Batman #16 - Story 4

February 10, 1943

"Here Comes Alfred"

Here we go, ladies and gentlemen. With this story, we have the basic nucleus of the Batman family together now as we introduce - Alfred - just Alfred. And it's a good introduction. It's also a somewhat different Alfred. He's somewhat portly, almost cartoonish in appearance. It's interesting to note that Alfred will appear in the 1943 serial coming later this year, but will look more like the Alfred we know and love. I know the comics will change him, but I have to wonder if that was in response to the 43 serial as the adoption of the Batcave came from the 43's "Batscave". And there's also the head scratching puzzle of why Commissioner Gordon was not in the 43 serial considering he was established from the start and by now was a regular fixture.

The story opens with the arrival of Alfred by cruise ship. It never occurred to me until I read this how such travel, indeed any travel, could be hazardous during wartime. While America, as a country, remained unaffected by the physical aspects of war, the waters surrounding it were always under threat by planes and submarines.

Alfred gets off the ship and says goodbye to fellow passenger, Leduc. The two carry similar looking briefcases which is what international gangster Manuel Stiletti and his men want. And watching them is Batman and Robin.

And in a case of mistaken identity, Manuel and his men try to get the suitcase from Alfred and are stopped by Batman and Robin. But Alfred also shows he can handle himself as he kicks at one of them. They escape and Alfred suggests he and the Duo exchange crime fighting tips as he is an amateur sleuth.

They think it's all cute and excuse themselves. At home, they are surprised though when Alfred shows up at their door. Have you noticed how in recent issues, the artist has had anyone surprised drawn doing a "double take"? Turns out Alfred is the son of Jarvis, Thomas Wayne's butler. The man has passed on, but he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps instead of wasting his time trying to be an actor.

Bruce allows him to stay for the night, but that night, Manuel and his men break into the Wayne home, setting off Bruce's alarm. The two change to Batman and Robin. They quickly send the men packing, but this time they follow in the Batmobile. After they depart, Alfred goes to check on Bruce and Dick and finds them missing. He also realizes who his traveling companion on the ship was - an exiled Duke who escaped his country under Nazi occupation.

But one of the gang remained behind and tries to kill Alfred. He is knocked out by a falling shield hanging in the hallway. The shield triggers the secret switch that opens the panel leading to Batman's lab and hanger. (Still no Batcave as of yet.). Alfred quickly puts two and two together on who the Caped Crusaders are.

Meanwhile, Batman and Robin track the men to a theater where the two are captured, bound and gagged and suspended from above the stage. They leave to get the suitcase of the Duke, now realizing their mistake. Alfred shows up, having allowed his one captive to escape so that he could follow him. He cannot see the two above him as he recalls his theater days. But when Batman is able to whip Alfred hat off, he sees their plight.

The thieves return to the theater with the Duke. They plan to burn the theater down with the three in it, but they are surprised when Batman, Robin and Alfred bring down the curtain on their act. They save the Duke and his country's crown jewels with Alfred getting the headline in the papers the next day.

And then comes the biggest surprise as Alfred steps up to Bruce and Dick with their costumes, telling them he saw the Batsignal. They cannot deny who they are, but they make sure that Alfred will keep their secret. As they race off, Alfred doesn't have the heart to tell them he learned their secret by accident. They believe he's a good detective; might as well let them keep thinking that.

I adored this story and loved the introduction of Alfred. I'm glad though that he will undergo a transformation as his more cartoonish appearance is a bit distracting. What's next? We're back to Detective Comics so stay tuned, Citizens!

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