Comic Vine News

88 Comments

Off My Mind: Why Was Batman Raised by a Butler?

What happened to Bruce Wayne's other relatives after his parents' death?

Batman's origin has been told many times. There have been some slight variations over the years but it comes down to the same story. Bruce and his parents go to a movie, they encounter a mugger afterwards, Thomas and Martha are killed and Bruce is left alone. It is then that young Bruce swears an oath by the spirits of his parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of his life warring on all criminals.

With Bruce's parents dead, he is raised by the family butler, Alfred Pennyworth. We are lead to believe that Bruce doesn't have any other relatives but that isn't the case. Looking back at Alfred's first appearance in Batman #16, he doesn't even begin working for Bruce until after Batman and Robin have already established themselves as the Dynamic Duo (Alfred was the son of the Wayne Family butler, Jarvis). Another question would be who raised Golden Age young Bruce (and don't say Aunt Harriet).

With retcons and the cleaning up of stories from the Golden Age (and even the Silver Age), we can accept Alfred did raise Bruce (in 1997's Batman - Secret Files & Origins, there is a scene with Alfred and young Bruce bribing a child protective services agent to make things work in their favor). But what about Bruce's other relatives? It has been shown that he had some before and even recently in The Return of Bruce Wayne. Why would his relatives allow him to be raised by the family butler?

Bruce Wayne's Grandparents

In Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 by Grant Morrison, Bruce ends up appearing in the time shortly after his parent's death. We see that (as part of Doctor Hurt's plan) Bruce talks to his grandparents, establishing that young Bruce did have living relatives living in Gotham. These were the parents of Bruce's mother. When (older) Bruce asked how come the kid didn't stay with his Gran'Ma, he was told that Martha Wayne's relationship with her mother had deteriorated years ago. Despite that, Martha's mother still cared for her daughter and believed Thomas Wayne had Martha killed and faked his own death (which we know was also part of Doctor Hurt's plan).

You would think that she would do all she could to ensure that her grandchild was protected rather than be allowed to be raised by the family butler. Perhaps it was a fear that the man she thought to be Thomas "Bad Tommy" Wayne would try to come after her. How come Bruce never asked Alfred about his grandparents? Even if Doctor Hurt did something to to them, it would make sense that Bruce would try to cling to any living relative he had left or at least attend any funeral services.

What about Uncle Philip?

Who was Uncle Philip? That's a good question. In 1986's Secret Origin #6, Bruce is saying his prayers and then swears to avenge his parents deaths. Are we to assume this Uncle Philip was just a family friend? Apparently neither Thomas nor Martha had any siblings. I just find it odd that after their deaths and Bruce was left all their money, no random relatives came out of the woodworks to try to gain custody of Bruce and get control over the Wayne fortune. Can anyone tell me who the heck Uncle Philip was?

What about other relatives on Martha's side?

I mentioned Martha's parents were still alive when she was killed. Their last name was Kane and I wonder about any relation to the other Kane family in Gotham. We have Kate Kane (who coincidentally) becomes Batwoman and her father Jake. Kate knows Bruce but it's never been mentioned that they were related. We do know that Kate is cousins with Bette Kane, aka Flamebird. It could just be that Kane is simply a common last name around Gotham.

I understand that Bruce growing up without parents and relatives is crucial in his journey to becoming Batman. I know Batman's story is decades old but with Grant Morrison establishing his grandparents were still alive, I just find it odd that no one would question a butler raising a child alone in a huge mansion.

The only thing that does make sense is young Bruce and Alfred threw around money to ensure that no one was able to take him away, including any other living relatives.

96 Comments
  • 96 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by cattlebattle

It worked on Mr. Belvediere

Posted by EdwardWindsor

Part of parents will? they did respect Alfred

Posted by Supreme Marvel

Because Thomas trusted Alfred more than anyone to look after his son.

Posted by xerox_kitty


I never really thought about it.  Very much a 'sign of the times' kind of story.  Certainly now he'd be dragged into social services custody, but back then it wasn't really unusual.   
     
Posted by queenfrost_

 Urm because Alfred was the most trustworthy person to the Waynes...

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Man, G-Man, you really are off your mind this time!

Posted by yeopop

Interesting topic.
Posted by carnivalofsins00

Well, who wouldn't want to be raised by Michael Caine?

Posted by Outside_85

Because either it was written down somewhere, their will for example,  that Thomas and Martha wanted Alfred to raise him or Bruce and Alfred made it look that way. 
Who knows, his relatives might not have been considered ideal by his parents to raise Bruce.

Posted by G-Man
Who raised Golden Age young Bruce? Alfred didn't first appear until well after Bruce was an adult and had become Batman.
Posted by darth_brendroid

Isn't Aunt Harriet or whatever her name is worth a mention? Even if it's from pre-Crisis, you do mention some of Alfred's pre-Crisis backstory... 
 
That said, I'm thinking it's probably some legal case involving the Wayne will and what's best for the child; if Martha didn't have a good relationship with her mother, chances are Bruce didn't have a favourable impression of her either so any kind of adoption there would be strained and not particularly good for a fresh orphan. And Uncle Phillip may be the black sheep with little money or something.

Edited by G-Man
@darth_brendroid: I said not to mention Aunt Harriet when I asked (in the article) who raised Golden Age young Bruce. Aunt Harriet was made for the Adam West TV show for...certain reasons. 
 
I just think the courts and Child Protective Services would try to place him with relatives rather than a trusted employee. And if Uncle Philip had little money, you'd think he'd try to get custody of Bruce and his hands on the money.
Posted by Soldier zero

... ok this is one of those cases where suspension of disbelieve came into play.
 
About his grandparents, it might be argued that they were already old and/or ill when Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered, so they couldn't take the burden of a kid.
 
I really have no clue about this uncle Philip character, especially since it looks like it was single panel appearence.
 
Whiel it's true that Kane might be a very common name (and/or a very large family) around Gotham, the idea of linking Kate and Bruce this way have some interesting implications.
 
Great article.

Posted by darth_brendroid
@G-Man: Sorry, I must have missed that bit. 
 
That is a fair enough thought though. Nice article mate.
Posted by entropy_aegis

Deathstroke's wife adeline was also a kane,i guess that's makes deathstroke ,batman's cousin. 
and i'm pretty sure thomas had a brother named silias or silas. 
Posted by RiotBananas

Nice read!

Posted by Xenozoic Shaman

Because Alfred IS his father! ^_^

Posted by kennybaese

I guess I just always assumed that it was in the Wayne's will.  
 
As for Golden Age... no clue. Before my time.

Posted by wingster

Geez, I didn't know this was sooo complicated. I'm sticking with Alfred raising Bruce, just for the sake of simplicity!
Posted by InnerVenom123
@Xenozoic Shaman said:
" Because Alfred IS his father! ^_^ "
Epic twist is epic.
Posted by howlettgrowl

the writes took care of Batman.

Posted by Mumbles
@Xenozoic Shaman said:

" Because Alfred IS his father! ^_^ "

I Just got Shyamalan!
Posted by notageek
@entropy_aegis: 
ermm she was his wife so the most deathstroke can be related to batman is cousin-in-law
Posted by KNIGHT SAVIOR

This is an interesting question ,G-Man ,l never did like it that Bruce never had any relatives but isn't it possible that his mother did had a sibling because isn't Kate Kane (Batwoman) his cousin or something  because what's the odds that two women with same last names ,both weathy  lived in same city , is NOT related!! somehow. It was established that in Gotham City whatever the Waynes don't own the Kanes do
Posted by They Killed Cap!

Because Alfred is the only who would let him waste his parents fortune on a endevor as crazy as Batman. Lol.
Posted by G-Man
@Soldier zero said:
"I really have no clue about this uncle Philip character, especially since it looks like it was single panel appearence.  "
I don't know why but Uncle Philip seems a little creepy to me. I'm glad li'l Bruce was able to get away from him.
Posted by MOONGREY
@G-Man said:
" @Soldier zero said:
"I really have no clue about this uncle Philip character, especially since it looks like it was single panel appearence.  "
I don't know why but Uncle Philip seems a little creepy to me. I'm glad li'l Bruce was able to get away from him. "
i got the same impression.. great article G-Man
Posted by Silkcuts

I love this history lesson articles.
 
I personally like to think Bruce raised himself, while Alfred made sure the Manor was taken care of and if Bruce happened to need something Alfred was around.  It would be this need to make something for himself (Bruce) that drives him to be The Batman.

Posted by Billy Batson

Hmmm

Posted by Sir Duke

Yeah, amazing how this actually makes more sense in the silver age than today, huh?  This always did bother me.  Maybe the Waynes stipulated in their will that they wanted Alfred to raise Bruce if (and when) they died.  That's the only explanation I can come up with.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@Silkcuts said:
"I love this history lesson articles.  I personally like to think Bruce raised himself, while Alfred made sure the Manor was taken care of and if Bruce happened to need something Alfred was around.  It would be this need to make something for himself (Bruce) that drives him to be The Batman. "

I think this is the the answer.  Its not like Bruce after swearing to avenge his parents then turned to Alfred to sign a permission slip from parent or guardian to go on the grade 8 ski trip.  He became focused from that moment, and who is going to question a rich child that all of a sudden disappears?  Social services would just think a relative came for him while in reality he probably that day started his new education with private tutors and specialists.  By the time he was 15 or 16 he could be traveling the globe learning what he needed, and then whoever raised him would be irrelevant.  It would be just like in Batman Begins when Alfred goes to pick up Bruce and hasnt seen him in 7 years.
Posted by Soldier zero
@MOONGREY said:
" @G-Man said:
" @Soldier zero said:
"I really have no clue about this uncle Philip character, especially since it looks like it was single panel appearence.  "
I don't know why but Uncle Philip seems a little creepy to me. I'm glad li'l Bruce was able to get away from him. "
i got the same impression.. great article G-Man "
Same here which bring me to certain suspicions about this uncle identity.
  • He's a relative of Bruce
  • He's creepy
  • He showed up shortly after Thomas and Martha murder
  • He seem to disappear shortly thereafter
 
Why all of this seem to imply that might have been an alias for Doctor Hurt. I know this is a long stretch, but given Morrison currrent line of work, of recovering little known pieces of Bat-lore (like the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh) it might still happen. In this case the big question is: why didn't he used young Bruce as his pawn back then?
Posted by MadComics

Cause Alfred is a MI6 or a spy or what ever I mean would you want your son to be raised by Alfred and if you think about it could alfred be his uncle????
Posted by MOONGREY

why are you bringing this up now? :P

Posted by cmaprice

If Bruce's parents named Alfred as the guardian, it doesn't matter what blood relatives are around.

Posted by BMBmustdie
@Xenozoic Shaman said:
"Because Alfred IS his father! ^_^ "

agreed.
Posted by TheCrowbar
@cmaprice said:
" If Bruce's parents named Alfred as the guardian, it doesn't matter what blood relatives are around. "
Posted by G-Man
@TheCrowbar said:
" @cmaprice said:
" If Bruce's parents named Alfred as the guardian, it doesn't matter what blood relatives are around. "
"
I don't know if I agree. The right lawyers could easily raise a stink. Especially if they got a hold of the "evidence" that Doctor Hurt created making Alfred and the Waynes look bad.
Posted by perry_411

Are you saying that Butler's don't count as family? My nanny Olga raised me in this affluent neighborhood.

Edited by cmaprice
@G-Man said:

" @TheCrowbar said:

" @cmaprice said:

" If Bruce's parents named Alfred as the guardian, it doesn't matter what blood relatives are around. "
"
I don't know if I agree. The right lawyers could easily raise a stink. Especially if they got a hold of the "evidence" that Doctor Hurt created making Alfred and the Waynes look bad. "
That'd be an uphill battle. You could justify any custody situation you'd want, given Gotham's corruption (which would work both ways, seeing the financial resources tentatively available to young Bruce) and the fact this is in a fictionalized reality. However, speaking realistically, they'd have to demonstrate Alfred was unfit, or that the Waynes weren't of sound mind upon naming Alfred the guardian (if they in fact did). When did the Dr Hurt stuff surface? Was it when Bruce was a child, or an adult? I haven't been following. 
Posted by Oddity

If my parents die they are leaving me in the custody of our gardener Pablo....

Edited by GamiSB
@G-Man:  @G-Man said:

" Who raised Golden Age young Bruce? Alfred didn't first appear until well after Bruce was an adult and had become Batman. "

While true from a publication view, chronologically Alfred has been retconned in to being there during Bruce's childhood. Your question would have had merit back before the character was introduced as being apart of Bruce's younger years but today it's pointless to ask sense Alfred has been created to being a prominent member of the Wayne family who Thomas and Martha trusted to take care of their son.
Posted by Gwyllgi

i i got killed id rather have my kids watched over by the ex- special forces butler than my inlaws.

Posted by GT-Man

Cause Batman gets REAL bloody and Alf's the man for the job 
Posted by Thusian

Bruce raised himself.  He was filthy stinking loaded so he hired his parents butler. 

Posted by Comiclove5

I don't Think those were actually his Grandparents but were Black Glove members pretending to be grandparents.And the uncle was probably erased  out of continuity during one of the many Crisis's.

Edited by mickoreo_LZ

I believe that it was probably in Martha and Thomas' will that Alfred be given sole custody of Bruce, maybe to try and prevent people like Uncle Philip from coming in and trying to claim Bruce and the family fortune. Protecting their son from beyond the grave

Posted by elayem98

now: because of the parent's will 
precrisis: because writers were lazy

Posted by Master_Of_Evil

i believe that Alfred was his made legal guardian if anything happened to them

Posted by Ladyspider

Having an Aunt Harriet makes sense for legal reasons.

  • 96 results
  • 1
  • 2