The Silver-Age Alfred was a real Renaissance man:  butler, chef, actor, medic . . . and author!

 

Actually, he was more of a frustrated writer---because his work could never be published, nor even read.  Except by two other people.

 

I'm talking, of course, about Alfred's turn as a fiction writer, scribing the imaginary adventures of the second Batman and Robin team.  Herein, the trusty butler put to paper a series of hypothesised developments following his master's retirement from crime-fighting and the adult Dick Grayson taking up the mantle of the Batman.

 

Because these accounts were produced by an in-continuity element, they weren't pure Imaginary Tales of the sort popularised by Superman editor Mort Weisinger.  Rather, they were what I term "semi-imaginary".  Semi-imaginary stories popped up, at one time or another, in virtually every DC title.  Usually, a dream by one of the series' regular characters was the culprit.  But the projections of a super-computer or even a crystal ball could also conjure these "What if?" sort of tales.  Any device would do, so long as it was a part of the real world of the series' characters.

 

In the case of the second Batman-Robin team, the source was Alfred's imagination and his Underwood manual typewriter.  Eventually, Alfred would create these adventures for his own entertainment and that of his charges, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.  But the original story, the one that started it all, just kind of happened.

 

 

"The Second Batman and Robin Team", Batman # 131 (April, 1960)       

 

I, Alfred, confidential butler to Bruce Wayne, who is secretly Batman, am recording the history following the saddest event in my life . . . 

 

The incident which had Alf all choked up occurred one week earlier, when the Batman made a television broadcast announcing his retirement from crime-fighting. 

 

"I am an old man now . . . it is time I retired!  And since Robin is now a grown man, it is fitting that he should inherit my mantle and become Batman II!"

 

Afterward, in the Batcave, a private celebration is held.  A grey-haired Bruce Wayne, an adult Dick Grayson, a balder Alfred, and  . . . Kathy Kane, the former Batwoman.  That's when we discover that, sometime ago, Wayne married Kathy---which probably had quite a bit to do with the Caped Crusader hanging up his cowl.  ("You never help out around the house.  Every time I want you to take out the trash, it's 'Uh oh, there's the bat-signal!  Gotta go!'  Speaking of which, how is it that Vicki Vale keeps showing up at all of your cases?  You spend more time with her than you do with me!  And don't give me that 'I can't tell her I'm married---it might give away my secret identity,' nonsense.  The little home-wrecker!  I'd like to tear that henna-red hair of hers out by its mousey brown roots!")

 

Bruce turns the job of Batman over to Dick, when one more family voice is heard from---that of Bruce Wayne, Junior!  As Wayne's real-world television counterpart once observed, "Man does not live by crime-fighting alone," and he and Kathy have produced an heir.  Apparently, one of their families had an Irishman in the woodpile, for the scion of Bruce and Kathy Wayne sports a curly shock of red hair.

 

And Junior wants to be the new Robin.  He points out that he's the same age as the original Robin when he became the Batman's partner.  Furthermore, "Uncle" Dick has been secretly training him, causing Grayson to shove his hands in his pockets and whistle uncomfortably. 

 

Kathy won't have it, but the four males in the house wear her down, and young Master Wayne's training begins in earnest.  In a remarkably short time, the new team of Batman II and Robin II is ready to hit the street.

 

Just as the original Batman's career ended on television, so does the new Dynamic Duo's begin---when they answer a report of a robbery from a near-by broadcasting station.  The second Batman and Robin burst into a studio where an armed gang is stealing the jewelry from a televised auction.  The pursuit of the crooks leads to a near-by set of ancient Baghdad where the new Robin lassoes the crown of a minaret with his bat-rope, intending to swing in front of the escaping bandits.  Instead, having forgotten that the tower is only a papier-mâché prop, the overeager youngster embarrasses himself in front of thousands of viewers when he pulls the structure down upon the heads of himself and Batman II.  The bad guys don't let their laughter keep them from getting away.

 

When the humiliated heroes get home to Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne, ever the confidence-builder, consoles his son by assuring him that Dick, as the original Robin, wasn't all that perfect, either.

 

Junior's chance for redemption arrives as soon as the next day, when Dick Grayson, on his way to his job as a newspaper reporter, spots a member of the notorious Babyface Jordan gang leaving a grocery store.  Figuring that the hood is bringing provisions to the gang, Grayson observes a clue to their hide-out.  Before taking off after them as Batman II, Dick arranges for a penny containing a coded message to be given to Bruce, Jr.

 

The youngster decyphers the message in the Batcave, changes to his costumed identity and sets off, without so much as a nod to Alfred, busy with his bat-dusting.  The new Boy Wonder arrives at Babyface Jordan's headquarters in time to rescue Batman II, who'd been ambushed by part of the gang, but the new Dynamic Duo have their hands full when Jordan and the rest of his crew show up.

 

Fortunately, Alfred tattled about Junior's mysterious departure to the guy who signs his paycheque, and after they also figured out Dick's coin-message, Bruce and Kathy Wayne feared that the Jordan gang might be too big and bad for the new team to handle.  Breaking their old costumes out of mothballs, the Waynes also headed for Babyface's hide-out.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Batman descend on the mobsters just in time to keep the second team from being overwhelmed.  With flashing fists, three generations of the Bat-family take the starch out of Babyface Jordan and his mob.

 

Then, the reader is jolted from the smiles-all-around ending when a hand suddenly restrains the flashing fingers of the typing Alfred.  The interruption comes from a still-black-haired Bruce Wayne who wants to know why Alfred isn't down in the Batcave windexing the trophy cases or something.  That's when we find out that the trusty butler wasn't writing a factual account of the Batman's life, but rather, a fictional version of what might happen in the Masked Manhunter's future.

 

Apparently, Alfred is one of those stream-of-consciousness writers because he explains that he was just trying out his new typewriter and got carried away.  Fortunately for Alf, he's not working for the modern-day Batman who would positively foam at the mouth at the idea of his secret identity being put down on paper.  The kinder, gentler Silver-Age Wayne chuckles over a story about his retirement.

 

That and, undoubtedly, positive fan response, led to a sequel.

 

 

"The Return of the Second Batman and Robin Team", Batman # 135 (October, 1960)

 

This time, there was no attempt to bait-and-switch the type of story presented to the reader.  A slug on the splash page states:  "Alfred's Tales of the Future".

 

The butler continues his account by informing us that, since his retirement, the Batman has attended several testimonial dinners thrown by a grateful public, to the point where he's worn out.  Which kind of makes you think, if all it takes is a few speeches and chicken dinners to exhaust the Masked Manhunter, maybe it was time for him to hang up his cape.

 

(The one-panel shot of Batman wearing his cowl with a suit and tie brings home the idea that he's retired more strongly than all the wrinkle lines drawn on his face by Sheldon Moldoff.)

 

Dick Grayson suggests that Bruce and Kathy get away to their cabin in the mountains for a few weeks of R-and-R.  The new Dynamic Duo can stand in for Batman at the remaining scheduled ceremonies in his honour.  As quick as they can hop into their convertible, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne are headed for their mountain retreat.  No radio, no television, no telephone---just peace and quiet.

 

Back in Gotham City, someone else is enjoying his newfound freedom from the binds of society.  John Crandall is being released from state prison, and his one desire is to get revenge on the man who had put him there:  the Batman!  The problem for Crandall is that the subject of his hatred is out of his reach, having retired from crime-fighting.  But the ex-con has worked out a way around that.

 

A week later, Batman II and Robin II attend the dedication of a new moon rocket bearing the name "Batman".  And the day after, they appear at the launching of a new vessel honouring the original Caped Crusader.  John Crandall attempts to wreck both the rocket and the ship, while denouncing Batman as a coward for not showing up to stop him.  If Crandall can't destroy the man, then he'll settle for destroying his name. 

 

While the new Dynamic Duo manages to prevent the destruction, they fail to apprehend Crandall, even after expecting his attack on the ship.  The ex-con stays one step ahead of them, and the second Batman-Robin team's inability to nab him figures prominently in the newspaper reports of the crimes.  The second team gets a break, though, when they discover Crandall's hat left behind at the shipyard.  A scientific analysis of the headwear in the Batcave indicates the criminal is hiding out in a near-by fireworks plant.

 

Swiftly, the heroes head to the plant, only to find that Crandall has outmanœuvred them once again.  He deliberately left his hat behind, knowing it would lead the new team there.  Batman II and Robin II are overcome with sleep gas.

 

Meanwhile, up in the mountains, a chance encounter with a vagrant has provided Bruce and Kathy Wayne with a recent newspaper.  When they read an article about Crandall's scheme of revenge, they rush home.  In the Batcave, Wayne finds the results of the scientific analysis on Crandall's hat and where it led the second team.  Immediately, Bruce suits up as the Batman and takes off for the fireworks plant.

 

(Kathy stays behind this time.  Perhaps Alfred assumes that, by then, she would have put on too many pounds to fit into her Batwoman costume.)

 

Batman II and Robin II awaken to find themselves strapped to a giant Roman candle.  Crandall is about to touch off the fuse when the senior Batman arrives.  When Crandall threatens the lives of the second Dynamic Duo, the Masked Manhunter allows himself to be tied to another rocket.  But before the villain can ignite them, Batman frees himself with a razor blade palmed in his hand.

 

An uppercut from the senior crime-buster punches out Crandall's lights.  Then he unties the second team and they head home to the Batcave for the smiling fade-out.

 

 

"The Son of the Joker", Batman # 145 (February, 1962)

 

By now, Alfred (and DC) realises that he's not limited to just spinning tales about the future of the Bat-family.  It might be interesting to predict what awaits other characters in Batman's history.

 

Interesting is only half a word for it when Alfred decides in his next fictional adventure to have the second Batman-and-Robin team run up against---the son of the Joker!

 

Batman II and Robin II are judging a charity water-skiing competition when a launch zooms by the winner's stand and a landing net scoops up the gold victory cup with five-thousand dollars stuffed inside it.  Carried behind the speeding craft on water skis is the holder of the net.  The robber's chalk-white face, red lips, and green hair are instantly recognisable to Batman II.

 

It's the Joker!  But this giggling thief is a young man, and the Joker should be a geezer by now.  How can the pasty-faced villain have remained young?  The answer comes as Robin II commandeers another launch and races off in pursuit, towing his skis-wearing partner behind him.

 

This particular pasty-faced villain is a braggart as well as a clown.  He's the Joker's son, and a new-and-improved version.

 

The chase around the lake ends when Batman II makes a tremendous leap into his quarry's path and belts him into the water.  A quick end to the new Joker's crime-career?  No, for the mountebank had a skin-diving confederate waiting beneath the surface with a spare scuba rig.  The son of the Joker and his pal swim away with their soggy-but-still-perfectly-spendable loot.

 

When told of the robbery, Bruce Wayne's brow furrows in concern.  At last report, the Joker had abandoned crime after serving out a lengthy prison term.  For the third time in as many stories, he dons his bat-harness and then pays his old foe a visit.  Batman finds him tending the rose garden fronting his cottage on the outskirts of town.

 

The Joker is bent with age; his chalky skin is creased with wrinkles and grey has turned his emerald green hair to chartreuse.  He greets the Batman warmly and for a time, the two enemies socialise, like an elderly Yank and Reb at one of those Civil War reunions in the early 1900's.  Then Batman asks him pointedly about this "son of the Joker" business.

 

"I have no son!" insists the Clown Codger of Crime.  "That rascal I read about is an impostor, who obviously studied my old crime methods---and now hopes to cash in on my good name!"

 

The Joker assures the Batman that he's through with crime.  All he wants to do is enjoy his roses, his jigsaw puzzles, and his free Jell-O from the K & W Cafeteria.

 

The next evening, Batman II and Robin II respond to a cryptic challenge sent by the Joker's son.  They properly deduce that the cackling crook will strike at the movie set where a Roman epic is being filmed.

 

(The opener to this sequence provides a look at Dick Grayson's living and working arrangements.  He now lives in a brownstone situated over an abandoned Gotham subway tunnel.  The tunnel runs near Wayne Manor.  A side-tunnel to the Batcave was carved out and a spur laid.  Dick slips down a trap door, changes to Batman II, and drives an electric cart down the spur to the Batcave.)

 

During the shooting of the film's chariot-race scene, one of the charioteers breaks character and snatches at the throat of the actress portraying a Roman queen.  It's the son of the Joker, and he's just grabbed a priceless bejeweled necklace, a genuine relic of ancient Rome, on loan from a museum.  However, the second Batman-Robin team are in the chariot right behind, hot on the white-faced bandit's heels like Ben-Hur after Marsala.

 

It's a short chase, though, after the son of the Joker abandons his chariot and informs the Dynamic Duo 2.0 that he's activated a bomb inside the runaway conveyance.  The heroes have no choice but to overtake the chariot and de-activate the bomb while the Joker's son gets clean away.  Batman II notices that the wheels of the crook's cart are covered in tar, which proves to be a vital clue. 

 

All of this is overheard by a bystander who plays no other part in the tale but to take what he's heard to a newspaper that pays twenty-five dollars for news tips.

 

A fast visit to the Department of Public Works and the second team has learnt that one of the only two freshly tarred streets in Gotham City runs right past the address of the original Joker.

 

Speaking of which, right then, the son of the Joker enters a secret hideaway beneath that house---where he's met by the first Joker.  Not actually father and son, the older criminal selected the younger as his protegé, costumed him, and taught him the tricks of his crooked trade---to carry on the Joker name.

 

Shortly thereafter, Batman II and Robin II burst into the Joker's home and, for the third straight story, they've been lured into a trap.  The tar on the chariot wheels was put there on purpose, and now exploding gas bombs put the second team under.

 

At his mansion, Bruce Wayne is seeing what Blondie and Dagwood are up to in the afternoon newspaper when the item called in by the bystander catches his eye.

 

"'A time-bomb in the chariot'---'tar on the wheels'," he reads aloud to Kathy with alarm.  "Exactly what happened when I once fought the original Joker, many years ago!"

 

Wayne remembers that the tar on the wheels was a deliberate trick that drew him into a trap, and he wonders if the new Joker had studied the tactics of the old one so closely that the new Batman and Robin have been duped by a similar snare.  Given the second team's track record so far, Bruce decides, "Of course, they have!" and heads off to the rescue as the Batman.

 

(This time, Alfred charitably writes Batwoman out of the action by having Kathy bed-ridden with a cold.)

 

A fast drive across town and the Masked Manhunter is checking out the grounds of the Joker's house where he finds the secret entrance to the passageway leading to the Joker's basement man-cave.  He races through and bursts in just as the original Joker is about to remove Batman II's cowl.  In seconds, the elder Batman frees the second team from their bonds.

 

It takes only five panels for the three caped crime-fighters to lay out the Jokers, senior and junior, and their underlings.  Batman watches proudly as his son judo-flips the Joker's "son" head first into a wall.

 

It's a good enough ending for Alfred the author.  "THE END," he types.

 

* * * * * 

 

Bill Finger scripted all the adventures of the Second Batman and Robin Team.  Almost unknown during the Silver Age, but common knowledge now, it was Finger who fertilised Bob Kane's seed of an idea for a character called "the Bat-Man".  Finger was responsible for the elements most associated with the image of the Batman.

 

However, not much of Finger's fertile imagination is evidenced in the first three Batman II-Robin II tales.  The idea of Bruce Wayne marrying Kathy Kane had often been suggested by the fans, and the creation of a son from that union, one who would grow up to become the new Boy Wonder, naturally follows.  That the adult Dick Grayson would become the new Batman is the least surprising concept of all.  The only novel idea presented by Finger is the gimmick of the secret subway spur that connects Grayson's home to Wayne Manor.

 

Furthermore, the structure of these first three semi-imaginary tales is virtually identical.  It's not a trio of stories; rather, it's the same story told three times, with only minor differences.  In each one, the new Dynamic Duo go up against a criminal, fail to stop him, and then follow clues, usually deliberately left by the villain, to his hide-out, where they fall into a trap.  And in every case, the original Batman is forced to come out of retirement to save them.

 

Oh, there are some different touches each time, like the son of the Joker, but they're not enough to impress.   If the new Dynamic Duo couldn't handle a senior-citizen crook like John Crandall---who didn't have a gang, mind you---we really don't expect them to defeat even a Joker understudy.

 

Outside of the Roman numeral "II"' emblazoned on their chests and the new Boy Wonder's red hair, little distinguishes the new team from the old (except for their apparently inevitable need for rescuing).  Early on in the first story, Finger did point out that the original Dynamic Duo cast a long shadow, creating issues for the second team.  Batman II now comprehends the tremendous responsibility the first Masked Manhunter felt in taking a youngster into harm's way, and Robin II worries about living up to the reputation of his predecessor.  Unfortunately, Finger never explored this angle further.

 

Next time out, we'll take a look at the rest of the Second Batman-Robin Team adventures cranked out by Alfred and see if Batman II and Robin II manage to succeed in a case all by themselves.

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I'm looking forward to your next entry, Commander. The first Batman comic I ever purchased was #159 that featured one of Alfreds Batman ll stories. The glimpse into what Alfred thought the future might hold for the Dynamic Duo was a very appealing aspect of these pre-New Look tales.

I guess the idea was not to make the new team look good. A shame, too, as showing Dick and Bruce Jr. Bring competent heroes in their own right would have been nice  

John Byrne included a "son of the Joker" story in his first "Superman and Batman Generations" mini-series. Maybe he had read Batman #145?

I think that's very likely.

Luis Olavo de Moura Dantas said:

John Byrne included a "son of the Joker" story in his first "Superman and Batman Generations" mini-series. Maybe he had read Batman #145?

The idea of Dick Grayson becoming the next Batman is not used in most imaginary Bat-stories outside of these. Usually he simply stays as Robin in a more adult outfit. This is true on Earth-Two where he should have been Batman II.

But Robin II being Batman's son was a novelty from the various "Batman, Jr." characters that appeared afterwards. It was also an early attempt to give a DC super-hero an offspring as all the revived Silver Age heroes had no biological connection with their forebears. But it did pave the way for Zatanna who was the daughter of Zatara, Master Magician who debuted in Hawkman #4 (N'64).

Mine was the annual that included this story along with Bat-Girl's and Bat-Mite's debut stories. Little did I know all that stuff was getting wiped out of continuity.

Fraser

I'm looking forward to your next entry, Commander. The first Batman comic I ever purchased was #159 that featured one of Alfreds Batman ll stories. The glimpse into what Alfred thought the future might hold for the Dynamic Duo was a very appealing aspect of these pre-New Look tales.

Byrne has said he was very impressed by the Batman story in one of his first comics, so I assume he read Batman growing up. Also, the first story and "The Son of the Joker" were reprinted in the 1970s, in, respectively, Batman from the 30's to the 70's and Batman #254. I read the latter story as a child in a local back issue.

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of criminals like Roman numerals.

I read a couple of these stories when they first came out. I didn't notice before how incompetent it made the second team look.

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