The Secret Lives of Villains #231

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Golden Age Showcase: Alfred

Happy post Father’s Day everyone!

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For the non American readers of this blog, Father’s day is a holiday where we celebrate our fathers, and if marketing campaigns are to be believed it’s usually with MANLY gifts like ties and power tools.

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Last year I did an article comparing and contrasting two of comics’ greatest deceased father figures: Superman’s dad Jor-El and Spiderman’s Uncle Ben.

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This time I thought it would be time to break out the big guns and celebrate the career and achievements of the greatest living father figure in comic book history: Batman’s butler, Alfred.

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Side note: if you disagree with the above statement please write a well crafted and polite rebuttal in the comments.

Origin and Career

Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth made his first appearance in Batman #16 in April of 1943.

On the cover of the comic it says he was created by artist Bob Kane.

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Although it is much more likely that actual creator was writer, and the man who got royally screwed out of getting the credit that he justly deserves, Bill Finger.

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Artist Jerry Robinson was also heavily involved, since he was busy doing the actual drawing of the issues at this point in Batman’s career.

Jerry Robinson

Alfred made his first appearance on the cover of the issue, and he looked like this:

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The original Alfred was a bit of an idiot.  At this point in the story Batman and Robin had been doing their thing fighting crime in Gotham when Alfred showed up fresh off the boat and claiming that he was fulfilling the wish of his dying father Jarvis in serving the Wayne family as their butler.

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Naturally, Batman and Robin were not very keen on having a near total stranger snooping around the house with their secret identities at stake.

Despite his background as an intelligence officer Alfred was…kind of an idiot.

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I only say “kind of” because he was actually a very good butler.  He did his job, he was loyal to Bruce and Dick, and when it came time to defend the Manor he wound up discovering who he was really working for by pure accident.

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My favorite part of this scene is the dialogue that the two men exchange during the fight.

Of course Alfred reveals what he knows to Batman and Robin and the two gain a new ally in their fight against criminals.

You may notice that the original Alfred doesn’t look a thing like the way we normally picture Alfred.

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For that we can actually thank the silver screen.

See, the idea that comic books could be adapted to the silver screen is nothing new.  In fact, Hollywood was quick to jump on the wave of superhero popularity and started churning out short little movie serials staring the two most popular heroes at the time: Superman and Batman.

In 1943 Columbia Pictures began releasing short Batman serial movies with creative titles such as “Batman and the Electrical Brain”,

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The effects and costumes were…not the best.

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but one of its lasting impacts was hiring actor English character actor William Austin to play the Batman’s butler.

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The serials were so popular that the comics adapted and changed Alfred’s appearance to reflect the show.

So what happened?

Jesus, to describe everything that Alfred has done since his original appearance would take an entire book.

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Wherever Batman has gone, Alfred has followed.  He’s an integral part of the Batman mythos, and I would personally argue that he the most important supporting figure in any Batman story.  And yes, that includes figures like Robin and Batgirl.

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He has fulfilled the role of a caretaker, a guiding moral compass to a whole host of emotionally crippled children and warriors, and most importantly an eternally patient father figure.

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So, in an effort to keep this short, I’m going to break his long and storied career down into some of the more prominent highlights.

In 1964 Alfred was killed in Detective Comics #328 after heroically saving the Dynamic Duo from a falling boulder.

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He would be reborn as a mysterious villain known as “The Outsider” and fought the heroes off panel, usually using other villains as pawns and working behind the scenes.

His identity and appearance would be revealed two years later in Detective Comics #356.

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It…wasn’t the best look for him and I can see why they kept him out of the way.

In terms of backstory, Alfred’s has remained pretty consistent.  The comics have always given him some sort of military and/or intelligence background and in the 1960’s he worked as an intelligence agent during World War 2.  We know this because he had a daughter named Julia with a French co worker.

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In 1985 DC reorganized its comic books with the even “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and reworked the backstories of many of their most famous characters.

Alfred got a few minor tweaks but didn’t change that much.  He was an actor as well as an intelligence agent and instead of introducing himself to a much older Bruce, he became Bruce’s butler and confidant at a young age.

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The new Alfred had some pretty awesome moments as well and a lot of writers love giving him some really badass lines and small fight scenes.

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Seriously, the man’s gone toe to toe with Superman both in quips,

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and with fisticuffs.

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So he’s amazing in the comics but I would have to say that his film and television appearances deserve a special mention as well.

Alfred has appeared in every single movie, television, and cartoon adaptation of Batman since the beginning and has provided a steady stream of employment to classy senior British actors.

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All of them have been fantastic, but special mentions go to the Alfred from Batman: The Animated Series,

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where he was voiced by actor Clive Revill (who was actually the original voice of the Emperor from Star Wars)

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and the gloriously named Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

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Personally my favorite Alfred at the moment has to be the one from The Lego Batman Movie where he was voiced by Voldemort himself, Ray Finnes,

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but if you ask me the best Alfred of them all would have to be the late great Michael Gough from Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and the infamous Batman and Robin.

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I would actually go as far as to say that Michael Gough was so good that he actually made Batman and Robin halfway watchable.

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That’s right, I’m defending Batman and Robin, fight me.

Alfred is one of the greatest comic book characters ever created.  He is wise and talented beyond even his considerable years and has been at Bruce’s side through thick and thin.  Not only has he been a faithful and dutiful butler but he has been a kind, patient, and loving father to a boy who needed it most in order to become one of the greatest superheroes of all time.

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Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Can I Pet Your Werewolf?

Today we’re going to be talking about a project on Kickstarter that deals with a subject close to my heart.

PUPPIES!!

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Okay, okay, the project isn’t actually about puppies.  I said that so I could post pictures of cute pups.

That being said, today’s Kickstarter project is pretty close.  It’s a project about everyone’s favorite furry monsters…werewolfs.

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Can I Pet Your Werewolf is an anthology series created by Kel McDonald and a various number of artists who want to tell lighthearted stories about friendship, family, and romance between humanity and the furry incarnations of humanity’s animal instincts.

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At the time of writing this project has already reached over $10,000 and needs a total of $30,000 by July 14th, 2017.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1495959227/can-i-pet-your-werewolf?ref=category_recommended

Why I like it

In a word…PUPPIES!!

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Sorry…sorry that’s the last time I’ll do this I swear.

In all seriousness, I consider myself to be a dog person.  One of the greatest jobs I ever had was working at a doggy day care where I would babysit large groups of dogs for hours at a time.

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It was such a demanding job, I’m surprised I was able to survive.

That’s why I like this project so much.  For me, werewolves are basically giant, man sized dogs and having an entire book about the big fluffy pups?

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I am okay with this.

Another reason why I like this project so much are the artists that are involved with the project.  Having the right style of art in your comic is just as important as having the right words for your story.  It can set tone, mood, and the entire emotional layout of what you want to say.

Want proof?

This is how werewolves are normally portrayed,

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and this is how some of the artists from Can I Pet Your Werewolf portray them.

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There’s a pretty big difference in tone.

Now, you may be reading this and thinking that this may not be your cup of tea.  You may be thinking that this anthology is doing to werewolves what another, inexplicably popular book and movie series did to vampires (and werewolves), and in a way I kind of agree with you.  However…

Why you should donate

I’m not going to go into a long tirade about how modern literature and Hollywood are destroying classic monsters that used to be intimidating,

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But you have to admit that the landscape of modern horror is…changing.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing.  Horror movies are supposed to touch on modern day fears and terrors.  The classic horror monsters preyed on things like our fear of uncontrollable lust,

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the destruction of the barrier between life and death,

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and werewolves played on our fears of the bestial nature of man and uncontrollable rage.

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Now, these movies are classics for a reason but the simple fact of the matter is that times and tastes change.  As a result, horror movies have had to change and find different fears to exploit.  Things like modern day racism,

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the fear of being a single parent raising a child,

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or the fear of catching an STD,

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are the new monsters and worries that we have to afraid of.  As a result, the monsters of the past have passed from the realm of terrifying creatures of folklore to accepted members of the popular culture cannon and creatures that are accepted rather than feared.

We don’t fear creatures like vampires and werewolves anymore, we want to be them.

Hollywood noticed this and has answered the call,
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With varying degrees of success and acceptability.

The funny thing is that you can’t really blame Hollywood for taking the classics and turning them into something that ranges from decent to terrible and bland.  Movies are expensive and you aren’t going to spend millions of dollars on anything and not take every step you can to mitigate risk.  That’s why you see movies that have been workshopped, test grouped, and market tested to death until the final boring, lifeless, and joyless product is forced on audiences everywhere.

Can I Pet Your Werewolf takes the direction that the classic monsters are going and distills it into the focused artistic vision of a few creators, and that’s what makes it special.

What I’m trying to say to you is this.

Would you rather have this as our modern werewolf?

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or this?

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I’ll take the second option thank you.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1495959227/can-i-pet-your-werewolf?ref=category_recommended

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Italiano

Warning: this article contains content not suitable for children.

Today we’re talking about a comic book project on Kickstarter with big dreams, an ambitious goal, and an interesting take on the gangster epic, one of the more popular genres in popular culture.

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The project is a series of graphic novels created, drawn, and produced by Mike Bloom.

It is currently seeking funding for the debut issue of a planned long form series and is seeking to reach $10,000 by June 30th, 2017.

Here’s the link to the campaign:

Why I like it

The story is simple.  Four crime families are fighting among each other for control of the fictional town of Capitol City.  These families all have colorful leaders such as Mario Italiano.

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So it seems like it’s a pretty stereotypical gangster story but the way it tells its story is so interesting and quirky that I can’t help but be impressed.

You’ll notice that the art style is…different.

I want to say this is Saturday morning cartoon violence cranked up to eleven but…it’s not.  It’s too angry and violent for a kid cartoon but it’s too clean and polished for mature and gritty.

I guess the only word I can use to describe it is…unique.

It’s a rapid fire assault on the senses that makes it bizarre, almost alien, and I love it for that.

Also, the creator claims that this graphic novel series is “The Sopranos meets Rick and Morty”.

I like the Sopranos,

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and I LOVE Rick and Morty,

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and if this comic lives up to its promise than I will be a very happy man.

If there was one correction I would make I would say that the art style reminds me of Invader Zim more than anything.

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It’s probably just me but hey, is being compared to Invader Zim really a bad thing?

Why you should donate

If the art and premise didn’t grab your attention and make you want to donate than I highly recommend checking out the story behind the creation of this comic.

I’m not going to go into the creator’s entire life story here but just to give you a rundown, the man is passionate about this project and has dedicated over fifteen years of his life to making this series a reality.

Heck, before it was a comic it was actually a card game you could play on your phone.

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Now, I don’t normally use the backstory behind the creation of something as a selling point.  Usually I believe that it doesn’t matter how much time you put into something if the end result is going to be garbage.  But this?  This is different.

You can tell that the creator is incredibly passionate about this project, and that he has poured his heart and soul into it, and that is worth our respect and attention.

Italiano is an ambitious project that is the textbook definition of a labor of love.  It’s crazy, violent, bizarre, wholly unique, and is worth your time and money.

Campaign link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1916419692/italiano-the-graphic-novel-series/description