Death in comics is kind of joke now—who stays dead? Uncle Ben? Thomas and Martha Wayne…for the most part. We did have Flashpoint Batman (Thomas Wayne) return for a bit. And not long ago, another one of Bruce Wayne’s father figures died: Alfred Pennyworth, the superhero butler. In a grizzly scene, Bane snapped his neck and left him at the dining table for Batman to find later. It was a shocking scene. We expect the capes to die and come back over and over again, but Alfred? No. You can’t kill Alfred. There is no way DC editors would ever let that happen. At least, that’s what Tom King expected when he hinted at Alfred’s death.
Alfred Pennyworth was Supposed to Live in the Tom King Batman Run
(Image: Batman #77, DC Comics)
In an interview with Word Balloon, Tom King explained how his plans for Alfred was to have him survive after a cliffhanger:
“I got the opposite of push back. I got push forward,” King recalled. “I sort of had this cliffhanger where Alfred, at the end, was gonna, could perish. And I put it in the script, like, of course, we’ll figure this out later and he’s not dead. And DC’s like, ‘No, why isn’t he? Why’s he not dead?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, because he’s Alfred and he has to live forever because he’s a fantastic character.’ And they’re like, ‘No no no no, he’s dead’.”
Editors usually push away from killing a character. It takes a lot of planning to kill a character, mostly because they need a long-term plan on how to bring them back. But, that might not be the case here.
Alfred’s Death is a Death that Might Stick (As Tom King Says, Anyway)
(Image: Batman #83, DC Comics)
The celebrated Batman author also thinks that this might be a new status quo for the Batman universe. “What sticks, what stays in continuity is what’s good,” Tom King says, continuing “if Alfred’s death leads to good stories, it will probably stick until a better idea comes along.”
It’s a little hard to tell if he agreed with the final decision to kill Batman’s point man in the cave. Will his death lead to good stories? We’re going to have to wait to find out, but with Pennyworth: RIP coming out next week, we’ll get our first inclination.
(Featured Image: Batman: Alfred Pennyworth: R.I.P.)
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.