Like so many Americans with a background in the nerdier arts, I’ve already bought my tickets for The Dark Knight Rises. Yes, I’ll be cramming myself in with a few hundred other diehards, likely in the third row of some IMAX monstrosity, watching Christian Bale fustigate baddies while lecturing them in that ridiculous Cookie Monster growl usually reserved for thrash metal vocalists.
Honestly, I can’t wait.
In preparation for my Saturday night movie date, I brushed up on my Bat-related trivia. The character was born in 1939 (making Batman a surprisingly hale 73 year-old) and was named IGN’s second greatest comic book character of all time, placing behind Superman, comic-dom’s first true “superhero.” Batman’s gone through dozens of permutations and rebirths, from the pulpy detective of the ‘40s, to the campy, Adam West cheeseball of the ‘60s, to the brooding weirdo of the Frank Miller and Tim Burton imaginings in the ‘80s. Now, of course, we have the Nolan-Bale Batman, who is arguably the darkest version yet but inarguably the most lucrative—the last movie, after all, cleared a billion dollars in theaters alone.
One thing that struck me was that, through all the different interpretations, the one main constant is his butler, Alfred. Alfred’s been around since Batman #16 (in 1943) and though DC Comics tried to kill him off in the ‘60s, fan response was so vitriolic, they revived him soon thereafter. Alfred, even more than Robin, has always been Batman’s right-hand man, one of the few characters in the Dark Knight universe trusted with Batman’s secret identity, a character so integral that every film and TV adaptation has had an Alfred in the fold.
So it would be easy to say that, even though Batman—Bruce Wayne, that is—heads a multi-national conglomerate with thousands of employees, it’s Alfred that’s the most important one (with apologies to Lucius Fox/Morgan Freeman here). And if you own a company so sprawling that it has entertainment, chemicals, tech, and medical divisions, you’re probably a pretty savvy businessman.
Which got us thinking. Just what sort of contracts must Alfred Pennyworth have?
“Are you really asking me to sign an NDA, Mr. Wayne?”
Let’s start with the big one. Since a non-disclosure agreement allows an employer to specify certain information his or her employee must keep secret, you’d have to guess Bruce Wayne is all over this. Some probable clauses:
“The geographical location of the Owner’s subterranean domicile (and the contents therein) are classified as ‘Confidential Information.’”
“The Recipient attests that he will keep any all Wayne Enterprises business and correspondence confidential. Disseminating information to competitors, law enforcement, and/or The Riddler is grounds for dismissal and/or litigation.”
“Also, don’t tell anyone I’m Batman. Seriously.”
It’s common for workers to sign an agreement that lays out the terms of their employment. Things like vacation time, at-work email policies, benefits, and responsibilities are often included therein. Since Alfred was Bruce Wayne’s surrogate father after his parents were killed in a mugging gone awry, we’ll assume Alfred didn’t sign one of these until Wayne was older and had already gotten beat up by Liam Nieson.
Alfred’s employment agreement would lay out the terms of what it means to be Bruce Wayne’s butler. He’d get room and board, obviously, as well as an unlimited expense account. Vacation time, likely, would coincide with Wayne’s, and his job duties would be both numerous and malleable. He’d also probably be prohibited from checking Facebook at work. Because, really, just wait till you clock out Alfred.
Release of Liability
If you’ve gone sky-diving, paintballing, or even trampoline jumping, chances are, you’ve signed a release of liability. When you sign, what you’re essentially saying is “I know I could get injured, but this is going to be fun, so I promise not to hold the company that’s providing me this fun liable for the sprained ankle I may or may not get.”
So it follows that Alfred, whose job entails a fairly significant amount of danger, probably has agreed to not hold Bruce Wayne responsible for falling down the stairs in the Bat Cave or sustaining a broken collarbone fleeing from the Joker.
And since Bruce Wayne is paying the bills, Alfred’s probably got some pretty cushy health care in the first place.
This is what Alfred used to look like. Yes, a low-rent Sherlock Holmes.
Employee Drug Testing Consent Form
We’re not insinuating that Alfred has a problem with uppers. What we’re guessing is that, when you’re dealing with supervillains who habitually try and poison you and the city you tirelessly protect, you might end up with a drugged butler. With a drug testing consent form, Batman would be legally able to test Alfred for any narcotics he might have taken, accidentally or otherwise.
The best part for Alfred? Bruce Wayne’s a chemist, so he could probably whip up an antidote if the going got tough.
According to our sources (okay, yeah, Wikipedia), Alfred is a “former actor,” has been “kidnapped unsuccessfully 27 times,” is handy with a shotgun, can “perform arthoscopy and other advanced medical procedures,” and, strangely, is an expert rose breeder.
In other words, Alfred is Renaissance Man.
When you’ve got an employee like that—especially one who knows the ins and outs of your business and vigilante do-goodery—you don’t let them work for the competition. Hence the noncompete agreement. Superman might not need a butler, but we all know there are plenty of superheroes who can’t be bothered to do their laundry or cook up a nice chicken kiev. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Thor.
And of course, if Alfred did quit? Good luck finding another one like him, Mr. Wayne. Your new butler might know Kung Fu, be an expert computer programmer, and be able to convincingly mimic your voice on important phone calls, but we sincerely doubt he could breed a flower as unique as the “Pennyworth Blue.”