On Batman

To the Batpole

By Alex Bledsoe

The influences that helped turn teenage millionaire Bruce Wayne into the vengeful, obsessed Batman have been endlessly analyzed, from the death of his parents to his discovery that bats are (gasp!) scary. But one small unemphasized incident might actually, as the Beatles would say, loom large in his legend. This haunted boy was “fathered”–in all but the biological sense–by a middle-aged English manservant, and at the onset of puberty this child of privilege would no doubt have turned to trusted Alfred Pennyworth for an explanation of the unexpected changes in his body, voice, and priorities.

For Bruce Wayne, “the Talk,” as it is for any young person, must have been one of life’s watershed events. It sends reverberations through our lives that Freud only glimpsed. But there is no single “Bruce Wayne,” just as there is no one version of Batman. Bob Kane’s creation has been modified, adapted, “reimagined,” and tweaked by a succession of writers, artists, and filmmakers. So can the different popular incarnations of the Dark Knight, in all their shadowy variety, be traced back to this pivotal conversation?

What follows, though, are mere extrapolations. The actual conversations between Alfred and Bruce are the sole property of a mighty entity whose tendrils twine effortlessly around the necks of those who even dare breathe their name without permission. Just ask Dave Stevens.1 What follows are parodies, humorous satirical imitations of serious writing. I swear.

A note: Just like the Caped Crusader, Alfred has gone through numerous incarnations, including a stint  …

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