Value of Supporting Batman Characters

Supporting Batman Characters and Comic Values
By Christopher Tanis and Ashley Cotter-Cairns

Unlike any other in comicdom, the cast of supporting and auxiliary characters that have appeared in Batman, Detective Comics, and all the other comics that have featured the Caped Crusader for the last 70-odd years is huge, varied, and interesting.

One cannot imagine Batman, for example, without Alfred, his faithful butler, or Commissioner Gordon, just to name two.

Of course, for every Alfred there is a Bat-Mite, or an Ace, the Bat Hound, but you get the picture.

Superman may have had his Lois Lane and his Jimmy Olsen (OK, even his Perry White), but Batman (and millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne) has a rich, varied, and fascinating group of supporting players who enliven things when called upon to do so, and who are as well-known as many other super heroes.

Often, these characters will be central to the plot of an issue or several-issue arc, or simply will function as convenient plot devices to move things along. Whatever their use, Batman's supporting characters are just plain important, at least most of the time. 

Don't believe me? OK, Here's a test: How many Green Lantern supporting characters can you name? 

Thought so. Now let's get to it, shall we? 

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Batman Characters: Batman's Butler, Alfred

Batman #16: First appearance of Batman's Butler, Alfred. Click for value

OK, let's get this straight right off the bat (ha-ha, you see what I did there?): the Golden Age Alfred, otherwise known as the "Earth Two Alfred," is not named Alfred Pennyworth. He is "Alfred Beagle." Indeed. Now, since this Alfred has been retconned out of existence, he never existed in the first place, and logically, we can't really be talking about him.

Aren't comic books grand?

Anyway, Alfred Beagle first appeared in Batman #16, in April of 1943. Fearing for their secret identities, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were initially reluctant to hire a butler, although unwilling to hurt Alfred's feelings by rejecting him utterly.

Of course, eventually, Alfred proved himself, and ended up working at Wayne Manor all through Bruce's marriage to Selina Kyle, and the birth of their daughter Helena. Alfred Beagle even stayed on after the deaths of Bruce and Selina and the departures of Helena and Dick Grayson. Batman #16 is quite valuable to collectors, as are most Golden Age superhero comics.

Now, if you're talking about Alfred Pennyworth, you're talking about the "Earth One Alfred," or the Silver Age/Bronze Age Alfred. He, too, was retconned out of existence (in the Crisis on Infinite Earths) and replaced by another Alfred Pennyworth, who, although he has the same name and largely the same history, is a completely different character. We promise.

Does your head hurt yet?


So, the "Earth One" Alfred is considered by some to have made his first appearance in Detective Comics #225 (November, 1955). Don't ask how this was determined. In the DC Universe, where Batman and Superman are concerned, the Golden Age becomes the Silver Age on a slippery slope, and hard-and-fast certainties are thin on the ground.

That's a whole bunch of metaphors there, and they're mixed, we're well aware. That's just how it goes in the world of comic books.

And then, technically, Alfred dies, well sort of, in Detective Comics #328, just to confuse things. But of course, he wasn't really dead. He was just mutated and deranged. Later, he returns to his old self and becomes Bruce's butler again. 

Some, conversely, would say that the "Earth One" Alfred begins with Batman #110 (September 1957), when the story of his first encounter with the Dynamic Duo (in reality Alfred Beagle, remember?) is revised.

And there are, of course, some who say that Alfred of Earth One began at the exact moment when Batman of Earth One began, that is to say, at the exact moment when Barry Allen met Jay Garrick, in Showcase #4, in July, 1956.

By that standard, the next issues of Detective and Batman would be the debut of the "true" Earth One Alfred, Detective Comics #234 and Batman #101 (both August 1956). 

Some say that it makes little difference, since neither one actually ever existed. Sigh...

Batman Characters: Commissioner James Gordon

Detective Comics #27 is the first appearance of Commissioner Gordon, as well as Batman himself

Anyone familiar at all with Batman is familiar with Jim Gordon.

Good ol' Gordon, always stoic and always on Batman's side, even when things look bad for the Caped Crusader. And luckily, the Earth Two Jim Gordon, the Earth One Jim Gordon, and whatever the heck you call the post-Crisis Jim Gordon, are all pretty much one and the same. Or at least no one makes much of a distinction.

In almost every iteration, Jim Gordon is Batman's friend and confidante, and his closest ally within the political machine of Gotham City.

So, the first appearance of Commissioner James Gordon actually takes place before the first appearance of Batman, in the very first panel of the very first issue of any comic to feature "The Bat-Man": Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939). Of course, that's worth a bundle if you have one, even in bad shape.

Batman Characters: Batwoman

Detective Comics #233 (July 1956): first Batwoman. Click for values

When Frederic Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent came out in 1954, it suggested (horror of horrors) that there was a pronounced and unnatural "relationship" between Batman and Robin.

Homoeroticism has never been a very comfortable trope in mainstream comics, and in the '50s, it was tantamount to calling Batman a "Pinko" or a Communist Sympathizer. Perish forbid!

So, the idea of a "Batwoman" (socialite Kathy Kane) was born, to give Bruce a major case of the "Not-Gays," in Detective Comics #233 (July 1956).

She would stick around until about 1964, when the powers that be at DC decided that Batman had become too silly, and the entire "family" of Batman characters had to go.

By then, there was also a proto-Batgirl, known as Bat-Girl, of whom more momentarily, who had been introduced as a love interest for Dick.

Batman Characters: Barbara Gordon (Batgirl and Oracle)

First appearance of Barbara Gordon (Batgirl and Oracle): Detective Comics #359. Click for value

In 1967, Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Jim "Commissioner" Gordon of the Gotham P.D., earned her superhero stripes as Batgirl.

Making her debut in the pages of Detective Comics #359, Batgirl would go on to have quite an interesting, if very secondary role in the Bat-i-verse.

(She had nothing to do with the "Batman Family" character of "Bat-Girl," otherwise known as Bette Kane, one-time love interest of Robin, who had debuted in Batman #139, in April of 1961, and who would disappear in the Great Batman Family Purge of 1964.)

Batgirl would make regular appearances in Batman and Detective, and was buddy-buddy with Dick Grayson, the original Robin, although there was never really a romance.

She would ultimately go on to retire from superhero activity, be shot and crippled by the Joker in Alan Moore's pivotal graphic novel The Killing Joke, and be rebooted as Oracle, the paraplegic computer hacker. Of course, later, this would all be retconned.

Batgirl's yellow gloves were pretty groovy, though.

Batman Characters: Ace, the Bat-Hound

Ace, the Bat-Hound, first appearance, Batman #92. Click for values

Well, it had to happen eventually. Superboy's super-dog, Krypto, had been a smashing success. TV was overrun by charming and heroic German Shepherds like Rin Tin Tin.

Batman, it was clear, needed a crime-fighting German Shepherd. He needed Ace, the Bat-Hound.

Ace debuted in Batman #92 (July 1955) and made regular appearances, fighting crime with his doggie Bat-mask on, until Julie Schwartz realized that Ace, along with the rest of the Batman Family, was making DC look like a bunch of chumps, in 1964.

Marvel never gave Spider-Man a "Spidey Beagle," you can bet.

Ace has made very occasional reappearances since, mostly as an in-joke. 

Batman Characters: Bat-Mite

Bat-Mite makes his first appearance in Detective Comics #267. Click for values

Ohh, Bat-Mite. Bat-Mite was either the most wonderfully cute and lovable creation this side of troll dolls, or else he was the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Ostensibly, he was a magical imp from another dimension who was a huge fan of Batman and Robin, and came to earth to help them, in a crudely-homemade Bat-costume.

It's probably worth a glance at Detective Comics #267 (May 1959) to decide for yourself it Bat-mite was devil or angel. He, too, was luckily removed from the Batman mythos in 1964 when Julius Schwartz decided to stiffen up Batman's backbone once again. 

Batman Characters: Aunt Harriet

Harriet Cooper, Dick Grayson's widowed aunt, was brought in after Alfred

Contrary to popular misconception, Dick Grayson's peppery Aunt Harriet was not introduced to the comics after being created for the 1966 Batman TV series.

What's that? No one ever talks about Aunt Harriet? Go away, kid, you bother me. Now what were we talking about?

Oh, yes, Harriet Cooper, Dick Grayson's widowed aunt, was brought in after Alfred "died" in 1964, in Detective Comics #328 (June 1964). Well, Alfred wasn't dead, and after he came back, Harriet stayed on for a bit, until failing health compelled her to move to Boca Raton.

Still Aunt Harriet added a certain something to the proceedings, something more than just constantly hassling Bruce and Dick about how much sleep they weren't getting, or how much more milk Dick ought to be drinking. He was a growing boy, you know.

Harriet added a protective element, insuring that there could in no way be any sort of an inappropriate relationship between Bruce and his youthful ward, Dick.

Batman Characters: Man-Bat

Man-Bat was introduced in Detective Comics #400. Click for value

In June of 1970, the Man-Bat was introduced in Detective Comics #400.

More than just a "negative Batman", the Man-Bat (Zoologist Kirk Langstrom) was an interesting character who occupied a new grey area in superhero comics: he was neither hero nor villain, nor was he anti-hero. He just was, and Batman had to deal with him.

The closest thing to him was across the aisle in the Marvel Universe, where Spider-Man's sometime-villain The Lizard probably served as the Man-Bat's prototype.

Neal Adams designed Man-Bat, and penciled Detective #400. It is a genuine classic, even if, as a late Silver Age comic, it isn't worth all that much.

(Editor's note: high-grade copies have rocketed in value in recent years; this is a tough book to find in the high 9s.)

Batman Characters: Catwoman and The Huntress

DC Super Stars #17: first appearance of Helena Wayne, daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Click for value

Here's the straight poop: on Earth Two, Selina Kyle, the Catwoman, went straight and married Bruce Wayne. They had a daughter, Helena Wayne, who grew up to become The Huntress.

Selina Kyle's first appearance was in Batman #1 (Spring 1940), where she was referred to as "The Cat." Batman #1 is worth about seven Fort Knoxes, if you can find one, just FYI.

Earth Two's Bruce Wayne died in the 1970s, as did Selina Kyle. After a sad and pitiful attempt by Earth Two's then-already-long-in-the-tooth Dick Grayson had a go at becoming "Batman II" (of which the less said, the better), and Helena Wayne, aka The Huntress, became prominent.

She debuted in DC Super Stars #17 (November 1977) and bounced around the Earth Two stories of DC's late-'70s re-infatuation with its Golden Age heroes gone gray, often as a backup in Wonder Woman, until she was incinerated, along with Earth Two's Dick Grayson, in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. She was then erased from history.

Of course, she came back, completely different, later, with the same first name, same costume, and a history that was pretty much the same, except that she wasn't Batman and Catwoman's daughter any more.

The Earth One Catwoman made her Silver Age debut in Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #70, in November of 1966. Click for value

Earth One's Catwoman, as you may know, is a whole different kettle of fish. She was a criminal. A cat burglar. Except when she was a murderer, which DC decided was not the "real" Selina Kyle of Earth One or Earth Two.

That Selina Kyle was from "Earth B," and if your head wasn't ready to explode already, it will now: Frank Miller re-imagined her as a dominatrix and prostitute with a heart of gold.

But if we talk about that, we'll lose our PG rating here, so that's enough of that.

The Earth One Catwoman made her Silver Age debut in Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #70, in November of 1966, a direct result of Julie Newmar's portrayal of Catwoman in the then-new TV series.

She appeared in many many Batman-related comics until the Crisis rendered it all moot in the mid-'80s.

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