman mythos that he’s been connected to almost every incarnation of the Bat. In some ways, Alfred is just as essential to the Batman comics as Robin, after all Batman’s gone through a fair share of Robins (even going without his colorful sidekick from time to time), but Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth has consistently been by the Batman’s side for 75 years now.
Does this mean Alfred deserves his own live action series?
Apparently, yes, since that seems to be what is happening. What the series will do for Alfred-centric comic books may prove negligible, since the majority of the Alfred Pennyworth keys are already quite valuable. But it is interesting, both historically and culturally, to see the evolution of Batman’s butler. Alfred started out as a kind hearted but goofy employee and grew to become a fatherly mentor who gives much needed emotional and logistic support to both Bruce Wayne and Batman. These comics, therefore, have every right to be considered keys, since Batman would not be the same character if we removed his right-hand man and loyal friend and wise servant.
Let’s look at the Alfred keys:
Hey hey hey it’s fat Alfred! Yes, that’s right, the original Alfred was a quite robust Englishman. Arriving during the height of the war to work for Bruce Wayne and his young ward Robin, the first thing Alfred does is deduce the secret identities of Batman and Robin. Alfred is portrayed here as both a budding detective and a colleague as much as a servant. In the story he helps Batman and Robin capture a group of thieves, but he generally muddles through and succeeds due to luck as much as skill. This story also shows Alfred to have an existing connection to the Wayne family. Jarvis Beagle, Alfred’s father, was the Wayne’s previous butler. Alfred’s first appearance is a major Batman key, and as such can fetch good money. The most recent sale, a lowly 2.5 sold for $805.00 in a Heritage sale on August 7. Higher grades will run you many thousands of dollars with the highest known recent sale (an 8.5) going for $4, 100.00 way back in 2010.
This is the first time Alfred was drawn to resemble the character as we still know him today. Apparently the change was brought about by the fifteen episode 1943 Columbia serial, which not only cast a thin Alfred and also introduced a base of operations for Batman (the ‘Batcave’), which also appears for the first time in comic book form in this Golden Age key. Not much goes on story wise here, Alfred goes on vacation and returns fit and thin so that he can, in his own words, aid the Dynamic Duo in fighting crime. There are only 36 copies of this comic recorded on the CGC census. A 9.4 sold for $2,868.00 back in November of 2012, best returns have been on 4.5 grades which are up + 203.3% over the last seven years.
Apparently Alfred had a solo story long before Robin (who had to wait until 1947 for his first solo story, which took place in Star Spangled Comics #65). As was often the case in these early Alfred appearances, the story has as much humor as action. The story unfolds as follows: Catwoman is seducing butlers under the guise of the sweet ‘Belinda’. Alfred falls for Belinda, and tries to win her affection, first, by bragging about how he knows Batman and Robin, then by stealing a Batsuit to impersonate Batman and convince her he’s telling the truth. After a series of kooky hi jinks and shenanigans, Catwoman’s plan is eventually thwarted by the real Batman, but Alfred, still dressed as Batman, decides to personally ‘punish’ Catwoman for toying with his heart. Yes, the pre-Comic Code days had some strange stories. Batman #22 can be found today for around $575.00 in graded 4.5 condition. Returns are up in every single grade but best returns have been on 8.0 at + 143.1% over the last ten years, with the last sale on this grade garnering $1,912.00 (May 10, 2018) on Heritage.