In Batman #36, the first issue of the new story “Superfriends”, Catwoman and Batman have a conversation about who Batman’s best friend is. She asserts that it must be Superman, but Batman raises multiple objections and alternatives. The conversation is never really resolved, leaving it to Twitter and now ComicBook.com to tackle this very important question: Who is Batman’s best friend?
In order to provide a mathematically unassailable answer, we have devised a ranking system to assess all possible contenders for the role. Each character will be graded on five categories on a scale of five, and the character with the highest overall score will be the definite, inarguable answer.
The five categories are:
- Familiarity: How well a character knows and understands Batman
- Devotion: How devoted a character is to Batman
- Longevity: How long a character has known Batman
- Reliability: How much can Batman rely on a character
- Unity of Purpose: How much does a character’s purpose align with Batman’s own purpose
Based on Batman #36, Alfred Pennywise, Commissioner Gordon, and Superman are all raised as potential answers. We are assessing all of them along with two other significant additions: Dick Grayson and Ace the Bat-Hound. Let’s begin.
There’s no category in which Superman fails, but there’s also many in which notable differences exist. He does well on the fronts of familiarity and reliability. Superman is one of the few people to know both of Batman’s identities and has worked with him long enough to really understand his fellow crime fighter. Superman is also one of the most reliable characters in DC Comics and, while his own family and responsibilities may keep him in Metropolis or elsewhere, he’s bound to come through for Batman in a pinch.
Yet these two men do see the world very differently and have come to blows over those differences. In spite of all their admiration for one another, they present two opposing worldviews and sets of tactics in their pursuit of similar goals. While these differences make for great stories, they also make it difficult to consider them as best friends as opposed to very good ones.
Unity of Purpose: 3/5
The biggest knock on Gordon is a lack of familiarity. By virtue of their roles, Gordon has never learned Batman is also Bruce Wayne, even when Batman has offered to reveal his identity. Gordon’s job as top cop in Gotham City also forces him to act against the best interests of Batman and his mission at times. While these issues are often forced by a mayor or other external issue, they do pose a problem.
However, it’s hard to find a person more devoted to Batman’s mission or who better understands who the vigilante is than Gordon. He has been collaborating with Batman from the very start of his mission and done the best he can to support him throughout many challenges. That these two remain friends in spite of so many obstacles is a testament to the strength of their bond.
Unity of Purpose: 5/5
There are two potential issues with this pick: Alfred is on the Wayne payroll, and he’s essentially Batman’s dad. They’re non-factors at this point in their relationship though. Alfred has made it clear multiple times that he doesn’t stick around or work for the paychecks, and Bruce no longer relies on Alfred as a father. With those problems out of the way, there’s a lot going for this friendship.
Alfred has known Bruce for his entire life and knows everything about him. He has dedicated himself and his efforts to helping Batman and Bruce Wayne alike. Even when he disagrees with Batman or walks away, it’s because he believes doing so is in his friend’s best interest. The only real issue is a lack of unity of purpose. Alfred is much more devoted to Bruce than his mission to bring justice to Gotham City. That difference has been a source of tension between the pair at times and is the only knock on this potential set of BFFs.
Unity of Purpose: 2/5
Dick Grayson is as much Batman’s son as Batman is Alfred’s, but at this point in their relationship, they’re peers as much as anything else. Dick has assumed his own role as Nightwing, his own city in Bludhaven, and leads his own teams like the Teen Titans. It has made him an interesting reflection of Batman and made the pair invaluable to one another.
There’s a reason that Dick abandoned the role of Robin in the first place though. For all of their similarities, Dick Grayson is not Bruce Wayne, and provides a very different perspective on life and superheroism than his mentor. They often disagree on key matters which has led to the pair not talking or working together for long periods of time. As important as Dick Grayson is to Batman, their differences make friendship difficult at times.
Unity of Purpose: 3/5
There are reasons that dogs are called man’s best friend, and they make Ace a real contender for that role in Batman’s life. The Bat-Hound is undoubtedly the most devoted mammal to Batman in all of Wayne Manor, and he does his very best to listen and follow commands. He’s also been with Batman for a very long time, since the Silver Age in our time and for decades in DC dog years.
Ace doesn’t really buy into the whole crime fighting thing, if he understands it at all. While he’s trained to follow Batman’s commands and helpful in a variety of circumstances, he’s much more interested in being a good boy than rendering justice. Ace may know that Batman is a good guy, but that understanding is on a very different level as a dog.
Unity of Purpose: 1/5
Ace the Bat-Hound: 17/25
Dick Grayson: 19/25
Commissioner Gordon: 19/25
Alfred Pennyworth: 20/25
The final scores are close, but Alfred is the mathematical winner of this friendship equation. If you’re willing to overlook the his role as father and employee, it becomes an obvious answer too. There’s no person in Batman’s life as devoted or reliable as Alfred Pennyworth. It’s the reason he inhabits every notable adaptation of Batman comics in some form and why his relationship with Batman remains one of the best elements within the comic even 75 years after his introduction. The only key difference between the pair rests in Alfred’s dedication to Batman over Batman’s mission.
There you have it. Alfred Pennyworth: Batman's Best Friend -- and best dad and best employee.