Pennyworth Comic Writer Scott Bryan Wilson on Why Alfred is Such an Interesting Character

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Batman may be Gotham’s protector and indeed, the character may be one of the most popular in comics, but the Dark Knight couldn’t do it alone, and, by extension, neither could the Bat Family. Standing behind them is Alfred Pennyworth, the beloved Wayne family butler and surrogate father figure for Bruce. But Alfred is more than just a butler, something that the Pennyworth television series and the spinoff comic from DC explores. Now, Pennyworth comic writer Scott Bryan Wilson explains why Alfred is such an appealing character on his own and what makes his story worth telling.

“Well, he’s cool because if you talk about him as he’s historically known, he’s cool. Bruce Wayne’s showing up 5:00 in the morning, broken ribs, and Alfred’s there still looking like a million dollars ready to suture him, whatever he needs to do. He’s very patient. He’s a critical piece of Batman. He’s a critical piece of Batman’s success in the sense that what is there really to keep Batman from just going completely unhinged?” Wilson told ComicBook.com. “And he is this figure who sort of grounds Batman, reminds him to eat, reminds him to take care of himself, actually takes care of him. He’s a very sort of nurturing father figure in that sense, but also being British, he’s just got that whole sense of cool and that dry wit. I think that’s always really appealing when deployed correctly.”

But even with Alfred being the epitome of cool, he’s also a man with flaws. It’s those flaws and the lessons Alfred learned in his own youthful adventures that are particularly interesting and are central to the Pennyworth comic. The book visits Alfred’s time as a spy and gives readers a look at that other side of the character.

“He has to have flaws. Characters aren’t interesting if they have no flaws, if they can’t be surprised, if they can’t have something go wrong. And I think he’s this super spy in the book. And what are the ways in which he can fail and be a failure?” Wilson said. “I think we see at the end of issue four as he’s sort of apologizing to everyone because he thinks he’s failed. He has failed a lot of people. He has failed himself. And I think for someone like that, that is the worst thing that can happen is realizing, ‘oh no, oh no, I wasn’t able to do this thing that I swore I would do.’ So I think that was really important to build a lot of that in.”

Wilson also teased that the comic will help answer the question of why a cool super spy ends up being a butler, albeit the butler to someone like Bruce Wayne.

“The other thing that’s a hard question to answer that I thought about a lot that gets explored as the book goes on is, man, I mean, he was a cool spy. Why would he go be a butler after this?” Wilson said. “At the beginning, as I started writing it, I really wrestled with that question. I was like, I don’t know. Why? Why would you? This doesn’t make any sense. But I think I figured it out, and I think I sort of made a good argument for it as the story progresses.”

He added, “That’s sort of something, the two very different sides of who he is and you realize, ‘oh everything he does now with Batman are things that he learned in this earlier stage in his life as a spy.’ I think there’s some narration about it in the first, second issue where he talks about always using those skills still. No matter where he is, he’s still using those spy skills, even if he’s just out picking up Bruce’s dry cleaning. These are still things that he’s actively employing in his day-to-day.”

Pennyworth #5 goes on sale on December 14th.

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