Jason Woodrue (Plant Master/Floronic Man)

I didn’t forget about you, Lucy W., so I’ll come back to your request briefly before a short hiatus. Next in the list is quite a weird villain, the Floronic Man, a plant-based mad scientist who crossed paths with a number of heroes in the DC Universe. Albeit he’s been mentioned in a couple of tv series (in Swamp Thing as a rival of Anton Arcane, and in The Flash as the owner of the greenhouse Sand Demon brings Patty Spivot to), he only has one live action appearance so far: in Batman & RobinJohn Glover portrays Jason Woodrue prior to his transformation, a mad scientist who uses the research of his colleague Pamela Isley to create the super-soldier Bane; he also tries to kill Isley when he’s busted, with the only result of creating Poison Ivy instead and getting killed by her in return. The only thing this crazy and noisy geneticist has in common with his original counterpart is his role in Poison Ivy’s origins: let’s see together.

Apparently, and on his own account, Jason Woodrue wasn’t born on Earth, rather on a different dimension called Floria, a world inhabited by dryads in which sentient human-plant hybrids were the dominant species. Due to unknown reasons, he was sentenced to death on his world and exiled on Earth to die as a human being. Here, using the advanced botanical knowledge of his world, he easily became a botany professor at Gardner University, using academic funds to continue his researches. Among his students there were quite a bunch of people who would have been pivotal in the future of The Green, the embodiment of all plant life on Earth: Alec and Linda Holland, Pamela Isley and Philip Sylvian. While teaching his most gifted students some of the secrets he alone knew about plants, Woodrue also tried to transform Earth into a copy of his homeworld, using his knowledge to prompt the plants to claim sovereignty over the world. Calling himself the Plant Master, Woodrue launched an all-out attack on the planet, but he was stopped by The Atom right before he could put in motion his cataclismic project. Considered delusional and psychothic, Woodrue was arrested and locked in Arkham Asylum, where he however was able to continue his work (mainly because all his experiments were taken for harmless hobbies by the guardians who didn’t understand them). Woodrue realised he needed more power to reach his goals, so he studied a formula that would have connected him to the Green on a deeper level: thanks to his potion, he was transformed into a human-plant hybrid, with leaves for hair and wood for skin, and he dubbed himself the Floronic Man, ready to take over the world once again. According to another source, however, this transformation was caused by Herupa Hando Hu, a Guardian of the Universe, and Nadia Safir, a Zamaronian, who selected champions to “renew” the Earth and bring it to the new millennium; Woodrue, apparently, was mistaken for a hero due to his love for the planet’s vegetation, and transformed as well.

Being it a way or the other, surely the Floronic Man didn’t want to use his newfound powers for the improvement of the human race, quite the opposite, he wanted to annihilate it to allow the plants to resume their original rule of the planet. He easily escaped from Arkham, but this time he found Green Lantern waiting for him, and he was defeated once again. After other minor battles with Atom and Wonder Woman, Woodrue finally realised that he couldn’t possibly obtain anything if working alone, and he joined the Secret Society of Super-Villains, albeit following a different agenda. Soon, however, he grew tired of the Wizard‘s schemes, and he returned to a more isolated life. His mastership and extensive knowledge over plants was well known, and he was eventually hired by General Averly Sunderland, a man who had quite some problems with the Swamp Thing, a monster that claimed to be the avatar of the Green. The Foloronic Man was asked to find out how his former student Alec Holland had become the indestructible plant-man and, intrigued, he accepted the mission. Starting from the hypotesis that Swamp Thing was a resurrected and mutated Holland, Woodrue eventually found out that he was rather a mass of intelligent plants who had absorbed the memory, personality and ultimately the identity of the dying scientist, thus believing himself to be Alec Holland. Woodrue tried to tell General Sunderland of his discovery, but when the man dismissed his research as delusional and fired him, the Floronic Man trapped him with an enraged Swamp Thing, watching as the plant-man killed the General. The revelations about his true origins, however, had driven Swamp Thing insane, and his inability to accept his identity reverted him to a lifeless mass of plants…which Woodrue ate in order to enter in contact with the Green. He obtained what he wanted, but all that energy at once drove him insane, prompting him to destroy all animal life on the planet: now, the Green had a fiercer, deadlier avatar, ready not only to protect the Green, but to avenge it from all the abuses it had suffered over the millennia.

Jason Woodrue is a murderous and psychotic man, driven by the “holy mission” of eradicating animal life from the planet in order to ensure the plants’ survival. As the Floronic Man, his wooden body is extremely resilient and durable, and allows him to survive most conventional attacks; he’s also able to bend all plants to his will, making them grow and assume any kind of shape he desires, turning them into his most lethal weapon; extremely intelligent, he’s also an expert botanist who knows everything there is to know about plant life, thus making his chlorokinesis even more dangerous. Either an alien outcast or a delusional mad scientist, the Floronic Man is plants’ lethal protector and avenger, a lonely crusader bent on a planetary genocide to please his “people”.


Victoria Elizabeth Vale

vickivalefilmNext stop in Brick89‘s list is one of the most meaningful women in Bruce Wayne‘s life, reporter Vicki Vale. The character was first portrayed by Jane Adams in 1949 Batman and Robin serial. In here, she appeared alongside her brother Jimmy, and she aided the Dynamic Duo in discovering the secret identity of The Wizard. The second, more recent and more popular portrayal came with the 1989 Batman movie: Kim Basinger‘s version of Vicki Vale is a famous photographer who investigates on the Batman, and eventually becomes the love interest of both the supehero (and, of course, his billionaire alias Bruce Wayne) and the deranged Joker. Vicki and Batman interrupt their relationship somewhere between Batman and Batman Returns, and she doesn’t appear again. In Gotham we recently met Vicki’s aunt, Valerie Vale, who’s pretty much like her…and maybe this means we’ll eventually see a child version of Vicki as well, but that’s far from sure. Anyway, let’s take a look at the original Vicki Vale, originally a pastiche of Lois Lane, then evolved into her own character.

Not much is known about Victoria “Vicki” Vale‘s early life, apart from the fact that she grew up in Gotham City along with her younger sister, Anne. As an adult, she became a skilled photographer, and she found a job in the gossip paper Picture Magazine, mostly taking pictures of celebrities. When she was assigned with the task of taking a picture of Bruce Wayne, Vicki started studying the billionaire philanthropist, until she realised something was amiss with his public image and his activities; further investigation led her to theorize that Bruce Wayne was secretly Gotham’s protector, Batman. She tried to follow Batman to prove her theory, but she eventually found herself in danger, as a new supervillain, Mad Hatter, tried to use her as a hostage: a tougher cookie than she looked, Vicki eventually helped Batman and Robin arrest the Mad Hatter, but she had no evidence of her theory. While she kept trying to prove Wayne and Batman were one and the same, she also made quite a name for herself as a photographer, as some of her pictures were published by the famous Gotham Gazette…but discovering Batman’s vickivalecomics1true identity had become quite an obsession, and she even started dating both Wayne and Batman to prove her point (usually, the hero ended up using her to capture criminals, while always putting some doubts about her theories concerning the man under the cape). Eventually, Vicki left Picture Magazine and started a new job with Vue Magazine, and being their top photographer she could chose the stories to follow…needless to say, she always chose ones with Batman and Robin involved. Her attempts to discover the Dynamic Duo’s secret identities always failed, but eventually she truly fell in love with Bruce Wayne: she really tried to make their love work, but she grew wary of her man disappearing for no reason and staying away from her without sharing with her what he was doing. The two broke up, and she tried at first to bury herself in her work, also becoming a host for a talk show, The Scene, along with Emily BriggsLinda Park and Tawny Young. However, she finally decided to truly make a cut in her life, and she accepted a long assignment in Europe.

Not much is known about Vicki’s time in Europe, but she met a man named Powers, and she even married him. Things didn’t go too well, apparently, as when she came back to Gotham the two were divorced. Anyway, her time in Europe had given her experience, skills and resolution, and she was more determined than ever to be a true photojournalist, not a classy paparazzi anymore. She quit Vue Magazine and she started working full time for the Gotham Gazette, covering important stories about crime, politics and major news, often making use of some connection in the GCPD like Harvey Bullock, who provided her with informations. Vicki came back to Gotham in a dour time, as Batman had been apparently killed by the masked criminal Bane, and the city was in chaos; plus, she tried more than once to rekindle the relationship with Bruce Wayne, but the billionaire never answered to her calls. Albeit frustrated for realising things could never work out for the two of them, Vicki obviously made a connection between Batman’s “death” and Bruce Wayne’s new seclusive state, and she resumed her old investigation. Trying to lure Wayne to the open, she started publicing articles in which she selectively revealed secrets of the Bat-Family, and she realised she was on the right path when Dick Grayson, who she now knew was Nightwing, told her to vickivalecomics2stop, and even put a tracer in her camera. Vicki found the device, and used it to force Bruce to meet her…but the one she met at dinner was actually a decoy, Tom Elliot, and Vicki realised this as well; she tried to force a meeting with the real Bruce, but the only thing she obtained was that Alfred managed to steal the tracer from her, this cutting her connection with Wayne. She didn’t give up, albeit failing a meeting with Barbara Gordon, and a following one with an informer that was abruptly interrupted by Harley Quinn, who was in a chaotic mood and was wreaking havoc. Vicki wasn’t even sure she wanted to publish what she found about Batman’s secret identity: she just wanted to know the truth, even just for herself, and nothing would have prevented her from getting to the end of a story when she had sniffed a good trail.

Vicki Vale is a stubborn, smart and determined woman, a skilled reporter who uses her remarkable investigative abilities to dig in every news she covers in her job. Resolved to the point of being quite obsessive, Vicki is among the very few people who managed to discover the truth about Batman’s secret identity (more than once!) barely upon deduction; albeit ambitious, she doesn’t want to use her knowledge for making profit or getting fame: she pursued the truth for truth’s sake, and she only wants to help Bruce Wayne/Batman defend Gotham City the best she can with her position. Not all heroes wear masks…

Nora Fries (Lazara)

Nora FriesGotham came back, and with quite a blast. The new episode, Mr. Freeze, introduced two major villains from the Batman mythology, and also a secondary character deeply tied to one of them. Learning of Mr. Freeze‘s origins, we meet his wife, Nora, portrayed by Kristen Hager: the woman, terminally ill, is the reason the scientist freezes people, using his victims as guinea pigs to find a way to put his wife on cryo-stasis until he can find a cure for her disease. The character already appeared in Batman & Robin, portrayed by Vendela Kirsebom Thomessen: sick with the lethal MacGregor’s Syndrome, she was put on suspended animation by her husband, and she stays on ice for the entire movie (apart from the wedding videos Freeze watches over and over). She’s even nearly killed by a jealous Poison Ivy, but she’s then saved by Batman. Now, let’s see together who this beloved and loving wife is in the comics…and no, there’s no happy ending for the spouses.

Not much is known about Nora’s early life, not even her maiden name. She attended a boarding school in Gotham City, and she excelled in athletics; even in college she was one of the most proficient athletes around. Beautiful, lively, cheerful and full of life, Nora was courted by many boys, but unexpectedly she found herself attracted by Victor Fries, a shy and lonesome boy who excelled in physics. The introverted Victor, just as all the others, was smitten by Nora, and he was the first one to be surprised when she chose him among all her suitors: the two started dating, and they deeply fell in love with each other. Nora and Victor got married soon after, and the latter obtained a job as a university professor. Their happy life together, however, didn’t last long, as Nora fell ill soon after the marriage, affected by a rare and uncurable pathology that would have led her to death. Victor was distraught by the news, and Nora couldn’t do anything but to watch as he gave up to his entire life just to save her: he left his job as a lazaracomics1professor, starting working for GothCorp in order to be able to research for a cure. Victor’s researches proceeded well, but time for Nora was almost over; having specialised in cryogenics, Fries had a revulutionary idea to save Nora’s life: he would have put her in cryo-stasis, preserving her body at extremely low temperatures and stopping the progress of the disease. Thanks to her husband’s efforts, Nora was put in suspended animation, an ice slumber that prevented her from dying, but that also robbed her of her last moments with Victor. While Nora slept, Victor entered in contrast with Ferris Boyle, the despicable CEO of GothCorp, and as a consequence he ended up becoming the supervillain Mr. Freeze. For years, Freeze kept restlessly researching, hoping to save Nora, but he made little or no progress at all.

Years passed, and Nora was still in cryo-stasis: the continuous exposure to such low temperatures started damaging her tissues, and her body was exposed to far an excessive stress. Nora’s skin began to crack, and eventually she fell apart, piece by piece. Victor, who was by that time one of the most brilliant living minds in the world, worked on her day and night with sub-zero surgery, and everytime she broke, he fixed her, using experimentals chemicals to keep her alive. It was only a matter of time before Nora would have died despite her husband’s efforts. The possibility to restore her back to life arrived when Nyssa Raatko, the eldest daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, formed an alliance with Mister Freeze: he would have built a machine for her incarnation of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and would have helped her to capture Cassandra Cain, the new Batgirl; in return, Nyssa would have allowed him to use the League of Assassins‘ Lazarus Pit to restore Nora to life. Freeze accepted the offer and captured Batgirl for Nyssa, but the heroine convinced him that his new ally didn’t have any intention of actually using the Pit on Nora. When Nyssa told Freeze that she needed more time to “prepare the Pit”, the scientist ended up believing Cassandra’s words, and he lazaracomics2put Nora in the Pit himself. Nora was effectively restored to life, but years of exposure to her husband’s chemicals and the many adjustments her body went through interacted in an unexpected way with the Lazarus Pit, and she absorbed the unknown substances of it. As a result, she emerged from it as a deranged creature who called herself Lazara, full of hatred and despise towards the man she once loved and who made a monster out of her. Lazara had also absorbed part of the Lazarus Pit’s properties, resulting in incredible powers she used to attack her husband, Nyssa and Batgirl. Finally, Victor Fries’ efforts to restore his beloved wife back to life had success…unfortunately, in return he only received hatred and homicidal frenzy.

Nora Fries is a cheerful and passioante girl, sunny and enamoured of life; she deeply loves her husband, Victor, and her greatest regret in her illness is not being able to spend her life with him. As Lazara, however, she’s a deranged monster, who only feels hatred and anger towards the man who sacrificed everything in his life to save her; her body is incandescent, making it impossible for her husband even to touch her, and she can manipulate that fire in powerful blasts of energy; she’s also able to resurrect the dead and to bend them to her will, having inherited the powers of the magical pit that healed her. What Nora loved, Lazara hates, and what the first took care of, the second seeks to destroy. There’s no place for love in her tainted soul anymore.

Victor Fries (Mister Freeze)

misterfreezefilmGotham left us with a tasty surprise, as just before the winter break the show gave us a first look at another major villain making his debut in this season. At the end of Worse Than a Crime, a man is chased down an alley by a mysterios masked figure, who kills him with a freezing gun: that’s Mister Freeze, portrayed by Nathan Darrow. Of course, this is not Freeze’s first live action portrayal: he appeared in the 1960s Batman tv series, portrayed by three different actors (George SandersOtto Preminger and Eli Wallach), and had his secret identity changed into Art Schivel, a German criminal who mutated when Batman accidentally threw to him some chemicals; from that moment, Mister Freeze started using a freezing suit and gun to commit campy, ice-based crimes. In the awful Batman & Robin the villain was portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and albeit his flashy and shiny armor, he was given quite a tragic background, resembling his comicbook counterpart’s one. Now, before seeing what this more “grounded and gritty” new version of Freeze will be, let’s take our usual look at the original one.

Victor Fries was born in Gotham City, the son of Charles and Lorraine Fries. Charles was a control maniac, who organised his son’s life in every single detail, forcing young Victor to find any kind of escape from this chocking “parental love”. Gifted with a bright intellect and a sane curiosity, as a boy Victor became fascinated by science in general, and by cryonics in particular, and he committed himself to a “research” that he actually lived more like a game, as all children do. Unfortunately, his hobby required him to freeze living animals, guinea pigs for his defrosting experiments: this kind of pastime wasn’t exactly socially acceptable, especially in a family like his own. As soon as his parents learnt about what he was doing, they started looking at Victor with horror, and eventually they sent him to a misterfreezecomics1strict boarding school, hoping to correct his character. The boy felt simply abandoned and alone, and the new environment only increased his loneliness. That same winter, as all the other children came back home for the holidays, Victor found out that his parents had disowed him, abandoning him to himself: he was seen by Charles and Lorraine as some sort of freak, a mistake soon to be forgotten. Obviously, this didn’t do much for the child’s self esteem, and Victor Fries believed he would have never felt the warmth of love in his entire life. Fries grew up a lonesome and gloomy teenager, and he consecrated all his energies to science, perseverating on his childhood’s passion and specialising in cryogenics. In college, Victor met a beautiful athlete, Nora, who was everything he had never been: lively, warm, cheerful, Fries couldn’t help falling in love with her. Surprisingly enough, Nora reciprocated the feelings of the shy and introverted scientist, and the two became romantically involved; eventually, Victor and Nora got married. The man obtained a job as professor of cryogenics in the local college, and started his new life with Nora: finally, he was feeling the warmth and love he had been missing all of his life.

Victor’s happiness, however, didn’t last: Nora fell terminally ill, hit by a rare pathology there was no cure for. Victor, distraught, didn’t give up: he left his job as a teacher and started working for GothCorp, a rich drug company, in the effort of finding a cure for his beloved wife. Time was running out, so Fries suspended his regular work to build an equipment that would have allowed him to put Nora in cryo-stasis, giving him time to find a cure. He succeeded, and put Nora in an ice-slumber, keeping her alive all the time he needed to find the cure…but GothCorp’s CEO, Ferris Boyle, found out that Fries was using the company’s money for his own researches, and cut down the project. He then rushed into the scientist’s lab, and tried to put Nora out of stasis, firing Fries. Frantically wanting to save his wife, Victor tried to stop Boyle, and in the resulting struggle he ended up being engulfed in his own misterfreezecomics2cryogenic coolants. Scared, Boyle ran away leaving Fries for dead, but the man miraculously survived, albeit with grave consequences: the chemicals had modified his body chemistry, and he was now able to survive only at sub-zero temperatures. Wounded and confused, Fries left GothCorp unnoticed, taking with him the frozen Nora and some of his equipment. He used the latter to build himself a special suit, that mantained his body temperature below zero; wanting to exact his revenge on Boyle as well, he also deviced a special ray gun able to freeze any target. Naming himself Mister Zero (later changed into the more effective Mister Freeze), Fries used his new tech to rob jewellers and museums, hunting mainly for diamonds, stones as hard and cold as he had become, but as beautiful and lifeless as Nora was…and, most of all, simple enough to sell on the black market, so that he could finance his own research of a cure for his wife. The scientist, however, didn’t forget what Boyle had almost done to him and Nora, so he hunted him down, and tried to kill him with his freeze gun. His first revenge attempt was foiled by Gotham’s new protector, Batman. Defending Boyle, Batman authomatically became a target for Mister Freeze: he would have let nobody stand in the way between himself and the safety of the woman he loved.

Victor Fries is a brilliant yet socially awkward man: his somehow tragic past convinced him that life has nothing in store for him but cold and indifference, and he acts accordingly. A genius scientist, a polimath with masterships over chemistry, physics, neurobiology, medicine and much more, he’s one of the most skilled inventors on the planet, able to rival with Lex Luthor or Mister Terrific. As Mister Freeze, he’s equipped with a suit that not only mantains his body temperature below zero, allowing his survival, but also increases his strength and durability, making him a formidable opponent; his trademark gun is able to freeze anything (or anyone) is hit by its ray, much like Captain Cold‘s one. Imprisoned in an eternal winter for all his life, Mister Freeze had in his beloved wife Nora the only ray of heat and love he ever knew, and he won’t allow anybody to take it away from him, at all costs.

Pamela Lillian Isley (Poison Ivy)

poisonivyfilmLast character appeared in Gotham trailer, and this was quite an unexpected one: at the every end of the trailer, when we’re given a collection of future appearances, we see a red-haired girl, accompanied by the notice “Before Poison Ivy“: it is clearly Pamela Isley (even if some sources claim she’ll be renamed Ivy Pepper in the show, but I keep hoping it’s just a joke), portrayed by young Clare Foley. As for now, it’s unknown what kind of role she’ll have in the show, or even if she’ll be a recurring character or not. We can hope this appearance will be better than her previous live action one: in Batman & Robin, she was portrayed by Uma Thurman in quite a campy and idiotic way, a scientist almost killed by her colleague Jason Woodrue, but actually transformed into a poisonous femme fatale who formed an alliance with Mr. Freeze to conquer Gotham City and destroy Batman and Robin. She’s defeated by Batgirl at the end of the movie, along with her slave, a brainless Bane. Don’t worry, the comics version is much better: let’s see together.

Pamela Lillian Isley was born in Seattle from very unemotional and distant parents: this difficult familiar situation brought her to be craving for affection even during adulthood, making her easily manipulable by men without scruples. During her childhood poisonivycomics1and adolescence, she grew quite a fondness for plants, the only living beings she didn’t feel rejected by, and she studied to become a renowned botanist. In her first origin story, she was seduced by robber Marc LeGrande, and helped him steal an ancient Egyptian artifact containing mystical herbs; LeGrande, however, didn’t want witnesses, and tried to poison her using the herbs. Pamela survived, and she found out she had become immune to any poison or toxin; embittered towards men, she started a feminist crusade against males as Poison Ivy. In the second, and currently acknowledged one, Pamela entered university to study under Dr. Jason Woodrue’s tutelage. The older professor exploited the brilliant student’s need of affection, seduced her, and forced her to be a guinea pig for his deranged experiments: he repeatedly infected her with plant toxins, venoms and poisons, proceeding in his own research of a man-plant hybridation. The experiments soon became more similar to tortures, and Isley nearly died a couple of times, spending in hospitals nearly a year. When Pamela’s condition was discovered, Woodrue became wanted from police, and escaped. Feeling betrayed, Pamela tried to start a new life, and began dating a boy her age, but her phisiology had been drastically mutated, and her new boyfriend’s lungs ended up being suddenly covered by mushrooms. Pamela left school, and studied her new body and abilities. Driven insane by Woodrue’s experiments and the effect these had on her life, she slowly embraced an identity that made her closer to her beloved plants than to humans, and she became known as Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy discovered she was able to control any man using naturally-produced pheromones, and she was also psychically bonded to every plant (having become barren after Woodrue’s experiments, she treated plants and flowers like her children). poisonivycomics2Following the “screams” of plants, Pamela arrived in Gotham City, one of the world’s most urbanized and polluted environments: she threatened the entire city with lethal spores, demanding better rights for plants, but she was ultimately defeated by the city’s new vigilante, Batman. She was locked into Arkham Asylum, a place that would have become her second home. She escaped soon after, and she settled on a desert Caribbean island, where she used both her powers and her botanical knowledge to create the green paradise she had always dreamt of. Unfortunately, a weapon corporation decided to test their new armament on that very island, and Pamela’s paradise was burnt to ashes by a bombardment. Saddened and enraged, merely alive, Poison Ivy came back to Gotham, and killed the owners of the company and the ones who had decided the target of the test; when her killing spree ended, she let herself be captured by Batman, and brought back to Arkham. The experience taught her that the world wasn’t a safe place for plants anymore, and that she would have never left Gotham again before she had “purified” it. She became one of the world’s most notorious and dangerous ecoterrorist on the planet. With her powers constantly evolving, Ivy soon became far too a dangerous menace for Batman to face alone, and the entire Justice League learnt to fear her, especially when she entered the Injustice Gang…of course, for the sake of the planet only.

Pamela Isley started as a deeply insecure woman, but her thirst of affection evolved into a blind rage towards men and their deceits, and into a will of payback made possible by her newfound powers. She can be very empathic and sweet sometimes, but cold and cruel some others, an emotional instability that is part of the legacy from the experiments she went through. As Poison Ivy, she’s a lethal plant protector, able to manipulate and control plants, forcing them to obey her will; she also emits powerful pheromones able to mind-control men and women alike. Aside from being immune to any known toxin or poison, Poison Ivy is poisonous herself: she can transmit powerful venom through her skin, and she usually prefers to use her lips, performing what ends up being an actual killer kiss. A proficient hand-to-hand combatant and a genius botanist, Ivy feeds on light and water, becoming with time more and more similar to the plants she loves: from her point of view, that’s quite an evolution.

Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth

alfredfilmTime today for another character spotted in the Gotham trailer, one of the protagonists: when young Bruce Wayne is attending his parents’ funeral, we can clearly see standing at his back his butler and future father-figure, Alfred Pennyworth, portrayed by Sean Pertwee. Being one of the main characters in the comics’ mythology, Alfred has appeared in almost every adaptation of his master, from the 1943 serial to The Dark Knight trilogy. He didn’t always served Bruce Wayne/Batman: in Birds of Prey, for example, the butler portrayed by Ian Abercrombie aids Bruce’s daughter Helena and her teammates in their crime-fighting in New GothamMichael Gough portrayed an elder version of Alfred in the saga started by Tim Burton, while Jeremy Irons is going to bring the character back on the big screen to the upcoming Batman vs. Superman in a slightly younger adaptation. Waiting to see both Pertwee’s and Irons’ portrayals, let’s see who the iconic butler is in the comics. Of course, there are many versions of him on paper too, but this time we’ll only see the last one.

Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth was born somewhere in England from a man called Jarvis, who worked as a butler. He had a brother, Wilfred, and grew up with him, with no intention of following his father’s footsteps. When he became of age, he joined the Army, trying to get as far as he could from his father and his “servant’s life”. He fought in many conflicts, gaining a lot of experience in both combat and, overall, on-field medicine. He entered the elite regiment known as the British Guards Armoured Division, alfredcomics1becoming an extremely skilled and expert combatant. When the war was over, he came back to England, where he was hired by the secret services: he entered MI5, and once again he became a pluri-decorated agent, a spy who saved his government (and the Western world) more than once, in another kind of war, once fought only in darkness. After all the horrors he had to witness, Alfred finally retired, and decided to follow his youth dream of becoming an actor: oddly enough, his career as a spy had given him a lot of experience in acting, and he soon amazed the audience of the entire Great Britain with his skills. He was at the top of his success, when an American richman named Thomas Wayne contacted him: Jarvis Pennyworth had died, and on his last will he had asked his son Alfred to take his place as the butler of the Waynes. Just to honour his father’s wish, Alfred agreed to follow Thomas to the Wayne Manor, and started working for him. Despite respecting both Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, Alfred soon grew tired of a butler’s life, and asked his master to allow him to come back to his life as an actor in England. Thomas agreed, but a few day before his departure, Thomas’ son, Bruce, came back home with a lot of bruises for being beaten by bullies. Alfred taugh the child to deal with his tormentors using strategy instead of violence, and Bruce solved his school problem: the morning Alfred was about to leave, the kid asked him to stay almost in tears, and this was more than enough for Alfred to have a second thought and remain with the Waynes.

One night, when his masters had gone to see a movie with Bruce, something terrible happened: a robber, Joe Chill, killed both Thomas and Martha, leaving Bruce an orphan. Following that moment, and realising he was the closest thing the child had to a alfredcomics2father, Alfred made an official request to become Bruce’s legal guardian. The authorities, however, didn’t want to let a servant take care of Gotham City‘s richest heir: unbeknownst to Alfred himself, Bruce bribed the social service agent to “convince” him to let Alfred be his tutor. From that moment, Alfred raised Bruce the best way he could, being helped in the task by Leslie Thompkins, an old friend of Thomas’ who also became Alfred’s lover for a while. The butler did his best to help Bruce cope with all the pain and the anger he felt from the night his parents died, but could do little but to stay by his side. When Bruce grew up, he decided to go abroad to study, and Alfred was left behind to take care of the Manor. Alfred spent many years alone, waiting for his young master to return, something that he finally did: when he came back, Bruce was a different person, a man hardened by a harsh training and discipline. When he learnt of Bruce’s will to conquer Gotham back from the criminals seizing it, Alfred supported him, and he was the one who patched him up after his first debut as a vigilante. He followed his slow transformation into Batman, and offered him cover anytime somebody (usually Commissioner Gordon) was close to realize Bruce Wayne and Batman were the same person. Despite being constantly worried because of his master’s self-destructive behavior, Alfred stayed loyal to him, and also welcomed in the “family” the orphan Dick Grayson, the first Robin, who he became a father figure for as well. Beyond the military and the stage, Alfred had finally found a reason truly worth fighting and living for.

Alfred Pennyworth is a brilliant and sagacious man, a loyal friend and a deependable employee. Alfred has showed, over the years, many skills, legacy of his eventful past: he’s an expert hand-to-hand combat and a skilled marskman (he’s the only member of the so-called Batman Family who is allowed to carry firearms), an excellent tactician and a wise on-field leader; his medical skills saved the Batman Family more than once, and his acting ones proved useful when he impersonated Bruce Wayne in order to give him an alibi. Truly devoted to Bruce Wayne, Alfred is his friend and advisor, his mentor and teacher, the only man who dares to criticize what the Batman does and the only one the hero actually listens to: supportive, patient and wise, Alfred is the one who made Bruce Wayne be the man he is now.