Since his first appearance, Batman has been one of the most notable superheroes in the comic book genre. However, besides him and his journey as a superhero, his sidekicks and supporting characters reached almost the same popularity. Despite being an orphan whose parents tragically die during a petty mugging one night, Batman always had the biggest supporter and bonafide parent in Alfred Pennyworth. On the surface, he is a butler who serves Bruce Wayne in a huge Wayne Mansion, but most importantly, a man who helps his “master” in any way possible and supports him as Batman and vigilante in Gotham City. This article will discuss how one story revealed Alfred Pennyworth as Batman’s most notorious villain, the Joker.
During the ‘Batman: Whatever Happened to Caped Crusader’ story from 2009, in which Batman is reportedly dead, we learn that Alfred Pennyworth is indeed Joker. However, it is revealed that the reasoning behind Alfred being Joker is simply because he was the one who was “creating” all major Batman villains, including the Mad Clown. At the funeral, Alfred admitted that he “created” all of those awful criminals because Bruce was too powerful for the criminals of Gotham City and was in danger of losing his sanity – all of his work since his parents died would go to waste.
This particular story isn’t considered canon in the DC Universe, but it was created to showcase the 70 years of Batman’s existence and the amalgamation of decades of the Caped Crusader. Alfred did become Joker, so let’s discuss why.
When was Alfred revealed to be Joker?
When discussing the supporting cast in mainstream comics, Batman is a superhero who is at the forefront. Despite a troubling past that made him jaded and dark, he got a great support group that helps him become a superhero Gotham City and the universe needs and the ones who keep him sane.
The Bat Family became a whole group of Batman’s kids and friends that support the Caped Crusader and help during important missions, but one person is considered Bruce Wayne’s father figure, and that’s Alfred Pennyworth.
The butler of the Wayne Family was more than a “regular” man – he was Thomas and Martha’s friend, who had experience as a British military soldier and a notable actor in London, making “waves” at the Globe Theatre. After his father, Jarvis Pennyworth, dies of suspicious circumstances, Alfred makes a decision that will change his life forever – he leaves his acting career and takes over as the butler of the Wayne Family from his late father.
The acting career is quite important for this topic since it will prove to be a vital part of Alfred’s major reveal in one comic book story in 2009.
Nevertheless, Alfred became a butler for the Wayne family when Bruce was four years old, and from that moment, he became a major part of the Wayne Family. What made him important was when Thomas and Martha Wayne died after the low-life mugger Joe Chill killed the notable couple and left young Bruce Wayne an orphan.
Since Waynes’ unfortunate death, young Bruce becomes fixated on avenging his parents and tries everything he can to murder Joe Chill. This is where it gets interesting – in the main DC Universe, specifically after DC Rebirth, young Bruce Wayne tries to kill himself and later ends up at Arkham after starting to be obsessed with guns and weapons to murder Joe Chill.
In ‘Batman’ #686, Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert tell a two-part story titled ‘Whatever Happened to Caped Crusader?’ where Batman dies, and all of his nemesis and closest allies arrive at the funeral to say goodbye. His whole origin story (before New 52) is intact and wasn’t changed for this two-part special story, but it reveals the real face behind his most notorious nemesis – the Joker.
Moreover, it showcases the moment when Batman finally dies, and his conscious visits his closest allies and villains, arriving at his funeral to say farewell. Batman is really confused when he sees his parents’ killer Joe Chill working as a bartender in the stingy bar who directs the guests to the back room where Batman’s body is in the coffin. The murderer says that he was part of the beginning and now needs to be part of the end.
Everyone from Harley Quinn to Richard Grayson tells their stories regarding Batman and how he pushed them to the limit and supported them the best he could. The controversial police officer Harvey Bullock and even the Joker arrive and emotionally tell the stories of their now-deceased enemy.
After multiple guests say their piece about Caped Crusader, Alfred arrives and retells the story of Batman from his perspective. The butler talks about his acting career (!!!), and from that point, most of the aforementioned origin story is the same; however, the “bomb” he drops on everyone, including Batman’s ghost, is, to say the least, shocking.
Bruce’s journey to becoming Batman is mostly the same, but the twist in the ‘Whatever Happened to Caped Crusader?’ is that Batman slowly but surely goes insane, which leads Alfred to go behind his back and act on his own.
Alfred hires his actor colleague Eddie and hires him to play a criminal who terrorizes people with his riddles. Even after Penguin, Scarecrow, and other criminals that Alfred created, Batman is still in darkness; he is unstable, which prompts Alfred to go further – he takes matters into his hands and becomes Joker.
But who kills the Caped Crusader? Alfred reveals the truth himself.
Did Joker kill Batman?
Interestingly enough, during Alfred’s speech, we learn that Eddie Nash, his actor-friend, went insane after playing the Riddler so much – the villain takes children hostage, and Batman arrives at the scene to stop him. The vigilante learns before the Riddler hostage situation that Alfred tricked him, and the butler even confesses his role in the whole “farce,” but before they can discuss everything further, Batman leaves to respond to the scene at the zoo.
He tries to reason with Eddie, telling him that he knows the truth, but now The Riddler insists he is the criminal that terrorizes Batman. The Caped Crusader tries to reason with the man, but the Riddler pulls the trigger and shoots Batman, ultimately killing him.
After that shocking revelation, Batman’s consciousness is lost, confused, and he cannot believe what his biggest supporter and ally did. The story continues with others continuing to speak and tell their stories of Batman while the superhero’s consciousness meets his mother, Martha Wayne.
They discuss their death, life, and who Batman really is. Batman understands his purpose and that no matter what happens, he will always keep Gotham safe and cannot give up on his efforts to keep everyone safe, even if it kills him.
Bruce and Martha Wayne have a heartfelt moment when the younger Wayne realizes this is his end and that a new purpose in another life waits for him. The ending is quite poetic, and it follows Martha Wayne giving birth to the baby boy, whom she calls Bruce.
This allegory was released in tribute to the seventieth anniversary of Batman’s first appearance in DC Comics. It tells the story of a man who was “forced” into leaving his preferred job and meeting the family that changed his life for the better. The tragedy of the Wayne family is what motivates Alfred to step up and help his young “master,” who is spiraling into insanity and depression that is bound to destroy him.
Yes, Gaiman and Kubert emphasize Batman’s character core, but they also showcase how much Alfred loves Bruce Wayne, who would do and become anything for his “master” to be happy. Despite not being canon, ‘Whatever Happened to Caped Crusader?’ is an emotional tribute to who Batman and his supporting characters are – even the worst villains like Joker.
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